Stanley! I choose you!

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If you have had a chance to look round my photography exhibition at Civic Hall Stanley you may have been able to recognise certain locations from the surrounding area. I chose Stanley as a subject for this project because, having lived here for the majority of my life, I wanted to show my perspective of the town. Familiarity can lead to complacency and taking things for granted. You might know Stanley like the back of your own hand, but when was the last time you actually looked properly at your own hand, with more than a quick glance anyway! That’s why I wanted to take the time to walk around and have a more detailed look at our surroundings.

Taking pin sharp digital photos would have been an easy and convenient way to accurately record exactly what was there. However, I felt that the muted, soft focus photos I took of Stanley using film were more effective in presenting how the place feels, rather than how it looks. Creating the mirror images with double exposures encourages the viewer to take a closer look at things they probably walk or drive past every day without really noticing.

Narc Magazine’s review describes this exhibition as “an unreal looking ghost world where the lines between what is real and what is not are blurred.”

For example, taking the spire of St Andrews out of context and doubling it up creates a weirdly striking image. A humble pylon in an industrial estate becomes a piece of abstract geometry when multiplied by itself. Even the burger van at Oxhill can become a thing of poetry when flipped on its head.

Because I used film photography there was no ability to edit the images in Photoshop. I think the effects I achieved with the camera itself are an interesting depiction of the area; the photos don’t glamorise or demonise Stanley, they just show it as I see it. It’s up to the viewer to put their own interpretation on to them and that will depend on their own mindset.

There seem to be quite a few people who have a negative view of Stanley or see it as a lost cause, and I wanted to take the chance to challenge this view. It’s not that I have rosy tinted spectacles of my town, but I truly believe that there is beauty anywhere, if you’re prepared to look for it. It’s very easy to be cynical and pessimistic and constantly think that the grass is greener elsewhere. It’s more challenging to actually address the problems we face, and celebrate the things we already have. But the challenge is worth it, because if we actually engage with our community and surroundings we can make positive changes and lead happier lives.

If you would like to find out more about my photography please visit my website www.helentaylorphotos.com or email helentaylorphotos@gmail.com

An Ode to the Holga 135BC

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“Expect the unexpected and the excitement of the experiment”

If you have had a chance to look round my exhibition at Civic Hall Stanley you may be wondering exactly what the Holga 135BC is (and even if you’re not wondering I’m going to tell you anyway). This was one of my first analogue cameras and belongs to the ‘Lomography’ family of photography. Lomography is a movement which aims to keep the spirit of film photography alive in the modern digital world.

The Holga 135BC is an adaptation of the original Holga 120CFN; modified to take 35mm film rather than the square 120 format. The Holga was designed in China in the 80’s as a cheap mass-market camera for the working classes and when introduced to foreign markets its unusual characteristics soon gained it a cult following. As with many things in life, what some people see as failings other see as assets. Holga pictures are characterised by enhanced contrast, radiant colours, random vignetting (BC stands for “Black Corner”) and an almost surrealist sense of focus.

The first of my mirror image shots with this camera (above) came by accident. I was walking around Stanley with my son trying to achieve some double exposures of subjects with different textures in the background. I noticed a house with some very strong geometrical lines and took a shot, I wondered what would happen if I turned the camera upside down and took the same shot again without winding on the film. I thought nothing more of it until I developed my film and then got a really nice surprise. Once I realised how fascinating the technique could be I was hooked. I must have taken easily over 100 of these images now, with varying subjects and locations, and selected 60 of them to put on display at Civic Hall Stanley.

There are, of course, infinite reasons why digital photography is preferable to film. I have a Canon SLR which is an awesome bit of engineering. But that’s all it will ever be to me; a piece of technology, a machine. A film camera is like a little friend who you load up with 24 exposures and go off on an adventure with. Who knows what this little magical black box will come up with? Having a limit on the number of photos (rather than blazing away machine gun style with a digital camera) gives your story a beginning and an end, and who knows what surprises you’ll discover when you receive your prints?

Yes the Holga is temperamental and frequently infuriating – sometimes the shutter gets jammed, sometimes the film falls off the spokes, and sometimes it just refuses to wind on full stop. But when it’s good, damn is it good. Not having to worry about shutter speeds, apertures or ISO frees you up to simply concentrate on composing the shot. The Holga has 2 options for aperture (cloudy or sunny) and four focus settings (helpfully depicted as a person, a small group of people, a large group of people, and a mountain).

Its simplicity is deceptive however, because some of the most visually complex photos I have taken were created by that tiny plastic lens. I love to pore over the double exposures it’s taken and find the seams where the two layers of the images intersect. No two photos will ever be the same and each one is incapable of being replicated. And, to me it’s much more satisfying to know that the image was created by sunlight causing a chemical reaction on film, rather than being an arrangement of pixels on a sensor.

If you would like to find out more about my photography please visit my website www.helentaylorphotos.com or email helentaylorphotos@gmail.com

A Dog’s Life

“Where in this world can man find nobility without pride, friendship without envy, or beauty without vanity?”
– Ronald Duncan (1914-1982)

After taking photos of my friend Anna’s dogs, and meeting Laura Spellman and her two Yorkshire Terriers, I’ve decided that pet photography is definitely something I want to pursue. They say never work with children or animals, but both of those types of photography give the most natural and spontaneous results. It’s really nice to be able to capture the animal’s personality; whether it’s with a freeze frame action shot or a more restful portrait approach. It’s amazing how much nobility and character is communicated in an animal’s gaze, and I really enjoy the challenge of taking photos when you don’t really know what could happen next.

If anybody is interested in having some pet photos taken please contact me as I’m keen to expand my portfolio. It doesn’t have to be dogs or cats, in fact the more unusual the better!

If you would like to find out more about my photography please visit my website www.helentaylorphotos.com or email helentaylorphotos@gmail.com

Stanley² Exhibition

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Recently I was given the opportunity to display my photography at Civic Hall Stanley and so far the exhibition has received some really good feedback. I used the exhibition to document my home town of Stanley. All of the photographs are multiple exposures where two or more images are superimposed on to the same frame. I used a Holga 135BC to take these photographs, which is a 35mm film camera sometimes known as a “toy camera” because of its simple plastic design (even the lens is plastic).

Although I qualified from Newcastle College in digital photography, my heart belongs to film. I’m constantly experimenting with old cameras and wanted to see how I could use the unique qualities of film to draw peoples’ attention to things that they may otherwise walk past without really noticing.

What fascinates me about film photography is the mechanical and chemical processes that have to take place in order to create the final image. We live in a world where photography is available on demand and has become, in a sense, quite a throwaway medium. We are losing the idea of a photograph as a physical object.

Using a film camera means I don’t have a playback screen to review my images immediately and I have to take the time to compose my shot. Being restricted to 24 shots on a roll makes me more selective in choosing subjects and waiting for a film to develop brings anticipation and surprise back into photography.

What I love about the technique I used here is the delicate quality of the images and how the multiple exposures melt into each other. There are no distinct edges of where one ends and the other begins. There is no Photoshop or digital editing involved in any of these images, all of the effects were achieved in camera when the photo was taken.

They say the camera never lies, but sometimes you can make it bend the truth.

The exhibition runs until 14th April so if you haven’t had a chance to check it out yet then please pop in. The Civic Hall is open 9.00 – 5.00 during the week (late nights on Tuesday and Thursday) and is open at weekends when events are on. Why not combine your visit to the exhibition with a look around the Easter Fayre which takes place on Sunday 29th March?

If you would like to find out more about my photography please visit my website www.helentaylorphotos.com or email helentaylorphotos@gmail.com