Monday, 30 May 2011

Harvest of 2010 Part Three - Making Compositions and Taking Steps

Here are another seventeen personal favourites from 2010, moving on chronologically as always.

3805 - London, England, 2010
This one may look familiar to some of you, it's appeared a couple of times now - as part of the Photography Collective exhibition earlier this year, and now also part of the very long composite piece Ten Faces. It's part of set of images I took of the wonderful facades of this building that is now, it seems, set for demolition. I picked this one to show here as it shows one of the doors, giving an idea of the sheer scale of the image.

It took quite a bit of time on the day working with the viewpoints for each one, and getting an even light and exposure from them all. A good afternoon's work! I think the new piece that links them all together was a really worthwhile endeavour, you can look over the whole length of the facade in a way that just isn't possible on site. You can see it on the website at, and the originals here.

I like the dispassionate and diagrammatic aspect of it. So often I see details in my pictures that even I didn't notice on the day - really taking my time and looking a thing over is perhaps easier and more enjoyable when the subject is reduced to a flat image rather than the overwhelming options and scale of reality.

3809 - London, England, 2010
Not sure if I like this one or not. Often when I see an image locked in place in the viewfinder, I just know it's going to be a winner. I had that feeling with this - I took quite a while getting this together (and on a very busy street!). When I saw the result on screen and in print, something wasn't quite right, just not interesting enough. But I keep coming back to it, to the geometry and the symmetry, the flat grey line down the middle, the reflection top right. I still can't decide!

3811 - London, England, 2010
Sometimes a lot of the work is done for me. A big, visually powerful object like this just cries out to be photographed, my decisions then are where to put it, where to shoot from, and what else to include. I think this one worked out really well. The counterweight of the block on the left anchored by the cables and the orange balanced with the yellow sign and litter. Miserable, tired and beautiful.

3813 - Bromley, Kent, England, 2010
Getting down and dirty on the ground again, focusing right in on this little family. A complete contrast to the huge, unmissable, bombastic 3811 above; this one is a small, quiet ignored corner. I really like the image, it has an intimacy and closeness that I find touching. Very strange thing to say about a few cables and cases I know!

3816 - London, England, 2010
This one is a nifty little composition that is maybe unrecognisable at first, but becomes clear fairly quickly. Once you work out what it is, you can see how beaten up and used these are.

Horizontals and verticals dividing the image are important to me, and it's pretty much all this one has. If you can't work out what it is, the images that come next (taken elsewhere) should give you a clue...

3820 - Christchurch, Dorset, England, 2010
3821 - Christchurch, Dorset, England, 2010
Ah, steps. Ascending stairways have appeared in my photographs all the way back to 1993. The obvious appeal is the visual motif to lead you through, up and around the image. Ones that are a little different, like these, are always appealing to me, the bends and corners that make these climbing pathways so interesting.

Steps also carry a feeling of something more beyond the image, that what you're seeing is an in between state, taking you from one thing to another, leaving the steps without their own identity.

3822 - Christchurch, Dorset, England, 2010
An interesting counterpoint to the Doors and Windows images I have always created, a selection of which you can see at the Photography Collective catalogue here. This setup struck me as weird - I don't want to say too much about what it is, but it does look photoshopped, so I will say again, I never fiddle with my images. Look out for the bench through the door!

3823 - Christchurch, Dorset, England, 2010
Another optically strange one - again, I don't want to say exactly what the situation was.

3824 - Christchurch, Dorset, England, 2010
I really like this one, and I can't say why. It may be to do with the colours that day, maybe the way the plane trail somehow supports the lamp, I don't know! Ones like this that I like for no definable reason often become my enigmatic favourites.

3827 - Christchurch, Dorset, England, 2010
Lovely colours again. I've got a few pictures of lamp posts - another exhibition in the making I think.

3829 - Milford on Sea, Hampshire, England, 2010
And of course, numbers are an ongoing theme too. A whole range of them will appear in the forthcoming (and long awaited!) Countdown exhibition on the website. This image is again about the balance of colours and tones.

3832 - Milford on Sea, Hampshire, England, 2010
Another enigmatic favourite. The placement of the three main elements makes for a relaxing yet compelling image, making the mundane important.

3835 - Milford on Sea, Hampshire, England, 2010
Horizontals, verticals, divisions. I like cutting the picture plane into two, and in this case four. Again, this is all real with no compositing or fixing in Photoshop.

On rare occasions I will wait for the right moment to take an image, and it's usually down to an animal or a person getting themselves in the right place, or out of the wrong place. In this case, it was all down to whoever was in charge of that little sailing boat.

3838 - Milford on Sea, Hampshire, England, 2010
It can be a real delight taking pictures when the weather is just right for your location. With blue skies and bright sunlight, white walls take on a whole new quality. The colours and contrasts alone may have carried the image here - the steps to nowhere add an extra focus to the image.

3839 - Milford on Sea, Hampshire, England, 2010
A lot of my recurring themes coming up this time - I do love a bench! Apart from the history they carry and the inherent loneliness of an empty one, for me they are a great compositional element. The proportions are very appealing to me, and how the design usually falls back to the bare minimum of parts required to make the bench a bench.

They become blank canvases, every single one different, carrying its own character depending on where it is, and how it's been used.

3841 - Milford on Sea, Hampshire, England, 2010
Some more steps to finish, downwards this time. Many of my images have taken a long time to compose, lining everything up just as I want it. Try as I might with this one, it just wouldn't fit into that mould. The slope here was so uneven that the step design wasn't even either. What we end up with is an image that to me doesn't feel quite right - and I like that.

Well, as you might be able to tell from my rambling text, I am learning a lot about thinking and writing as I go, so apologies if you're not getting a lot from the text - but do enjoy the images, and let me know below which ones you like or don't like, and why!

Harvest of 2010
Part One - Part Two - Part Three - Part Four - Part Five - Part Six - Part Seven

Friday, 27 May 2011

Ten Faces - by popular demand

Back in March, as part of the Photography Collective Spring Exhibition, I showed two pieces - Rely-a-Bells and Keenest Prices. See them as part of the online catalogue here. Each included five pictures, and detailed the facade of a neglected building in East London. Both pieces were very popular, and viewers were fascinated to note all the images 'joined up' to one another. The natural question that followed was 'so have you made a long version with them all connected?'. The answer then was 'no, but I will', and now I have!

Ten Faces - London, England, 2010/2011

The result is a new work called Ten Faces, available as a limited print by commission only due to it's large size - the ratio of height to length is almost 1:10, so when a print is 30 cm high, it will be nearly 3 metres long.

A smaller (though still very big, and detailed!) digital version is on the website at so please do go and have a virtual exploration of the building!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

A look back at the Evening in Venice show at the London Canal Museum - would you like the torch?

If you were lucky enough to see the show on Saturday night, I hope you agree it was a very successful and unique way to see the images. To see them all in daylight, take a look at the complete exhibition catalogue online at .

Showing almost black images at a candlelit show after dark was always a risky idea - and I wasn't sure if it would work. Once the daylight was gone, and the dark images were lit only by tea lights and the general ambiance of candles nearby, the show started to feel special. 
The details of streets and buildings emerging from the murky darkness in the images chimed perfectly through the glass and over the candles. When a few people had asked me if I always display my pictures in the dark, or if these were shot with a dark exhibition in mind, I knew everything had worked out just fine.

The exhibition was part of Museums at Night 2011 and had picked up a bit of press coverage, so it was very busy on the night. It was wonderful to see so many people enjoying my pictures. Lots of people reading the accompanying text and taking cards away with the web address on too, which means more people seeing more pictures.

I'd brought a torch along in case of any fires or breakages, and about an hour or so in, I was asked a question about one of the pictures, and I used the torch to illuminate a detail on the image. 

The effect was quite staggering - due to the nature and atmosphere of the images, plus the pearl finish on the prints, the images really leapt into life under torch light, effecting a kind of virtual reality visit to Venice. 

This became the default way to see the pictures, with people following each other around, peering over shoulders to see the torch light. People waiting for the torch, people using their mobiles to light the images. All good stuff.

The whole atmosphere on the night was fun and I really enjoyed the show. It was good to talk to the other artists taking part, and a few more opportunities for exhibiting came out of it too.

So, do have a look at the catalogue - click here - the website underwent a little overhaul last week too. Any feedback on any of that is always welcome. 

Coming next on the blog - Harvest of 2010 Part Three!


Saturday, 14 May 2011

A few hours to go...

Fifteen framed pictures raring to go! Most of them will be exhibited on table tops with a series of small candles in front. Each one should feel like a little shrine – I think it will work really well. It’s great to be doing something different, the images I’ve selected will work really well in the darkness. 

Here’s a preview of the exhibition text –

Taking advantage of the unique atmosphere here at the London Canal Museum tonight, Paul Clifford has selected fifteen dark, seductive and mysterious images from Venice.

The canals of Venice feel altogether different to London’s industrial, historic waterways - especially in the eerie silence of Venetian night. After dark, with no car engines, after the tourists have disappeared, the City becomes fascinating and foreboding, the canals now darkened back streets squeezed tight between buildings; mysterious and inaccessible, attractive and dangerous. It's those hazy, half remembered, elusive feelings that are evoked in these images.’ 

Should be a really good night - the museum has put up a Facebook page for the event listing all the artists at

I'm also pleased to see the exhibition featured in this week's Time Out magazine...

Click to enlarge
 Anyway, that'll do for now. I'm looking forward to seeing some of you tonight!

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Exhibition Preview - Evening in Venice at The London Canal Museum - Saturday 14th May 2011

Full sized invite at
I'll have photographs on show at The London Canal Museum in King's Cross on Saturday 14th May as part of the Europe-wide Museums at Night festival - whole museum will be lit by candlelight alone - there will special tours of the museum running on the night, plus a wide range of art on show throughout the building. The museum's 19th Century Ice Well will be lit by candlelight too - it should be a special night. Find out about the museum at

3023 - Corte Spechiera, Venice, Italy, 2009

To enhance the atmosphere, I've selected fifteen images from my two trips to Venice in 2009. They're a very different kind of thing to the pictures I showed last time at the Photography Collective show. Being that the exhibition is going to be dark, I've gone for evening pictures where the feeling of Venice emerges from the gloom.

3685 - Venice, Italy, 2009
The London canals that the museum deals with are very much industrial and historic. The canals of Venice are a different thing altogether - especially in the silence of Venetian night. With no car engines, no hustle and bustle, the canals become the back streets, mysterious and unaccessible, attractive and dangerous. I've tried to capture that elusive feeling in the show.

I hope to see you there!

2947 - Grand Canal, Venice, Italy, 2009