Water of Tyne


Waters of Tyne, is a folk song  I ‘collected’ from Hexham Library – recorded at the Sage Gateshead below – I found a wonderful leather-bound book called ‘Songs and Ballads of Northern England.  This is an original, old and widely owned song describes the separation of two lovers by the Tyne.  Border ballads are often about physical separation.  This Tyne as emotional division and barrier has  many various versions – Kate Rusby’s Bring me a boat – is the same theme but rendered differently.

More boundaries

Thinking about the obtrusive fencing found throughout the footwork of Lee Friedlander in his urban street scenes, but it is everywhere.  These edited phone and DSLR shots record obstacles in the way from Paris’s Eiffel Tower to Hexham’s Tyne green.

Paris, with mirror displacement:paris fences-1

Tyne Green’s earthworks.

fences blackandwhite edits-3

Post and chain link:

and passive agressive signage:

The new fence

Recorded on film, some images of a new imposition in our landscape.  This new fence has no real explanation, dividing a field for no clear reason.  There are still no stock to control or different crops to separate and no obvious change in ownership.  The fence cuts through the landscape, cuts paths, creates a slowing, restricts movement, perhaps innocently and without real damage, but it is a possessive act by persons unknown. Defining and restricting space like the photographs of Lee Friedlander.


Ensign box brownie

On the Paris trip I began experimenting with an Ensign Box camera.


The Ensign is an English version of the Box Brownie, probably made in 1926 – a simple roll film camera with minimal settings – two for focus and 3 for aperture and a big guess for shutter speed.  Fantastic results considering the age and relative lack of sophistication of the camera:

box brownie-11

an accidental double exposure

box brownie-10

into the sun at the Pompidou centre

box brownie-20box brownie-21

Sticks, Stones and Little Screens

Two books out of the library on Lee Friedlander are very helpful in looking for an aesthetic for ideas of border and enclosure.


The Little Screens, by Saul Anton, precisely describes the importance of a series of photos by Friedlander, here seen as  “One Work” –  part of a series of analytical titles  under the title After all books, published by  the University of the Arts, London and MIT, 

The work captures the disjointedness of space that the images on television cut into a room or updated and in our current world, the distortion of the Black Mirrors that are our phones and iPads.  The Little Screens have more accidental life than the formal motel bedrooms in Friedlander’s survey, but this is an imposed attraction, in the photos eyes watch furtively, hands threaten with guns, bodies are draped to sell products.  The parody of our unthinking gaze, ignoring the surreal clashes created, ignoring the disturbing imagery, sharply critiques our acceptance of this visuall distortion in our safe and neutral spaces.

Strong raking compositions are a feature of Sticks and StonesThe Fraenkel gallery’s comprehensively visual catalogue of Friedlander’s architectural photography for their 2004 exhibition of this important group of work. There are 196 square format images that record the specifics of american urban space.  People seem to feature only by accident. Individuals are described  through the division of city or small town space, the marked out garden boundaries or the high security fences that define an individual property.  The imposition of street furniture, poles, signs, lock and control the compositions and our ability to look inside them.  The  focus on the wasteland, the broken and the abandoned in many of the pictures, reflects the wastefulness and closed down feeling of these privatised but often neglected cityscapes.  Even where individual buildings dominate, most often a blank or unwelcoming wall turns ‘homes’ into forbidding ‘fortresses’.

The book layout is a double page with minimum borders, so each square format image reacts to its neighbour – the horizons are angled and do not flow between the two.  The packed angular forms, nothing is every straight vertically or horizontally, jar and clash with each other and create a sense of forcefully flattened space, blocked or partioned, access prohibited where it is hard to move forward or access the space depicted.

Somehow some of the captured space of reflected screens as seen in the dark mirror experiment, I want to combine with the contested and excluded spaces of the Brighton Baths or Tynemouth Pool or other more local boundaried spaces.


Anton, S. (2015) Lee Friedlander, The Little Screens. London: After all Books.

Enyeart, J. (2004) Lee Friedlander, Sticks and Stones, Architectural America. Fraenkel Gallery: San Francisco.


Dark Mirror experiment 1

The ‘dark mirror’ is an idea or concept that has grabbed me.  Dark Mirror-9

This is a self portrait reflected in a iPad screen, working as a mirror, the outline is darkened, but otherwise the image is as faithful as a domestic mirror.  The dark glass is a two way reflector – its hidden light within is a gateway to digital spaces,  its shiny black surface reflects the space of the world around, and the user in their surroundings.

I took the iPad out into the landscape to work as a ‘dark mirror displacement’ similar to the way that the mirror was used in previous experiments with mirror photography.

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The image loses focus and structure through some distortion, it is a darker, bluer tones, but generally keeps the effect of the landscape in a dull watery gloom, sometimes the light is more intense where the iPad/mirror is placed against darker backgrounds.

In all of the cases the scene is staged, the position and rationale for the iPad in the landscape is unexplained, but not really intriguing. There is a brief moment of realisation that the image on the screen is a reflection – but this is not really captivating.

Immerge – Emerge

The mist creates a fluid barrier.  The figure emerges from the mist, the photographer immerges his camera in the ultimate watery filter.

The film shoot captures the frost and the mist, the clarity and the milky opacity.

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and below from a mobile phone shoot earlier in february

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#frost #mist #lines

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Ballast Hill Film


(also of his wife Jane and several of their Children (sic))

Scanned film of the visit to Ballast Hill – the informal non-conformist burial ground on Newcastle’s western perimeter – now an area of open space with graves stones for paths, surrounded by scrap yards and the church.  This black and white could be the subject for the work for the Cathedral project.

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