Abstraction

As WordPress seems to be sending out old blog posts at random, I thought it was time to send one that is intended.

During the last year my attention has been drawn away from this blog, largely as I have concentrated on my portfolio and reviews. In March I visited Format Festival in Derby, and then in July I was lucky enough to go to PhotoIreland in Dublin with my work.  Even though the Irish trip meant re-printing most of my portfolio just so it physically fitted within the airlines hand-luggage policy.

Since 2008 I have had several “camera-less” projects burning away in the background, and last year these have really taken over my practice. There is more information about what I have been doing over at Shutterhub.

Many of these images are abstract or hard to read, and putting these into the public (and professional) domain has been a real challenge to me, as not everyone gets what they are seeing. I find it odd how we will accept abstraction in a painting much more readily than we do in a photograph, besides why do we have to immediately understand everything we see? But I like the fact that people engage with and interpret the images in their own ways, even though some cannot see past the point when they discover that I haven’t used a camera or a lens to create most of my new work.

My own natural tendencies are to experiment, to constantly evolve and to keep learning “new” skills, always trying different ways of making images. So during 2014 I have really had to curb my natural instincts whilst trying to pull together coherent bodies of work, some of which have already been going on for 6 years, rather than spin off onto something else. It is so tempting to see a collection of images as finished after just a few months, but is anything ever complete? I guess I don’t want to ever say that I wish I had stuck at a particular project for longer.

Something I have found particularly compelling about my current imagery is that the prints are by nature very seductive, even beautiful, although I struggle with that word. The technology I use to create them responds to items that are contoured very differently to a camera, and the resulting prints are not as two dimensional (flat). I have even had people touching a print to see if there is a physical edge or ridge on it, which is unusual (a bit annoying too, as I rarely handle my pictures without gloves). But these pictures are made to be hung on walls and enjoyed, so I can tolerate the odd inquisitive fingernail raking their delicate surfaces!

Spore Print 2014

I hope you find the time to see more new images at www.rogercoulam.com

Blast (Where the Earth Bleeds)

Since 2008 I have been making images at Blast Beach on the coast of County Durham. This was in the centre of the infamous “Coal Coast”, and so polluted with spoil that it was used in the opening sequences of the Alien 3 movie.

A local fisherman told me that during the Second World War German pilots used the area as a navigational aid as they came in raiding, as the “beach” was always on fire through the spontaneous combusiton of materials within the huge mounds of coal waste. He went on to say that as a child he never went there, “I was scared, kid’s had died, and it looked like hell”.

Today the beach remains one of the strangest and most disturbing places I have visited, a shifting monument to our environmental follies.

My introduction to the new collection of pictures says, “It’s 20 years since the last colliery closed on this coast. For years it was one of the most densely industrialized areas in Western Europe, and five pits had tipped coal waste onto Durham’s “black beaches”.  At their peak 2½ million tonnes of waste was dumped every year, extending 7km out to sea.

The clean up started in 1997, and the tide now continues the scouring.

At Blast Beach the geology feels confusing, and very little seems natural. Shelves of landfill are covered with coal slurry; the sand is made of pyrites. Strange objects appear on the beach, and rare chemicals form vivid yellow crusts, and blood red pools. Coal litters the beaches, often mixed with scraps of 1950′s clothing, all sorted by the tides. The cliffs are high here, but you are compelled to look down, trying to make sense of the strangeness of it all. In places rocks show the marks of drills and gunpowder, or strange mechanical scratching, violent messages from the past”.

I hope you will take a look here

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Jindřich Štreit Part 2

The second part of a slide show by Jindřich Štreit

You can find the first part here

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It’s Showtime!

I have finally got around to making a small collection of images made at agricultural fairs and shows during 2011 and 2012.

I hope you enjoy them and will take a look at them here

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Jindřich Štreit

Part one of a slide show by one of my favourite photographers Jindřich Štreit whose work I find compelling and moving.

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Memories of Summer

I thought it would be a good time to share a few pictures, as memories of the heat wave fade and the first signs of autumn appear around us.

Enjoying a good book in the shade - Arezzo, Italy

The joys of climbing trees - Windermere, Lake District

On the beach at Sunderland Airshow

Confusing space at the Natural History Museum in London

Family photos at the Natural History Museum in London

Beauty in marble - Rome, Italy

Power - Budapest, Hungary

Shadows and space at the British Museum in London

Fishing in the sea fret - Teesmouth

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3 Days in Burgerland

A new collection of images has been added to my website here .

3 Days in Burgerland casts a hard glance at the Sunderland Airshow.

I hope you will find the time to take a look at the other 70 images in the series, and as always your feedback and opinions are welcomed.

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A Message To The Visually Impaired

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Joel-Peter Witkin

One of the most controversial and polarising photographers of all time Joel-Peter Witkin, labelled by many as exploitative. Like him or hate him, this documentary features some fascinating insights into his work.

“I wanted my photographs to be as powerful as the last thing a person sees or remembers before death” -  Joel-Peter Witkin

WARNING: This contains VERY graphic images of dead people and animals, images of severe disability, and of a sexual nature.

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Robert Frank

A rare documentary with Robert Frank

Wandering

As am waiting for the inspiration that summer brings, and have been trying to make pictures regularly. That has proved difficult at times, and sometimes I have to make myself pick up my bag and go, and just wander, and see what life puts in front of me.

I find it difficult to walk past anything that has been wrapped, and this olive tree in Newcastle University was no exception.

The lone figure has become a motif in my work, so a misty morning on Wearside proved ideal.

A confusion of outdoor and indoor space found on the banks of the River Wear..

..and again in the centre of Sunderland.

This reminded me of the pictures of ducks taking flight that were common place on the tea-cups and dinner plates of my youth, except this was one of many dead birds washed up on the beach during the freezing easterly storms of March and April.

When a wave slams into a sea-wall, there’s always a point at which you wonder whether the wave is going to keep coming and soak you, or whether it will break upwards and away from you. With hindsight this was not one of the latter, and was not the best time to be using a 50mm lens.

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William Klein

A great documentary about William Klein

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James Nachtwey

A thoughtful 2007 talk by documentary photographer James Nachtwey

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Elliott Erwitt

Five instructive minutes with Elliott Erwitt with some classic advice for young photographers.

NOTE: Apologies to everyone who has signed up for a direct feed from Dark Matters. Feedburner has deleted my subscriber list, and there is no way I can recover it.

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Daido Moriyama

A long and insightful documentary about Daido Moriyama

“Near Equal” was made in 2001 and directed by Kenjirô Fujii, and looks at Moriyama’s background, life, methods, and his unique attitude towards photography.

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Masao Yamamoto

The thoughtful and captivating images of Masao Yamamoto

Alex Majoli

The powerful images of Alex Majoli

Edward Burtynsky

Whilst accepting his 2005 TED Prize, photographer Edward Burtynsky gives a talk about rethinking the landscape. He presents some of his images that document humanities impact upon the world.

If you don’t have 35 minutes to watch the entire talk, skip to 18.20 (minutes) to look at the work of a Chinese woman assembling circuit breakers.

For more of his thought-provoking pictures go here.

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The End of Summer

One of my personal projects is based around agricultural shows, and for the last two years I have photographed those in the Wear and Tees Valleys in County Durham.

Over the next two months I will be posting some of the results of my wanderings.

In typical Coulam style I will begin at the end, with the final event of the year.

The Langdon Beck Sheep Show of 2012 really felt like the last day of summer (although I can’t remember the start of summer, but suspect that it might have been moist!)

Teesdale looked glorious in the September sunshine, for one of the most traditional country shows in the north of England.

My enduring memory of this show will be the welcome given to me by everyone involved, and the laughter that prevailed despite the serious competition.

For pictures from 2011 please go to http://www.rogercoulam.com/blog/?p=1021

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Ray K. Metzker

A collection of pictures by one of my favourite photographers, Ray K. Metzker

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