• Uncategorized
  • The Old Houses in Old America

    I’m often asked about the best places that I visit through my job…

    …its often the more understated destinations that I find more enjoyable.

    Thanks to the contacts that I’ve made over the year, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to dozens of countries that I’d only ever dreamed of before. The nature of my job is a simple one, I’m hired to take photographs of beautiful houses, which are usually in far-off locations. I’m paid for my expenses, so I don’t have to worry about the air fare and I’m usually put up in a decent hotel.  I’ve sure come a long way from that dingy house in York, but its not the pre-paid flights or hotels that make me thankful for being in this line of work – its the moments in between.

    Its the odd little corners of the world that are rarely seen or photographed – the lost moments in time that I’m fortunate enough to witness.

    My most recent trip took me out to a corner of America that I had not visited before. Of course, this shouldn’t be surprising, after all, its a big country! My usual trips to America take me out to the major cultural cities: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco. Plush flats with views of the valley. Modern condos with infinity pools and ultra-chic apartments for start-up salary earners. Make your way out to the East coast, however, and you’ll find the architectural history of the country becomes instilled with the spirit of old America.

    Established in 1638, Exeter, Massachusetts, is one of the oldest occupied settlements in the country. Although the small town of 14,000 or so people may have adapted to modernity somewhat (electrics manufacturers, Wall Industries, have been continuing the tradition of industry in the town), there’s an unwavering sense of heritage in this town, exemplified by the wide examples of wonderfully preserved historical homes.

    Since the establishment of the town in the 17th Century, Exeter has played a key part in the shaping of American History (its been claimed that the town was home to the birth of the Republican Party). Like any town, though, it still had its humble beginnings.

    The land was originally purchased by the Reverend John Wheelwright, who had been exiled from his previous home for attempting to spread dissident religious views that he had learnt from his sister, Anne Hutchinson, a prominent religious figure. The settlers in Exeter were a religious crowd who put great stock in their beliefs, so it only follows that a church would be one of the first buildings to be erected in the town. The First Congregational Church, built in 1870, still stands today alongside a dozen or so other fine historical buildings.

    After spending a few days photographing some immaculately kept homes, I had a few days to myself to wander around this peaceful town.

    Like many of the old towns in America, Exeter might not be the bustling hub of activity it once was, but what its lost in importance it has retained in cold beauty and cultural heritage. 

  • House Visits
  • Lost In Texture: Ceilings of Dreams

    During my Uni days, I spent a lot of time staring at ceilings.

    In York, there’s a huge variety of houses – from the stunningly ancient to the jarringly modern. Unfortunately, when you’re a down-and-out History student living on the most basic of Student Loans and Grants – you’ll find that the two ends of the spectrum are frustratingly out of reach.

    Back in the mid-noughties, York was a wonderful place to live – but a little behind in the Student Housing scene. The houses that my friends and I had the dubious pleasure of renting, were filled with furniture that hadn’t been changed since the 70s and felt like time portals back to another time.

    rainy dayDuring my second year of Uni, I remember a day I spent inside, on a rainy day, filling up a roll of film with shots of our crummy student house. It was a 3-bed terraced house, all narrow corridors, high ceilings and curious textural details. Something I loved about that house was the variety in textures. Experimenting with my new piece of equipment, I remember dropping some acid and losing myself in the lens and the feel of the place.

    I still have the collection of photographs that I took that day, it’s amazing what can be done with such minimal lighting and gear. Old carpets, touched by the streaks of light escaping the rain clouds from outside, come alive – drifting imperceptibly like sea anemone under the ocean.

    texturedSharp stalactites and stalagmites of smooth creamy ceiling, droop and drop, threatening to lose their meringue like consistency and drop right into my open mouth.

    Move into the bathroom and everything goes up a notch. The blue spiralled tiles that cover the walls in this small room, open and undulate. As my eyes begin to glaze over, I can feel my knees start to sag with the weight of the water. Its almost as if I’m down in the ocean with carpet-anemone, drifting and spiralling, my limbs glued to the floor with the sticky ceiling that’s been dripping on me for hours.

    psychdelic bathWhen I woke up, later that night, I remember seeing the curtain in the living room  shimmer with motion. My friends were returning from a night out. I’d slept through most of the evening, missed my dinner plans and somehow managed to fill a 32-reel of film up with photos of our crummy student flat.

    Impatient knocks on the door began to sound, they must have forgotten their keys. As I stumbled to my feet, I passed the wide mirror in the hall and did a small double-take. For just a second, I thought I saw a ghost. A demonic mud-creature. A man coated in gloss paint, bright white strings of goo joining dripping over a gaping maw of a mouth.

    I blinked and he was gone. There was just a reflection of myself, slightly dazed looking, with a trickle of blood oozing down from a cut in my forehead.

    psychedelic

  • House Visits
  • Staring At The Floor – School-Boy Memories

    When we think of childhood memories, it can be a knee-jerk reaction to fall back on a particular incident that was funny or tragic – something that would make for a good anecdote.

    Dig deep though, and the route of all memories is more in our senses than our minds. The hundreds of minute details that are logged into our brains, leave a patchwork of reactions that – if triggered – will make us a think of a certain time. I’m definitely no neuro-scientist, but I’m almost certain that’s how it works.

    I find, however, that my memories are less jogged by actions or words – I find that recollection of textures is what fires off my synapses to their fullest. This interest and fascination in textures has led me to focusing on Hi-Def photography of interiors and patterns.

    subbasement

    In the deep recesses of my mind, locked behind imaginary metallic doors that interlock in the shape of an X and make mechanical sounds when they open, lie my deepest memories. You never know when you’re going to be treated to a minor or major flashback.

    pine floorIn our everyday life, we tread lightly over a veritable minefield of sensations, sounds and simulacrums – each one an explosive of emotional power, lying in wait to provide us with a new revelation of a time once been.

    Spending so much time in other people’s homes, I often run the risk of triggering old texture based memories. I’m primed for nostalgia every time I enter someone’s house.

    The most recent flashback occurred to me whilst I was shooting an interior of a modern house.

    It was just a basic day’s work, getting some shoots for a Liverpool SEO agency.

    The place was bright and airy with scent of pine. The brightly coloured wood clad the walls and the ceiling, there were even bright beams supporting the open pine structure. Surrounded by all this pine, I began to find myself drifting in to a past memory.

    As I drew my camera out to start shooting, I noticed something.

    The floor, in the kitchen that I had just stepped into, looked like pine – I could swear it even smelt like it – but on close inspection it wasn’t pine at all.

    fox

    Kneeling down, I ran my fingers across its clean, smooth surface and laughed to myself. Of course, it was DIY kitchen laminate flooring. So well, in fact, was this floor disguised that – as I ran my finger across its surface – I felt a surge in my heart as long-buried memories fought their way to break free of my grey matter.

    I’m glad that I was alone in the house at this time, because the force of the memory recollection temporarily put my head in a spin. As the memory lit up long forgotten sections of my mind, I gritted my teeth and felt the pulse on my hands as I felt the glow of memory alight in me.

    mind_blast_by_vorixI was back in school – I’d just been shoved on to my knees, there was a pressure on the back of my head – firm and forceful. I heard a laugh, fear struck me cold. It was a callous chuckle, uncaring and unhappy, cutting me to the quick. As I braced myself for an impact, I opened my eyes and cried out.

    But I was back in the Modern house. Shaking, shivering in cold sweat – my damp face pressed against the DIY kitchen laminate flooring.

     …

  • Travel
  • View To Another World: Glasses In Reflection

    I’ve always loved the liberal use of glass in modern builds.


    Although I can think of plenty of friends, working in the interior design world, who despise the proliferation of glass and steel – it’s a fad that I can’t get enough of.

    st. pancras

    I’m a sucker for high contrast. Whether it’s present in the mixture of building materials or design ethos, a liberal approach to the use of contrast and comparison can lift a building out of of humdrum banality and into the realms of the dream-like.

    One of my favourite builds, that has transformed my approach to glass, is St. Pancras International Railway Station. Arriving there for a train is like stepping into a golden age of travel. The all-encompassing network of glass beautifully reflects and absorbs the light, or lack of, coming through from the sky above. Its a wonderful touch to give to, what would otherwise be, a very austere and serious building.

    By almost opening up the roof to the elements, commuters are treated to an ever changing panoramic vista of the London skyline. Whilst you battle with the ticket barriers, or gaze up at the departures board – coffee in hand – your eyes naturally drift to the enormous roof. Arriving on a clear night from Paris, you can almost forgive yourself for thinking that you had never left the City of Love, such is the grandeur and elegance of St. Pancras.

    night sky london

    Part of the allure of the use of glass, is the illusion of space that it lends certain areas. The eye is naturally drawn to the bright and colourful, regardless of the drab surroundings you may find yourself in, if there is a window open to a bright populated street outside, you will be automatically transported to that street. The sounds and colours, wonderful distractions, will push out the grim reality that you find yourself in – allowing the outside world to invade the inside.

    Although many house photographers decry the overuse of glass in domestic environments, I adore it. Taking grand structural ideas, like the glass roof in St. Pancras, and planting them in living spaces is part of what makes domestic design so fascinating.

    There’s nothing I like more than being surprised by a home. Sometimes they can get so predictable. You can open a rustic, ranch-style front door and know that there’ll be a farm-style kitchen through the next door. You can see the wide-faux-fireplace coming a mile off and I’ve now got a sixth sense for the extensive use of decking in a back garden now.

    conservaotry

    On a tour of Merseyside homes recently, taking photographs for a local Estate Agent, I was taken back by the indulgence in grandeur that I was presented with. Although I’m probably belying my closely guarded cultural stereotypes, I had not expected to see such decadence in design when it came to the conservatories in Chester, Warrington and Liverpool. (Thanks to Allerton Windows )The stunning use of glass, put together by a locally based firm, allowed heaps of light into the living spaces, granting otherwise small domestic arrangements a sense of grandeur.

    From the roads that these houses border, you don’t expect a thing. Almost entirely uniform in their design – parts of Merseyside can feel eerily similar to the American notion of a traditional Suburbia. Children swoop through cul-de-sacs on bikes, whilst strikingly wide roads give cars ample space to pass each other. Each home is well looked after; in certain parts of Chester, on a sunny day you could almost forgive yourself for thinking you’d dropped yourself into a San Francisco neighbourhood.

    san francisco

    These homes have a surprise behind every front door, in these neighbourhoods nothing is as it first appears. Double-glazed doors open onto brightly decorated reception areas with deep carpets and jarring artwork. Open kitchen areas look out on spacious orangeries, serving as a living space and dining room. There was even the odd swimming pool dotted about in homes ‘across the water’.

    An indulgence in the opulent is a trait that many people are unaware that the Northern people possess. Take a look around their homes and you’ll learn soon enough how indulgent they can get.

  • House Visits
  • New York Apartments – Beautifully Decadent

    I always love to travel overseas for my work.

    The ritual of preparing for long distance flights is something that I truly cherish. Spending hundred of pounds on flight tickets makes me giddy with anticipation. Packing a small suitcase with the bare essentials (I usually keep my style simple yet elegant when I’m in NYC, slim-fitted jeans and plain t-shirts) and purchasing those tiny travel versions of all my must-have cosmetics.

    Of course, I always need to spare some space for my photography gear as well. In the early days, I used to over pack for my overseas excursions. Gripped with the fear that I would be without a certain lens or flash, I would ram as much as I could into my flight case and spend an entire week lugging the stuff around, to no avail.

    Now I’ve got some more experience under my belt, I’ve got far more confidence in my skills and prefer to challenge myself by taking less and less gear. For my last sojourn to the Big Apple, I settled on taking just two cameras: my Nikon D500 DSLR and my Sony Cybershot DSC-RX1R MKII Compact (for some quick snaps of the city).

     luxury-new-york-city-condo-apartments

    Walking through those iconic streets is always an honour, especially when I’ve got bags of time between jobs. I’d been called to NYC to take some pictures of a selection of gorgeous apartments. The client was a big real estate company who had spotted some of my work from the National Trust gigs that I’d done way back when.

    Luckily for me, I had an entire week to shoot just four studio apartments. All within walking distance of my hotel on 13th Street, I had ample time to wander between each apartment capturing a whole host of little moments unfurling on the streets.

    New York is a hectic place to capture. Business men and women pace frantically between their air-conditioned office blocks and their waiting cabs. Street sellers keep an eye our for patrolling cops. Hot dog sellers flaunt their wares, whilst tourists blunder hopelessly from sight to sight.

    To shoot in New York, is to become one with the people there – just another lost individual rushing to get to the finish line.