• House Visits
  • Abandoned Homes of the Mid-West

    Bleached planks of wood, loosely shod stairs and rattling window frames.

    These are the features that I’ve been immersing myself in for the last few months.

    When I was first approached to produce a series of photographs based around the abandoned homes of Midwestern America I initially turned the offer down. This, after all, isn’t the kind of work that I usually do. The majority of the travelling jobs that I am wont to take on will usually whisk me away to glamorous metropolitan city, where I’ll have the opportunity of immersing myself in a vibrant culture and photographing a stunning (usually modern) home. These are the kinds of jobs that I made my name on – they appeal to my taste in lifestyle and they pay well.

    This was why I was distinctly surprised when I found myself wandering through the Shoshone National Forest in late-March, in search of an abandoned 19th Century fishing shack.

    I’d heard about this curious place from a drunk lorry driver in a dive bar the night before and it had sounded like just the kind of place that I had been charged with seeking out. ‘Dilapidated, sorrowful, forgotten,’ the man had slurred his words, letting them bleed together slowly, allowing them to roll around his mouth along with the whisky that he’d forgotten to drink.

    This was the first real character that I’d met during my stay in the Mid West. I’d flown out to Cody without any kind of real plan. My brief was to find abandoned homes, places that exhibited zero signs of habitation – forgotten places – as my would-be guide had said. Of course, simply try Googling ‘abandoned houses’ and you’ll find a tonne of great examples have already been discovered, part of my brief was to find shacks that had yet to be photographed – it was this challenge that attracted me to the job.

    The 6-hour time difference when I landed had significantly hampered the start to my trip.

    I had initially planned to get going straight away and start interviewing local people for some hints, but the resultant jet lag had pulled me into a slump that continued to plague me for 5 days. I had months to complete my assignment and my expenses were being paid for – so why not spend a few days readjusting my circadian rhythm and getting to know the local area?

    Cody is a city by name, but with a population of under 10,000, it has more of a small town feeling. Despite this small population, the city is still served by it’s own airport and with the Yellowstone National Park less than an hour’s drive away the streets are consistently busy with campers, hikers and tourists. Instead of diving straight into work, like I would usually do, I decided to slowly integrate myself into the community so I could discover the kind of abandoned homes that deserved to be a part of my new collection.

    That’s how I found myself in the Silver Dollar in Wyoming, plying an already drunk man with more whisky and that’s how I discovered a shack that would prove to be the centrepiece of the project. 

  • Travel
  • 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. 

  • 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.