I was recently reading a book and unusually it wasn’t one about photography. A character came out with this line “Life is about people, everything else is just background”. I’m not sure where the author got that from, it was written some years ago and more importantly it makes absolute sense as far as life is concerned. I thought to myself ‘yes, and not only that it sums up photography too”. That sounds like a slap in the face to all Landscape, Architectural and Nature photographers I know and it’s not meant to be because I do admire the work of many such photographers. It’s just that I struggle to take a shot without someone in the frame, I’m only interested in people, nothing else moves me very much photographically speaking. Very occasionally I do, because the light is too good to miss, evidence of that contained in last months “The Monthly”, but I really wished those photos had someone in them. When I began this blog almost two years ago I wanted to travel on my motorbike to various destinations and write about those trips, the other intention was obviously to document them with photographs, mostly this blog was always going to be about photography after all. Quite often though the accompanying photos could have been taken practically anywhere, because they’re more about the people. They’re usually framed in a scene, but it’s just background.
This post is no different, I intended to show more of Portsmouth, but didn’t. You may recall that in the Summer I travelled down to Portsmouth’s (Nickname - Pompey) neighbour and footballing rival Southampton (Nickname - the Saints), disappointing because it was deadly quiet. Devoid of people, life and I couldn’t even find a way to access the seafront. Portsmouth is the antithesis of Southampton. To begin with it’s the most densely populated city in the UK outside of London, over 200,000 people crammed onto what is essentially a small island. It’s also home to the Royal Navy and therefore of immense historical importance. The Tudor ship from Henry VIII’s Navy “The Mary Rose” is housed there as is Lord Nelson’s flagship “HMS Victory”. The author Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth as was engineering genius Isambard Kingdom Brunel. None of that with me, firstly they would like to charge £39 to enter the dock museum, secondly the first place I could find to park conveniently was outside a shopping centre! A nice one it was too and as I strolled through it led out to Portsmouth Harbour. So I clicked away at people; on their phones, taking selfies and people sitting on torpedoes;
Hold on…what the… a crane and some kind of tower. See what I mean, it’s meaningless, no people. That tower is the ‘Emirates Spinnaker” one of the UK’s tallest structures. You can pay to go up it if you wish, I didn’t wish. I’ve been up the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Rockefeller Centre in New York, the CN Tower in Toronto, the Stratosphere in Las Vegas and even what used to be know as the Post Office Tower in London…I don’t get the fascination I’m afraid and even if it was free of charge I probably still wouldn’t bother. Instead I wandered around the harbour front clicking a way, seeing how close I could get, which isn’t normal my thing. Who needs a zoom lens, just use your feet. Amazing how engrossed people get with their smartphones;
As I’ve discussed before I like the whole scene. Hold it, wasn't everything else just background… no one ever promised that any of my blogposts would make sense. I love black & White, here’s some colour…reds and blues!
Portsmouth really is a very pleasant city, though like all cities there are it’s less, let’s say, salubrious areas. In fact I read somewhere that there are some definite no go areas. I walked past this pub and neighbouring kebab cafe, I’m not judging here, I’ve been in a lot worse, but somehow I didn’t fancy it. I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover and I don’t. Besides, I make it a rule never to frequent anywhere that has photos of it’s food on a menu. By the way, a lot of the images as I’ve said so many times before aren’t posted with the reasoning that I think they’re somehow great, simply because I try to give you a feel for the place;
Talk about not judging a book by it’s cover. I did have a very nice chat with this guy about photography and some Portsmouth history, he looks as though he’s about to come over and thump me in this shot before we began our conversation:
I couldn’t find much more in this area and so decided to move on to the beach front. A couple of shots of these guys down by the railway station, then I headed back to my bike and for an area of Portsmouth known as Southsea.
Two Piers, a beach, a long promenade and 480 acres of grassland know as Southsea Common. It even has it’s own microclimate, milder in the winter than surrounding areas, sheltered from northerly winds Southsea is quite the place. The piers, as is often the case in these seaside resorts, are a little run down. A history of fires, which they all seem to have at some time or other. One such fire took place at South Parade Pier during the filming of “Tommy”, the rock opera starring Roger Daltrey of The Who and based on their album of the same name. I went under the pier to begin with, often there’s a photo opportunity, unfortunately nothing much on this occasion. Here’s one attempt, didn’t quite work;
Back up to the top of the pier and where there was once a hall (I presume), instead a wide expanse of nothing and some benches. A guy eating (hence the ubiquitous seagull), another one snoozing in the warm October sunshine I snapped away:
The best shot I felt would be to sit down next to them for a better perspective;
I moved on, feeling slightly sorry for them. Imagine waking up and seeing me with a camera pointing at you! I crossed the road grabbed a bottle of juice and leant against a railing watching the people promenading, everything else was just background;
I could have been almost anywhere on this planet, standing there watching and making photos of the people. Bath my nearest city is just 7 miles away from home and I could have taken similar photos of people there, I know that. The enjoyment for me is the motorcycle ride coupled with the wonderful and therapeutic process of photographing. I had a 70 mile journey home and so reluctantly I departed Portsmouth. My last shot isn’t anything special, it’s not a glory shot or some kind of a showstopper, it’s just average photography. People going about their business, I find it so relaxing and wonder about their lives, where they’re going, what that girl on the phone is talking about, why those lads are pushing that scooter, the couple on the bench watching, er… the background of course.
All images can be opened by clicking on the thumbnails and are taken using a Leica M with Summicron 35mm Lens fitted. I suggest that if you’re reading this blogpost via an email a better experience can be obtained if you open it in your browser.
As always my sincere thanks go to anyone taking the time to read this blog.