This week: England. London. The cold, cloudy place.
It’s been…4 years? Far too long, really. So long, in fact, that the accents are strange to me now, the air is colder, and the cussing has improved across the board. Also, words like “nab” make me stop for half a beat to properly interpret.
The city? Overwhelming and chaotic and fun. Buildings that were constructed in the early 1500s—marble and stone—were refactored in the 1800s—steel, steel, steel—and then torn apart, moved around, and remixed once again in the early 20th century—glass, concrete, glass. That’s at the local-level but if you stand on Lambeth Bridge you’ll find yourself caught between two separate realms. One on side, to the north; parliament, Big Ben, and white stone buildings fit for eighteenth century royalty or admirals. Then on the other side, towards the south; glass towers, shining beams of metal, skyscrapers.
All these buildings have captions, too. There’s a plaque on almost everything declaring that this is where the eighth president of the United States once stopped for high tea, or how this little baptist church was bombed in the blitz and is now a fancy high school.
And the letters! Did I mention the letters? They’re everywhere. Cast in stone…
…wait, lemme zoom in for you…
Then at the National Gallery the paintings were, sure, fine and all. But! I’m far more interested in the detailed and excruciatingly beautiful letters had been etched beneath the whatevers by Monet or Da Vinci.
Look at that A!
And then! Letters upon letters, the street signs of each era that have been jumbled up and stacked on top of one another…
…or, on the way towards Buckingham Palace, a lovely J and K cast in metal on the bridge…
Returning to London as a tourist is a little odd though. For the last five years, it’s been a city I’ve temporarily occupied with anxiety, moving through it quickly whilst waiting for visa docs or immigration interviews. This time I can slow down a bit, take my time. There’s no rush. No agenda.
That’s sort of the wonderful thing about photography; the zooming in, the slowing down, the record keeping. But as I’ve been taking a million photos of basically every letter and peculiar sign within a ten foot radius, I realize that I’ve neglected photography over the years. Perhaps this is because I always relied on Instagram Stories—and they made me lazy. The platform’s ease of use made me rush a quick picture out instead of standing in front of something, looking at the thing closely, and then inspecting it after the fact.
I keep deleting and reinstalling IG because I want the likes, the attention, the bragging rights. It’s sort of like Twitter, where I notice that I change myself for an audience. The only quiet place where I can be myself is my website where I can focus solely on how good something is. There’s no analytics, no waiting to see if someone will like a thing I wrote. There’s no scrolling down to see which face did (and worse, didn’t) see the thing I posted.
Should I use Flickr instead? How do I approach photography the same way I treat my blog? Or: what if there was a space on my website for photos in the same way there is for text? I know this is not a revelatory idea or anything, but I think if I slowed down and took photos that I published just to my website it would be…more for me? Perhaps I’d take more care of my surroundings, take more care of where I’m going, and what I do when I’m outside in the world.
So in a delirious, jet lagged daze this morning I made a super quick sketch of what that could look like on my website…
And then I remembered this really nice demo I made a while back of a CSS-only carousel (which I wrote about for CSS-Tricks) where you can click around on each of the images and you’ll get a larger view of the image on the right. I like how this feels! It feels web-ish to me.
Anyway, one thing I know I need to get right: I have to make this photo section of my website as easy as possible to upload new images, to write alt tags, etc. I need to make it so effortlessly easy to make posts so that the hardest part of all this is the photography.
I dunno! I’m not expecting to be the next Famous Camera Boy or anything, but I do like the idea of keeping a photographic record for myself and making it public. I like the idea of moving away from manipulative, closed systems that always make me feel icky in the end. But what if this was more than a gallery of images? What if I could make each entry like a story of some kind? Or like a comic book?
That reminds me, last month I made a Keynote presentation for my girlfriend’s birthday and I loved how I could make a story by just throwing a few images together…
It wasn’t this super serious photographic thing, oddly enough it gave me a chance to write and experiment with images that felt so freeing and exciting! I could be funny and weird without the pressure of being an Important Camera or Literary Gentleman. It was just a little media thing for a person I so dearly love. So what if this whole photo section of my site felt like that; a quirky essay with a point of view, an excited rant, a strange love letter to a person or a place?
Let me hack on it and get back to you,