21 December 2015

Pea Soup Fog

Once a year we take the photography first year students on a residential to London for three days. It's both exhilarating and exhausting in equal measure for all concerned. The staff as they are on duty for 72 hours and responsible for a large group of teenagers, and the students as they are mostly unused to much physical exercise and have to walk miles each day, exploring and photographing the city.  Everything went well this year, great weather and light, interesting exhibitions including Alec Soth at The Media Space and happy, respectful students. As group leader I don't get much photography time so I'm largely grabbing moments as we move en masse around the streets of London, but I now see that as the challenge. Sadly there were no pea soup fogs, but I love the poetic description of pollution and the reason London became known as the Big Smoke. 

Here are some London residential blog posts from previous years:

Dorothy Rides the Piccadilly Line

Keep Right

Meyerowitz Made Me Do It


19 December 2015

One Year Today

On the 19th December 2014 I started a new life. It was the end of a two decade relationship, it was the day our shared home was sold and I set out as a single person again, Olive the cat came too. Looking back I don't know how I found the strength to get through the process, it's a cliche but it did feel like my world had been turned upside down, I had no idea if I was making good or bad decisions and I felt hurt and scared. I'd lost a couple of stone in weight, was having bizarre dreams or not sleeping at all and my nerves literally felt like they were rattling. However I've got amazing family and friends who looked after me and I've discovered I'm strong. So a year later I'm feeling calm, collected and I'm healing. My new home has proved to be a sanctuary, which is exactly what my instincts told me it would be when I first visited and knew I had to live here. So if you are going through a tough time at the moment, trust yourself, make decisions that feel right and I hope things will get better for you too. Happy Christmas!

08 November 2015


Ferns are one of my favourite plant species, I can remember running my hand across them walking in woods as a child, the feel of their gentle fronds has stayed with me. They look like aliens in spring, gradually reaching out, unfurling. Then beautiful in autumn resting on each other suspended above the mulch that they will soon become part of. 

07 November 2015


I've been cycling past this plant on the canal towpath every day on the way to work observing it blaze and flame with increased drama. I couldn't resist visiting today to make it's portrait before it settles quietly into the background for winter. 

01 November 2015


There was no sight of this plant when I moved into my home last December. But gradually, steadily it grew to be about a foot taller than me in a season. It was grand and sculptural all summer but has now begun to droop, ready to disappear back into the soil during its dormancy. Apparently its shapes form the decorative detail on Corinthian columns, a little bit of classical Greece in a Manchester front garden.

17 October 2015

On The Cusp

I've often come back to thresholds in my work, the transitional space between one place and another. It feels like we are on the cusp of change at this time of the year; plants in retreat, shorter days, longer shadows. 

Ends and beginnings. 

11 October 2015


It's always curious when you realise two separate trains of thought are actually joined up. I started the weekend thinking about how spring and autumn are like two bookends. Spring is about beginnings, colour and shape emerging from the slowly warming earth, autumn is nature going out with a bang, flaming colours falling as the earth starts to cool and the days shorten. I started experimenting creatively with ways to respond to the colours around me, in my garden, allotment and the streets that join them.  I stopped, it wasn't working. Then I bumped into a good friend that had just bought a DVD called 'Advanced Style', a film made by photographer Ari Seth Cohen and film maker Lina Plioplyte. I bought it too. It's an inspiring documentary about women in New York aged between fifty and one hundred years who don't see 'maturity' as an obstacle to looking amazing. In fact they are all avant grade in their approach to their looks, wonderful characters in the autumn of their lives, explosions of colour and form cat-walking the streets of New York.I returned to my experiments and concentrated on colour and beauty in the seasoned. 

05 September 2015

Straight Lanes and Circuits

Navigating the twists and turns, straight lanes, roundabouts and circuits. Does anyone have a life map I could borrow for a bit? I seem to have mislaid mine. 

18 August 2015


I think about cities a lot. Substandard architecture and planning annoy me, especially when it's in my city and I have to live with it. I particularly like medium sized European cities like Antwerp, Amsterdam, Berlin, Barcelona and Lisbon that can be walked and have great public transport. I'd say Liverpool and Manchester are almost on a par with these places now after several decades of populations returning, some thoughtful remodeling and an explosion in urban life. Both cities feel like building sites again and are obviously still expanding. A watery artery - the Manchester Ship Canal already connects us but it would be great to see cooperation and the development of some kind of megalopolis with high-speed public transport between the two. If we had the zippy trains that other countries have you could do the journey in 15 minutes. Until that happens I shall be making my regular pilgrimage down the M62. Some pictures from one of those journeys:

16 August 2015

Numbers Are Neutral

I've been looking at Jackson Pollocks today. That's not rhyming slang, I accompanied a friend to Tate Liverpool to see Blind Spots, an exhibition of his work. It really made an impression on me, the show was the opposite of a 'greatest hits' and apart from a few familiar pieces concentrated on neglected work. We got there early and I felt a bit drowsy which was a good way to be, I was receptive, accepting the rhythm and fury of his work. It made me want to make marks, to scratch, pour, drip, scribble. My tool is a camera and I couldn't think how to respond, so I just let him stay with me all day. 

I like how he talked about his work, especially this line:

"I'm very representational some of the time, and a little all of the time."

He stopped giving titles to his work in the later years preferring numbers instead, because as his wife said "numbers are neutral. They make people look at a picture for what it is - pure painting."