Pandemonia -- Themes and Obsessions

 

My photography is mostly driven by little obsessions with particular themes or things -- the abstract shapes of domestic items, for example, or the found surrealisms of everyday life. If I had a single obsession it'd be the monomaniacally egotistical urge to show people how strange the familiar is, how much everyday life involves the surreal, how odd the little banalities of life can be. Otherwise the obsessions and themes here are the usual run-of-the-mill collection of dead cars, red shoes, old highways, lightfalls, and (of course) things that look good....

Click on any image (highlighted or not) to get the full story or at least a preview of what's coming. At any one time only some of these obsessions or themes will be threaded here; the threads change every so often when I'm feeling inspired....


Hygenic Dog Food Factory

Emeryville / West Berkeley

Everyone's heard something about Berkeley -- the University, the Hippies, the Deadheads, the Punks, the lethal combination of smugness and self-righteousness, the sacramental public self-absorption... Berkeley, the City of Stereotypes, the City Where Time Stood Still (somewhere mid-to-late-sixties for the hippies, late-seventies for the punks...); and poor old Emeryville, "City of Toxic Waste"....

There's more to it than that....


Cady Mountains, Route 66

Route 66 and The Mojave

...Kingman, Barstow, San Bernadino...

I set out to trace the Californian parts of the old Route 66 I'd heard about while growing up in Australia; I set out to see whether it even still existed (I had my doubts). I didn't know what to expect, but what I found keeps me coming back....


Domestica

Domestica

An obsession with the textures and shapes of clothing, the everyday strangeness of the things in my house....


Incidental Surrealisms

Incidental Surrealisms

I used to take the Underground to work every day in London. I'd watch the advertising posters on the walls and walkways change in a matter of days from bland shiny nothings into subtle works of art, surreal montages of torn layers and exposed fragments. People always ask what I did to get these images (manipulation? montage? multiple exposures?); what I really did was just watch the changes....

Long after taking the series (one of the first things I ever did with a camera) I noticed that every single image I took had at least part of a face in it....


Red Shoe Shuffle

The Red Shoe Shuffle

I saw them in the window of an Oxford Street shoe shop, and had to buy them. I wore them in the Tube, to work, to the theatre, shopping.... Out here, there's not the weather, not the excuse, not the general flair for mainstream fashion, and like everyone else I drab out with bland shoes and everyday shirts.

So instead I took them with me to the desert, to Disneyland, to the mountains, to downtown Oakland, and took photos of them sitting there in all their glory. I thought I was so cool -- until I found out about those guys who lugged a red couch around America, photographing it everywhere they stopped. They even made a book about it. I felt cheated -- that's my obsession! -- and in a fit of depression I got rid of most of the shots. I'm feeling in the mood to do it all again....





Newton. My memory barnacles these streets...


Newtown

Signs of (my) life... a few cryptic hints of my past from a recent trip, just a bunch of snaps from another life.




Sullivan Road

The Central Valley

Bakersfield, Oildale (Merle Haggard country), Modesto, The Westside, Fresno, Coalinga, Avenal, Gustine... tumbleweed, agriculture (it's hardly farming), I-5, mountains, the autumn haze.... people from the coast tend to avoid the Valley except to drive through it. I spend my vacations there....


Oxford Circus

London Underground

An architecture of artificial light, an everyday warren of sounds and blind curves, a visual heaven for me with my first-ever camera....


Stephen Hocking

Some People...

Some of the people in my life, my past, my neighbourhood, people I've seen around... Not really portraits (I'm as bad at them as I am at beautiful landscapes) -- just snapshots from a life, I guess.


Body Parts

Some of the most familiar landscapes, abstracted a little.... no manipulations or editing (except this or maybe this...), just what's there.... Intimate surrealisms?


Deep Springs

The Desert

When I first drove into the Mojave, I knew nothing about the Californian deserts; I was in for a shock. My Australian feelings about wilderness and deserts were both offended and intrigued by the way people lived here, by the juxtaposed junkyard landscapes and beautiful deserts and mountains, by the casual squalor and ascetic cleanliness. Nothing was what I expected at all.


York Road, Kings Cross

London

London was where I first started taking photos. I became obsessed by the textures of bricks and concrete, and by the oppressive shadowless light of London's days. London seems to be permanently lit by the glare of a low-hanging steel-grey sky, washing the colour and contrast from everything. At the time, the city itself seemed like a replay of an old 40's newsreel, with aging cars, Dickensian figures, long queues for food, ancient buses, shabby poverty, and a crippling air of resigned hopelessness. I learned to love it.


Eureka Dunes

Things That Look Good

I'm hopeless at taking photos that make people or things look good (or, worse, nice), but every now and then a subject overwhelms me and expresses itself anyway. The danger (here on the Left Coast at least) is that you end up with work that looks like a bad imitation of something by Ansel Adams; on the other hand, at least these are my imitations and not something I bought in a suburban poster store....


Market Street

Architecture

The abstract shapes, the way buildings talk across streets and years, the way they reflect each other, the glass canyons and brick plains....


The Hotsy Totsy Club

San Pablo Avenue

Twenty-three miles of horizontal archaeology, from downtown Oakland to Carquinez Straights via Emeryville, Berkeley, El Cerrito, Richmond, San Pablo, Rodeo. Bowling alleys, downtown poverty, suburban malls, housing projects, car yards, oil refineries, bars, junkyards, fishing spots, ship terminals, railroad yards... I drive San Pablo Avenue several times a month just to remind myself that I'm in America.


Lightfall

Lightfalls

Somewhere between Domestica and incidental surrealism... the way the light falls, the graceful objects of a domestic obsession....

 


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