Archive: photography

The BBC have just posted this wonderful slideshow about the Radiophonic Workshop. Some nice photographs from the unit’s history from its inception in 1958 onwards.

Via @cobaltmale.

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I’ve decided I need a new hobby. I haven’t embarked on anything new for a while. Now feels like the right time to try and change that.

2008, 2009 and 2010 were fast-moving times for me. I graduated from university. After a shaky year or so, I got a proper job, which I feel lucky to have got. Then I bought my first car. Soon afterwards I moved to my own flat — the first time I hadn’t lived with my parents. Following a miserable and pessimistic youth, I had done a lot of growing up in a short space of time.

In 2011, the pace of change slowed. There was the odd flash of something exciting happening last year, but it never came together.

I am busy now that I work full time and live by myself. But it’s more boring now. My social life in Dundee isn’t as good as I had hoped it would be. Now I feel the need to be proactive and do something new; get new skills; meet new people.

The trouble is, what? I have a few ideas — none of which I’m sure about.

One idea is to take some sort of evening class. What in, I have no idea. Although I am told most people take evening classes for the social side of it, I would probably have to learn something I was actually interested in.

The typical thing to do, so I’m told, is to learn a language. But, rightly or wrongly, my motivation to learn a language is low.

One other idea is to learn photography. I’m not sure if you can get lessons or groups, or if it’s the sort of thing where you just have to buy some books and practice lots.

I like the idea of photography, but I am put off a bit because it feels lazy of me to think of it. Does the world really need another average photographer uploading his photos to Flickr, despite the fact that he is clearly not as good as he wishes he was?

You could say I already do that. But if I were to start taking it seriously, would it add much to the world? I doubt it.

The real clincher is that photography could be very expensive if I started getting too heavily into it. I don’t see much point in taking it seriously unless I take it seriously seriously. In that sense, I feel like I can’t commit myself to learning photography.

Another option is to rekindle an old hobby — playing music. This, too, could be expensive. Moreover, it would probably be a solitary pursuit — unless I joined a band, which I don’t see myself doing.

On the plus side, I know I can do it. I have a passion for music, and I had some talent for playing musical instruments when I was younger.

But my relationship with playing music has been tricky. At times it was even traumatic. That will be the subject of a post to be published later this week.

In the meantime, I am no further forward in deciding what to do with myself in Dundee. There must be ways to stop yourself from going round the bend if you feel like life is slowing down, mustn’t there?

Campo de Carabobo (1)

There was a bit of feedback on the brutalism post that I wanted to share, as well as an article I was already aware of that didn’t quite fit into the original post.

First up, this interesting article in the Guardian that defends brutalism. It is an interesting viewpoint. I would also recommend reading the comments, which provide the full range of opinions on brutalism.

Fuck Yeah Brutalism is a simple but brilliant tumblelog. Simply photographs of brutalist buildings. A brilliant celebration that demonstrates the beauty of brutalism. Looking at this, it’s almost difficult to see why brutalism would be so fiercely reviled by many.

Thanks to Jonathan Pelham on Twitter for pointing me in its direction.

Finally, a friend informed me about these abandoned brutalist monuments built in Yugoslavia during the 1960s and 1970s. They look absolutely spectacular.

I have found myself developing an interest in brutalism, the style of architecture that was predominant in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. I have had a slight interest in modern architecture in the past, but I am finding myself increasingly drawn to brutalist structures and other buildings from this era.

It is not just the aesthetics of brutalist buildings that draw me. I am more fascinated by people’s interaction with them. It is a puzzle.

This is a style of architecture that dominated the scene just a few decades ago. If you view contemporary publicity films about post-war urban development, there is nothing but unflinching optimism (similar to the new towns I posted about a couple of days ago).

Telly Savalas looks at Birmingham. “You feel as if you’ve been projected into the 21st century,” he said. But by the time the 21st century came, many people would be itching to demolish the very buildings he was enthusing about.

Today, conventional wisdom derides brutalism utterly as carbuncular. Moreover, it is inextricably associated with poorly-maintained social housing, and in turn, crime and deprivation.

Brutalism: Post-War British Architecture cover

I was eager to learn more about brutalism, so went to see if there were any books on the subject. I was delighted to find out that a book, Brutalism: Post-War British Architecture by Alexander Clement, has been published very recently.

Around half a century on from the height of brutalism, now is a good time to look back at the style with, as the blurb describes, “a degree of rational reappraisal.” I am really glad to have found this book, which documents many of the notable brutalist buildings in Britain.

Speaking personally, I felt as though this book could have been a bit more accessible to someone like me, who has almost no prior knowledge about architecture. But I doubt there are too many people like me — relatively new to architecture, but interested specifically in brutalism — so I can understand this.

Besides, it didn’t prove to be too much of a barrier to my enjoyment of this book. The reader is taken on a whistle-stop tour of brutalist buildings. Public buildings, universities, service stations, office blocks, churches and, of course, social housing, are all covered in turn.

The success of the book rests on the wonderful photographs. These vary in quality, but are often very striking, demonstrating the awesome magnificence of these buildings.

But the book focuses too much on the architecture. This is probably an odd thing to say about an architecture book. But people’s interactions with brutalist architecture — positive and negative — are such an important part of the story, and are what drive my interest in the subject.

I would have liked there to have been more on the background behind brutalism. Deeper explanations of the theories and ideas behind concepts like streets in the sky and other brutalist hallmarks would have been useful and interesting.

A deeper exploration of the criticisms of brutalism would also have been welcome. I wanted to learn more about the other side of the story. Inadequate, poorly or cheaply-built buildings, that age badly in the British climate, and don’t cater for humans properly, are frequent criticisms of brutalism.

While these aspects are all mentioned, their treatment is brief. This left me slightly disappointed and wanting to learn more than the book was giving me.

The book focuses almost exclusively on the positive sides of brutalism. This may be expected, and the author seems to be on a mission to improve the image of brutalism (and why not?). But it did leave me feeling as though the full story hadn’t been told.

Overall, though, I am really glad to have found this book. It has taught me a lot about brutalism, and has inspired me to think again at buildings I already knew, and also to view in person some of the magnificent buildings featured in the book.

Brutalism: Post-War British Architecture is a brilliant document of an important style of architecture that sometimes seems as though it’s in danger of being completely wiped out by a generation that cares nothing for it.