Swanage

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Project ideas are a bit like buses, you seem to be going nowhere then suddenly two ideas come from nowhere.

Firstly, my last post (‘Clone town’) seems to have galvanised my thinking about Salisbury and the work that I am doing locally. I am in the process of preparing for a photography exhibition in August, where I will be displaying my Salisbury night work (the web page will be updated to reflect the exhibition as soon as I am satisfied what images will make the final cut). As I was working through the shots tonight, it struck me about the contrast between night and day in the town. So, the Salisbury project takes into account the themes mentioned in the last post, whilst being shot at these two different time periods. The working title for the project is ‘Salisbury: Night and day’, which is pretty straightforward really.

The second project is going to be about Swanage. I visited the place recently and found it to be a really interesting and quite quirky place. My aim is to shoot the town in Summer and Winter, so that I can play on the contrast between the two seasons. It’ll be a more condensed project than the Salisbury one as it’s a three-hour round trip from home, so I need to be more focused when I shoot there. However, I do quite fancy trying my own take on the classic ‘British at the Seaside’ theme that has been covered by Tony Ray Jones, Martin Parr, etc. Whether I end up with something different to say from them (particularly Parr) is another thing! I will put some photos up on the site as soon as I edit a selection and find a better way of presenting them than the current format.

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Clone town

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I spend a lot of time in Salisbury, it’s a place I really like. It’s also convenient as I live very nearby. However, as I walk around the town I get the increasing sense that it is a place that is almost decaying. The major draw of the place is naturally the cathedral, and the building is a pretty spectacular draw at that.

But, I am also noticing that a lot of the shops are empty (‘to let’ / boarded up with those anodyne pretty photos to make things appear not that bad to people) or closing down (such as Monsoon recently, and several others in the town at the moment. The shops that seem to be starting up are either more food places (such as the recent opening of Nando’s) or chain shops (such as H&M). The local paper talks about how Salisbury is at risk of becoming a ‘clone town’, same shops different buildings – you could be anywhere. From what I know of the town, it has a history of being artistic with local shops. Shops that seem to be disappearing from what I can see.

The market square was recently refurbished (the shot above) and the area has become a popular spot for adolescents on their skateboards, now that the car park there has gone. The arrival of the skaters from my point of view, makes things a lot more visually interesting. However, most of the shops surrounding the square are food shops.

To me, Salisbury seems to be a town that it struggling to reinvent itself. Maybe this issue is not dissimilar to other cities in the UK.

I grew up in a fishing village in Cornwall (Porthleven). In the 80s and 90s it was also struggling to reinvent itself, as the fishing and boatbuilding industries were dying off whilst tourism was growing. Then, at the turn of the century the place started to get a reputation for its food. A food festival was started up, Antony Worrall Thompson was invited down to open it (and has done so now on numerous occasions), then things grew seemingly from there. Now you go to the village and there are numerous bijou art shops, good quality restaurants, and a positive vibe about the place (well, for the holiday makers at least – poor job prospects and low pay still remains an issue for the locals).

Perhaps Salisbury needs to follow a similar model and work out what it needs to do to encourage more business into the town. After all, the shops that are closing probably aren’t those that cater to the tourist market.

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Sanctuary?

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This corner of the library in Salisbury is often the home for someone for the night. Soon after I took this shot, I came across a man setting up his ‘bed’ in the doorway of the local Phones 4 u store.

I called the post Sanctuary as in the Cathedral grounds a sculpture exhibition by the same name has been running for some months. The aim of the art project is to explore different meanings of the word sanctuary. In some ways the location above is probably a sanctuary for someone from the elements. But, I can’t really imagine that it would be totally safe to sleep there at night. I would feel exposed and on edge if I tried to sleep there. Hence the question mark.

Previously, I had written an entry on another ‘blog’ that I post photos on (Blipfoto) where I talked about how sad it all was. I still personally think this, but I expect the story of why people become homeless and why they continue to do it is far more complex than being a simple ‘sad tale’.