Blog – Diane Smyth

We are very happy to present today’s WB 500 guest contribution courtesy of deputy editor extraordinaire at British Journal of Photography, Ms. Diane Smyth. Take it away Diane…

I had a baby at the start of the year so I’m currently on maternity leave and spending a lot more time hanging out in my local area, South East London. My time is mostly taken up with baby stuff but I’ve noticed some really interesting uses of photography, some of which I’m sharing with you here – please excuse the quality of my photographs, they’re just snaps on my iPhone designed to show how other people have used photography.

 

The Good

 

 

 

This was taken on the New Cross Road, it’s a poster in a hairdresser window designed, I guess to show which hairdos you can get. If you look carefully, each head has a number, I guess you can ask for a “number five” and get the corresponding style. I suppose you could say it’s a taxonomy of styles, but it wasn’t created with that in mind (at least I don’t think it was) – this is useful photography, like the images collected in the magazine of the same name. I like it for that very practical usage but I also like it stylistically – I love the fact there are so many different disembodied heads, all facing slightly different directions, and the restricted palette of colours.

 

 

 

 

Closely related is this picture, from a Morley’s Chicken takeaway. If you live in South East London you’ll be familiar with Morley’s but this particular branch is on Lewisham High Street. I love the way the ribs are floating on the gingham background, with no attempt at creating a drop-shadow or anything else that would make them look more grounded. It reminds me of a couple of the images in Lucas Blalock’s recent show at White Cube Bermondsey – which makes for a neat circle of references given Blalock’s interest in commercial product shots.

 

The Bad

 

 

 

These images are also from Lewisham High Street, from the 99p Store. The shop recently put a giant photograph of its interior on its side, such a giant photograph that the image has broken up into pixels. The close-up picture really isn’t that close up, the pixels are huge. I’m intrigued that they used the image anyway – did they not notice the pixels? Or just not care? I guess in the old days billboard images were similarly degraded close up, but no one ever got that close up, whereas this one is right on the street. Either way, I think the pixels look pretty cool – maybe they did too.

 

The Ugly – But Beautiful

 

 

 

This is a church on the main drag in Peckham but, as you can see, it’s not in a conventional church building. It features in David Spero’s book Churches, which was published in 2007 by SteidlMACK and is all about churches in nontraditional buildings. Many of them look pretty scruffy but through his images Spero encourages the reader to interpret the churches more positively, as creative, adhoc uses of urban space. Spero found many of his examples in South East London so I often see buildings I recognise from his book, or which would have made great additions to it, and I really like the fact that it’s a book of photographs which, paradoxically, encouraged me to look beyond the surface of things.