A walk underneath Spaghetti Junction

Birmingham’s famous 1972 concrete megastructure – which criscrosses the M6 and various other slip roads and expressways – makes as much sense from below as it does from above. Probably less so once you add in the Tame River, a fishing lake, three canals, a train track and those swooping forests of pillars.

The underbelly of the  Gravelly Hill Interchange is a daunting place to visit alone. There is the grave-like monument to PC Michael Swindells, who was stabbed and killed in 2004 on the Tame Valley Canal while in pursuit of a knife-wielding paranoid schizophrenic. On today’s visit there were three or four semi-threatening dirtbikers using it as their playground. Sadly there was litter everywhere – next time, I’ll bring a bag.

But it is also desolately beautiful in its own way, with birdlife, an ongoing Bill Drummond artwork, stark lines and angles and reflections, the monolithic grandeur of the concrete supports, and the relentless chunking of the stitched highways carrying ‘flying cars’ overhead like a preview of a future that never came to be.

This is my fourth or fifth time visiting. The low winter sun brought me out this time but Spag Junction is impressive on every visit – and differently moody .

These 25 photos are from today’s winter walk with Photo School. Pete leads walks there every winter, spring, summer and autumn so you get the effect of the changing seasons. The spring walk is on 26 April 2020.  Details here… 

Click photos to view larger.

Visit to a parallel time

Modern stories of Victoria/Chamberlain Square, Birmingham #3 – my final and favourite photo narrative started out as a warm up exercise to get my mind into gear. I went to find a distant, deserted corner and found myself in a parallel Chamberlain Square where it was sometimes impossible to tell what was real…

[Photos taken for stories class of Matt & Pete’s Photo School; next up: Spaghetti Junction photo walk and picnic on 29 July.]

01 Parallel time
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The Yellow Backpackers of Chamberlain Square

Modern stories of Victoria/Chamberlain Square, Birmingham #2 – the second of three photographic narratives focuses on a group of European students – I think from San Marino – colour-coded yellow by their backpacks. Where were they (location shot)? How did they interact with the environment? Could I get any sneaky close-ups? Achieved more of a documentary feel with this one.

[Photos taken for stories class of Matt & Pete’s Photo School; next set of pix will be from their Spaghetti Junction photo walk and picnic on 29 July.]

Establish Chamberlain Square location.

01 Yellow tourists
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Birmingham’s Blooming Town Hall

Modern stories of Victoria Square, Birmingham #1 – here is the first of three photographic narratives I, ahem, carefully planned today in Victoria and Chamberlain Square in central Birmingham, courtesy of stories week at Matt & Pete’s Photo School. They’re also running a Spaghetti Junction photo walk and picnic on 29 July, if anyone fancies joining.

Went for three different focuses, zooming out. Could also work in reverse, I guess. Hopefully it brings out the idea that Brum is not the concrete jungle many think it is.

Blooming Birmingham 1
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Abstract Birmingham

Photo School abstracts lamppost

This Sunday sees the fourth and final session (for me) of Photographing the City – Matt and Pete’s sociable, how-to photography course set on the streets of Birmingham and featuring a pleasant mix of arty/techy teaching, walking, socialising, photographing stuff (more egs below) and peer review.

More adventures from Photo School… Continue reading “Abstract Birmingham”

Photographing the landscapes of Birmingham

Photo School Landscapes-23

So today was week two (of four) of Matt & Pete’s Photo School. Last month, we played with finding the decisive moment in street photography, this time it was landscapes and creating huge panoramic vistas using the iconic buildings of Birmingham.

More adventures from Photo School… Continue reading “Photographing the landscapes of Birmingham”

Street photography and the discomfort of strangers

Today was the inaugural five-hour lesson of Matt & Pete’s Photo School in which 10 strangers met upstairs in Birmingham’s Victoria pub to learn more about photography and how to improve our own efforts.

Photo School Feb-10

The framework of the day – after tea and coffee – involved an hour of learning a bit about the technical side of how a camera works, a bit about Henri Cartier-Bresson and a bit about the theory and style of street photography.

Then Matt and Pete set out three rules for our photowalk around Birmingham: Continue reading “Street photography and the discomfort of strangers”