Lockdowns came, and lockdowns went, and like everyone, our lives were turned inside out and upside down. But we have been fortunate. I don’t want to focus on what happened to me but on an aspect of how I chose to respond. A close friend, James, set me a challenge; Take a photograph every day of anything I liked in any style I chose, but to do so within the confines of my home. I find it hard to resist challenges! Today marks the end of the first year of that challenge.
Starting on a sunny Saturday, April 11th, 2021, my journey began. Today the journey isn’t quite over, but I hope, perhaps that midsummer will mark the end of the beginning. I quickly saw this as an opportunity to try out all sorts of techniques and styles of photographs, some of which are “typical Michael” and some of which matured to define a new “typical Michael”.
The first photograph, “Explorers”, was taken on our gravel driveway with a wide-angle lens, which distorts the image of a Lego model of the Apollo 11 lunar lander. The distortion creates a curve that looks like the curve of the surface of the moon. This with a simple photographs trick and a witty title, we were on our way.
Before this, my photographs tended to have subjects of landscapes, architecture and cityscapes. In particular panographic (typically wide-ratio images) and GigaPan images (typically wide and composing made up of 1 billion pixels). My photographs were often expansive and highly detailed. People were rarely included unless absolutely unavoidable or perhaps to give a sense of scale. On day two, all of that fell apart. A photograph for which I had clearly pre-visualised, capturing the texture and lines of a brick wall, just did not work for me…. I guess it was too perfect, too uniform too geometric. Something was missing. The missing ingredient? A person. On day two, a person had snuck into my photographs! The photograph “Peeking” was created. People, ranging from Lego astronauts to the Queen, appeared in six of the 18 shots taken in April. My pick for April is without people and is the somewhat surreal and abstract image “Swirls”.
May is the month everything comes alive! It was filled with experimentation ranging from freezing flowers in ice, fast photographs of falling drops of water, two self-portraits (only in the direst cases should you show photographers faces!) and breaking glass. And it goes on, sliced vegetables, and UV light through geometry and spirograph instruments. My favourite? My wife; throwing a glass of water at me, and thus we had “Splash”.
Pictures at an exhibition
The tree of dawn
2020 Quacking Up!
In my style
May’s flowers gave way to June’s experimentation and the beginning of experimental photographs, including ones taken without a camera. Many product photographs appeared, an emerging style, in addition to abstract pictures, which I was finding to be inexplicably engaging and satisfying. But, if I had to pick one, it was a simple picture of a whole poppy plant, root and all. It was inspired by a Victorian book of prints about flowers which had seen in school. And so, we had “Plucked”.
July saw the 100th photograph, “Pictures at an Exhibition”, photographed inside a custom-built gallery. A gallery created by my daughter, inside a shoebox! The most popular of this month, of which several friends requested prints. I know they adorn the walls of at least two kitchens. It was a series of five cutlery photographs called “Kitchen Beauty”. My choice is Number 3, though others do not agree!
The long days of summer start to shorten noticeably in August. The only real rainfall of the summer fell during my holidays. Not a single person appeared in a single image in August. But by now, I had learned to develop film, so the image “Trunk” was captured, processed and scanned from Ilford film. But my choice for the “Image du mois” is three eggs on a Jerusalem stone floor.
September is the month of fading light. And there is lots of experimenting with light. Projecting through glass, coloured fluids and everything else! I could not pick a single photograph to represent the month. But I got it down to two. The first is morning light shining through a glass titled “Discovered Light”. The second is of my son, shot as a single image using strobe lighting, spreading his wings: “Icarus” takes flight!
October saw the runs of colours, reds, navy, greens and blues. Many abstracts and the 200th image. 200! My personal choice is taken looking into the viewfinder of a 1967 Yashica Mat camera, “Capturing Red”.
November brought the first ravages of winter’s storms. Some compelling images (IMHO) as winter took hold, including the humorous, again IMHO, “2020: Quacking Up”. But for all my efforts, nothing I did could match the beauty of a tree in the dawn “The tree of dawn”.
December brings the darkest days, the third lockdown, in effect, Christmas and a shortened holiday to Wales. But the photograph I choose for December is probably not the best, but a wonderfully optimistic discovered image of carpet lint “Love”. A reminder that finding writing does not imply a human creator, but sometimes dumb luck! December also had a book of 30 photographic challenges, which I was given. A truly thoughtful gift. The first photograph was a photo of my eldest son, “Shadow”.
With January comes the New Year, longer days and the official third lockdown across the nation. It also brought the bulk of the 30-day challenge. One of which was to be taken “In my style”. What is that abstract, surreal, structural architecture or a portrait? Why not combine them all into one “In my style”. A close second was a complex self-portrait combining paper cutting, cyanotype printing and watercolour printing “Self-portrait”.
Creatively, February sees fantastic natural beauty, ice, flowers, sunrises and sunsets. But the simple “Effervescence” wins my prize for the month.
March brings us spring and an improving national situation with vaccinations, reduced illness and the beginning of the easing of lockdown; if you are in the UK, you will know this! Spring makes several appearances. Spring is joined by fruit and some lovely skies. But for me, by a slim margin, it is a 43-year-old and still working calculator that wins the day, or rather the month. And so, to April, and the completion of the first year. The month is far from complete, but I no doubt my favourite so far, which is the only photo taken away from home. It is the super colourful and super simple image of a pinhole camera capturing a sunset on the Surrey Hills. There was a photo taken at home that day for the purists. But I just love this simple photo, “Capturing Sunset”.
And so, we arrive at the 365th photograph. A whole year. How to mark it? It is an achievement and a body of work I am proud of. But how to observe it? I decided on two approaches. One is to create a sort of typographic montage for the day, similar to the one for the 200th day. But I really need to capture a photograph. There are many competing ideas, abstract, nature, a portrait, something technical or even something funny. After much thinking and debate within the household (where my models live), I decided to some something topical, and I think hopeful. “Hope for the future”. A future with vaccines to prevent the Covid and better treatments for those who succumb to Covid. Now onto year 2!
 No vaccine was used in making this photo!