Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Fifty-three Brighton photos

After some deliberation, I've edited my Brighton photos from March to October this year down to a set of 53 photos.

I'm quite happy with the consistency, feel and balance of the set. Not surprisingly, as the project progressed, new themes presented themselves in addition to the ideas I had at the beginning of the project.

I have also now made a provisional sequence and dummy book.

The breakdown by month turned out to be: 8 photos from March, 16 from April, 9 May, 8 June, 4 July, 4 August, 2 September and 2 October.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Four Brighton quotes

"Brighton is not exactly England. I have always felt at home here."
Quentin Crisp

"...even shimmering in the rain Brighton looks like a town recovering from a multiple orgasm."
Julie Burchill, Guardian article here

“Brighton is very nice, but I'm not sure about the sea. I think the sea is a mistake. I mean, what does it want, banging and crashing away on the shore like that all day?”.
Quentin Crisp

And probably most famously

"Brighton is a town that always looks as if it is helping police with their inquiries."
Keith Waterhouse

Monday, October 14, 2013

Supporting Statement

Extract from a recent application:
"From a photographic point of view, I’m not so interested in the tourist-eye view of Brighton – the seaside piers, amusements and traditional entertainments are already well documented. I’ve tried to avoid the obvious, spectacular, shiny bauble subjects much photographed around the beach. Instead, I’m looking for a more resident-eye view – the everyday experiences and scenes that make Brighton distinct from other seaside towns and from other non-seaside towns. The city behind the seafront.
I’ve tried to capture a certain seedy dilapidated glamour that I associate with the town but haven’t seen addressed via photography. As the project has evolved, I find myself coming back to Keith Waterhouse’s phrase that “Brighton is a town that always looks as if it is helping police with their inquiries”.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

In-Public Brighton gallery

I've updated the first of my two In-Public galleries to show a small selection of my Brighton photos from this project.

I've included mainly "standalone" shots - and few unpeopled - in keeping with the general In-Public galleries ethos, as I understand it...

The gallery can be seen here:

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


Saturday, 3rd August was visit number 27, which coincided with Brighton Gay Pride (more about this later). I’m now up to around 80 contenders for a final edit (of around 60?) and am quite happy with how the project is progressing. I’m unsure about how much of this to foist onto the web before I have a final edit.

I’ve had less success shooting on these sunny summer days – because the harsh light is more difficult to work with technically with my little camera, and because it sometimes doesn’t fit in with the gloomier look of the majority of the photos I have so far. Gloomy was the look I was going for, primarily. When I arrive on a bright, clear day, I am on the look-out for roads – or sides of roads – completely in shadow. For that nice, dull, flat look I've spent my time avoiding the unforgiving Brighton sun.

A narrow Brighton street on a sunny day. [© Paul Russell 2013. Click for larger version]

In Kemp Town a friendly stranger came up to me, unbidden, and advised me to get off the “main drag” and explore the twittens (a Sussex dialect word for alley). I replied that this was an excellent idea but more or less the strategy I had been using. Uncanny. All sorts of things go on up the narrowest roads that are completely in shadow. (Of course, Brighton's most famous alley is the one in Quadrophenia one where Phil Daniels "romances" Leslie Ash.)

I’m easing up on shooting in August mainly because the weather is too good, and will restart the visits in September for a finish some time by the end of the year (40 visits has a nice ring to it). This August shooting hiatus will give me more time to type some random thought about Brighton here. And more time to take stock of what I’ve done so far.

So, August – less photographing, more thinking and writing.

Friday, July 5, 2013

June visits: fighting against the light

June flew by. One photo from each of the five June visits (nos 18-22)

v18. Kemptown carnvial - a real Brighton event. Click on photos for larger versions.



v21. Pool Valley Coach Station. As featured on my list of potential places to photograph.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Twenty visits down

I'm about half way through the Brighton project now in terms of visits - 20 visits made and a similar number to go.

I've made a rough edit of 57 photos out of 70 "possibles" out of several thousand taken. The majority of "surplus" consists of numerous minute variations of the same shot for the static, non-peopled stuff. I like doing those sorts of shots, but it's hard work - I never have the confidence to take just one of a given scene and then move on, as Eggleston claims to do...

[thumbnails - extreme example - six almost identical shots]

I'm reasonably pleased with the results so far - a consistent look and hopefully free of Brighton cliches. While not avoiding the seafront altogether, the catchy phrase that sometimes pops into my head is "the city behind the seaside".

[thumbnails - possible edit of 57. Click for larger version]

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Brighton Visit number 17

Visit 16 wasn’t much to write home about. Visit 17 on Bank Holiday Monday, 27 May didn’t get off to a promising start either, as trains were stopping for the morning at Worthing, several miles short of Brighton, due to a fatality further along the line.

I intended to wander around Worthing for a couple of hours until the lines reopened and I could continue my journey. On the off-chance, I rang up an old colleague from a communications agency that I’d worked at 15 years ago in Worthing to see if he wanted to meet up.

I hadn’t been in touch with David Blann for over 10 years, but by a spooky coincidence when I bought my copy of 2012’s The New Encyclopaedia of Brighton* a few weeks ago, he was credited as the book’s designer, along with his phone number. Cue Twilight Zone music. As it happened, this kind-hearted designer for print (Creative-Director-at-David-Blann-Design-and-available-for-freelance-work) ended up giving me a lift to Brighton, so that worked out well.

To Brighton
It turned out to be a satisfactory day from a photographic point of view (although confusing for my GPS software not to start and end at Brighton station). Along the way I learnt a little about the life of Lee Miller, which I might blog about a bit later. Two of the photos I was reasonably pleased with were taken within a few minutes and metres of each other – often the way – one thing leading to another.

The first reminded me of the old “problem” about how far away or indistinct the putative subject of the photo can be, and still maintain interest.

[Hall © Paul Russell 2013. Click for larger version]

As Szarkowski said about later period Winogrand in the essay from Figments from the Real World [p. 38]

"Winogrand made thousands of pictures of people who were too far away to be described in detail, perhaps to test how much could be conveyed in terms of posture, stride, silhouette, autographic gesture. … Surely he was interested in the formal photographic problem: What was the greatest distance at which [they] could be convincingly described?"

And the second testing the limits of the camera:

[Gardens © Paul Russell 2013. Click for larger version]

And plenty for my growing ‘pleasant-abstract-but-doesnt-really-say-anything-about-Brighton or could-have-been-taken-anwhere’ categories, e.g.

[Entrance © Paul Russell 2013. Click for larger version]

Again, a fair day's "work" done and a brisk walk back to the train station for the 6.33 for Weymouth.

*The encylopaedia is also available from Brighton Library for the same price.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Story So Far

I've expanded the slideshow of sample pictures to 22 photos, out of the 50-odd possible candidates I now have for the project.

This gives a feel of the project so far.

The primitive slideshow can be seen here:

Friday, May 17, 2013

Brighton Visit number 15

Seven Dials and around
On Monday this week (i.e. 13 May) I visited Brighton for my photography project. I’m trying not to get into a routine, but sometimes when I get off the train – in this case at 9.20 am – I head straight up steep Guilford Road from the train station up to the Seven Dials area and around.

Seven Dials itself is the point where (you guessed it) seven roads meet but unlike its London namesake there is no monument in the centre, just a plain roundabout. At the moment, there are a load of roadworks going on to improve safety, as it’s a bit of an accident blackspot – 44 people injured in the last 5 years.

On the plus side, it’s a pleasant residential district with some nice cafes, local shops and restaurants, and an overly photogenic shop selling mainly mannequins. I used to work at a delicatessen in Seven Dials called Appetites – probably the only job I’ve had I didn’t hate – but the deli is long gone, and there’s no blue plaque to mark my employment. I’ve taken a few promising shots of roadworks and street furniture here on previous visits.

Heading downhill and ducking under part of the railway viaduct, I moved on to the Preston Circus and London Road area, where for the first time I came across a piece of characteristic Brighton oddness.

[record shot: shop window for EatonNott roadkill couture]

The EatonNott shop offers a “highly acclaimed range of bespoke couture garments … created out of the pelts, feathers and bones of animals that have been killed and eaten as food, have been accidentally killed on our roads, that have died of natural causes or been culled as pests.”

Presumably the baby on the left wasn’t roadkill, but something else. Anyway, I certainly will be coming here for all my couture roadkill needs, which are quite extensive. I don’t think I’ll be using the photo though – it’s just a quick record shot of something unusual, someone else’s artworks. Almost like taking a snap of the Mona Lisa.

As I headed along London Road on the way to the town centre I noticed an interesting café-type place, and had a quick sit down and a coffee.

[record shot: The Emporium – café by day, theatre by night (out back, not shown).]

The Emporium’s canteen is situated in an old Methodist chapel and had only been open a few days – there was still some plumbing going on. Out back (and the real reason for its existence) is a 230-seat theatre. Everyone seemed very friendly.

Enough Brighton loafing, and into more “central” Brighton.

Sussex ice rink
I was interested in tracking down the old ice rink that I had read about on a community notice-board on a previous visit. It’s situated right in the centre of town but I wasn’t previously aware of its existence. The former rink is located at the end of Queen Square, which is actually a short rising cul-de-sac close to Brighton clocktower. The small rink has been closed since 2003, and the now-defunct sign shown used to read “Sussex Ice Rink”. The latest plan, I believe, is to turn the area into a luxury hotel.

[Sussex Ice Rink. © Paul Russell 2013. Click for larger version]

The tree behind the building is in the grounds of St Nicholas' Church. There was not a lot else that caught my eye in Queen Square apart from a taxi rank and, for one day only, a collection of police vans waiting for that night’s crucial Brighton vs Crystal Palace game.

Later, while hotel spotting I came across this view, and was pleased to squeeze in the angel Peace Statue bottom right.

[© Paul Russell 2013. Click for larger version]

By the end of the day’s wander, I had around six shots that I would consider candidates for the project – not all standalone winners but all shots that might fit well in the final edit of around 60 pictures. A good day, and then past 4 million football fans at the train station, and back on the 6.28 train to Weymouth.

[thumbnails screen grab]

A small sample of photos from the first 2 months of this project can be seen here:

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Closer to God?

Another church-related photo - one of my photos from the Brighton project is the current In-Public photo of the month. Click on the photo for a larger version.

[Brighton photo © Paul Russell 2013]

In-Public is a collective set up in 2000 to promote street photography, and now numbers 22 photographers from around the world.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Outline of the Brighton Photography Project

I’ve started this blog to document the photographic project on Brighton, UK that I started in March this year.

I intend to draw and build upon my knowledge and experience of the town to carve out a distinctive section of photographic space and time.

At the end of the project, around October this year, I aim to have a coherent set of photos in the street photography tradition that evokes a very definite sense of place. I have deep links to the town – I lived in Brighton for several years in the 1990s, and grew up nearby – so I have many experiences and roots draw on.

About Brighton
Brighton is a vibrant seaside town on the south coast of England, with lively student, counter-counter, "alternative" and lesbian & gay scenes. It has two universities, two piers, a bizarre Pavilion, and a football team on the verge of promotion to the Premiership. Along with its more genteel neighbour, Hove, it makes up the city of Brighton & Hove.

Brighton is a popular day-trip and weekend destination for Londoners, being less than an hour from the capital by train. In the summer it is heaving with day-trippers, stag parties and holidaymakers. Often referred to as London by Sea, it has also been described as Skid Row on Sea and A Town Permanently Helping Police With Their Enquiries. To me, it is one of the most interesting and characterful places in England.

What to photograph?
Or what not to photograph? From a photographic point of view, I’m not so interested in the tourist-eye view of Brighton – the seaside piers, amusements and traditional entertainments are all well documented photographically, on TV and in films. In contrast, I am looking for the resident-eye view – the experiences that make Brighton distinct from other seaside towns and from other non-seaside towns.

Looking at photographs from the town on the Internet – the biggest Brighton Flickr group, for example – the many keen photographers resident in Brighton seem to photograph mainly the seasidey, touristic aspects themselves, such as the main Brighton Pier and the same obvious, spectacular, shiny bauble things that tourists photograph. When it comes to photography, many locals seem to act like day-trippers in their own town, ignoring everyday scenes and experiences. This is another incentive for me to step outside of the photographic clichés of Brighton.

I’m interested in making a collection of peopled and non-peopled photos that give a sense of place, rather than a bunch of good photos that happen to have been taken in Brighton. Photographs that together say something about Brighton as I know it, hopefully in a subtle way. I think that Brighton is compact enough to distil something of its essence into a single set of photographs, whereas pinning down, say, London is more problematic.

[Brighton photo © Paul Russell 2013]

I’m making a road trip round the town, on foot, if you like, and my wanderings include the areas I think of as the central shopping areas, Kemp Town, Western Road, London Road, Clifton (Montpelier et al.), Hanover, Seven Dials, the beach, and the Marina. I’m recording the GPS data of all my journeys and delving into aspects of history via the two Encyclopaedias of Brighton (by Carder and Collis) to immerse myself more deeply in the psychogeography of the place.

A sample of photos from the first 2 months can be seen here:

Practicalities/modus operandi
Brighton is a 3.5-hour train journey – connections permitting – from my home in Weymouth, and so is just commutable in a long day-trip. I’ve made a dozen visits so far with the express purpose of photographing Brighton, usually arriving in the town at around 10.30 am and leaving at 6.30 pm. In all, I plan to make about 40 trips, finishing around October this year.

I’m using the digital compact Fujifilm X10 for this project for the simple reason that on the first few visits in March it was the only camera available to me, as my SLR was out of action. The X10 has its limitations and specialities, but limitations can be interesting to work with. Sticking with one camera makes its easier to obtain a consistent look.

[Brighton photo © Paul Russell 2013]

About me
Paul Russell is a full-time photographer working on themed projects. For details of exhibitions and publications please visit