Smethwick Galton Bridge
Smethwick Galton Bridge – portait of a train station
Smethwick Galton Bridge railway station is a station on 2 levels on the border of Birmingham and Smethwick. The project centred on the framework bordering the top 2 platforms. It involved photographing through the Perspex panels which border the platforms and making successful images within the restrictions of photographing through the panels.
Part of the challenge of the work is to create accessible work while at the same time challenging the audience. Creating successful images of a sometimes dirty, sometimes damaged window; and combining it with a view and a reflection all on a 2-dimensional surface is not an obvious recipe for the creation of visually engaging work.
The success of such images would hopefully make people look much closer at the environment around them for similar – ‘experiences’, re-evaluate the visual properties of the world around them and hopefully encourage them to make their own images.
As an educator I have striven for years to show students that they don’t need to travel to far off locations to create good images. This project seeks to continue that mission to a wider audience. By creating images in everyday environments I attempt to show both the photographic possibilities of these places, but also to promote optimism about the world around us by focusing on the positive aspects of the spaces I photograph.
My projects always involve some challenge, both to myself and my audience. I seek to create something new either from mundane situations, or a re-evaluation of well-known themes.
The Smethwick Galton Bridge project in its early stages involved the challenge of making images within an extremely limited scenario. Photographing through fixed panels alongside the top 2 platforms of the station seemed daunting at first. The choice of viewpoint was limited by the lens and the width of the platform, framing was limited to the panels themselves, focus was also limited sometimes by very shallow scenes. As the project developed I began to feel a sense of freedom and even comfort in those limitations. Themes developed during the project with each successive visit including the subtle changes of the seasons, decay and regeneration, and memory, as well as the blending of the different surfaces within the panels. Some panels began to feel like old friends as they would usually offer great potential with each visit.
I was reminded of a short story, ‘The Bound Man’ by Ilse Aichinger. The main protagonist in the story finds himself tied by ropes which he can’t remove but his limitations become strengths as the story progresses.