Friday, March 26, 2021

Another Day, Another Aesthetic: Accidentally Wes Anderson

Being part of a number of photography related social media groups, inevitably, members like to show off their skills and weekly competitions are commonplace.  Occasionally, if the theme grabs me or if I have a suitable image or I'm up for a challenge, I enter.

Last week, the Midland Photography Group set its weekly competition theme as "Experimental."  I immediately had an image in mind and after checking that the definition of "experimental," could include editing techniques (it can), I uploaded my entry.  (Some members of the photographic community can be quite pedantic and one still intimated that experimental should not include use of Photoshop, which I found a bit baffling, as everything in my composite image was photographed by me).  Semantics aside, my image won and is now in the virtual hall of fame on the group's UK Showcase page.

I mention this because winning meant that I got to choose the next theme.  Whilst many of my photographs are quite nature-centric, my tastes are actually quite eclectic.  I can enthuse about all genres of photography.  Opportunity is key to what I capture and none of us have been particularly well travelled in the last 12 months.  Accordingly, at present, I'm limited to my home environment, immediate local area and the cat.  So in a departure from the style of photographs I've been uploading of late, I opted for Minimalist photography.  In fact,  anyone who knows me or has visited our house will know that one thing I can never be accused of, it's being minimalist!

Minimalist photography is defined as being distinguished by extreme, austere simplicity.  It emphasises negative space, creating breathing room for the eyes and uses a minimum amount of components such as colour, shape, line and texture.  Here are a couple of examples from my archives.

Buoyed up by my self imposed challenge, I quite fancied capturing some appropriate architecture.  The most obvious place, which is close to home with plenty of clean lines and utilitarian buildings was Halfpenny Green Airport (now Wolverhampton Business Airport), which was built in 1941 as an aerodrome for the Royal Air Force.

It was a beautiful spring day when we visited and I was struck by the patina of the corrugated iron and the old paintwork.  Something about the washed out pastel shades stirred thoughts of the Film Director Wes Anderson's unique aesthetic...and so down the second visual aesthetic rabbit hole in a week I went!

As a film fan, I'm ashamed to say that I have only seen three of Wes Anderson's films - Lost in Translation, The Royal Tenenbaums and Fantastic Mr Fox.  However, I am an admirer of his visual style.  I follow the hashtag #accidentallywesanderson on Instagram (there's a book by the same name, celebrating the style adored by millions).

So in tribute, I've been exploring any images of mine which may have subconsciously been inspired by Wes.

This door in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter, captured just prior to the first lockdown, is a good example of the vivid pop pastel colours he favours.

Similarly, these images, taken in the crumbling Wordsley Manor (originally built in around 1757 by Black Country Industrialists), give a nod to the aforementioned vivid colour palette and epitomise faded grandeur.

Symmetry also plays its part in Wes Anderson's style, as illustrated by this images taken on the Severn Valley Railway....

....and this one through the doors of The Grand Theatre in Wolverhampton.

I like the idiosyncrasy of this image taken in Normandy....and again, the pop pastel colours.

Coloured corridors.

Finally, this one may require some explanation depending upon how much a Wes Anderson fan you are.  For some reason a couple of years ago, I felt moved to photograph my Mom in the most ordinary of settings - a supermarket.  The colours just popped, but only now, can I also relate this to the closing scene of a Wes Anderson film.  Anyone care to hazard a guess?  My clue is:  It might fox you.

Have a great weekend!  I'm off for my jab!

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Subconscious Subculture

On checking my social media feeds the other day, I happened upon a post referencing "Cottagecore." Intrigued, I did a preliminary Google search and within the hour had fallen down an Alice in Wonderland style rabbit hole and into the internet fashion aesthetic that is Cottagecore. 

Cottagecore is a romantic, idealised version of rural life. It's romantic, nostalgic, promotes traditional skills and crafts and a simpler, more sustainable lifestyle in harmony with nature. It essentially rejects modernity. 

It's not entirely clear how and when this subculture materialised. One school of thought is that we have Generation Z to thank. It's evolutions are thought to be some point in the 2010s.  It was christened "Cottagecore" on Tumblr in 2018. One thing is for certain, the Covid constraints upon our collective lifestyles have fanned the flames and Cottagecore is now a movement ablaze.

What's interesting, is that I have inadvertently been a part of this movement for years. In fact, if an uncharitable member of Generation Z scrolled through my Instagram feed, they might accuse me of being a walking cliche. Doubtless you are too.  An 18 year old may liken it to the video game Animal Crossing, but for anyone like me (or even older), who hadn't encountered it, think more along the lines of The Good Life, but with Margo and Jerry doing the self sufficiency.  Think Darling Buds of May.  Here's a quick checklist.

 Do you love to bake? Ever made a sour dough base?  Like loose leaf tea? 

Can you crochet, do patchwork or had a go at making Bees Wax candles? 

Do you love to garden? 

Maybe you have a penchant for vintage clothing/crockery?  If vintage isn't your thing, do you covet prairie dresses?  Heard of Batsheva?  Like nature?  HAVE YOU IN THE LAST 12 MONTHS STARTED GROWING VEGETABLES?

I told you so! You're a fully fledge Cottagecore ambassador.  See for yourself. Check out For You Aesthetics for example, on Instagram. The images are beautiful, brimming over with the inexplicably warm and fuzzy feelings of nostalgia.

For the record, I have been buying vintage since my teens, have always felt connected to nature and appreciate the rural aesthetic. For example, I often daydream about moving to an island on the Outer Hebrides, away from the rat race (even in lockdown), until reality bites.  OK, I did learn to crochet in the last couple of years, but I had learned as a child so technically I was revisiting a long forgotten skill.  I also like and indulge in many other genres of photography.  I favour dark photography on the whole.  

(Maybe I'm more Dark/Gothic Cottagecore).  That said and with subliminal advertising in mind, whilst I haven't consciously adopted this internet aesthetic, there is no doubting the influence of the internet.  Maybe I've grown to love all of things Cottagecore just a little bit more in recent months.   

I've been looking through photos from my archives and have found a number of images I think illustrate the look.

Let's start with cottage gardens.

Croft Castle

Kinver Rock Houses

Rambling Roses

Experimental Arch

Stone Cottage Garden

Wild Flowers/Crops.

Rural Idyll/Farm animals.


Babbling brooks/woodland.


There are now many emerging related aesthetics to dip into; bloomcore, earthcore, fairycore...the list goes on.  One thing they all share is escapism - a desire to live in a world other than this one.  It's pretty timely that as I write, it is the first anniversary of the first UK lockdown and a National Day of Reflection.  After the year we've had, I think we can all be forgiven for hopping on this bandwagon.

Stay safe everyone.  Reflect and remember.  

Sunday, March 21, 2021

A Spring in my Step

Recalling my recent tripping accident on the heath, the hilarity of my chosen title is not lost on me. But as Winter gives way to Spring, the changes in my biorhythms are noticeable. Even though our bedroom window is fitted with a blackout blind (insomniac husband), I am still waking earlier - no matter what time I go to bed - with "a head full of ideas" to quote Dylan.

Not sure if it's the change in light somehow infiltrating the bedroom early in the morning, or the positivity and optimism that Spring ushers in. I've started making "To do" lists again (I have an exciting new local photographic location to add to it, courtesy of a charitable togger acquaintance of mine). I even found myself studiously taking notes whilst listening to Monty Don on Friday night. I think that means I am really, really old. 

Talking of Monty Don, I picked up a paperback copy of his book "My Garden World" in Sainsbury's last week. It's been on my Must Buy list for some time, but I held off because my reading pile will soon need it's own room. The £4.50 price tag finally seduced me and I need not have worried. It's a book to savour and dip in and out of; a month by month record of Monty's observations of changes in nature. It's interwoven with personal memories, with nuggets of knowledge revealed in every paragraph. Just beautiful. 

So I thought I would write a short blog post on my own recent observations and the effect they have on my mood and general wellbeing.

Daisies are just infinitely uplifting.  They carry the power of nostalgia - we all have memories of making daisy chains.  Their brightness and simplicity is just sheer nature perfection.


Similarly, Daffodils.  Their petals mirror sunbeams in the sky and remind me that as sure as night follows day, summer will come.  As a child, they just made me think of Easter and chocolate. OK, I admit it, they still do and for the record, no Easter egg will ever live up to the egg my husband made for me once by melting the biggest bar of Galaxy chocolate he could find, stirring in Maltesers and entombing the heavenly liquid elixir in a large Easter Egg mould, resulting in 2lb of solid chocolate that you had to dash against a concrete wall to stand a chance of eating.  

Shakespeare introduced the phrase "primrose path" as spoken by Ophelia to Hamlet, apparently signifying the path of luxury.  Maybe some luxury will be bestowed upon me as I spotted these opening primroses yesterday.  

Buds.  New life.  New start.  In many ways I think of Spring as the true start of the year.  I find that training myself to look for small signs of change is a great way to focus the mind and stop it straying too far.  It's meditative.  While I'm trying to find the sweet spot focal point through my lens, I can't be worrying about when I will get my Covid jab, how I can solve my lack of interior storage, or our son's future job prospects.

The Scarlet Elf Cup fungus.  They're reasonably widespread, but not commonly found because they tend to grow on fallen trees and logs in shady areas and are usually buried under moss.  Technically not a sign of Spring, as they can make an appearance from December, but I was really excited to find one.

Flying Geese, particularly at this time of the year, evoke feelings of wanderlust.  At least they are going somewhere.  At the time of writing, holidays abroad are said to be unlikely this year (no surprises there) and it's looking as though many places in the UK have already been booked.  Unless I get my act together, we may be faced with a stark choice:  summer in the Black Country or staying under canvas.   

Greenery.  Not just any old green.  I'm talking about that special shade of deep verdant green you see in certain places.  Traditionally, we would head to the wilds of Exmoor for Easter and the colours of the fields always just seemed to pop.  It's probably a sign of fertile soil.  Anyway, yesterday, I saw it, reflected in a pond on the Enville Estate and turning it into an Emerald.  

Lastly, the shifts in light.  The sun is gradually getting higher in the sky, casting shorter shadows and allowing new chinks of light into the garden.

So whilst yesterday marked Spring Equinox, tonight is all about Line of Duty.  H, we're coming for you! 

Happy Sunday!

A Balancing Act

  I always find myself in a reflective, pensive mood at this time of year.  Life moves at pace and I'm finding it increasingly difficult...