Roddy Williams – An ongoing portfolio

Archive for June, 2013

Self Portrait With China Dogs

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Self portraits are something that I normally do as an exercise, rather than as an expression of vanity, and I’m sure this is the case with the majority of photographers and artists. Good thing too really, since I haven’t got that much going on to be vain about. Having said that, it never stopped Rembrandt who was, it has to be said, a bit of a rough-looking old bugger.
Usually the case is you can call on friends and family to act as models but most of the time they insist on smiling, or have to do their hair first, or run home and change. That’s not what it’s about, but by the time they’ve got the curlers out the moment’s gone.
So, if I’m at a bit of a loose end I take photographs of myself, usually of an experimental nature. I was trying to see if I could get both my reflection and the china dogs into focus here.
This is my old bedroom which my mother reclaimed once I’d moved out. Other things seem to have come and gone, but the mirror and the china dogs seem to have always been there. To be honest, the dogs have migrated around the house a fair bit but always seem to wind up somewhere staring at me with their evil glassy eyes while I’m trying to sleep.


Kensal Rise Gasworks

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I like gasworks, me.
This is situated just to the South of Kensal Green Cemetery, which is full of marvellous Victorian and Edwardian tombs, many of which are based on Ancient Egyptian designs, something of a fashion back then.
I don’t find this structure incongruous as I’ve always seen a relationship between the industrial and the gothic, to the extent that I was at one time considered to be part of an Industrial Gothic Art movement. I’m not sure it was a proper movement, more of a shrug if I’m honest about it, but I was nevertheless part of it, and this is why.


View from a window in Berre le Tang

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Last year I went to stay with a friend in Berre le Tang, near Marseilles. This was a view from the window on a day when the clouds didn’t know whether to stay for a while or move off.
I was quite fascinated, not only by the roofs themselves, but the strange congregation of roof furniture that came with them.
Once I started working on the picture though I was completely entranced by the long misty hills in the background which almost blend into the cloud formations. On other days flocks of birds lined up on the telephone wires and although I have some interesting shots of those, there isn’t the range of interest in the background that there is here.


The Market Trader – Electric Avenue, Brixton

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This is a bit of a daring composition, since traditional wisdom would suggest that your subject should be mostly inside the picture. However, I think it works because there’s a suggestion of mystery and imbalance, as well as the possibility that the person in the picture might not be the subject of the photograph. There’s a clandestine feel to it also, and the background has that air of urban decay of which I have become far too fond.

Electric Avenue is famous for the song of course. It’s a very short road where there is a busy and vibrant market, composed of food and clothes stalls, with pavements sandwiched between the stalls and a plethora of muslim butchers, fishmongers and small supermarkets.
This guy was having a rest and a cigarette before he went back to his fruit and veg shop.


The Bottle Chimney, Brymbo

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This wonderful landmark in my home village is the remains of a 100 foot chimney of a smelting works, known locally as the bottle chimney because the original shape was that of a tapering bottle. It was built in 1792 to smelt ore from local mines. It was partly demolished in 1962 to leave only 25ft still standing.
I’ve taken quite a few pictures of this particular structure. I spent a lot of time exploring it when I was a child, and I worry that now it has been more or less abandoned to the elements that it will not survive.


Old Man in Whitechapel

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This was one of the first digital photographs I took, back in 2009. I decided to take my camera over to the East End of London, to the Whitechapel area, famous for the Jack the Ripper murders in the Nineteenth Century and the reign of local mobsters the Kray Twins in the Twentieth.
Now the area is one of the main centres of London’s Asian community. I was hoping for some shots of that side of London life but one of the best shots I took turned out to be this old man, standing outside the office of an Immigration Solicitor.
I suspect he isn’t an immigrant. Although he didn’t seem to have noticed me taking his picture I gave him some loose change anyway.
There’s something very solid about him. His clothes and face look as if they could have been carved from a single block of wood. Additionally, he seems to match the unkempt nature of the background with its graffiti and peeling paintwork.
My one regret is that I never got to find out what he had in that bag.


Still Life At Home

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Interesting images can be found anywhere. If it’s a rainy day and you’re stuck at home, try taking some pictures of the objects in your home. Admittedly, the objects in my home are stranger than in the average household.
I’ve always had a yen for the Gothic and the Grand Guignol. I have an old 1965 diary somewhere that someone gave me when I was a child and I filled it with drawings of Herman and Lily Munster, the Werewolf and Dracula.
In the Nineties I did a large amount of illustration work for American Horror magazines, but even before that I was collecting gothic Objets D’Art, and people started giving us gifts that they thought might fit in.
My partner bought me a life-size human skeleton for Christmas a few years ago. I call him Doctor Pretorious, and he gets decorated with tinsel and lights for the Yuletide.
I’m not sure where the phrenology head or the small white skull came from, but the large skull was cast in plaster from a latex mould that we made about twenty years ago, then painted and varnished.
The things in one’s home are not just objects. Like photographs, they are receptacles of memory.