March 4, 2013
As part of my investigation into the North Prospect housing estate, I have acquired a number photographs and negatives found within various locations including gardens, domestic interiors and waste skips that will be incorporated into the project creating a wider narrative of both people and place.
The following scans are from negatives that were salvaged from a shallow puddle of water accompanied by thick mud in a garden on Woodville Road. The negatives themselves are badly degraded, with the emulsion in some instances having been entirely removed from the film surface. The images that survive reveal strange kaleidoscopic patterns with family pets as the main subject of the photographs.
Frame # 17. © Tim Mills Collection/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2013.
Several weeks ago I was presented with a red toolbox that was discovered in a waste skip on Overdale Road. Contained within the red toolbox were 60 glass plate negatives, examples of which are displayed below.
Having spoken with the former owner of the house and commandeer of the skip, these negatives were purchased on eBay three years ago with the precise origin of the images unknown.
It is difficult at this stage to establish a specific date for the photographs, although it appears they were made towards the later part of the 19th Century or beginnings of the 20th century. The geographical location also remains a mystery, and whether or not these photographs were part of a commercial venture or simply for pleasure on the part of the photographer.
Alongside the glass plates, over 80 colour slides were also found in the red toolbox and again, purchased from eBay from an unknown source.
Having researched these images quite extensively, it appears they were made between 1953 and 1961 in three distinct locations; Ireland, Cologne and Berlin.
The relationship between the glass plates and the slides is one that is unclear; if they were produced by the same photographer? Or the same family as the photographer? Or indeed if they are from entirely independent collections?
Research continues in earnest to establish the origins and histories of all these photographs.
February 26, 2013
Over the course of one year I have collected 95 wallpaper samples from various flats and houses prior to their demolition.
The papers themselves could be divided into multiple sub-categories; children’s wallpaper, floral wallpaper, textured 1980′s wallpaper, illustrative 1950′s wallpaper and wallpaper with distinct references to animals and nature.
Each sample reveals something of the person who chose the paper, they raise questions of individual taste, of fashions or trends that were deemed popular at various points in time and through certain iconography, the viewer is left to speculate on the type and function of each room these papers once occupied.
February 18, 2013
In the late autumn of 2012, a batch of 1500 out-of-date Kodak Color Plus 35mm films arrived at two branches of Truprint in Plymouth. Within three days the entire consignment had been sold, almost exclusively to students of photography, no doubt encouraged by the bargain price tag of £0.30p per roll.
Following a call for submissions, colleagues David Hadley, Monique MacFarlane and Sophy Melly from MA Photography at the University of Plymouth, managed and curated an exhibition displaying a range of experimental responses shot solely on the discounted film.
As a means of installing parameters and a methodology for the project, I set out to find and photograph objects, items or things that could be purchased for £0.30p.
By utilising a point-and-shoot camera – with an unpredictable focus and inclination to slightly underexpose negatives – the images produced appear quite casual on the surface yet are highly considered, resulting in a particular and highly conscious aesthetic that is somewhat ubiquitous within certain realms of contemporary photographic practice.
The photographs themselves were originally conceived for the context of a gallery space, where they sat happily with a sense of individuality. Yet their rather uncomfortable transition to the Internet – specifically a blog – renders them almost obsolete, as they become part of an unrelenting wave of distinctly similar types of image, where it is at times difficult to distinguish between who made what and for what purpose.
Fig. 2 – £0.30p worth of prawns on £0.30p worth of paper plates. © Tim Mills. 2013.
Fig. 3 – £0.30p worth of 5″ munchie chews for dogs. © Tim Mills. 2013.
Fig. 4 – £0.30p book sale table. © Tim Mills. 2013.
Fig. 5 – £0.30p worth of white sliced bread. © Tim Mills. 2013.
Fig. 6 – £0.30p worth of Nice Biscuits. © Tim Mills. 2013.
Fig. 8 – £0.30p worth of off-cuts from a florist. © Tim Mills. 2013.
December 12, 2012
View from the sixth lift. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
During the Spring, a tower crane was installed within North Prospect to assist in the hoisting and transportation of materials on the site of the new Hub building.
The crane itself signifies a construction project on a grand scale, it suggests that highly significant change is taking place, which a structure of its kind is only capable of overseeing.
As part of an ongoing project, I have been photographing the crane from various view points throughout the estate, punctuating each image with the inclusion of people, who are seemingly oblivious to its presence.
The crane – often the highest point within the frame – looms somewhat ominously over the space as daily life continues below, evoking a sense of tension that something rather seismic is about to commence therefore perminently altering the land in its current form.
December 11, 2012
It was with great pleasure to receive an Honourable Mention at Magenta Flash Forward 2012 for my project ‘Plymouth Bomb Book 1941/2011‘.
A PDF version of the competition book can be seen here, containing some tremendous photographic investigations from practitioners based in the United States, the U.K., and Canada, including the work of friends Kotama Bouabane, Johan Hallberg-Campbell, Brett Gundlock, and Kiana Hayeri.
December 9, 2012
I have spent the past nine months photographing the interior spaces of flats and homes within the North Prospect housing estate prior to their demolition.
This topographical study looks for consistencies within the spaces themselves, that is to say the physical arrangement and construction of walls, with the corners functioning as a point of reference from which to orientate oneself.
The notable differences between each space are revealed in the way residents chose to decorate their living spaces, with the choices of wallpaper, colour of paint, or design of tiles each uniquely revealing individual tastes, which in turn reflects the personal identity of both the resident and the space itself.
During the study I was preoccupied with the notion of ‘being cornered’. Not only does this reference where two lines, surfaces or edges meet, but also in the sense of (the residents) being put in a threatening position from which escape (forced eviction effectively) is difficult.
November 8, 2012
The North Prospect School was completed in 1932 and constructed on Swilly Road (now North Prospect Road) for £34,000.
This was a state-of-the-art facility for its time; it had large play areas and open verandas where the younger children could rest in the afternoons, with heating produced through a progressive boiler system.
In the same year, the school was formally opened by the Duke and Duchess of York who planted a commemorative tree on land outside the school gates that, according to local tradition, was eaten by goats from a farm based at Weston Mill the following night.
Having been granted access before demolition commenced, I was particularly engaged by the classroom notice boards, examples of which can be found in the topographical study below.
The scars, marks and abrasions, gradually built up over time, reveal physical and metaphorical etchings of both people and place.
They suggest a sort of mapping, almost military style, pertaining to aerial reconnaissance imagery. The empty boards, with their embedded layers of the past, offer up a plain picture or blank canvas, one in which a developer can plot a new landscape and therefore create new identities and histories.
School notice board study # 1. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
School notice board study # 2. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
School notice board study # 3. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
School notice board study # 4. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
School notice board study # 5. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
School notice board study # 6. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
School notice board study # 7. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
School notice board study # 8. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
School notice board study # 9. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
School notice board study # 10. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
School notice board study # 11. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
School notice board study # 12. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
School notice board study # 13. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
November 7, 2012
Poker trophy. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
During the photographic study of the garden spaces, I collected a range of artifacts and objects discarded by former residents.
It is of interest to consider and note what was deemed worthy of abandonment, given that these objects were once of a certain significance to some one at some stage.
The notion of artifacts references the concept of ruins, and seeks to explore at what point in time do certain objects have a value both culturally, historically, or indeed at all?
Through arguably an aggressive form of archeology, said objects were removed from their original context and photographed in isolation within a studio environment.
I specifically sought items based around ideas of nature, but also objects pertaining to certain social issues such as crime, that has in many respects come to define the areas identity, therefore playing on a certain type of prejudice that is somewhat expected.
I foresee these objects functioning alongside photographs and other documentation as a means of revealing and enriching a narrative specific to a place at a specific moment in history.
Amputated soldier. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
Barbie doll. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
Deer. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
Elephant. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
Captain Haddock and Thompson. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
Bird of prey. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
Kes. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
Man and Kitten. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
Water pistol. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
Police car. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
Tigers. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
Wrestler. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
Cinderella. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
Greece book. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
Goat. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
Owl. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
One legged man. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
Medication. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
Toy camera. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
November 6, 2012
In 1573, Mr. Walter Kempe built a farm alongside Swilly Creek in Plymouth.
In 1652 Kempe’s daughter Emma, married John Furneaux of Buckfastleigh bringing with her a dowry of one eighth of the Swilly Farm estate. Ten years later Mr. Ferneaux purchased the remainder of the land, all 50 acres, for £120.
The main farm house – a desirable property consisting of five rooms, a kitchen, numerous attics, a barn, courtyard and its own well – was extensively renovated to become a grand manor known as Swilly House.
The area remained a working farm until 1921 when the land was sold to the City Council, Swilly House was demolished, and plans were created for a revolutionary housing estate of the likes the city had not seen.
The original Anglo-Saxon word from which Swilly is derived means ‘farmland’, and Swilly remained the name of the estate until the late 1960’s when the word began to be used increasingly in a derogatory context towards the residents, due in part to a number of disturbances that occurred during the 1950’s.
The estate acquired such a bad name that people refused to be re-housed there, as a result Plymouth City Council not only conducted a major refurbishment of the houses but in a bid to counteract negative associations, renamed the area North Prospect in 1969.
The idea of farmland and what this constitutes and evokes, led me to produce a study of the natural elements that make up this garden suburb, most notably through representations of the local cat population that act as both figurative and metaphorical interpretations of people and place.
There is a curious sense of tranquility when one is meandering through the gardens, as if the gardens themselves know their fate and have come to terms with this, albeit grudgingly. There is also a feeling of certain trepidation when entering these overgrown environments and it is notable that the images contain a certain underlying tension – the lack of persons extenuates this – alluding to the idea that change of sorts is about to commence.
The area is in a constant state of flux where nothing remains the same. The space itself is progressively falling into degradation, where nature begins to slowly take over without the aid of human intervention or activity; the land effectively has become a ruin.
There is something alluring about such an environment in regard to the photographic medium, given that photography is intrinsically bound by and concerned with time and subsequently, via a mechanical instrument, the camera, beautification is discovered within such wastelands.
Perhaps a fascination with the documentation of ruins taps into psychological, apocalyptic foreboding within all of us and through photography we can install a sense of ownership and control with the camera, as is operates in arguably its most potent and radical form.
Cat study # 5. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
Owl. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
Apple trees. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
Bulbs. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
Cat study # 1. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
Pond. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
Fish. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
Cat study # 4. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
Lion and nesting birds. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
Garden shed. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
Cat study # 7. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
Bush. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
Cat study # 3. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
Horse. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
Cat study # 6. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
Red paint on wall. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
Cat study # 2. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
Spider. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
Cat study # 8. © Tim Mills/FOTONOW/NPHP. 2012.
June 23, 2012
This is my friend and colleague Rhodri Brooks situated in his ‘office’, temporarily installed within the undergraduate studio at the University Of Plymouth, one week before his BA Photography submission.
The following text, which I produced at Rhodri’s request, gives a general overview to his practice and formed the introduction to his final degree book.
Performance it seems is an integral element to these photographs. It is collaboration between photographer and subject, a collaboration in which the sitter is complicit, and the camera itself is the vehicle for the recording of these performative acts.
The titles within this book, chronicled into chapters, are extremely matter-of-fact; they are what they are; Portraits of People balancing Things on Their Heads, Portraits of People Wearing Tights Over Their Heads, or Portraits of Young Men With Long Hair Covering Their faces.
The photographs are all produced within a limited geographical space, they are localised and demonstrate how the exotic is to be found with in the everyday and on ones doorstep.
There remains a curious sense of tension running throughout the work, something mildly sinister taking place and yet the images themselves illicit a humorous response, subsequently the viewer is delicately poised between a number of emotional states of interpretation.
There is a somewhat confrontational approach to Brooks’ practice, interrogation even, a trait that is consistent, however, humanistic undertones are equally prevalent.
Within the series Portraits of People balancing Things on Their Heads, ones gaze is divided between the objects upon the sitters head and the vacant, concentrated stares of the sitters themselves. Brooks welcomes the viewer to contemplate these apparent non descript inanimate objects, evoking a sense of anxiety, as if it is possible to peer into the minds of each individual as psychological baggage spills from their heads soliciting a fresh interpretation of the term ‘What’s on your mind’?
Portraits of People Wearing Tights Over Their Heads questions whether it is indeed possible through photography to portray the true essence of the individual, a ‘real’ or accurate likeness. Through the concept of the mask, both literally and metaphorically, Brooks delves into how one projects oneself when confronted by a camera. Each face, due to the compression of the tights, is rendered as flat and two dimensional, for features are no longer pronounced or forthcoming, thus the faces themselves appear detached from the torso with a certain drawing quality rendered through the tights themselves.
Brooks makes it clear in Portraits of Young Men With Long Hair Covering Their Faces that we are observing males, for without such a specified title, one if left in a sort of limbo, questioning specific gender roles in regard to iconography associated with a particular sex. In many ways we are witnessing an anthropological study, a typology, with minimalist backgrounds, where faceless almost genderless individuals are isolated from any redeeming feature that one can tangibly grasp in order to gain further understanding of each individual person.
The chapter Sculpture presents functional, pragmatic objects that are clustered together as the main protagonists within the theatrical yet mundane backdrop of the domestic. It is as if Brooks has caught these objects off-guard, showing they have a life of their own when left unattended, observing the familiar with fresh, feverish eyes.
On one level these photographs are funny and playful, yet this should not mask Brooks’ acute sensitivity and control of light, his competent construction of the frame and mastery of the camera as a tool.
We are left with a sense that Brooks is a practitioner clearly having fun and for all of photography’s occasional stuffy tendencies, his images are a welcome relief occupying a unique and distinctive space of their very own.
Rhodri’s work is currently on show at the UoP Scott Gallery along with fellow 2012 BA Photography graduates, examples of all student work can be viewed at www.greekforyoghurt.co.uk
To see more a more comprehensive selection of Rhodri’s images, please divert your attention here.