It's been a rather tremendous year for Birmingham and as 2014 draws to a close, the city finds itself included in Top 10 polls. There's a huge perception change in progress, and it's really wonderful to witness.
There have been plenty of photo opportunities over the year, and whenever I can I've been out capturing the city, from the outskirts to the centre. I thought I'd share my favourite 10 images that I've taken of the city this year and the stories behind them. I also wanted to take this opportunity to thank a bunch of people for their support.
Winter brings fog, and at sunrise, when the conditions are right, the colour plays on the fog and gives atmosphere to industrial landscapes. My favourite part of this image is the street light in the bottom centre, it highlights the 'Islamic Relief' centre, a metaphor for Birmingham's diversity and good will. It was taken from the top of Moat St carpark, which has now had barriers installed, making images like this all but impossible to shoot through the railings.
I often talk about my love for the canals of Birmingham. They are tranquil and beautiful, especially just after sunrise. The day I took this was a particularly beautiful morning, with the light streaming through winter foliage. Moments like this, they don't happen very often, so when they do, it turns a good day into a great day. This is a stretch of canal in Acocks Green, looking up towards Olton.
Speaking of things that don't happen very often, you can rank absolutely epic sunsets among that category. There are good sunsets (you might get one of those every month) and there are mind-blowing, drama filled sunsets and universally bind each individual who witnesses them together. The sunset above, that was one of those, and really, you might only every get one of these a year. Just amazing to watch, and a privilege to behold. I took this long exposure on my Fujifilm X-Pro1 in Fox Hollies Park, Acocks Green. This was before I'd invested in a ultra-wide for my Fuji system, so it was shot on an 18mm f/2.
Those lovely folks at Staying Cool let me stay at the top of the Rotunda so I could grab some shots of Birmingham from above. Apart from being a dream place to stay, the views were epic, especially at night. A perfect dusk descended over the city centre, with the lights of the New Street Development dominating the foreground. My favourite part of this image is still the red and green traffic lights reflecting on the platform.
The Library of Birmingham opened in 2013, and has rapidly become one of the most photographed buildings in Birmingham. I don't think this is a bad thing at all, as there's so much of the building to explore, from the Shakespeare Room to the outdoor terraces. I wanted to capture the footfall as well as some of the features of the building, and a long exposure really gave a sense of movement. It's a great space, and I hope Birmingham City Council reconsider the crippling cuts they're proposing.
Transition is part of Birmingham's persona, and this image is a stark example of this. In the foreground, the now obsolete Central Library spirals out like an upside down brutalist pyramid. In the background, the new Library of Birmingham with it's shiny facade. Soon the skyline will change forever when developers pull down the Central Library early next year. In 2005 I worked in the Local History department of the Central Library, often knee deep in microfiche, discovering other people's dead relatives. It was a transitional year for me back in 2005/2006 and the library was a home. I'll always remember it fondly, even the leaky roof.
In August, Brazilian sculptor Nele Azevedo brought 5000 ice sculptures to the steps of Chamberlain Square. The Minimum Monument, a tribute to the men and women who lost their lives during WWI, was possibly one of the most moving art installations I've ever seen, as each ice sculpture melted into nothingness. It was an honour to photograph, and humbling to witness.
Gas Street Basin has been a recent discovery for me. I like to situate architecture in the context of the surroundings, like here The Cube is reflected in the water of the canal surrounded by the buildings and structures that were present long before it was built. This photo is a long exposure at sunset. Sometimes it can be tough because of the movement in the water, making the boats blurry, but during his attempt, it wasn't too bad. The great thing about long exposures is that they smooth out the water and yet the buildings remain stalwart and sharp.
The return of the Christmas wheel provides an opportunity to explore difference perspectives on the architecture and art that encompass the Library. "Real Family", a sculpture by Gillian Wearing, has done exactly what art should do by sparking a debate and getting people talking. Many people have spoken that they find it offensive that a male is not represented (although personally this is not my opinion and I in fact find the sculpture comforting), so when I took this shot I deliberately made sure there was the silhouette of a male figure standing off the left, looking away, absent but also present.
I love sunrises. I love them because instead of chasing the light, the light chases me. From dark to light, from night to day, witnessing the beginning is a powerful thing. This winter sunrise, captured on a December morning, was a beauty. My camera was pushed to f/18 to capture the sunstar, but it was only when I looked at the image when I realised I'd caught not one, but three, reflecting in the iconic Selfridges building.
It's been an amazing year for me. So many doors have opened because of my photos of Birmingham. It reinforces the notion that good things can only come from a places of passion, honesty, positivity and truth, and it's great to see that Birmingham is getting the recognition it deserves. It's a great city to live in!
Just wanted to use the end of this blog to thanks some of the amazing people and organisations who have promoted and supported me over the last year;
Brumpic - For always sharing my work, and encouraging me. It's ran by two brilliant people who have bought me numerous Gin & Tonics (thank you)! It was amazing to see the website go live and watch it grow. I hope 2015 is even better for the Brumpic team.
Birmingham Updates - For endless shares, encouragement and to Luke for being a stunningly awesome guy, always ready with a kind word. One of Birmingham's finest sons.
#BrumHour - Such a great resource for Birmingham based *anything*. Again, someone who has supported, shared, encouraged and generally been amazing to me.
I Choose Birmingham - If you're Birmingham based and you're not subscribed to "I Choose Birmingham" you're missing out. Legendary e-magazine that brings the best of Brum to your inbox every week (one of the first places to feature my work, and kinda started this whole roller coaster year. Thanks Tom Cullen, you superstar!)
Impact Hub Birmingham - My Birmingham family. Doing amazing things, and set to be an great resource for the city. Currently embroiled in a Kickstarter campaign with some of the rewards involving photo workshops with yours truly. Have a look, pledge if you can - Impact Hub Birmingham Kickstarter
Independent Birmingham - Another great Brum based organisation that has faith in my work and is doing amazing things for the independent scene!
SomeCities - It was an honour to be part of the SomeCities 'Our City' exhibition earlier this year. Great organisation that has done and is doing great things for photography in the city.
Created in Birmingham - Great blog that is always worth a read for things going on in and around Brum. Huge thanks to the lovely Rob Green wrote an article about me for the blog earlier this year. Rob, I still owe you pint!
Birmingham Mail - For featuring my work in a double page spread. That was a pretty awesome moment!
BBC WM - For having my on the radio to talk about my work, and for sharing it whenever they could. Although, they're still not quite forgiven for making me talk to camera at 7:30am ;)
Thanks also to all the people who have RT'd, Faved, Liked, Shared and Commented on my images over on Twitter and Facebook. Hopefully I thanked you at the time, if not, my apologies, I can get a little forgetful at times. I'm truly grateful.
Also, check out these brilliant Birmingham based photographers who have inspired me over the last year:
Tim Cornbill - Trail blazing Brum photographer. All round awesome guy. It's always a pleasure to chat with Tim, and I would like to thank him for constantly inventing brilliant hashtags, including #brumrise and #brumset.
George Daley - George has an amazing eye for lines in architecture. His black and white work is particularly brilliant, and it's always a joy to see his latest discoveries pop up on Instagram.
Barbara Gibson & Marta Kochanek - Magnificent portrait work. Stunning aesthetics, bringing a different perspective of the city. Makes me jaw drop every time. Haven't had the pleasure of meeting the women behind the work, but it's great to see other women photographers in the city doing their thing and making brilliant art.
Ross Jukes - Another Brum based photographer out there doing his thing, showing off the city. Over the year Ross has just gone from strength to strength. I chased after him one Saturday to say 'hello', always good to bump into another photographer, especially when it's sunrise and they're carrying a Fujifilm!
52 Weeks in Brum - Great project from a lovely guy, trying to capture a different aspect of the city for each week of the year. Also, he was kind enough to offer me a camera when I managed to smash mine. Still bowled over by that act of kindness.
IGersBirmingham - Less a person, more an instragram account, run by McGoogle (I'm not sure of his real name, but I know that he's a Scot, which makes him awesome, not that I'm biased). Great place to look for other brilliant Brum based photographers.
My final thanks goes to my wife-to-be (I swear we are organising a wedding, we're just going for a reallllllly long engagement), who supports me, gets up early, facilitates my randomness, helps calm me down when I'm being ridiculous, reminds me that being a champion for someone is way better than being an opponent, and for buying pretty much every copy of the Birmingham Mail that I was featured in. Without Rachel there to share in all this, none of it would really mean anything.
If I've missed anyone, really sorry. You can yell at me in the comments if you like (although I'm a girl and I will cry).
I'm hoping that 2015 will signal a change from 2014. More collaboration, more projects rather than single images, more helping other creatives. So, if you want to collaborate, if you need my help, or you just want to have a chat, get in touch, I'd absolutely love to talk with you, especially if you're a female photographer, because there has got to be some more of us out there...
Thanks for the amazing year, Birmingham!