Tag Archives: Hackney

Auggie Wren’s Hackney Story

‘If you don’t take the time to look, you’ll never manage to see anything’

Okay so I didn’t see much. Not much that will set the rapidly morphing world of photo journalism ablaze anyway. Taking one photo of Hackney Central every minute for twelve minutes probably didn’t leave enough freedom to capture any but the most fortunate ‘decisive moments‘. But the above axiom – a quote from Paul Auster’s tale, ‘Auggie Wren’s Christmas Story’ – still stands. In the short story, based on true events allegedly, a cigar-selling protagonist – Auggie – describes how he has taken a photo of the same spot on the same street at the same time every day for twelve years. Auggie has collected every photo, shot daily at seven in the morning, into one album for every one of the twelve years he has been snapping.

This is where I took my inspiration. Hackney Central was to be my street corner. It is an oppressed nerve-jangled melting pot bustling with evacuation shuttles and ridden with the unlucky, waiting only it seems to pass through. It is at once open – St John at Hackney Church giving way to it’s cemetery – and claustrophobic, the narrow space like a jam jar of buses, trains and people. Yet it seems to relish its work and performs all that is asked of it. If I had nothing else on in life then I sincerely think it would be a street corner worthy of twelve years of ebbing and tiding photography. As it was I had a day. My day off. A really cold day at that. A day to stand outside and capture this frenetic amalgam. I’d planned on an hour. One hour of a photo every minute. I set out with borrowed big camera (for today I was a serious photographer and the world should know) and a makeshift mono-pod – born a poster tube to die a poster tube but for one day it glimpsed a Blow-Up existence.

After wandering Hackney Central for my gaze – outside Pizza Hut? Nah. Too far away from all the action and reaction. Near the Church? Yeah, near the Church, I can tie that in to Walter Benjamin’s recently read theories on ritual values of art if these pic’s turn out to be  supremely dull – I found my spot. So it began. Snap One. Idiot. Forgotten my watch. Oh it’s okay I have my phone. Snap Two. The sky is looking sweet today. Snap Three. Wow its cold, one hour here you say? Snap Four. Why did I choose an hour? Where did I pluck that from again? Snap Five. I’m hungry and I need a wee. Snap Six. If Auggie took photo’s for twelve years couldn’t I take them for twelve minutes? Snap Seven. Genius. Snap Eight, Nine, Ten. Do I go to Marks & Sparks or McDonalds for lunch? Good or Evil? Snap Eleven. All this wool I have on is doing nothing. Snap Twelve. Done, right I’ll go to Marks and Sparks for a smoothie, that’s one of my five, and McDonalds for fries and cheeseburger. £2, bargain. It’s fine I’ve been to the gym today, I deserve it, it’s cold. Plus they have a toilet. Great.

For artistic suffering I took three sets of twelve that afternoon, scouring the narrow way for vantage points, and hoping for odd folk and incident. Then I remembered incident wasn’t really the point. In the story Auggie invites Auster to look at his work. Auster is initially underwhelmed, ”All the pictures were the same. The whole project was a numbing onslaught of repetition”. After a few minutes of feigned appreciation, Auggie blurts, ‘You’re going too fast, you’ll never get it if you don’t slow down’. Only then does Auster begin to realise the hidden beauty in Auggie’s photography, and I’ll leave you with his wondrous moment of enlightenment…

‘And then little by little, I began to recognize the faces of the people in the background, the passers-by on their way to work, the same people in the same spot every morning, living an instant of their lives in the field of Auggie’s camera. Once I got to know them, I began to study their postures, the way they carried themselves from one morning to the next, trying to discover their moods from those surface indications, as if I could imagine stories for them, as if I could penetrate the invisible dramas locked inside their bodies. I picked up another album. I was no longer bored, no longer puzzled as I had been at first. Auggie was photographing time, I realized, both natural time and human time, and he was doing it by planting himself  in one tiny corner of the world and willing it to be his own, by standing guard in the space he had chosen for himself’.

Check my slideshow over on Flickr

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A 4-1 defeat amongst hints of nightmares.

My beloved Recreativo Hackney were away to second-placed Llamas FC yesterday afternoon. We ended up on the wrong end of a 4-1 scoreline. That’s the same end that normally makes you whinge about all the day’s knocks about 19% more. But as Joe and I cycled gingerly back from the park, I felt great. Yes we’d been exposed by younger, slicker opponents whose star is on the rise. Yes we were shattered, but only because we’d given everything we had. We’d raged against the dying of the light. After going in 2-0 down at half-time we came out strong and had their heads ringing. It wasn’t glossy stuff but there was blood pumping in our veins. We pegged them back to 2-1. Yet we couldn’t keep up the intensity. One silly mistake later and the game was lost.

This week, in exposing one nightmarish aspect of modern society and then giving a platform to another, the wizened print media have managed to prove both a continuing relevance and a peculiar ability to self-destruct.  The thread running through both cases has been increasingly important role played by the new kid on the block, social networking. Forgive the stretch but I wonder if the print media feel slightly like I do today? Battered, bruised and beaten by the yoot, but still a contender.

The case of oil company Trafigura and it’s legal firm Carter-Ruck, highlighted by the Guardian, exposed the Orwellian world of the super-injunction and the truly frightening prospect of other unknown-unknowns. I reckon the shape-shifting lizards that David Icke claims rule the world probably have a super-injunction against their existence being reported. We should all feel proud that the print media are still fulfilling their role as the ‘Fourth Estate’. It’s not all seasonal recipes and wall charts; the black heart of an arrogant and greedy oil company was well and truly exposed. That Tweeters also helped to turn up the lights on the media black-out means that the Trafigura scandal stands as a great example of how social networking can help journalists get to the bottom of a story.

This pride quickly gave way to revulsion with the publication of Jan Moir’s abhorrent piece of, fingers crossed, career suicide. Linking the untimely death of Stephen Gately to his sexual habits through a heady mix of insinuation and innuendo is simply pathetic. I must say it is strange to be in the righteous moral orthodoxy on this one. This must be the kind of moral outrage that Mail readers feel when they hear about politically correct immigrants getting over-paid jobs at the BBC and making prank phone-calls to old actresses from the Good Life in their native tongue.

It is easy to joke about the editorial policy at the Daily Mail but this is a low. That a record-breaking number of complaints were made to the Press Complaints Commission and several big-hitting companies demanded the removal of their ads from the on-line article was remarkable. That this was in response to what Moir has complained of as, ‘heavily orchestrated internet campaign’, is even more exciting. Too bloody right there was an orchestrated internet campaign! Why does she say this as if it is some kind of technological liberal conspiracy against her? Oh those bloody lefties with their bloody internet, did you know, thanks to this Twitter, there are some kids out there who can only concentrate long enough to understand 140-characters of bigoted rant before they think about knife crime?

The co-ordinated response excites as it underlines the potential power of social networking. The instantaneous connectivity on offer saw the offending article, and info on how to formally complain, disseminated with lightning speed securing a harmoniously loud response. It is a little depressing that the editors at the Mail will ultimately respond quicker to the loss of advertising revenue than any potential PCC action…but nevertheless, thanks to Pied Piper’s like Stephen Fry and Derren Brown they will surely think twice about printing such unmitigated bollocks.