I presented these at Stills Democratic Camera Club on Thursday 12 January 2012. All the pictures in this collection were taken in the course of short circular walks from my home. Each picture has some relevance to the sub-theme of cycles and circles.
1. Back home: full-circle and my rusty cycle
I was born in Edinburgh but when I was four my family moved to what was then called Rhodesia. I grew up there and in South Africa, returning to the UK when I was 22. Since then I have lived and worked in many parts of Scotland, England and Wales. I was also based in Paris for three years.
A few years ago I returned to Edinburgh and now live in the Stockbridge Colonies, a few minutes’ walk away from the home of my infancy, a tiny flat on Wemyss Place, above what was then my grandfather’s business (Thomas and Adamson Quantity Surveyors). I have therefore come virtually full-circle. The painting in the photograph is a watercolour by my father. It’s the view looking out from the flat over Wemyss Place Mews. This scene has hardly changed in almost half a century.
I bought my (t)rusty bicycle many years ago in a charity shop in Aberdeen. The paint is peeling off, like the bark of the felled tree (Photo 2), to reveal rust – iron oxidises just as wood decays. Scratch a human and you will see red blood – red because of the iron in the haemoglobin. Everything decays, but essential components will not be destroyed; they will be recycled.
2. Felled giant: broken circles and completed cycles
I suspect this tree had begun to rot at its core before it was felled. A hollow tree makes me think of the Winnie the Pooh stories I read as a child, and therefore of my childhood home in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Of course, hollow trees provide homes for many creatures. The tree in this picture is decaying nicely – nutrients are being recycled and will feed future trees.
3. Home defences: “moss-terious” circles
We protect our properties with fences, walls and railings. The railing posts in this photograph are themselves ringed by moss. How does this happen? We can possibly keep people out, but we can’t entirely prevent nature reclaiming space. The moss “circle” I have enlarged is actually heart-shaped! Do you love your home?
4. Antarctica moss: global issues
This patch of moss (on a wall next to the Water of Leith) reminded me of Antarctica, a roughly circular continent. This, in turn, made me think of global issues, especially climate change, which is most visible in the melting of ice sheets around Antarctica. We live on a small and limited planet, yet we continue to act as if its resources are infinite, not least the fossil fuels formed from forests growing over millions of years.
The moss has grown over the crack in the wall. Will nature be able to recover from the harm we are inflicting, or are we approaching a point of no return?
5. Slug’s eye view
You don’t need to travel far and wide to find beauty and wonder. This tiny (less than an inch) translucent slug is beautiful as it cruises through its home forest of moss. As we look at it, it looks at the world itself, with its tiny spherical eyes on the ends of questing stalks. How does it perceive the world?
6. Helpful railings: black and red
These railings, seconds from my home, help people climb and descend the steep steps of “Gabriel’s Road”. They themselves look like people co-operating: joining hands to do their work. The topmost post jauntily offers its elbow: “Come on, Granny, let me support you!”
The balls at the tops of the posts have been worn by countless hands to reveal red paint beneath the black, a reminder of our mortality and common humanity? No matter what the colour of our skin, or how else we might differ in appearance, we all have red blood. We are all human beings on a small planet. It’s madness not to co-operate to solve the earth’s problems.
7. Wide-eyed: powerless observer
This face from the past, photographed in a cemetery (ironically near the Gallery of Modern Art), and staring out from a circular border, looks aghast at what he sees of the modern world. Is he crying? His squint makes me think of the slug’s diverging eye stalks. Can we look at the world in two ways at once?
It’s a reminder of the horror of much of what we human beings are doing to each other and the planet, but also of the many strange and wonderful things that exist, even in the immediate vicinity of our homes.
We should keep our eyes open to the harm we are doing, but also to the beauty that abounds on our doorsteps.