I love wondering around with my camera.
As a travel and street photographer I venture extensively to the major cities of the world, often veering off the beaten track and far away from the main tourist attractions.
Although those places are beautiful and totally iconic, they are always interesting but ultimately a known familiarity photographically. For me a camera and the resulting images are the tools used for seeing a lot deeper into the real life of a city. Looking through the lens to see past the superficial facade and framing ephemeral moments that tell alternative stories about places and their more recent history.
I remember the words in Susan Sontag’s excellent book ‘On Photography’ about a street photographer being akin to an urban stalker, hunting for prey almost. Then loading the camera, aiming and shooting at the target. This is kind of how I find the treasure for the type of image I love to work with. I drift down side streets, peek through holes in walls, dodge down alleyways and often climb over fences of broken down buildings in search of dereliction, incongruous architecture in random places and the people who inhabit them. Even better if the results depict a transition in time, a forgotten industry, a thwarted political vision or a cultural expression.
Adopting this approach becomes all the more exciting when I unload the SD card into my laptop at the end of the day. I often discover images that I didn’t even remember taking. As I developed as a photographer, I realized that my drift through the streets was somehow meditative. An escape from the mainstream and a subconscious meander searching the world’s cities for aesthetic pleasure.
I have to say this approach has been incredibly adventurous. I became an addict almost to getting really cool shots and traipsed miles each day seeking for places that ticked all the boxes I was hoping to fill. Danger often came into it as I trudged along train tracks, avoided guard dogs and tried to explain to bemused security guys who had no English, that I just wanted a photo of some decrepit old factory.
St Petersburg, Moscow and Kiev were excellent locations for this as is most of Eastern Europe. The Post Soviet Space still has plenty of great stories to tell aside from the onion domes, commemorative statues and brutalist architecture. As Communism rapidly fell and Capitalism took over, so much simply got abandoned. The way to find this kind of location for the best results was to board a tram, local bus or the metro and either get off at the last stop or just ride around keeping an eye out for some interesting photogenic possibility.
So about this photograph: this odd construction, a great example of some of the aforementioned, was found in the back streets of Vasiliky Island in St Petersberg. It is a control booth in a car park yet hardly any cars were in evidence. A middle aged man in uniform had made this place his domain, possibly remembering the promise of a fabulous space age future for Russia that was never realized, hence the photo’s title, Space Age Lost.
Maybe now just administering parking tickets, locking gates and maintaining this unique construction thus fulfilling his sense of purpose. His two younger workmates sat inside passing time reading the paper, waiting for something to do. So indicative of many workers in these countries where Communism collapsed. A poorly paid job doing nothing really productive but a job nevertheless. A true moment in a time almost suspended, which for me is a very fulfilling photographic moment.
The crisp blue sky of the Northern hemisphere’s Spring and the stark silhouette of the bare trees somehow completed this image. I never was able to find this place again.
What do you think are the TWO most impactful features that make your image a good photograph? Don’t be shy!
The answer to this is easy. Nature and Civilization. These two themes often work beautifully together as a juxtaposition. The grey concrete and the strange silver space age construction against the bright blue sky backdrop are very complementary aesthetically.
If you would be able to make this photo once again, what would be the ONE thing you would like to do better or different?
I would learn Russian so I could ask the workers there what this place is all about.
Toni Peach shared this photograph in the FRAMES Facebook Group.
Toni Peach, Coventry, England.
Equipment and Settings
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1
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