What’s the point in taking photographs?
They are souvenirs of course, memories of fabulous sights, magical holidays & iconic locations. They can evoke amazing feelings and transport us right back to a special moment in time.
Nowadays, with the advent of smartphones and digital cameras we take thousands of pictures and videos every year, an example of today’s throw away society.
Some of my favourite pictures date back over twenty-years when we were limited to manual cameras with a maximum of 36 exposures per film that would cost around £5 each to develop. Add the price of the film and the total was around £8 a go.
We were so much more selective back then and especially careful to frame our subject carefully – no photoshop or editing software back then of course.
A wasted photo not only cost money but could also mean that you had no film loaded when that fantastic opportunity to take a magazine worthy shot presented itself for a fleeting moment.
You used to feel such anticipation when you returned from holiday, took your films to Boots and then collected the packets containing your masterpieces a few days later.
The norm was 5 good shots, 20 OK ones and 11 shockers that were out of focus, saw the subject with a weird expression (or even worse their head cut off!) or resembled the inside of a coal bunker on a dark December night, which you view wearing Raybans!
The advent of the digital age is wonderful of course but the pleasure of taking your best shots and putting them neatly inside a photo album was palpable.
I even used to type out little slips of paper describing what the photo depicted and stuck that in alongside. A true labour of love.
This is all a long preamble into the subject of my latest mini-blog series which will show my top twenty photographs from over the years. A few decent shots if I say so myself, but they mainly qualify for the feelings they bring back or the moments in time that they represent.
I will present them in clusters of five starting with the fourth quartile of faves.
The Dead Sea, Israel – 1993
This out of focus shot of me pretending to read a newspaper whilst floating in the waters of earth’s lowest elevation on land near Masada in Israel, was taken during my first ever trip outside of Europe, the main reason it makes my list.
I already loved to travel having undertaken three brilliant European interrail trips but breathing the dust of the Middle East, the ethereal call to prayer, the vastly different culture and landscapes that were unlike anything I had seen before, really lit the travel fuse that had been smouldering away without totally catching fire.
There was no holding me back now!
Postcard Salesman, Uros Floating Islands, Lake Titicaca, Peru – 2001
This photo warms my heart every time I look at it.
The Uros are no ordinary islands, but are man made out of reeds that float on Lake Titicaca near Puno in Peru. My story concerns a boy who I met there in late 2001.
The young entrepreneur who lived on one of the islands made from reads on the highest navigable lake in the world, had drawn his own picture cards using paper and coloured crayons. Perhaps the tools of his craft had been a gift from another traveller some time before and this had inspired his business idea?
The Uros people live mainly through fishing the lake and making items out of reeds to sell in nearby Puno. Tourism is also an important source of income with several souvenir stalls (made out of reeds naturally) selling reed gifts and coloured textiles.
Clearly the young man was expected to contribute to the family coffers before being old enough to take up his fishing career and hand-drawn cards were his particular thing.
The look of delight on the boy’s face when I handed him a small sum for one of his creations, was quickly surpassed when I produced a boiled sweet to give to him. That smile will always live with me.
The lad ran off excitedly to tell his mother his good news and I carried on with my visit with a warm glow.
Around an hour later it was time to go. As I walked back to our waiting boat, I passed the young man who was now sat cross-legged singing to himself.
On closer inspection I could see he was playing with an object, pulling it in circles around him, looking longingly at the tiny yellow sphere he held between his fingers.
It was the sweet, still in its wrapper!
Darvaza Gas Crater, Karakum Desert, Turkmenistan – 2018
Turkmenistan is one of those destinations that have to be experienced to understand just how strange the nation is, by Western ideals anyway.
I absolutely loved the whole trip but the long journey out to the desert to witness the freak gas crater probably took the biscuit.
Once I read about the site 270km north-west of the capital Ashgabat, I just had to go.
Even though getting there was not the best fun and the night spent in the tent as a sandstorm blew up all around having us fearing the tent would blow away was pretty awful, it still ranks as a truly memorable experience.
In the late ’60s gas was discovered near a small oasis settlement called Darvaza, with drilling commencing in order to tap the fuel for commercial gain. Whilst drilling in 1971 there was an accident when the drilling equipment collapsed allowing gas to escape.
The decision was taken to burn off the surface gas to enable drilling to recommence. The gas engineers estimated it would burn off in around ten days. Nearly 50-years later it is still burning!
A Weekend In Milan, Italy – 2015
Ok this is a trio of photos but they are representative of a perfect weekend with Mrs Wilbur, when I ticked off three ambitions in a stroke.
Friday night watching Giselle at La Scala, Saturday afternoon going to see Da Vinci’s iconic Last Supper mural and Saturday night taking in the ‘Derby della Madonnina’ football match between AC Milan & Internazionale at the San Siro.
Provence Road Trip, France – 2014
This photo is again chosen for what it depicts rather than any aesthetics.
In 2014 we hired a Fiat 500 convertible and went on a Provencal road trip taking in Nice, Cannes, Eze, Cape Ferat, Antibes, Grasse, The Verdon Gorge, Aix en Provence, the villages of Provence, The Camargue, Arles, Orange, Châteauneuf Du Pape and Avignon.
Not only were the places we visited amazing but the feeling of adventure as we hit the open road in the sunshine with the roof rolled down made the whole experience never to be forgotten.
11-15 coming soon.
I enjoyed these. I also remember the adrenalin rush of anticipation followed by the crushing disappointment of collecting the developed pictures. Sometimes they had little stickers on them to tell you what you had done wrong.
Forgot that yes! Loved it when Jessops smashed the Boots monopoly.
What about Bonusprint? Get a new film with every processing order.
There was even one you had to send to Paignton in a yellow freepost envelope. Was that Bonusprint or Trueprint?
One or the other. You could get glossy or matt finish. Whichever they all faded away after a few years.