Ed Ruscha Photobook

It has been a surprising journey putting together a photobook in the style of Ed Ruscha. Looking at his book TwentySix Gasoline Stations for the first time my impression accorded perfectly with its reputation for being boring and banal. I had a similar reaction to his books on swimming pools, car parks and every building on sunset strip. I was intrigued that the idea of gasoline stations arose because of Ed Ruscha’s love of the word gasoline and a regular 1000 mile trip he was taking at the time. Then I had a go at the task of producing a book in his style and things changed for me.

I was on a photography trip in Cyprus a couple of weeks ago. The obvious thing to do was to photograph Gasoline Stations in Cyprus. So I started to do this. The friend I was with was at first bemused by this task and I think worried where these MA tasks were taking me. But as we stopped and took pictures we both remarked on how much more you notice when you point your camera, look and then see. We started asking questions about evidence of Cyprus on the forecourts. We got in to long conversations with staff at the forecourts if we asked if we could photograph. Their reaction was suspicion about why we would want to do such a thing.

Then something else happened. We were photographing the abandoned village of Souskiou. This village of almost 400 people was evacuated in 1974 during the troubles and has remained empty ever since. The buildings there are currently abandoned and are in various stages of falling down. I was deeply moved by the experience of walking around this village. My mothers ancestors were pushed out of Croatia up in to Hungary, then subsumed in to Austria and then my mother came to England. This place seemed to strike a chord within me about migration and identity.

Then I fell in love with the windows in the village. Pictures of abandonment but also of a conquest of nature taking place as weeds and plants take up residence in every nook and cranny you see. So now my project became 26 windows in Souskiou.

Having the material I now worked on producing a photobook. I read Understanding Photobooks by Jorg Colberg. A whole new world opened up as I saw there was a sophisticated process to produce a photobook. The importance of form, content, story and sequencing. In addition the haptic pleasures of touching photographs and paper soon became apparent. I have always loved real paper books and the experience of holding certain paper and type gives me a real thrill. I am sensing the same excitement growing for myself as I handle prints and look at and touch photobooks. Alec Soth’s Sleeping by the Mississippi is just a wonderful experience.

So I laid out some prints on the dining table. My wife Karen was encouraged to participate. Which ones to go together, what is the story, what is the sequence and which ones don’t fit? Anybody who came in the house was invited to play. Touch, move, group and tell me what you think. I was amazed how much people enjoyed doing this and with such simple pictures what a range of opinions and comments.

After finally agreeing on a book order we then had a conversation about words or no words. The consensus was no words. Let the pictures form their own story in the minds of the viewer.

So we have a book, or a dummy, as I now know the term to be. It sits here asking to be printed.

26 Windows in Souskiou

But wait. This involved much too much thinking. It has now become a project and is likely to become an exhibition for Landings this year. Surely the point of Ed Ruscha was that he liked the word gasoline and photographed 26 of them and put them in a book. Similarly in 45 minutes he flew over LA and photographed a bunch of parking lots. So yesterday I thought let’s do Ed Ruscha properly.

In 25 minutes I photographed 24 planks of Pego boardwalk. I went forward one plank at a time and that was my sequence. Even in such a short period of time and with such a ‘boring’ and ‘banal’ subject it is once again interesting to see how much more you see when you look.

24 Planks of Pego Boardwalk

This has been a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The Souskiou images are likely to progress in to an exhibition and possibly a photobook. I have also progressed a long way in the short journey so far on the MA feeling almost as comfortable with banal and boring being interested as I remain in love with the beautiful and the sublime.

Categories: Coursework, Surfaces and Strategies


I am a Photographer. As well as taking many photographs I am currently studying for an MA in Photography at Falmouth University. I will direct my attention through the lens of my camera for the next couple of years and see what shows up. I see a photograph as a little bit of magic capturing a moment in time. If successful it surprises and engages your emotions. It tells a story about the wonders of being alive or tells us what we need to change to make it a better world to live in. That is enough for me to get going and then like walking a 1000 miles, which I did across the UK in 2010, or walking 200 miles across Cyprus, which I did in November last year, it is one step at a time.

I was a writer. The title of my unpublished book was ‘You Would Have Done The Same.' It is about a successful guy in love with his wife who lets her die when he discovers her in the process of committing suicide. The title gives a clue as to what I think you would have done. The book is 200 pages long. I found it cathartic to write it but after two years of work and reviewing with agents decided it probably needed another 2000 hours to get the whole book up to the standard of some of the pages. Writing is great but it is a lot of sitting down so I decided to get out and walk, play tennis, play bridge, go birding, watch football at Nottingham Forest, Arsenal and Valencia and anywhere else if I can, meditate, cook and eat. I was a writer who has so far failed to become an author.
I was a young man who loved Mathematics and thoroughly enjoyed getting a BSc at Liverpool University. While there I went often to Anfield and the Philharmonic Hall. I was all set on doing a PhD until I went for interview practice at BP and got seduced by the excitement of an International business career. BP was a great adventure building trading teams and businesses in London, Antwerp, Cleveland Ohio and Singapore. Fabulous people and some great challenges and also very hard work, constant jet lag and lots of fun along the way. I married Karen, my stunning wife, and had the most amazing time with her and our three boys Alex, Tom and Dan. She has multiple sclerosis and we have taken on many challenges together but somehow keep creating a new normal against the horrors thrown our way. She is the love of my life.

After BP I decided to coach senior executives and quickly realized I had a lot to learn
about what makes people tick. I had a fantastic 18 months on the International Programme of the Cleveland Gestalt Institute. A great faculty and a
wonderful group of people on the programme. We studied and worked in Dingle, Singapore, Holland, Cape Town and
Lisbon. This also got me interested in the way we think and make decisions so I studied for an MSc in Psychology atUniversity College London in 2010. The
Masters was in Cognitive and Decision Sciences and I found it fascinating what
we do know but also how much we don’t know about how we think and make

I loved coaching and making a difference. I got a number of people to hear themselves, remove some of their own chains and free up the way they thought about the world. I remain fascinated by how people react to and engage with the world. My Masters thesis was why do two people given the same information make different decisions? Put simply, it is because each of us are unique in the way we are constructed.

Since returning from Singapore I found English winters tough so moved to Spain where I now live. The people are lovely, the scenery amazing, food delicious and the sun shines all the time. Almost.

All of these experiences will feed in to my time now as a Photographer. Three motivations I am lucky to have are enthusiasm, curiosity and a continuous interest in learning. All the time I look forward to meeting old friends and making new friends and experiencing this wonderful life together.