Saturday 18 March 2017 – Birmingham.

I have had a nasty head cold/virus thing for the past three or four weeks. It has not been bad enough to really lay me out, but it has been bad enough that over that period I had to take a couple of days off work. As a contractor on a day rate with no sick leave, that means no pay; so it was a pretty bad cold. It has also meant that El and I have not done a heck of a lot since the start of the year. It being winter hibernation time has not helped either.

The UK’s biggest photography show is at the NEC in Birmingham this weekend. As El had plans for both Friday night and Saturday morning that did not include me I decided I would go to Birmingham to have a look. I am trying to work out what to do with my photography at the moment, I know I want to do more of it; I am just not sure what that more is. Much as I would love to get a new camera, I wasn’t going to look at equipment, I was going with the hope of finding new inspiration.

I worked from home Friday morning and had booked a seat on the 14:13 train from Euston. It was a pretty good journey and I arrived in Birmingham late in the afternoon, just as the drizzle started! I had booked a hotel that was close to the station and headed straight there; after checking the direction on the map on my phone.

I crossed through Holloway Circus and stopped to take a photo of the Asian influenced statue in the middle, with two lovely English tower blocks in the background. My hotel was just on the other side of the circus. So far I was not overly impressed with Birmingham central, though it was living up to my expectations. The station was very modern, and there was a fairly new mall opposite it, but the walk to my hotel was a little ‘gritty’. Perhaps late afternoon on a rainy St Patrick’s Day is not the best time to visit an urban centre for the first time? The sky seemed to reflect the colour of the buildings below it.

When I got to the check-in desk at the hotel I discovered that at some point between checking the map on my phone and arriving I had lost my glasses. Naturally this was one trip away from home when I had not bought a spare. Sh*t! I checked in and headed back the way I came, but as expected, I found nothing. I bought a ‘cheap’ pair from Boots – I need to be able to read things or I will go bonkers. I have never lost a pair of glasses before, and it was a slightly disconcerting feeling. I can see to get around well enough, but I cannot read a thing without them.

It was still drizzling when I left Boots, so I went back to the hotel, and did not leave again until the morning when I left for a walk before heading out to the NEC centre for the opening of the Photography Show at 11:00. I didn’t really have a plan for walking around, though I wanted to see the building at the back of the shopping centre, ‘The Bullring’ building. A new and very futuristic looking construction.  

It is a stunning piece of modern architecture and being right next to the church Saint Martin in the Bullring, it makes for a great old and new contrast.

I knew there must be some street art in the city, I had vague recollections of hearing some paint jams here, so was pleasantly surprised to walk past a Dan Kitchener hoarding nearby.

I had been walking toward what looked like some interesting old/derelict buildings and accidentally stumbled upon a major street art area.

Every street I walked down had art or graff on walls. Big pieces, some by artists I was very familiar with and some not so much, there was like a trail of art of leading me towards something, though I had no idea what. The chimney on this building was what originally led me here, there was a great view back up the street to The Bullring as well.

I was quite intrigued by this building as well, it turned out to be part of a college, in this section of the city there are not many tall buildings, so this one really stood out, I loved the water? tower. I am also a sucker for red brick and government issue green paint.

Following the trail onwards, I passed an Amara,

And something I liked by an unknown artist,

I crossed over a small canal, reminiscent of the canal we saw in York, tightly canyon-ed by the buildings on either side, and much narrower than the canal system in North London.

All of a sudden I found the pot of gold at the end of the street art trail, a couple of big car parks with walls covered in art works.

I recognised a Louis Masai, but not much else. There were a lot of other pieces around.

I think I stumbled into Birmingham’s answer to London’s Shoreditch. It is an area in need of gentle gentrification, more of a tidy than a complete make-over. There are a lot of neglected small factory, warehouse and office buildings, spaces that would make for great studio and gallery places. Though we know what happens when gentrification comes along, and it is not all good news. This little square had been gentrified and was very cool, and if I had seen it yesterday I would have been tempted to come down here last night for a meal and a drink.

I walked past a record fair. I was very very tempted to go in….  I also like the idea that a city is a work of art, and I think this area of the city has achieved that to a degree.

However, I was on a mission to go the Photography Show, so I left the street art and record fair behind and headed to the station to take the train from central Birmingham to the NEC centre, about 10 miles away. My feelings about Birmingham have been turned around and I really enjoyed my walk.

The train was absolutely rammed, with lots of (mostly) young people in costume. Arriving at the NEC I discovered that Comic Con was being held there as well as the Photography Show; and a couple of smaller expos as well. The place is huge. As was the photo expo, much bigger than I expected.

I really enjoyed the expo. I will definitely go back next year, but will plan to go with someone else, preferably someone interested in photography! Though I was not planning on spending time looking at the gear  I would liked to have looked at the cameras and the other technology, discussing pros and cons of the different systems and innovations. It was interesting to look around anyway, plus I wanted to avoid the temptation of holding a Canon 5d Mk4 in my hands!

I wasn’t there for the tech though, I wanted to check out some of the talks. As I said at the start I need some inspiration, I am stuck in a bit of a photographic rut at the moment, hence the lack of blogs and photography. I have some ideas, but need a bit of a kick in the butt to get going.

I attended a talk in the Canon tent by the photographer Jeff Ascough, about how he developed his style and it was really informative and very helpful. I left with good ideas, some thoughts on direction, and a validation of some of my thinking.

I left soon after the talk and headed back to home. I felt good about the trip.

All the photos were taken on my phone, I did take the G16, but did not use it in the end. I am really impressed with the IQ of the Samsung S7.

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Wannabe writer and photographer. Interested in travel and place. From Auckland, New Zealand.