BRUTAL II – Linnahall

Since first releasing my zine BRUTAL I had always wanted to make it a series, each issue featuring a different building that I had photographed. Deciding on the Tricorn for the first was easy. It was a local building with a history and had caused much debate in the city of Portsmouth. There was also a large community of people who appreciated brutalism and the now demolished Tricorn held a special place in their hearts.

BRUTAL - The Tricorn

My concept for BRUTAL came together nicely. I had recently discovered my old negatives in my Dad’s loft and about the same time I heard about Silver Pan Lab who would be able to scan the negatives into digital copies. While finding other enthusiasts online I had come across Nick Coupland, an artist that drew brutal architecture in fantastic detail. After contacting him he kindly let me use his image of the Tricorn for the cover.

The Tricorn - Nick Coupland
The Tricorn by Nick Coupland

The reception to BRUTAL was excellent, far exceeding anything I had imagined, I even had to get it reprinted a few times. I had now been photographing brutalist buildings and other architecture solidly for two years by this point but couldn’t decide on my next point of focus.

Demolition had started on Welbeck Street Car Park and I had managed to get up to London to photograph the building before any damage had been done. I had also photographed other buildings in London, including the Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate and the Barbican Centre, both on a very miserable winter’s day.

BRUTAL II - Linnahall
Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate
BRUTAL II - Linnahall
The Barbican Centre

My travels also took me up north to Sheffield where I gazed upon the Arts Tower its facade of never ending windows. Then Hull where I was able to photograph BHS/Co Op Building and its mural by Alan Boyson that was at that point in danger of demolition as the building was planned for redevelopment.

BRUTAL II - Linnahall
BHS/Co Op Building, Hull
BRUTAL II - Linnahall
Arts Tower, Sheffield

I had all these places in mind but I never felt that there was a story to tell, especially in some cases one that hadn’t been told already. It wasn’t until I saw the movie Tenet that it all fell into place again. In the opening scene the exterior and interior of a building I had become quite familiar was featured. In the movie it was the Kiev National Opera House but in reality it was Linnahall, a disused culture and sports venue in Tallinn.

The last time I had been in Tallinn I was unable to visit Linnahall as its exterior had been fenced off so that it could be prepared for the shooting of an upcoming movie, the rumours were that it was for a Christopher Nolan film. These rumours turned out to be true.

I went home and looked through my archive of photos.  Taken over a number of visits my photographs of Linnahall spanned about five years, the best part was that they documented the building through different seasons as well as in different stages of disrepair.

BRUTAL II - Linnahall
Linnhall, Tallinn

Once I began my research into Linnahall I found that it actually had a complex and interesting history. Any information on the building is hard to come by, especially during those years that it was in use, and the reasons behind its construction even more so. The building was connected to a much larger development in Tallinn prior to the 1980 Moscow Olympics and held concerts up until 2009, since then it has been out of use.

For years Linnahall and the mystery behind the building has fascinated me. I have tried on many occasions to visit the interior of the building and even came close once but due to the difficulty travelling this year that will have to wait. If it still remains possible is another question entirely.

My photographs of the exterior were so extensive I knew that I would be able to tell the story of the building I wanted to without images of the interior. To be honest that would be a whole different story. I have now put together a series of images that reflect Linnahall’s size and scale, its mystery, its fortress like design, but above all its struggle to be saved.

BRUTAL II - Linnahall

Further reading:

BRUTAL II is available to order now. It is an A5 zine featuring my black and white photographs of Linnahall taken over a five year period. There are currently a handful of copies of BRUTAL featuring the Tricorn left.

I look to cover more about Tallinn and this period of construction prior to the Moscow Olympics but in the meantime you can read my post A winter’s Day in Tallinn’s Old Town.

The Mysterious Linnahall

The following was written roughly four years ago after my first visit to Linnahall.

Slowly decaying on a small section of Tallinn’s coast is Linnahall, an old sports and concert venue built in 1980. The venue was built as part of the Olympics that took place in Moscow in the same year. At this time Estonia was apart of the Soviet Union and as Moscow didn’t have a suitable location to hold the sailing events Tallinn was chosen.

The Mysterious Linnahall
When the venue was completed it was named V. I. Lenin Palace of Culture and Sport but after Estonia’s independence it was changed to Linnahall.

There was little sign of life and I was the only one walking around. At the entrance there were a few cars parked outside but I had no idea where the owners would have gone. If the offices inside were used I thought to myself  what a miserable place to work.

The Mysterious Linnahall

Who knows when Poseidon saw its last customers. Not much of a night out now.

You can walk fairly freely around the building as long as you can navigate the maze of stairs, many of which still lead to a dead end or locked gate.

What surprised me most about Linnahall was that the building was completed in 1980, and from the looks of things, it was abandoned almost right away. I know 1980 was actually sometime ago and more likely the venue has been used more recently.

The Mysterious Linnahall

It seems like such a waste to leave a large and interesting building to go unused but it happens everywhere, especially when it comes to buildings built for the Olympics. My visit to Linnahall has sparked my interested and I am keen to learn more about the building and what the city has planned for its future.

As with any building left to sink into disrepair, Linnahall has attracted a fair amount of attention from graffiti artists, some of it better than others.

The Mysterious Linnahall

Views of St Olaf’s Church and Tallinn’s medieval old town can be seen as it’s only a short distance away.

From the outside it is difficult to tell what Linnahall is all about. The crumbling and graffitied walls, the locked doors and barred windows, are hiding the secrets of what lies within. Unfortunately, that will have to wait for another time.The Mysterious Linnahall

After five years of visits and photographs I have put together my second zine in my BRUTAL series, this time featuring Linnahall.

Linnahall

Further reading:

My photographic journey into Brutalism continues with:

The Tricorn

It’s too Late to Save Welbeck Street Car Park

Brutal Oxford

Järvenpää Church

Clovelly

 

Clovelly

Clovelly is a small harbour town in North Devon. What makes it interesting, among other things, is that there are no cars in the town. Visitors must park outside the town and pay an admittance to enter, while access to the harbour is down a steep cobbled walking street.

Clovelly

Walking into the town along the Coast Path you follow the purpose built Hobby Drive, a three mile long passion project of Sir James Hamlyn Williams, and bypass the entrance fee. Heading down the cobbled street you walk through a row of houses, many of which are listed buildings, towards the harbour.

Clovelly

Clovelly

Like many places in North Devon Clovelly has a long history with fishing, dating all the way back to the 13th century when the first quay was built. Throughout the town there are signs of the towns important historical ties to fishing.

Clovelly

Clovelly

Visiting the picturesque village was a highlight of this stretch of the Coast Path and even with our heavy packs we decided to descend down to the harbour knowing fully well that we would have to make the climb back up.

Clovelly

As you leave Clovelly heading west on the Coast Path there are a few other notable locations to look out for. Two of my highlights were Angel Wings, a beautiful and intricately detailed resting place. The other is Blackchurch Rock which is often spotted as you walk along the coast. When the tide is out at Mouthmill you are able to get up close to the unique rock at sea level.

Clovelly

Further reading:

Lynton & Lynmouth

Have you Met Verity?

A Series of Ups and Downs

The South West Coast Path is largely just a series of ups and downs. So many in fact that once you have completed the 630 miles of path you could have scaled Mount Everest four times! The path is often described as strenuous with certain sections featuring repetitive ups and downs.

Any height that is painfully gained as you walk the SWCP is often immediately lost as you descend straight back to almost sea level. During one stretch to Port Isaac that the guide book described as ‘arduous’ we had climbed three hills each time dropping back down to sea level, all within half an hour and over a distance of less than a mile.

This series is a documentation of those incredible views over valleys and hills before making those strenuous ascents that the path is notorious for.

A Series of Ups and Downs
Devon/Cornwall
A Series of Ups and Downs
From Sea Level
A Series of Ups and Downs
Flowing Upwards
A Series of Ups and Downs
Trebarwith Strand
A Series of Ups and Downs
A Series of Ups and Downs
A Series of Ups and Downs
Bedruthan Steps
A Series of Ups and Downs
Bude – Boscastle

A Series of Ups and Downs is a continuation of my attempt to walk the Coast Path and photograph my journey.

Valley of Rocks

Valley of Rocks

Valley of Rocks is an area of particular natural beauty on the northern coast of Devon. The valley lies within the Exmoor National Park, though it is only small it leaves a much larger impression. At first the Coast Path runs alongside the Valley of Rocks overlooking the sea before turning inland and passing through its centre.

Valley of Rocks

It wasn’t only the scenery that was different to what I had been used to walking along the coast path, but also the architecture. Hidden away in the grounds of Lee Abbey and the Beacon Activity Centre was a building of unusual origin and design that caught my attention.

Valley of Rocks

The grounds of the Abbey were closed to visitors but I was able to grab a shot of my favourite building framed by the entrance archway. There was such a juxtaposition in the style of the buildings it sat between that it raised the question of how and why it came about. I tried to find further information but I wasn’t able to.

Valley of Rocks

It wasn’t long before I was walking out of the Valley of Rocks and was surrounded once again with scenery that was more familiar and typical of what I was expecting to see. Idyllic stone houses with smoking chimneys sat alone before ascending out of the valley.

Valley of Rocks

Lynton & Lynmouth

Lyton and Lynmouth are two towns on the northern coast of Devon. Though the towns are separate they are governed by the same town council and often referred to as one. While Lyton sits at the top of a steep cliff the harbour town of Lynmouth sits below, where the East and West Lyn rivers meet.

It was due to Lynmouth’s position on the river that it saw devastating floods in August 1952. After the South West was hit by a storm water rushed down the valley from Exmoor, bringing with it fallen trees and other debris. Overnight more than one hundred buildings were destroyed and resulted in the death of thirty-four people.

Lynton & Lynmouth

The river is a huge part of the town and a constant reminder of what happened here. The defences have since been modernised and bridges widen. Though, while the river is low they may seem like overkill they are completely necessary in not seeing a repeat of what happen in 1952.

Lynton & Lynmouth

There is another reason Lynmouth is a well known town along the North Devon coast. Late one evening in 1899 a ship was in trouble off the coast of Porlock Weir and a lifeboat was needed. The conditions at Lynmouth (where the lifeboat was stationed) were too severe to launch the boat so the crew decided to drag the boat 15 miles over land to the sheltered harbour of Porlock Weir.

The journey was an incredible feat. The boat and its carriage was said to weigh 10 tons, taking 20 horses and a hundred men to make the journey. After ascending and descending two steep hills, navigating their way through exmoor and widening the path with picks they arrived exhausted early the next morning. Launching the boat immediately the crew rowed through the heavy seas and managed to save all eighteen crew members.

Lynton & Lynmouth

Lynton & Lynmouth

Even on a rainy day in October there were people coming and going as we took shelter in the newly restored lifeboat house now a memorial detailing the floods of 1952. It’s clear to see that these two stories have had an impact on the town. Not only marks in history but also physically on the town itself and its reputation.

Lynton & Lynmouth

The two towns are connected by a cliff railway. The railway was first introduced in 1890 to ease the transportation of goods up and down the steep cliff that separates Lynton and Lynmouth. It’s a water-powered funicular railway, meaning that it doesn’t need any power to operate. Instead the railway uses the weight of water and gravity.

Each carriage has a water tank as well as space for passengers, which is its main used today. As the carriage arrives at the lower station the tank is emptied, while the carriage at the top has its tank filled. The weight of the added water lowers the top carriage while raising the lower one.

Lynton & Lynmouth

We looked back down the hill at all the bridges crossing the steep incline of the tracks not regretting our decision for a moment to use the cliff railway to ascend. We caught up with the path and continued on into the Valley of Rocks.

Further Reading:

Have you Met Verity? An impressive sculpture in Ilfracombe by Damien Hirst.

These images are part of my ongoing mission to walk the South West Coast Path and photograph my journey.

The incredible story of The Overland Launch.

Have you Met Verity?

Next week I hope to continue my photographic journey along the coast path and pick up where I left off last October. In the meantime I wanted to share one of the highlights from my last trip that came in one of the most unlikeliest of places.

I was walking into Ilfracombe along the coastal path with the recently acquired knowledge that it was home to a sculpture by the British artist Damien Hirst. As soon as the small seaside town came into view I began looking for the bronze statue, thinking that it would stand out against the traditional back drop of the town.

Verity

The sculpture was known as Verity and stands 20m tall at the entrance to the Ilfracombe harbour, looking over the Bristol Channel. As I walked into town I was given the chance to see the statue from many angles before getting right up close.

Verity

From a distance Verity was a lot smaller than I thought it would be and had less of an impact than I thought it would. That was a completely different story when you were stood underneath it. The controversial design and theme of the statue were something I had become familiar with in Hirst’s work.

It was the first time I had seen anything like it outside of an art exhibit and what left more of an impression was that it was in idyllic coastal town like Ilfracombe where you wouldn’t expect to see it.

Verity

Of course the local reaction to Verity was mixed but with a name like Hirst attached I’m sure it would have a positive effect on tourism. Verity is on a 20 year loan (starting in 2012 when it was erected) to the town of Ilfracombe but lets hope that she stays.

Verity

Further Reading:

Any of these images are available as prints as well as others from my time on The Coast Path.

I have visited London and another piece from Hirst which is very familiar in theme The Human Body.

And it Began with a Tree

As a photographer attachments grow for certain places, you find yourself revisiting them time and time again. It’s almost an obsession to capture the perfect shot under the right circumstances. Every time you visit the moment is different and the image you capture tells another, slightly different, story.

During the last year, and especially over the last few months, I have been photographing my local area regularly. There are buildings and locations that I have become attached to, wanting to photograph them through different times of day and even seasons. An image that represents that specific moment in time is what I aim to achieve as a photographer.

And it began with a tree

And it began with a tree

There is a story about the most photographed barn in America. I first read about the idea in Don DeLillo’s White Noisethough a fictional barn he depicts a place that has become a tourist haven. Its reputation has grown from nothing and for no reason, except the fear that people are missing out. A pursuit to capture the best photograph of a picturesque location just because others are.

This idea has become even more evident with the increased popularity of social media and the fact that everyone has a camera in their pocket. Iconic locations have become must visit destinations. Your proof, a photo. Scroll through Instagram and you will find the latest hotspots, the stairs from the latest Joker movie or over run lavender fields. Each vying for the opportunity to become the next most photographed barn in America.

I have always photographed for myself, creating and finding my own locations that have value to me. I wanted to take the idea of the most photographed barn in America and apply it to a place that was important to me locally. Instead of it becoming a must photographed location for others I wanted to begin to create a continuously growing gallery of images, each a comparison to the last.

And it began with a tree.

And it began with a tree

 

The People you Meet Crossing the Nullarbor

After two days driving across the Nullarbor Plain and a night sleeping in the car, we had arrived at the first real sign of civilisation, Norseman. Here we were able to find a campsite and enjoy the comforts that we had been missing since Adelaide. It also gave us the chance to meet and talk to people that were going to cross the Nullarbor or already had.

Crossing the Nullarbor

Norseman was the gateway to the Nullarbor. The last stop before you began your thousand mile journey into the true Australian Outback. For us it was the first town we had come to since South Australia, though it only had a small population of about six hundred.

The campsite was filled with people travelling through but the man in the tent next to us caught our attention. He was in his sixties, maybe even older, and was travelling on a four wheeled sit down bike that resembled a go-kart. He had just arrived in Norseman after pedalling through the Nullarbor, but his journey was far from over. He was cycling around the entire coast of Australia!

Crossing the Nullarbor
Our route across the Nullarbor

The size of the journey and the fact that he would only cover about seventy miles a day was hard for me to comprehend. The distance we had travelled in two days by car would likely take him two weeks. He would be alone for days in the middle of nowhere with only the rumble of road trains and rush of cars as they passed him. But he spoke about his journey matter of factly and the size of it seemed to have little impact on him.

He told of his journey across the Nullarbor and an experience he had had recently when he stopped at a roadhouse for breakfast.  A roadhouse was a one stop shop for travellers, petrol station, store, rest stop, and sometimes a restaurant and motel were available. For us it was often the location of the Nullarbor Links and where we could get our game cards validated.

Usually Roadhouses were found every one hundred miles or so, perfect if you were travelling by car as you were only an hour away from somewhere. Travelling by bike it was a different story. He had arrived at a roadhouse in the morning hoping to grab some breakfast but the kitchen wasn’t open yet. The cook told him there was another just down the road (another hundred miles) and by the time he reached it it would be open, not realising that he was travelling by bike and that was a days journey for him.

Crossing the Nullarbor

As we drove out of Norseman I was thinking about the man we spoke to and the magnitude of his journey. Highway 1 a network of roads that joins the mainland capital cities of Australia is approximately 9,000 miles, if his was his route it was already the same distance from Perth to London!

His journey had made me realised what we had just done wasn’t that unique. The size and emptiness of Australia was daunting to us but not for others.  For many Australians crossing the Nullarbor was a simple task, something they were so comfortable with they would even do it by bike.

Even though we had crossed the Nullarbor Plain and the hardest driving was behind us we still had over four hundred miles before we reached Perth, where our journey officially came to an end. During this stretch we would be travelling through an area that was more inhabited and even cross through a few small towns along the way, including Kalgoorlie Australia’s mining capital.

Further Reading:

My new zine Crossing the Nullarbor is available to order along with four prints taken at various landmarks we travelled passed on our route.

Crossing the Nullarbor

The journey continues with The Endless Emptiness of Crossing the Nullarbor.

The Endless Emptiness of Crossing the Nullarbor

The Nullarbor Plain is an area of arid desert stretching across South Australia and Western Australia. To the south lies the Great Australian Bight, an area of unique natural beauty and diversity, and to the north the Great Victoria Desert.

Crossing the Nullarbor
The Great Australian Bight

I knew very little about the Nullarbor before a friend asked if I wanted to cross it. A mutual friend of ours had offered their car, while they went to the States for six months, and was happy for us to drive it from Melbourne to Perth, over 2,000 miles away.

The Nullarbor can be crossed at two points, the Eyre Highway or the Trans-Australian Railway, both via the Nullarbor Plain. Our route would be the highway named after Edward John Eyre, the first European to make the crossing back in 1841. Officially the highway starts in Norseman, a town 450 miles east of Perth, before travelling 1,300 miles to Port Augusta in South Australia.

Crossing the Nullarbor prior to 1976 would have been a completely different experience. The first ‘road’ was completed in 1942, though it was only a dirt track, it was suitable for cars. It wasn’t until the  early 1960s that efforts to seal the highway began. They started in Norseman but the Western Australian section wasn’t sealed until 1969, it was a further seven years before the South Australian section was finished and the highway was completed.

Crossing the Nullarbor
Nullarbor Sunset

It wasn’t just the road that had changed. It was the way of life too. Many towns were established along with the introduction of the Trans-Australian Railway in 1917 and eventually to service those travelling on the Eyre Highway. With the decline in train services the small settlements got even smaller. Cook in South Australia was reliant on servicing the trains passing through, it once boasted a population of fifty but in 2009 it was said only four people still live there.

We would be travelling from the Mornington Peninsula, an area south of Melbourne, first spending two weeks on the Great Ocean Road and a few days in Adelaide before finally crossing the Nullarbor. After that we were onto Perth where our journey officially ended.

Crossing the Nullarbor

We had a 1991 Nissan with no air conditioning and only one window crank that we had to share between the other windows. Not only that there were four of us plus our luggage that spilled over from the boot to the back seat and into the footwells, just leaving us room for the passengers. 

Everyone we met before leaving had thought we were crazy. The Nullarbor had a reputation among Australians and there weren’t many that would even consider crossing it. Our group of four was made up of one Australian and three ‘poms’, as we were known, another factor not in our favour.

Due to the risk of kangaroos we wouldn’t be driving at night and would avoid driving at dusk, a time of day when kangaroos were most active and very difficult to spot. We would also be playing the Nullarbor Links, an eighteen hole golf course stretching over 800 miles. Each hole was situated at a roadhouse along the route, averaging 40 miles apart with the furthest 120 miles apart. This would not only encourage us to stop and rest but also help us support the fading economy.

Crossing the Nullarbor
Leaving Madura

I had heard and read so much about the Nullarbor before leaving but one image was painted clearly, its endless emptiness. This was something I wanted to capture. On the road driving hundreds of miles a day I wanted to record our journey through this unique landscape, from the backseat. An unbiased view of what Crossing the Nullarbor was really like.

Further Reading:

My new zine Crossing the Nullarbor is available to order along with four prints taken at various landmarks we travelled passed on our route. One of my favourites that features on the cover is from Lake Cowan which is now waterless.Crossing the Nullarbor

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