Friday, 11 May 2018

Steps which can't be retraced

Scanning all those old negatives got me thinking about revisiting some of the places in the pictures. With that in mind I went to Preston this morning to have a look at what has been done to the outdoor market. Not with the intention of recreating earlier pictures, but to see what it is like since the regeneration project. I know we tend not to like change, but it seems planners don't like outdoors very much. Half of the main market is now an enclosed space. There'll be no fear of a pigeon crapping in someone's coffee. The glass box which now resides under the Victorian market roof is home to some of the stalls from the recently closed indoor market - also due to be redeveloped into something we can't live with out these days. A cinema complex I believe.

No matter where I go I can usually find some untidy quarter to photograph. There's always a tension between making good pictures and making a point. Trying to do both at once is the ideal. Difficult to pull off though. Very difficult.

The other end of the market is as it always was. Open to the elements and pigeons. I guess stalls of cheap goods staffed by people in layers of thermals isn't the kind of image that town planner and councillors like to project of their domain. Yet it is things like that which give towns and cities (I keep forgetting Preston is a city) their character, and which are part of British culture.

The smaller covered market section, the old fish market, has also been given a 21st century facelift with fancy new stalls and 'market boxes'. In other words, containers turned into supposedly trendy shop units. They're a big thing in the metropolis, apparently. There is no market in this section on a Friday, hence it is deserted.

Feeling a little despondent I went for a roam towards the (in)famous bus station. In so doing I passed the inevitable pound shops. No town is without the nationwide chains, but there are independent pound shops with individual character. There's probably a project there for someone...

After some years of dispute over the future of the bus station, loved and loathed with equal passion on both sides, it was given listed status and is being renovated. As Preston isn't a place I visit regularly these days I was unaware of the extent of the changes being wrought. The underpass from the Guildhall to the bus station is no more. Which makes me rather glad I took some photos of a walk through it back in late 2014. Those are steps I'll never retrace.

Although I have always been a fan of the place I'll admit that the bus station itself had become tatty. The clocks weren't working and it was looking tired. Given that the council used the prohibitive cost of refurbishment as a reason for demolishing the Brutalist building there is a lot of work going on and everywhere is bright and clean.

Whichever camp you are in there is no denying that Preston Bus Station has character, and as a designed space a sense of integrity.

I got to thinking about character of place as I passed coffee shop after coffee shop. All the same as the ones in every other town and city. That monotony can be relieved in Preston. Long before Costa and the rest were thought of the then-town had a coffee shop of note. It's still there today and looking just the same. It's got character. Terribly old fashioned though.

With the seemingly ever expanding UCLAN (Preston Polytechnic in my day...) there is another growth sector which I'm sure the city fathers love dearly. Student housing - a potential project for the architecturally inclined. Despite the shiny new accommodation blocks I managed to found it's seedy side.

With my time running out I had a brief wander down some back streets and found a picture that's just a picture. No message, no social comment. Just a pair of gloves.

A sort of fruitful couple of hours which gave me a few things to consider and work on. And I managed to sort the settings on the X100T to stop me messing up pictures. It did take me an hour though! Interestingly, or maybe not, I took most of the pictures at 28mm equivalent. I tried 50mm eq as a nod to the lens I used in 1979-81, but it just didn't work for me.

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