If you admire street art the same way I do, you should definetely visit Bristol! I have been there recently – and I rarely saw that much of cool graffiti. Then I traveled to South Wales and spent some time at the coastline.
I stayed in a hotel at the St James Barton Roundabout which is located within walking distance to Stokes Croft, an alternative district north of the city center. You can find many independent stores and restaurants there because Stokes Croft’s people strongly prefer to buy locally. In 2011 they even rioted when British company Tesco openend a new convenience store. Several times I noticed graffiti letterings prompting the people to boycott Tesco. So I complied and had lunch in a co-op bistro that served vegan-only food. I also tried a breakfast restaurant specialized in egg dishes. Both very delicious, but not overly cheap.
Many houses in this area are derelict and covered by street art. Stokes Croft’s morbid appearance attracted me from the first moment. The architecture comprises different styles and ages: there are old churches built of natural stones, mid-century brick house and concrete buildings from the brutalist movement. Bristol’s cityscape appeared diverse and exciting to me, without being picturesque.
In some areas of Bristol I could discover a lot of street art. Very exicting to enter a street and look out for graffiti paitings: some are placed obiviously, others are at a building’s sidewall or even hidden in an inner yard. That always reminds me of searching for easter eggs in my parents’ garden when I was a child.
Bristol’s most famost graffiti artist by far is Banksy. Meanwhile he counts as an icon of UK culture; his graffitis often get removed carefully to be showcased in museums and galleries. Banksy began as part of the Bristol underground scene in the 1990s. Since 2000 he uses the stencil technique: a stencil of the desired picture or text is cut into a cardboard in advance. The artist then transfers the image to a surface through the use of spray paint at the selected place. It takes considerably less time to complete the message – and the image can easily be reproduced elsewhere. It was fun to place-mark Banksy’s Bristol works at Google Maps and then search for them in the field.
I spend the second part of my UK vacation in South Wales. I took the train from Bristol Temple Meads to Swansea, with transfer at Newport. Unfortunately, the first train was late and I missed my connection. Anyway, I like to rail-travel in foreign countries.
In Swansea I stayed in a holiday apartment at the maritime quartier. The apartment was located at the fourth floor and offered a great overview of the Swansea Bay with its sandy beaches. To the left, I could spot UK’s largest steelworks at Port Talbot (even one of the largest in the world). In the opposite direction, Mumbles lighthouse was visible at the bay’s western end. Really impressive I found the effect of the tide: upon arrival, the beach seemed endless with the waterline hundreds of meters away. But at high tide, the water made it all the way to the promenade, sloshing at the concrete wall.
Mumbles lighthouse sits on a small island, the outer one of two in front of the cape (Mumbles head). At low tide, these islands are connected among themselves as well as with the mainland (see my image below). I could have reached the lighthouse by foot but as it was rather cumbersome to walk through the scree, I skipped that plan. Instead, I hiked around Mumbles head and took some photos of the cliffs lining Limeslade Bay.
I had to travel light (only cabin luggage), therefore I was restricted to one camera. I decided to take my digital Leica rangefinder with me, combined with a 50mm and 35mm lens – the latter one I never used, as ordinary. During the past six months, I have almost exclusively shot on film (some occasions at work let aside). I found it rather liberating to use a digital camera in my vacation. It saved me from thinking too much “Is it worth it? Will I come back later under better conditions or will this be my only chance?”. Altogether, I pushed the shutter button 200 times. Of these 200 images, I kept 35 – that’s okay, I think. Especially during my train trip I experimented a lot, which I surely wouldn’t have done with film. By using long shutter speeds of 1/45 or 1/25 of a second, I tried to create some floating landscapes. But often, a suddenly appearing bush or pylon impaired my composition. That’s the reason I had to discard many of these images.
Bristol surprised me with many interesting street views. I would love to return there with a camera more capable for architectural photographs – or even capture some panoramic images of the cityscape. With the rangefinder camera, I encountered some difficulties in exact framing and levelling the image. That’s okay because architecture photography is not the first application rangefinder was made for. In the end, it was a good solution for travel anyway.