Wednesday, 5 October 2011


A couple of drawings done for a friend's zine. This top one is the M74 as seen from Cowcaddens. The motorway has ruined Glasgow's infrastructure for pedestrians, and cuts the centre of the town off in one neat, cruel swoop. But the structures supporting it are kind of impressive, if you like that kind of thing.
Which I kind of do.

This drawing describes a journey that we made back home from Skye after new year's eve a couple of years ago. The snow was the heaviest I can remember in my lifetime. It took us all day, creeping along quiet ice laden roads, listening to an OMD tape I'd brought for the ride up and sitting under a heavy duvet on the back seat. It was the best car ride ever.

Here the accompanying text, by David McCallum.

2nd January

The Kodak Funsaver – a plastic and cardboard 39 exposure disposable camera – comes with the advice that the subject should be 4 to 11.5ft (1,2 to 3,5m) from the photographer.

Beyond 11.5ft everything will be out of focus presumably, or poorly defined. Beyond 11.5ft everything is snow. All the difference between land and water is cancelled. The snow describes everything by shape and ignores its substance or state, and distances change. Lochs are flat spaces of white. Furthest away, huge shapes become textures and huge mountains seem closer. Gullies and jags in the hillsides are folds and creases in a smooth continuous surface, and patches of forest look fuzzy and soft in miniature. These mountains are long term companions, following the car for miles and turning slowly away. They will scarcely seem real when the photos come back.

Distance is a function of seeing mountains – to be near a mountain is to be on it. The car is constantly on the side of a hill or mountain, near the bottom but above flat glens or white lochs, crossing to a slope on the other side. In the camera's ideal range are conifers sagging with splatter shapes of show, white steep up or downhills, solid hard rivers, and running or staring deer. These go past so quickly that they will be blurs in the photographs.

The camera's parameters also exclude the Fiat's interior: Sam's right hand profile (knees under a duvet like the rest of us in the back); car's left hand b-pillar; the backs of black front seats – Kate in the passenger (quarter perspective), the windscreen and the dashboard controls mainly blocked by Neil's driver seat; right hand b-pillar; the rear right window and the wrong-way road surface; and coats on the parcel shelf. All of these things will be unclear obstructions.

The best way to make a photograph timeless is to remove cars and people and buildings, and the easiest way to date a photo is by looking at its cars because they're the shortest lived of these things.

Being in the back seat of a car, there is a childish certainty and then anxiety in it reaching its destination. There are quite a few cars at the sides of the road. Most of them have been left in the snow, because of the snow, for the time being, and some have stopped to take timeless photos of snow covered mountains, snow-hidden frozen lochs and snow laden trees. The photographs taken from this car will be dated photographs because it doesn't stop. The interior is a constant, and the landscape is temporary (requiring a camera), and the car will be memorialised through smudged windscreen wipers, head-rest corners, a-, b-, c-, d-pillars, rear-window heating-strip and the quarter-light.

In travel photographs from childhood, there would often be one catching Dad's head in the rear-view mirror, with steel-rimmed spectacles doubled and superimposed on forehead through some double reflection.

As the best way to make a timeless picture is to remove cars, people and buildings, the easiest way to date a photo is by looking for these things. Glasgow arrived when the mountains ran out.

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