Thursday, July 18, 2013

On Ely, Summer, and Photos Without People

I always refused to include people in my photographs when I was a child; I took that idea of the 'untouched landscape' (which I now find very problematic) to an extreme. I've become more willing to photograph people as I've grown older, partially because I've stopped seeing photographs as ways to retouch the world and more as a means of recording moments, and perhaps also partially because people are now more interesting to me than they were when I was a child. 

I'm still always a little nervous about photographing people, though. I'm not as confident in my images of people as in my images of places. It's generally the images of people that get positive responses, though, and lately I've been asked to photograph parties and take portraits in a more professional capacity, which is flattering (and fun). I really enjoy taking photos of people, though I still wish others shared my enthusiasm for buildings and flowers.

Anyway, I have a lot of thoughts - on Italy, on nostalgia in advertising, on the sale of Steinway Pianos - that I should turn into sentences at some point, but for the moment I'm trying to concentrate on planning my upcoming research trip. I wrote an article on Postman's Park last week for Untapped Cities. It's hot in England at the moment and warm weather is sometimes in opposition to words, as the tired ponies above would agree, so I thought for the moment I'd just post photographs from a recent trip to Ely.

I did go with a friend, but Ely is a really quiet, spacious town, and empty photographs seem more truthful than the alternative. We contemplated going on a cruise along the River Ouse, and thought about drinking tea but found all the tearooms closed. We spent most of the afternoon wandering through Ely's beautiful cathedral and wishing we lived in Topping Booksellers. Ely is only fifteen minutes by train from Cambridge, but feels much further.

It's also possibly worth mentioning - for those who do want more words and fewer images of Ely and the Fens - that I wrote about the bus from Chatteris to Cambridge for a book that's coming out later this year. My account of rural Cambridgeshire covers a maximum security prison in March, swans plotting to overthrow the government near a seventeenth century canal, and Tesco's postmodern approximation of Tudor architecture in Milton.


  1. Beautiful as always. Although I'm still worrying about that horse!

  2. Thanks! I might go back and check on the horse sometime soon, though I'm pretty sure he was just resting; it was so hot!

  3. Hi Anna Blair, I apologise for leaving a message on your blog this way, but I don't see a contact form/button on your site. I don't know whether you have any plans to be in Paris this fall, but I'd like to invite you to a Treasure Hunt at the Louvre (what my company, THATLou, stands for) on either the night of 30 Oct (theme: Death, for Halloween / La Toussaint) or afternoon of Sat 30 Nov (theme: Food + Wine). If you'd like to join, my email is (and for more of a sense of what it is you can see on Your blog is interesting - I especially agree with your scathing piece on the NYT article about Japan in Paris. Completely superficial. Kind regards, Daisy

    1. Hi Daisy! I'm so sorry about my lack of contact details, and thanks for alerting me - shall definitely add something to the sidebar now! And shall write you an email! Thanks, Anna