Neil Hopcroft

A digital misfit

Quad Squad

We went on a mountain tour on quad bikes while we were on the Isle of Man. I didn’t really get the hang of driving – and drove into poor Mikey when I applied the accelerator instead of the brake. No major damage done. And, fortunately, the picture was taken beforehand, so we were all still smiling.

A different time, a different place

Three of us went to visit one of our number who moved to the Isle of Man. This was a far cry from the urban life I was leading at the time, and my first (and thus far my only) experience of flying from London City airport. We were met at the airport after we landed, outside which was the only dual carriageway on the island.

Darth Maul and a hula hoop

Understanding how light works is a very important part of photography – a flash can bring out colours that would otherwise fade into the dusk, or freeze a nearby object while capturing movement in the background. These days I hardly use the flash, I see it as kind-of vulgar, it makes the photography intrusive. “Look at me, I’m taking a photograph”. Sure, there is a time and a place, but it is to be used sparingly.

An end to the web of lies

At last, I have now gone through all of the unpublished comments that have built up on this blog over the last few years and marked most of them as spam. The automatic filters got a lot of them but they left me with quite a collection of verbose comments to sift through – these appeared to be autogenerated ‘medical-ish’ language scattered with links to comments on other peoples blogs. While I didn’t follow any such links, I am guessing that they were similarly constructed. This appears to be an attempt to game the Google relevance algorithms by creating a web of pages that link to each other.

Anyway, this means that any comments you might leave from now on will get a bit more attention as they won’t get lost in the morass of spam.

In the frame

This shot, from one of the Hampstead Park picnics, started me thinking about how photography could be an art under my control. Completely by accident the hoop framed a number of people – something I have since gotten an eye for and deliberately tried to capture.

Waltham Forest Nights

I never really got the hang of taking pictures of people. They are too unpredictable, and don’t stay still long enough to line up the shot. This particular party, poor James (not pictured) got the raw end of my inability, with constant flashes from my repeated pointing and shooting. None of those pictures came out well, but maybe that wasn’t the point. As we entered an age where photography became more-or-less free, you didn’t worry so much about wasting film and could take entertainment from the mere taking of the pictures without thought for the photographs produced.

Just trying to make sense of these new surroundings

I found a collection of photos like this, with no context to go with them. I have a feeling they were from when I was moving and looking for a house. I went and took some pictures of places where houses were advertised for rent. Given the dates they would be from my move to Oxford, which didn’t see me living in anything quite like these places.

And, wow, there was a lot of pebbledash at the time, or maybe in the area. I’m so glad I didn’t end up living somewhere like this.

Count on me

Another piece of art at the Pompidou Centre was a Fibonacci Series. This was the second outing for my camera and I hadn’t worked out how to use it. This picture got me chased around the museum by an angry custodian who didn’t like the flash. Indeed, it would probably have been a better picture without the flash, but this is how you learn.

“I’d love to stay but I got no time”

Keith, you plonker, what were you thinking? It’s so easy to question. It’s so easy to say that you should have stuck around. Let me say this:

Thank you for hanging in there for as long as you did.

I was never a part of your jilted generation but your energy leaked out into my world. And I am glad of that.

The thing is that you don’t know is how you are going to act until you get into that place. All the ‘you should talk to someone’s in the world are not going to be heard when you are there.

I remember a day in London. I had just started working there, commuting from Cambridge until I found a house more locally. I got on a crowded tube train holding a large book I was reading, there was a big crowd on the platform and as I moved onto the train the corner of my book brushed against a girl standing on the train. She wasn’t paying attention to the crowd boarding the train. She started shouting at me to stop assaulting her.

That evening, on my return journey, I made a conscious decision to walk close to the wall as I went down the platform because I knew that if a train arrived and I was walking next to the track the temptation would be great. No one would have known the reason. No one could have known.

Since then, I’ve been there again and again. Talk to someone? No. I only function this well because I’ve got a plan to get out when I need to. The option is there and, all the time it is, I can probably live another day.