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Eastside and Digbeth, July 2023.

I enjoy a photographic walk with my Fujifilm x100v camera around the streets of Birmingham.  The early hours are best when few people are around and about.  This series of photographs begins at Eastside where the HS2 works are taking place.  Digbeth was next and I returned to Birmingham along the canal exiting again near to the HS2 works.  

Eastside and Digbeth, July 2023.
Digging holes and barriers around HS2

What is there to tell you about my walk?  No surprises, as building in Birmingham has not finished and HS2 is still digging and putting up barriers.  I took a few pictures and was interested to see BBC midlands covering the HS2 disruption in the evening news.  Why is HS2 taking so long and why is there so much disruption?  I do get upset with the blasé way they are undertaking the HS2 works.  I am sure it will look wonderful when finished but is it worth the upheaval and time taken.    
The latest BBC item puts HS2 under the spotlight.

Eastside and Digbeth, July 2023.
Curson street station awaits a HS2 upgrade.
Eastside and Digbeth, July 2023.
The empty Woodman pub awaits customers but when will they return?

Digbeth was quiet for a Monday morning and since the pandemic there is less footfall during business hours. The nightlife is always busy but there is a definite change in activity during the day.  My next observation is the encroachment of high rise living around Digbeth and the loss of character with the demolition and neglect of buildings.  

Eastside and Digbeth, July 2023.
Micheal Jackson on a furniture shop door.

There are several brownfield sites around the area that will become large skyscrapers.  Other signs of change include the former Typhoo tea building which is starting to see activity around the relocation of the BBC to the building.  Change may not always be positive and one of my pictures is outside what was the DigBrew entrance.  Sadly this excellent brewery has ceased trading and artwork from the street artist Tempo33 marks the spot.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-coventry-warwickshire-66199790
Don’t go there.
Eastside and Digbeth, July 2023.
The former Typhoo building soon to become the BBC Midlands Headquaters.
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-coventry-warwickshire-66199790
Don’t park here.

There is much chaotic colour around the streets of Digbeth and the morning sun brings out the light and shadows.  The canalside is another area in Digbeth that is changing with several buildings undergoing renovation.  How this change will progress will be interesting to document in future months. 

Eastside and Digbeth, July 2023.
I’m late for an important date. (street art Tempo33)
Eastside and Digbeth, July 2023.
Colours stuck to a wall in Digbeth.
Eastside and Digbeth, July 2023.
Cryola’s wonderful street art is still attracting attention.
Eastside and Digbeth, July 2023.
Standing in Liverpool Street looking up Fazeley Street.
Eastside and Digbeth, July 2023.
Birmingham Canal Navigation through Digbeth
Eastside and Digbeth, July 2023.
The details under the Great Barr Street bridge.
Eastside and Digbeth, July 2023.
The Fox mural by Annatomix still impresses
Eastside and Digbeth, July 2023.
View of the canal buildings with Birmingham in the background.

My final picture was taken on my iPhone as I went past the Selfridges building.  I went low and framed the iconic discs in the background.  I was in luck as a woman walked past although she was confused by what I was doing.  The picture turned out well but was also a reminder not to attract undue attention during my street photography.

Eastside and Digbeth, July 2023.
The Selfridges Crossing.

Returning to the HS2 theme then there are more stories about the construction on my blog.  I have been documenting 16 acre wood and the damage caused by HS2 around Balsall Common since 2020.  Here is my account of this part of the HS2.

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My Top 4 pictures of 2022, Damien Walmlsey

Each year photographers share their top photographs and I am no exception in doing this. I wrote a blog about my personal favourites for 2021. Now it is the turn of 2022 and I have limited to my top 4. Why four? Well the arrangement works well for Instagram and I am not such a fan of the Top 9 where the pictures are even smaller. The four pictures that I have selected all have a story to tell. The picture may have done well in national or local competitions. There may have been some nice comments about the style and composition that were pleasing to hear. I hope you enjoy the selections.

Regency Wharf
This picture received a commendation in Landscape Photographer of the Year in 2022 and was featured in the published book. This was quite an achievement for me as this is a very competitive competition and a place in the book is very much sought after. I wrote a blog about this picture and it explains how and why it was taken.

Regency Wharf, Birmingham, Commended in LPOTY2022 picture taken January 11th
Regency Wharf, Birmingham, My picture of Regency Wharf, Birmingham that was Commended in LPOTY2022

Selfridges 2022
This iPhone picture was well received by many people on my various social feeds. The picture celebrates the new look Selfridges after the discs has been replace. “The discs are back in town” is a blog I wrote about this and other pictures of Selfridges.

Selfridges July 2022
An upward view accentuating the symmetry.

Westside BID winner
Last year I failed to get shortlisted for the inaugural Westside Business District Calendar competition. So this year, I entered in again and I came first which was I was so pleased about. The prize was £175 voucher to an exclusive restaurant next to the ICC Birmingham. The winning picture is below and a description of how it was done in covered in my blog.

Winning photograph Westside BID calendar 2023
My winning photograph for Westside BID calendar.

Broken Life
I am not very good at Still Life photography and it was one of my assignments in a 52 week photography group that I belong to on Flickr. I am not sure why I went for this picture approach and it was well received on the Weeklies. It was my only shortlisting last year for #wexmondays. I am going to do more photography like this for 2023 so watch this space. Also read my blog about how it came about.

Broken plates
A place setting with broken plates and cups. What has taken place?

Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022

Now that the #keytothecitybrum project is over, I can reveal my full journey around the sites. I have grouped them into themes whether I visited the sites on the same day or the story of the unlocking the venues were linked together by themes. The first Chapter was described earlier in my blog where I picked up my key and visited my first venue “Artfull Expression”.

This chapter covers the story of my visits to the IKON Gallery, Symphony Hall and Selfridges.

kon Gallery 

My second key venue took me to the IKON gallery.  When we arrived, the receptionist on the front desk gave us directions.  Our key opened a rather inconspicuous cupboard in the entrance hall.  Once opened there were the letters ‘Miss You’ lit up in Neon.  That was the surprise and I laughed out loud.  I loved the installation.  

Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival,
Art work by Savage

My photo buddy, Nicky was convinced there was something else and looked for some form of opening beyond the cupboard space.  The reception staff were very knowledgeable and helpful, explaining that this neon letter writing was created by the artist Savage who had lifted the letters from Graffiti in the City of Birmingham.  I did return to the IKON gallery to see the “Made in Birmingham/Made in Sydney” exhibition as this was advertised during my visit.

Symphony Hall

I realise that the #keytothecityBrum is a large undertaking and that many people are going to descend on your location.  The Symphony Hall had placed an ornate box which the key opened.  Once inside there was a QR code to scan which linked to a YouTube channel. I understand that if you were lucky there were prizes to be gained but we were not winners.  

I was disillusioned with the venue as the Symphony Hall looked uninviting, and the box office personnel were not that interested in what was taking place.  Compared to the other venues, this was the most disappointing.  The success gained from this location was that we had used our key, opened the box and therefore another key location was done.  I left thinking that so much more could have been done and it was an opportunity missed.

Selfridges 

This was a fun door to open and Selfridges had put a lot of thought into what you would find.  The key gave you access to the music system in the menswear floor of Selfridges.  It was a bright yellow compartment with a bright yellow door.  Once inside you accessed a touch screen that allowed you to add your choice of music being played in the store.  My choice was “Whiskey in the Jar” by Thin Lizzy.  The bright yellow colours against the dark surrounds were a photographer’s dream and I had fun taking lots of pictures.  Well done Selfridges.  To oversee the music in the menswear department was an inspired choice.

My Journey with the Key
If you wish to review my journey then I have published all my visits on my blog as follows.


Selfridges July 2022

The Selfridges building is now back to its full glory after a period of renovation. The silver discs were causing problems by becoming detached and falling off the building. All this was happening prior to the pandemic. There were additional problems as the original manufacturer of the discs was no longer operating and a new supplier needed to be found. When the contractors were ready, they covered the building in a spectacular pink and black cover designed by Osman Yousefzada and underneath this “skin” replaced the discs. I liked the Infinity Pattern 1 design as it was a such a different take on the building.

Selfridges July 2022
An upward view accentuating the symmetry.
Selfridges July 2022
A reflection capturing the work being done near to the HS2 site

The repair work continued during and after the pandemic. Finally, the scaffolding came down revealing the new replacement discs. I take part in a weekly photographic project and the week’s theme was geometry. The Selfridges building is perfect for this theme and I went out and about with my camera taking pictures to accentuate the amazing patterns. There was also the chance to get some interaction with reflections of people sitting next to the building. There was a good reaction to the pictures and I find that many people love the design. There are many people who dislike the building but everyone agrees it does put Birmingham on the map.

Selfridges July 2022
An opportunity for a few more reflections.
Selfridges July 2022
Wherever you look there is a different pattern revealed.

I have included some past posts which will provide details of my previous photographic blogs that have involved this iconic building.

Selfridges Study

The Changing Face of Selfridges


Osman Selfridges Story

Selfridges is always on my list as a building to photograph. It has featured in many of my picture books over the years. I have even written a blog about the building which includes several of my pictures. The building is striking with the discs spread over an amorphous design. I love the building and it has come to be one of the iconic images of the City. I also like shopping in the store as the interior design is appealing but that is another story. If you want to know more, there are several good sources of information about the design and history of the architectural design.

Osman Selfridges Story
Sunset fire over Selfridges and look closely some discs are missing
Osman Selfridges Story
Missing disc highlighted by the sunrise

In 2020, problems with the attachment of the discs to the building began to surface and this is evident in my pictures. A decision was made by Selfridges to undertake the refurbishment and replacement of all the discs on the building. There are 15,000 discs and it will take some time to replace them. The original makers of the discs no longer exist and new constructors were required. The story may be followed up in the news media when in November 2020, the official reports of the replacement began.

It was during Lockdown #2 that scaffolding began to go up around the store. So as to protect the construction workers and the scaffolding, an eye-catching temporary skin has been put in place. The striking art structure is called “Infinity pattern 1” and is designed by Birmingham born artist and interdisciplinary designer, Osman Yousefzada. It is intended to be a “message of hope” to the people of Birmingham. The design was drawn up in conjunction with the IKON Gallery. The colours are striking and are best viewed in the sunlight which picks up the shades of red. The installation is temporary as the replacement of all the discs will be completed in time for the Commonwealth games in 2022. Therefore whilst it is on view, I encourage you to wander down to Birmingham and see Osman’s creation. The visit will be worthwhile.

These photographs show how Osman’s artwork interacts with the City and the people. The pictures tell the story of the loss of the discs, the placement of the scaffolding and the final structure. There is merchandise in the store that feature the Infinity Pattern 1 on them. The colours and the design pattern lend themselves to pictures and I like the picture with my daughter looking out over Birmingham with the Infinity Pattern 1 behind her.

Osman Selfridges Story
My daughter looks out over the street below.
Osman Selfridges Story
A favourite Birmingham viewpoint. This time with Osman’s Infinity Pattern 1.

I have included some web links for further reading
Birmingham Selfridges covered in huge artistic wrap
Osman Yousefzada at Selfridges Birmingham

Osman Selfridges Story
Examples of the various merchandise that can be brought designed with the Infinity Pattern 1

Hi-Vis-Festival, Digbeth 2021

From my social media feeds, you would think that the whole of Birmingham was at the High Vis Festival. The date was released with much anticipation and then the BBC Midlands today programme ratcheted up the excitement several notches more by featuring Panda of Graffiti artist talking about the festival. Big Artist names were released and social media was overflowing with comments about the weekend activities.

Hi-Vis-Festival, Digbeth 2021
n_4_t_4 and his astral traveller. Loving the blue colours and the reflections

The festival was held over the Saturday and Sunday in September 2021. I could only make the Saturday which meant that I would be viewing much of the artwork in its early stages. Still that means another visit later in the month to see the finished artwork. Visiting Digbeth always provides photographic opportunities and the Hi Vis festival was no exception. On arrival my first stop was at Milk street where a few artists were working. Surprisingly one of the bouncers at the local club asked why I was taking pictures. I must have looked suspicious! I moved onto Floodgate street – so many artists out painting the walls. People walking around, hen parties, loud noisy cars cruising and street artists. Many of them were intent on what they were creating and were happy to have their photos taken. The street was full of cars but they made for great reflections.

Moving onto Gibb street over the gangway that spans the river Rea. More people plus music and generally great vibes. There was so much to describe and taking pictures with the camera was on overload. Skateboarders provided a gritty backdrop to the arches. Seeing the artists close up and watching them work allowed you to get a good perspective of their approach. Watching @cryola1 paint a vibrant portrait was a highlight.

As you walk into Gibb street, you enter the heart of the Custard Factory and boundless energy is pumped around the cafes and shops. Weddings are taking place at the Old Library and people out enjoying the sunshine. I walked around the arches onto Heath Mill Lane and caught a picture of Panda on his scooter! Thanks to Panda and his team bringing together such variety of street art onto the streets. On Digbeth High Street, there were many more artists painting walls and billboards. Just great to see them in action. I moved back into Floodgate street and saw other well known local artists such as n4t4 and Snub 23 painting. I know I have not credited all of the street artists but I can add names if requested. There was a focus of activity down Little Ann street and there were several artists working including I.am.sprite with her mural of Tiny Roar.

Hi-Vis-Festival, Digbeth 2021
I.am.sprite with Tiny Roar

Ladders and even mechanised platforms were being used to ensure that the painting quality was enhanced. I find it amazing that the street artists are able to keep the bigger picture in mind whilst painting the smaller details. The Pop Art nature of the pictures is a colour frenzy and stand out against the old factories that are a feature of the Digbeth architecture.

Hi Vis Digbeth 2021
Hi Vis festival by plague

Overall the walkaround was very enjoyable, I met several friends, people were friendly and the atmosphere lifted the spirits. There will be a post script on the Hi Vis Festival and all the finished pieces of street art when I get the chance to get down there again. It you are interested in street art then there are a few other blog posts on the street art that I have done including Digbeth Street Art and Digbeth, Digbeth. There is also some pictures of the Bristol scene which I visited in 2020. As you can see, it is a fascinating subject.

Postscript – Digbeth High Street and Selfridges

As I moved back to the car, I thought to myself, “let’s spend 5 to 10 minutes looking around Digbeth High Street” which will include a few pictures of Selfridges in its high visibility cladding. The high street is making way for the tram so it is being dug up. The traffic was stationary and there were pink reflections in the car windows. I was unable to capture the scene well and made do with a couple of pictures of Selfridges.


View of the City May 2021

Queensway is a busy arterial road in and out of Birmingham so there is always a high volume of traffic thundering along the tarmac.  With my telephoto lens and 24 to 70 mm lens, I went about taking different pictures of an area that is already very familiar to me.  New building projects are always happening in the city centre and the area between the Cathedral and the Canal was an old factory site.  It has been repurposed into city dwelling flats that are being built close to the canal.   

The area is also a magnet for different kinds of people and as I was taking pictures, I was hassled for money, so I quickly moved on.  It is something I am wary of when I am in the quieter parts of town.  I know that I do have to be careful of my own safety.  Still the lure of  taking a few photographs around the buildings on either side of Queensway won through.  I took pictures of St Chad’s Cathedral and also with my telephoto lens up past the Snow Hill buildings.  After that I made my way into town for a lunch time meeting. 

Parking on the top floor of Selfridges Car Park opposite the store provided skyline pictures of both the City and Digbeth, and the skyline bridge linking the two is always fun for a picture or two.    I love the new covering on the Selfridges which is being put in place whilst they replace the discs on the outside.  The covering is designed by Osman Yousefzada,who is a multi-disciplinary artist working in association with the IKON gallery. the pink and black geometric shapes are in contrast with the grey architecture.

It was a day of sunshine and showers and whilst I was outside there was a terrific downpour. 

This then led to the bonus of several puddles for a bit of reflective photography.  The puddles around Selfridges are still there and lend themselves to some nice reflections of the building as it is being renovated

On my way to New Street, there were other interesting images to capture including the queue outside Zara and the photographing of the Electric Cinema.  I lingered around the reflective roof of the entrance to New Street Station. I also took a few pictures of the trams passing through which is something you have to do when in Birmingham. 

So enjoy the pictures and it is good to see Birmingham as it emerges from the pandemic.  The only down side is the weather which is atrocious rain and so unlike May.


Tree reflections

Everyone loves a picture that shows a reflection. The unique view is fascinating, and it gives a different view of the world by suggesting further new worlds. Unusual angles or taking the picture from a low viewpoint. There is symmetry around a reflection that everyone loves to see. This may be caused by mirrors, a shop window or a puddle formed by the recent rain fall. The iPhone is great for taking pictures of reflections and you can get quite low or even dip the phone into the puddle to get that perfect shot. Care is needed with the exposure as the reflected light from the puddle is less intense than the direct light from the unobstructed area above the puddle. Even on some of my best loved pictures there is overexposure of the upper part of the picture. If I had my large camera with me then I may be able to put a filter on it to stop down the light but then I may not be able to get as low as you can with the iPhone. Adjusting the exposure is easy when you are standing up but not so straight forward when you are crouching down. Probably the best idea is to lie down so you can control the exposure at your leisure. You certainly get some funny looks if you do get down low.

Selfridges reflection
Selfridges with reflection of covering whilst the discs are being replaced. It is designed by Osman Yousefzada

So I have put together some reflection shots for you. My tips are to get down low and either bend the knees if you can or even lie down to get a different view. Always try and think differently as that is what will make the photograph attractive to the viewer. They will have some familiarity with the scene but will also be intrigued with the reflection and part of the fun is to work out what they are being given to look at. Once you start getting into reflections then you will see them everywhere and your photography will take on a new life.

Red canal boats
Red boats on the Canal near Knowle (featured in Birmingham Live Instagram post)
Black and White view
Black and White view from Knowle Church to Elderberry Black Cafe
Trip to the Curry House
Trip to the Curry House (featured in Amateur Photographer)
This reflection of Selfridges was liked by the designer of the scaffolding multidisciplinary artist Osman Yousefzada and was featured by @IgersbirminghamUK on Instagram

Finally Englands Big Picture featured the headline reflection of the small park in Knowle, Solihull

Tree reflections
Tree reflections (featured in BBC’s Big England)

Digbeth

Lockdown 3 is easing and in early April, I found myself back in Digbeth to take a look at what was happening.  One reason was to look for the new Street art project by @Fokawolf but more of that later.  I parked the car in Coventry street car park and made my way to Digbeth.  I love the Suki10cc artwork by street artist Gent 48 It features the up and coming black stars in Birmingham.  The house is so colourful and is great to photograph.  It was one of my pictures that was featured in my recent Amateur Photography magazine feature. This visit, I decided to do some unconventional pictures by getting close to the mural. 

Digbeth street art
Best in Birmingham
Digbeth Street Art
Meriden Street

Walking down Bordesly Street, I experimented with some street photography. It is my first venture out with my Fujifilm x100v and I was a little self conscious trying to use it.  However when I reached the Custard Factory, the camera comes into its own.  A few pictures on the bridge over the River Rea,  and then into Gibb street where there were a few people moving around. I took a few pictures of the colourful artwork (as you do when in Digbeth).  I was pleased with the one I took by the street artist 0707 as it was very colourful especially with the bicycle on the colourful bike rack.

Digbeth
Bridge over the River Rea
Digbeth
The Custard Factory
Digbeth
Street art by 0707
Digbeth
Colours of Gibb Street (so many street artists here, Philth, Gent 48, n4t4 etc)

My next stop was to see the artwork by @fokawolf.  It is a larger than life blown up picture of Pat Butcher from Eastenders and it is underneath the railway arch on Heath Mill Lane.  It is such a random bizarre mural.  The character is not associated with Birmingham and why it is placed here is not known.  What it does do is provoke comment and debate. That makes it all worthwhile.  My picture shows how tall the mural is with the couple next to it.  I also took a picture of the balconies on the Custard Factory and posted it on the BBC weather pages. The architecture always looks good especially when the sun is shining on it.  Fortunately for me, it was featured on the local BBC weather news.

Digbeth
Pat Butcher by Fokawolf
Digbeth
The Custard Factory as featured on the BBC local weather

Still in a wandering mood my next destination was Lower Trinity street taking pictures along the way of some of the more interesting street art. By the time I had reached Bordesley station, I thought it would be good idea to see the canals.  It is very quiet around there and I worry about my personal safety.  However it seemed ok so I carried on taking pictures.  I like the colour of the graffiti and in fact one of my favourite artists, Lucy McLaughlan‘s art work is under the Deritend road bridges.  My first attempt at a long exposure for 3 seconds with the Fujifilm x100v gave a pleasing result.  As I moved back into Digbeth along the canals it became much quieter.  I did meet a friend Mullerbiker from my Slack British Tech Network who happened (as he was) passing through the canal network.  After chatting for a few minutes, he left but then my courage failed me and I retraced my steps out of the system and walked along the road back into Digbeth again. 

Digbeth
Purple umbrellas
Digbeth
No Parking
Digbeth
The Night Owl
Digbeth
Thinking I should be somewhere else
Digbeth
Life and Death
Bordesley
Bordesley station in the light
Bordesley
Lucy McLauchlan Monochrome in long expsoure
Digbeth
Grafitti on the canals
Digbeth
In Digbeth
Digbeth
Custard Factory

Do you want to read more about Digbeth
Digbeth Lights
Digbeth Art
Lockdown in Digbeth


Sunrise at the BullRing

Thursday 5th November was the start of Lockdown #2. As I pass via town on my way to work, I took the opportunity of getting my camera out to record events on this particular day. I was near to the Bull Ring and as luck would have it the sunrise was spectacular with a pinky orange tint to the clouds. I was never in Birmingham for the last lockdown so I wanted to capture the atmosphere of this event. First there were people around, not many but I suspect more that there were in March/April. There were more pigeons than people and i am not sure if it was my imagination but there was a feeling of acceptance to the new restrictions. It was quiet and people moved briskly through the area.

Sunrise over Selfridges
Sunrise over Selfridges
People going to work oblivious of the sunrise.
People going to work oblivious of the sunrise.
The Bull is still there
The Bull is still there
Single Figures move through the empty passageways
Single Figures move through the empty passageways

My pictures were around the Christmas tree outside St Martin’s Church, up to Selfridges and then past the Bull and down onto New Street. I myself did not linger very much as I was very conspicuous with my Canon D5 camera. Whilst I love my IPhone camera, the time is coming to invest in a new compact camera that does not draw attention.

Empty platforms at New Street
Empty platforms at New Street
Reflections in the passageways
Reflections in the passageways
Catching the tram
Catching the tram
On their way to work
On their way to work

On my way back I saw two young people by Selfridges. The pictures show some form of tension between them and the surroundings, especially the picture that is looking upwards towards them. Finally I also saw that the scaffolding is going up around Selfridges and there will be some new photographic opportunities of the specially designed covering going up.

Waiting and watching
Waiting and watching (buy a copy)
Waiting and watching
Waiting and watching
Last word from the pigeons
Last word from the pigeons LOL