Birmingham City University MA Visual Communication U.K
About Stephen Calcutt
Stephens unique form of street photography is a consequence of frequenting bus stops and shelters around the City of Birmingham. Graffiti can be great art, however for Stephen, the etched, scrawled and scratched graffiti into the plexiglass windows of the bus stop feels like a violation. like a poke in the eye, or deteriorating vision through age or disease. Stephen has yet to see any of these etchings that look great in their own right. The graffiti etched and scrawled in the bus stop windows seem to be expressions of frustration or anger. Occasionally there may be declarations of love or hate written into the plexiglass. However, unlike its cousin the more colourful graffiti that is emblazoned across the walls of buildings and is often seen as art, it is very mundane.
I feel a windows full potential as a clear barrier between yourself and the elements are compromised when the view beyond is obscured, distorted and blurred by the scratches. Stephen uses the graffiti etched windows as a lens. Stephen merges the graffiti and the view beyond, focusing his camera on the etched lines. Stephen then puts the view beyond out of focus. Causing the graffiti and view to merge into a single plane. Stephen creates a new perspective that retains and emphasises the energy of the graffiti. Its swirls, zigzags, lines and curves, slash across the abstracted view like paint strokes. At first glance, Stephens photos can be mistaken for abstract paintings. Then closer inspection reveals they are in fact photographs. The subject matter that is out of focus is also fairly mundane. Often when waiting for a bus the view is not particularly exciting.
The human activity Stephen likes best to capture is not very dramatic. When combined with the mundane graffiti and the mundane view it adds to Stephens desire to create an image that ordinarily would be uninteresting or unnoticed. Even the title of each work is mundane, the descriptions of each photograph are also very droll. The word photography comes from Greek phōtos which means ‘light’ and graphé ‘drawing’ roughly the meaning is drawing with light. Stephen feels the way he uses the camera for this project is like painting with light. Stephen breaks the rules for getting a traditional photograph. Stephen puts the view that is usually the focal point out of focus. Stephen then focuses on what would normally be avoided. However, the resulting images are very dynamic and often vibrant. There is a metamorphosis, the mundane graffiti and the often-mundane view are merged into a fresh new image. Stephen is attracted to the paradox that his work invokes. Stephen makes unique beautiful images out of the vandalised bus stop windows.
Stephen loves the images he produces.However, he doesn't condone the vandalising of the bus stop windows that provide the lens for his work. My Bus Stop series is a unique approach to photography. Bus Stop brings the current social issue of a specific form of vandalism to the fore. It is a product of modern vandalism. Vandalism that has found the Plexiglass windows of bus shelters an ideal medium to express feelings. Although my work has so far been derived from the city of Birmingham it is an issue familiar to the many people of all ages who travel by bus in urban and rural settings across the UK. Stephens photography challenges people to look at the issue vandalism. From the protagonists to the observers of their markings. It also challenges people to see the potential beauty in mundanity.