"Being out there is where things happen..."
This area of our portfolio is dedicated to some of the 'personal projects' that Tim shoots for himself, often whilst away from the UK on assignment. Personal work in its nature is often very different to the professional field and type of work that photographers shoot in their day to day roles within their chosen industry and with Tim his passion lays in shooting black and white work that reflects life and its sometimes strange reality, this can be both on film and on digital media. We have put together here a few of his recent personal projects with descriptions from Tim and his thoughts. Tim's international travel work was recently recognised when he was awarded 'Professional Travel Photographer of the Year' in the 2013 Professional Awards in London.
The History of Darwin
Death Valley was not a very hospitable place for a small group of men trying to make their way to the San Joaquin Valley. Camped in the Argus Range, they were hungry and close to exhaustion when it was discovered the only working gun was a rifle with a missing sight so killing any game for food seemed out of the question. An Indian guide said he could fix it and took the gun vanishing into the hills, he returned sometime later and the rifle had a new sight of pure silver. Some years later, one of the original party, a Dr Darwin French, returned to the Argus Range in 1874 to locate the mysterious "Gun Sight Mine" and he discovered silver and other mineral deposits and mining operations began soon after with the site, and later the town, being given the name of 'Darwin'.
By 1877, Darwin had over 3500 people with water pumped down from springs in the surrounding mountains. There was a silver smelter, a Wells Fargo office, two general stores, a hotel, several saloons and a brothel. Because the site was isolated and populated by miners with little to do for recreation but drink, gunfights were common, and the outbound silver shipments were frequently the targets of gangs of bandits trying to steal the load. One large wooden building near the centre of town served as a schoolhouse, a saloon, and a brothel all at the same time!
In 1879 the miners staged a violent strike for higher pay culminating in a large fire, believed to be arson, that hit Darwin on April 30 of that year. Many buildings were destroyed, including mine offices, the mine operators quickly pulled out and the now permanently unemployed miners had no choice but to do the same and by 1880, the population of Darwin was only 85. But it never completely died…
1908 arrived and new lead and copper strikes were made in the area and people quickly began to return to Darwin. By the 1920s, the population was back up to several thousand and appears to have remained steady with the town growing and flourishing deep within Death Valley. In the early 1950's mining was greatly expanded once again in Darwin, a new mining camp complete with housing facilities for workers was built and for a period in the late 1950s, Darwin was the largest producer of lead in the United States and flourishing town in all respects.
Around the late 1960's whilst the town was booming things seem to have abruptly stopped, the miners and their families all left, many leaving their homes as they stood on the day that they all left town.
Almost as if they walked away, house doors left open, airstreams at the side on the drive and cars parked neatly in front of old picket fences.
Possessions remain still in place with their once busy homes, tins on the side in the kitchen, and beds laying neatly made with nothing more than a think layer of sandy dust, baking in the sunlight that shines through windows that have their drapes still hanging. There are no real records to why everybody suddenly left Darwin and indeed 'how' they all managed to leave as many of their trucks and cars remain, perfectly preserved in the continuous relenting heat of Death Valley, one of the hottest known places on earth with ground temperatures reaching such soaringly high levels that some area's have no life at all, not even bacteria. The next nearest life to Darwin is over 100 miles away in any direction.
Tim - "I found myself in Death Valley moving through the Valley from South to North. Death Valley has always held a fascination for me in its sheer scale and beauty. I had pulled off onto a small clearing by the side of the road to refit the power lead to my GPS that had fallen loose, pulling off the main road in Death Valley is something that signs warn you not to do as soft ground can leave you stranded and once you are in this position with the distinct possibility of not having anybody pass you on the road for the rest of the day, its a dangerous manoeuvre at best. I distinctly remember looking up from the dash and catching a glint of something far down the valley to my left, it was then that I decided to risk it and start carefully driving down the track that led in that direction. The town itself is very hard to find and it was a my second visit to Death Valley trying to locate it, laying so far off the road along a very dusty track with no signs it is a place where it is very easy to pass it without ever knowing that it ever existed, very much the town that time forgot in many ways. Darwin itself is a truly amazing place and I really didn't know what to expect as I pulled onto the dirt track that carried me into this totally silent abandoned area in the middle of the valley. It was early evening and the sky was a golden colour as the heat haze dropped in front of me making viewing anything in the distance across the valley floor very difficult. 6 miles off the main road quite literally in the middle of absolutely nowhere I came across the town sat in the base of the mountains, abandoned and shrouded in the sheer deafening silence that you experience only in places like Death Valley, a barrier across the track warning me to stay out.
I loved shooting in Darwin with all the amazing items and homes that have literally just been left behind as they stood many years ago, the rich textures and the amazing light that you get in Death Valley made the project one thats was very inspiring for me creatively as a photographer. I believe that as a professional photographer, 'personal work' is something thats very important to do each year, it in many ways offers us the freedom to express ourselves more through our work than perhaps day to day commercial work can with its demands and constraints. This entire body of work in Darwin was shot on my Fuji XPro1 and a 14mm f2.8 lens, with nothing else at all, just myself and the camera to capture what I saw before me.
I think the three main things that will remain with me always from my visit there was the sheer deafening silence as the sun dropped across the valley and left me and the town in darkness, the US Army truck with the bullet hole in the windscreen parked out of sight, and noticing that every clock that I came across had stopped at 4:20 on Sunday the 13th even though they were all 'mechanical'…"
A Lifetime Behind The Lens
From the age of 7 photographer Tim Wallace of AmbientLife has been obsessed with photography. At a very early age he first learned to print and develop film, totally inspired by the magic of watching the emerging image appear from under that warm flowing liquid of the developer. Over those years Tim has used many camera's that have taken him through his journey of photography and creativity and this week Tim set himself a 'personal project' to document and record some of the many camera's that he has shot with and collected over his lifetime behind the lens.
Tim - "For me photography has not so much been a career but an obsession over my lifetime, its the foundation of who I am and all that has driven me over the many years that I have been shooting. It is no secret to many that I still love to shoot film even now and for me that is a joy that I can immerse myself into away from my normal day to day commercial work which is firmly grounded within the modern digital era that we can now enjoy.
Film photography for me is almost like getting back to basics, its about the process of thought to work and achieve what you want to create through your lens and record that image into a piece of exposed film within the camera.
The camera's themselves have changed but in many ways the approach that we have to the work that we create has not, sure we may feel more these days that we can 'rescue' or manipulate our images digitally, and indeed this is a huge benefit within the modern commercial world of photography but for me I have always loved the thought and practice of trying to really get as a close as I can to my final image in camera, film drives this passion and allows me to shoot from my heart and in many ways teaches me still to be a better photographer.
I have kept every single camera that I ever shot on from a film perspective over the years, each has their little quirks and joys, each has in many ways a personality and as such they bring their own dimension to a photograph, the lens properties of older camera's are different to the more perfectly engineered lenses that we enjoy today but in many ways thats something that I really love. The older 50mm f4 Carl Zeiss lens that I shoot with sometimes on the Hasselblad film bodies is a lens that has a softness to its edges, a pleasing effect when used wide open."
"I can still remember my very first picture that I ever took, it was a scene from a roof top looking across to a dockyard across the roof tops and aerials of the houses in front of me. I shot it on a Nikon F that belonged to my grand father and was not too sure on the exposure so when I developed the film I decided to heat that up slightly and extend the development time. I remember the negative being very 'thin' (under exposed) and the grain was significant but I spent an few hours in the darkroom printing various copies at different sizes and variants and from then on I was hooked totally. I was in love with the fact that I was able to capture the world, or at leads a brief moment of it and keep that forever. Many times when I was younger I was shooting on Nikons and even today I still use Nikon camera's in my commercial work such as the D4 along side my Hasselblad H4 for medium format digital work, back then my trusty Nikon F was without a light meter that worked so I used to have to guess the exposure on many occasions, this taught me to appreciate the changes in light and how that impacts not only on a scene from an exposure point of view but also how that mixture of exposure and light intensity from the direction of the light in relation to the camera can impact so greatly on the contrast and tonality of a image captured.
It was not long before I was really trying to teach myself who i could mix the light properties in the everyday world with techniques I was discovering with the development stage of the film process. The possibilities seemed endless and it was then i think that I started to gain an understanding of light and how we can use this to create the images that we aim for in our minds when shooting"
"Over the years I have not only kept all the camera's that I have shot on but also actively searched for camera's that both inspire me and that fascinate me. Sometimes these have been camera's that as a younger man I aspired to shoot with such as the Rolleiflex and Hasslblads but also camera's that have 'experienced' life, that have seen things in their own lifetime and have some history to their very presence in this world, such as the older Nikon F2's that served time with correspondents in wars such as Vietnam. For me these hold a fascination in themselves in that they were the very tools used to show the world some of the most important images of that time in our history. It is for me an honour and a privilege to be able to take these and restore them back to full use and once again breathe live back into them by shooting film through then once more."
"Photography for me a journey rather than a destination and my love of film affair with film will carry on for the rest of my life along with my passion for some of the iconic camera's that act act as the gateways between that we see in front of us and what we capture with the light through our lens. For many years my personal statement towards photography has always been that 'out there shooting is where things happen', and this will always be how I view my life, my future, the world, and how I can represent my view of that world through my lens"
Abandoned Motel - Baker USA
During a recent shoot in Death Valley in the USA we took a trip over to Las Vegas, our trip took us through the small town of Baker that sits just on the edge of the state of Nevada approximately 90 miles out of Vegas. As you enter the town you can't help noticing an old ruined Motel that has been left totally abandoned by the roadside as the sand blows across the road and creates a very surreal feel to the whole area with nothing but desert to your right and a still thriving town to your left. The Royal Hawaiian Motel still sits just as it did many years ago with its reception still open if not in a very sort state now with paperwork and holiday brochures laying strewn across the floor as if a tornado has been swept through the inside of the hotel. All the rooms are still there and many have their doors half open in a more menacing than welcoming fashion.
After further investigation we saw signs that the Motel had been used over the years by drug addicts and vigrants with a few 'guests' still refusing to check out.
Alcatraz Island is located in the San Francisco Bay, 1.5 miles offshore from San Francisco and is often referred to as "The Rock," the small island was developed with facilities for a lighthouse, a military fortification, a military prison (1868), and a federal prison from 1933 until 1963. Beginning in November 1969, the island was occupied for more than 19 months by a group of Aboriginal Peoples from San Francisco who were part of a wave of Native activism across the nation with public protests through the 1970s. In 1972 Alcatraz became a national recreation area and received designation as a National Historic Landmark in 1986.
Today, the island's facilities are managed by the National Park Service as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It is home to the abandoned prison, the site of the oldest operating lighthouse on the west coast of the United States.
Tim - "Alcatraz is probably best described as one of those places on earth that we all feel that we know having been featured so many time in films etc, however in my view it really is a place that you cant get the full story of until you actually stand within its walls and smell the scent of crumbling decay that has torn through the prison over the years. One of the first things that I noted personally was just how close the island was to the nearby city of San Francisco, to the point where from within the cells on the upper levels, that over look San Fran Prier 39, you can clearly hear the laughter of the people in the bars and restaurants there, something that I can only imagine would have been a further torture for any inmates who called these cells home. The prison is in quite a state of decay these days however it is still very possible to see the scars of time and events that have occurred on the island over the years such as the deep crack in the floor of the main hall as a result of grenades being used during one mass riot on the island by prisoners. Its an emotional journey that you take to walk through the prison and through the years that have seen so many moments of both human triumph, despair and hope. I hope that I managed to capture just some of these in the photography that I shot on the island on a day that I will not forget for a long time to come'.
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All images shown on this site are protected by International Copyright Law and by the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988. All images, text and ideas are the 'intellectual property' of Tim Wallace™