"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.
Abandoned Motel - Baker USA
During a recent shoot in Death Valley in the USA I 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'.