Why the feet of pylons? Many would regard them as a profoundly odd photographic subject. Pylons are the pariahs of the landscape, excluded from every postcard view, detested as eyesores, it seems, by most people who bother to think about them at all. Who would even consider looking at their feet?
Yet photographers have long sought to play the alchemist, to turn dross into gold, to make pictures where few (or none) have been made before. Photographs describe, but they also elevate and transform; that’s their beauty. They tell part of the truth, never the whole of it; that’s their secret.
This series began on the spur of the moment. I had the camera, passed a pylon, and thought, what if? But it proceeded with a certain method: that of minimising, as far as possible, my own role as decision-maker. The camera – a homemade box made of mountboard, duck-taped to a 6x6cm film back, with a pinhole drilled in the front, and a piece of black tape for a shutter – contains no lens, no viewfinder, no technology except for the film itself. It was positioned at the same distance (an arm’s length) from each foot of every pylon I came across, until I had had enough. I made no selections in the field, and I never knew what the camera had seen until the negatives were scanned. It was different every time; and never what I expected to see.
I invited Philip to respond to the pictures in order to tease out some of their suggestive possibilities. Just as the photographs are not exactly about pylons, or their feet, nor too are the poems (how different, then, from the ‘pylon poetry’ of the 1930s that celebrated pylons as symbols of progress). Those feet were only the beginning.