Andy Siddens: Temporary Accommodation

I decided in my twenties that I would own a Leica by the time I was 40. I bought the M8, my first and only Leica, two years ago when I was 41. I slightly overshot. This camera is my constant companion as I strive towards a Degree in Photography with the Open College of the Arts.

I started with a handed down rangefinder camera, a Yashica 35, at the age of twelve. I “progressed” backwards to an SLR but found myself using it in as close to a “rangefinder style” as possible. Often holding onto manual focus even when autofocus became the norm with centre weighted metering and aperture priority or manual mode. I switched off all the fancy bits. I wanted to do the thinking, not some microchip, so I was pleased with the control the Leica allowed me again.

During the creation of this particular set of photographs last year I really felt the camera did truly become a companion, a friend, a mate, a “M8”.  The story that follows may seem a little dark, but it is really about the positive cathartic effect of photography.

2010 was a year of difficult personal change and the name for this set of photographs, “Temporary Accommodation I/II/III”, refers to the three different temporary places I stayed in during 2010. I was living in the UK, but my partner was living in Germany. There were many flights to visit each other throughout the year; it was very tough emotionally. Through photography I managed to document a part of it. Musicians say that that to play the blues you need to feel the blues, here I photographed my own blues.

The photographs are a little flat and desaturated. They could have been improved and cropped with some post-capture editing, but that would have hinted at a different story. Henri Cartier-Bresson insisted on his work remaining uncropped. Why should I expect different? Composition was drawn from basic instinct, not from any influence or tuition.

After thirty years of photography, I felt these were the first real photographs I had ever taken.

The series of photographs is in three distinct areas:

Temporary Accommodation I

My partner’s accommodation in Berlin. At the time I was living in the UK and she was in Germany. I spent a significant amount of time here and what struck me was how different it was to UK apartments. The same but different. It was a place of great happiness on arrival, but great sadness when leaving. It was the morning of a “leaving day” that I took these first photographs. I did not know what to do with the remaining time, wanting it to be longer but also wanting the heavy time to lighten. The M8 eased this time slightly. At first it was just a record of the place, but it became the start of this small project.

Temporary Accommodation II

Now living back at my parents’ house in the UK for a while. The scenes have changed, but all depict elements of their house that I remember vividly clinging onto. Hints of happy times and brighter colours, but they were the happy times of my parents, not mine.

Temporary Accommodation III

The third phase of the project became very dark and the photographic style even more so. I was doing well to take photographs at all at this stage, unable to concentrate on work at all. This phase was taken in a hastily chosen rented flat in a rundown area. The photographs tell the tale of the place. Unfinished and unhomely, the TV table with the plug on, but no TV set up was a very poignant image for me. It was a sad place that I longed to leave.

The positive of this is that photography helped me in ways that far outreach just the capturing of images. Also, that I am lucky enough to own a camera which I am so comfortable using that it allowed such personal photographs to be taken. The camera made no attempt to force a vivid style or intrude in the creative process in any way shape or form.

It took what I saw.

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I am now living in a much more pleasant environment with my partner. The TV is also set up.

-Andy Siddens

More of Andy’s photographs can be seen on his website: www.andysiddensphotography.com and also his photo blog: www.andysiddensphotography.blogspot.com.