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13 November 2014

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You are in: Devon > Places > Places features > Urban Ugly creates beautiful photographs

Photograph of urban Plymouth

One of Mark's photos of the city

Urban Ugly creates beautiful photographs

Plymouth resident Mark Highton Ridley uses his camera to point out views of the city overlooked by most.

Mark Highton-Ridley
Exhibition of fine art photography
Phase 2 Building, Tamar Science Park, Plymouth
Until 31 October 2008

With so much focus on the urban regeneration taking place in Plymouth, the areas being left behind can sometimes be forgotten.

However, this is where local photographer Mark Highton Ridley steps in.

Having been a Plymouth resident for over 35 years, and with his father being in the Merchant Navy, the livings and workings of the city have always been of interest to Mark.

Mark taking a photo (Emily Wood)

Mark is constantly looking for new inspiration

His latest exhibition, entitled Urban Decay, Lost Spaces and Industrial Ugliness, captures views of Plymouth that some may find surprising.

His love of photography started in the dark room at Devonport High School, and although he pursued a career elsewhere, photography has always been a creative outlet close to his heart.

Once he had picked up his camera again, inspiration came directly from the city itself, as well as from other artists.

"A friend's daughter was working on her dissertation at Plymouth College of Art and Design, and she created quite a dark series of work based on the 'lost spaces' of Plymouth," Mark explained.

"This prompted me to start looking around at the city in a different way, and once I began to explore the idea I realised the huge potential of looking at the derelict side of where I live."

A view of wasteland at Plymouth docks

Mark's 'Pay The Ferryman' photo

Mark has so far just completed 'Stage 1' of his project. There are still other areas he feels need exploring, to capture images of the changing urban landscape which, unless preserved, will be lost forever.

His exhibition can be viewed as part of a social history as well.

"The back streets and the docks, this is where people have lived and worked through Plymouth's history. Once these have been razed and redeveloped, part of the our heritage will be gone.

"The pretty places and views will be recorded, but to many people this is the real Plymouth, and deserves to be remembered."

For those who know the city, the views are recognisable, but also strangely alien at the same time.

Derelict building in Plymouth

One of the photos of a derelict building

And for those not familiar with Plymouth, it gives an insight into a city that is constantly changing.

"I like secret spaces, lost spaces, which are in the middle of communities but which people just pass by and don't really notice.

"My aim is to show things as people may not see them, to give a different viewpoint."

The images undoubtedly fulfil Mark's aim to provoke and stimulate a response.

His fascination with the black and white genre, interest in perspective and strong lines in his photos, truly show Plymouth in a striking and arresting light.

Mark's work is based at Masa Fine Art Galllery, Royal William Yard and a slideshow of the Urban Decay, Lost Spaces and Industrial Ugliness project can be viewed on his website.

And an exhibition of Mark's fine art photography is at Tamar Science Park in Plymouth until 31 October 2008.

last updated: 02/10/2008 at 10:18
created: 05/03/2008

Have Your Say

What are your views and memories of the changing Plymouth landscape? Have your say here.

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

no name
I personally, am also a photographer of derelict buildings and feel they should be left as spaces of memory, The Councils should be made of locals and I believe Cornwall should have the same. From my view Marks work is very interesting as has a good political stance but from a creative view I see it as overly edited (in lighting sense) and this takes away the beauty out of the decaying areas he has photographed. I think Plymouth should go as it was back in the day as Traci says.

Molly from Sutton
The effect of the speculative bland blocks on the northern and eastern sides of Sutton Pool create an impression of a poor mans Marbella rather than any of the style and panache of Barcelona.

you can better,

Brian Moseley
What Traci Hill is getting at is that the people at the top of Plymouth's decision making process, in the City Council, the Government Office for the South West, the South West Regional Development Agency, and probably many more, are not Plymouth born and bred. This does not seem to be uncommon these days. This means that local people's thoights and wishes are always ignored, even derided, because these people always think they know best and then wonder why their plans are so dismissed by local people. An excellent example of this is the use of high-rise apartments around the low-rise Sutton Harbour, completely destroying the historical ambiance of the location. Why cannot Plymouth be Plymouth instead of a copy of Barcelona?

This man can revive a love for Plymouth's derelict places with his beautiful compositioning and his use of light.

Rob James
Whilst it is true that Plymouth does seem to be changing extremely quickly, the old attitudes are still here. The comment from traci hill proves this. Yes, plymouth has had an influx of ''outsiders'' recently, but how do you define recently? Plymouth is a port, we have always had ''ousiders'' coming to live here, bringing their culture with them.We need to focus on what structural and cultural changes we need to make to Plymouth, to re-invigorate the city, to remove this ''local vrs outsiders'' thinking which is ruining our city.


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