For the second piece in our new series, we look at one shot from the portfolio of Manchester-based photographer Marc Provins.
Monument Valley appears to unfold beneath the Lancashire sky, reflected in the rear windows of a parked-up van: it’s the kind of sight you only get in photography. Yet this image is real rather than Photoshopped – its creator, the photographer Marc Provins, has a talent for spotting a scene at odds. Part of his “Found” series, this van was actually parked under the coastal skies of Lytham St Annes – but it’s only the bandstand’s pointed hat that gives a clue to the true setting. “I’m always looking for the odd or extraordinary in the everyday,” says Provins. His interpretation of the shot is that it’s “like a landscape within a landscape, almost like a window you climb through to another place.” By bringing together two distinct geographies within the rectangle of his lens, the photographer creates a surprising contrast – what’s interesting about Provins’ work is how he frames his subjects, making the familiar strange.
A landscape within a landscape, a window you climb through to another place
As Provins points out, there is a portal-like feel to the image – yet the line where the van’s doors meet is a reminder that this is aspiration, not reality. Even as the road leads the eye towards Monument Valley’s rocks, the tops of the sea-front houses – and barely discernable ‘NO’ printed on a prohibitive sign – distract from full escapism. Which makes sense when you discover that Provins’ true loyalty lies with Blighty: “I absolutely love our North West coast,” he says “And regularly visit Morecambe, Lytham, Liverpool, Wirral, Blackpool, Cleveleys, Silverdale and Arnside.” The photographer grew up in Gloucestershire but has followed a gravitational pull north, completing an MA at the University of Salford and choosing Manchester as his base. He has exhibited at the Manchester Contemporary, Cube and LOOK/13, Liverpool’s International Photography Festival.
The photographic series on Provins’ website reveal how the north continues to hold his attention. “I feel very connected to this part of the world, and so it often features in my work.” ph6 is an homage to the red brick terraces around Trafford Park, taking the humble hydrangea as its theme: clusters of the blue and pink flowers spill over front walls like forgotten cheerleading pompoms, their colour determined by the pH of the soil from which they grow. Shortlisted for “Best Personal Blog” in the Blog North Awards 2013, Provins’ blog marries words to image, both his website and blog acting as sources of everyday inspiration online. Like the van’s sticker in the picture above, they are a virtual window to where the mind might rather be.