My name is Norman Taylor. I was born in Belfast and lived there all my life until I came with my partner to live in Dumfries and Galloway in 2001. I am now retired.
I have been taking photographs since I was about 14 when I bought my first camera, a Brownie box (which I still have). Over the years many of my photographs were used by businesses, charities and government organisations. It was a very depressing blow when my eyesight started to deteriorate, I had to stop driving, and after two cataract operations, which only helped marginally, I was registered partially sighted. My world was turned upside down. Many of my interests involved visual arts in some form or other. Now I couldn’t see the dials on my film cameras. I was very depressed and anxious about my future and how I would cope in this strange new world. I had to resign myself to being taken everywhere and tried not to be frustrated at having to wait for my partner to be able to take me to the places I wanted to go to, instead of just jumping in the car and driving myself. It was like being a child again. I was certain my photography days were over.
In August 2007 my old friend Patrick McLaughlin, artist and lecturer in graphic art in University of Ulster, Northern Ireland, came to visit. We walked round the garden and reminisced about the time we worked together in Northern Ireland Forest Service. Eventually the talk came round to my eyesight and what I could see and what I couldn’t. As we passed the old shed Patrick became very interested in its structure, especially the grain on the wooden panels. He produced a small digital camera with a large screen at the back and took about three photos. When he handed me the camera to see what he had taken which was reproduced on the screen I could see the basic shapes and some of the colours even though they were from my point of view very fuzzy. My heart leapt, I began to get excited, not too much at first because I did not want to build my self up only to find I couldn’t do this.
Before Patrick left he put his lecturer’s hat on and suggested I purchase a digital camera, take 150 photos of the shed and send them to him. We sent off to Amazon and bought a Samsung Digimax 800 camera which was reduced to half price. I did not want to spend a lot of money on this and find I couldn’t manage the dials or see enough on the screen.
When camera arrived I got to work photographing the shed. I confess I got a wee bit carried away, once I got started and got to grips with what I couldn’t see and what I could. It became an exciting obsession. As the project processed I became more and more interested as I began to realise it wasn’t just a shed and its contents but a 3 metres square work of art just waiting to be photographed and I had to describe what these shapes, colours and textures actually meant to me.
It became an exercise in seeing, as the camera became my eyes. Choosing a camera with auto focus is important. A fuzzy image on the screen is made sharp with auto focus but partially sighted people will only experience this when the image is displayed on a large computer or television monitor.
Light and dark, shapes, colours, shades of colours and textures, atmosphere, feelings and moods– these are some of the interesting experiences I have had photographing the shed. The weather and all the seasons play a large part of this project. I have taken some very interesting atmospheric shots with the winter’s setting sun reflecting on frosted windows.
I have spent a wonderful 2 years absolutely absorbed photographing my lovely old shed and looking right into the big picture and discovering some hidden gems. To date I have taken approximately 1300 images.
What next ? The book!
This video was taken at the launch of my exhibition at the Mill on the Fleet.