Have you hit a creative block? I know the feeling. That’s one of the reasons I’ve been quiet recently. I could make excuses – we flew back to Zambia last week. But really, the excuses don’t hold any water. Inertia set in a while ago and it hasn’t been easy to shake off.
This time, my mobile phone saved me. I inherited it second-hand, so it cost me nothing. It’s always in my pocket, ready for action if I am. Having met some friends in Leicester, where I was brought up, we went to see where the skeleton of King Richard III (1452-85) had recently been found, underneath a car park. Afterwards we went to the Blue Boar Inn, the nearest pub to the Monastery where the Friars had buried him. And that was where I took this picture of a urinal, converted from an aluminium beer keg.
Once I got over my surprise, I had to smile. The conversion of the barrel was simple, creative and practical. Wanting to share my amusement, I quickly took some pictures, then went back to the bar.
At the time, I liked the graphic shape of the beer keg and the way the light fell on it. I guessed the tones would work effectively in black and white. What did I have to lose, except my dignity if someone came into the toilet while I was crouching down taking photos?
‘Fountain’ 1917, replica 1964 Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968)
It was only later that I remembered Marcel Duchamp’s 1917 sculpture, a porcelain urinal which he called ‘Fountain’. Submitted for an exhibition in New York, it was rejected as indecent. But times change. In a 2004 poll, British art experts rated ‘Fountain’ as the single most influential artwork of the 20th Century – ahead of works by Picasso and Andy Warhol.
I don’t expect that my picture will create waves in the art world – or even ripples. But once again, it reminds me not to take myself – or my photography – too seriously. Mundane objects, seen clearly, can make great subject matter. And expensive cameras aren’t always needed.
Try taking some of your own snaps and let me know how you get on.