By BlipCommunity

Celebrating Everyday Absurdity

Alan Woodley (a new recruit to the “Bliposse” writing crew) has been talking to Mark Taylor of marknlizzie. If you have never visited his journal, Mark is the master of combining pictures with a few apposite, deadpan words that together form mini-masterpieces. (Occasionally there are no words and you have to provide your own, which is also good). His subject matter ranges widely but, above all, he is a man who has put Leigh-on-Sea firmly on the map. These are Mark's responses to Alan’s questions. The picture selections are Alan’s.
Who are you?
I work on the sports desk at a national newspaper, but I deal with the words, not the pictures. And they don’t send me to the World Cup or the Olympic Games; it’s an office role for a sports-loving grammar pedant and it beats having a proper job. I start work in the late afternoon, which is why I have time in the morning to go out with my camera and stalk strangers in Leigh-on-Seaand further afield.
How did you get started with photography?
Growing up, my dad was the photographer of the family and he had an infectious enthusiasm for it. He caught people off guard, captured gestures, and showed something that seemed natural. I’m only appreciating now what an influence that was on me.
I was given a Minolta point-and-shoot when I was young. I took plenty of candid snaps of family members, which pleases me now. Then I was treated to an Olympus SLR, got obsessed with Formula One and churned out thousands of pictures of racing cars - this would be the late 1980s.
Fast-forward another decade or so and, just when everybody was getting into digital photography, I began taking slides of family holidays. The family was finally spared any more slide shows when I won a Nikon D40.
How did you get into Blipfoto?
My friend Jerry (Uplymer) was on Blip and his pictures often had this pleasingly wry quality. They were images with one eyebrow raisedand that probably attracted me to the idea of Blip more than anything. Jerry advised me, “Take pictures of where you live,” so it’s his fault you’ve been subjected to hundreds of images of a humble Essex fishing town.
What are your themes?
Above all, I’m interested in people, especially their interactions with one another and their environment. And the British seaside is the most amazing place to observe humans. People lose their inhibitions  and eccentricitiesare exaggerated. Leigh is not a holiday resort, but it does attract lots of day-trippers, so when people joke on Blipfoto that I must “hire extras” for my pictures, I can understand why. There’s this ever-changing cast who turn up for a few hours, point at thingsjump in the sea, or perhaps just stand there. If I’m lucky I’ll capture a moment that makes me laugh. That’s rare, though. More often, it’s a very thin smile.
It’s hard to pin Mark’s journal down to one genre. There are portraits that are formalsemi-formalinformaland very informal. He is sometimes drawn to landscapesand skies. The folk festival, themummers, the ageing mods and rockers, they all have their seasons. He does silhouettesand puddles, quite a lot of crouching in puddlesand yes,  silhouettesinpuddles.Then there is the horse racingAnd if all else fails, there are puns, general sillinessand top-level absurdity.
What are the challenges?
The biggest challenge is when the weather turns cold, the visitors dry up, half the place shuts and I have only a couple of dog walkers and the guys at the Small Craft Clubfor company. Thankfully, 4,000 Brent geese arrive in autumn and by January there are loads of wading birds called dunlin that make mad shapes in the sky like this, and this.
What’s the best thing about Blipfoto? 
The greatest gift Blipfoto has given me is making me look at the world around me far more keenly. I get infinitely more enjoyment from my surroundings now. Henri Cartier-Bresson said something along the lines of it being enough to observe and frame little moments of drama in your mind; capturing them with a camera was just a bonus. I don’t agree with that necessarily but I do find myself composing 3x2 images and hitting an imaginary shutter when I don’t have my camera with me. It’s compulsive.
And the other wonderful thing about Blipfoto, of course, is that it’s introduced me to so much brilliant photography, both in people’s journalsand via books or exhibitions they’ve recommended. I remain virtually clueless about the manual settings on my camera, but hopefully I’ve gleaned a few ideas about composition and subject and light and timing and all that other stuff that intrigues me far more.
Which comes first? The picture or the one-liner?
I have never taken a picture with a one-liner in mind. The nonsense I write is usually a device to distract from mediocre images. People seem to enjoy the captions though, so I’ve self-published a book of these limp attempts at humour. It’s gone down OK with the odd unsavoury individual.
Can you shed some light on the enigmatic Lizzie in your title?
Lizzieis my endlessly patient and supportive wife who is resigned to the fact I take far more pictures of strangers than I do of her or our children. She says I should change my name on Blip. Bit late for that, I reckon.
Are you obsessed with that bendy footbridge?
Some people photograph their dinner, their cat or a swan as an emergency blip. I just hang around near Gypsy Bridge. Itsreal name is Cliff Bridge, but nobody calls it that. Martha, my youngest,prefers Clonky Bridge because of the noise it makes when you cross it. (Gypsy was a boat that used to be moored nearby and acted as the HQ for Essex Yacht Club). 
What is it with black and white?
I was told that perhaps the greatest of all photographers on Blipfotoonce said: “All colour is a lie.”
What advice would you offer to blippers thinking of doing what you’re doing?
I’m not really sure how to describe what I “do”. I like that my photography tells the story of where I live - even if it’s quite a frivolous story. That narrative element of my journal developed by accident and it’s largely down to being out with my camera in the same places day after day. 
So, I’d say getting to know your patch, and the opportunities it throws up,is probably key. Once you really understand a place, you can sense an image coming together and compose it before all the elements are there. Then it’s a case of waiting until the right person or group of people, or bird, or dog comes along. Sometimes it works out all right 
As told to Alan Woodley (woodleywise and gabion)
Cover picture by marknlizzie: Bait Digger’s Office

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