Vanishing Points

A friend, a true wandering minstrel, travels around Europe on his bike with a guitar strapped to his back. He plays the bars and cafes, or busks, and earns his crust. It sounds wonderful – a life free of ties and responsibility, a life on the open road! And who hasn’t thought of jacking it all in, eschewing the job, the mortgage, the kids. Well, maybe not the kids, but the rest can go. Of course, the truth may be somewhat different, but this is not the time for the harsh realities of life – let’s just enjoy the greener grass that grows on the other side. He is living the fantasy and we can live it vicariously, strapping on instruments of our own, and pedalling off into the sunset…

As he moves around, he pauses to take photos – all the same, but all quite unique. That idea, of finding difference in the familiar is one that I have explored, but I think my friend has achieved something rather more with his pictures. Because they all invite the viewer in to share the fantasy, and to wonder what lies at the end of the road. They promise something – the unknown, the excitement of what could be. The thrill of potential.

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In this respect they fall into the same category as the New Year’s resolution, the clean slate, and the joy (mixed with terror) of the blank piece of paper. Many years ago, still a teenager, I sat at my desk, looking out towards the Brig o’ Balgownie, the fabulous old stone bridge that spans the River Don. The window was open (in Aberdeen, in January!) and a light breeze brought in a hint of the spring that was still far away. Facing me was my brand new electric typewriter, which even now I can still smell and feel. Something about that combination of light and air, the crisp white sheet, youth! It opened up a world of limitless possibilities. As I write this, at 30 years remove, my heart is beating fast at the extraordinary sensation that swept over me at that moment. Some might have channelled that energy, harnessed it and gone on to live lives of great achievement. I however, and I don’t think this is too much of an exaggeration, have instead spent much of my life trying to recapture the feeling of that moment.

Tony, as the minstrel is better known (you can find his music, and more of his photographs here) has found a brilliant but simple way of illustrating that delicious sense of possibility, allowing us all to go with him, down dusty tracks and urban highways, through rains and early morning mists, down the road to whatever it may be that awaits just over the horizon.

Photos by Tony Black

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