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[About me] About the author

Touring Britain bit by bit with a pair of boots, a few bicycles, a lot of trains and a bag of lenses. I take pictures and then I write about them.

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Sun, 27 Apr 2014

Ball game


One Saturday towards the end of June in 2006 I caught the sunset over Cincinnati from across the Ohio River in Newport, Kentucky...



while the Cincinnati Reds played in the baseball park, puffs of smoke and sparks of fireworks in the unusually smog-free sky marking the occasional home run...


and riverboats passed up and down under the Roebling Suspension Bridge.


It provided some good material for teaching myself photoshop...


[Tag] Tags: cincinnati, not the uk, ohio, sunsets, urban, usa

Sun, 30 Dec 2012

der Telespargel


Fernsehturm, the television tower in Alexanderplatz, central Berlin, Germany's tallest structure.



Built as a show of GDR strength and to be an icon of East Berlin, but also an excellent example of the pettiness of political rhetoric, positioned deliberately to loom over West Berlin's Reichstag when the latter is viewed from the front, and in return cited by Ronald Reagan as "the Pope's revenge" because the diamond-shaped reflection of sunlight on sphere sometimes looks vaguely a little bit not really very much like a Christian cross.








These shots, and more from the visit in December 2007, in the Germany gallery.

View Larger Map

[Tag] Tags: berlin, germany, history, not the uk, structures, urban

Sun, 24 Jun 2012

Boston, six years ago


I was at a conference in Boston, Massachusetts, when the East Coast of the United States flooded in June 2006.



Boston wasn't badly hit with flooding, but it did spend a few days covered in fog and puddles.


I'd only just bought my first SLR a couple of weeks before the D50 with 18-55 lens so wandered around town trying it out.



Pointing it at anything and everything, and not usually doing a very good job at all.


There are more pictures in the Boston gallery.

[Tag] Tags: east coast, floods, fog, massachusetts, new england, not the uk, rain, urban, usa, weather

Wed, 8 Feb 2012

Burst of bicycle couples

A short set of photos I took in the autumn on Zeeburgereiland, one of the artificial islands off Amsterdam's waterfront. Surrounded by all sorts of bridges and tunnels, shipping canals and dams, motorways and tramways, but with these three silos standing alone in a big empty wasteland...




I have added the Netherlands to the site's collection of galleries.

[Tag] Tags: cycling, industrial, netherlands, not the uk, urban decay

Sat, 5 Mar 2011

The Hutong


At the start of the 15th century, when the Ming Dynasty was young, Beijing was established as the new Chinese capital a heavily planned city, a rectangle laid out on a north-south axis around the great imperial palace, the Forbidden City.

Hutong Hutong

Around the palace, dense blocks of residential buildings, the hutongs, arranged in a grid that stretched to the city walls and moat; the more prosperous and higher status families closer to the centre.


The hutongs evolved through dynasties, civil wars, and revolutions, declining as they became overcrowded and rundown. But they began to be truly threatened in the second half of the 20th century, when the grid of main streets was widened into great boulevards.

Second Ring Road Paveparking

And the city walls and moat replaced by the Second Ring Road (there is no first ring road, but there is a third, and a fourth, and a fifth; the sixth is under construction and the seventh in planning stages), the hutong increasingly replaced by glass office towers and concrete apartment blocks.

Second Ring Road

The city's population boomed and as the economy grew its nascent middle class sprawled out far beyond the old city walls, and in the ancient centre, every accessible patch of ground was filled with a commuter's car -- there are five million of them in the city already, growing by 10% per year, or 1,500 extra cars every day.

Hutong cars Hutong

In the run-up to the 2008 Olympics, the city invested in much regeneration which often simply meant evicting residents of a hutong and bulldozing it.

fence Wheelbarrows

But just as in Europe in the 1950s-70s, public opinion has quickly turned against this destruction of established neighbourhoods.

Gentrified Hutong

And now instead the remaining hutongs are being restored and gentrified as the city discovers a new way to exploit them in the burgeoning consumerist economy.

Snack street Hutong

The Chinese have even noticed that the motorcar is not a sensible or scalable solution to transport in densely populated places, and is investing heavily in alternatives.


More photos in the Beijing gallery or this series of posts on the other blog.

[Tag] Tags: asia, beijing, china, hutongs, not the uk, regeneration, streetscapes, urban

Sun, 26 Sep 2010

Los Lagos


This time last year, I was cycling around the lake district, Los Lagos, in Chilean Patagonia. I was there with Computer Aid International, who refurbish old office computers and send them to schools, hospitals, and development projects around the world, including the small city of Osorno in Los Lagos. Below are a selection of out-of-context and out-of-order extracts and photographs from my record of the week. All profits from sales of Chile prints go to Computer Aid.


There is a crazy old lady in the aisle seat beside my window seat. She speaks no English; I speak no Spanish. In attempting to establish that, yes, I do wish to access my seat, and, oh, right, you're just going to sit there and invite me to push past then, we each continue to happily speak our own languages at each-other. Once settled in, we compromise on German, since, between us, we don't quite have enough to hold a conversation. She spreads her elbows and proceeds to snore through the take-off, waking once we're airborne in-order to poke excitedly at the airline magazine. By some coincidence, this month's magazine includes a feature on our ultimate destination, the Chilean lake district, which explains in English roughly what she had been attempting to tell me in German that the region has a fascinating and noble history of German immigration and the harbouring of Nazi war criminals. We're given a dish of pink meat product and damp potato slices, which I poke at. The crazy lady points at each item on my tray in turn, looks at me hopefully, before taking them, starting with the desert. She disappears, not to return until breakfast, and I fall asleep.


After lunch we are given the choice to continue up the one in ten climb to the Raihuen crater. Half of us continue, two turns up, one slide back, on the soft black volcanic sand of the zig-zag hill, under and back-under the creaking ski-lift. Christine, who has been telling us that the secret to good speed and stamina is "cadance" and the "correct use of the gears", walks to the summit. This is, of course, not actually the summit of the volcano, but it is the summit of the road, which ends in a pile of black grit, a snow plow, some sparse brown alpine vegetation and a mud splattered portaloo. Rodrigo (our guide) decides that the location is so delightful that there really isn't any need to continue along the frozen path to the crater, and that there will be no better spot for a photo opportunity. There is indeed a spectacular view south along the cordillera, taking in the volcanoes Puntiagudo and Osorno, and west down the valley and over Lago Rupanco. But a glance at Google Earth tells us that the real reason we're not continuing is that Rodrigo has taken a wrong turning, and is quite lost. The road to the crater was three miles back.


From the river, the dirt road climbs a short hill and turns a corner before running in a perfectly straight line through conifer plantation for five miles or more. With heads down into the strengthening wind, we all begin to string out again. I accidentally find myself some way out to the front, with miles of empty road ahead, and the only source of any sound behind, downwind. So one of the now filled fish trucks stealthily creeps up on me at a speed that I estimate to be "too fast for this track". The driver doesn't seem to know how to deal with cyclists on the road, and, I learn later, has been swerving in and out to overtake everybody one-by-one despite there being no oncoming traffic to keep out of the way of. As he swerves left to pass, the truck tips a little, and all of the water flows to the left, spilling out on the far side. As it is passing, the wave bounces back to the right, spilling out on the near side. Somehow, all the fish get lucky: avoiding finding themselves under our wheels.


More photos can be found in the Chile gallery.

[Tag] Tags: chile, llanquihue, los lagos, mountains, not the uk, patagonia, rural, south america, the life of steinsky

Mon, 31 May 2010

This is Cincinnati

Mill Creek Valley

You've probably heard the name, but unless you're American, you won't really know where it is. It's in Ohio, the Mid-West, but it spills out into Kentucky and Indiana. It's where the Rust Belt meets the Bible Belt to the south, and the Prairies of the West. A city of two million sprawled over an area the size of London.

Danger! Pool Closed

I lived there, for a year, nearly five years ago. While I was there, I wanted to find out what the city was like, to document it through photography. I didn't set out to tell this specific story. I didn't seek out these specific places. They mostly found me, and right from the start. Still jetlagged, we walked up our street, West Clifton Avenue. It was the second day of August, not long after 8am, the heatwave had already set in for the day, and the senses were largely overpowered by the uncollected garbage. Pausing for water at the Starbucks at the top of the hill, two men with shotguns held up the savings-and-loans opposite, before being chased by a pistol-wielding cop down our street. Down the path we had been walking five minutes earlier.

Cincinnati Cincinnati

That was our neighbourhood, Clifton Heights. Somebody had put a lot of effort into it, once, laying out streets around the hillside, with parks on promontories overlooking the city. People had bought their own plots and filled them with huge three-story homes, each one unique, a mashup of American, German, and Italian architectural styles. That was a hundred years ago, though. Now the houses crumbled, the sidewalks cracked. People had paved over the gardens with parking lots, but now those were cracked and crumbling too, often pleasantly overgrown.


Nobody cared for the neighbourhood by now. Not the students, whose near futures they knew did not belong there; or their neighbours, whose crack-den might get picked on, packed up, and moved on next time the mayor or police chief was under pressure to look busy. Not the Mexicans in the corner shop, who just wanted to blend in and not be noticed. Not the crazy people, the shell-shocked and schizophrenic, who wandered the streets unsupervised, day and night, stealing from the Mexicans, and sleeping in the doorway of the Catholic church, where the wind raced down the empty rubble-strewn plots along Calhoun and McMillan. This was a third-world neighbourhood, now; a neighbourhood that people didn't have time to care for, because it was already enough work just to survive. And everywhere there were third world neighbourhoods.

Smokestacks spewing black smoke...

This was a third-world city, a city full of crime and poverty, dereliction and shanty towns, houses not fit for habitation. Streets that looked like the poorer parts of South America and industry that looked like the decline of the Soviet Union. And its most starkly third-world feature of all was its corrupt, dysfunctional, divided, and deeply racist police force. In 2001, Cincinnati Police shot and killed 19 year old Timothy Thomas, father of a one-year old. Sorry, Police shot one unarmed black male. Sparking what were, at the time that I was there, America's most recent race riots.


Cincinnati was a town of casual conversational racism and deadly daily racism. Each morning the newspaper reported on what the black male was up to. The police department erected memorials to their fallen in the war with the black male. It was normal to talk that way.

And it was a third-world city where the minimum wage was $2.80. an hour.

There were signs of the developed world, though. Shining high-rise office blocks downtown and shining high-tech laboratories in the hills; expensive hospitals, and most of all, expensive cars.

Cincinnati Cincinnati

Cincinnati is a third-world city because five great interstate freeways cut through its historic neighbourhoods to converge on the heart of the city, allowing its first-world residents to flee from any sign of poverty and decay out to shining white houses scattered in gated "communities" amongst the forests and farms and shopping malls, thirty miles from the bearded sixty-something black male who would shout and slur and stumble at them in the street, smashing bottles on the sidewalk; from the forty-something threadbare-suited black male who would stop them to beg for money, tell a half-plausible story claiming to be a pastor, a refugee from New Orleans; from the eighteen-year old black male who would punch them in the face for a dollar. The inhabitants of the first world don't need to see the crumbling houses, cracked side-walks, or corrupt police; the scruffy cinderblock churches that take the little money that communities have, the silent ivy-covered factories, the guy with the hot shotgun and bag of cash, fleeing the cops through the children's playground.


From nine to five, Cincinnati pretends to be a first-world city, paying first-world wages and providing first-world services with a first-world infrastructure. When there's a ball-game on, the first-world rolls into downtown Cincinnati and hands over ten dollars a head. Downtown Cincinnati is an enclave of first-world skyscrapers and stadia, whose first-world workforce drive their trucks down first-world freeways, past the third-world neighbourhoods; third-world neighbourhoods that they can't see, that aren't their fault, aren't their problem anymore.

The car gave middle-class Americans the freedom to travel, to go where they want, to live wherever they like. The freedom to organise themselves, to segregate themselves, to flee to the suburbs and forget the problems of the aging city.

Cincinnati Cincinnati Cincinnati Cincinnati Cincinnati
Cincinnati Cincinnati Cincinnati Cincinnati Cincinnati
Cincinnati Cincinnati Cincinnati Cincinnati Cincinnati

[Tag] Tags: abandoned, cincinnati, derelict, midwest, not the uk, ohio, photo essays, poverty, urban decay, urban, usa

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My other blog is a...
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  • Cycling and transport policy blog! I run the group blog At War With The Motorist, where we look at evidence-based urban planning and transport policy, and ride bikes.

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Creative Commons License All text and photography on this site is Joe Dunckley 2001-10, except where stated otherwise. Text and photos are released under the terms of the Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license, meaning that you may reuse, remix, and republish the work for non-commercial purposes, on the condition that a credit is given to "Joe Dunckley/" and you make it clear that the work is released under this license. See this page for more detailed conditions. Contact me to enquire about commercial and editorial use.