Plastic Bottles / by Graham Dew

Over the past couple of decades, the plastic water bottle has become ubiquitous, available in any shop, and often littering the streets when emptied. There was a time when one would use a flask, or simply drink before going out. Bottled water then seemed a frivolous luxury. After all, British water was the cleanest in the world, we were told. These days, it seems a badge of honour to walk around with a bottle of mineral water, or failing that, a small bucket of coffee.
Whilst down at the allotments the other day, I took a picture of plastic bottles on top of some rusty poles. This is a device that keen gardeners use to cast protective nets over their delicate crops to protect them, usually from birds with a net, but sometimes from the frost with a thin fleece blanket. The bottles, as I’m sure you can see, stop the poles from poking through the mesh. The transparency of the bottles appealed to me, especially with the nearest bottle in focus and the other progressively out of focus.

Late last autumn I was walking alongside a stream in St Cross. It was one of those wonderfully clear bright November days with a strong low sun and deep blue skies. It was also unusually warm. On the other side of the stream were the local allotments, and I could see something rather wonderful going on in one of the plots. Up on poles, instead of water bottles, were plastic milk containers. Being translucent rather than transparent, they seemed to glow with more light than the sun was giving them. They were almost phosphorescent. The owner of this plot had used them in profusion, all at different jaunty angles, and they looked alive as if they were spirits of horticulture. The mesh cast upon them looked like a mist. I quickly made my way around to the plot and then took my time making photographs and making the most of this opportunity before the nearby buildings eclipsed the sun.

This sort of event is one of the reasons why photography can be so rewarding. I would never set out to make pictures of plastic bottles. But with the right light and a receptive frame of mind, one can discover scenes that are far more exciting than can be imagined.