Banksy may have stolen the limelight this Valentine’s Day, but a group of neighbours have collaborated to create a stunning labour of love.
Ken Aylmer had his eureka moment – like many of the best – while sitting on the toilet in his home on The Paragon in Clifton.
The 49-year-old realised that the windows looking out across one of Bristol’s most famed views formed a three by three grid and, with some strategic shutting of certain shutters, could be used to create letters, which when lit would shine out over the city.
He roped in eight sets of neighbours along the cul-de-sac to agree to help create the piece of art and asked friend and photographer Brett Symes if he would take the photo of the spectacle.
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“With Valentine’s Day approaching, and after amusing ourselves with the thought of some other 10-metre high four-letter words beaming out over Bristol, there was no turning back once we settled on ‘LOVE’ as the word,” Ken tells Bristol24/7.
“It’s the iconic image of Bristol but with a loving twist.”
He admits his neighbours were a bit bemused at first, but they were also intrigued. Brett and Ken did a recce to work out the best place to shoot from and the group agreed a date and time for everyone to turn lights on and shut certain shutters.
“There was a slight panic when we realised one of the windows in the “L” was fake and had a wall behind it so we had to move the letter one ‘column’ to the right,” says Ken.
“Overall, it wasn’t too much of a problem once we worked out the block lettering on paper and, thanks to all the amazing 200-year-old shutters in every room, we just lit up each room where light was needed and then closed the shutters on the unneeded windows.”
People in the house after ‘E’ agreed to keep lights off so there was no interference. A couple of people had to sit in the dark for an hour while the masterpiece was created, but everyone took part in good humour.
Speaking about how the project captured his imagination, Brett says: “I really like the idea of using a real life analogue set up to replicate the way original digital graphics used blocks to spell words, there’s a real charm to that.”
Brett and Ken wanted to take the long exposure shot at dusk, so house lights would be on, but it would still be light enough to capture details of the buildings and bridge. They also shot it at rush hour to get light streaks from the traffic.
The pair set up in the freezing cold for about an hour before the optimal light and phoned in to get everyone to set up. Their plan was almost scuppered by a sudden burst of sleet, which luckily cleared just in time to get the shot.
Speaking about her involvement with the Valentine’s Day scene, neighbour Angela said “It’s brilliant that Ken actually acted on the idea and got us all involved. I’m sure he could have used digital effects, but It was fun to be part of doing it for real and there’s no better word to be shining out over Bristol.”
Prints of the LOVE Bristol piece are available to buy via www.brettsymesphotography-boutique.co.uk/p231277076
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