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All about my banner collage created in Adobe Photoshop Elements 8

My banner image appears at the top of every page on my aidan.co.uk site. It's a development from previous banner images and took many hours of concentrated work to make. The collage is intended to sum up important aspects of me, but what aspects? Read on to find out more.


Click anywhere on the image above to enlarge.

Many websites have banner images at the top of their pages. They are popular because they summarise the content of the site and are visually appealing. My banner image above was created in Adobe Photoshop Elements and brings together more than sixteen images into one collage. There is also some typography and a selection of flags.

Click on the image in the iFrame above to see an enlarged version. Scroll from left to right and read the description below to find out the significance of each location and picture element. And why not think about how you could make one of your own using locations and landmarks significant to you?

The themes of the collage are travel, transport, architecture, movement, transition, local identity, international rapprochement, unity and maybe more.

1) Signature photograph
The photograph of me was taken by Paul Jones Manchester-based fashion photographer. I'm told I look thoughtful and approachable in it.

2) Typography
The typography uses Arial Narrow so as to fit in the available space. I chose the pastel colours randomly, they are inspired by the work of designer Peter Saville. The random pastel colours are different on each letter and symbolise the diversity of my interests.

3) New York and Empire State Building
I lived/worked in New York in 1981 and have made several visits there since. My father (Bertie O'Rourke, born 1908) told me about his time there in 1929 and the early 30s, including the construction of the Empire State building. Architecturally, culturally and musically New York is for me the ultimate city and it's my spiritual home.

4) US and EU flags
I feel at home in both the US and Europe, though there is a tension between the two. Despite its faults I am pro-EU and Europe but I'm also in favour of transatlantic links and co-operation with the US, Canada and other parts of the Americas.

5) Trinity College Dublin campanile
I studied for a BA in German and French (Joint Honours majoring in German) at Trinity College Dublin from 1976 to 1981, with one year in West Berlin 1979-1980. The campanile or bell tower stands in Front Square and is a symbol of the college and of learning. Despite its faults I'm proud to have gone to TCD and achieved a 2.1 in my degree. My MA was conferred at Trinity in 2002.

6) Dublin Liberty Hall, the Quays and Custom House
12-storey Liberty Hall is Dublin's 'skyscraper' built in 1963 and for me an icon of Dublin. The Quays run along Dublin's River Liffey, spanned by many bridges. The domed building is the Custom House which I drew in 1977. In the collage, the bridges seem to span the water linking Dublin with Liverpool.

7) Irish tricolour and English flag of St George
I am a combination of Irish and English. I was born in England of Irish parents and my nationality is British. I grew up in northern England, went to school there and talk with an English accent, but my ancestry, family background and surname are Irish. Between Ireland and England there is a historical tension that's part of my psyche.

8) Liverpool waterfront
Liverpool is Dublin's twin city and the other great city in my home region. I document Liverpool in my photography, and the view across the Mersey towards the Liverpool Waterfront is the most popular motif. Buildings include the Unity Building, Radio City Tower, the Liver Building, which I have 'moved' to the left.

9) Concorde
Concorde flies through the transition from daylight to twilight, just as the real one did. I followed the development of Concorde as a child and once nearly flew on her. I saw her final arrival at Manchester Airport where she is a visitor attraction. Concorde was a magnificent though flawed aircraft, a symbol of international co-operation, the triumph of design and the excitement of travel.

10) Manchester dusk skyline A
This section is taken from my panorama of Manchester seen from the MEN Arena roof. To the left is the Manchester Wheel, which could also be the Liverpool Wheel. In front of the Wheel is the art deco tower of Northcliffe House, a favourite building of mine, which was demolished 2002.

11)Stockport Pyramid and M60 motorway
I have superimposed the Stockport Pyramid and M60 light trails. It appears as an elevated motorway, like the Mancunian Way. Stockport Cheshire is my home town, part of the Greater Manchester conurbation and located on the Mersey 7 miles south east of the city centre. I co-wrote a book about the M60, published in 2004.

12) 1963 VW split screen camper van
Next to the M60 and appearing to join it is our 1963 Split Screen camper van which we owned from July to December 1996. Once magnificent I have been informed by the latest owner that it is now a shell awaiting restoration. The VW camper van is an icon of 20th century automotive design and symbolic of the freedom and excitement of travel. My VW camper pages are heavily visited. I hope to own a VW camper again soon.

13) Manchester dusk skyline B
Visible on the skyline are Manchester town hall, the Royal Exchange, then the apartment building No1 Deansgate and the Beetham / Hilton Tower. The sloping roof of No1 Deansgate echoes Liverpool's Unity Building. The Hilton Tower has become a symbol of Manchester and was designed by Ian Simpson, who worked with Sir Norman Foster. Manchester's new buildings stand level with the Gherkin in London, symbolising Manchester's resurgence. It feels it can now look the capital in the eye.

14) London Gherkin building
My photos of London's 'Gherkin' are among my most requested London images. It's a symbol of modern architecture as well as the City of London as was designed by Sir Norman Foster, who was born in Reddish, Stockport and studied architecture at Manchester University.

15) Berlin Brandenburg Gate
Next to the Gherkin is the Brandenburg Gate, once a symbol of division, now a symbol of the unity of Berlin and Germany. German is my first foreign language and I lived in Berlin from 1979-80 at the height of the Cold War. The (East) Berlin TV Tower rises up on the right. Palm trees adorn the Gate, making it look as if transplated to the Middle East, but they belong to the Abu Dhabi image, next.

16) UK and German flags
At the foot of the collage are the Union Flag and German flag, symbol of my role as an intermediary between the United Kingdom and Germany through language teaching and cultural exchange. Still there remains a historical tension between the UK and Germany. I am a link between the two and one of only a small number of English speakers with high level competency in German.

17) Abu Dhabi Etisalat Building
Next to the Brandenburg Gate is the Abu Dhabi Etisalat or Telecoms building with its distinctive golf ball. I taught English in Abu Dhabi, UAE from 1992 to 1996. In previous banners I used the Burj Al Arab hotel Dubai, but I have since become disillusioned with Dubai and decided to remove it. This photo of the Etisalat building was taken in 1992 using my Hasselblad 500C camera.

18) Manila City Hall
By marriage I am associated with Manila and the Philippines which I have visited several times. Manila City Hall is located next to Intramuros, the historic centre of Manila and is a symbol of the Philippines capital. It's an imposing piece of modern, art deco style architecture.

19) Philippines and Japan flags I have included the Philippines flag and placed it next to the Japanese flag. Here there are many historical tensions here, but as with my other flag combinations, I stand for international reconciliation and co-operation.

20) Tokyo Tower
Tokyo Tower is a symbol of Tokyo and Japan. It was built in 1958 year of my birth. I admire the culture and technological achievements of Japan as well as its traditional art and architecture. For me Japan is a kind of 'Germany of the East'. I have visited Japan twice and learned some Japanese language and script.

21) The Moon against a black sky
My article 'How to photograph the Moon' is one of my most popular tutorials. The moon is also a symbol of space travel, exploration, romance and many other things. As a child I was profoundly affected by seeing the moon landings on TV.

So that's the story of my banner. Why not try making one yourself? I will write a tutorial on how I made the banner, to go online soon.

Written by Aidan O'Rourke
Posted/Updated 2010-01-08

Aidan O'RourkeAidan O'Rourke has been active in photography and online media since 1995. He has documented the development of the local area in his Eyewitness website (1997-2005) and as a contributor to books, publications and the Manchester Evening News. He runs his Eyewitness photography walks in Manchester, Liverpool and other locations. He offers one-to-one tuition in Photography and Languages. He is a high-level speaker of German and can offer photography walks and tours through the medium of German. Visit www.aidan.co.uk

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