U3AC Photography Forum 2018-19 1. Introduction

The opening session to set out how the Forum will work.  The overall objective is to ‘improve our individual practice of photography’.  The Forum will be participative, educational and fun.  It is not a camera club, not competitive, nor a ‘how to’ workshop.  Most popular topics for sessions among members are travel, landscape and cityscapes.  Experience in the group of 21 is variable, but cumulatively it amounts to 620 years – 3.5 times the age of photography!  Surprise of the day: striking abstract pictures made by photographing molten and solidified bismuth.  For this term’s programme see www.zimbushboy.org and go to Photo Forum.

Photo: Bismuth crystals

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Vismarkt, Bruges

At one time fish was sold in an open air corner of the Bruges Vismarkt, but local people complained about the smell and in 1821 the fishmongers were moved to a covered arcade.  A colonnade with 126 Tuscan column encloses an open courtyard; it was designed by city architect Jan-Robert Calloigne.  In 1852 the original wooden tables were replaced by sloping stone sales banks, a beautiful and very functional design.  Fresh saltwater fish are still sold there every morning from Wednesday to Saturday.

Photo: Vismarkt, Bruges, March 2012

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World Mental Health Day

Today is World Mental Health Day.  Last weekend, 7th and 8th October, Laura Pearson-Clark exhibited 1000 origami cranes at the Chequer Studio, Ely.  The delicate screen of cranes in flight was her celebration of full recovery from Postnatal Depression.


Laura held a ‘Name the Crane’ fundraising game.  ‘Bovis’ won me a personalised message from Father Christmas.

Photo:  1000 Cranes, Ely, October 2018

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Wallace Collection

In my rambling around London on Wednesday I stumbled on the Wallace Collection at Hertford House, Manchester Square.  It’s a collection of fine and decorative arts from the 15th to the 19th centuries; and part of the rich collection of the works of the ancien régime in the UK, acquired by wealthy families during the revolutionary sales, held after the end of the French Revolution.  Established originally by Richard Seymour-Conway (1800-1870), it was left to the nation by his is illegitimate son Sir Richard Wallace (1818–1890).  Wallace achieved fame during the Siege of Paris for his charitable work – he is estimated to have privately contributed 2.5 million (1870) francs to the needy of Paris.  The collection is characterised by gaudy opulence.

Photo: Bust of African Woman, Italian c. 1650, Wallace Collection, October 2018

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Paddington Street Gardens

There are plenty of good reasons for abandoning the Underground and walking the streets of London, not the least of these is the serendipitous discovery of new places.  Yesterday, I came across Paddington Street Gardens, where at five o’clock childrens’ laughter filled the playground and jaded office works soaked up a little late sun.  The gardens were built in the 18th century as additional burial grounds for St Marylebone Parish Church, and opened as a recreational area in 1886.  Most of the tombstones were removed.  ‘The mausoleum in the south garden was left because if the exceptionally fine design.  It was erected by the Hon. Richard Fitzpatrick to the memory of his wife Susanna who died in 1759 aged 30.’

Photo: Mausoleum, Paddington Street Gardens, London, October 2018

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Monday: a Egglestonesque moment in Balzano’s car park, and reading Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red flashed into my mind

In the novel: ‘Two Europeans (“Franks” to the Turks and, to this day, Farangi to Iranians) stroll through a meadow. As accomplished miniaturists, their work sets out to render both the individualism of the object depicted and the inner truth which issues from the artist’s mind. Theirs is the progressivist story of western art itself, from Duccio to Picasso. The more inward the better, as we stand on predecessors’ shoulders; sensibility shifts according to perspective. This is our version of modernity, with its varying styles of expression in both life and art.’

‘Such painting, says one modernist to the other, means that “if you depicted one of the trees in this forest, a man who looked upon that painting could come here and, if he so desired, correctly select that tree from among the others”. A tree with Ottoman roots relates the conversation and objects: “I don’t want to be a tree, I want to be its meaning.”’Hywel Williams, Guardian 2001

Photo: Cherry Hinton Road, Cambridge, October 2018

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Playing Statues

The idea of statues, inanimate figures, coming to life dates back at least to Pygmalion and his ideal ivory woman brought alive by Aphrodite.  It has been the subject of many interpretations from Pinocchio to Chuckie and The Winter’s Tale and Night at the Museum.  The childhood game of ‘Statues’ does the trick in reverse.  Do these figures have an urge to be animated and push the mooching elderly couple into to water?  Do they come alive at night and frolic sensuously in the pool?  That might be worth watching.  Henry Moore’s figures would not have quite the same erotic charge.

Photo: Musee La Piscine, Roubaix, March 2012

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Yesterday’s meeting about the U3AC Photo Forum was useful in shaping the programme for the coming year.  Whether it will bring anyone nearer to an understanding of William Eggleston remains to be seen.  After the meeting I bought a copy of Photography – The Whole Story (Thames and Hudson 2012).  It argues that Eggleston’s photography ‘is now accepted as one of the defining bodies of work that began the restitution of colour photography from commerce to art.’  By coincidence I was presented with an Egglestonesque subject today on an early morning walk by Great North Fen, Cottenham.

Great North Fen, Cottenham, Cambs, September 2018.

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U3AC Photo Forum 2018-19

Meeting with Tim Ewbank and others this morning to discuss the programme for the Forum in the coming year.  I think my mission is to make the members come to terms with the photography of William Eggleston.

Photo: Swiss Laundry, Cherry Hinton Road, Cambridge, April 2012

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Given a choice, I’d always choose walks that include being by water.   For somewhere to rest and be in the moment, where better to be than by water, whether sea, river, lake or fountain?  Water is essential to physical life.  Religious observances also make it central to a spiritual life:  the water of rivers and magical springs and its use in rituals are central to Buddhist, Christian, Islamic, Judaic and Hindu beliefs and practice.  Neil MacGregor, in Living With the Gods, says, ‘water ‘prepare[s] the body for the activity of the spirit’.  A big responsibility to put on a simple molecule.

Photo: Russell Square, London, March 2012

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Chimping in Russell Square

A group is out photographing in Russell Square.  The previous frame shows them all zooming in on something across the park, now they are ‘chimping’ (not all, two have clocked me turning the tables).  ‘Chimping: What one does after taking a picture with a digital camera and looking at the result. Derived from the words they speak when chimping: “Ooo-oo-oo!”’ (urbandictionary.com). Erickimphotography.com gives ‘10 Reasons Why You Should Never Chimp While Shooting Street Photography’.  There are probably more than ten reasons why you shouldn’t try street photography in a group of nine.

Photo: Russell Square, London, March 2012

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Fen Landscape 36 – Rampton

Today, on the edge of Rampton Wood, the reeds (Phragmites) waving, shimmering and rustling in Cottenham Lode made the gusty wind from the west visible and audible, something alive.  I thought about all those long exposure photographs that turn moving water into mist and wondered if I could do the same with the reeds.  The best my camera (Canon G1X) could manage was 1/10th second at f 16 with ISO 100.  Not surprisingly, the result was unsatisfactory.  Must put ND filters (and sticky tape) on the Christmas list.

Photo: Little North Fen Cottenham, Cambs, September 2018

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Lincoln by Borglum

A Capitol tour guide stands in front of a bust of Abraham Lincoln by Gutzon Borglum.  The son of Danish immigrants, Borglum was born in 1867 in St. Charles, a child of Mormon polygamy. He was active in the committee that organized the New York Armory Show of 1913, the nativity of modern art in America. So far so apparently liberal.  However, Borglum was an active Freemason and, moreover, a member of the Ku Klux Klan.  He was one of the six knights who sat on the Imperial Koncilium in 1923, which transferred leadership of the Klan from Imperial Wizard Colonel Simmons to Imperial Wizard Hiram Evans.  He later disavowed his membership, but correspondence with D. C. Stephenson, the infamous Klan Grand Dragon, during the 1920s reveals a deep racist conviction in Nordic moral superiority and urges strict immigration policies.

Photo: Abraham Lincoln by Gutzon Borglum, Capitol Building, Washington DC, December 2011

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Consolations of Art

‘…it seems to me that only one intangible, religious faith apart, can be relied upon to see us happily through our last years.  It is art, which is infinite in itself, which can be creative or comforting, active or passive, which comes from nowhere, which goes everywhere, which is omniscient, which is laughter and pity and puzzle and beauty, which is equally available all of us, practitioners or recipients, and which can satisfy all our senses while the going is good.’  Jan Morris, ‘Day 33’, In My Mind’s Eye, 2018

Photo: Musee La Piscine, Roubaix, March 2012

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FDR Memorial

When I visited Washington I found the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial the most moving of tributes along the National Mall.  Designed overall by Lawrence Halprin, the sculpture The Rural Couple is by George Segal.  I don’t know what influenced Segal, but for me it’s an image straight out of Walker Evans’ Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.  The inscription on the right reads in full: ‘The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.’ (FDR, Inaugural Address, January 20, 1937).  Plus ca change.

Photo: The Rural Couple, FDR Memorial, Washington DC, December 2011

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