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
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
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
‘…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
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
Is this propeller blade bolted to the deck of the Queen Mary 2 a sculpture or a spare handy for some transatlantic emergency? It’s definitely sculptural and has a clean formal beauty, but can a piece of pure engineering be considered art? Well, Marcel Duchamp certainly thought so; and this propeller embodies more symbolic meaning than much of the off-the peg public art dropped on buildings and spaces in doomed attempts to make up for their aesthetic and emotional short comings. As a spare it might be comforting to the nervous passenger suffering Titanic anxiety – provided they don’t give too much thought to just how you change a propeller.
Photo: Propeller blade, QM2, December 2011
A herma or herm, is a sculpture with a head, and sometimes a torso, above a plain, usually squared lower section, on which male genitals may be carved – the Anglesey Abbey example is decorously decked with foliage. The form originated in ancient Greece and is connected with the cult of Hermes, the fertility god, whose bearded head surmounts the column. The statues, thought to ward off harm or evil, were placed at crossings and entrance places. Now a formal sculpture, the herm derives from the heaps of stones, or a shapeless columns of stone or wood, by the sides of roads that were the focus for the earliest worship of Greek divinities.
Photo: 18th century stone herm, Warriors’ Walk, Anglesey Abbey, September 2018
When I saw these water lilies growing in the corner of the lake at Quy Fen I was reminded at once of Peter Henry Emerson’s Gathering Water-Lilies (1868). Originally issued as a limited-edition photogravure print, the photograph of a man and a woman in a rowboat was subsequently published in Emerson’s first book, Life and Landscape on the Norfolk Broads. Emerson, an advocate of naturalism in photography preferred to present his work in books or albums, with text to accompany the image. In 1889 Emerson published Naturalistic Photography for Students of the Art, in which he explained his philosophy of art and straightforward photography, making the case that truthful and realistic photographs should replace contrived work by the likes of O. G. Reijlander and H. P. Robinson.
Photo: Water lilies, Quy Fen, Cambridgeshire, September 2018
Quy Fen is a wildlife haven and a rare place to find cattle grazing in the Fens – income from the grazing is shared by the neighbouring villages. In earlier times villagers had the right to cut hay or pea sticks on the land. A lonely memorial stone records: ‘Time how short. In memory of William Ison who was on this spot killed by lightening 28th August 1873 aged 29’. Apparently he was making hay; it’s to be hoped that it was not metaphorical hay. Globally the chances of being killed by a lightning strike are 300,000 to one. The odds are 66 times longer in the UK, but still shorter than winning the Lottery.
Photo: William Ison memorial, Quy Fen, Cambridgeshire, September 2018
Annina Frances Human, 24th April 1947 – 31st August 1971
Saturday 25th August 2018. This morning walked along Cottenham Lode from Cottenham to Rampton, between Little North Fen and Great North Fen. Sunny and breezy; candyfloss cumulous clouds over fields of russet linseed and bleached blond barely-harvestable barley. At Rampton peace and quiet in All Saints church, the patina of the stone, plaster and wood soaked in the joys and sorrows of fifty generations. Outside, restless swallows twittered and a hobby skimmed over the oaks.
Photo: Great North Fen, Cottenham, August 2018
David Hurn and Bill Jay argue that time is embodied in one of the fundamental principles of photography: ‘The exposure is made, and the image is frozen in time, at exactly the right moment’ (Looking at Photographs, 2000). Time is critical in most photographs and its influences have shaped the medium from its very beginnings, from that era when exposures were long and there was no such thing as an instantaneous image. Since then photographers have come to delight in ‘freezing thin slices of time’, perhaps reaching its apogee in the work of Cartier Bresson and the ‘decisive moment’. Catching a subject at precisely the right moment is one of the essential differences between a snapshot and a fine picture, Hurn and Jay claim.
Photo: Clock, QM3, December 2011
22nd August, trip to RSPB Snettisham with J. Overcast to start with, brightening later, mild and breezy. Low tides had left the estuarine mud to be baked into a reticulated tawny shore by endless days of sun. A rare chance to explore the creeks and pools and get close up to the cracked and rusting remains of the jetty left over from gravel extraction. Samphire, sea lavender and sea purslane fringed the tideline; small parties of geese honked and cackled overhead; egrets, tiny flecks of white, fed out on the muddier creeks. Time and tide turned slowly….
Photos: 1-5 Snettisham, Norfolk, August 2016
‘A couple must pay more than £1,100 in fines and costs after letting a Grade-II listed building fall into a dangerous state of disrepair. …. Franco Basso and Katherine Fleming failed to carry out essential repairs on the dilapidated 17th century gothic house on Cottenham High Street. …. Crumbling masonry and broken glass were posing a risk to the public, chimney stacks were left damaged and vegetation on the roof was uncleared. …. South Cambridgeshire District Council had warned the couple to take action, but after no remedial work was carried out took them to court. …. At a hearing at Cambridge Magistrates’ Court on August 9, Franco Basso was fined £440 and must pay £75 costs and a £44 surcharge. Katherine Fleming must pay a £467 fine, £75 costs and a £46 surcharge. …. The owners have since confirmed to council officers that they are making arrangements for the work to be carried out.’ Cambridge Live August 2018
House, probably c.1700 but much altered in early C19 and late in C19 when the facade was remodelled. In the mid C19 the office to the left hand was added.
Photo: Gothic House, High Street Cottenham, July 2018
‘To Ipswich with Roy [Hammans] and Dave [Runnacles]. Street photography nearly got me into trouble. First. A woman took exception to me photographing her on Westgate Street – I didn’t respond and just kept on walking. Second, after taking pictures of the War Memorial in Christchurch Park, I was stopped later in the town centre by two WPCs, who said someone had called in saying that I was photographing them and they were suspicious. My guess is the complaint was from the man sitting with his daughter on the Memorial. The fact that I was well away from the Park by the time I was stopped raises the question of how they found me – picked up and followed on CCTV almost certainly. I showed them the pictures and they seemed happy enough (an unexpected benefit of digital photography?). What if I had stood up for my rights and refused? A lot more complications, almost certainly. There is a case for saying that if I want to intrude on people in public places they have right to challenge what I’m doing; and if they perceive any possible threat the police have a duty to investigate.’ Friday 20th April 2012
This picture shows the Memorial (1924, by E Adams) in its setting. Others were taken much closer and the father and child are recognisable.
Photo: War Memorial, Christchurch Park, Ipswich, April 2012