Classical Contrasts 18 – Domitian

This gallery contains 3 photos.

Domitian was Roman emperor from 81 to 96. He was the son of Vespasian and the younger brother of Titus, his two predecessors on the throne, and the last member of the Flavian dynasty. During his reign, the authoritarian nature … Continue reading

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Shutter Hub – Poetry

News from Shutter Hub; and an invitation to submit photographs.

Venice 2008

‘We’re really excited to let you know that we are launching Shutter Hub Editions in 2021, our new publishing house. Shutter Hub Editions will be creating a collection of beautiful printed publications, featuring themed and solo books for people who love photography to collect. We’d like to invite you to be a part of our first edition, which we want to fill with your images around the theme of poetry.’

Tate Britain 2019

‘While we’re not asking for actual written poems, we’d like you to think about things you see that are comparable to poems – images that express your feelings and ideas. We’ve all had so much to process, adapt to and take action on in recent months – we’d like this to be an opportunity for you to concentrate on work that gives you some respite, salve for your eyes and mind. We want to bring photographers together in print to present a publication that people can hold in their hands and spend time delving into for a moment of calm escapism.’

The Olympian Courtship 2020

‘We want to explore poetry in all its connotations and bring them together in beautiful printed pages. What does poetry mean to you? … 100 images will be selected for inclusion in the book. You can enter single images or a short series of images, up to 6 images can be entered per photographer.’

I’ve submitted four pictures.  I’ve explained my approach as follows:

Apollino 2020

Poetry and photography both have the magical ability to stir our imaginations and emotions through form, rhythm, imagery and allegory.  Words and light create worlds that take our minds to new places beyond the everyday, enable us to see, not to merely look.  My photographs explore the essence of the poetic voice and its subjects.  Venice 2008 and Tate Britain 2019 capture the idea of rhythm, through the movement of figures in space, and a sense of mystery, otherness, through the anonymity of those figures.  Apollino 2020 and The Olympian Courtship 2020 embody the themes of love, beauty and innocence and honour our debt to the poetry of the classical world.

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Classical Contrasts 17 – Dionysus

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Dionysus (Greek) or Bacchus (Roman) god of agriculture, wine and fertility, also ritual madness and religious ecstasy.  Depicted as a mature bearded figure or later youthful and beardless His plants were vines and twirling ivy.  Son of Zeus and Semele … Continue reading

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Classical Contrasts 16 – Diana the Huntress

This gallery contains 4 photos.

Diana (Roman) or Artemis (Greek) was the goddess of hunting, and variously of the moon, chastity, fertility and Nature. Cypress trees were sacred to her. Daughter of Zeus and Leto. Figure: Diana the Huntress (Diana of Versailles), French, c. 1801-25, … Continue reading

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Classical Contrasts 15 – Diana

This gallery contains 4 photos.

Diana (Roman) or Artemis (Greek) was the goddess of hunting, and variously of the moon, chastity, fertility and Nature. Cypress trees were sacred to her. Daughter of Zeus and Leto. Figure: Diana, John Cheere, c. 1755, lead; origin Copped Hall, … Continue reading

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Shutter Hub – Postcards from Great Britain

Further to posts on 28/11/19, 14/2/20, 15/3/20 and 18/6/20, I’ve submitted five more photographs to Shutter Hub’s Postcards From Great Britain project – today is the final deadline for entries. This set covers Fen landscape, which I’ve explained as follows:

Bottisham Lock, Cambridgeshire, 2016

Flat and boring.  That’s how the Cambridgeshire Fens are usually seen.  I disagree.  I’m fascinated by the fen landscape, its feeling of space, its graphic qualities and its sense on being on loan until the waters return.  The embanked rivers, some winding, some arrow straight, keep the flood at bay; the Ouse Washes are a preview of a possible future.  The empty winter fields lend emphasis to the space.  The few vertical features draw the eye upwards, it is skyscape, sometimes dramatic, sometimes subtle, as much as landscape.  Pylons, trees and buildings take on a special sculptural beauty.  It’s an empty land of silence and solitude.

Chear Fen, Streatham, Cambridgeshire, 2017
Horninghsea, Cambrdgeshire, 2017
The Lazy Otter, Streatham, Cambridgeshire, 2017
Ouse Washes, Purl’s Bridge, Cambridgeshire, 2011
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The Shutter Hub OPEN 20/21

Avignon, France, 2011

The Shutter Hub OPEN 20/21 is still on schedule to open in July and August 2021 at Gallery 5&33 and Art’otel Amsterdam.   The plan is to have 175 Newspaper Club prints filling the walls.  The exhibiting photographers will be announced on the Hub’s website in the New Year.  I’m pleased to say that two of my pictures have been accepted.  Both come from my Take a Seat – Take a Moment book project.

Aldeburgh, Suffolk, 2009
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SAD Light Reflections, Bullfinch Way, winter 2020

No sun — no moon! / No morn — no noon —  / No dawn — no dusk — no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease, / No comfortable feel in any member — / No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees, / No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! — / November!

Thomas Hood

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U3A Cambridge 2020-21 Photography: The Telling Image 5

Following on from my earlier posts, here are the comments and my responses on issues raised by Module 5, which looked at ambiguity and veracity in photography.

TB:  I think you sum up the ambiguity/veracity debate precisely in simply one word: continuum. I believe that images can move in different directions along the continuum, depending on what we know about contexts and intentions, though, perhaps unhelpfully we seem to be conditioned to believe what we “see” in a fairly literal way. A bit like the individual people we meet, some photos/photographers try to tell the truth most of the time while others have a more flexible relationship with veracity. We just need to be alert on first meeting them.

On this topic, I find the picture below fascinating. Firstly, it is a true representation of an event that took place and was photographed by many other photojournalists in slimiest ways. Once you know that Thatcher is speaking in front of the Tory strap line of the moment “Forward Together”, it becomes clear that the image is also a distortion achieved through careful framing and cropping. However, you could also say it is revealing a deeper truth in its portrait of the Prime Minister. So it slides back and forth along the continuum, or perhaps exists in several different places at the same time.

BH:  We do indeed need to be alert to the risk of believing what we want to believe and/or being naive about the motives of others. It’s sad always to be doubting, but healthy always to ask questions. I guess we all need to try find people and sources we can trust.  Maybe we should all read How to Make the World Add Up by Tim Harford, to help us evaluate the claims that surround us with confidence, curiosity and a healthy level of scepticism.

It’s a fascinating photograph, Tim. A classic example of manipulation that might mislead, yet in this particular case reveals a deeper truth – ask the miners and as you said, the Argentines!

GM:  You left the most contentious to last!

It is sometimes the case that a photograph is worth less than a few words when seeking understanding. For instance it’s sometimes impossible to determine whether Gill is laughing or crying in an image or whether Jack is smiling or pretending to smile at request.  Probably it doesn’t matter most of the time as we’ll see what we expect to see or want to see.

Also it doesn’t matter much whether manipulation has been employed as it’s the final image which is the only one which matters.  Viewers sometimes think that a bit (or a lot) more manipulation could have been used as the image presented is boring or uninteresting. Of course too much digitry-pokery is likely to produce unflattering comments and ridicule! 

I was surprised to read that Cartier-Bresson refused even to crop his images, one of the easiest procedures available then and one which can have a dramatic effect.

BH:  I agree about the benefit of a few words. Artists usually give pictures titles and most photographers rely on captions in some form. These should not tell the viewer what to think, rather they should help the viewer to understand the image and leave him or her to draw their own conclusions. At its best this should help the viewer to see what the artist/photographer saw, not what they want to see.

I think manipulation is fine, provided it is clear what has been done and not hidden because the intention is to deceive. I agree that some efforts in this direction deserve derision.

Cartier-Bresson’s aversion to cropping is interesting. At one level it’s an attempt to show what’s in front of the camera in the most honest way; and because of his obsession with the decisive moment the integrity of the resulting shot is of paramount importance to him. So, one can understand his position. On the other hand, any photograph is a cropping of the scene in front of the photographer and it’s always selective. For my own part, many of my pictures benefit from some modest (honest?) cropping and I don’t feel guilty about doing that.

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Classical Contrasts 14 – Claudius

This gallery contains 3 photos.

Claudius was Roman emperor from AD 41 to 54. Born to Drusus and Antonia Minor at Lugdunum in Roman Gaul, where his father was stationed as a military legate, he was the first Roman emperor to be born outside Italy. … Continue reading

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The Year of Living Safely – David Runnacles

David Runnacles’ new book, The Year of Living Safely, is a major achievement in a year when we have been so constrained. Insightful and illuminating, it draws strength from being focused on a specific period of time, which he has documented in his inimitable way. His aspiration to make his Cambridge street photography into valued historical records comes across strongly, and is particularly pertinent in this strange year, of course.  

David has explained that he found the pictures for this book by revisiting work from the past year. This shows the benefit of looking again at that we have initially discounted: time not only gives us new eyes, we are not blinded by the light of the stars in the first selection.

Some of the pictures in the ‘May 2020 Lockdown’ section are departures, in terms of locations and subjects, from what he has included in previous books – shadows, still lives, buildings, surreal juxtapositions and incidental details. I hope he will pursue these avenues in future.

The June to September pictures show once again his eye for seeing into and capturing the passing street parade with its rich incidents. There is comfort is seeing people going about, getting on with and enjoying life in these troubled times. The sun helps by giving him the light that is so much part of his photographic voice, and the reflections too, of course. The cover photograph is well chosen – it embodies ‘living’ and ‘safely’.

Among my favourites are pictures of cows mingling with the crowds on Laundress Green, not because they are rather charming (which they are), but because of what they say on a number of levels. First, they show something that may be unique to Cambridge. Second, they represent the survival of the historical tradition of grazing cattle on commons. Third, it is rare for people to get so close to cattle these days. Fourth, people are not only close to them, they are comfortable with them, a strange relationship with what might be tomorrow’s Sunday roast

There are other moments that give one pause for thought. What’s the story behind ‘Non binary siblings’ and the scene of carefully laid (or discarded) flowers on the pavement? And despite the sense of enjoyment some pictures may also be interpreted as reckless behaviour in Covid 19 times. So many things to digest enjoy over the coming weeks. And all beautifully designed and printed (by Mimeo).

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Fenscape Cottenham

Heavy rain as I was leaving for Cottenham yesterday. I should say, ‘More heavy rain’, as we seem to have it every day. The ground is sodden and wherever we walk the paths are muddy. More record breaking rain in what is supposed to be one of the driest parts of the country? Then it was blue skies and sunshine. First one thing than another – a bit like Covid 19 advice.

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Classical Contrasts 13 Bacchic Putto

This gallery contains 4 photos.

Figure: Bacchic Putto with Goat, French School, c. 1850–1925; origin unknown.

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U3A Cambridge 2020-21 Photography: The Telling Image 4 – Art and Photography Quiz

No title, Andy Goldsworthy, c. 1980s

As part  of module 4 we set the class a challenge to look at the examples of work by 30 living photographers/artists using photography and decide whether they considered them to be ‘art’,  ‘not art’ or ‘don’t know’.   The  thirty works were by: Don McCullin, David Hockney, Daido Moriyama, David Bailey, Herlinde Koelbl, Joel-Peter Witkin, Harry Gruyaert, Graciela Iturbide, Sebastiao Salgado, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Sally Mann, Art Wolfe, Nan Goldin, Cindy Sherman, Andy Goldsworthy, Hendrik Kertstens, Paul Hart, Gregory Crewdson, Sarah Lucas, Tacita Dean, David Yarrow, Olafur Eliasson, Jimmy Nelson, Rinko Kawauchi, Hellene van Meene, Viviane Sassen, Aida Muluneh, Mahtab Hussain, Oliver and Daughters and  Thomas Peschak.

Joel-Peter-Witkin, Harvest, Philadelphia, From Songs or Experience, 1984

Twelve people from the class of 27 sent in replies rating the pictures. Of the 360 views expressed: 51% saw the pictures as ‘art’; 34% rated them as ‘not art’; and 15% said ‘don’t know’.  Most people had mixed opinions: one person rated all the pictures as art; and one person didn’t see any of them as art. The highest score for any picture, Andy Goldsworthy, was 11.  The top rated six pictures in order were by: Andy Goldworthy, David Hockney, Joel-Peter Witkin, Art Wolfe, Don McCullin and Sebastiao Salgado. Joel-Peter Witkin’s picture was the only one to score zero ‘not art’ votes.

The joint highest scores for ‘not art’, 9 votes, went to Nan Goldin and Herlinde Koelbl.  The top (or bottom) six pictures were by Nan Goldin, Herlinde Koelbl, Olaf Eliasson, Paul Hart, Graciela Iturbide and Diado Moriyama.  For ‘don’t know’, scores ranged between zero for five pictures, e.g. Hendrik Kertstens, and 4 for Mahtab Hussain.  The closest to an even split between ‘art’, ‘not art’ and ‘don’t know’ was Viviane Sassen with 4/5/3.

Nan Goldin, Nan one month after being battered 1984

I don’t know that we can conclude a lot from this exercise.  We were aware that asking people to judge just one image is rather unfair; and suspected that the pictures least likely to be seen as ‘art’ are those that suffer from being shown out of the context of a wider body of work.  Marcel Duchamp held the view that a work may be made, but it only becomes art when it is viewed, the viewer makes it art. In these terms it might be argued that the responses to the 30 images will reflect what the viewers have chosen to make art, not what is art by any objective criteria (if such things exist).

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Covid Queue

Cherry Hinton Road, Cambridge, December 2020

Today – waiting for the post of Christmas present.

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