The Dig – Merci Lack

Mercie Lack at Sutton Hoo, Barbara Wagstaff, 1939

Watching The Dig on Netflix was a good way to spend a bitter Saturday afternoon: a fascinating story told through a well-made, well-acted film, albeit with a heavy seasoning of fiction and romance.  Both fiction and romance (and some drama) take centre screen in the character of Rory Lomax (Johnny Flynn) who arrives to photograph the excavation with his Rolleiflex and becomes the love interest for Peggy Preston (a real person (Lily James)).

Mercie Lack – Late Extra, Charring Cross Underground, London, 1930s

The real story of photographing the dig is more interesting, but a bit less Hollywood.  Mercie Lack and Barbara Wagstaff were on holiday in Suffolk in 1939 when the Sutton Hoo ship was being uncovered. Though they arrived after the treasures had been removed they photographed the excavation of the ship itself.  They used Leicas and Agfa colour slide film – the photographs show one of the first archaeological digs in Britain to be captured in colour.

Mercie Lack – The Embankment at Chelsea, London, 1930s

Wikipedia reports on the women as follows.‘Mercie Lack was born in south London on 9 November 1894.  She is widely reported as a teacher in press coverage of her photography at Sutton Hoo. Lack and Barbara Wagstaff both joined the Royal Photographic Society in 1944 and gained their Associate the same year. They are reported as amongst the teaching staff of Putney High School 1935-6, which would fit with Lack’s London photography series of the 1930s.  She became a life member [of the RPS] in 1949. She died in Stevenage in 1985.’ Little seems to be known about Barbara Wagstaff.  I think there is a real story here that might have been more interesting than the fiction – and not just for those who know the difference between a Leica and a Rollei.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

U3AC Photography – The Telling Image

So, the course I ran on-line in the autumn seems to have been well-received.  Of the 30% of attendees who bothered to give formal feedback the majority thought it was excellent or good against a range of criteria, giving an overall approval rating of 88%.  Comments included: a recognition that it is ‘extremely hard to deliver this type of lecture by presentation alone’; and appreciation of my on-line feedback on issued raised.  Nobody suggested alternative content. Useful lessons were: the need to present the pictures as bigger images in the PDFs; and reviewing the choice of the bold typeface.

Would I do it again?  I’m not sure.  Maybe other aspects of photography.

Posted in U3AC Photography Courses | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Walking 9

‘Few of us see through the shining riddle of the street…’

Posted in Cambridge, Film, Walking | Tagged | Leave a comment

Classical Contrasts 23 – Hercules

This gallery contains 4 photos.

The Roman equivalent of the Greek divine hero Heracles, son of Jupiter and the mortal Alcmene. In classical mythology, Hercules is famous for his strength and for his 12 labours and numerous far-ranging adventures, such as fighting the giant Antaeus. … Continue reading

More Galleries | Leave a comment

Walking 8

‘…a culture that does not walk is bad for women.’

Posted in Cambridge, Film, Walking | Tagged | Leave a comment

Classical Contrasts 22 – Caryatids

This gallery contains 4 photos.

A caryatid is a sculpted female figure used as an architectural support; she takes the place of a column with an entablature resting on her head. The Greek term karyatides means “maidens of Karyai”, an ancient town in the Peloponnese. … Continue reading

More Galleries | Leave a comment

Walking 7

‘Streets are the dwelling place of the collective.’ 

Posted in Cambridge, Film, Walking | Tagged | Leave a comment

Walking 6

‘…how easy it is for the flaneur to depart from the ideal of the philosopher out for a stroll, and to assume the features of the werewolf at large in the social jungle.’

Posted in Cambridge, Film, Walking | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Fen Landscape – Rampton 2

Belsars Filed, Rampton, February 2021

Forty minutes sitting in the car on Cow Lane, Rampton, yesterday waiting for the rain to stop drumming on the roof.  The clearing sky over Cottenham crept towards us with patience-testing slowness.  The eventual rewards: a good walk, a spectacular rainbow, dramatic skies, and skylark and song thrush singing as if spring is here. (Phone photo)

Posted in Fen Landscape | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Classical Contrasts 21 Apollo and Bacchus

Apollo Belvedere, Anglesey Abbey

Apollo and Bacchus are wrapped in green, not for Mrs Grundylike reasons of propriety, but to protect their delicate parts from the frost and snow.  Along with the other stone members of Anglesey Abbey’s pantheon, far from the mild Mediterranean, they hibernate through the winter.  Even a cursory inspection at other times of the year shows how much the figures have already suffered from the Fen-edge weather and how necessary winter covering is.  Their hardier fellows in lead, bronze, resin and Coad stone still bare their breasts and buttocks to the elements.

Bacchus with panther, Anglesey Abbey

Where do these lumpen forms fit within my project to celebrate the classical figures in two very different settings: the Anglesey Abbey gardens open to the weather and the layering of nature’s patina; and a well-lit, clean, temperature controlled gallery at the Museum of Classical Archaeology (see Classical Contrasts 1)?  They must be part of it.  The cracks, raindrops, leaves, insects and spiders webs borne by the Abbey’s figures help to define their difference from life in the museum.  The green shrouds are the ultimate expression of this.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Walking 5

‘…the street, the site where private and public experiences intersect…’

Posted in Cambridge, Film, Walking | Tagged | Leave a comment

Walking 4

‘…to notice the unexpected beauty of the quotidian…’

Walking quotes come from three main sources: Wanderlust – A History of Walking, Rebecca Solnit (2001), Flaneuse, Lauren Elkin (2016) and The Walker – On Finding and Losing Yourself in the Modern City, Matthew Beaumont (2020).

Posted in Cambridge, Film, Walking | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Shutter Hub – Postcards from Europe

Shutter Hub is inviting submissions for a new exhibition.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Athens, 2019

‘Postcards from Europe is a call for response and collaboration, triggered by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and reflecting on Postcards from Great Britain, our most ambitious project to date, which started because we wanted to reach out and connect, and has since become much more.  Postcards from Europe will be exhibited from November – December 2021 in the UK at Cambridge University. We are looking forward to including many hundreds of images from this open call. We want to see things the way you see them, and to share those views with other people.’

Stoa of Attalos, Athens, Greece, 2019

‘This call for entries is open to everyone. In a significant time in history this exhibition sets out to share aspects of European culture, spanning all genres of photography, and collating images which include social, political, historical, traditional and observational responses. … we are looking for images made in, and of, those countries that make up the European Union, and the continent of Europe (but not of Great Britain).’

‘We’re very grateful to have the support of FujiFilm Original Photo Paper and Cambridge University’s Art at the ARB, without whom none of this would be possible.  Currently there are no entry fees for Postcards from Europe, we’re asking you to ‘pay what you can’. ‘… Enter as many images as you like, whenever, and as often as you like. There are no added printing or delivery fees, … we’ll print, promote, deliver and install everything for you.  Final entries close: 5pm GMT 25 June 2021.

Delphi, Greece, 2019

I’ve submitted these four pictures with this supporting statement.  ‘Greece probably might seem like an obvious place to start exploring European culture, but that doesn’t make it any less relevant or timely.  If anything, the way that it can stand for the depth of the shared European experience provides multiple lessons for us at the present challenging time.  The photographs reference the collective culture and history of conflict, art, architecture, religion and philosophy.’

Posted in Street Photography, Take a Seat, Travels | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Walking 3

‘You are not alone.  You walk in the city side by side with the living and the dead.’ 

Posted in Cambridge, Film, Street Photography, Walking | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Classical Contrasts 20 – Genius of Eternal Repose

This gallery contains 5 photos.

Pasithea, in Greek mythology one of the Charites (Graces), and the personification of relaxation, meditation, hallucinations and all other altered states of consciousness. Daughter of Zeus. Figure: The Genius of Eternal Repose, after Ferdinand Barbedienne, 1993, resin; origin unknown (original … Continue reading

More Galleries | Leave a comment