Fen Landscape 38

Wicken Fen, March 2020

View across Verrall’s Fen and Sedge Fen, Wicken Fen, on the 8th March. Konik ponies grazing against a backdrop of silver birch in the distance.

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Mother…, Studio Morison, Wicken Fen, March 2020

‘MOTHER… is new artwork by artists Heather Peak and Ivan Morison (of Studio Morison) that has been commissioned by Cambridgeshire based Wysing Arts Centre as part of the region-wide arts commissioning programme, New Geographies. New Geographies aims to bring contemporary art to unexpected places in the East of England.’

Mother…, interior, Studio Morison, Wicken Fen, March 2020

‘MOTHER… is a sculptural structure, a pavilion, that creates a new space in which you can contemplate nature and read or write within. It is inspired by writer Richard Mabey’s book ‘Nature Cure’, in which he recovers from severe depression through walking, watching and writing about the Eastern region’s beautiful and unexplored landscapes, and Heather’s childhood memories of visiting the landscapes of the Fens and the Wash. Ivan Morison explains why they chose to title their work MOTHER…’

“The ellipsis after MOTHER… suggests the omission of a second word to be added by the viewer: MOTHER EARTH connects to ideas of the natural world, its supporting qualities, but also our own responsibilities and personal connections to it; MOTHER LAND connects us to the place we belong, within this landscape, within a community, within a country. These are important and powerful ideas by which we define our identities; MOTHER SHIP makes us think of the sculpture as a vessel that might take us places – this could be on an imaginary journey around the solar system; or it could be a journey connecting the past with an imagined future” Ivan Morrison, artist. Text from www.nationaltrust.org.uk/wicken-fen-nature-reserve/features/mother–at-wicken-fen-by-studio-morison

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Take a Seat Take a Moment 29

Cafe Nero, Market Street, Cambridge, March 2020
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Hills Road, Cambridge, March 2020
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March Rain

This gallery contains 5 photos.

Last month was the wettest February on record. Is march going to be any better? Photos from No. 3 bus today.

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‘Exposures’ St Matthews Photo Workshop 1979

Rummaging through boxes of old prints I came across this flier for ‘Exposures’ yesterday.  ‘Exposures’ was the first exhibition by the St Matthews Photo Workshop in Cambridge.  It showed 80 photographs by named photographers – Paul Christie, Roy Hammans, Liz Mew, Roy Pedley, Howard Rice and myself – and three by St Matthews residents.  The aim was to present ‘a selective and personal view’ of the area; and ‘show what the Workshop is trying to achieve’.  I wonder where the other photographers are now – I still see Roy Hammans, but have lost touch with the rest.  Go to  https://the-golden-fleece.co.uk/wp/cambridge-darkroom for more about the Workshop and its ambitious successor, The Cambridge Darkroom.

Boxing, Howard Mallet Club, Cambridge, November 1976

I contributed six prints: one of boxing at the local Howard Mallet Club (not necessarily the one shown here, I can’t recall which it was); and five architectural views of pubs.

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Film Ends 1

North Fen, Cottenham, 200222
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Take a Seat – Take a Moment 28

Manchu ladies at a meal table, John Thomson. Peking, China, 1869. (Wellcome Collection)

In my post of 11th February I wanted to provide a context for my Take a Seat pictures by looking at how the subject was treated in western painting.  I have now tried to broaden the context by looking at how photography deals with the same subject through consideration of 425 photographs from seven published sources.

Italian job the Lusettis in Luzzara, Italy, Paul Strand, 1953

Portraits and otherwise posed pictures of individuals are the largest single category and appear to represent a greater proportion than in painting.  Leaving these aside, the broad categories that emerge are consistent overall with those found in painting.  The eight subjects most favoured by photographers are in order:  individuals resting, relaxing, thinking or sleeping; groups of two or more people interacting (including a subset of romantic exchanges); individuals driving or riding; individuals or groups eating and drinking; static group portraits; people contemplating a view or work of art; figures nursing or caring for a child; and people reading.

Scarborough, Tony Ray Jones 1967

With a few 19th century exceptions, photography ignores religious, historical and academic subjects and is concerned with what is happening in front of the camera now.  It is the logical development of earlier genre painting and proceeds in parallel for a while with the work of those artist who were painting modern life.

Within the shared categories there are qualitative differences.  Overall the photographed subjects are seen as more dynamic, more natural and spontaneous than in paining, as would be expected from the nature of the two media.  Maternity or nursing figures still occour, but much less frequently and when they do they are secular, not religious.  ‘Riders’ are if anything more common in painting, but they are much more likely to be in a motor vehicle or on public transport than on a horse.  Within the resting category people are more likely to be seen fully asleep.

L C Dorsey, civil rights worker, Mississippi, Doris Derby, 1968

One thing that anthologies and histories of photography do not yet show are figures fixated on their laptops and mobile phones. It’s only a matter of time…

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Fen Landscape 37

Cloudscapes from North Fen, Cottenham, yesterday.

North Fen, Cottenham, 200223-3
North Fen, Cottenham, 200223-4
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Royal Photography

The final part of Art, Passion & Power: The Story of the Royal Collection (the always-watchable Andrew Graham-Dixon on the BBC) looked at ‘Modern Time’, from the late 19th Century to today.  Photography featured twice.

Princess Alexandra, carrying her daughter Louise on her back, W. & D. Downey, 1867 (Getty Images)

First, Princess Alexandra (1844-1925).  The Royal Collection Trust records: ‘Alexandra, Princess of Wales, later Queen Alexandra, initially engaged with photography through compiling photographic albums and producing collages consisting of professional photographic prints layered over her own watercolour paintings. Princess Alexandra later adapted her artistic talents to taking photographs, capturing daily events, family, friends, pets and notable occasions with her Kodak cameras. Her photographs were published and shown in various exhibitions, including the 1904 Grand Kodak Exhibition.’   A remarkable photograph shows the Princess giving her daughter a piggyback ride, a degree of human informality rarely ever seen in the Royal Family.

Queen Elizabeth II, Dorothy Wilding, 1952

Second, Dorothy Wilding (1893-1976).  Wilding, who began her photographic career as an apprentice to Marian Neilson, was the first woman to be appointed as the Official Royal Photographer for the 1937 Coronation.  She is best known for her bright high key portraits. The first stamps issued with Queen Elizabeth II’s portrait are known as Wilding philatelic series after the photographer.  Wilding stamps were used until 1967, which must make her photographs the most widely reproduced ever.

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Take a Seat – Take a Moment 29

No. 3 Bus, Cambridge, February 2020
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German Photography

Winding Towers, Bernd and Hilla Becher, 1966-97

Watched the third part of Andrew Graham-Dixon’s excellent BBC 4 Art of Germany series yesterday.  ‘In the Shadow of Hitler’ explored the photography of August Sander and Bernd and Hilla Becher – who knew that French, German and British winding towers reflected national characters. 

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Post Cards From Great Britain 2

King’s College Chapel from Senate House Hill, Cambridge, 2018

Further to my post of 14th February, the four photographs shown (London, Brighton and Broadstairs) were selected for the exhibition, plus this one of Cambridge.

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Take a Seat – Take a Moment 28

Grand Arcade, Cambridge, February 2020
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Take a Seat – Take a Moment 27

Hampstead Heath, London, May 2015

Depictions of seated figures in their many guises in diverse public or semi-public situations give the characters varying degrees of dominance.  Individual small figures may be part of a wider landscape or setting; small figures may be part of a bigger social gathering.  Interactions between two or three people may occupy a frame; and pictures of lone individuals may fill the frame without being formal portraits.

Royal Academy, London September 2015

Generally, the larger the figure the more the surroundings and context are obscured and are become incidental, though details may take on symbolic importance.  In the case of small figures there is a tension between them and the setting.  Does the expanse of the setting dominate the figure, which does little more than provide a sense of scale, a reference against which to evaluate the context?  Or are they complementary, with the understanding of both enhanced by the juxtaposition?

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