Archive for September 2011
I am reading Roland Barthes ‘Camera Lucida’ at the moment, although I think I might need to re-read it as soon as I reach the last page at this rate. My rusty little brain is not coping so well with its intellectual depth.
He describes the way we engage with photographs in a very interesting way. How one person might look at a photograph and enjoy it for a number of different reasons – you might be interested in the historical or cultural context of the picture, what it tells you about people and places either from the past or from the present. It might be an aesthetic interest; compositionally, artistically or intellectually. You might have some or all of these, you might understand and connect with the photographer’s intention, share affinity, empathise, sympathise with it. All these connections that you might make with a picture, that makes it meaningful and/or enjoyable to you.
And this will be the case in nine hundred and ninety-nine photographs.
The one thousandth photograph will be the one that ‘wounds’ you. Punctures you inexplicably. Connects to some visceral part of your being and your reaction to it will be from your core – the desire and the pain – that you do not experience with the other nine hundred and ninety-nine. Whilst you might share a common affinity of understanding and appreciation with all of those, everyone’s experience of the one that wounds is unique.
Made me think two things.
1. Pictures are just like people.
2. I need to take better pictures.
A funny thing happened to me the other day.
I was in a camera shop looking at some very expensive and rather enormous lenses and I found myself looking at one in particular and thinking to myself
“If I ever decide to go looting, I think I’ll get myself that lens there.”
But then I saw the lens in the next cabinet and thought
“Err… no… maybe I’ll get that one there instead.”
And then I found myself thinking
“Hmm… well if I bring a big enough bag when I next go looting, perhaps I’ll just get them both”
And then I decided to have a very strong word with myself.
The Stills Gallery held their monthly Democratic Camera Club last Thursday. I find this event very inspiring, as you are asked to respond to a brief each month around a different subject. It’s often a subject you might not otherwise think of exploring, intellectually, creatively or otherwise, and it’s always interesting to see how others respond to it as well.
The theme this month was ‘conflict’.
My response was to buy two battalions of toy soldiers for £1 from a sweet shop (interesting in itself) and explore various possibilities with them. The black and white formations I did like but probably the most successful pic was where I got the previous Saturday’s centre spread in the Guardian of the victory celebrations in Tripoli and posed the toy soldiers in front of it.
I guess my point was really about how, often, we are fed a simplicity of imagery around easily consumable themes of war and conflict – of the heros and villians, the victors and the victims, the right and the wrong, good and bad – and somewhere within these neat, monochrome opposites, a greater truth about the abject horror and depravity of war is hidden.
If people percieve conflict in two-dimensions then it’s easier to manipulate them, maybe. Easier for George Bush to use language like ‘You’re either with us or against us’ or worse ‘You’re either with us or you’re with the terrorists’.
But the complexity of a three-dimensional world might be too anarchic a space for someone who cited ‘The very hungry caterpillar’ as one of his favourite books (bear in mind he was 22 when it was written).
Funny how the subject of conflict always leads to a bit of GW bashing!
Stephen Fry, the serial tweeter, regularly posts with wit and warmth about various aspects of his frenetic, globetrotting, and glamorous life. Then one Saturday morning he draws his ever-spinning world to a sudden standstill with the tweet:
“This morning I feel profoundly sad.”
I am not generally one to blog about my own low points; you can probably identify them by the periodic silences that punctuate this site, but a prolonged period of seemingly intractable insomnia has taken its toll now so I’m about to break my own rules and share more than I should with you.
First confession. I cried most of the way through the film ‘One Day’. I have no perspective on whether that film is any good at all, but familiarity and affection with the book made me treat it with no impartiality at all. I even thought Anne Hathaway’s English accent was brilliant (apart from the occasional flat vowel sound that I think was meant to indicate Northern roots). According to one scathing review, this makes me a ‘Grazia reader’ so perhaps I better start buying this magazine!
Second confession. I cried at the end of The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. A friend leant me one of her other books, “Great House”, which was probably one of the best books I’ve read this year so I wanted to read her other. Both books are exquisitely written, beautifully observed, witty and profound. But both also have such a strong sense of loss and melancholy running through them that I felt so deeply bereft at the end I wanted to curl up and cry for a week.
Third confession. I cried in the dark silence of the night twice in the last few days. Hours of interminable tossing and turning, frustration and deprivation taking its toll on my sanity and sense of perspective.
Sometimes just crying is the thing you need, isn’t it?
That and temazepam!
Finally. as a footnote, I liberated myself from Facebook this week. A salute to the misanthropic.
The usual author of this blog should be back soon.