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Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

I am reading a book called “The Theory of Clouds” by Stéphane Audeguy. It is, like much of what I like to read, a mix of fact and fiction and focuses on a history of cloud watching.

A section of the book  tells the story of the painter Carmichael (supposedly based on John Constable) and his obsession with capturing clouds in paint. I had always considered Constable a painter of mills and bucolic settings, but you can see from this google search the extent of his cloud paintings, just a few reproduced here.

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The difficulty of capturing the cloud is discussed at length on “A Theory..” however now the camera captures clouds with more ease, which you see everywhere in photography from Aotearoa.

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Laurence Aberhart. Catholic Cross, Puketapu, Hawke’s Bay, June 1982
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I have recently succumbed to the tyranny of the pedometer. I need to move and get outdoors because the winter gloom of Southern New Zealand affects me quite a lot and sun and exercise helps. Thing thing is…exercise. In my much younger days I climbed and tramped and the thought of “artificial exercise” eg the gym, chills me. I have friends who walk and I am a fan of flâneury on the page at least, see here and here. Related to this, some of my favourite books relate to psychogeography, brilliant examples being Martin Edmonds’  “Chronicle of the Unsung” and “Dark Night: Walking with McCahon“. More recently I discovered WB Sebald whose “Rings of Saturn” which I cannot recommend strongly enough.

So can I walk with purpose in my small town, and is it big enough that I can also wander? Initially I am being guided by the 1970s books “Taieri Buildings” and “More Taieri Buildings” by Lemon and Bascand, and am trying to locate all the buildings still there that are within the build up area. Sadly some, like the old Flour Mill (in this photo just before its demolition), have been reduced to gravel carparks.

Recently on a night walk I managed to circumnavigate, by accident, the grounds of what was Holy Cross College, a former seminary. This photo was taken around 1900 I am guessing, as a new chapel was built in 1902.

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DCC Archives, postcard in Taieri County Council Photograph Series. Photographer: AW Bathgate

And today I took this – from a similar position. You can see a former convent just in front, now a house.

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Poor phone camera photo taken today of same view.

So yes….more to walk and write about. I am also excited to compare urban, rural and small town journeys. In Rebecca Solnit’s “Wanderlust: A History of Walking” she writes “In the country one’s solitude is geographical – one is altogether outside society….In the city, one is alone because the world is made up of strangers, and to be a stranger surrounded by starkest…is among the starkest of luxuries”.

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Seeing is believing

I have had an eventful time. Last week I reluctantly sought help for a persistent visual disturbance through the miracle of a twitter friend who works in the eye department at the hospital to see help immediately. So after a scramble to find someone to look after the children I ended up in ED, diagnosed with a detached retina and had acute surgery* the next day.

My vision the past week, at best, has been something like the first 5-6 seconds of this

Which really makes you appreciate full vision. Also I am not allowed to drive for about a month, and as the only driver in the family that has also presented problems. However travelling by bus, however tedious enables you to NOTICE things. Even if sometimes you notice incorrectly (due to the poor eyesight) e.g. The man I saw walking a very large cat which turned out to be a labradoodle. Taking time and noticing is very good and I have realised that seeing is only part of things even though is stuffed up my plans to go to the local showings of the New Zealand International Film Festival.

An example of seeing &  feeling might be this video that I found on YouTube which completely captured my own recent visit to Seacliff. I think this video – and its only a video – also captures the feel of the place. Its hard to say as I’ve been there several times and it certainly has an atmosphere. Interested to hear if readers get anything from the video.

However, the visual is just out of my reach for now, as is a long term prognosis on my sight.

Now you may go about your business as usual. Someone once said to me that no one  wants to read about YOU, unless you are Steve Braunias.

*Getting eye surgery under a local anaesthetic is… “interesting”

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I have a new job and a major difference from my old job is the lack of a uniform. This is NOT good. I loved my uniform. Not because of what it stood for but a) I suit navy and b) it meant I didn’t have to think about clothes.

I am not a fashionable girl.

In fact in times past when I haven’t had a uniform, I’ve adopted one. e.g. when I was a Mum at home with three small children – T-shirt and jeans. IT person (and cable fairy) jeans and shirts. So I’ve been pondering what sort of pseudo uniform I could have now and this got me thinking about uniform & designers.

Exhibit one: The Air New Zealand Trelise Cooper Uniform. Its ok. I guess it works. I am not a Trelise fan.  In fact I over heard a funny conversation the other day in an op shop.

Manager “What a hideous blouse”

Assistant “But it’s Trelise!”

Manager “I guess its marvellous then”

Much laughter

So sorry but my uniform won’t be Cooper, my needs are more practical, less flouncy. I guess that means Alexander McQueen is out. Now I have to say I liked Mr McQueen’s designs of old because…well…they were artful..but not really for me. But isn’t this lovely? Owes quite a bit to the photography but still…

But the whole McQueen continuum following his death is creepy and as well a US$300 skull scarf is not me; Kmart has cotton knockoffs for $5 and skulls have been so done …

Robert Mapplethorpe, ‘Self-Portrait’ 1988
Robert Mapplethorpe (1988)

The only thing I have decided I would wear daily, if it was acceptable, is not a sculptural Isabella Blow hat but this:

In fact I am making one.

I think the Amish, Mennonites are on to something. Although plain dress and other garb related to religious observance is often considered restrictive and sometimes a form of control, I personally can see immense freedom in it.

Bring me a uniform (or at the very least a shrubbery).

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In the stress of life and a new job, I have frequently found myself at 3am worrying about work. My remedy has been to listen to audio books which I find soothing and I manage to get back to sleep. I should add at this point that a recording of Ginsberg reading ‘HOWL‘ did  not have this effect.

However my recent late night/early morning sorry has been Patti Smith reading her book “Just Kids“. There is an intimacy in an audio book read by the author, it felt like Patti was telling her (and Robert’s) story directly to me. I was surprised at her accent (yella, fella etc) and affected by her vulnerability. In fact, yesterday morning at 5am I found myself weeping as the story drew to a close with Sam Wagstaff’s and then Robert Mapplethorpe’s deaths. Yesterday was that kind of day and the book on reflection is full of reminders of our mortality.


Patti and Robert lifted from here

It is an old story. I watched a film a while back that is an intersection with Just Kids.  Black White + Grey, is mainly about Sam Wagstaff and Robert Mapplethorpe’s relationship. Ron Brownson has written about this here and I agree it was sad not have more focus on Wagstaff and his amazing collection of photography (which Smith details the beginnings of in Just Kids). I have been dreaming of black and white photographs of American Bison since: the great herds of the great plains of the west, now as non existent as the New York of the 1970s that Smith and Crump document.

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A pile of American Bison skulls waiting to be ground for fertilizer: photographer unknown, mid-1870s (image by Chick Bowen, 27 May 2011)

I hate the concept of ‘bucket lists’ and yet I sort of have one. Sadly often the things I want to see or do don’t exist or can’t happen. For example I wanted to stay at the Chelsea Hotel (a feature of the Just Kids story and many others) but it has been bought out and closed. “ A property developer recently bought the down-at-heel building for $80 million (£48 million) and has turned it over to an architect best known for designing bland Holiday Inns.” Gone the way of the bison, ground into fertiliser.

[This post was written to a soundtrack of Smith’s “Horses” and aided by strong black coffee.]

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Symbols

Recently I got around to arranging a photo shoot as I needed a picture to send out with my bio details for work. It’s taken months for me to get around to this as a) I am the least photogenic person in the universe, possibly because b) I hate getting my photo taken.

Anyway a photographer whose work I really like, Ferg Campbell, happens to live locally so he and his is able assistant Paul Le Comte came by and did their best  to capture me on film. I say did THEIR best because I inadvertently did my best to squint, slouch and look angry.

Part of the deal though was to recreate a ‘famous’ New Zealand photograph. I hope that the original photographer takes this as a compliment or at least doesn’t cringe.

Pauline and Florence

Pauline and Florence (2013) Ferg Campbell [click pic for larger image]. Ferg created a B&W version too but I like this one.

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Self-portrait with rooster. (1977) Peter Peryer

I love the symbolism that the blurb on the Govett Brewster page attributes to this photo

Self-portrait with Rooster has a brooding anxiety that is offset by a touch of the theatrical. Man and rooster look equally ill at ease. With an injured expression, Peryer clasps the rooster to his chest protectively. Roosters, with their associations of virility and machismo, are usually depicted strutting proudly, displaying glossy plumage. The rooster that Peryer clutches so anxiously seems rather bedraggled. As well as their popular association with male sexual potency, roosters also suggest the Biblical story of St Peter. When Jesus was arrested, St Peter escaped arrest himself by fearfully denying his relationship with Christ :before the cock crowed” as Christ had predicted he would. The two Peters, photographer and saint, are conflated into a tragic-comic figure who stands, back against the wall, as if before a firing squad, glaring anxiously down the camera’s lens.

As for my photo, I am a midwife and I am holding a hen. Hens lay eggs, eggs are fertility symbols. As an aside, Saint Bridget is the patron saint of midwives and poultry farmers (and lots of other stuff). I’ve recently found out that her feast day is my birthday. You know…whatever.

And yes we got a few great shots that I can send out with my work bio, but I am really tempted just to go with the chook photo.

NB – all my best wishes and love to Peter.

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Out on the street

Things I’ve seen lately (click image for larger photo).

A walk down Bond Street with my daughter explaining tagging and street art (As best I could)

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snail

 

 

This neon cow in Mosgiel has long fascinated me. It should be tidied up and preserved.

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and this in the window of the local Christian bookstore

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