Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

Home

www.google.co.uk


Recent Comments


Monthly Archives


Most recent entries


Search


Advanced Search


Other Blogs I write for

Brian Micklethwait's Education Blog

CNE Competition
CNE Intellectual Property
Samizdata
Transport Blog


Blogroll

2 Blowhards
6000 Miles from Civilisation
A Decent Muesli
Adloyada
Adventures in Capitalism
Alan Little
Albion's Seedling
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
Alex Singleton
AngloAustria
Another Food Blog
Antoine Clarke
Antoine Clarke's Election Watch
Armed and Dangerous
Art Of The State Blog
Biased BBC
Bishop Hill
BLDG BLOG
Bloggers Blog
Blognor Regis
Blowing Smoke
Boatang & Demetriou
Boing Boing
Boris Johnson
Brazen Careerist
Bryan Appleyard
Burning Our Money
Cafe Hayek
Cato@Liberty
Charlie's Diary
Chase me ladies, I'm in the cavalry
Chicago Boyz
China Law Blog
Cicero's Songs
City Comforts
Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog
Clay Shirky
Climate Resistance
Climate Skeptic
Coffee & Complexity
Coffee House
Communities Dominate Brands
Confused of Calcutta
Conservative Party Reptile
Contra Niche
Contrary Brin
Counting Cats in Zanzibar
Скрипучая беседка
CrozierVision
Dave Barry
Davids Medienkritik
David Thompson
Deleted by tomorrow
deputydog
diamond geezer
Dilbert.Blog
Dizzy Thinks
Dodgeblogium
Don't Hold Your Breath
Douglas Carswell Blog
dropsafe
Dr Robert Lefever
Dr. Weevil
ecomyths
engadget
Englands Freedome, Souldiers Rights
English Cut
English Russia
EU Referendum
Ezra Levant
Everything I Say is Right
Fat Man on a Keyboard
Ferraris for all
Flickr blog
Freeborn John
Freedom and Whisky
From The Barrel of a Gun
ft.com/maverecon
Fugitive Ink
Future Perfect
FuturePundit
Gaping Void
Garnerblog
Gates of Vienna
Gizmodo
Global Warming Politics
Greg Mankiw's Blog
Guido Fawkes' blog
HE&OS
Here Comes Everybody
Hit & Run
House of Dumb
Iain Dale's Diary
Ideas
Idiot Toys
IMAO
Indexed
India Uncut
Instapundit
Intermezzo
Jackie Danicki
James Delingpole
James Fallows
Jeffrey Archer's Official Blog
Jessica Duchen's classical music blog
Jihad Watch
Joanne Jacobs
Johan Norberg
John Redwood
Jonathan's Photoblog
Kristine Lowe
Laissez Faire Books
Languagehat
Last of the Few
Lessig Blog
Libertarian Alliance: Blog
Liberty Alone
Liberty Dad - a World Without Dictators
Lib on the United Kingdom
Little Man, What Now?
listen missy
Loic Le Meur Blog
L'Ombre de l'Olivier
London Daily Photo
Londonist
Mad Housewife
Mangan's Miscellany
Marginal Revolution
Mark Wadsworth
Media Influencer
Melanie Phillips
Metamagician and the Hellfire Club
Michael Jennings
Michael J. Totten's Middle East Journal
Mick Hartley
More Than Mind Games
mr eugenides
Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism
My Boyfriend Is A Twat
My Other Stuff
Natalie Solent
Nation of Shopkeepers
Neatorama
neo-neocon
Never Trust a Hippy
NO2ID NewsBlog
Non Diet Weight Loss
Normblog
Nurses for Reform blog
Obnoxio The Clown
Oddity Central
Oliver Kamm
On an Overgrown Path
One Man & His Blog
Owlthoughts of a peripatetic pedant
Oxford Libertarian Society /blog
Patri's Peripatetic Peregrinations
phosita
Picking Losers
Pigeon Blog
Police Inspector Blog
PooterGeek
Power Line
Private Sector Development blog
Public Interest.co.uk
Publius Pundit
Quotulatiousness
Rachel Lucas
RealClimate
Remember I'm the Bloody Architect
Rob's Blog
Sandow
Scrappleface
Setting The World To Rights
Shane Greer
Shanghaiist
SimonHewittJones.com The Violin Blog
Sinclair's Musings
Slipped Disc
Sky Watching My World
Social Affairs Unit
Squander Two Blog
Stephen Fry
Stuff White People Like
Stumbling and Mumbling
Style Bubble
Sunset Gun
Survival Arts
Susan Hill
Teblog
Techdirt
Technology Liberation Front
The Adam Smith Institute Blog
The Agitator
The AntRant
The Becker-Posner Blog
The Belgravia Dispatch
The Belmont Club
The Big Blog Company
The Big Picture
the blog of dave cole
The Corridor of Uncertainty (a Cricket blog)
The Croydonian
The Daily Ablution
The Devil's Advocate
The Devil's Kitchen
The Dissident Frogman
The Distributed Republic
The Early Days of a Better Nation
The Examined Life
The Filter^
The Fly Bottle
The Freeway to Serfdom
The Future of Music
The Futurist
The Happiness Project
The Jarndyce Blog
The London Fog
The Long Tail
The Lumber Room
The Online Photographer
The Only Winning Move
The Policeman's Blog
The Road to Surfdom
The Sharpener
The Speculist
The Surfer
The Wedding Photography Blog
The Welfare State We're In
things magazine
TigerHawk
Tim Blair
Tim Harford
Tim Worstall
tomgpalmer.com
tompeters!
Transterrestrial Musings
UK Commentators - Laban Tall's Blog
UK Libertarian Party
Unqualified Offerings
Violins and Starships
Virginia Postrel
Vodkapundit
WebUrbanist
we make money not art
What Do I Know?
What's Up With That?
Where the grass is greener
White Sun of the Desert
Why Evolution Is True
Your Freedom and Ours


Websites


Mainstream Media

BBC
Guardian
Economist
Independent
MSNBC
Telegraph
The Sun
This is London
Times


Syndicate

RSS 1.0
RSS 2.0
Atom
Feedburner
Podcasts


Categories

Advertising
Africa
Anglosphere
Architecture
Art
Asia
Atheism
Australasia
Billion Monkeys
Bits from books
Bloggers and blogging
Books
Brian Micklethwait podcasts
Brians
Bridges
Business
Career counselling
Cartoons
Cats and kittens
China
Civil liberties
Classical music
Comedy
Comments
Computer graphics
Cranes
Crime
Current events
Democracy
Design
Digital photographers
Economics
Education
Emmanuel Todd
Environment
Europe
Expression Engine
Family
Food and drink
France
Friends
Globalisation
Healthcare
History
How the mind works
India
Intellectual property
Japan
Kevin Dowd
Language
Latin America
Law
Libertarianism
Links
Literature
London
Media and journalism
Middle East and Islam
Movies
Music
My blog ruins
My photographs
Open Source
Opera
Painting
Photography
Podcasting
Poetry
Politics
Pop music
Propaganda
Quote unquote
Radio
Religion
Roof clutter
Russia
Science
Science fiction
Sculpture
Signs and notices
Social Media
Society
Software
South America
Space
Sport
Technology
Television
The internet
The Micklethwait Clock
Theatre
This and that
This blog
Transport
Travel
USA
Video
War


Category archive: Cranes

Sunday July 13 2014

Last Saturday, I was out and about by the river, taking pictures like this one:

image

But then, I noticed that bird, at the bottom of the left hand tower of Tower Bridge, and started snapping away in a more zoomed wayr than for the picture above.  Hence the title of this posting:

image imageimage image

I don’t know what brand of bird that is.  I do know that it is not one of those avian imposters that calls itself a “crane” (thus clothing itself in dignity stolen from the mighty urban machine of construction), but other than that, I can only guess.  A cormorant perhaps?

Pick and click.

Photographing birds properly is not my strong suit.  You probably need to know their habits, the way I know the habits of the digital photographer, the one living creature that really interests me.

If, on the other hand, birds were to start taking photographs ...

Monday June 30 2014

Incoming from 6k, about a dramatic Big Things photo that he came across, via a Facebook friend.  There is also a blog posting at his place about it, and about how I might like it, which indeed I do.

I’ve done what he suggested and have thinned it for here:

image

He has the whole thing, and here it is even bigger.  Very dramatic, I think you will agree.

6k entitles his posting “Waterloo sunset”.  This is a fine Kinks song, but sunsets are defined by where you are when you see them, and this photo was taken from the other side from Waterloo of the Big Things of the City of London, which is what these Big Things are.  He has most of them identified, but his big omission (no criticism intended - he is, after all, now 6k miles away) is the tallest one, in the middle.  This is the Cheesegrater.

My first thought was that this view might have been taken from the spot I visited last January, when I took these Big Thing photos.

But that isn’t right.  However, some other photos I took that day that do point at the approximate spot where the above sunset photo was, I think, taken from.

Photos like this one, also thinned:

image

6k’s sunset photo was taken from somewhere in among those houses on the other side of the river, with the Shard sticking up behind, on the left of my photo.

Here is a slice of Google Map which shows were everyone is:

image

I was where it says “ME”.  The Big Things of the City are where it says “BIG THINGS”, and 6k’s anonymous photographer was standing somewhere very approximately where I have put “?”.  The spot I chose for “?” is something called Stave Hill Ecological Park, which sounds very promising, what with it maybe being a hill.  I have never been there and I must check it out.  But, that’s only my guess.  The photographer could have been quite a bit further south and/or west.  Don’t know.

But there is more.  While going through the photos I took last January, comparing them with 6k’s sunset photo, I came across this one, which I have again thinned:

image

Again, click to get the bigger version.

Now, in the middle there, unmistakably (with three unmistakable holes in its top), is the Strata.

But, and I only spotted this today, almost directly behind it is the equally unmistakable Spraycan, unmistakable because in the dark, that is how the Spraycan is always lit up.

Here is a close up of the two of them:

image

The Strata is at the Elephant and Castle, and the Spraycan is way over in Vauxhall.  Beyond Waterloo, in other words.  Once again, I hit google maps, to check on the alignment of these two favourite Big Things, and it all fits.  By and by, I shall return to that same spot, to take more and better versions of this photo.

Like I always say, my camera has better eyesight than I have.  On days like that one, it almost invariably sees far more than I see.

Tuesday June 24 2014

I will go on saying that the tower, as featured in all these photos that I recently photoed, ...:

image imageimage image

... should be called the Spray Can, until everyone is calling it the Spray Can.  Or the Spraycan, that’s optional.

Or until someone comes up with an (even) better name.

But meanwhile, what shall we call the ”Salesforce” Tower?

image

The new name should please the residents but piss off Salesforce, for renaming towers all over the damn place, and make them wish they hadn’t attempted this in London.  Salesfuck.  Something along those lines.  Not good enough, because too profane to be printed in regular newspapers.  Salesfarce?  Failsforce?  Close enough to Salesforce to make the connection.  But insulting.  To Salesforce.  The obvious thing would be to just carry on calling it the Heron Tower, but I don’t think that will punish these Salesfuckers nearly enough.  Their stupid name needs to be dragged audibly through the mud.

In case you are wondering, yes I am still a libertarian.  Capitalism, hurrah!  But the thing is, when you complain about a business doing something really annoying, there’s quite a decent chance they may stop, or at least, if they persist, be commercially punished.  At the very least there is a decent chance you can make whoever did whatever it was squirm a little, and generally be made a bit of a prat of.  When you complain about the government, there is much less chance of any such good stuff happening.  No way will you get, e.g., refund.  Just another bill to clean up whatever the original mess was.

So, complaints against capitalism are rewarded, by capitalism.  Complaints against governments are not rewarded nearly so much, by governments or by anything else.

So guess which, in defiance of all sanity, you get more of.

That’s quite profound, I think.  (This is why I like tangenting.  See below.)

Friday June 06 2014

Incoming from 6k, alerting me to a New Statesman piece by Ed Smith, about how, after a small digger has dug out a deep hole under a posh London house to make the house bigger, it makes more sense to leave the digger in the hole than go to the bother of extricating it.  Makes sense. What a great story.

So, many of the squares of the capital’s super-prime real estate, from Belgravia and Chelsea to Mayfair and Notting Hill, have been reconfigured house by house. Given that London’s strict planning rules restrict building upwards, digging downwards has been the solution for owners who want to expand their property’s square-footage.

So, enter the digger, and dig dig dig.  But then:

The difficulty is in getting the digger out again. To construct a no-expense-spared new basement, the digger has to go so deep into the London earth that it is unable to drive out again. What could be done?
Initially, the developers would often use a large crane to scoop up the digger, which was by now nestled almost out of sight at the bottom of a deep hole. Then they began to calculate the cost-benefit equation of this procedure. First, a crane would have to be hired; second, the entire street would need to be closed for a day while the crane was manoeuvred into place. Both of these stages were very expensive, not to mention unpopular among the distinguished local residents.

A new solution emerged: simply bury the digger in its own hole. Given the exceptional profits of London property development, why bother with the expense and hassle of retrieving a used digger – worth only £5,000 or £6,000 – from the back of a house that would soon be sold for several million? The time and money expended on rescuing a digger were better spent moving on to the next big deal.

Today being a Friday, I was delighted to learn that there is a feline aspect to this, in the form of Ed Smith’s final speculations.  This man is clearly learning fast how to get noticed on the Internet!

In centuries to come, says Smith:

… they will surely decipher a correlation between London’s richest corners and the presence of these buried diggers. The atrium of the British Museum, around 5000AD, will feature a digger prominently as the central icon of elite, 21st-century living.

What will the explanatory caption say? “Situated immediately adjacent to the heated underground swimming pool and cinema at the back of the house, no superior London address was complete without one of these highly desirable icons, sometimes nicknamed ‘the Compact Cat’. This metallic icon was a special sacrificial gesture, a symbol of deep thanks to the most discussed, revered and pre-eminent god of the age, worshipped around the world: London Property.”

Ed Smith is a former first class (and occasional test) cricketer, and now occasional cricket commentator.  As well as a writer of books.  Writing this posting also got me ordering a copy of his latest.

Saturday May 17 2014

I am very fond of the ballerina statue at the top of the Victoria Palace Theatre.  I recently photoed it with a red crane behind it, that being one of my favourite recent snaps.

This afternoon, I photoed it again, again with craneness:

image

What I had not realised until today is that this is a statue of Anna Pavlova.  Says the Victoria Palace Theatre:

From 1911, the year after its rebuilding to its present design by Frank Matcham, the Victoria Palace had a gilded statue of prima ballerina Anna Pavlova poised above it. This was owner Alfred Butt’s homage to the dancer he had spectacularly introduced to London.

The tribute was not appreciated by the superstitious ballerina, who would never look at her image as she passed the theatre, drawing the blinds in her car. The original statue was taken down for safety reasons in 1939 before the blitz and has completely disappeared. It is not known whether it is in someone’s garden or was turned to wartime military use, such as bullets.

The Victoria Palace moved into the new millennium with an adventurous building programme; enlarging the Foyer, WC facilities and increasing the dressing room space, whilst maintaining all the feel and character of a historic building.

In 2006, a replica of the original statue of Pavlova was reinstated to its original place above the cupola of the Victoria Palace and her gold-leafed figure once again gleams above us.

Blog and learn.

Friday May 16 2014

I see cat faces on bags:

image image

On the left, in Trafalgar Square.  On the right in a shop window, somewhere or other.

I see Hello Kitty continuing its conquest of the world:

image image

On the left: Patriotic Kitty, both an English Nationalist and a British Unionist.  (Hello Kitty is patriotic everywhere.) On the right: Hello Kitty colonises one of my local supermarkets.  Today shower gel, tomorrow, who knows?  One day, there will be Hello Kitty versions of everything.

And now I see this vast cat face on the outside of a building site at the top end of Victoria Street:

image imageimage image

Note the surveillance camera right in front of it.  Those things are also now everywhere.

This huge cat face was what got me noticing that Victoria Masterplan.

Apparently the cat face is an art installation.  Scroll down here if you doubt me:

A bold new art installation has landed here at Nova, Victoria. The enigmatic gaze of a 37ft tall black cat will become the new landmark to greet people as they arrive in SW1. Taking up residence on site, the portrait is the first European commission by American artist, Marlo Pascual. The chic black cat occupies the Victoria Street facade of our four storey site cabins, converting a disheartening grey slab into the most stimulating of canvases.

The untitled installation kicks off a series of iconic and non-conformist art projects that will unfold at Nova, Victoria on its journey to becoming the most forward-thinking and aspirational place to work, live, eat, drink, shop and enjoy in London’s West End.

So, people, nice big photos of cat faces are now iconic and non-conformist.  Modern Art eat your heart out.

(See also the bit where a discussion about “THE FUTURE OF LONDON DINNING” is advertised.)

All of which pales into insignificance beside what has undoubtedly been the week’s biggest cat news, which concerned an amazing YouTube video of a cat attacking a dog.  This story is now everywhere.  The dog was doing serious damage to the youngest son of the family, and was about to do even more serious damage than that.  But the dog reckoned without Tara the Cat, who launched what looked like a suicide bomber attack on the dog, which not surprisingly caused the dog to retreat.  Tara behaved exactly as if the small boy was one of her kittens.

Cats are complained about for being like perfectly evolved parasites on humans. We feed them, stroke them, put a warm roof over their heads, buy anything with cat faces on it, and in return they do pretty much nothing.

Tara, on the other hand, has surely repaid any debts she ever owed.

Thursday May 08 2014

In 2013, on September 5th, 18th, 24th and 29th, I visited the area in and around London Gateway, the new container port they’re building on the north side of the Thames Estuary, first to see if I could photo the cranes, and then to photo them again, and again, and again.  And everything else amusing I saw on my wanderings.  (I would never have remembered these dates if my camera hadn’t.)

I showed a couple of photos here of one of those expeditions at the time, but that was only the tip of the photographic iceberg.

These were undoubtedly among my best photo-expeditions of 2013, right up there with visiting Beckton Sewage Works with Goddaughter One, a superb day which I see that I seem never to have mentioned here at all.

My problem is, when I sit down at my computer and try to pick out a few good snaps from one of these huge photo-perambulations, I just don’t know which to pick.  There are just so many nice ones. I end up picking none at all and write about something else entirely.

So, I now pick another one, from one of my four trips to London Gateway, to show you, which I just found when trawling through them all, again.  One.  Just the one.  It features me, but not looking good.  No, looking appalling, with my appallingly flabby chin all scrunched up as I look downwards at my twiddly camera screen, which is how I actually do look when wandering around doing this kind of thing.

But, showoffy though it is, I think it’s a rather effective photo:

image

See also the first five cranes, of the twenty four that will finally be at London Gateway.  That snap was snapped on September 24th. 

When all those twenty four cranes are up and running and the place really gets into its stride, I will definitely return to check them out, as will all the world and its digital cameras.  Mark my words.  When they open this thing for business, the media, mainstream and irregular, social and anti-social, will be flooded with it.  Flooded I tell you.

But just now, they are busy building it, and the last thing they want is people like me wandering around photoing it.  So, they keep quiet about it.  Seriously, I’d be willing to bet that there are quite a lot of PR persons whose entire job consists of persuading journalists not to mention this thing until it’s finished, but then to mention it big time.  Silence now will be rewarded with access later.

Monday March 17 2014

Last Wednesday, I snapper a whole lot of my fellow snappers, but I did not neglect inanimate objects.  Here are some of the “I just like it” photos I also took that afternoon, as afternoon turned into evening and as the sun started hitting particular parts of those objects.  Click at will for the bigger versions:

image image imageimage image imageimage image imageimage image imageimage image image

I make that: four Wheels (1.2 behind trees; 2.1 behind a little scaffolding; 4.1, bottom of, end on; and 5.2, in a piece of art in a shop window, behind a bird); two Big Bens (2.3, with all its spikes (most pictures of Big Ben include the clock, which then upstages all the spikes) and 4.2, serving as blurry backdrop for two street lights); two Millbank Towers (2.2 and 5.3, the one with the crew cut hairdo of roof clutter); one Shard (3.1, weird top of); one Spray Can (2.3, next to the Millbank Tower -will “Spray Can” ever catch on?) some cranes (1.1) and some tourist crap (4.3), which I love to photo even as I would never buy.

See also a vapour trail (3.3), part white, part dark, depending (presumably) on whether the sun is hitting it or not.  (One of my best (I think) postings here concerned a dirty looking vapour trail.)

And see also that St Thomas’s Hospital car park under a park with a fountain (5.1), than I mentioned in the earlier posting with the photographers.

For someone else’s earnestly anxious ruminations about London’s incurably crowded and bustling state, try this.  Not enough “affordable” housing, he says.  This would suggest to me that building “affordable housing” is not affordable for the builders.  Why not?  What rules make affordable housing unaffordable to build?  He says, of course, not enough rules and subsidies.  I say too many rules and subsidies.

Maybe I’d start with the Green Belt, a huge doughnut of dreary fields through which commuter trains race and commuter cars crawl.  In a free market, some of the green belt would stay fields or become parks, and some of it towns, that are affordable to live in. I wouldn’t just free up all of it, in one go.  I’d carve out the prettiest bits of it and say: don’t build here.  And I’d point at the boring bits (very numerous) and say, build here, whatever you like.

But that wouldn’t “solve” all London’s problems.  These are caused by London being a great city that millions of people want to live and work in.  “Solve” whatever is considered to be London’s biggest problem now, and you merely make all other London problems that bit worse.  London will always be overcrowded, and lacking in this or that thing that Guardian opinion-mongers consider necessary and regard as an excuse for bitching about capitalism and for recommending more regulations and subsidies.

First you fuck with the free market and stop it doing its stuff.  Then you blame the free market and fuck with it some more.  See also: environment.

But I digress.  Last Wednesday was a very nice day.  As is today, by the look of it.

Wednesday February 26 2014

Seconds after I’d finished photoing that camel, I took this photo:

image

But whereas I was quickly able to find out about the camel, and about how there’s a pub called that (partly), and so on, I was unable to find out anything about “SOUTH BANK ARCHITECTS” other than a phone number, which I dare not ring because I don’t really have a proper question to ask them other than: do you exist?  There is no website.  The www knows of no buildings that have been designed by SOUTH BANK ARCHITECTS.

So, if you work for SOUTH BANK ARCHITECTS or if you know anyone who works for SOUTH BANK ARCHITECTS, please add a comment.

My theory is SOUTH BANK ARCHITECTS used to exist, which is when they put up that big sign.  But, before the www came into existence, they went out of existence.  And now, nobody can be bothered to take the sign down.

Saturday February 15 2014

Tomorrow evening the 2014 BAFTA Awards shindig will be happening, at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden.  Roger Hewland, proprietor of Gramex (Records and CDs), Lower Marsh, told me this afternoon that BAFTA is paying the ROH three quarters of a million quid for this privilege.  Where RH picked this titbit up, I do not know, but it sounds a lot, doesn’t it?

Below is a picture that I recently took myself of the ROH.  If you google for pictures of the ROH, you mostly get either interiors, or else the big Parthenon-like front entrance.  But when I was at that Rooftop Bar I recently visited, I took this snap of the ROH:

image

What strikes me is how modern it looks.  It’s just a big box.  The decoration is no more than a gesture.  I know, I know, that’s because nobody can see this bit, this being before the age of buildings taller than this, from which people can look down.  But even so, you can see architectural modernism all present and correct, just waiting to emerge.

Thursday January 30 2014

Much humour is to be had by modifying a cliché, and something similar applies to photography.  The Eiffel Tower features in many photos.  The chimney pots of Paris, not quite so much.

image

That was taken on February 2nd 2012, from the Pompidou Centre.

I an still stunned by how brilliant my new, cheap computer screen is.  Pictures like this one become hugely better than I remember them first time around, and wandering around in my photo-archives is more enjoyable than ever before.

Here is another picture taken at the same time from the same place.  Also lots of chimneys, though you have to look a bit more closely this time.  But in the background there, La Défense, Paris’s Big New Thing district.

image

What that big dome is in the foreground, I don’t know.  I was staying with Antoine Clarke when I took these snaps, and in fact he was up there with me when I took these.  Maybe he can tell us what that big curvey thing is.  When you take pictures of some big thing, there is a presumption that you do care what it is, but personally, in this case, I don’t really care.  There are more than enough mysterious buildings like this in London to keep me wondering, without me fretting about mystery buildings in Paris.  But maybe you would like to know.

And yes, I am almost certain that is a crane.

One other thing.  This new screen has me thinking that maybe the size of pictures I am putting up here may be a bit wrong.  When you click on the above two, you’ll get them at 1200x900, which is bigger than I usually do, because now my own screen is bigger.  Is this either too big, or too small?  I’d welcome anyone’s opinion on that.

Tuesday January 21 2014

As I said in the previous post, my talk about digital photography at Christian Michel’s last night went well, in the sense of me feeling it went well, and it seeming to be well received.  I occasionally put my sheets of paper down and extemporised upon some point I was making, but mostly, this was it.  No links, no photos, no extras.  (They may come later, I hope, but I promise nothing.) Just the bare text that I read out, complete with all the errors of grammar and spelling, of fact and interpretation, that may or may not be present:

I have given several talks in this 6/20 series, but until now this has been because I have had both questions and answers to offer to the assembled throng.  I have had theses to present, clutches of facts to pass on.

This time I don’t know the answers.  I merely want to know the answers.  What is the impact of digital photography? What is it doing to us?  Since fixing this subject matter with Christian I have made, I think, some progress in arriving at answers, but only some.  Tonight I expect to make further progress.

Luckily, for my purposes, we have all been alive throughout the period of digital photography’s mass use, and have observed it in action, even if we may not always have wanted to.  Has anyone here not taken a digital photo?  Just as I thought.  (It actually says that here.  And this.)

*****

I will start my remarks by quoting a remark made by an American whom I overheard about fifty years ago, on the Acropolis in Athens, the place where what is left of the Parthenon stands.  I was there trying to do some sketching, a skill I never got any good at but spent a few years attempting.  He was doing pictures with his seriously pre-digital camera.  As soon as he had finished photoing, he wanted to leave, presumably to get to his next photoing place.  But his family were enjoying the Acropolis in the morning sunshine.  Said he to his family: “Come on, come on!  We’ll look at it when we get home!”

This outburst captures a great deal about what people object to about digital photography, but it also reminds us that photography, by Everyman as opposed to by professionals, is nothing new.  Digital photography is partly just the intensification of a process that has been in place in our culture for well over a century.  But it is more than that.

Friday January 17 2014

Incoming from Simon Gibbs:

Interesting building

Near the mayors blob

And there was a photograph attached to this message, “sent from my Sony Xperia™ smartphone”:

image

On the left there, as we look at it, is the Mayor’s Blob that Simon mentions, near the Shard, and a building I am very familiar with, at any rate from the outside.  In the middle, something new, which Simon knew I might be keen to check out.  So, he photos it, and sends it to me. 

Neither Simon nor I are asking anyone to think that this is a good photograph, in the technical sense.  Don’t click on it, because it is quite big enough as is.  Simon is probably a bit appalled that I am even showing it to anyone, even in the almost total privacy that is BrianMicklethwaitDotCom.  But the photo suffices for its purpose, which is not to delight attenders at an art gallery (real or virtual), merely to provide me with information, should I be interested.  (Although actually, this is the kind of thing you often do see in an art gallery nowadays, put there by an artist trying, as most artists must these days, to be contrary.  “Good” photos are so twentieth century, my dears.  Imagine the blurb, as written by this guy.)

I show this casual snap because it illustrates a typical use of digital photography, which is the communication of information, potentially in real time.  Me being so hopelessly twentieth century in my uses of twenty-first century tech, I don’t know when he took this photo.  It duly arrived on my desk, via my clunky old twentieth century desktop computer.  Was it taken only seconds before Simon sent it to me?  Perhaps he can tell us.  But my point here is that he could have.  And like him, I could have been as much on the move as he clearly was, while still as connected to the world as he was.

Here we see photography not as the nineteenth and then twentieth century mechanisation of oil painting, but as a twenty first century amplification of conversation.  “Ooh, Brian might like to see that, snap.  Hi Brian.  Take a look at this.” Try doing that with a twentieth century phone.  You could, in this case, after a fashion, but it wouldn’t be nearly so quick, definite and easy.

I am giving a talk on Monday evening at Christian Michel’s about The Impact of Digital Photography, and this is the kind of thing I will be talking about.

Digital photography was, or so I recall reading recently, invented by NASA, not so much to take photos, as to communicate photos, of other planets from robot cameras on space-ships, back to planet earth.  Yes.

The logical mid-to-late twentieth century end-point of episodes like this, after you have thrown in a big dash of this sort of stuff, is (see above): telepathy.

Thursday January 16 2014

And now here are some photos done in much better light.  Even dusk, outdoors, is massively better lit than mere electricity.  They were taken last Saturday, when I journeyed to Docklands, to see if I could take photos of ice sculpture, and of people taking photos of ice sculpture.

Alas, I was not the only person with this idea.  I have the strong suspicion that the size of the crowd dwarfed the event (perhaps because of write-ups beforehand like this), but have no idea, really, what was happening out there.  All I got to photo at all interestingly was the gigantic queue to see the ice sculptures:

image image

On the right, my camera, at maximum zoom, does its best to photo a sculpture, and a sculptor.  I figured: I’ll look at it when I get home.

I headed off in the opposite direction, back across the Docklands peninsula towards the centre of London, and instead took photos like this:

image imageimage image

The top of the Cheesegrater, top left, was taken from outside Tower Hill Tube Station.  All the others from Docklands.

I am warming to the Cheesegrater, which is often the way with me and a new Big Thing.  At first, I disliked it, because it spoiled the view from my part of London of the Gherkin, which I consider to be a modern classic.  But now I am getting to like the Cheesegrater, along with all the other new Big Things, as yet another wonderfully chaotic and uncoordinated contribution to London’s ever more chaotic cityscape.

Says Rowan Moore in the Observer, disapprovingly:

Two of the more celebrated such objects, the Walkie-Talkie and the Cheesegrater, have now tumbled on to the skyline of the City of London, their exteriors nearly finished, with completion dates for both in the first half of next year. They combine high degrees of professionalism in their execution, with multiple consultants working hard at everything from sustainability to cycle storage to lift speeds to lighting, with an impression of randomness. They are better in many ways than the same kind of buildings would be in most parts of the world, and achieve, for example, impressive ratings for environmental performance, yet they attract these unfortunate nicknames.

I love these nicknames, which I believe are affectionate rather than angry.  I love their good-natured mockery.  More and more, I love the anarchic individualism of these Big Things, for exactly the reason that this guy disapproves.

Could it be better? Would it be possible to have variety and architectural invention, and the craftsmanship that the Leadenhall unquestionably has, as well as accessible sky gardens and hypostyles, and yet have a whole that is more than the sum of its parts? Could the expertise and sophistication of all the consultants who contribute to these towers be matched by the City’s planners?

Well, yes, it surely could.  But in practice the choice was probably between the aesthetic chaos we have, and imposed aesthetic tedium.  And I know which I prefer, if only because the aesthetic chaos we have gets up all the right noses, e.g. the nose of this guy moaning in the Observer.  Had those City Planners had enough clout to make everything “more than the sum of its parts”, they would probably have had enough clout to prevent each part, each Big Thing, being nearly as interesting, and they would have.  We can never know for sure about such things, but I reckon the results would have been far less , far less fun.  Far less London.

As it is, people like me love to photo these “celebrated objects” with their “unfortunate nicknames”, and I like to photo such people photoing.

Here are two further Big Thing snaps I took that day, of the Walkie-Talkie and of the Three Eyed Razor, or whatever excellent nickname the “Strata” ends up having bestowed upon it:

image image

And here, finally, are a couple more Big Things With Sunset snaps, this time with leafless vegetation (a constant source of photo-delight) in the foreground:

image image

All in all, an excellent little expedition.  And a good example of how my Official Destination (this time it was those ice sculptures) is really just an excuse to get me out and about.

Tuesday January 14 2014

There is something about a crane cluster shaped like this ...:

image

... that always gets to me.  A single crane has to have something a bit special about it to be special.  Two cranes is still not enough.  But when half a dozen of them start making giant Xs in the sky, it really looks beautiful, to me anyway.

See also, for instance, the second of these two photos.

The above cranes are currently clustered in Battersea, where there will be much digging and grubbing, for the next decade or so, in and around the Power Station.  Middle left in that aerial picture is Vauxhall Bridge, which is where I took my picture from, at dusk yesterday afternoon/evening.