Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Patrick Crozier on An underground history lesson
Patrick Crozier on Shiny little Aston Martin
Mike on Swarm Manned Aerial Vehicle Multirotor Super Drone
Vitrier Gujan-Mestras on Designing and building with glass
Brian Micklethwait on The wait continues
MarkR on The wait continues
Brian Micklethwait on An old American car in Tottenham Court Road
Sam Duncan on An old American car in Tottenham Court Road
6000 on London Biggin Hill "Jet Centre"?
6000 on William Hague on the collapse of the centre left
Most recent entries
- Blokes photoing
- An underground history lesson
- England rugby and London soccer
- Here begins the Essex Way
- Glass Build white van
- BT Tower with cranes
- Shiny little Aston Martin
- On packaging – and on the need to chuck it out
- View of the footbridge - view from the footbridge
- Juliet Barker on Knights of Old: A lot of history in one paragraph
- Crane on fire
- I was photoing white vans in February 2007
- Early thoughts on the Rugby World Cup
- What’s this?
- Tricycle transport
Other Blogs I write for
6000 Miles from Civilisation
A Decent Muesli
Adventures in Capitalism
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
Another Food Blog
Antoine Clarke's Election Watch
Armed and Dangerous
Art Of The State Blog
Boatang & Demetriou
Burning Our Money
Chase me ladies, I'm in the cavalry
China Law Blog
Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog
Coffee & Complexity
Communities Dominate Brands
Confused of Calcutta
Conservative Party Reptile
Counting Cats in Zanzibar
Deleted by tomorrow
Don't Hold Your Breath
Douglas Carswell Blog
Dr Robert Lefever
Englands Freedome, Souldiers Rights
Everything I Say is Right
Fat Man on a Keyboard
Ferraris for all
Freedom and Whisky
From The Barrel of a Gun
Gates of Vienna
Global Warming Politics
Greg Mankiw's Blog
Guido Fawkes' blog
Here Comes Everybody
Hit & Run
House of Dumb
Iain Dale's Diary
Jeffrey Archer's Official Blog
Jessica Duchen's classical music blog
Laissez Faire Books
Last of the Few
Libertarian Alliance: Blog
Liberty Dad - a World Without Dictators
Lib on the United Kingdom
Little Man, What Now?
Loic Le Meur Blog
L'Ombre de l'Olivier
London Daily Photo
Metamagician and the Hellfire Club
Michael J. Totten's Middle East Journal
More Than Mind Games
Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism
My Boyfriend Is A Twat
My Other Stuff
Nation of Shopkeepers
Never Trust a Hippy
Non Diet Weight Loss
Nurses for Reform blog
Obnoxio The Clown
On an Overgrown Path
One Man & His Blog
Owlthoughts of a peripatetic pedant
Oxford Libertarian Society /blog
Patri's Peripatetic Peregrinations
Police Inspector Blog
Private Sector Development blog
Remember I'm the Bloody Architect
Setting The World To Rights
SimonHewittJones.com The Violin Blog
Sky Watching My World
Social Affairs Unit
Squander Two Blog
Stuff White People Like
Stumbling and Mumbling
Technology Liberation Front
The Adam Smith Institute Blog
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 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 Fly Bottle
The Freeway to Serfdom
The Future of Music
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 Wedding Photography Blog
The Welfare State We're In
UK Commentators - Laban Tall's Blog
UK Libertarian Party
Violins and Starships
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
Arts & Letters Daily
Bjørn Stærk's homepage
Butterflies and Wheels
Dark Roasted Blend
Digital Photography Review
Ghana Centre for Democratic Reform
Global Warming and the Climate
History According to Bob
Institut économique Molinari
Institute of Economic Affairs
Ludwig von Mises Institute
Oxford Libertarian Society
The Christopher Hitchens Web
The Space Review
The TaxPayers' Alliance
This is Local London
UK Libertarian Party
Victor Davis Hanson
WSJ.com Opinion Journal
Bits from books
Bloggers and blogging
Brian Micklethwait podcasts
Cats and kittens
Food and drink
How the mind works
Media and journalism
Middle East and Islam
My blog ruins
Signs and notices
The Micklethwait Clock
This and that
Category archive: Sculpture
Photography is light, and in this rather odd photo the light was coming from behind the object I photoed, making it look … odd:
But there is no way to take this photo again, because just after taking the photo but before looking at the photo, I chopped the object into bits with a bread knife and stuffed the bits into a black plastic rubbish sack. The point here being that Modern Life is all about getting rid of clutter, an in particular, packaging clutter.
Like so much packaging clutter, this piece of packaging clutter was amazingly beautiful in its making, being of a very elegant, abstract sculptural shape, and made of a sort of cross between polystyrene and sponge of the sort you wash with. Its structural strength and its ability to look after the piece of electronics it was cushioning, on its journey from China to me, had all been perfectly calculated. How can you just throw something like this away? But, you must, or you will drown in such stuff.
The packaging industry has clearly been one of the great growth industries of the late twentieth century. Remember when you used to buy sweeties or paper clips or screws from a bloke in a brown coat, who would shovel them into a brown paper bag, and decide what to charge you by weighing them with a pair of scales? Perhaps you don’t because those days are now long gone. Now shops selling sweeties or paper clips or screws sell them in small packages. Nobody weighs such things in shops any more. The little things cost about twenty times as much, per little thing. The packaging also includes anti-theft devices. The process of selling is speeded up.
Supermarkets still weigh certain sorts of fruit and veg, but I bet they are working flat out to get rid of the need for that, by regularising the size of individual fruits and veges, and by packaging them in ever more cunning ways, with the price already decided for each package, and with the weighing done way back in the supply chain. (When they do, I might consider using those shopping robots in supermarkets.)
All of which involves literally tons and tons of packaging. And a discipline of modern life is knowing that such packaging must be binned, no matter how handy you might think it might come in in the future.
Equally troubling to me is cardboard boxes. These also have to go, and often that involves chopping them up, so that the bloody bits will fit into bins. When I say “bloody” bits, I am not just swearing, I am describing. Recently I cut my hand while doing this. The cushiony thing above was, on the other hand, very easy to carve into bits, and by its nature did not threaten my hands in the process, the same cannot be said of cardboard.
The ultimate expression, so far, of the urge to package is the shipping container, which has literally transformed the economy of the entire world. Imagine if everything you bought came inside those and you had to chop those up, until the bits fitted inside bin bags. I would have died of self-inflicted wounds long ago.
I like statues, by which I mean that I like the statues that I like. Statues that I like don’t read where it says on my blog that I like them, and then say things like “But you never visit”, when I visit. They don’t say things like: “So, now that you are visiting quite often, what is this? Where is this relationship going?” In decades and centuries to come, maybe statues will behave in exactly this sort of troublesome way, but for now, they don’t. They just stand there.
And, they stand there immobile, which as a rather crap photographer, technically speaking, I greatly appreciate.
Here is a recent London statue that I now like:
That’s also another in my ongoing series of Great Photos Taken Rather Badly, which you, oh Real Photographer, can now go and take better. Big Ben won’t have moved. Nor will the legs of the recently unveiled statue of Mahatma Gandhi. Today, as I write this, looks like being a lot sunnier than it has been in London for quite a while.
(New Gandhi statue unveiled in “London’s Parliament Square”. Interesting how hitherto national organs now aim themselves at the whole world. The media they are a-changing.)
I only recently noticed this Gandhi statue. For decades Parliament Square had no Gandhi statue. Then, it had one.
A friend of mine has a young daughter who is a very promising ballerina. Young and very promising ballerinas tend to find themselves being guided from time to time by quite significant ballet persons, and I have urged my friend to pass on to any significant ballet persons he meets that they ought to do a ballet based on the antics of us digital photographers.
If any significant ballet persons ask what sort of thing that might involve, I suggest they be shown pictures like these, which I took between 2006 and 2007:
Click on any of those pictures and you’ll see that what they’re all about is the big bodily contortions that digital photographers do, mostly just to get their cameras at the right height. But, there is also the matter of the fun and games the people being photoed often get up to. They do lots of more self-conscious posing.
Quite a few of these pictures have been posted on the www by me before, mostly on this blog. But the idea of this posting is to gather together a biggish collection of such pictures, all in one place, for the ballet persons to say: “Wow! Yes! We’ll do it! Pay the crazy blogger double whatever he asks to let us look through his entire photo archive!”
There’s a whole other clutch of pictures showing digital photographers and their hands and fingers. They wave their fingers about, just to keep their fingers out of the pictures. Ballet people would like that too. In the absence of more pictures here, they could just walk over Westminster Bridge and watch the photographers doing it. Because, provided they are only using small cameras, the photographers do this all the time.
Me being me, there is no category here for “dancing”. So, “sculpture” will have to do, as in humans making sculptures of themselves.
And that’s not to even mention the whole selfie thing, and the amazing human sculpture making that that can involve.
On the left (June 2007), one from the Bald Blokes collection. He is photoing me through a bit of abstract sculpture that regular walkers along the South Bank, between the Wheel and the Royal Festival Hall will recognise. And I photoed him.
And on the right (June 2015), well, it’s me photoing me in a mirror. But what I like about this photo is not that it is a self-portrait, The sight of me I can take or leave. No, what I like is the contrast between the colourfulness of what we see reflected in the circular mirror, and the much more muted reflections to be seen in the shop window behind which the mirror rests. Neither on their own would create much of an effect. Put them together, and you have something, I think.
Click on each to get the big pictures.
I like this:
Which is why I put the picture in my “I Just Like Them!” directory, and why I am putting it here now.
The picture was taken by me, on July 11th 2007, assuming my camera at the time was not lying to my computer at the time.
I see several of my photography recipes already in action. Recipes like: by all means photo cliché Big Things like The Wheel, but put The Wheel in front of or behind or next to something else interesting, otherwise all that the picture of The Wheel will be is just one of the many million pictures already taken of The Wheel.
And actually there are two interesting things besides The Wheel in this picture. Obviously there is the stellated whateverhedron that dominates the picture, which is the kind of thing that constantly comes and goes from the strange little space behind the Royal Festival Hall. The Royal Festival Hall being the grey lump on the right as we look.
But now, take a look the far end of the roof of the Royal Festival Hall. There’s a little figure standing up there. And, I can tell you at once that it is one of those Gormley Men. It is also clear to me that I was jiggling my camera around to as to get that particular Gormley Man standing in a good place to be seen through the stellated whateverhedron.
I still remember those Gormley Men fondly.
Busy day today, so another photo taken yesterday evening, at the southern end of Blackfriars Bridge:
You can find lots of pictures of these dragons, but not so many photos that look the way mine does, with a blurry Big Thing and a blurry crane in the background.
Or so I assume. I can’t think what else might have created this effect:
Yes, it’s quota photo time, and that Pavlova statue on top of the Victoria Palace Theatre never fails to charm.
I took lots of similarly double glazed photos of Pavlova at the time I took this one, this one being my favourite.
A new category is long overdue, but as of now I’m off to bed.
Here are two people whom Mick Hartley recently encountered. He photoed them and stuck the picture up on his blog. And I reproduce it here:
So, how come this flurry of privacy violation? Hartley explains. (There are several very heavy hints in the categories listed below.)
Indeed. On the same day, March 10th of this year, that I took this, I also took these:
That concrete building already looks very different, and the numerous photo opportunities supplied by trees in March are all ruined by leaves. I hate leaves. All over London there are great views, totally ruined by leaves.
Yes, again, but I do love her, especially now, when she presides over all that noisily aggressive building work all around her at the top end of Victoria Street:
Nothing says old school femininity like a ballerina, and nothing says old school masculinity like one of those extendable (but not at the time fully extended) temporary cranes. Men are here. But if here is the top end of Victoria Street, so too is the ultimate lady.
I am working on a quite big and unwieldy architecture posting just now, but this probably won’t be ready to go any time today, or even soon, so I’ll instead write a little essay on a related matter. Which is: Why I feel more comfortable writing about architecture, of the contemporary and hence controversial sort, than I do about contemporary interior design. The contrast between how fascinated I am by the architectural stuff (this is the posting that got me going with the architectural posting that I am now working on) at one of my favourite internet sites, Dezeen, and the indifference I feel concerning Dezeenery about interior matters, is becoming ever more extreme. I mean, designer X has designed a chair. And what does it look like? It looks like a chair. Hoo ray.
It’s not that I dislike or oppose interior design. It’s just that I feel that what I feel about it, or for that matter what anybody else feels about it, is of no public significance. We can all just pick whatever interior designs and objects appeal to us, and let others do the same. Interior design is not a political problem. There is therefore nothing vitally important to be said about it. Why argue, when there is no need to argue?
If you are one of those people who likes to tease out why you feel the way you do, about everything in general and interior design in particular, fine. Blog away about wallpaper, tea kettles, tables, chairs, standard lamps, stoves and suchlike, all you like. You’ll surely find plenty of readers, probably a great many more than I have. You certainly will if you specialise, as I do not. I write about such things myself, from time to time, when the mood takes me.
But on the whole, it tends not to. When the answer the question is: each to his own, and when that answer basically takes care of it, I generally don’t feel like adding very much.
You could say that this mood, of insignificant self-scrutiny, is upon me right now. After all, who cares what I put on my blog? If you don’t like it, don’t read it, problem solved. Choosing a blog to read is like choosing a chair. Nobody else need be consulted, or imposed upon.
But architecture is different. We can’t each step outside into a city like London and each have exactly the London that we want. If I am to have those new Big Things that I like so much, you also have to put up with them, even if you hate them. It therefore feels right to me to be explaining, to the entire world (even if most of the world pays no attention), just what it is about these Big Things that I like so much. It makes sense for me to say (even if I haven’t done much of this lately) why I came to hate most modernistical architecture when I was in my twenties, and why I think that modernistical architecture has improved so very, very much since that time, at any rate in the places I mostly walk about in and see in photos.
For the same reason, it also makes sense, to me, for me to be celebrating roof clutter, cranes, this or that piece of public or semi-public sculpture, these or those public signs. It is because these are public issues. Political issues, even. Definitely political, in the case of those signs I just linked to. Things like these have positive (mostly, in my case) or negative (perhaps in yours) externalities attached to them.
Actually, it is most unlikely that you hate all the publicly obtrusive things that I love, because you wouldn’t want to be reading such opinions, day after day. But, you get my point.
Shiny Thing in London, by Frank Stella Hon RA, one of the most important living American artists, near to where I live. I go there. I photo it. I show you some photos. I tell you what I think of the Shiny Thing. (I like it. If I didn’t like it I’d not be mentioning it.) So far so ordinary.
But for me this was not a regular photowalk. The difference this time was that I had a friend with me while I did my snaps, and she was snapping also. Just as I was about to depart from my home and do the checking out of the Shiny Thing on my own, the friend had rung up and we arranged to meet, near the Shiny Thing so that I could combine the two things, meeting the friend and then, as a separate operation, me checking out the Shiny Thing. But while seeking somewhere to sit down and have a drink we went right past it, she saw it and liked the look of it, and we ended up photoing it together.
I was using my “camera”, and she was using her iPhone. And of course I photoed her doing this:
I have been out and about in London with this same friend quite a few times over the years, and I have usually been taking photos in among chatting. But I don’t recall her even joining in with the photography so enthusiastically. It was the Shiny Thing that did it. And you can bet that her bests snaps were pretty soon if not instantly transmitted to others, long before I posted a couple of mine here.
There is a lot of this sort of opportunistic smartphone photography going on in the world, just now. The key moment was when cameras in smartphones got good enough, which at first they weren’t. But for a handful of years now, smartphone cameras have been more than adequate for shots like the ones my friend was taking, and of course smartphone cameras will, like my kind of cameras, keep getting better and better. Soon, it just won’t make any sense to own a dedicated point-and-shot camera, if you also use a smartphone, because the camera on your smartphone will be plenty good enough for all but the fussiest of purposes.
First, in this graph of camera sales from 1933 until 2013, we see the defeat of the old-school roll-of-film camera (the grey stuff) by digital cameras (in blue) like the ones I have owned over the last few years, and by DSLRs (green):
But now, take a look at what happens to this exact same graph when you include all the (yellow) smartphone activity, top right:
At the other end of the above link, they show the graph in all its endless-scroll-down vertical hugeness, huge enough to include all those smartphone cameras. Above, here, is the exact same graph, but ruthlessly flattened, to enable you to see the entire picture in one go, with no scrolling up and down.
As you can see, the big - very big - story is the sheer quantity of half-decent smartphone cameras there now are in the world, in private personal hands, such as the hands of my friend.
This is a transformation that I have of course been registering, with all my photos of digital photographers, with an increasing proportion of them in recent years using smartphones. See, for instance, this posting. Quote:
And of course, there is that vast category that has hove into view in the last few years, of people taking photos with their mobile phones. No less than seven of the above twelve snaps are of people doing this. This was not a decision on my part, merely a consequence of me picking out nice photos of people taking photos.
For me, the most interesting titbit in the article with the graphs linked to above (and again), is this, right at the end:
… and 92% of smartphone users worldwide say that the camera is the most used feature on their phones.
That embedded link being to another piece, which elaborates on this point. The other big use is, of course, texting.
The point being that all these smartphone cameras have not merely been sold to a billion plus people so that they can have them in their pockets.
Almost all of those cameras are being used, to take photos.
We also used our phone cameras while we were away. Firstly, so that we could email the kids something each evening and secondly (and photography snobs may want to look away now) because you can actually grab a decent shot every now and again. Oh, and it enables you to do things like this while someone else is using the “real” camera.
... and to make mini-movies.
Yesterday morning from first thing to about midday, I had a nosebleed, caused by my lurgy, a lurgy which is lasting for ever. During this lurgy, I have had several nosebleeds (having never had a nosebleed in my life before), yesterday’s being by far the worst, and it cannot be coincidence.
Since then, I have been recovering my wits, such as they are, and am accordingly now in quota photo mode. And here are today’s quota photos, all of them of the Big Olympic Thing, designed by the man who also did the Chicago Bean, Anish Kapoor:
The photo on the left was taken in March 2012, from the Victoria Docks area, looking north, and the one of the right was taken looking south from Walthamstow. The one on the right (with all its excellent roof clutter in the foreground) being an example of a common thing at this blog, namely a good photograph, taken badly. (The one on the left, though I say it myself, is a really quite good photograph, taken really quite well.)
Trouble is, whenever I do one of these postings about some Thing, which I have a nice photo of to show you, I then go trawling through the archives looking for more photos of the same Thing. Here are two more pictures of this Big Olympic Thing, this time with foliage in the foreground:
The one on the left of those two, behind the trees was taken from Stave Hill, looking east (guess). And the one on the right was taken from the big road just this side of the Victoria Docks. These two photos were (left) taken in August of last year, and (right) in 2012 (about week after the sunset photo above).
The most recent of these four photos, the only one taken with my latest and undoubtedly my best camera, is by far the worst, technically. This is because, for that photo to work, the light had to be very good, but it was not. A less good camera with perfect light trumps a better camera with poor light, for me, usually, given the sort of outdoorsy, long-distancy photos that I generally like to take. I’m hoping my lurgy goes away soon enough for me to take advantage of this summer, and all its light.
As you can surely tell, I consider the Big Olympic Thing to be a fine contribution to London. It is not beautiful, exactly, but it is extremely recognisable. Every time I happen to see it in the distance, I immediately know what it is, and it lifts my spirits.
I’d been meaning to check out that big Shiny Thing outside in the courtyard of the Royal Academy in Piccadilly, ever since Mick Hartley gave it a mention at his blog, with a photo, way back on April 8th. Earlier this week I finally got around to doing this, and I took lots of the usual photographs that you would expect me to have taken, of which these are two:
Click on the left, and that shows what this Shiny Thing is like, in its present context. I loved the Shiny Thing itself, as my picture on the right illustrates. In there I see things like Darth Vader. And, rather smaller, I think I also see a naked woman there. Also, there is something vaguely feline about this shape, with its pointing ear-like attachments. Endless photographic fun, especially with the evening light warming up the colours of the surrounding courtyard buildings.
But, I found the rest of this agglomeration rather less interesting. If the idea was to create some interesting reflections, then blander shapes next to the Shiny Thing would have worked better. As it is, the wooden pointy thing, in itself nice enough, is by comparison rather mundane and the black frame that the wooden pointy thing and the Shiny Thing are held up by is ungainly, obtrusive and, to me, when I actually saw it, downright ugly. I mean, did the creator of the equally shiny Chicago Bean feel the need to stick a lot of other crap right next to it to be reflected in it, given that there was already a city there? No he did not.
But I guess if you are Frank Stella Hon RA, one of the most important living American artists, you feel the need to do something arbitrary. Mere Platonic symmetry doesn’t do it. A merely beautiful Shiny Thing won’t serve your purpose. It would dilute your brand. Anyone could have done that. There had to be something there which would get people saying: Why did he do that? Come to that, who the hell is he? So that they can be told that it was done by Frank Stella Hon RA, one of the most important living American artists, and so that Frank Stella Hon RA, one of the most important living American artists, can supply an answer about what he thought he was doing when he, Frank Stella Hon RA, one of the most important living American artists, did what he did, like this:
The contrasting materials employed in the sculpture, the natural wood against the highly finished metal, the differing treatments of space in the line-drawn star and the round curves of the solid star, create a tension and sense of the works being both repelled and attracted to each other at a fixed distance by an invisible force field.
Maybe if I go back and take some more snaps of this Shiny Thing, I will decide that I find the other crap next to it not so crappy after all. The other crap certainly looks better in the shots at the other end of the link above than it did to me, on the spot. And, if it was necessary for Frank Stella Hon RA to ponder the contrasts between a wooden thing and a shiny thing and black metal stuff to get Frank Stella Hon RA, one of the most important living American artists, to have made a very entertaining Shiny Thing, then fine. Whatever it took.
Yesterday, while walking along the sharp right kink at the top end of Horseferry Road, which I do a lot, I looked up into the bright blue sky and beheld things of colourful beauty. What do you suppose it is?:
Does this make it any clearer?:
Clear for those to whom it is now clear, but still not very clear for most, is my guess.
Yes, it’s a Big 4. And if you still don’t know what it is, apart from it being a Big 4, it is the Big 4 outside the fantastically over-the-top front door of Channel 4 TV HQ.
This Big 4 has changed a lot over the years. (You can see a few of those changes in among all this google-search-imagery.) Different artists and designers have taken it in turns to adorn its metal skeleton in a succession of different colours and costumes. The above is merely the latest iteration of this process. And definitely one of the better ones, I think.
I like how the colours all vanish once you get straight in front of the 4, and all you get is a relatively bland white 4. The effect is calculated to resemble the fleeting glimpse of the 4 that you get in the various intros you see just before Channel 4 shows on the telly. Note also how the sun at that particular later afternoon time of day picked out the white bits of the Big 4, while leaving the stuff behind it in relative darkness. I still don’t really understand how this happened, but I definitely like it.
The bad news, however, is that to get that particular Big 4 picture from the exact right place, you need to be standing in the middle of the road that turns south off Horseferry Road, past the left hand side of C4HQ, as we look at it, and at exactly the spot where the pavement would have been, right next to Horseferry Road itself.
So, finally, what we now see is the exact moment when a car came up right behind me and honked loudly, anxious to get past me and out of Horseferry Road instead of being stuck right in it, and honked at in its turn by angry cars behind it.
I immediately jumped out of the car’s way, and it politely waved thankyou as soon as it had made its slightly relieved way past me.
A lot of cars deliver and collect a lot of people to and from that exact spot, and they must get this a lot.