Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
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Most recent entries
- Steve Davies talk last night
- Emmanuel Todd links
- the Norlonto Review is back!
- There are cranes and there are cranes
- Savoy cat
- Spot the Samsung connection
- Stairs Thing outside St Paul’s
- Cassette iPhone photographer
- Wedding photography (6): The Wedding and the Reception
- Testing again
- BMdotCOM insult of the day
- Views from the Hackney Wick station footbridge
- BMdotCOM mixed metaphor of the day
- Wedding photography (5): Photography!
- Phablet news
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
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Category archive: Sculpture
Photographed by me this afternoon, outside the Savoy Hotel, Strand, London, where there are two of these, on either side of the entrance road:
I couldn’t tell, no matter how carefully I looked, whether this is made of real vegetation or just plastic fakery. I asked how long the cats had been there, but got no satisfactory answer. All I learned was that these cats are there for “good luck”.
When home, I googled, and learned of Kaspar.
I shall definitely be having a go on this, which will be up and ready for climbing in the Autumn:
The boundaries between Art, Advertising and Fun get ever blurrier.
This particular bit of artistically fun advertising being to advertise a new way to use “tulipwood”.
Blog and learn.
So anyway, back to that wedding. (Here are (1) and (2).) I’ve started so I’ll finish. All the pictures for all these postings are chosen, arranged, uploaded, ready to go. All that remains is for me to add a bit of waffle.
I should perhaps here explain that I was the first guest to arrive at the wedding, by more than an hour. Hence the number of photos here – the previous posting in this series, this one, and the next one - of things without people. It’s not that I suppose weddings to be better without people, or that I dislike people. Not at all. It is merely that near the start of my day, I suddenly had a lot of time to fill. So, one of the things I did to amuse myself was take photos like these:
Spot the odd one out, the unsentimental, here-and-now, nostalgia-free technology.
Is that what future generations will mostly see of the way we now live?
LATER: That was quick.
Here is another for the Digital Photography Imitates Art collection. I encountered this scene in the Tachbrook Street Market earlier this week, off Warwick Way, just as they were tidying up at the end of their afternoon.
I am sure the guy in the van clocked me as more than somewhat of a perv, but in my opinion photographic talent has a large dose of not caring what others think of you while you’re taking the picture, and another big dose of caring only about the picture.
So here it is:
It was only when I got home that I realised that I had one of those now-you-see-it-this-way-now-you-see-it-that-way pictures. One moment, I am seeing this as the back of a headless, legless, nude mannequin, which is what it was. Next thing I know, I am seeing it as the front of a headless, legless, nude mannequin, but very weirdly lit (from below) and very badly photoshopped into the picture, with strange white lines around it where a much less obvious join ought to be, which is what it was not, but still I see that. Do you agree? Course you do.
Here are two more snaps, just to show more unambiguously what was going on:
I think it’s the superior road surface that makes all this look like art. If it had merely been somewhat crumbly tarmac, it just would have been a few coat rails and a mannequin. Not art at all.
Recently I recycled, at Samizdata, some thoughts about Art from favourite blogger of mine Mick Hartley.
On the subject of “as found” art, the sort when it’s Art entirely because the Artist says so, without having done anything else himself besides stick the thing in an Art gallery, Hartley said this:
The logical conclusion to this line of thinking would be that if anything can be art if its maker wishes it to be art, then anything or everything can be art – and we don’t need artists any more. Curiously this is an argument that artists themselves seem reluctant to make.
I just know that there is a connection between what Hartley says there, and Hartley’s (and my) habit of taking photos (and showing the photos of others) of industrial clutter, outdoor gadgetry (such as the communications kit you see on roofs), decaying infrastructure, etc., that resembles abstract art.
The point of such pictures is that you do not only perceive the objects you are photo-ing as things doing a job of some kind, that is, the way their original creators mostly, presumably, perceived them. You see them almost as disembodied effects, quite distinct from what the kit was originally built for, and often no longer even seeing what the objects once were or still are. You see them the way you see abstract art.
(Related to all this is that I like cranes, but what I really like is how they look (like very superior sculpture), rather than: how they work, which is best, which sort does what, etc. (Here is a Hartley crane snap I just found.))
I say you see all this stuff “almost” as disembodied effects. But I think a lot of the fun is that you can also see what they are originally, even as you observe their aesthetic pleasingness or oddity, or resemblance to some particular work of art or type of art. The pleasure you get is a bit like with those pictures which could be two different things, like an old ugly woman or a beautiful young woman, depending on whether you see that bit as an arm or a nose, or whatever. Is it what it merely “is”? Or is it Art?
Hartley is particularly fond of bright colour effects. As are many more recent sculptors.
In connection with all this, here are four snaps taken by me on Tuesday Feb 19th, when I went on a trip to check out Blythe Hill Fields:
Top left was taken on the way, through a train window. Bottom right was taken on the way home, at Whitechapel tube. The other two were taken in the Blythe Hill Fields vicinity.
Those Artists surely do still have a role in all this, because we photographers of abstract-art-like stuff are responding to their challenges. We are saying: We don’t need you. We can see our own Art, thank you. Mondrian rectangles? I’ll give you rectangles. Big crazy sculptures made of industrial waste? Why not photo … industrial waste? And so on. We are both acknowledging the power of and (some of us – like me and Hartley) seeking to diminish the power of the Artists.
The artists have been telling the rest of us to see and enjoy the real world in new and interesting ways, and we are doing that. They started this.
The question is not so much: Are the Artists necessary? They have been, to the process I have described. But: Can they stay ahead? Can they keep on setting new challenges, or do I and Mick Hartley and all the other As Found Art photoers end up being our own artists?
I am groping my way into this subject. The above may be a muddle. But there is something interesting in among all this, I think.
A final Hartley photographic link that also seems relevant.
I recommend trawling back through his blog, as I just did.
LATER: And, as if he’s determined to illustrate all of the above further, there is now this.
Next last Thursday photo I want to show you:
Clock on the left to get the same photo bigger. Click all you want on the right, but that price is as big as it’s going to get, which I am sure you will agree is just as well.
Perry de Havilland collects hippos, likes hippos, etc., and I am always on the lookout for cheap hippos for him. If you do a Samizdata posting, and forget to specify any categories, the posting is categorised as being about “hippos”. Arf, arf.
But hippos are hard to come by, as already noted in this earlier posting. For less than something like £980 I mean. This frustrates me, because Perry is a hard man to buy presents for. It also surprises me. Hippos are fun animals, surely.
The BBC thinks so. It features hippos in one of its intro-videos, the one where a bunch of hippos swim around in a circle. Even though they never swim, so QI says. They just skip along the bottom, which looks like swimming only if the water is the right depth.
I should have photoed the shop name, but forgot to. Sorry shop.
The gift shop is a rather recent phenomenon. It results of from regular stuff getting so cheap that if we want it, we go and buy it. So, when you are giving someone a gift, it can’t be a refular thing. It has to be a Gift.
And it just so happens that one of my favourite London streets, Lower Marsh (where I buy second hand CDs at Gramex), is rapidly turning into Gift Shop Alley.
And of all the gifts I have seen in the shop windows of gift shops, this is my favourite:
Trashy I know, but I do love it. Photoing through a window is a bit of a skill, which I do not really possess, but I did my best.
As I was photoing, a lady emerged from the shop, locking it on her way out, so she worked there. And she told me the name of the shop, which is not clear from outside: London Fossils and Crystals.
The skull of skulls is neither a fossil nor a crystal, but who cares?
Yesterday I waited until it was nearly dark for it to stop snowing, but it never did and I went out anyway, back to see whether the new crane that I spotted last Friday on lorries was up and craning.
As soon as I got to Vauxhall Bridge Road, I had my answer. Here is how things looked from Vauxhall Bridge, and then from closer to:
That I was able to get closer was down to the fact that they have now cleared up sufficiently for traffic to be flowing again. Fast work.
Which meant that I could, without interrupting anything more important, take a closer look at where the helicopter actually hit the ground:
If you click on that left picture, you will see, in line with the two broken windows, a diagonal blue line, which tells you roughly what happened. The helicopter struck the edge of the roof of the building, and then landed in front of it. Wreckage and flames than spread to the front of the building on the right.
So, life in Vauxhall is rapidly getting back to normal, as these next two gents illustrate. In the second of these two pictures, I include the towers and the cranes, visible beyond the smaller blocks in the middle distance. Helicopter crash? What helicopter crash?
Digital photography has, I surmise, caused more snowmen to be created. Because now you can snap them and boast about them to your friends.
Snow is both good news and bad news for photographers like me. The good news is that (in addition to increased numbers of snowmen) it creates wonderfully oil-painting-like effects out of the most commonplace of circumstances, such as this coil of barbed wire on top of a covered footbridge, there to stop people using the top of the footbridge as a way to get across it and plunder:
The bad news is that if you point your camera upwards, which is hard to avoid if you are photographing tall cranes from very close, you get blobs of snow on your lens. Not all of the photos from which these four are selected were the successes that they would have been, had there been no snow still descending:
I was able to get these shots because, when retracing my steps towards home, I found that I could actually get closer to the cranes than I had earlier thought. Those shots were taken outside one of the St George Wharf flats front doors, right next to the cranes.
I would describe myself as a “craniac”, but googling tells me that the word is already taken, not by us crane lovers, but by people bothered about improving their craniums, or something. Pity.
As you can see, the wrecked crane is still up there, the new crane only just having been erected.
Despite the weather, and despite the grim circumstances that I was photographing, this was a most satisfactory little expedition.
As promised, more Croydon Shop Stuff, feline because it’s Friday:
Top left, superior Egyptian cats, and: a meerkat. They’re cats too, right? Well, kats, anyway.
Top right, you can see a hippo, next to all the exotic, big, wild cats. Hippos are extraordinarily rare in such situations, given how appealing you would think they might be. Stuff Shops are full of animals, such as monkeys, bears, cows, dogs, cats (of course), horses, and dinosaurs. But, hardly ever hippos, in fact pretty much never. I know this because Perry de Havilland collects hippos, and I am constantly on the lookout for them, to repay him a bit for all the free dinners I cadge off of him (and her).
The one in that picture is by something called Naturecraft, and it’s the only hippo they do. It costs £25 quid, and I’d be willing to go that far, but I reckon Perry already has one of these exact hippos. They aren’t hard to find on the www, so if he wants one, he already has one.
According to this site, Naturecraft was bought up and rejigged, and doesn’t do these animals any more. Maybe the problem was that people photoed them in shops, but didn’t buy them.
Madsen Pirie has a posting up about the Parisian origins of the Statue of Liberty, featuring one of my all time favourite photographs. Which gives me an excuse to exhibit some snaps I took in Paris last February, of the Statue of Liberty.
There are two miniature Statues of Liberty in Paris. Before visiting Paris I didn’t realise there were any, and since being in Paris until now, when I looked it up on the www, I hadn’t realised that Paris contained two. There is a very small one in the Jardin du Luxembourg, and a less small one next to Grenelle Bridge, which is the one I went to see:
I still have tons more Paris photos to show off, but that’s a start.
As in me photographing Kreod, and as in me photographing someone else photographing Kreod. Kreod is a rather odd little sculpture that has been near the Dome for a short while, now passed.
The photographer I photographed looked very dramatic, partly because the late afternoon sun being directly behind him:
But he also looks dramatic because I am so far below him. I feature him here because he is an example of how you can make someone look heroic, just by getting yourself below them. As I discussed in a recent posting at Samizdata, about a sculpture in the City, which is at ground level and hence looks non-heroic, unless you did what another photographer did and lie down in front of it and still contrive to photograph it from below.
And here are a couple of snaps I took of Kreod itself:
In itself, I found Kreod unremarkable. It’s one of those things that starts out in the design stage feeling, at any rate to the designer, like it’s going to be really pretty, but which ends up looking tacky, in a seventies lava-lamp sort of way.
I, and others who have photoed it, think it looks better if you put a bigger and more impressive Thing behind it, so that’s what I did. Twice.
The photo bottom left was taken at exactly the same time as the one at the top. In Real Life, light turns things lighter. But with photoraphy, a bright light source darkens everything else. Strange, yes?
Here are some other snaps I took of the Memorial:
For some reason, I often find the little cards and photos of loved ones that people put on these memorials to be more evocative than the Big Thing itself. And given that others will of course also be photoing the big picture, I often find myself concentrating on these small things when I photo these things. And on others taking photos of course, that being a constant preoccupation of mine.
You don’t have to agree with everything Bomber Command was commanded to do during WW2 to salute the bravery of those who did it.
I for one find that prominent Pericles reference to defending freedom (the one I made into an SQotD, and which you can see in the final picture above) slightly odd. Bomber Command was an offensive weapon, as is made clear in the Churchill quote about how only the bombers could offer victory (see photo in line 3, far left). And its purpose was not just to win the war (which despite Bomber Harris’s promises it only helped to do), but to punish the damned losers of it for having started it. This was a punitive war, and everyone at the time knew it. Oh sure, the story at the time in the newspapers was that it was all precision bombing of military targets, blah blah, but if any bombs just happened to land on civilians, the attitude of civilians on our side was: serve the bastards right.
You have to realise how most British people felt about the Germans during WW2, including most of the bomber airmen. The Germans were the people who, having experienced World War 1 in all its horror, concluded from it that they needed to have a re-run of it, but this time win. Starting WW1 was forgiveable, albeit a horrible blunder, and we still quarrel about who exactly did start it. Starting WW2, on purpose, was unforgiveable.
Okay, maybe a lot of Germans were not in favour of all this. But they went along with it, very happily. Until it all started to go wrong.
WW1 ended with a negotiated German surrender. This time around, our Anglo ancestors were determined that every last German left alive would not only lose, but know that Germany had lost. Each German must taste defeat, and if they died while tasting it, that was just fine. This time, the surrender would be unconditional. No “stab in the back” crap. Stabbed from the front, with overwhelming force, by an enraged world.
Never again. You must never, never, do this again. That was what Bomber Command was saying.
In a way, the bombing offensive was a continuation by other means of the silly pamphlet dropping over Germany which was what the bombers first did. Sending a message, but this time in a form that would register.
You may not like any of this, but that is how it was.
In the forecourt of the Channel 4 headquarters in Horseferry Road is a big 4, which gets variably decorated from time to time. This is the latest variant, photoed by me this afternoon:
That must be a guy in a wheel chair, there to flag up the Paralympics coverage on C4.
And yes indeed, perfect summer weather.
I’m back from my travels in the land occupied by the above creatures, but that will have to do for today.
I’m reading what I think will prove to be a terrific book, about The Fall of the Roman Empire by Peter Heather. Here is some of what Heather says about the massacre of the lost legions of Varus in 9 AD (pp. 46-47):
The massacre was the work of a coalition of Germanic warriors marshalled by one Arminius, a chieftain of the Cherusci, a small tribe living between the River Ems and the River Weser in what is now northern Germany. The ancient Roman sources describing the defeat were rediscovered and passed into broader circulation among Latin scholars in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and from that point on Arminius, generally known as Hermann (’the German’) - the delatinized version of his name - became a symbol of German nationhood. Between 1676 and 1910 an extraordinary seventy-six operas were composed to celebrate his exploits, and in the nineteenth century a huge monument was constructed in his honour near the small city of Detmold in the middle of what is today called the Teutoburger Wald. The foundation stone was laid in 1841, and the monument was finally dedicated in 1875, four years after Bismarck’s defeat of France had united much of the Cerman-speaking world of north-central Europe behind the Prussian monarchy. The 28-metre copper statue of Hermann is mounted on top of a stone base of similar height, which itself sits on top of a 400-metre hill. The edifice was a reminder that the triumph of modem German unification had its counterpart in the Roman era.
The Hermann monument is actually in the wrong place. The name Teutoburger Wald was first coined for the forested area around Detmold in the seventeenth century, as people began to conjecture where the ancient battle might have taken place. Thanks to some extraordinary finds, part of the actual battlefield has now been identified about 70 kilometres to the north. ...
On the right there is the monument.
I regularly read in books about classical music that opera was central to rise of nationalism in Germany, and also in Italy. But that really drives that point home, I think.