Saturday, 30 July 2011

The deluge

Toin Adams' sculpture, the Deluge, and a shopfront James Bond poster in the Custard Factory's Zellig building.

Faces in the crowd

More pictures that come from the previous post -- faces in the crowd that caught my attention. I especially like the second one -- the pool of warm golden light in which the woman is standing as she talks animatedly, the elegant jawline of the young woman just visible in the top lefthand corner, the lush bluey-greys in the background...


Further to the previous post, here are some pictures taken at this year's Rathayatra festival.

A devotee prostrates herself before the chariot.

A woman moves amongst the crowd painting the tilaka on worshippers' foreheads -- shaped like a tuning fork, it represents the footprint of Krishna.

An elderly woman makes sure she has a prime place for when the time comes for worshippers to draw the huge chariot forward.

The chariot is pulled along. A devotee shelters Krishna from the sun while a woman showers holy water onto the crowd.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Scent of lime and camphor

Rathayatra, the festival of chariots, is celebrated by devotees of Lord Krishna all over the world. In Birmingham it will be celebrated on Sunday 24th July from about noon.

This is a picture taken last year but I shall be photographing there again this year. In this picture Krishna worshippers are preparing to offer what I think is called arati -- a coconut, sometimes dyed with tumeric and I think filled with lime juice, is topped with camphor and lit. After chanting, the coconut is thrown to the ground, the shell shatters and a wonderful smell of camphor and lime fills the air. You can just see a lit coconut held aloft in the background.

Michaelgate, Lincoln

I loved the timeless beauty of this scene... And I waited and waited until I could catch it almost entirely free of people -- just the two women approaching in the distance to offer some scale, but for the rest, just a concentration on the gorgeous perspective. Not my usual kind of photograph but I do like this.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Machine that uses a 1000 years to shut itself down

It isn't often you can photograph a modern artwork, its title (apparently hovering in the air) and the chamber dedicated to its display all in one frame, but it was possible at theIkon gallery recently when Kristoffer Myskja's Machine that uses a 1000 years to shut itself down was exhibited.

To be quite honest, I thought the piece resembled a posh hamster wheel, and I didn't -- as the Ikon did -- find its "fragile beauty and thought provoking nature...antidotes in a world too informed by ideologies of functionalism."

But it made for a pleasing photograph.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Mysterious moment

Grainy black-and-white reinforces a sense of catastrophe, but in fact this was a perfectly ordinary moment at a children's mask-making session. The camera may not lie exactly, but it does tell a very selective truth. And it has the power to render the ordinary mysterious, which to me is one of the most curious qualities of photography.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Slow Photography

I get so tired of reading the endless diatribes on camera user forums about the latest firmware, the best post-processing routines, the advantages of this four thousand quid aspherical lens over that two thousand quid non-aspherical lens, that sometimes I despair of photography. These technical matters are assumed to hold the key to 'IQ' (image quality), whereas in fact they have nothing to do with quality, the mysterious characteristics of photography that make us return again and again to a picture as it gradually gives up its secrets...

As the Slow Food movement was a fight against the values and domination of fast food and junk meals, I think we need a Slow Photography movement to help us reassert the simple pleasures of taking pictures more meditatively, relishing every step of the process including the wait as film is processed and scanned and we work gradually through the images, assessing the merits of each one carefully, selecting, rejecting, revisiting, rejecting....

I look almost constantly at the Magnum Photos website to remind myself that some of the greatest photos have been taken with the simplest of equipment. And that whatever it is that moves us about a picture has little to do with technical excellence and everything to do with content.

Pictures like this... Raymond Depardon's opium smoker in Vietnam. The same photographer's picture of camels crossing the Tenere Desert, where only the tiniest silhouettes of a camel train demarcate sand from sky. Erich Hartmann's oblique, touching pictures. The miracle of timing, incident and composition that is Henri Cartier-Bresson. Inexplicable combinations of events which nonetheless have their own logic and grace, as in this picture by Nikos Economopoulos.

The historian Tony Judt has said in a different context, "In the arts, moral seriousness speaks to an economy of form and aesthetic restraint..." If he had been talking about photography then I feel sure he would have been thinking about pictures like these.

More summer scenes

I'm not a great fan of summer -- heat and harsh overhead light don't make for great photographing weather. But one of the things I do like about summer is that you can often just let the moment and its extravagance of colour take over. They don't necessarily have a deeper meaning, but somehow the profligate colours become as much a subject as the other things in the frame...