Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Circus and Cat

I want to thank my neighbour's children for this shot. I left the objects where they were since they looked nice together - no more or less than that. But it did make me think about the circus. In theory, a circus is merely a bounded circle within which events take place. At the circus, the events are of a type that we might dream about - encounters with animals, walking the tightrope, eating fire, clowning around, climbing, falling or bending our bodies into impossible shapes. The circus is a very old form and hence many of the things I've described are archetypal as is the circle itself. According to Jung, the circle is the totality of the psyche. If you dream you are in a circus, consider what you are doing and how it feels. If you are walking the tightrope, high above the ring, are you confident or scared? Ask yourself how you feel about the circus. Try associating "circus" to things or sayings you know. For example, we say, "He ran away with the circus". I haven't said anything about the cat, have I? It looks like the cat is sleeping on the chair. That's what cats do ....

Monday, June 29, 2009

Life's a Beach

I recall chatting about the regenerative power of walking on the beach with bare feet. Here is the proof. I liked this holiday maker's purposeful stride with his hat nonchalantly carried. This man has a destination - as you can see. Now I think Eugene Boudin (1824-1898), might have liked this shot. Boudin painted beach life almost exclusively - although his tourists would have been more dressed up than our subject. Like this photograph, his subjects are often faceless - looking away from the viewer, so that his composition of sea and sky could take its place. But his paintings reflected an intimacy with beach life that was seldom, if ever, surpassed - except by his star pupil, the great impressionist Monet. Monet had been drawing caricatures until Boudin invited him to share the ocean front with him. His pupil was to produce more daring beach paintings thereafter. I cropped the holiday-maker to nearly fill the frame, since I wanted to convey the considerable power of his walk. The leg is a symbol of life and in symbolic terms, to bare the leg is to display power and virility.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Unconscious Blue

There is something very solitary about this image of a woman contemplating the sea. The sea is formless and limitless,. Like the unconscious, its currents can be dangerous or revitalising - the tides are quite dramatic at Sandymount Beach and can catch out the unwary! It struck me that in this sea picture, the formlessness of the sea seems to contrast sharply with the formal reality of the solitary woman who appears to be dreaming. But whilst water in dreams would seem to be a good subject for psychoanalysis, streams and lakes are largely preferred - the sea's infinity poses some problems apparently. Even Baudelaire, who was more in tune with sea waters, commented that the radius of infinity for someone dreaming by the sea is about six or seven leagues (Mon coeur mis à nu, Journaux intimes, 1947). My feeling is that water represents the collective as opposed to the individual unconscious - a seemingly huge, undifferentiated mass as opposed to the single, perceived self. The individual needs a conscious, developed sense of self to be able to differentiate from the collective - otherwise its easy to be swept away in currents that are largely unconscious. Maybe that's why dreamers prefer to dream of the freshness of a mountain stream, rather than the infinite ocean.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Fish is Life!

There's a lot of sea in my blog at present. What can this mean? Fish are water symbols and are as the vendor correctly suggests, symbols of life. Fish and reproduction are well known companions. They make many, many eggs and are considered almost universally as prosperous and fertile. But Howth is a fishing place and the myths of casting the net and hauling fish from the depths are also cross cultural. Peter was the Fisher of Men, catching the souls for conversion and thus saving them from damnation. For psychoanalysts - well, we fish all the time. We are looking for material from the unconscious, which can be compared to the sea. By allowing spontaneous forces to operate, hidden material of great value may be brought to the surface. Clients recall material from the depths and psychoanalysis brings it up and makes it known. As In the famous BBC documentary "Shoals of Herring", Ewan McColl sings With a hundred cran of the silver darlings, That we'd taken from the shoals of herring.

Silkie the Seal


I was talking the other day about film stock. Thiis picture was taken in Howth in north Dublin with the famous Ilford HP2. In reality this black and white film is a colour process film (C41). It just comes out monochrome and has excellent grain for a 400 ASA film. For good measure, this one was taken (not by me) with a double red filter which makes it contrasty - blacks turn almost white. The Scottish legend of the silkie is similar to the Greek legends. In the latter, sea nymphs pursued by the Gods turned into slippery, short furred creatures. They were shape-shifters and could assume different forms which was very useful for escaping and protecting their virginity. The Scottish legend tells of seals that abandon their skins to turn into beautiful women. They then hide the skins in case they want to return to the sea. Some Scottish clan chiefs sometimes managed to marry such creatures and apparently the silkies made very good wives. But silkies always yearned to return to the sea and so needed the skin they had shed. Seals are held to symbolise the part of the unconscious that derives from repression and although it can take many shapes and forms it is to some extent controllable. Many thanks to the guest photographer!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Spade and Pail

I left this Sandymount beach shot exactly as it was. My title causes confusion in England since in that land, a pail is ... a bucket. I had some confusion in Yorkshire once in making a request - and ended up with a Pale Ale. In the photograph, it was the shape and the deep colours of the objects that I liked. There's also some kind of seaweed stuff all over the beech. It's organic whatever it is but I don't know the name! Generally, the symbolism of pails (or buckets) is the same as that of pots or urns - which in turn are often associated with water. The old song There's a Hole in My Bucket springs to mind. I think here that since the container is exactly for the purpose of filling with sand, that this pail takes on the attributes of sand. Both container and sand are linked with womb. Which makes sense if you think about walking on the beach in bare feet. Then we get a feeling of rest, safety and regeneration - regressus ad uterum.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Change is Loss

I am just mourning the loss of the old film stock. I don't use such a camera these days although I still have a couple of 35mm Pentax bodies for film stock. The last time I used a 35mm SLR, I looked at the back of the camera for the picture! I very much miss some film stocks - Tri X, XP2, Ektar - and the fabulous ScotchChrome 1000 which had grain like golf balls. There are still facilities for developing films, but much reduced. Apparently the one time Yellow God of Photography, Kodakchrome, is ceasing production too. I never saw that coming. All the same, digital photography is very rewarding. Results are immediate and can be rejected if not up to scratch. What is lost is the anticipation of the completed roll of film. Sometimes you didn't need to wait though. There was a visceral feeling for an out-of-the-ordinary image. I miss the darkroom too. The manipulation of the image was fun - but not the spotting of the completed print. So this assembly of remaining films and old style lens represents both loss and gain. So it is in psychotherapy. Clients want to change something or they would not be there. But in embracing new ways of being, they lose the old - and possibly unwanted - yet familiar ways. Change is always loss.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Psychoanalysis of Fire

Fire is one of the most enduring symbols. It is all the opposing values of good and evil - good and bad, gentleness and torture. So says Bachelard, who in his seminal work The Psychoanalysis of Fire, describes fire as both cookery and apocalypse. I was out and about on my appointed rounds when I noticed the Graduate ruins. I had heard of the incident of course - but I had not seen for myself. It strikes worse, this kind of loss, when such a facility has been used over the years as watering hole and dining hall. It was a bit of a land mark too. Loss all round really. Psychologically, fire is many contradictions. Although it destroys, it purifies. The Graduate has gone through the ordeal of fire, but will surely rise again. I find it impossible to think of that part of Killiney without a Graduate Pub. In psychoanalysis, the complexes related to fire are painful, especially those of neuroses. Painful indeed, but reversible.

Italy Reflected

I took this on my sixtieth birthday, so I get to be in the shot - well a bit anyway. I have featured the Panorama in Howth before but I like the ambience of the place. You will find a serious sandwich in the Panorama, no messing. In this shot, you can see a reflection of my head and camera just above Sicily. It looks like Salerno (or Punta Campanella) is poking me in the eye. The dot in the north is, I think, where one of the proprietors comes from. No prizes for the symbolism of the window - like the eye, it always concerns receptivity. The window of an establishment such as a cafe aims to receive the guest. An inn or hostelry shares the symbolism of the house, since it seeks to provide the traveller with creature comforts. The cafe would be the kitchen with its alchemical transformations!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Landmark's Echo

There must be many shots of this scene, but this is my own. Taken from the Sandymount Strand, it has both reflection and echo. the echo consists of the smaller towers on the right! Technically, these are chimneys - and hence symbolically about mysterious channels of communication. Since Poolbeg Power Station is energy generating, it shares the symbolism of heat and fire. It "draws" the fire, maintains heat and therefore life. I had a look on the net for similar images and although there are many of Poolbeg, there isn't one exactly like this. Sometimes I think everything has been done and really, opportunities for new images are inexhaustible - and there for the taking! But the reflection and the echo does bring to mind the story of Narcissus. Narcissus was very beautiful youth who unfortunately scorned the love of Echo, a mountain nymph. His punishment (by either Nemesis or Aphrodite) was that when he stooped over a stream to quench his thirst he would be consumed by his own reflected image. Echo so wasted away in calling to him, that eventually only her voice remained. And so it is with many of us. So concerned are we with our own reflection that we forget to answer the other. Echo is calling. Can you hear her?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

His Point of View

Well away from the enclosure in ther last image, the boy looks out to sea. Could there be a more open proposition in symbolic terms? The young person with the opportunities of life looks out on the start of the voyage. What will the future promise? Open sea and sky beckons. The youth is expected to be adventurous, within limitations - and these limitations are set by the father as in the legend of Icarus. Father makes the wings for Icarus his son, to help father and son escape from the captivity of Minos. He sets limitations on the son who is bound by the feathers and wax construction. Because of the materials, he may not approach the sun to closely. I guess you know the rest. But it's about the intervention of the father, authority and the necessity for children to push beyond the bounds of parents and become independent. There is freedom and danger in the realities of the world. This young man was out and about with his friend and investigating the harbour - he was being independent. He was going out into the world and that's the way it works.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Tracks in Howth

This photograph and the next were taken fairly closely togather in time and space - and they are total opposites. This one with a real sense of enclosure and the next with a very open feel. The enclosure in psychoanalysis is very important and can express a retreat or a spiritual domain over which one has complete control. As in the photograph, only a chosen few are admitted to this "sacred space". The enclosure in the image is well-bounded on one side and on the other side the open sea washes into another enclosure - Howth Harbour. There are tracks too, which lead to the water's edge for the loading and unloading of fishing boats. This really is the "other side of the tracks". Dreaming of this scene would be rich indeed and there would be many associations to consider: the cage, the rails, wood, metal, boats, fishing, buildings, sea and sky. If a client presented with such a dream image, a psychoanalyst would go through each and every one of these pieces of content. When they are completely exhausted, analyst and analysand can begin to work towards meaning.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Diamond Birthday

It is seldom if ever that I publish a photograph of myself. But this was my sixtieth birthday so I am taking the excuse. The sixtieth birthday is rather special in our culture but it is the start of a decade rather than the end of the sixtieth year. In Japan this happens at sixty one. So I am not ready for the red kimono and red cap until next year! This is the Herbert Park Hotel just around the corner. The bar area has changed because used to be tucked away in a rather airless room. Now it looks out onto the entrance to Herbert Park in a much more spacious area. It's rather a good place to meet friends and have a snack in a pleasant atmosphere. We can compare the sixtieth birthday with the wedding anniversary. So sixty is the diamond year.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Box

I liked this shot just after I had taken it but I forgot about it and it lay in the files for some months. I recall I was buying a filter, just to protect the camera lens. Having fitted it I snapped this shot as another customer was being served. I've removed the green glow of the fluorescent lights otherwise the man's shirt would be a luminous mauve. In symbolism the box is always maternal and mysterious. Even if we can see what's in this one, it is still about the Unconscious! Do you recall the game show with the stack of boxes, Take Your Pick? The contestant was always asked whether he or she wanted cash, or if they would they take a chance on the mysterious contents of the box. The box protects something exciting, fragile and awesome - a surprise. In this case it's a little Sony digital camera - itself a kind of eye. The most famous of all boxes was Pandora's box. Told not to, she opened the box anyway, which is always a risk. Sorrow and mischief flew out to torment men. But concealed under the rim there remained Hope.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Shoots and leaves

Eats shoots and leaves was what I thought when I gave the title to the shot! I liked the juxtaposition of the camera, sign and foliage. The symbolism of leaves falls into the general category of plants except that there are usually many and so denote a group. Shelley described the fallen leaves as "pestilent multitudes" and was making a reference to a whole class. Foliage is a different matter. In the orient, a bunch of leaves represents good fortune. In the Ballsbridge lanes, the foliage is quite lush and ivy can overtake walls, poles and trees with astonishing speed. We have spoken of Dionysos before in this blog! He is often pictured as draped in ivy and this signifies endurance. Dionysos was said to use ivy to carry away in delirium those women who refused to worship him.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Angel in the Lane

The Lanes in Ballsbridge are always interesting. But if you're thinking of taking a shortcut and you're not well acquainted with them, care is needed. They don't always emerge where you think they will. The picture shows one of the residents and this is not the only angel of the Lanes. One of the beautiful, beautiful Corrs lives here. Angels are always spiritual symbols in any culture and spiritual beings too, but they do have to assume human form. Those who follow Aristotle feel that angels guide the movement of the stars and each star gets an angel. If you figure one angel to each star, that's a lot of angels. If you meet an angel or see one in your dreams this could be good news - since angels in their messenger role always bring good news.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Shopping Trip

I took this shot quickly in St Stephen's Green Shopping centre. It was simply unmissable and I "shot from the hip". Photoshop let me doctor it to look a bit like pictures from old Chinese magazines that I used to buy from oriental shops in Chinatown in London (I'm talking 1960s!). Children and childhood always symbolise innocence - cross-culturally. Children are innocent, spontaneous and unaggressive - as in the photograph - not having yet acquired "knowledge of good and evil". We often talk about finding the child within. Finding the adult within is often a more difficult task as Jarvis Cocker has commented. But in regarding the child self as part of our psyche, we are usually referring to the innocence of the child and its ability to play without self consciousness - rather than puerile or infantile behaviour in adults. So perhaps if as an adult, I exhibit spontaneity, a Taoist might say ... despite your great age, you have the gloss of childhood (Chuang Tzu).

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Autocratic Light

Back in Ballsbridge after the sojourn to Brussels! I had been waiting to take this shot before but had never been successful in getting the camera out in time. It doesn't last for long, this exact shade - and in the few minutes it might take to organise, the light can change completely. I always thought, especially in film work, that light isn't very democratic. In the time it takes to discuss what is right and wrong about shooting some scene, the light you appreciated has gone. Very autocratic. There is no right and wrong light of course - just light. In this case, the almost red light captured St Bartholomew's Tower and held it in its grip for just a minute or so. The Sun rises each morning and then "descends nightly to the kingdom of the dead". Best not to look at it if you want to keep your eyesight intact. If you dream about the sun, it may concern the intellect - think of Blake's painting, Ancient of Days. If you dream about the sunset, it is more likely to be about a beginning than an end. The sun sets only to rise once more. It's all about the cycle of beginning and endings. And speaking of beginnings and endings, my replacement camera battery has arrived. A new beginning ...

Monday, June 8, 2009

Yellow Wheel

We haven't left Brussels quite yet, not least because my camera battery expired and I am waiting on a replacement. This photograph from the Autoworld Exhibition took my fancy. In this vast hanger, a multitude of old cars is assembled. This image I chose because of the yellow wheel, which allows me to say many things about wheels, circles and perfection - as well as old cars! It also has spokes radiating from a hub - which is after all the archetypal wheel. The wheel suggest the world because of the hub staying still at the centre. The wheel turns but the centre is unchanged. In human fate, there is no power that can reverse its direction says dharma-chakra. But this is a car so presumably it has a reverse gear - especially since it's a fabulous Bugatti. You can never quite reverse back into exactly the same place of course. I know a guided imagination relaxation exercise with exactly this car reversing movement, which many of my clients swear by. But more of that next week.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Water Cannon Number 10

This is Water Cannon Number 10 in Brussels, there to oversee the dairy farmers' demonstration. I must say they didn't fire in anger and merely rattled the barrels around threateningly, which makes a funny noise. Later on I was studying the drips from one of the barrels. I was sizing it up for a fast shutter speed shot to freeze the water when it swung around to point at me. A strange moment and clearly in jest. Jest or not I did not hang around to test it out! In his seminal work, Water and Dreams, Gaston Bachelard does not mention water as a weapon, although it's as old as Exodus. Water can be creator or destroyer. It is the great punisher of sinners with its mighty power. The good have nothing to fear -in theory! Ten is the number which sums things up. Like the Ten Commandments, it is the fulfilment of the Law. Which in this case, is interesting. Here, the Law is protecting the administrative headquarters of the EU at Berlaymont from the dairy farmers. Tomorrow the parliamentary elections for Europe take place.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Attention au chien!

The dog statue took my attention because it was just so ... doggy. Here is the guardian through the ages. Guide, protector and friend. However, there are few cultures indeed which do not associate the dog with death, hell or the Underworld. This is exactly because of the dog's role as psychopomp, the conductor of souls. It is said that it has been with us for so long that it even accompanies us through the darkness of death. Dogs are the intermediaries between the worlds. The De Hond/Le Chien statue sculpted by Van Heffen in 1869, is near Schuman station and is in the Parc Cinquantenaire/Jubelpark. It's a very beautiful, formal park - an oasis of greenery in the otherwise built-up administrative district of Brussels. If you dream of being led by a dog, this is generally regarded as being positive. The chances are that you are developing in some way. The tree trunk at the rear looks like the dog is coming from the grounds and about to pounce. Strange effect. not intended!