Thursday, December 31, 2009

& now for something completely different

I thought I'd end 2009 with this one from a park sign in Richmond. So it's the end of 2009 ... and now for something completely different? What caught my eye? The boot print I think - but who would kick a sign? It only said Pitch & Put. Maybe the boot owner was angry about golf things or something else in his life. Now traditionally, this is the time for New Year resolutions and we often try to give things up rather than resolve to do new things. Giving up - smoking, drinking, chocolate, unhealthy snacks or even kicking signs - is the order of the day. Sometimes things just seem so awful that we would like to kick something. The technique is used in psychotherapy of course. Some gestalt techniques, such as focused expressive psychotherapy, involve allocating a chair or cushion to represent the person causing the frustration. The client is then encouraged to direct feelings towards the object, allowing repressed feelings to emerge, giving them voice and action and allowing change to occur. The point is that we can acknowledge, recognise and transform feelings through such techniques in a more productive way than kicking a sign. Even if it's briefly satisfying. Now that's about shadow - which is another blog.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

After Xmas Shopping

This shot is taken with the camera sitting on a bit of street furniture. Light was failing and this was the result of a too-low shutter speed and a small aperture. The Xmas lights looked nice but somehow the people looked nicer. The old black and white style of street photography has all but vanished with digital technology and mostly practitioners are stripping the colour from images to get monochrome. But does it retain the tonal quality in the process? I don't really think so. The attempts to recreate it are literally about retro-fitting the technology to salvage tone. The filters I use do something of this with some success. But a more successful photograph might be taken in Kodak Tri-X or Ilford XP2 to provide the range and then the negative could be scanned. To get good results at night there is a small window of opportunity, just about dusk. At that time, there is still enough light for the camera and enough dark to convey that night is here. Can we make use of small windows of opportunity? As with the light, we can very well wait - but it's better to seize opportunities immediately.

Monday, December 28, 2009

In the City

I took this shot near the corner of Tottenham Court Road and Charing Cross Road. It’s just to the right of Centre point, an area which appears to be undergoing renovation. When I looked at the result of the shot, I was hardly impressed - but the juxtaposition of buildings was alluring. I put it through a filter and came up with this graphic view of change in the city. The Charing Cross Road was so exciting in the sixties when I first encountered the area with wall-to-wall bookshops, selling all manner of small publications. You could make your own poetry book from a Gestetner and a stapler then get one of the shops to sell it for you. Alas Gestetner is now Ricoh and doesn't make that fabulous, accessible printing machine. That is no more and neither are the bookshops. The city changes all the time, but how do we "read" the change. If modern architects insist on buildings that proclaim their relation to society, what sense do we make of the transition? I like this image because the codes of space in the city are being "processed". Perhaps that's a more interesting space, somewhere in the stitches. Here, things other than the proclamations of architects and developers might be considered. Where we can ask - what is that building for, who will use it? Then we can begin to talk about repressive space, space that daunts and even terrorises.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Tree Facade

This is the corner of Waterloo and Pembroke Road. There was something about the skeleton trees that looked interesting against the modernist lines of the building. The fairly ordinary office block which housed Yellow Pages has, since my time in the neighbourhood, had a new facade. It managed to survive the building boom, which entailed pulling some of its (newer) neighbours down. As I am fond of saying, it's not the worst, but I wonder how long it will remain since many plans are outstanding for close-by Baggot Street. I like trees in the winter because you can see the gnarled trunks and branches devoid of vegetation. Although the literature (especially Jungian) privileges the hermaphroditic quality of trees, the trunk rising from the ground is clearly in the realm of the phallus and hence the father. So despite their large root structure, trees always take the upward path. Trees in tales of mystery and imagination seldom have leaves, unless rustling is required of course! Generally bare, they are vested with a sinister appearance. In these times where the ecological balance seems threatened. I acknowledge that it takes only a few minutes with a power saw to cut down a tree that took a hundred years or more to grow. Where we seem to be tipping the balance of climate change through wholesale plundering of the earth, I am reminded that the Hanging Tree is another name for the gallows. I hope that we are not building our own, through economic recklessness.

Rejected Window

Just around the corner, a new building nestles amongst the older ones. As decoration, windows like these were installed with little thought for the urban surroundings. I always think this kind of decorative feature belongs to the seaside where almost anything goes and doesn't look too out of place. I had a look from this angle that you see and somehow the window had something to recommend it - so I used a filter that picked up the browns in the stained glass. Maybe I was looking for something to salvage in an object that is far from pretty, but is something with which you have to co-exist. Jung was very emphatic about the stone that the builders rejected. The stone would eventually be found to be the most useful and have to be incorporated into an important part of the building. So perhaps the things we reject about ourselves are the very parts of ourselves that we need to develop and reintegrate. We cannot throw away the "bad" parts of ourselves. We need to acknowledge, rework and reintegrate them. In the practical world of Ballsbridge space though, I have to live with the window. But I found I managed to make something of it. I just took a different point of view, saw something from a different angle.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Lorry or Truck?

Not the sort of thing you see everyday in Elgin Road, Ballsbridge. It's the Mexican Embassy, and didn't appear to be anything more dramatic than a truck bringing tents for a fete arranged in the garden. A truck, you say? Wouldn't that be a lorry? Or since it's army would it be a wagon? Something I did not know was that truck comes from trochos or τροχός, Greek for wheel. It's likely that in the UK and Ireland we would say lorry rather than truck. In other countries it gets very complicated and translation will not do. In Germany, truck is a loanword and is likely to refer to a forklift vehicle. If you dream of a (truck or lorry), then it could refer to a heavy emotional load that has to be transported. As always, your associations are important. What would be your associations be to a vehicle such as the one in the photograph? If you are in or have been in the Army, that would have to be considered. But I can't help thinking of a stupid rhyme from my childhood. They're not lorries/ They are trucks/What is in them?/Cows and ducks. Could it be from the Second World War? Maybe someone could tell me?

Friday, December 18, 2009


Again from St Peter's Square, you could have your pick of people taking photographs. Enough to make one wonder whether people were there for the experience or merely to record their presence. Sometimes we are so busy taking photographs we forget to be "in the now". This must be in my shadow as I am of course in the frame for this one. The shadow in psychoanalysis is an interesting concept and quite delicate - but roughly speaking, if you see someone that you don't know very well and they arouse feelings of enmity, then that is your own projection - part of yourself that is unrecognised and unintegrated. Notice what you notice. The more you recognise, the better. So of course this photograph is about hair. What an admirable symbol is hair! We can usually remember Samuel, shorn of his hair by Delilah - and hence shorn of his strength. Imprisoned by the Philistines, his hair grew again and he brought down their temple with his last act. We consider the hair to be a part of the body even when detached. We keep saints' hair as relics and a lock of the baby's hair as a memento - especially after the first time the baby's hair is cut. The way the hair is styled can denote personality or spiritual status. Do you recall the lyrics for the musical song "Hair"?
Hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair
Flow it, show it
Long as God can grow it
My hair

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Reassuring Buckets

I came across these in Via Gregorio VII, just near the Vatican, The shops were closing and you couldn't miss the colourful buckets. I suppose that the containers had just been cleaned and put there to drain at the end of the working day. What they contained I do not know and I can't remember the shop, but I think it was a caffè or snack bar. I think I've said enough about containers and the like, but this did remind me of various Arabian folk tales like Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, where there was much a to-do with oil jars. People hid in them, were drowned in them or even boiled in them. These would of course have been 2 metres high whereas these largish containers are less than one metre in height. So what's under these containers? I doubt if they are hiding anything. Rather, they were a comforting sight on a winter's night - a sign of rhythmic activity and of the day coming to an end. The pavement or sidewalk is a site for reassuring activities, a sign of habitation and of the city. The city is the Mother and so of course are containers such as these. Perhaps that's why the sight is reassuring.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Senatus Populusque

These are everywhere in Rome, but I liked this one in particular because it was wearing smooth around the manufacturers name. The old Roman initialism - I am assured it is an initialism - is on manhole covers in Rome and probably dates from the time of Mussolini, when attempts were made to identify with the Roman Empire. The Rome municipality and many other cities (including Dublin) adopted it from Senatus Populusque Romanus, which itself was everywhere for a while, most famously on the Roman legions' standards. "The Senate and the People of Rome" stood for the government of Rome, which must have been quite early to have its own typescript logo. The Dublin version is SPQH, Senatus Populusque Hibernicus, the Senate and People of Ireland - and is on the City Hall. At roughly the same time, SPQL was adopted for the City of London - Senatus Populusque Londinii. The point is, that all authority derives from the people. So Mussolini wasn't the first to associate with the glories of the Roman Empire. Psychoanalytically, to go climb down under the manhole cover is certainly to sink into the unconscious below and its labyrinthine system of caverns.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Roman Shopping

I very much liked this scene as I was sitting at a caffè in Rome. It's kind of relaxed, somehow, but also full of questions. What is the woman looking at this is so agreeable? What's in the magazine that the men reading, that is so interesting? Are the man and woman at the window related in some way? I will never know. Such is this kind of image. The scene is such a long way from the harshly-lit shopping malls that have become so familiar, less mannered and self conscious. Some photographers strive for a naturalism which they know is beyond their grasp - to show people who are at home in their environment and not self conscious. Is self consciousness any less real? Perhaps it's just different. Lefebvre says that the body reveals its inventiveness and deploys it in space. Maybe the camera does that too, since it's a kind of prosthetic. But this is optical space, not real space at all. For all that, it's a space I briefly inhabited and helped to shape.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Amaro Felsina Ramazzotti

Upstairs in a Rome caffè I came across this objet trouvé. I set out on an investigation into Amaro Felsina Ramazzotti. Amaro, generally drunk prior to or following a meal, is a favourite of mine and I find it aids digestion. You can drink it any time you like though, but it's 30% alcohol, so go easy! Originally from Milan, it was first produced in 1814 by Ausano Ramazzotti who owned a wine, herbs and pharmaceutical store. The factory is now in Canelli, near Asti and belongs to Pernod Ricard. Amaro Ramazzotti is composed of 33 ingredients and has that aromatic, medicinal taste, which can persuade you it's doing you good. The Ramazzotti official web site is aggressively modern, compared to this tableaux but rather good fun - even if you do have to enter your date of birth to see it. I suddenly visualised a scene of teenagers in Temple Bar, completely inebriated with Amaro. We are now in the realm of Dionysos or Bacchus, who psychoanalysts see as representing freedom from inhibition and repression. Dionysos would indeed preside over that Amaro visualisation, should it come to pass. I doubt if it will. Amaro continues to be an aperitif, drunk before or after food and, if served in the establishment featured here, it would never arrive on its own, but accompanied by a hearty snack.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Generation Gap

I was glad to catch this one because it was a surprise. I was focusing on the boy choosing a magazine when the elderly woman hove around the corner and into my field of view. I am always impressed by Italian news stands. First of all, there are many. And are they well stocked? I should say so. There are books, magazines, DVDs, calendars, supplements and part-works of all shapes and sizes. If you have an interest in something you are sure to find it here. What about the years that separate the woman and the child? Very often, this gap is more easily bridged than that between the child and parent. The grandparent, for example, is a little further away, sufficiently distanced to be able to mediate between parent and child when necessary. When the parent is unable to let go of the child archetype and won't allow a son or daughter to negotiate the adult world, the grandparent is well placed to comment about how the parent behaved at a younger age! But what of our two subjects? They hardly noticed each other and certainly they hardly noticed me, in going about their business. So let's fantasise. I think the boy was about to choose a rock star calendar and the old lady was on her way to the cafe round the corner - meeting another old lady for a coffee and a sticky bun.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Smiling Policeman

The policeman was not only pleased to have his photograph taken but appeared to be of an altogether cheerful disposition. I felt confident enough to show him the result. I suppose Sunday guard duty at the Vatican is not the most difficult of duties - but who knows? He had an admiring crowd in any case with that winning smile! As I am always saying, a policeman is a sign of authority and most of us confess to feeling nervous if approached by a policeman, even when we know we have done nothing wrong. Uniforms often daunt civilians. Their clothes mark them out as being in authority, even nurses in hospital. The uniform gives them the symbolic authority of the father. So the Laughing Policeman song is funny because we don't expect the authority figure, the stern father, to laugh.
He laughs upon his duty, he laughs upon his beat
He laughs at everybody when he's walking in the street
He never can stop laughing, he said he'd never tried.
And once he did arrest a man and laughed until he died.
I used to put money in slot machines at the seaside and watch a comical caricature sing this song - and I think this rather proves my point about authority figures. Buona fortuna, il signor policeman!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

St Peter's Eye

There were many people taking pictures in St Peter's Square. You can just make out an image of St Peter's here in the camera monitor, but it showed too little detail for me to improve it. The camera of course approximates to the symbolism of the eye, and a single eye to boot. I am reminded that mythology features a number of creatures with a single eye, not all of them pleasant. I always feel that the camera is slightly predatory so maybe it's a kind of Cyclop since the one-eyed monster in Odysseus is of a rather foul disposition. James Joyce's Ulysses utilises the Cyclops (Episode 12) to present a character, the narrator, who has a very singular viewpoint (the "I"). In this case, that viewpoint is narrow and indeed bigoted. Often, we need a two-eyed point of view. In psychotherapy it is sometimes necessary to consider what is being excluded from the client's script and so perhaps that is a convincing reason for two people to work together on an issue. But the camera is uncompromising in what it excludes from the eye of the person behind the viewfinder. And the longer the lens the more singular and uncompromising is the point of view. So psychotherapy requires a whole bag of lenses - wide-angle, standard, telephoto - and we need to be able to shift focus on this or that part of the whole image. If you dream about looking through a camera viewfinder, you might like to consider what kind of lens is used and its length. Is there good depth of field or is something very particular in focus? It could alert you to an issue at hand.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

St Peter's Balloon

It was an accident that I caught the Pope's Sunday blessing. I strolled to St Peter's Square to see the tall Christmas Tree that was delivered only few days before. Coincidentally I also saw the long truck that delivered it, making its way up Via Gregorio VII. But even with the 200mm lens, Il Papa was still very far away (as you can see). So I focused on one of the balloons that was released by a visitor keen on the family - you can make out the organisation if you turn the picture upside down. It would have been nice to have the image of the balloon set against the hemisphere of St Peter's because technically they are both globes and hence share the symbolism of the circle. In practice, however, the sphere of this balloon is far from the perfection of the sphere - perfect because the distance from the centre to anywhere on the circumference is always the same. The Pope is a father symbol and in the Tarot, he is represented as the Man of Knowledge. As far as the symbolic world is concerned, he is said to be the intercessor between God and the Universe. The Pope is always set in a high position. From there he commands all his disciples to pass on knowledge to all corners of the earth.