Friday, January 29, 2010

Shadow Chasing Light

There was a bright sun at lunchtime and office workers were hastening for a sandwich or some shopping. Our subject looks like one of them, making her way to the shops perhaps. But for a brief moment the whole area was lit up and the collective mood improved greatly. Light is generally regarded as favourable in symbolism - but not exclusively. For the Ancient Egyptians, the god Set came forth with a terrible and awe-inspiring evil light from the darkest of places. Light is nonetheless associated with Gods and the Godhead. The God of Light and Satan have armies who are eternally pit against each other. In the Jewish tradition, The Dead Sea Scrolls contain The Book of War between the Children of the Light and the Children of Darkness. This was later Christianised in various ways. In one, Gnostics speculated about the phenomenal world being a trick. We are but trapped reflections, our matter being the result of an attempt to steal the light by the power of darkness. But when the soul is separated from the body it will be plunged into a sea of bright eternal light. That sounds quite OK and may explain near-death experiences. To round this off, the concept of the shadow in psychoanalysis represents the unintegrated parts of the psyche - but in the picture, it seems to be on the run!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Outside the Container

Psychotherapists often talk of containers. They mean a set of boundaries designed to offer a secure space within which to operate. The room where psychotherapy takes place is a container. It's safe and confidential and some analysts insist on it being leak proof - that is, it's wise not to talk to anyone about what you discuss in therapy. Put a boundary on it and let it keep or even "stew" until next week. CG Jung referred to it in an alchemical way. Like a chemical process, you might confine the elements in a pressurised vessel to achieve the desired outcome. In the picture, the rubbish never got into the container at all. By dumping it outside the container, the owner ensured that it would become litter and spread around. In some youth group discussions, there is sometimes a space set aside before the start so that participants can get things off their chest. These might be important for the person involved but could impede the business of the meeting. This is called "dumping the garbage". Within the allotted time, the more reluctant participant could even be encouraged to "spit it out". That's expectoration. Best carried out within a container!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Old Beetle

I spotted this old Volkswagen Beetle today. It had wide wheels but was one of the original designs which had not changed fundamentally since its introduction in 1938. It was nicknamed the beetle but it was only in 1967 that Volkswagen adopted the name for marketing - rather than Type 1. Personally, I like Kabuto-mushi or drone beetle, as it was known in Japan. The drone or rhinoceros beetle is very popular and the subject of many cartoon series. So in Japa it's a term of endearment. Jung writes that the beetle constitutes a symbol of rebirth, citing the Egyptian book, What is in the Netherworld. This says that the dead sun god would change into Khepri the scarab then mount a barge which would carry him in rejuvenated form into the morning sky. Khepri isn't very far away from Käfer, German for beetle, is it?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Parking Slot

I often write about space in the city and indeed psychoanalytic space. Here's is space captured at the precise moment of exchange - the trading of coins for temporary space. The machineis about to issue the toicket to be placed in the windscreen and this of course indicates the time of issue annd oof expiry. Space in the city expires, because that's how it's organised.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Shredder's Psyche

It was a cold and wet lunchtime today - and the sky was a rather depressing, even grey. There wasn't much light really so I set the camera to 1600 ASA and hoped for the best. I was rewarded in Baggot Street when spotted two sacks of office paper lying in a hallway. I had taken two correctly exposed but uninspiring photos when the shredding man appeared. He interviewed me about my photographs and then suggested I take a photograph of him taking the bags away. Here's the result. I guess the sacks contain the bits of work that would be insecure to merely throw away or recycle. But once shredded, could they be put together? In psychotherapy, there is a real sense of fragmentation for some clients. "I feel as if I've been shredded, I'm in bits today." would be common enough. In dreams, fragmentation can be represented by being torn to pieces by a lion or in the case of one client "I split into many pieces and ran off in all directions". Some Jungians believe that this fragmentation may be necessary as clients invest different parts of the libido in splinters of personality for some kind of safekeeping. Dionysus was dismembered and Osiris too. Prometheus had his liver repeatedly torn out. This fragmentation is the psyche's way of relinquishing a fixed identity so that wholeness can be achieved. So thank you Mr Shred-it for stimulating this observation and I hope your day went well.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Kids from the 'hood

This is a guest photograph from my brother in law, Bruno. As a doctor, he is voluntarily spending some time administering a hospital in Karamoja in the Ugandan countryside for Doctors In Africa. The organisation CUAMM is a project of technical assistance in the district of Nakapiripirit, which seeks to expand and supervise basic services. This includes the provision of a technical assistant to the Nakapiripirit district health office in Karamoja. Finally, the objective of this project is to support the planning and management of health care activities in the district. So here are some of the young people from the locality. I think they look great and perhaps they dressed up specially for the occasion, as is the way with youngsters. The young man in the centre has placed himself in charge there, I can see. If you look closely at the group, there is a lot going on. I've put a link in to the organisation, which is doing excellent work in providing services and development.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Behind the Yellow Line

The frost broke up the yellow paint on the no-parking lines in Raglan Road. Yellow is a very noticeable colour, which perhaps explains its use as demarcation lines in airports, railway stations and roads. It usually says you cannot do something, although for railways it is a safety line. At sea, the yellow and black chequered flag means quarantine. In Islam golden yellow can be holy and stands for wise counsel, whereas a pale yellow connotes treachery and deceit. In our own culture, those accused of cowardice are often called "yellow" and in the French middle ages, yellow was painted on the doors of bankrupts. These are quite ambivalent, so it's largely a matter of context. The distressed road paint made an interesting sight but why the inside line held and the outside did not, I do not know. Quite often, road paint is applied on top of the old surface and occasionally it's becomes quite a noticeable bump, enough to dislodge a cyclist if not paying attention. It does remind me of Chinese symbolism though. The yellow seems to emerge from the black - the earth emerging from the primeval waters.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

I am Curious, Orange

Of the many things distributed on pavements, fruit peel seems the most vivid. Rather orange peel than banana skin of course! Down on the ground, this is more the point of view of a small animal and therefore potential food. Having spotted the remains of the orange, I set the camera for a limited depth of field, put the camera on the pavement and pressed the shutter. I was pleased with the result because the texture of the orange peel came out well. Now a previous blog identified orange as representing fertility, because of the pips - like any fruit with seeds, it's associated with fecundity. But the orange colour, which is somewhere between yellow and red, is also somewhere between the spirit and the libido. It can be the symbol of the divine like the Buddhist's robes, or of the flammeum - the robes of Roman brides. It can be either the divine or the profane so I guess at pavement level it is more of the profane. My feeling is that it signifies a brevity of time for soon this will disappear. And this fragment of space is fetishised abstraction, created by a lens that's sitting on the ground - and me of course. No room for the eater of the orange, no space for the street cleaner or the fox who will remove it. So is the lens cruel or compassionate? Tender or tough? And where am I, the photographer, in this conundrum?

Friday, January 15, 2010

House Robin

The robin is here for no other reason that it flew into the house one morning and resisted going away, despite the presence of the cat. It did what birds do. It perched in the plants and seemed content. It could have been because the temperature was well below zero and robins do not do well in the cold. I have written about birds a few times, but symbolism varies between cultures. They are said to to be omens and this may come from seafaring tradition. This is very much a bird of the garden. They are well known for taking up residence in gardeners' sheds and mayybe this why they are said to symbolise compassion and fertility. A popular poll voted the robin the UK's most popular bird and it was the symbol of a bird protection society. Despite being insectivorous, they have a predilection for any household scraps - in other words, they're not that fussy especially in the snow. The robin departed safely after 24 hours but up until then, no effort could make it budge. It was back on the window ledge the following morning! The photo is taken at the limits of what I can do inside the house and I have sharpened it - just a little.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Not a Nest

Today there was a beautiful blue sky that replaced the grey gloom of yesterday. I looked up and there were small clusters of branches and twigs, interesting enough to take the eye. I thought at first they were nests but they were in entirely the wrong place for birds to build. In symbolism, these lower branches are of the earth and we can reach up and touch them. The tree connects all the levels - Heaven with the upper branches reaching up, Earth as illustrated and the Underworld, because of the roots burrowing down. This cosmological view is reflected in most religions. Sometimes, the tree is regarded as a larger than life entity and is regarded with awe and respect. In Siberia, some old tribes believed that a man could turn himself into a tree and back again at will. They can look threatening enough for that. But often the tree is inverted with the roots in the sky and the branches burrowing into the earth - especially where the sky and the light is recognised as life giving. Photo-genesis is recognised by ancient cultures in a way that is scientific enough.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Leaves are not Brown

The leaves are round the corner in Raglan Road, part of the Elgin Estate in Ballsbridge. These leaves always fascinated me because of their strange texture - and I only notice them when they are brown. Perhaps they are always brown. So perhaps it's my uncertainty that led me to render them in monochrome and give them a kind of Magritte title. For these leaves form a hedge, which is a boundary - and the house is attractive so occasionally one sees people peering through the leaves. What kind of space is demarcated? Lefebvre says that this is a space where access is prohibited either relatively (to neighbours and friends) or absolutely (to neighbours or enemies). I find the strange texture of the hedge is quite forbidding so perhaps I fall in the second category. But in the context of a settled society, plundering enemies would be unusual - although thieves still make their presence felt from time to time in the neighbourhood. In this social milieu, it can also be considered as an extension of the property owner's body. During my period with an experiential group, one evening the talk fell to discussions about thresholds, doors, fences, and gates. The supervisor pointed out that we were talking about boundaries between ourselves - and so we were.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Capture and Holding

Just some of the debris left by the melted snow. This would have landed on the pavement here anyway but it appears to assemble in a different manner when it's been under coatings of ice. The debris was captured. The term applies to TV programmes or other forms of media where the audience is captured by a programme. Sometimes - after it finishes you find yourself inadvertently watching something else entirely when it was not your intention. It's something advertisers know all about. Just for a little while you're held captive. So I like to think of this kind of shot as a "capture shot". It could be the pavement or the beach or anywhere following extreme weather where things are rearranged for a short while. The snow captured these fragments and held them for a while. Holding is a term used in psychotherapy to describe a situation where a client needs time to work something out. The psychotherapist provides a holding environment where the client can feel safe. Perhaps no more than that happens and it may be enough. It's not about curing or fixing. Rather it concerns empathy, sympathy and understanding whilst respecting the autonomy and capacity of the client to progress in his or her chosen path. This helps the client to capture fragments of the self and hold them together.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Reflection of the Light

Aurore, the Goddess of the dawn sponsored this photograph, notwithstanding my joke in the title. When I was a child, there was a factory nearby called Aurora, that that made light bulbs, filaments and flares. The company is still going strong I'm pleased to say, but not in the same spot. In mythology though, the Greek original, Aurore was Eos. She asked Zeus to give her husband immortality and he did grant this request. But she forgot to ask for it for herself and so her husband remained youthful whilst she aged, with the consequences you might imagine. Her brother was Helios and every morning she announced the beginning of day and travelled with Helios in his chariot across the heavens. This placed them both in the fortunate position of seeing everything that was going on and Helios would report back when it suited him. I am also attached to Helios, because it was the name of a famous lens made for Russian cameras. I had one of the latter in my youth -a Zenith - and I must say that Helios was rather a better lens than was the camera. There was nothing wrong with the Zenith photographically. It would have been fine except there was always small things wrong with it - like the catch on the back. I took some rather good photographs with it until the back demised irretrievably. So " Reflection of the Light" is my photography new year greeting to all Keepers of the Light.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The de icer

The deicer was an uncommon occurrence in Ireland's recent snow. Shopkeepers generally didn't clear the snow away and I heard that was because they were interfering in the notion of "public space". Public space is "owned" by the local authority and shopkeepers heard that they might be responsible if, because of their actions, the pavements refroze and there was an accident. In areas more commonly affected by snow and ice, there seems to be an intuitive feel for when clearing the pavement might be beneficial or otherwise. When I lived in the East End of London, everyone cleared and cleared well. So there was little trouble. There was also some conviviality involved in the task. Discussions took place and collective views emerged - usually concerning the local authority, which was usually considered deficient, no matter what! If the local authority owns the footpath, it is in reality, private. So the public space which constituted the arena for communal ice-clearing activity was private property, just as the living room is private property. For the duration of the activity though, it was re-appropriated.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Use it, throw it away

I sometimes feel that photographically, snow is a bit limiting once you get over the novelty. Unless it starts to take on interesting textures. I found a couple of abandoned objects in the Pembroke Road. and this is one of them. Luckily there were pellets of snow on the wall. I saw the hand cream and also that there was some left. Perhaps someone was ministering to their chapped hands or perhaps this is just a case of the alarming tendency to throw things away before they're used. In remoter parts of the world this would be an opportunity that would not be missed. In the end my photograph looked like an advertisement - so where's my fee? The tube no more than a vessel in symbolic terms, but the toothpaste style tube is iconic. Indeed there is a law which can be applied to squeezing contents from this kind of container - the law of diminishing marginal returns! Roughly speaking, for each increasing unit of effort that you put into squeezing, you get smaller and smaller returns on your effort, to a point where you don't feel it's worth it. Think of it as if you were paying someone to squeeze the tube for you - at some stage the small amount of cream recovered would be quite costly. So perhaps this represents the perilous state of our recent collective finances. We're putting more and more effort into the economy, with diminishing returns of anything of real value.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Ballsbridge Crossing

I chanced the shot through the window of Milano Restaurant I gave the picture some atmosphere that hid up most of the window reflection but you can still see it there. I will leave it there because it gives me the chance to explain to you that, in the photo trade, this is called a "glass shot". If agents want an aerial shot, they may specify "no glass shots". This means nothing taken through the glass of an aeroplane cockpit - or worse, a cabin porthole - is permitted. Normally, this is one busy crossroads but a long cold spell has resulted in less traffic. The recession has maybe contributed to the failure of the old kebab shop to reopen. Once it was Abrakebabra and then it was a middle eastern fast food outlet with reasonable falafel. Then it closed. The city changes continuously and as I said in a recent blog, you can see that raw space, which suggests that things are a little uncertain. Tin Tin survives though and was here when I first came to live in the neighbourhood, many years ago.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Fiery Bush.

It wasn't really as red as this, but the dramatic colours drew me out of the house to take advantage of the light. As usual the light disappeared inside a few minutes. I resorted to Photo shop to give a very pleasing array of colour. It reminded me of the Burning Bush which since a child has always fascinated me. How can you have a burning bush? What could it possibly look like? Various TV representations in the story of Exodus have made attempts, none of them convincing. It's a bit of a side issue but the original spelling of the title was probably firy, but could have been confused with fir trees. In Middle English the letters would all have been pronounced, so fiery was the one that stuck. That strikes as correct, because I can hear it. The Burning Bush was clearly a metaphor, yet there is a belief that the burning bush continues to exist at St Catherine's Monastery at the foot of Mt Sinai - and like Moses, visitors have to take off their sandals before approaching. Critics say that it was not the bush but Mount Sinai which was burning. They say that seneh, Hebrew for brambles, was a copyist error for Sinai. This makes no difference to its symbolic adoption by the Church of Scotland and the Presbyterian Church of Ireland. In the latter case, Ardens sed virens (burning but flourishing) is the church motto. In Jungian terms, the burning bush is one of a number of "calls from a mysterious source". This happens when old life values have lost their potency and been replaced by a kind of sterility. The call of the mysterious object awakens the individual to some special destiny and is instrumental in changing their path.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Snow Shadow

I have been saying for some time, that this or that refers to the shadow. What is the shadow psychoanalytically? There are two meanings. One is the entirety of the unconscious - which makes sense intuitively - contents of which we are unaware. The other is the unconscious part of the self which is specifically unrecognised by the individual - attitudes that the individual does not recognise about him or herself, but which are palpably the case (often to others). So if you saw this image in a dream it would likely represent something about oneself, which is recognised only in others. It's another case of projection. If a person has very low self-esteem and the shadow can be recognised - then its assimilation will result in an increase in energy. Literally, energy or libido is moving elsewhere. The energy can be put the service of the individual if the shadow is consciously known and integrated. This shadow fell across my lens and was the shadow of another, but I felt a moment of irritation despite the fact that the individual concerned had done nothing other than put themselves in the range of my lens. Was that my shadow or hers?

Friday, January 1, 2010

By the Hedge

New Year's Day was quiet in the neighbourhood and I trolled around in search of an interesting image. I captured a few but it was on my arrival home that I noticed my neighbours' bikes. They made such a pretty assembly there by the hedge, that I took a few shots. It's always necessary to carefully watch the exposure where there is snow. No automatic setting can capture snow properly! The bike is a symbol that is fairly enduring despite its short history as a means of transport. The cyclist gets around under his or her own power. So if you dream of being on a bike, the rules of dream analysis apply - how did it feel? Were you in full control of the pedals and of your balance? Where were you riding and in which direction? And finally what do bikes mean to you? How independent do you feel? Psychoanalysts believe that bicycles can point to an ego centrism on the part of the dreamer, so is there anything in your life that is suggests an over-individualistic outlook? In the New Year we make resolutions, so I suggest that everyone interested in dreams keep a dream notebook by the bed. Write things down immediately so that you have something close to the original. You will think of many associations later, all valid and worthwhile material.

That was the Year, that was.

I chose this image as a kind of New Year image. Looking back on the year and anticipating the new. This light has, like the old year, seen its day. Now we look forward. But if the light is the old year, it looks a tarnished, a little the worse for wear. Economically, things haven't been bright. It even looks like things are worse than poor. Institutions we expected to last, haven't performed well - and more than that they appear to be broken. We are reaching for the Superglue, but probably it won't hold. A radical overhaul is well overdue. In the old, satirical TV show (I guess it wouldn't be allowed now), the theme song went, That was the week that was/It's over. Let it go. We all need to reassess ourselves from time to time - look back then look forward. Let go of the old parts and bring in the new. If people didn't think they could change, they would not undergo an experience like psychotherapy. It's more than Superglue, it's a reworking. Of course, it is first necessary to acknowledge that there are areas in our lives that need to be changed. The old must go but the new must be fashioned from those parts of ourselves that are there in potential. This also goes for collective structures. Sometimes we are forced to acknowledge that the old way of running things is no longer viable. Something different must be forged from the old material. Like the light in the image, it's long past its sell by date.