Thursday, July 29, 2010

Authentic Face

Sometimes the spectators at race meetings can be just as interesting as what is happening on the track. Many years ago when very young, my parents were most amused when they took me to the circus, because I spent most of my time looking at the audience! Chevalier and Gheerbrant say that the face is not for the owner but for other people (and for God). Some say it is the "ego laid bare", We could argue about personas and masks, but I will repeat the authors' paraphrasing of Max Picard: "to understand a face requires deliberation, patience, respect and with them, love. The face is alive when it expresses inner life, otherwise it's like Winnicott's "false self" - as fake as a seven euro note. My subject's face is alive with his love of motorcycling and being at the race meeting is important to him. Perhaps he was an racer of old. We do not know. But we are aware at a deep level that this face is authentic.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Helping Hand

We all need a helping hand sometimes but in a motorbike race it is critical. There are various rules and regulations about assistance, but roughly, if you stall on the start grid and there is time, then a marshall can help you get started again. If it's after the red start lights have gone out, no can do! The hand is an important symbol and here it is definitely the transfer of energy that counts. It's equivalent to the "laying on of hands", through which transformation occurs by means of an outside force. One of the chief aspects of the hand is its ability to promote action, as in the photograph. The race itself falls into the category of "games". In the game, the individual has to find the inner resources to struggle not only against the other competitors, but with his or her own doubts, fears and perceived weakness. The race also takes place within a container, so competitors are free to battle within a structure of rules. So the race involves a complex network of symbols - all grist to the mill of the psychoanalyst!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Weather

Sometimes the weather isn't all that we would like. The rain streaks down the windows and we sit inside protected but annoyed that we can't do what we want outside. Buddhists often say that every day is a good day but that might be of little consolation if we have an outdoor activity planned. If I can paraphrase Emerson, the rain can be like a bad preacher, because it doesn't know when to leave off! While I was waiting for the rain to abate slightly, this shot presented itself. It was strictly "point and shoot" and the resulting exposure seemed all right. The light outside was fairly diffuse so the reflectance was perfect for the automatic setting. Certainly Gaston Bachelard would be happy, because the experience of weather in the city is different from the country. Here, the house withstands the weather in a human way, bracing itself against the rain. It confronts the weather! And for we humans, we can do nothing else than to resist the weather as does the house. As Bachelard says, we are inhabitants of the world and we have no option but to inhabit. So this is not merely about "being", but also about the energy of resistance.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Shanks' Pony

This pony lives in Wicklow and has already won a few prizes. I caught it at home in a relaxed hay-eating moment - although it obstinately refused to come nearer for a close-up. Because of my name, I am always on the receiving end of the joke "Did you get here by Shanks' pony?" I have given up on that one but I thought I would claim my name and pony together! One of the most loyal companions of humans, the horse has a special place in symbolism - mostly, but not exclusively for good. It can be a creature of the light and of fertility, or it can be of darkness and devilish power. Given the right path, and where rider and horse are intertwined as one, the horse is a true being of the intuition and its rider of reason. These are complementary of course and in analysis could represent an ideal state of integration. Set on a different path however, the horse can see all the ghosts and spirits by the wayside that are hidden to its rider. It is believed that the horse may then make a pact with the darker forces, taking its rider along the way. Psychoanalytically, the individual is at the mercy of the unconscious and of the shadow. But this rather beautiful pony in the picture seem unlikely to head off in that direction!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Turn on the Tap

It's such a simple everyday object that for the most part it goes unnoticed - even when we are turning it on in the morning when making a cup of tea or coffee. And it is a most old and venerable kind of object. Indeed, from ancient times, people knew how to regulate water and other liquids with a simple valve. The Romans knew their fluid mechanics and were a dab hand at all manner of taps. We use "tap" in many ways in conversation - we might tap a friend for cash or information. and if anyone was a suspect in major police investigation their phone might be "tapped". This always refers to a kind of draining off of something. But the word tap does not apply in all countries. It could be a faucet, spigot or valve depending on whether outdoor or indoor, functional or decorative. The one common usage for the word "tap" is where beer is dispensed! And if you can get along to a beer festival this summer, you may find my favourite dispenser - one using gravity feed, which draws the beer using a tap that is hammered into the cask near the base. Crude but effective. Very often, things don't have to be complicated to be perfectly serviceable.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Eek a Mouse!

Bray Summer Festival usually has this particular ride at its fairground. I know because I have ridden on this one and I can assure you that it is not as cosy as it looks. It ambles around for while and then throws you through a series of loops that take you by surprise. If you're going in the afternoon, a light lunch is recommended! In the title, Eek a Mouse is the name of a rather interesting reggae singer from a few years back and perhaps his uncompromising delivery would be quite suited to the aftermath of this kind of ride. Mice share the symbolism of rats and in Freudian terms, they rummage in the bowels of the earth and have anal connotations of wealth and money. We shall go no further, since this mouse is looking to the heavens rather than the deeper recesses of the earth. Nevertheless, it is a symbol of agrarian tradition as exemplified in the Robert Burns poem To a Mouse. Having disturbed a field mouse with his plough, he lamented its predicament and compared it with the hopes and fears of humans. Indeed, in both Greek and Indian mythology, the mouse might represent the healing powers of the earth.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bray from the Big Wheel

Another shot from the big wheel at the Bray Summer Festival. I'm glad I just got the train in the corner of the shot. I wonder what its like living next to the railway, with the noise and the station announcements. Is it so rhythmical that eventually house dwellers no longer hear the rumbling and clacking of the trains on their way to Dublin or Wicklow? In towns, with buildings close together, things look mechanical. The long lens has squashed the houses together, but they are in reality squashed together. In what manner does this town organise its space? Does it orient towards the sea or away from it? How does it include its seafront and its main street? When visiting Bray, you can experience the movement of residents down the hills towards the seafront, whereas visitors invariably arrive from the side. The main shopping street is parallel to but distant from the seafront with residential areas in between. It would be nice to envisage a Bray organised more pleasantly around its natural features - sea, river and hill. What would that look like, I wonder?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Solitary Hut on Bray Beach

Well of course this took my eye. And of course it reminded me of one of these shots from a student photography manual. There is always at least one shot like this in such a book! I gave this one a special filter to bring up the pebbly beach so that it looked contrasty and gritty. Do I detect that a sharp eyed youngster spotted me even up in the big wheel. Goodness! The hut is a powerful symbol and I think a hut should always be roughly this size. Otherwise it gets "housey". There should always be soomething solitary about any hut, whether on a beach, an allotment or in the woods. As far as the occupant is concerned, he keeps a lonely vigil, Bachelard would say, before God. And therefore he would argue that the coccupant is not so solitary. On the beach, we are seldom solitary, even in winter. There are always strollers, dog walkers, modern day beachcombers and the like - and in the summer, pleasure seekers arrive to take what gratifications are to be had. This hut cannot be much of a refuge, yet it offers some kind of intimacy.

Monday, July 12, 2010

On Bray Beach

Going to the beach is an archetypal kind of activity. It involves relaxation and immersion, which can always be seen as going back to the womb . The beach at Bray is a combination of shingle and sand and getting to the water in bare feet can be an awkward business even if immersion in the water is rewarding. Immersion is a kind of withdrawal, so those bathers who brave the oft- cold sea that washes Bray beach could be said to be enacting a strange and ancient ritual. I took this shot from the big wheel at the funfair, which gives the image a distinctive look. I hung onto the pod's central post to steady the camera (and myself) and the lens was at its full extent. But there was no need for special concern because it was such a bright day that a good shutter speed and depth of field were available to me. No camera shake involved, I hope. When I saw the group through the viewfinder, I liked the way the people were assembled and all seemed to be doing something different. And the group was certainly prepared for its trip by the looks of things!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Where are you Tonge and Taggart?

This has been staring me in the face for some time, being on the front steps. The cover for the hole, where in the old days, coal would be delivered. Nowadays, this seldom if ever happens. I thought that tracking down the foundry would be a relatively easy task but it turned out differently. I did discover that the company itself was owned by Tonge and Taggart Ltd, which has now passed into the hands of the Smurfit Group, and that the Foundry was in Bishop Street, not too far from St Stephen's Green. Unsurprisingly, iron has a common symbolic heritage meaning hard, durable, unyielding and so on. Yet the symbol is not a universal one. It is at the same time an instrument of good and evil, light and dark. Foundries were often depicted as Satanic environments, yet the instruments they forged could be for peace or war. Iron tools were forbidden in the making of Solomon's temple for example. And iron earned itself a reputation as the substance of materialism - brute force and ignorance comes to mind. But what happened to the South Dublin Foundry and what remains? Precious little by the look of the Google map - so in the end, the foundry was not so durable. Change is loss argued one of my old tutors and it is sad to see these manufacturers disappear. But if you want to change, then to be sure, some old ways will have to go. They will be missed because they were familiar.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Cluttered Persona

Naturally, I couldn't resist the clutter with the camera. It's a pharmacy that makes passport pictures, I think. The arrangement is untidy but it works. No doubt my electrical engineering tutor might wrinkle his nose and call the arrangement a "Christmas tree". Why do we always complain about passport pictures. They never "come out right", but what is "right" exactly? We mean flattering, or presented in the best light. But to those of a psychoanalytic turn of mind, that is persona. Carl Jung was the originator of the term "persona" and by this he meant the archetype of the mask. Jung thought it was absolutely necessary to have one in order to fulfil certain social roles - a parent, a student and so on. . Conversely though, he felt that a too rigid an association or identification with the persona was pathological. The persona is an outward orientation to the world - hence the mask, - much like actors in the the early Greek theatre would wear masks to signify certain emotions to their audience (many of whom might be quite distant). An individual's persona can also be quite far away from the inner components of that person. If this is so, the psyche itself may becomes unstable - unless there is a conscious recognition of the combination of opposites entailed. Functioning as your persona is a kind of "false self", a defensive mask. In the end, we are collectively aware that passport picture is awful, but are we individually aware of the nature of the mask so many of us present to the world?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Off the Trolley

The shot was directed by my companion, although I had spotted the opportunity. The angle was dictated- and it was the best shot! Shopping trolleys seem to be the bane of our existence. The wheels are wonky, there is rubbish left at the bottom of the cage, the coin won't go in - or worse - won't come out. I once got my trolley tangled up with a woman in a supermarket or rather she got tangled up with me. She had a buggy strapped across the front and was wielding her trolley like a tank. It was the buggy that got caught up in my trolley and she was furious, despite being the protagonist. Perhaps a supermarket isn't the best place to relax. The saying "being off your trolley" used to be current in the UK and Ireland in the eighties but it seems to have fallen out of favour. It was adopted by the collective to signify madness of a certain, colourful type, and was much in vogue at the time of Margaret Thatcher, yet I have been unable to track down the derivation. There is some debate and the strongest suggestion is that it referred to the early days of trolley buses around the 1890s. "He went off the rails" would be similar. All of these expressions seem to suggest a more or less temporary state of impaired mental health, which can at some stage be regained, since the motorman would certainly get the trolley bus rolling again by realigning the tracks. I am not suggesting that is what a psychotherapist does, but perhaps he or she helps the client to do that for themselves. I do have a practical tip though. If your coin gets stuck, turn the trolley upside down. The coin will almost certainly fall out. No-one knows why.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Movers and Shakers

I spotted this truck in the Lanes and liked the reflections. If you dream of trucks and lorries it definitely depends on whether you are in one or behind one. Such a truck might represent change in your life, not necessarily emigration. I wondered whether the truck and its cargo were arriving or departing. But the Lanes see quite a lot of change and residents seem to come and go. If you find in a dream that you are behind the wheel of such a vehicle consider how much personal cargo you are living with. Does any of it need recycling? When people move house, normally this involves some culling of personal possessions - and although nothing leaves the psyche it may be that things can be sorted through. We are then in a better position to move forward. Nothing more than that - no complexity, just moving on with one's life. As I said in the previous blog that might appear scary.

In the fence

This picture is a little contrasty for my liking and the digital technology didn't handle it as well as I would have liked - I shirked working with Photoshop too. But I liked the figure caught in the fence and that was a bit of luck - or was it? I did take several shots and eventually someone fitted in the loop. The sun had made everything very bright - almost bleached - outside the shade of the trees. What of the fence though? We use "fence" a great deal - being on or off the fence is about which side we are on. And if we feel constricted, we feel fenced in. Don't fence me in is an old country and western song I believe. Clients often use this expression to convey feelings of restriction or constriction - I am feeling fenced in. I can't move. I can't get anywhere would be typical. Sometimes its useful to go to the opposite. How would it feel not to be fenced in? What would that be like do you think? How would it be for you?. Sometimes there can be an unexpected response. Instead of a feeling of freedom, people confess to predicting they might feel insecure. There is a feeling of certainty with the familiar world, perhaps because there is a kind of fence around it. There are two sides to a fence and maybe - just maybe - things on the other side are unfamiliar and scary. By the counsel of Zeus, the Titan gods lived behind a bronze fence, with three gates placed there by Poseidon. Inside the fence is a scary place where we might meet Hades, Persephone, not forgetting the Hounds of Hell. That's inside. The point is, sometimes we don't like to leave a scary place because we think there is even scarier one outside.