Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Snow Patrol

The snow makes life a little difficult for photography since exposures are likely to be altered. You have to over expose for subjects in any shots which are predominantly snow. The camera meter adjusts for the light reflected by all that white surface and you may certainly forget any thoughts of using automatic. There is a lot of nonsense talked in Internet digital photo tutorials so beware. If you want your subject correctly exposed, increase the exposure or take a reflected spot reading and always, always use manual. Sometimes the snow goes a bit blue so make sure. Either it's a white balance error - or it really is a bit blue in the shadows. Remember that soap manufacturers sometimes add a little blue to make washing seem "really white". OK now that's out of the way, I liked the way the snow had clung to the bark of the tree so I opted to capture the moment. I wanted to fill the background slightly so it was opportune to press the shutter when I heard a car coming my way. It was making a swishing sound in the snow and it occurred to me that we are used to sound the way it is "normally". But snow seems to have a muting effect on sounds. Things go quiet. So here's a little experiment you can try out for now. Stop for a minute and just listen. What sounds can you hear? Are they a bit muffled? Anything different? You may find "just listening" rather soothing.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sullied snow

When we think of snow it's always virgin white. This kind of notional snow does not last very long and we can really see how dirty the city streets are when the snow merges with dirt. This is what remains after last night's strange lightning storm was followed by a cascade of icy snow pellets. It doesn't take very long for the sun to melt this down to slush, and then it seems to hang around footpaths and gutters. Now snow is water, and the two share the same symbolism - it's all about the unconscious. But there is a view that snow symbolically represents the "white" stage of the anima during individuation, where the female aspect of the soul is being "purified". So suggests Jung in his analysis of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. And we have to remember that no two snowflakes are alike. It's the principle that counts, but I can't help wondering what is represented by our city's combination of snow and grime. What does it say about the city? When the snow and grime coalesce we walk cautiously over the mixture, holding ourselves in a peculiar fashion as if somehow that will prevent us falling. Try to have a look the next time the weather turns the street into an obstacle course - or maybe you can catch yourself holding this posture.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Sweet Dreams

Naturally I could not resist the opportunity to take a photograph of this van. Here it's interesting that dreams are the object of sleep and since the manufacturer has associated the bed with dreams, I suppose they are assumed to be pleasant. We all know of course, that dreams can take many different forms. For Jung, dreams are spontaneous and symbolic auto-representations of the current state of the dreamer's unconscious. But at a deep level, I think we are aware that dreams are a kind of speculation. There is material in the unconscious that the dreamer, having temporarily suspended reality, tries to assemble in a more or less dramatic form. We believe that it something that requires attention. Psychoanalysts differ a little in approach but most are prepared to give time to any dreams their clients bring to sessions. The key reason I feel, is that dreams are uncensored - they are not consciously assembled and are likely to be free from any defence structures or armouring we might have put in place. But we do wish each other sweet dreams, possibly inferring happy endings. We don't wish each other anxiety dreams or nightmares. What would constitute a ""sweet dream" for you? Might it be the fulfillment of a wish? Now we are in Freudian territory, so I'll leave it for your consideration.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Of Gods, Pigs and Beer

I had been promising myself that I would take some night shots close by - near the Balls Bridge over the River Dodder. Now the technique for a successful night shot is not to wait until it's very dark. It is more successful if you proceed as the night is falling. Dusk is the better proposition so if you look at the top left hand of the picture you'll see the sky isn't that black. All the same, I was reminded about how difficult it was to get night exposures right. So for the technically minded, its f5.6 at 1/20th of a second. That's slow - but I rested the camera on a wall! The symbol for today is beer of course. I'll stick to Ireland and the Celts initially, because Queen Maebh was well known and admired for her drunkenness. It was mead that was reserved for the priestly caste, not beer. Beer was the preferred drink of warriors. But it was Welsh King Berwyn who had some bother when brewing up a concoction of mead, honey and flowers. He was horrified when a wild boar foamed a bit and dribbled into his mixture. This duly fermented and the result was beer. So you see, the pig isn't half bad when you think about it. And despite the bad press in my last blog, the pig does seem to have been adopted by Celtic Gauls - who had their very own pig God, Moccus. Perhaps it was he!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Fruits of the Forest

The dish has gathered these various times for some time now and has stuck around, changing as years go by. Occasionally something looks a little the worse for wear and is removed. But new things arrive periodically. The dish looked pretty in the light one day and I decided to take some photographs. I took many but this was the very first attempt! Chestnuts were thin on the ground this year and it was very noticeable, because usually the streets around the neighbourhood are covered in them. Many years ago, children who played conkers would have walked miles and fought tooth and nail to get to them first. Now it appears as if no one is interested in the old customs and "conkers" are left to decay. Always the symbol of abundance and plenty, fruits are the positive side of the forest. The forest can also be seen by psychoanalysis as the unconscious and hence a container of the shadow, yet it remains a feminine symbol - the great mother, because it is also a symbol of rebirth and the cycle of life. There are many people who acknowledge they are unable to understand their parents. This is common enough and no cause for particular concern! But when I hear it, I am drawn to think of the psyche as the deep and impenetrable forest - and the meetings of the unconscious in close relationships.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Forgotten Pig

This shot was in my archives - I had forgotten about it, I really don't know why. Perhaps because it seems a little sad? There was a promotion at the Shopping Centre and the display was being dismantled. I remember that I was quite sorry to miss whatever it was! Maybe a reader will remember. If so please write. The symbolism of pigs is very consistent across cultures. No matter where you are, the pig symbolises gluttony, greed, excess - even ignorance. They can be dirty, selfish, wicked and depraved. That's a lot of baggage for a pig to carry all on its own - even if it does like to roll around - as St Clement of Alexandria points out - in "filth and dung". I believe they are quite intelligent creatures, so I am pleased that the Vietnamese regard the sow with her large litters as a symbol of plenty. The renowned sorceress Circe (daughter of (Helios and Perse) was given to changing her guests into animals. But she reserved for her suitors, the privilege of being turned into swine. She bore a son to Odysseus, who stayed for a while and somehow managed to survive the fate of her other guests! There was a point though. Through touching the guests with her wand, she would change them into an animal that was in line with their character. So best to be a good person if you dined with her.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Unpleasantness of Mess

I invite my readers to share with me in finding this quite revolting. In reality it is merely an ice lolly, jettisoned for whatever reason. We would like to both literally and psychically project our mess elsewhere. Mess and waste matter of any kind is even too indecorous for the many books on symbols. Only Freud I feel, really makes an attempt to grapple with waste. In these troubled economic times, we would all like to imagine that mess was created somewhere else by other people. It was never ourselves, we didn't participate. Bart Simpson typically excuses himself after creating a disaster by exclaiming "It was like that when I got here!" He has no intention of taking responsibility. In psychotherapy, we begin to take responsibility for our own mess and in that way we can make a start on sorting something out. That entails a change in our balance or equilibrium, and so we begin at the individual level. We all find ourselves in messy situations at some point. But when we enter the psychotherapeutic space we are discouraged from pointing the finger somewhere else. That stuff "over there" is much more difficult to "fix" than the mess that legitimately belongs to ourselves. All the same I can't help wondering what happened to this ice lolly. Was it found to be too messy and thrown away? Did some poor child drop it with much wailing and moaning? Or did it just taste horrid? I leave my readers to make their own projections.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Why a Duck?

A very traditional shot, this one - and none the worse for that, I suppose. I did like the blue of the pond and naturally the duck wouldn't come any closer due to the lack of bread question! The pond was a thick, soupy confection that I hope I managed to catch. Ducks are not quoted in Celtic mythology whatsoever and they seem to be treated in the same way as swans. There is little evidence to the contrary and despite the existence of duck shapes in art, the pictorial evidence seems to conflate duck, goose and swan. In the East however, things are very different. because the duck and drake go around together (I nearly said "swan around"). Ducks are the symbol of marriage and ultimately the life force. I do recall that "duckie "is a popular term for an intimate aquaintance in the North of England. American Indians are also rather keen on ducks because they are very happy on the water and in the air. Ducks are regarded as guides, and their feathers are also used in their religious ceremonies. Cliched or not, I rather like my duck.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunday Strollers in The Garden of Eden

I usually stay away from park photography. This is because when I had documentary work, helpful residents would guide me to a place where I could take "nice" photographs. This was usually the local park and indeed the park was usually very nice. People like their local park. and so they should. But if my task was the built environment, parks weren't for me - even if they are constructions. Is it perhaps because there is more of an effort to deconstruct the park and its relationships? So how does one or another subject perceive the park? Certainly not in the same way - as I appear to be demonstrating. I rather doubt that my strollers were sharing similar perceptions to me. Parks are always symbolically attached to the Garden of Eden - they are paradises on earth with lakes, fountains and cupolas. They seem to hark back to notions of original nature - somehow innocent and pure, despite my critique. But look, these were farmlands gifted by the Earl of Pembroke for the Irish International Exhibition in 1907. The park was constructed thereafter, so the strollers are walking through what remains of that original site.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Shoe, symbolically stripped

If you place your shoe on the territory of another, you take possession. So says both Christianity and Islam. This is why shoes are disallowed in a mosque - because the holy house does not belong to any individual or group of persons. Hermes who was the God of Boundaries was the rightful owner of all lands on which he set foot. But this lost baby's shoe has been placed on the fence and it was clearly placed there to be found. It is not a claim on the boundary or the territory. If it was an adult shoe we could regard it as something different and in all likelihood, no-one would bother to help out. Would we automatically pick up a lost adult shoe? The child is symbolically innocent and regarded as spontaneous and simple. So the child's shoe signifies something else - a starting point perhaps, a setting out on life's journey. The child is seen as having no forethought and therefore can bear no malice. This shoe is stripped of the symbolism applied to adults and the fence on this occasion is no more than a convenient place to display a lost object.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Street Furniture

I shot this image as an antidote to yesterday's shot. The weather changed but not the built environment. Although it looks nice and green, there isn't much here that is ""natural". Even the trees are carefully selected and nurtured for the urban environment. The street furniture, parking meters, lampposts and parking signs are all part and parcel of what we expect to find in the city. They are usually couched in terms of dos and dont's - interdictions that we must obey to comply with the space. As such, the spaces are a long way from old open ones, which were marked by directions. These served to allow us to better cross the territory. But this is the territory and these are the rules by which we engage with the space. I deliberately placed the human subject amongst the various pillars between which he appears restricted. It is almost as if this neighbourhood space decides what shall happen to the human being, rather than the opposite. The space has been produced and then human subjects must live within its rather repressive limitations. What seems like a pleasant enough scene comprises mostly verticals that work to produce merely tedium. It is as if yesterday's shot is more lifelike and real than this one.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Donnybrook Autumn

The photograph hasn't been cropped much. I left the image wide because it gave an idea of "empty" space. I also rejected other images of the same space with more vehicles. The image is bleak because of the "emptiness". A person might be daunted to traverse this space. but in what sense can it be considered empty? There are road surfaces, boundary hedges, trees, railings, street signs and a truck. The image is really quite full of stuff to which I have a relationship. I can't get out of that. And empty or full, welcoming or unwelcoming, pleasurable or painful, that is all so much about the Ego. But this space seems to have left the body behind - even though people with bodies made the lot - surfaced the road, planted the trees and hedges, painted lines and erected signs. All the signs of people have been stripped away in a world where manufactured things are taken for granted. This urban space is repetitive and most of the things in it are made through repetitive actions. This in itself is not far from the repetitiveness of our daily lives - work, speech, newspapers, television. and the unconscious reproduction of ourselves and our relationships. This space and society try to convince us they aren't repetitive, but seem to fail in the process.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Elektra's Fuse

This old fashioned fuse box was lying in a pile of debris in a driveway on Wellington Road. These fuses have long been superseded by circuit breakers and associated switchgear, but they are reassuringly chunky. This one looks quite old, since it has exposed circuitry - no longer regarded as safe. The word electricity has only the vaguest connection with Elektra, the mythological counterpart of Oedipus. But why should I let that stop me? It was Jung that coined the term Elektra Complex, whereas Freud was not enthusiastic at all and spoke of negative Oedipus. But in my opinion it was Jung who had the edge in psychiatric hospital practice and had clearly witnessed the daughterly sexual attachment to the father and envy of the mother. Elektra organised her brother into killing her mother Clytemnestra in vengeance for her mother's own treacherous murder of her father Agamemnon. So it's not quite the same as Oedipus and not terribly electric really! But maybe electric enough was another version where Zeus is rejected by Elektra and hurls down the Palladium (where Elektra had sought aid) from heaven in a terrible rage. That is electric. Maybe Elektra is all about rejection?