Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Water-Damaged Firemen

Water-damaged Firemen is a ‘found’ (rescued, saved?) archive of vernacular images – 35mm slide-transparencies - of firemen, taken by firemen. The photographs depict the day-to-day life of a fire-fighting crew based at a fire station in Switzerland, over a period of twenty or so years, from the mid 1970s to the late 1990s. The images fall roughly into the following categories: major fires; dramatic rescues; poles descended; ladders extended; towering infernos ascended; road-crashes attended; water fired; various training exercises; new fire trucks; charred remains of rooms and personal belonging; burnt-out buildings; portraits of firemen, smiling. In all there are some 300 drowned transparencies, of which only a handful survive intact.
The entire archive –lives licked by flames - was ruined when a water pipe burst, flooding the basement of the fire station in which they were housed. As the photographs are 35mm slide-transparencies, no prints or negatives exist: these, the originals, are water-damaged beyond repair.
The equivalent: an archive of ‘scorched scuba divers’, rescued from a houseboat fire. Fire-eaten frogmen, toasted coral, burnt fish, skeletal shipwrecks. Fire-damaged frogmen, like water-damaged firemen, must exist - be swimming around out there, somewhere? 

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Sheltering Eye

After photographing a bird’s nest, and having my photograph taken by (from) a bird’s nest (see last blog), I walk down through the forest, back into Basel. I pass a tram stop, then, a bus shelter. If I swap the advertising photographs on these shelters, for the photographs I made - no more than a few hours ago - in the mountain shelter, I’ve got another case of ‘plagiarism by anticipation’.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Bird's-Eye View

Walking in the Black Forest (cuckoo clock country), I pass a mountain hut - but it looks more like a bird box. Later – deeper in the forest – I come upon a second hut. This hut houses a bird’s nest. The bird has a spider for a next-door-neighbour. Both homes are empty – they must be out at work. I work out. I work out the best way to photograph the nest, is by hanging – spider-like – from the overhanging roof of the hut. It is from this position – part bird, part spider, that I photograph the nest and web.
Then, I house my camera in the bird’s nest, set the self-timer and let the nest photograph me in the position I photographed the nest from: a bird’s-eye view of a wildlife photographer – part-bird, part-spider.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Kinematic Clichés

The Pataphysician, Alfred Jarry, said, ‘Clichés are the armature of the absolute’, and swans, like ducks and sheep (from lambing to shearing), invite (incite?) the production of photographic clichés. In sculpture, an armature is the framework around which the sculpture is built. 'Outdoor types' are often clad in a combination of fleece and down - walking, climbing clichés. An armature is also the name used for the kinematic chains used in computer animation to simulate the motions of virtual human or animal characters. In 1996, Dolly the sheep was the first mammal to be cloned, using the process of nuclear transfer. And we are all familiar with 'The Ugly Duckling'.  

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

The Duck Pond

Boris Vian’s ‘The Froth of the Daydream’ must have left an impression, far beyond the Pils-paved streets of Freiburg (see last blog). Because recently, whilst in Wales (a country known for its blubber – Dawn French, Dylan Thomas, Tom Jones, Welsh Cakes), I once more found myself focusing on foam. 'Foam Cut To Size', but I could hardly believe my eyes, as one foam led to another, and in no time at all I found myself staring into a duck pond.
I only got one shot at the duck before the wind picked up, leaving it dead in the water.  

Sunday, 10 October 2010

White Foot Forward

Freiburg, Germany, I’m reading Boris Vian’s ‘The Froth on the Daydream’. It’s not a book about beer, but it gives me an idea. The streets of Teutonic Freiburg are paved with Pils, and aren't ‘street photography’s’ random, urban wanderings - filling the camera with intoxicating imagery – no more than a search for form, out of the foam of the everyday?
It takes just under two minutes to pour a 1-litre stein of beer, and the glass must be held at 45 degrees, so every time I encountered Pils on the pavement (and there were several), I pointed my camera 45 degrees down and took two-minutes-worth-of-photographs. Notice how in the final photograph, the white foot stepped in at the last minute - just the time the frothy head would be forming, if a Pils were being poured. By stepping forth towards the froth, a headless foot lends a hand - saves the daydream. I was ahead of myself with this 'beer idea'. It's as if I'd been waiting for the 'white foot' to come along, all along.
I’m drawn to the thin veins in the table-dancer’s legs - their rhythmic relationship with the rippling, white braiding of her skirt (evident in the first two images). And the plot of Vian’s ‘The Froth on the Daydream’? It’s a long story about a short marriage. Woman falls ill upon her honeymoon with a water lily in the lung, a life-threatening and rare condition that can only be treated by surrounding her with flowers. Her husband struggles to provide enough flowers, and she dies. 

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Rhythmic Relationships: Where There's Bras There's Brass

Curves can be graceful, opulent, gay or sad. They will form rhythmic patterns if parallel to the picture plane, or describe space if receding from it, like bras that pass in the light.
A curving line is a flowing line (even when it’s concrete), for your eyes will smoothly follow a curve without pause. Curves also relate easily to one another in forming rhythmic relationships, but an arrangement limited to curves only is apt to appear weak and insipid without the assistance of - stronger straight lines – a lead. 

Monday, 4 October 2010

Andy and Jimmy Taking Tea and Cake (DoubleTake)

Andy Warhol visits Jimmy Savile for afternoon tea and cake: Blonde on blonde? No, they’ve both got white hair (Andy’s is a wig). Look at the way the curtains cut Jimmy’s hair. The mirror cuts Andy’s in almost the same place. I’ve always wondered what kind of cake it is that Andy’s holding? And if you are thinking a high security mental hospital is a strange place for this duo to meet, think again. When Broadmoor was opened in 1863 it drew attention to the poor conditions in British asylums such as the infamous Bethlehem Hospital, which was known as ‘Bedlam’. This is how - on 6th June 1968 - ‘The Village Voice’ reported the aftermath of the shooting of Andy Warhol, by Factory Actress, Valerie Solanis. “When she finally came through the door, her hands were cuffed behind her back, it was bedlam. Photographers climbed behind the booking desk, elbowing cops out of the way. While police tried to book her, she poised and smiled for photographers”.  

Friday, 1 October 2010

Living with Friends at Broadmoor: Paynel Savitude

I'd have thought 'the pain that is Jimmy' ('Jimmy The Pain'?) would have lived somewhere more fitting - somewhere civil - like Savile Row. But Broadmoor! It's closer to 'death row'. So now we know, Jimmy and friends live at Broadmoor. What a lineup? What a Savile row? And despite endless appeals to the 'Surreal Attitude', Jimmy and friends are still serving Paynel Savitude.
The Broadmoor 'criminal lunatic asylum', as it was called, was opened in 1863. Jimmy's in good company, other famous Broadmoor residents (past and present) include: Richard Dadd, painter of the Victorian era - noted for his depiction of fairies and other supernatural subjects -, who made his best work whilst incarcerated in Broadmoor; Thomas Cutbush, Jack the Ripper suspect; Roderick MacLean, failed to assassinate Queen Victoria; Peter Sutcliffe, the ‘Yorkshire Ripper’; Ronnie Kray, gangster with strong homosexual tendencies, convicted of killing Jack 'The Hat' McVitie; Ian Brady, 'the Moors murderer', and Charles Bronson (not the actor and star of Death Wish), a bank robber. Bronson holds world records for feats of strength and fitness, and when he's not up on the roof protesting, performs 3,000 press-ups a day.