Friday, May 18, 2012

Investigation On The Third

Greetings land-lubbers . . . well another week passes on the high seas and yesterday's dreams become yet another wave cresting a far-off horizon.
But I am troubled. Yer Cap'n really doesn't know why he wastes time with this 'ere Blog he really doesn't. Checking the ol' stats it appears that for every legitimate reader there's a dozen robots. And you know how I feel about them. So swab that deck before I kick the bucket over - I be in a mood and it is hard to get out of it.


This week's FB was going to be about something lightweight after the taxing excursions into square-ville of the last couple of weeks, but you know, I am not feeling so inclined . . so I'll still be square for one more week! Normal service will be resumed soon.
Last weekend, geed on by my own lyrical waxings about square photographs, I broke out the Rollei after not having used him in about 4 months and decided to see what I could see in a revamped dock area.
Years back it used to be warehouses and docks and now, because someone thought it was a good idea, it is housing and a hotel and shops and dentists and surveyors. Quite a change from the old docks of yesteryear and setting the scene nicely for the upcoming V&A.
The Tay is a wonderful and beautiful river, and as it enters the North Sea it widens to become something huge and powerful. It is tidal at Dundee and this partly explains the cities history as a major (and now semi-minor) port. The port was established in the middle-ages with a trans-continental trade in all things Scots but went on to become a major whaling port and from there into the Jute centre of the world.
The expanse of Dundee's former extensive dock area is hard to find these days as, when you come down off the Tay Bridge or when you come in via Riverside Drive and the Railway Station, the land you are moving over is actually largely reclaimed and was once dock.
You are moving over the memory of water.
Dock Street was just that, a street next to a dock


(1928 - this clearly shows the extent of the old docks - the red dot indicates the roof of the Caird Hall [and NO, it doesn't really have a big red dot on its roof . . I only say that because that is the sort of question I would ask].
1966 - less than 40 years and most of it is gone - the incoming spiral in the bottom right quadrant is the East-bound run-off from the newly built Tay Bridge. [Although un-credited, I do believe this to could be a Joe McKenzie photograph as he said that he was commissioned to photograph the road bridge from the air when it opened.])

Strangely, the river seems almost sanitised by its interaction with the edge of the city centre - to get a feel of its power you have to move upstream to the Rail Bridge and be patient as the traffic thunders past.
This is the best point to see the tide on the turn and it is really something else. As you can imagine, the bulk of the waters coming downstream on Britain's seventh longest river meeting with the power of the sea is not something to be taken lightly. Strangely though there isn't a mighty battle -  the surface of the river stills to an almost mill-pond calm that belies the fierce energies and currents moving under the surface. The tidal estuary current and the onward-flowing river forces meet and mingle and become something else, something that is changed and yet the same.
Photography can be this way too.
I spend a lot of time thinking about my craft. I think about images and technique, about cameras and light, about the upward-spiralling cost of making my little art pieces, about formats and film and permanence.
I find myself inspired by light and surroundings and I like my weekend mornings because I can usually get up early (especially at this time of year) and get out and photograph. I am very lucky, because I have an incredibly understanding wife who doesn't mind my early morning looning around and I can really immerse myself in the whole photographic process. I generally decide format the night before, pick up a camera and go. It is pure pleasure and a very fine way to spend an early morning.
During my excursions, I am, to put it poetically, transformed by light. I see something and I react intuitively to it. I know my craft and in having already put in the hours and hours of reading and photographing and developing and printing I am at the 'Joe Pass Stage', namely "learn it all and forget it all".
It frees you to react.
And when intuition doesn't work, sometimes I'll ponder and move around a bit and see how the subject looks in the viewfinder from a different perspective.
And when that still doesn't illicit anything, when I doubt everything, I have a little mantra that I use:
'Is this the world's most boring photograph?'
And you know, quite often, that little phrase halts the process just enough so you can think, 'Well, I've taken loads exactly the same as this and I haven't printed a single one.' And then I move on.
The world is ever changing, like the river. I am a surge of tidal movement and I am one with that world.
(Call the prose police . . . a crime has just been committed . . what a load of blarney eh?)
At the end of the day I just enjoy taking photographs for the simple fact that I am, to paraphrase Garry Winogrand: "curious to see how the world looks photographed."
Sometimes though, things look so incredibly strange that you are compelled to release the shutter no matter what your head and heart say. Such was the case with the photograph below.

I had been wandering around in a bitter wind and I had 3 of the Rollei's 12 frames left.
I saw these reflections and wandered closer and was struck by how three planes were fixed in one place: the doors and stairs on the far side of the centre; the reflection of the dock and the double image in the window. It wasn't an obvious subject at all. But my photographic-self got the better of me and I ended up making it anyway.
I don't think it would have worked half as well as a rectangular photograph (see how I managed to lever in the square theme there) - being square it has contained the space and concentrated the eye on the clear way through to the doors on the other side, which were just slightly off from the Rollei's lens axis.
It actually looked incredible in colour and I wish I had been using that, however this was Fuji Acros 100 at EI 100, developed in HC110 Dilution G for 19 mins at 21C. The exposure was 1/30th at f8. I placed the shadows on Zone IV. The result is a very smooth and fairly well graduated negative though a tad underexposed. I think my EI for this should be about 80.
Now although that is almost the end of this week's FB, please don't switch off your sets yet . . . the bit below is relevant!
Is there metaphor for being able to see clearly through obstructions by intuition in this photograph? Sounds a bit 'art-speak' to me, however when I came home and was thinking about it, I was listening to the music I mention below, and it struck a chord.


Some people, at times, can have an insight into what you are thinking and in some cases the words of a song or a book can exactly mirror your thoughts.
The following are some lyrics, in the original Italian and also with an English translation, by one of my favourite musical artistes, Mr.Franco Battiato. On the surface the music is strange and very very Italian, and I don't mean 'When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's Amore' . . . .
Franco's music touches all bases, running the gamut from cloying Italo-pop, through to rock with a progressive edge, through to choral masterworks and lieder. In other words what I admire most about him is that as an artist he is a complete man. He isn't pigeonholed. He does what he likes and if you like it too, then that is great. It is a difficult path to tread at any time, but especially these days and he is lucky in that he has transcended the need to impress and has an accepting audience. 
The only thing I will say is that my ears and his have drifted apart in recent years, I actually prefer his albums when he was working with the programmer and keyboard player Filippo Destrieri.
Anyway, this track is off his album Caffé De La Paix.

Ricerca Sul Terzo (Investigation On The Third)

Mi siedo alla maniera degli antichi Egizi
Coi palmi delle mani
Dolcemente stesi sulle gambe
E il busto eretto e naturale
Un minareto verso il cielo
Cerco di rilassarmi e abbandonarmi
Tanto da non avere più tensioni
O affanni.

Come se fossi entrato in pieno sonno
Ma con i sensi sempre più coscienti e svegli
E un grande beneficio
Prova il corpo, il cuore e la mia mente
Che spesso ai suoi pensieri m'incatena
Mi incatena.

Somma la vista
Ad occhi chiusi
Sottrai la distanza
E il terzo scoprirai
Che si espande e si ritrova
Dividi la differenza.


I sit in the manner of the ancient Egyptians
The palms of the hands softly resting on the legs
And the torso erect and natural,
A minaret pointing to the sky
I try to relax and abandon myself,
To lose all tension
And anxiety

As if I had entered a deep sleep
But with senses ever more awake and aware
A great sense of well-being
Pervades the body, the heart and my mind
That so often chains me to its thoughts,
It chains me.

Add vision
With closed eyes,
Subtract distance
And discover a third state of being
That expands and returns.
Divide the difference.

(Translation © Gerald Seligman/EMI Records)

I love that last stanza:

Add vision with closed eyes; subtract distance and discover a third state of being that expands and returns. Divide the difference.

Pure magic!
Ciao Bambinos. Stay Square!

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