These are photos from Sadarghat, the river port of Dhaka, which in many ways is a microcosm of the city itself – in-your-face, bursting with life, tumultuous and gritty, with people and goods and boats all on the move. There are huge multi-storeyed ferries, carrying both passengers and cargo, bound for destinations all over the country. The poorest passengers simply lay a mat on the lower deck; the upper decks have individual cabins for those who can afford it. In […]
This essay, on contempt for the electorate and degradation of political debate, was my Observer column this week. (The column included also a short piece on passport checks in Oxford.) It was published on 24 November 2019, under the headline ‘Once, politicians treated voters as adults. Now they are contemptuous’. Two men go head to head in a TV debate. They wrestle with Britain’s relationship to Europe, the meaning of sovereignty, the nature of global influence, the question of job losses. […]
Faidabad, in the northern suburb of Uttara, is among the poorest areas in Dhaka. The narrow dirt streets and the shacks that line the main arterial road are witness to that. It is far from any tourist spot – it can take a couple of hours of driving through Dhaka’s chaotic traffic and legendary jams to reach Faidabad from the centre of the city. Faidabad is also home to a remarkable mosque, modernist, austere and strikingly beautiful. Designed by Marina […]
From the outside, the Italian Chapel on Orkney would barely catch your eye. Yet, it is a remarkable building, with a remarkable history. A house of God that is also is a monument to the human spirit. In January 1942, more than a thousand Italian prisoners of war, captured mainly in North Africa, were brought to Orkney. They were needed to construct the Churchill Barriers – four causeways that today act as links between a number of the southern Orkney islands […]
‘A wart-covered picture of America by a joyless man’, wrote the photographer and critic Minor White. ‘A sad poem by a very sick person’, snorted Popular Photography. The object of their scorn was The Americans, a collection of images of American life by the photographer Robert Frank, who died last week, aged 94. It is difficult today to recognize how revolutionary was Frank’s work when it was first published 60 years ago. His style, his mode of observation, his subject matter […]
The Western Isles and the Northern Isles, at the very edges of Britain, are rarely blessed with blue skies and bright sun. They are swaddled in cloud and wind and rain. And, yet, there is here a quality of light that you rarely see elsewhere in Britain. The cloudscape is an extension of the landscape, and as the light suffuses through the cloud, it acquires a painterly, almost ethereal, quality. It may be why there are so many artists on […]
Against the background of the debate about squalor and brutality of the USA’s immigrant detention centres – and whether they constitute ‘concentration camps’, a debate I might engage in sometime – it is worth remembering that America has a long history of mass detention camps. Among the most notorious were the internment camps for Japanese-Americans during the Second World War. ‘The Japanese race’, observed General John L DeWitt, head of the US Army’s Western Defense Command, and a key figure […]
This essay, on how we often interpret the news through the lens of what we want to see, was my Observer column this week. It was published on 9 June 2019, under the headline ‘Fake news will thrive as long we are happy to see only what we want to see’. If a gorilla walked right in front of your eyes, you wouldn’t miss it, would you? Actually, half the country probably would. In a classic 1999 experiment, psychologists Christopher Chabris and […]
Categories: Philosophy & Ethics, Photos, Race & Immigration • Tags: assisted dying, central park five, christopher chabris, daniel simons, ethics, euthanasia, fake news, invisible gorilla experiment, noa pothoven, racism, usa, when they see us, wilding
While in Australia, I spent a couple of days on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. It’s a beautiful coastline, with some spectacular geological features. The first part up to Apollo Bay hugs the coastline and makes for an exhilarating drive. But beyond Apollo Bay, you can barely see the ocean from the Great Ocean Road. This is where many of the geological features are – The Twelve Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge, London Bridge, etc – and you nip off […]
I’m in Australia at the moment, giving a series of talks in Brisbane, Melbourne and Bendigo. The events have been terrific, with outstanding audiences and discussions. My Observer column this week (published on Sunday, and on Pandaemonium next week) will reflect some of the discussion. So, this week these is no usual Friday/Saturday post. Instead, a couple of photos taken on a flight between Brisbane and Melbourne at sunset. Back to normal (I hope) next week.
The museum seeks to engage visitors without sentimentality and ready-made answers by creating spaces of encounter, memory and hope. So said architect Daniel Libeskind about his design for the Jewish Museum in Berlin. It’s a remarkable place, moving and haunting in a way I’ve never known a museum to be, succeeding in giving form to Libeskind’s vision. It does so not through its exhibits, though there are some, and very moving ones, but through its use of space and form […]
Categories: Culture & Books, Photos • Tags: architecture, berlin, daniel libeskind, gedenkstätte grosse hamburger strasse, germany, holocaust, holocaust memorial berlin, jewish museum berlin, jews, memorial to the murdered jews of europe, museums, nazis, peter eisenman
The Côte de Granit Rose runs along the eastern Breton coast from Plestin-les-Greves to Louannec. It’s quite unlike the rest of the coastline in Northern France. As the name suggests, it is formed of rose-coloured granite, and along sections, particularly north of Tréguier, the rocks are eroded and folded into fantastic sculptural shapes, abstract and otherworldly. .
I published a post a while back on the brutalism of London’s Southbank. That brutalism looks very different at night, darkness giving a different shape, as it were, to form and colour. Most of these photos were taken about a week ago, though a couple are from my earlier post.
It’s a tiny chapel in the tiny hamlet of Kermaria-an-Iskuit, in Brittany. It was built in several stages from the 13th to the 15th century. The entrance porch is adorned with striking statues of the apostles. And inside is the only danse macabre fresco that survives in France. The danse macabre is a late-medieval visual allegory about the universality of death. It depicts death, usually personified as a skeleton, leading people from all walks of life – pope, emperor, king, bourgeois, […]
It’s a tiny church in a Normandy hamlet that we stumbled upon almost by accident. But, dramatically perched on the cliff edge, with views along the northern coast of France towards Calais, it’s not difficult to see why the Église Saint-Valéry in Varengeville-sur-Mer has attracted so many painters. Claude Monet painted it dozens of times (the one above is simply called ‘The Church at Varengeville’); Pissarro, Corot and Isabey are among others who have depicted it too. Apparently when the […]