‘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 […]
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 […]
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 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 […]
‘My prime concern was with values – what did we value in South Africa, how did we get to those values and how did we express those values,’ David Goldblatt observed. ‘I was very interested in the events that were taking place in the country as a citizen but, as a photographer, I’m not particularly interested, and I wasn’t then, in photographing the moment that something happens. I’m interested in the conditions that give rise to events.’ David Goldblatt, who died […]
Kőszeg is a small Hungarian town almost on the Austrian border. Its roots lie in the 13th century, and it is suffused with history, and full of architectural gems. Its churches are historically fascinating, being witness to shifting religious alliances and affiliations, and often strikingly beautiful. I did not, unfortunately, have the chance to visit many. The two here are St James’ Church, built at the turn of the 14th and 15th centuries supposedly from the remnants of a demolished […]
Loud, brash and self-confident. I love Newcastle. It is also a photographer’s dream. Dotted throughout the city are architectural gems. And a stroll through the city centre along the Tyne, with its glorious succession of bridges, each framing the next, and both banks framed by striking buildings, Victorian to postmodern, is a visual feast. I was in Newcastle most recently to take part in the Radio 3 Free Thinking Festival discussion on Rethinking Civilisations at the Sage Gateshead. I had, […]
The Yellow Water billabong. Quiet and serene, it lies on the East Alligator River in the Kakadu National Park in Northern Territory in Australia. In the heat of the day, it feels relatively ordinary. At daybreak it is magical. Watching sunrise, enshrouded in a mist that adds enchantment to the light, and seeing the mist give way to wonder and colour and crocs and snakes and birds and flowers is simply glorious. Together with Uluru at first light, and the […]
It must be one of the most photographed of modern buildings. Yet the Sydney Opera House still elicits a gasp of awe every time one sees it in the concrete. Danish architect Jørn Utzon’s expressionist masterwork is a remarkable melding of form and function, and of architecture and engineering. It is also a wondrous evocation of the imagination. The story of the Machiavellian politics that surrounded its construction, and led eventually to the resignation of Utzon from the project, and […]
‘Times change and they change in difficult ways. Not knowing what to do about it, I go back to simple stuff — which is, I hope, to make photographs thinking about truth and justice’. So said Mel Rosenthal, the New York photographer who died last week. ‘To make photographs thinking about truth and justice.’ That may sound crass and tacky. Rosenthal’s photographs were anything but. They were not shouty or strident or agitprop. But they were infused with warmth and […]
‘I saw the monuments, the great ancient remains. From every ruin I learned, from every building I absorbed something.’ So wrote Mimar Sinan, perhaps the greatest architect of the premodern Islamic world, a figure whose work has been compared to that of the Renaissance architects and artists Brunelleschi and Michaelangelo, with whom he was a sixteenth century contemporary. Sinan was talking of the great ancient buildings of Baghdad and Damascus, of Persia and north Africa, one of his many sources […]
Tili Wiru Tjuta Nyakutjaku. ‘Looking at many beautiful lights.’ That’s the Pitjantjatjara name for Bruce Munro’s ‘Field of Light’ installation at Uluru in Australia. (Pitjantjatjara is one the two main languages of the Anangu, the local Indigenous group.) ‘Field of Light’ is an art installation that Munro has created in many sites across the world: London’s V&A Museum, the Eden Project, Cornwall, St Andrew Square, Edinburgh, Atlanta Botanical Gardens, Cheekwood Museum, Nashville, Mexico City. But in bringing it to Uluru, […]