All About Eve

APW_9515My eldest daughter Megan is soon to being her final year at university; nine months of gestation leading to an outcome whose ripples will affect the rest of her life.  Whatever the outcome, I’m very proud of this  young lady, and have every confidence that she will rise to life’s challenges.  Being a woman, she will have to contend with many of the prejudices that come her way, but being Meg she will find a way to break through them.

In the last couple of days it feels like I’ve been bombarded with details that should just how far our world has to go in its treatment of women.  It began when I caught a snippet of Crossing Continents  on Radio 4 which was reporting on Chinese men from “bachelor villages” and their struggle to find partners.  In a variation on speed dating, the eligible women sat at red tables and the numerous men carried red roses.  Only if the woman accepted their rose, were they allowed to join their prospective partner to begin a conversation.  The story resonated with me as I compared my experiences from the world of online dating, but that’s a whole other story!  More to the point, this scene hinted at something far more sinister.  The social engineering that sought to control the country’s population through one child families, combined with a preference for male children created a culture where female foetuses were aborted and those who survived to birth often died through neglect or infanticide.  Consequently the nation faces a situation whereby there could be as many as 24 million more Chinese men that women by 2020.

The attitude to women as second class citizens was underlined because this week saw the conclusion of the Delhi rape trial that has galvanised opinion across India.  The four men responsible were found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging for their brutal assault on a 23-year-old student who died from her injuries two weeks later.  The court room has been besieged by protestors demanding the execution of these men, but there is a larger issue than the horrific treatment of this young woman.  A survey published by the UN this week, revealed that across many parts of Asia almost a quarter of men interviewed admitted to rape, and of these approximately half admitted to more than one instance.  Many saw it as their “entitlement”!  It will take more than the deaths of four men in India to change this.

Worst of all, I was talking to my friend Jane on Friday when she began to cry in response to something she had just seen; a report of an 8-year-old (yes, eight year old) Yemeni bride, dying as a result of internal injuries caused by sexual trauma on her wedding night with her 40-year-old husband.

There is a terrible conflict in Syria raging at present that has claimed the lives of over 100,000 people, leading to the leaders of two of the world’s super powers finally taking action to address it, yet this is seemingly a fraction of the numbers of women who suffer as a result of “cultural attitudes” that are left unaddressed.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

APW_9489-Edit
Meg

Megan is fortunate to live in a society which whilst imperfect allows women of all ages and races to contribute; at work, at home, and in the armed forces.  I despair at the prejudices that she and her sister will face, but I’m delighted at the freedoms that they will have in facing them.

Advertisements

Silence

I’ve spent a lot of timing musing on silence recently, and began thinking about how I would try to convey silence in a photograph.  Most of us would define it as the absence of sound, so logically the photographic equivalent would be an absence of light.  silenceNot really what I wanted to achieve because it’s obvious, lacks any degree of skill or decision-making, and besides which as far as art is concerned Mark Rothko‘s chapel has pretty much cornered the market in large blocks of darkness.

I talked to my friend Jane about silence and its effects and we agreed that whilst a desolate landscape might be silent of human input you wouldn’t be able to prevent nature’s voice from being heard through wind noise, birdsong, water movement etc, and this is interesting because we when we talk about silence it’s something that many of us will never truly achieve.

A recent discussion on the subject that I heard gave truth to this.  The participants were John Francis (the Planetwalker), an environmentalist who gave up speaking for several years, Galya Morrell, a Russian artist who grew up in the harshness of the arctic circle, and Diarmaid MacCulloch who has written a book on the role of silence in Christianity.  As the discussion progressed it was clear that none had experienced absolute silence, a fact demonstrated by the story told by Morrell in which she described an encounter with a polar bear when she was pregnant.  The predator was easily close enough to attack but did not and both parties stood silently watching one another.  Well actually although she described the encounter as silent, she then went on to describe how in that moment she was able to hear her own heartbeat, her baby’s and more remarkably the bear’s!  Whilst I’m dubious about the last of these I’m sure she would have heard it breathing at least.  So even in that moment there wasn’t really absolute silence.

Jane’s other input was more morbid.  The silence of the tomb.  We didn’t pursue that any further as I had no intention of forcing my way into some mausoleum in search of my answer, and yet that idea must have taken hold in my subconscious, because today I set off for Durham’s Oriental Museum confident that I would find my solution there, though I had no idea what form it would take.

This was my first visit to the museum, which in consideration of the preservation of its artefacts is cool and dimly lit, and being largely subterranean had a sepulchral resonance that suggested Jane might be on the right track.  The light forced me into ISO settings on my camera that I wouldn’t dare consider in normal use and after taking the first shot or two another change came to mind.  The ability to shoot more silently.  The museum was virtually deserted and as I paused between shots I had near silence, only the soft hum of dehumidifiers rendering the adjective inadmissible.

There was plenty to photograph, though clearly some objects like this temple bell were clearly off topic!

APW_8188
Oriental Museum, Durham

  A range of Chinese grave goods were more promising; objects that had endured centuries of silence before being removed for our education and their preservation.  Yet these didn’t really do it for me; for one thing, the tiny bells clearly symbolised anything but silence, the cockerel on the funeral tile was far too garish, the terracotta horse too active.  Only the tiny figurine showed promise, until you consider the history of these sculptures.  They were substitutes for the human sacrifice that had preceded their introduction, a practice that must have been anything but silent.

Moving on from the associations of death I considered religious observance, inspired perhaps by MacCulloch.  Would worship at this shrine have been conducted in silence? I can’t be sure, but of course when it comes to silent meditation there is one religion that springs to mind.  Buddhism.  Actually this might also be slightly misleading.  The buddhist temple I visited

APW_8139

 in Kathmandu was positively discordant with the sounds of trumpets, cymbals and conch shells, the sound of which apparently dispels evil spirits.  Nevertheless the Buddha himself is indeed a peaceful figure.

APW_8172

It was however in the Egyptian rooms that I found my image.  Lots more grave goods including a pair of intact sarcophagi.  I might have missed it due to the attack on silence being conducted by a philistine loudly declaiming his expertise on Japanese seppuku.  Loudly and inaccurately.  I remained silent rather than correct his use of “hari-kari” to “hara-kiri”  I found him so irritating that I was in a hurry to leave the room, but not before I found my goal.  An object that being a sarcophagus mask had endured the centuries of silence, it’s face displaying a peace that could mirror the Buddha, and whose damage ensured the completeness of its silence.APW_8189-2


Turning point?

30th June.  A milestone.  Halfway through the year.

Time to consider whether to persevere with this project to take a portrait a day for another 6 months.

It can be fun, it can be frustrating, but most of all its time-consuming.  Is it worth the effort?

While I ponder these questions here are all of those who I’ve photographed so far:

January

 

February

 

March

 

April

 

May

 

June

June’s image includes the portrait I took today, though it would be unfair of me to leave you guessing as to which of the 30 images it is, and a little unfair on the Chinese student, Dan, who agreed to be photographed.  That she is a Chinese student should be enough for you to find her now, but  to save you the effort…

Welcome to the Costa Roker

Sun, sea, sand and Sunderland.  Time to make the most of the weather and so many ways in which to do it:

For some it’s a time for romancewhile other prefer a different type of companion.

Some want to get active

while others just want to chill.Some want to sit and enjoy the sunwhile others want to put their bucket and spade to use!

Some want to cool their feetwhile some want to keep everything out of the sun.Visitors come from far and wide (Carolyn & Celine)There’s even a handy car wash…and entertainment for the ladies.People even dress formally to eat ice cream!

Photographers come to do their thing…

which for me means finding a portrait, and on Roker Pier, amongst the sea angling fraternity I was bound to find someone.

This is Ian, who joked that he would have caught a fish by the time I’d returned from the lighthouse end of the pier, and then when I did so explained that he’d had to let it go because it was too large.  The perennial one that got away.  I was more successful I think!