Ombrelli (Venezia 110)

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Now to be honest this picture could be taken just about anywhere, but an umbrella in Venice can have multiple uses:

  • To keep the rain off
  • To keep the sun off (though I was surprised to see an Indian woman resorting to using one as a parasol)
  • To prove that you’re a tour guide, and finally
  • As an unusual fashion accessory.

I don’t think everyone could manage this look, particularly in the lime green that he had chosen!
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Prescience (Venezia 69)

Seems someone was better prepared for the rain than we were…

The fearsome beast (too feathery for a dragon, not enough lion for a gryphon) seems most likely to my eyes to be a cormorant, a bird likely to be seen on these coastal waters, and was a sign post for one of Italy’s most exclusive leather goods stores; Marforio, though sadly they are no longer operating here.

More about the beast can be found here.

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Bambino Ombrello (Venezia 37)

How do you keep a small boy occupied on a rainy day when his mother is working her way through a cornucopia of leather handbags?  One father found the answer in a large multi-coloured umbrella which his son was swinging happily in all directions, mercifully without hitting anyone.  I suppose the bright colours gave fair warning to any potential victims.

They also made for a great photograph, but then won’t that all be lost when you process it in mono?  To some degree yes, but it made the boy a more important feature which as it happens is no bad thing.

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Parallel Lines

If that title doesn’t get my wife singing Blondie hits nothing will.

For me though, it relates to a picture that I took this morning.  I’d been to a meeting in Boldon‘s Quadrus Centre (a hideous blot on the landscape that has done well to escape comment in the blog!) and was snooping around the small lake beside it for a suitable shot as this is where I spotted the heron a couple of weeks back.  I didn’t get far though as I was marched off the premises by one of the lake’s residents who was unimpressed that I had brought no food with me!

As I was having no joy at ground level, I happened to look up and was captivated by what I did see… power lines.  No I haven’t completely lost my mind, because from where I was standing the parallel cables were drawn to the centre of my viewfinder by the effects of perspective.  What’s more there was so little detail in the sky I was able to exaggerate the effect by removing everything except pure black and white, so creating a stark and abstract image that appealed to me.  (Come to think of it that Blondie album cover is predominantly black and white too).

Parallel Lines
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My image feels crisp and mechanical, and would be better suited to a Kraftwerk cover I think, though if you look closely there is a sign of life. (Spot the pigeon!)

I don’t think I’ll be selling copies of it very soon, but then you never know do you?  The world’s most expensive photograph was sold at auction last November for $4.3m.  Created by a German photographer, Andreas Gursky, it is entitled Rhein II, and is a photograph of the Rhine taken looking from one bank to another with fairly flat lighting.

You would think that this river scene might contain some interest (like my white feathered assailant) but the only detail comes from the varied blades of grass, the waves on the water’s surface and what looks like a tiny piece of litter in the foreground.  It is little more than a collection of parallel lines.

Andreas Gursky, Rhein II, 1999, C-print mounte...
Andreas Gursky, Rhein II, 1999, C-print mounted to plexiglass in artist’s frame, 81 x 140 inches (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To be fair, I’ve found such imagery captivating too. I remember shooting similar images for a while after Gursky’s opus hit the headlines.

It seemed like someone else thought the same way when I went looking for my portrait today, for as I stopped on the promenade I could just make out a small black blob at the water’s edge.  Resembling the way the Black Egret curls its wings to make an umbrella with which to shade the waters in which it is hunting, this shape also seemed to consist of little more than a black umbrella, but it had more legs than any egret.  It was a photographer trying to shelter under a brolly while bending down to a short tripod.

I had to go down to meet them, hoping to both see what they were shooting and persuade them to be my subject for today.  I was surprised on getting closer however to find that my fellow snapper was a pretty and diminutive South African girl called Thembeka (a Xhosa name variously described as meaning “hope”, “reliable” or “object of trust”).  She is a photography student at the university, and was shooting all those horizontal lines out at sea. 

I went back to converging lines and used her umbrella as a backdrop.  All those struts draw you in to those bright eyes, though let’s face it, they’re superfluous.

Couldn’t choose between colour and mono here – which do you like best?

A Gentler Ministry of Truth

Cover of "Brazil"
Cover of Brazil

For just over 60 years after the end of the Second World War, there was a government department called the Central Office of Information (COI), a grey and bureaucratic title which does sound a little like something out of Orwell’s masterpiece, or Central Services, the overarching bureaucracy of Terry Gilliam‘s Brazil.  The COI’s function was to provide public information and it’s best remembered for the short Public Information Films that it produced.

The topics of these films ranged from learning to swim to the role of the coastguard, from being responsible with litter to using your seatbelts when driving.  A department to brainwash the public?  It does sound like it, and in many ways some of my generation’s attitudes were undoubtedly influenced by the films.  The grumpy old man in me wishes that there was still such a tool to remind those who regularly jump red lights or exhibit other anti-social behaviours.

The success of the films was down to the light hearted approach they took to their subject matter – often with cartoon characters whose catchphrases still ring in my ears decades later, such as today when I was walking into Darlington.

I had a package to collect from a part of town that I’m less familiar with, and with a couple of miles or so to walk I didn’t hang around to wait for portraiture subjects, preferring to rely on the luck of a chance encounter, and I did spot plenty of likely people in shops along the way if I’d only had time to stop. 

The rain clouds were building over the town so I hurried on, ignoring the signs of a recent atrocity in a back lane, when I was given a sign of better pickings ahead.

Clearly I was about to encounter a pale, long necked beauty for today’s portrait.

A few hundred yards later and I was just about at my destination when Dave came my way.  Now ok, he wasn’t quite the swan like model I’d anticipated, but at least he had the right coloured plumage!  Just got to him in time to as he was about to go and have it cut off.

Inevitably at the furthest point of my journey the rainclouds broke, which is when the public information film about Pelican crossings came to mind and I heard Deryck Guyler‘s voiceover:

Wish I’d brought me brolly!”