Shadow line

Human mark
Emerging human

When I was young, I remember having watched a film by Andrzej Wajda, titled “Shadow line”. It was based on a novel by Joseph Conrad. The film was not a great success, but it planted in my mind the allegory of life as a struggle to emerge from the shadow into the light, in spite of all the adversities. Conrad’s adversities were the anonymous forces of nature, the oceans, but also the adversities we find inside ourselves.

Walking the line
Walking the line

I’ve begun to suspect that the shadow line will always make part of my life, when I reached maturity. What seemed like a feeble demarcation line, easy to cross once you can sail at full speed, has begun to look like a moving target, a carrot on a stick tied to your harness, which remains always just a few steps distant, no matter how fast you run.

Stepping in
Stepping in

At a certain point I’ve started thinking, that in order to enter the zone of light once and for all, it will be necessary to draw a line how far you want to go, to decide how much is enough.  Certainly, it might be a relief, but wouldn’t it also be risky to think that happiness can be identified in a situation, rather than in a frame of mind? And what about the scope of our actions, the time that needs to fly while we perform our daily fatigues?  – I don’t see myself basking idly in the sun.

Sun salutation
Sun salutation

“The Shadow of Your Smile”

 

Peace

Symbol of peace
Symbol of peace

I took this shot in one of the small squares in Nice, not far away from Place Wilson.  Although the bird caught here strategically in the center of the composition, is not a dove, but simply a seagull, I think it looks close enough to serve as an illustration of the concept.

The recent war ramblings of Mr Putin, have reminded me of the problem of war and the origins of the dove as symbol of peace. The dove bearing an olive tree branch has  been first depicted by the Jews in the Torah, but only the Christians have taken it up as peace symbol. The Jews, as usual, had some more complicated and Jewish centered interpretation of this image.

Then came Picasso, with his communist party membership card, who has impudently used a religious symbol for a militantly atheistic logo of peace, hence used and abused by the Soviet bloc propaganda. Apparently, he got inspired by Matisse, who gifted him a beautiful white pigeon, originating from Milan.

The fact remains, that no matter how confused one can be when speaking for peace, peace is a value in its own right.  In my various humanistic meanderings, I’ve come across three interesting opinions about what are the strongest factors which foster peace.

First, you are normally reluctant to make war on members of your own “Tribe”, and the single most important element in human culture that denotes belonging to the same tribe, is the use of the same language. Hence, it’s good to speak many languages.

Second, you normally do not want to make war if that implies your economic ruin, and the most important lifeline of any economy is money. Therefore, if you don’t want wars, adopt a common currency – does it ring a familiar note to you, Europeans?

Third, in any kind of political decision that can gravely impact the lives of fellow citizens, it is paramount, that the decision maker ( i.e. politician) has something personal at stake. The best guarantee, that adopting war as policy will not be done lightheartedly. would be if the leader who decides, has a child in the army. This way, he could actually visualize, how it would feel to put at stake the life of his own offspring because of his decision.

As far as I know, Mr. Putin has two daughters, and I don’t believe they would serve on the Ukrainian front. There is a rumour, that he has an illegitimate son in Germany, so perhaps he will think twice, before launching nuclear weapons on Berlin.

The unofficial fourth factor in favour of peace, would be granting the powers of war and peace to a woman. Unfortunately, in Russian history this has not worked very well, if you look up the rule of  Catherine the Great. Perhaps the reason had been, she was actually born in Prussia.

“Peace Piece”

SINGLE SHOTS # 2

Morning clean up
Morning clean up

This is one of these photos that just happened for no specific reason. The morning hosing ritual is quite popular around here – since my office has been moved to the other end of Monaco, I cannot wear Geox shoes anymore, because as I walk along the sea in the morning, the hose men are busy cleaning the pavements, and I’m literally going through a huge puddle.. This one has been shot in the Old Nice.

“Waters of March”

SINGLE SHOTS # 1

Strike of light
Strike of light

So far, the themes of these blog entries have been dictated by the order of the photographs that I’ve been fishing out of my “marinating keg”, which is a folder on my computer. I knew that this strategy had a limited horizon, because it’s not that I take photographs of an infinite range of subjects. Some single shots have inevitably also started accumulating in solitude, as I could not immediately tie them to others of similar kind. This has prompted me to begin the “Single Shot” series, which will be a handy way to keep this blog alive without a need for me to become a permanent story teller.

This shot, taken from my office window,  originated during one of last winter’s mornings right after sunrise. It was a sudden strike of light, and it gave an immediate touch of life to that  gray beginning of the day.

Here’s a great piece which helps to illustrate the feeling. I particularly enjoy the arrangement and Georg Mraz on the double bass.

“I’m Beginning to See the Light” – Ella Fitzgerald & Count Basie

Children

Exploration
Exploration

Children are a great photographic subject. It’s not only because we love them, and because our sense of beauty is modeled on basis of child like facial features. The main reasons are that children are at the same time full of energy and very poor at self control.

Youthful energy
Youthful energy

While the high energy level is typical of most young mammals, and reflect the need to learn through play, the lack of self control has more to do with the peculiar cognitive evolution of our human species.  I have read somewhere, that our brains develop full self control capacity only around the age of 30, and particularly the young boys tend to be very poor at it. This brings some interesting conclusions, like the scientific confirmation of the idea to avoid punishment based upbringing in favour of reinforcement of desired behaviours through rewards. It is not a fear of punishment ( because of the lack of sufficient self -control ) that will block improper behaviour, it is more likely that we can induce desired behaviours through positive feedback instead.

Scooter rehearsals
Scooter rehearsals

There is also a great lesson that we, photographers can try to learn from kids: their unadulterated vision of the world. The older we get, the more our visual perception is a construct of cultural experience. This has been neatly summarized by Andersen in his famous fairy tale ” The Emperor’s New Clothes”. Only a child could see the obvious truth, and express this freely.  Picasso has famously said: ” When I was young, I could draw like Raphael. But it has taken me my whole life to learn to draw like a child.”

Unconstrained imagination
Unconstrained imagination

Children like to break the rules and simplify the complicated. Why should one use the stairs, if it’s possible to jump? They are also great at showing raw emotions, which of course makes them very photogenic.  I have noticed something else as well, although I could not claim it is a scientific fact:  when they are happy at play, the boys prefer to do it with the fathers and the girls with the mothers. When they are in distress and look to cling for comfort, the reverse applies. So your preference for the sex of your child could vary depending if you are more looking for a game buddy or intimate friend.

My heart belongs to daddy
My heart belongs to daddy

 “My Heart Belongs to Daddy”

 

Fascinating rhythm

Dominoes
Dominoes

We are inextricably immersed in regular rhythms. Days and nights, beats of our hearts, regularly spaced telegraph poles, stripes on zebra crossings, not to mention the music, most of which today is heavily rhythmical.

Musical nap
Musical nap

Humans, and human photographers in particular, are virtual pattern recognition machines. What most people don’t understand, is that we don’t “see” with our eyes, but with our brains, that reconstruct “raw” images received through the retina, and give us an output that  we make sense of. In a way, you tend to see, what you expect to see, thus rhythm and symmetry are two particularly important concepts that we use subconsciously to our advantage, in order to organize visual information.

Barcode fashion
Barcode fashion

The popularity of striped garments in fashion is relatively recent. In Medieval times, only prisoners clowns and prostitutes used to wear them, as the pattern was seen as being “evil”. Apparently it was Queen Victoria in 1846, who has broken the spell by clothing her 4 year old son, Albert Edward in a striped sailor shirt to board the Royal Yacht. The style has caught on, with sailor like uniforms for kids becoming widely popular, and subsequently got extended to bathing suits. In 1917 Coco Chanel  has introduced stripes to fashion through her nautical collection, but she has been inspired directly by the Breton stripes.

Discreet yet fascinating rhythm
Discreet yet fascinating rhythm

I always am on a lookout for some visual order, and if anything, you need to be careful not to overdo it, because still perfection tends to get boring quickly. A good rule of thumb, is to combine the diversity of life with some underlying visual harmony  for an additive effect.

“Fascinating rhythm”

Dogs # 2

Sentinel
Just friends

It’s quite striking how many people with dogs you see around here, in the south of France. Perhaps mainly because of tradition, and in part because there are many elderly  who like to keep one. The multi child family model also helps, because once you grow two or three kids, an addition of a small dog doesn’t make a lot of difference to your lifestyle…

Relaxing in Place Garibaldi, Nice
Relaxing in Place Garibaldi, Nice

Walking your dog is a great duty – ritual, particularly pleasant if the weather is fine, which is usually the case on Cote d’Azur.

Checking the dog-mail
Checking the dog-mail

It helps you socialize and enjoy life in the open air.

Meeting
Meeting

At times I can’t help thinking that some people go out just to show off their favourite canine friends.

Sunday show off
Sunday show off

But  the nicest scenes happen, when you see the owners and their dogs behave, as if they were having romance.

Like someone in love
Like someone in love

 

“Like Someone in Love”

 

 

 

 

 

Dogs

Dogs on a swing
A trio

Today is my birthday, and this is post nr 60 since I’ve begun this blog, so I’ve decided to make myself a little present – post some pictures of dogs.

Wo is riding the scooter?
A family in the park

My wife claims, that even looking at pictures of dogs on your computer can brighten your day.

Low ranger
Low ranger

When I meet a dog along my way, I usually say: ciao !  I  treat them simply as non human members of our society.

Tourist
BMW tourist

Dogs are particularly attuned to us, and more able to interpret our emotional states, hints and commands, than any other animal. It is because they look constantly at our faces for clues.

I only have eyes for you
I only have eyes for you

“I Only Have Eyes for You”

Swing

How many pictures of people in the street can one take? – Many.

Gary Winogrand, the famous American street photographer used to shoot several hours a day.  When he died,  he left several million negatives, several thousand of which not yet developed, and that was long before the invention of digital and 12fps cameras.

Rainbow warrior
Rainbow guide

At a certain point though, anybody will get tired with typical poses and straight verticals. You need to animate the scene somewhat. Wide angle lenses and instinctive framing create some dynamism and more unexpected points of view.

Clown on a swing
Mime on a swing

I’ve noticed, that you can use the verticals to your advantage, also when you want to convey an alternative notion of mass, with people climbing with difficulty or rolling down with ease.

Giant steps
Giant steps

If you spot kids playing, they look ready to fly.

Like Peter Pan
Like Peter Pan

The liberated diagonals can quickly become a canon in their own way, and start looking like a classic. Unlike free jazz or modern paintings, they still retain order and structure. Perhaps it would take a collage, photo montage or simply a Photo Shop manipulation to deprive a photograph completely of its original substance.  I prefer to work on what I can obtain on the negative through experimentation with lenses, framing and exposure techniques.

New classic
New classic

“It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got That Swing”