Three photos

Here are three things I have seen this week.

Thoughful graffiti in Dublin:

Burn the bankers. Actually.

A friendly notice in a cafeteria, also in Dublin:


A toilet called “Laura”, in Crystal Palace:

Why would you give a girls' name to a lavatory? Why?


Capturing the moment

I read a piece this morning – I have forgotten where, and it’s too early in the year and too late in the week for me to summon the energy to find out – which was all about how to make sure your photos and videos are backed up safely, so that you can be absolutely sure you’ll never lose them. The author, whoever he was (I remember that he was a he), said that he has “thousands” of photos and videos of his children, and that he would be devastated were he to lose any of those precious memories.

But photos and videos aren’t memories, are they? They’re not even aides-memoires, I don’t think, because once a slice of a memory is sealed up inside a photo, you lose the rest of it. So I think I remember my sixth birthday party, but when I examine the memory, all I can really remember is being in the back garden holding my birthday cake, and that’s because there’s a photo of it. I don’t really remember it at all. Perhaps I would, if there wasn’t a photo, but in the same way you don’t bother remembering anyone’s phone number now that you have them all stored on your mobile phone, if we think that photos are a substitute for the act of remembering something then we might not bother to remember it.

I have been to Cyprus twice, once a year ago and once about ten years ago. I can’t remember exactly when I went the first time, because there isn’t a set on Flickr labelled with the dates of the trip, but I do remember the vivid red of the flowers growing outside our apartment, and the way the swimming pool seemed to melt into the sea (I had never heard of infinity pools then, but I think it was one), and I can still feel, if I try, the slight chill in the air that arrived on our last day and made the locals laugh at us for sunbathing.

But when I think about last year’s trip, which at the time I remember thinking was the nicest holiday I’d ever been on, I just see the photos in my mind’s eye. And the problem with that is that what you decide is a good subject for a photo is not the same as what you independently recall later, because your conscious mind isn’t necessarily the best judge of what will appeal to your unconscious mind. So you get photos of the sunset (I have SO MANY photos of sunsets, and they all look EXACTLY THE SAME), and of each other grinning (DITTO), and of cocktails and feral cats, but you probably miss the groyne covered in barnacles, or the blood-red roof that stands out like a flag against a bright blue sky, and you certainly miss the chill in the air and the taste of kleftiko, unless you put your camera down for five minutes and let yourself be in the moment, rather than frantically trying to record a facsimile of the moment for posterity, when it’s never a substitute for the real thing.

Once in a while I forget to take my camera somewhere, and although I love taking photos and I love having photos, I’m sometimes secretly glad that I can forget about keeping a record, and just be where I am for a bit.

The ideal solution, I think, is to live your life as though cameras don’t exist, but have three dedicated photographers recording your every move, so that you end up with a beautifully random set of photos which may or may not tally with your own recollection of events. I managed this on my wedding day, but I haven’t worked out how to make it happen the rest of the time. I’ll keep you posted.

Battlespace: Unrealities of War

I’ve got lots of posts lined up which I’m intending to write sometime soon, but real life keeps getting in the way and now I’m in bed with flu and barely lucid enough to open up the laptop, let alone post. However, this one is time-specific so I’m doing it now before I forget: if you’re in or near London, this exhibition of war photos from Iraq and Afghanistan is full of startling pictures that you won’t see anywhere else, and is well worth paying a visit to.

Some of the photos are quite gory – but then, so is war. More distressing to me, though, were the ones showing the fear in the faces of civilians suddenly confronted by British or American soldiers. We’ll never see photos like these in our mainstream media, because they make it clear that the relationships between ordinary people of the countries involved and our armed forces are difficult and painful, which makes it much harder to argue that we’re anywhere near winning “the battle for hearts and minds”. In fact, in these snippets from daily life we look more like a hostile invading force, which one might argue is exactly what we are. Chilling, heartbreaking and not for the squeamish, but absolutely worth seeing.

More details and info from Great Western Studios.

Lambeth Country Show 2010

I usually wring every last available drop of fun out of the Country Show, but this year, for a variety of reasons, I only spent a couple of hours there each day and as a result I felt I missed quite a lot of it. I went to bed last night feeling faintly sad and anxious at not having spent more time there, like a child who suddenly realises that when she wakes up it won’t be Christmas any more.

But when I awoke this morning I remembered that it’s quality, not quantity, that counts; and this year’s show was one of the best I can remember. The weather was perfect – sunny and warm but not hot – and the music was super (Alabama 3 in particular were brilliant, as they always are); the atmosphere was better than ever and despite record attendance it felt completely relaxed and friendly everywhere I went. It was nothing at all like that year that we had to dive out of the way of a bunch of teenagers trying to stab another bunch of teenagers. (But then, I was child-free this year, so I didn’t have to go to the funfair.)

Here’s a girl dancing in front of a parade that popped up out of nowhere while we were buying books for 20p each from the library van:

And here’s another shot of the same parade:

According to the South London Press, 180,000 people attended the show over the two days. So it was doubly odd to find myself back there this morning, one of perhaps half a dozen people whose daily business takes them into Brockwell Park at 7am. It looked empty and silent, but also kind of beautiful:

Forget Cyprus, I never want to live away from here.

(The full sets of photos are here and here.)

Cannes at dusk

I don’t know why it is, but those crappy disposable cameras keep coming up trumps with photos of beaches.  After the shot of Margate that looked like an Edward Hopper painting, I now have this lovely photo of the beach at Cannes, which looks exactly like the sort of “mood” poster one might have found in Athena in the 1980s.  I especially like the palm tree and the mountains in the background, which look like they were added on in Photoshop.

Full set is here.