Saturday, 27 June 2009

Macabre Photographs feed Public Frenzy for News. Do things ever Change?

In the first twenty years of the last century, public curiousity fed photographers imagination for picture opportunities that would sell. So, what has changed? Little! If there was an accident or disaster somewhere, an enterprising local photographer would haul his camera equipment to the scene and capture images that they would often produce as postcards for sale to the public.

Here is a photograph of a rail crash - I imagine it is in America - which shows the bodies of the Engineer and Fireman lying in the wreckage. Note, it is photograph No. 7 so there are at least six others. Have any of you seen similar photographs or can hazard a guess at where it might be?

Certainly, today, the producers of souvenir postcards show a little more taste - more than can be said of today's tabloid newspapers. That said, if you ever get the chance to look at copies of the Daily Mirror before the First World War, you will find them packed with gory photographs of disasters. Nothing was left to imagination, especially the words and it must have been distressing for the relatives of those killed and maimed in such incidents. What do you think?

Skulls in the Wilderness

Here is a slightly more macabre photograph which has no identifying marks. I have a theory it was taken on a battlefield some years after a war. So why? Well, I think the discarded tins contained soldiers rations.

Identifying the location is problematic. I suspect it might be Gallipoli. What confuses me is the cacti. Does this Turkish peninsular have the terrain to support the growth of cactus? If not, then I am baffled. Would any of you care to offer an explanation, please?

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Have you ever felt you are not Alone?

Having depressed everyone and myself by publishing the photographs of the sad and unhappy lions at Iford Manor, I found a couple of happier lions at the same location who retain their pride and publish their portraits here.

The first lion glowered at me for daring to take his photograph without seeking permission. Once I had apologised, he posed for me again. As I pressed the shutter button, his head whipped round to stare at something or someone behind me!

When I went to photograph the other lion, he ignored me and, looking very startled, cast his gaze at something beside or behind me. Now I am not easily spooked, but it is a bit disconcerting when you turn around and there is no-one else there! A bit like the Trees, I am starting to think that when I go out with the camera, I am not alone. Perhaps it is a guiding spirit showing me the way to the unusual subjects I come across? I don't know. Do you ever get these feelings?

Artist goes Missing!

One of things to be wary of at Iford Manor is the trees. If you look behind many of them, you will find the entrance to a burrow. I am not sure what mythical creature lurks within them, but you need to take care. The unwary can be caught out.

I visited with other artists and spoke to one who painted some distance away from the others. She sought the shade of a tree to keep herself cool. I nodded and smiled as I passed her. Moments later, I looked back and she was gone. People searched high and low for her. All that remains is her chair and her painting kit. No-one has seen her since . . .

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Unhappy Lions. I wonder Why?

Of the many lions overlooking the wonderful Peto Gardens at Iford Manor, this trio are certainly the most unhappy looking. I am not sure why, but just looking at them depresses me . . . Perhaps being stared at all day long has caused them to lose their Pride?

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Cemetery Angels

Cemetery angels are a thing of beauty. On Friday, I visited the Victorian cemetery at Locksbrook in Bath and the famouse Arnos Vale cemetery in Bristol today. Although the more detailed stories arising from my visits are being published on my other blog - The Graveyard Detective - I thought I would share two images of Angels with you here.

Angel consumed by tree
This angel at Arnos Vale has been smothered by a tree which entangled her. Although partially cleared, she is still in the tree's tight embrace and looks to be reaching out for succour!

A Fallen Angel
Lying in the undergrowth at Locksbrook is this angel who has fallen from the grave. The summer growth of thorns and weeds is starting to envelope her - poor thing!

Monday, 15 June 2009

Seeds are Momento of Tragic Death

On occasion, I collect items of ephemera. Ephemera is transitory written and printed matter not intended to be retained or preserved. According to Wikipedia, the word derives from the Greek, meaning things lasting no more than a day. Some collectible ephemera are advertising trade cards, bookmarks, pamplets, tickets and . . . letters. I recently found a plastic envelope containing some letters.They provide the basis for an account of a death in Canada in 1891. Far too long for this blog, you may care to move over to the Graveyard Detective blog to read more about the seeds that are a sad momento of a tragic death. An interesting account that asks for your advice and help.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Post Mortem Photograph

Yesterday, while looking for some more historical items to share with you, I came across a large shoe box. Imagine my amazement when I took off the lid and found it contained a couple of hundred very ornate In Memoriam cards dating from the 1850s to the 1950s. I will share a photograph with you of the box and its contents so you can appreciate the scale of the find, but that can wait for a later date. What was interesting was a large photograph that lay at the bottom of the box. It stirred a memory of a stall holder at a car boot sale - years ago - asking me if I was the person who collected funeral postcards? I said, yes and he offered me the photograph published here.

Some of you may have previously come across the Victorian custom of having photographs taken of their recently departed family members. Often, a family realised that they had no photographic record of the person who had passed on and sought out a professional photographer who specialised in the art of post mortem portrait photography. To have these photographs taken was quite expensive as it often involved the adult loved one, for example, being fixed to a supporting frame in the standing position or seated, surrounded by family members. The results were sometimes awful with open eyes being inked in by the photographer - on occasion, very amateurishly.

One photographer who did a consistently good job was the Australian portrait photographer, John Charles Garrood who had a studio in Sydney Road, Brunswick, Victoria. He took the photograph of this recently dead young girl, surrounded by flowers and lying in bed. The eye is remarkably clear, but it might be that Garrood cut out and inserted an open eye from someone else's portrait and re-took the shot? It is certainly a more tasteful portrait than some I have seen.


A Dog at the Grave of its Mistress

Now, this is an exceedly rare item - a family snapshot, probably pre-1900, of a dog being taken to see the grave of its mistress and the flowers that cover it. I find it immensely sad and very, very moving. I have never seen another like it and think it is a very unusual example of social history. What do you think? Have you ever seen the like?

PUNderful Postcards

If there was one thing the Victorians and Edwardians liked, it was postcards and the more funny the better. They also liked the art of the pun and these two cards demonstrate the art quite well. I dedicate them to Owen of the Magic Lantern Show blog who is always commenting how much he likes seeing people punning when they comment on his posts. At least, I think that's what he likes, but I may be wrong . . . ? I especially like the Allotment-based love letter.

Another Bone Yard

Sent to me from New Zealand, this grainy postcard [circa 1900] shows bones and skulls in the bone yard of Paco Cemetery in Manila, Philippines. The cemetery was opened in 1820 for victims of Cholera and was closed to burials in 1913. A short term rental system for burials operated here, too, and I imagine these bones are the remains of those who relatives failed to renew the lease. The cemetery became a national park in 1966 and is a popular location for weddings!. I don't believe the bones are on display today.

Cycling Lessons for All

Back in 1950s England, someone in authority came up with the idea of a National Cycling Proficiency test. Schoolchildren would receive lessons on how to do hand signals when turning left or right and, usefully, weave in and out and round plastic bollards laid in the road. It was not too difficult. How do I know that? Well, I passed the test and received my certificate and lapel badge.

Of course, what was problematical was that, in some of the more rural areas of England, the requirement to sit the test was taken literally and applied ruthlessly by local councils. Here, one council has demanded that household pets - not budgies, parrots or goldfish - undertake the cycling proficiency exam. The picture shows Mrs Fortesque-Smythe attempting to teach Sammy Spaniel how to ride a tricycle. Sadly, there is no official record of whether Sammy passed! Clicking on the photograph to enlarge it, it is plainly obvious that not only would Sammy's legs not touch the ground, but only one is long enough to reach a pedal . . . Remarkable!

Friday, 12 June 2009

The Graveyard Detective

I am pleased to be able to say that The Graveyard Detective blog is now active. The first piece of detective work will be published this weekend and you will all be invited to contribute - it is quite unusual and requires some time-travelling . . .

Book and Reading Lists, together with other useful links will grow steadily. Please join me there!

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Puffins prove Popular

Not that long ago, I had the good fortune to spend a week on the Northumberland coast. I noticed a sign on the harbourside advertising boat trips to the Farne Islands. These rocky outcrops were, I was assured, smothered in sea birds and I would see . . . Puffins! So I took a chance and ventured on a sea voyage. After an hour or so, we arrived at one island and stepped ashore. It was exhilirating. You progressed along rope lined walkways and the birds were literally a couple of feet away and quite unfussed by the presence of humans. What a fantastic few hours I spent there and came away with some reasonable snaps. Here are just three.

Green Woman

There has been a great deal of interest in the Green Man post I did recently. Two days ago, I was posting a letter in town, when I glimpsed a work of art on a stone plinth at the edge of the car park. I remembered that, a few years ago, the local council took it upon themselves to remove the town's war memorial that had stood there for more than seventy years to a more picturesque but less accessible site. They reasoned that it would look better sat in a newly created garden where the young people gather, make noise, carve initials in the wooden benches etc. Sorry, I meant to say 'a newly created garden where the whole local populace can sit to enjoy the surroundings' but do note the irony I intended!

That said, and I apologise for the diversion, nothing was parked in front of the vacant memorial plinth for once and to my astonishment I realised that the work of art that had been commissioned was actually that of a Green Woman. I think it is beautiful and I hope you do, too?

I have also come across a wonderful website - Green Man East Anglia - which publishes many photographs of Green Men to be found in that area of England. It has a very good Links section which provides details of other useful Green Man sites.

Photographs - Taking or Making History?

Just a quick note to say that there is a new post on my My Writing Life blog, that many of you read, on the subject of 'Photographs - Taking or Making History'. Thank you.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Take a Detour

If you like the sometimes quirky things I post on my blog, you may well enjoy visiting the following blog: Tattered and Lost Vernacular Photographs. The blogger is a book designer and she says her blog is about some of the found and/or vernacular photography in her collection. I was very impressed.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

A Terracotta Green Man

While wandering around a maze of stonework at Iford Manor, I came across a very large terracotta pot and was captivated by what I took to be a merchant's face embossed on the outside of it. It was only when I looked more closely at the photograph, tonight, that I realised it depicted a 'Green Man'. According to Wikipedia, a Green Man is a sculpture, drawing or other representation of a face surrounded by or made from leaves. Branches or vines may sprout from the nose, mouth, nostrils or other parts of the face . . .

Dogs - capturing the Spirit in Stone 2

There is more to this second Dog statue than meets the eye. As soon as I saw it, I could see a similarity to the features of two dogs pictured on a memorial in the Paris Dogs Cemetery that appeared in Owen's blog - The Magic Lantern Show. I wonder if the sculptor was the same?

In the image above, notice the rope lead is hanging down with the end frayed. The animal could make a bid for freedom, but has chosen to stay.

Above, a good view of the profile of this particular man's best friend. In these days of political correctness, perhaps that should be changed to 'human's best friend' but it doesn't sound quite right? What do you think?

The view below reveals that the dog is scratching itself. Could it have fleas?

Dogs - capturing the Spirit in Stone 1

One of the most interesting discoveries at Iford Manor was two Dog statues. They were seriously large works of art, being much taller than me. The first is posed with its head raised as if looking up at its master. The expression is one of devotion. Lichen, like with so many items I have seen in recent months, is establishing itself and beginning to grow across the animal's face.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Move along there, Sir!

Of course, before the First World War, humorous postcards were very popular in Britain. Sometimes there was a graveyard theme as in the card below where a drunken toff is being moved on by a policeman. The drunk's response is quite interesting. He has a point, you know!

Covering up the Unsightly

Now, I feel this trio of photographs is the sort of thing that Owen publishes in his successful blog - The Magic Lantern Show - but as this is not too far from my home and a very long way from Paris, I'll let him off and publish it on my own blog! Imagine the scene, someone has the idea of placing an ISO container behind a Church Centre in Somerset. You know the sort of thing - a long, large metal box of the type used to carry goods by ship, truck and rail. A box that isn't easily hidden in the countryside. Enter the Old Bakery Artists group from Radstock, armed with paint, brushes and a good design and . . . this is the result. I think it is pretty fantastic. The mural [or as some of us say in England, 'Muriel'] really does blend in. What say you?

Friday, 5 June 2009

The Tinkling of Water has a Strange Effect!

A hidden corner of the pictureque Peto Garden at Iford Manor. Thank heavens I kept this video short. When I played it back, I felt a sudden need to visit the smallest room in the house. Let me know if it has the same effect on you?

Babes in the Wood?

Another image from Iford Manor and the Peto Garden. This is on the wall of the magical Cloisters where Opera is staged. I am not sure of the story behind this, presumably, classical panel, but one thing is sure - the cherubs [if that is what they are?] look really spooky!. What, I wonder, is their intent and just what are they doing to that tree. Remember to click on the image for a closer view - look closely at their eyes, but not for too long . . .

Faces in the Trees 3

As I walked away from Iford Manor, I turned around and saw another tree watching me. I seem to have a knack for catching them unawares. So surprised is this one, it is open-mouthed with astonishment. Either that, or I am not a pretty sight . . . !

Faces in the Trees 2

Feel some pity for this poor woodman who stood too close to a tree whose long life he intended to end. Quickly sucked beneath the bark, he remains in torment for as long as the tree shall live. To add to his misery, a wooden plug has been forced into his right eye socket - ughh! There is a moral, here - be kind to trees or you might suffer the same fate!

Faces in the Trees 1

Today, I took time out to spend a day with the local art society and paint in the Peto Garden at Iford Manor. The Grade I Italian-style garden is famous for its tranquil beauty and was created by architect and designer Harold Peto who lived there from 1899 to 1933. Inspired by Italy and the gardens of Ancient Rome, the unique and romantic hillside landscape with an other-worldly atmosphere. It is characterised by terraces, sculptue and magnificent rural views.

Before deciding on a place to paint, I wandered around the whole garden, taking photographs of many items of interest. I noticed this wooden fence post and was surprised to find the face of a tiny monkey on it. Can you see it, too or is it just a figment of my imagination? Please let me know.