Category Archives: Photography

Iconoclasm and ‘truth’ – challenging the official narrative.

Iconic moments of recent history are inseparable from the defining image which catapults them into popular consciousness – the Moon Landing, ‘Tank Man’ at Tiananmen Square, that famous kiss on VJ Day.

It’s only through viewing other photographic sources that we can escape the prism of these force-fed yarns and experience events three-dimensionally.

 

I see some accompanying images of articles and do wonder why, time and time again, the same stock image is used. It’s as if the rest have been erased and this one is the last Malteser in the box.

Every single piece I’ve ever read about the JFK Assassination is accompanied by stills of the Zapruder film, which has served as the basis for conspiracy theorising and debunking. No one denies its value, but it has to a large extent conveniently encapsulated and simplified the entire discourse (the ‘death’ of the American Dream, the dawn of cynicism) into a singular artefact.

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It’s in our nature to seek easy explanations. What happened immediately before and after the event has been sidelined (with the causal factors and consequences), the icon seemingly enough to digest. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. That’s the problem. There’s only one picture doing the rounds.

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Whicker’s War.

Alan Whicker, that mustachioed gentleman traveller, the original dapper vagabond. It was in the last great daring crusade that he honed his craft as the director of cameramen of the Army Film and Photo Unit (AFPU), or the “Army Film and Punishment Unit”. This two-part documentary is cracking. We seldom get the filmmakers as subject matter, the images of war taken for granted (our YouTube pleasures). Their sole purpose was to document. It’s our record of that struggle, the spearhead evidence offered to new generations. Their weapons were film reel.

Whicker talks of the danger of seeking that ‘perfect shot’. You may get it, but that entails being up close. And then you’re dead. Only Oliver Stone’s Salvador (1986) comes to mind here, *the* photojournalism masterwork.

N.B. More than half of Whicker’s team were killed or wounded.

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It was raining in Edinburgh today.

Shock horror.

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One of my ‘hobbies’ entails hanging about the back of buses when I’m bored and taking pretentious ‘art-farty’ snaps of pish. Here is Edinburgh’s Lothian Road. It’s raining. Some folk had umbrellas but others didn’t give a fuck. I love this city like George Best did ethanol.

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Titanic: Part II.

The unsinkable ship, iceberg right ahead, Jack and Rose, Billy Zane, Celine Dion, John Jacob Astor, brandies and cigars before the descent. RMS Titanic is the most often told, popularly celebrated of all maritime disasters, continuing to fascinate new generations through the sheer fatalism of its first and only voyage. Now weve got this replica cruise in the works. 3458-titanic-ii

Why bother reading history when you can live it, or even remake it? Its like we have to go one better and prove that were smarter than our doomed ancestry. Whats next? A Hindenburg re-enactment? The Challenger shuttle Mark II? I might start doing Omaha Beach tributes at Portobello. If you book it they will come.

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Further reading:

http://www.chesterchronicle.co.uk/whats-on/whats-on-news/titanic-replica-ship-clive-palmer-10903118

http://www.titanic2ship.com/

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Return to Malta.

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Sliema. 

I actually saw some of Malta this time. It was another story two years ago, my most salient memory then of pissing my pants mid-conversation with a lesbian volleyball player from Berlin. It wasn’t because she was particularly amusing; I just forgot to physically transport myself to the bathroom (ah, those were the glorious melted days). Anyway, I was on a quest to right my wrongs. I didn’t pack nappies but made an executive decision to cut back on the Southern Comfort.

In Malta, buildings are yellow. I don’t know why this is. Regardless, yellow contact lenses will accompany you throughout your stay. You may even listen to ‘Colours’ by Donovan when the time feels appropriate.


More yellow was found on the rooftops. Puffing an e-cig on the hotel roof whilst watching a documentary about the Battle for Malta in WWII is officially my best breakfast yet of 2017. I imagined some wee local ducking under a deckchair as a Stuka dive bomber flew overhead circa 1941, and thanked the heavens I was born in the ’80s.

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Low point:

Listening to a musical troupe of Irish women on a ‘hen’ trip strangling the proverbial Bagpuss each morning with synchronised ‘singing’ was not enjoyable. I meet them once, scowling at the creatures in the hallway on the Friday morning. I hear them, though. A lot. Absolute racket. How and why hotels tolerate such species I will never know. My ears bleed so much my legs begin to get affected. I hop in a taxi to the pub.

 

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A hero taxi driver rescuing me from the ‘singing’. 

Highlight:

The Saturday was vaguely cinematic. I felt like one of those alienated characters in an Antonioni movie as I walked around the island with a bottle of water and a hip flask. I didn’t have a conversation with a single person, and I didn’t mind. I arrived back to the hotel and smoked a cheap cigar on the balcony before napping under the sunset. One of life’s little moments of pretension … punished immediately with mosquito bites. My leg is that of a leper for the next week. Peaks and valleys and all that.

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Lunch atop a Skyscraper, 1932.

New York Construction Workers Lunching on a Crossbeam

For about a decade I thought this image was a shot of construction workers enjoying a lunch-time nibble on the Empire State Building. Only last year was I told the building wasn’t the site of King Kong’s last hurrah but 30 Rockefeller Plaza, or 30 Rock for short (now recently renamed the Comcast Building).

Weirdly, Sir Alex Ferguson brought me here. In a TV interview with Fabien Barthez, Fergie explained to his old goalkeeper the importance of the photograph (it adorned his office wall), that it encapsulated with its 11 men dangling on the 840-foot girder classic themes of sacrifice and teamwork, and of realising the impossible. A cultured chap for a football manager, one would of course expect this kind of art on his wall, and not Vinnie Jones crunching Gazza’s testicles.

Widely credited to Charles C. Ebbets, the snap has a staged, advertising feel to it, but is nonetheless quietly subversive in its details. This is the Prohibition era, yet the bloke on the far right is hogging a bottle of whiskey (fuck the system!). Researchers have identified him as Gustáv (Gusti) Popovič, a lumberjack and carpenter from Slovakia, who would at the end of WWII be killed by a grenade. He even sent his wife this photograph, on which he wrote, ‘Don’t you worry, my dear Mariska, as you can see I’m still with bottle. Your Gusti.’

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Immigrants building the future, eh. Many photographs are considered great merely on the basis of their functional quality (a photo is a photo is a photo), others also have an accompanying historical value which enriches them, surface components opening up human dramas outwith the artefact.

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Auld Reekie in pictures(!).

Behold the spring delights of Edinburgh in this wee montage of recent snaps I’ve taken. No poverty or bar brawls here; it’s my propaganda piece.

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I am a travelling slob.

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On every one of my wee city adventures I have pre-trip visions, grandiose plans for culture, a desire to immerse myself in the local community, a wolf in the sheep pen (something like that).

All I ever end up doing is getting fucked up and sitting on my arse. A ten-minute museum cameo and I’m back to the pub for another intake of liquid delights. Sometimes I think I’d be better off just staying at home, necking Lidl’s own-brand Scotch from the bottle whilst furiously wanking away to Apocalypse Now (1979).

This snap defines my ‘adventures’. Copenhagen in spring. Winning (maybe).

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Verisimilitude on the Eastern Front.

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I’ve always wondered about this one, and have no way to verify whether it’s a legitimate piece of footage or not. It appears to be shot on the Eastern Front, capturing brutal house-to-house fighting between the Red Army and the Wehrmacht. Stalingrad, perhaps? I know re-enactments were commonplace, and especially right after battles. It’s an eerie proposition, though, that a soldier’s passing would one day be played back in an Edinburgh slum on a Friday evening, the viewer drinking Southern Comfort from a ThunderCats mug.

Any further info welcomed.

1:32 on the clip.

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Hong Kong – The Handover.

‘I have relinquished the administration of this government. God Save The Queen. Patten.’

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Last Governor of Hong Kong Chris Patten transfers sovereignty to the People’s Republic of China on 1 July 1997.

Nothing quite encapsulates the spluttering anticlimactic end of the British Empire as does this dreary, pitiful snap. No drama, no tension, just a timorous ceremony and this accompanying image for posterity.

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Sometimes watershed moments of history produce underwhelming accounts. I hate goodbyes, too.

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