Sunday, December 21, 2008

Irish Red Cross

Another shot from my travels to Dublin city centre. I braved the Christmas shopping mania just for a walk and came across this fund raiser for the Irish Red Cross. So I stopped to have a conversation with the volunteers - a group of nice young women. It was worth stepping out on a cold Saturday afternoon, just for this very red, and hence warm, street shot. I have some family affiliations to Red Cross work in Iraq, Afghanistan and other spots and it was nice to see the money being raised for something with which I can readily identify. The cross itself is an extremely old symbol, which shares a common symbolism with the number four. The four cardinal points represent earth and together forms the foundation of all symbols of orientation. The whole of mankind, drawn from the four corners of the earth is represented. But where the two lines intersect there is a fifth point. This is the point of transcendence. This must be the most appropriate symbol for an organisation which must engage with war, but at the same time, remain outside its ambit.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Bus Stop Centro PiazzaLodi

I wanted something of Xmas, so so this bus stop in the outskirts of Milan seemed to fit the bill. I confess I photo-shopped the picture to make the reds brighter. Forgive me if it's slightly lurid. That is also for Xmas. So if you're late for getting that last present you can always get on down to Centro PiazzaLodi. Why don't you get the bus? Getting the bus means we have to travel collectively with other people. We don't have much choice about being social in this case. So if you dream about being on a bus it's likely to be about a social relationship. Our personality develops as we come into contact with other people. Naturally our primary family group is first, then school and so on until working life. So if you dream about any difficulty in getting on a bus, you may interpret that accordingly. If you are driving the bus, it could be that it's about taking responsibility for a group of others. Centro PiazzaLodi and its collective await your visit!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Nothing better than a Brick

A colleague from work, many years ago, was aways saying to me, "ye canna get better than a brick, man". He was a Geordie from Newcastle and a bricklayer to trade. I can still hear him saying that and he was right of course. Bricks are a gift from the Gods - they signify the start of creation. The first laying down of bricks represents the beginning of a settled life, of towns and cities. Mankind ceases to be nomadic and selects a fixed place to live. We can all recognise these narrow bricks so typical of the Greeks and Romans. This is the garden at Mount Olympus, formerly a port on a river - it's now several kilometers inland. Neatly preserved, it's well worth a visit if you are in Northern Greece. I cannot recall what manner of place this was but it looks like a foundation of some sort. As such it corresponds to the unconscious - the bits about which we are relatively unaware. Yet it may be composed of very good bricks. I remember an old fashioned expression of admiration - "you're a brick!". In other words, "you are solid and reliable.". And Jung talked about the brick that was rejected by the builders. He felt that held great meaning when applied to the psyche, because the bits of our selves that we reject turn out to be the most worthwhile.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ward off the evil eye!

This is a very formal shot and a depth of field exercise that falls to the luckless student. This was taken with an old digital camera and it just didn't accommodate depth of field. The result however was pleasing. I had some luck! The clothes rope contains many hidden properties as it crosses the sky. All ropes are a means to ascend. They often crop up in dreams, so whether the dreamer is climbing or descending a rope, it's all about life. Ancient Central American cultures saw ropes as being semen, falling from the sky and which would fertilise accordingly. Ropes could do many things in wizardry - capture winds, stop accidents and prevent misfortunes. In Sicily, red peppers and garlic heads are strung together and hung at a doors, windows and in the kitchen to ward off the evil eye. I have some in the house, just in case. I think that pegs on a clothes line are of this ilk, possibly representing fastenings that tie down and hence contain evil influences. So for me, this picture is a lucky shot in many ways.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Bear and Pirate

Christmas is the time for shopping and in all probability it's toy shops that most fascinate me. I liked the juxtaposition of the teddy bear and the pirate ship. The display has remained the same throughout December and I still stop to have a look. Pirates are popular of course despite the hijacking of super tankers. We like our pirates picaresque. As long as the pirate chief is a jolly and lovable rogue we can forgive him (or her) quite a lot. The bear is also lovable in its teddy form. In reality though, a swipe from the paw of a real bear would lay us low. But bears can be trained to do tricks and are thus tameable. Their love for honey is well known. In legend, curiously, bears have earned the reputation of running off with the womenfolk. So many taboos exist in relation to women and the bear. They should not look at a bear's head, nor step in its tracks. Bears however were companionable with Artemis, the huntress of Greek mythology - and sometimes she would appear in the guise of a bear. Jungian psychoanalysts consider the bear as a symbol of the dangerous part of the unconscious. Maybe then, the curious liaison between bear and pirate is just another of Artemis' dangerous tricks.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Foreign exchange

This image was snatched opposite Trinity College. Clearly the proprietors weren't expecting to lose much money on the trade for Egyptian Pounds - but you never know! The symbolism of money is a bit mixed with debasement and counterfeiting a permanent problem. Celtic societies resisted coinage with ruinous consequences. In Ireland it was only in the 9th and 10th century and under Saxon pressure, that coinage replaced cattle as an exchange mechanism. Early coinage traditionally represented wealth with fineness in the finished appearance of the coin. Although some of the Euro coins are nicely designed, one could hardly say they were "fine". Certainly the five Euro note that went through the wash in the pocket of my jeans was fine no longer!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Whisky and Ice

What's the shot? A strange crystal image which reminds me of the Crystalline Entity in Star Trek. This was taken at the Laphroaig whisky distillery in the beautiful and remote island of Islay. My late Uncle Hugh came from Islay and he liked a dram - so he would have approved of my shot. The ice is lying on the top of a whisky barrel. Here of course there are no prizes for symbolic meaning. Whisky is the water of life - uisge beatha - in all likelihood derived from the Latin "aqua vitae". Water is made from ice, the materia prima. So here we have water transformed into both whisky and into ice - two destinies. We know for certain that in this barrel, the water can only get better! On top, the water has lost its essential quality of liquidity. Yet it is growing. For some theorists, ice represents rigidity. But here, water continues to transform. So I don't necessarily agree with psychologists and poets that ice in dreams signifies death or endings. These crystals have a milkiness that suggests the maternal.

Spot the cat

Another fun shot - it must be getting near Christmas. It's a general rule in photography that no-one wants to see a picture of your pet - or anyone else's for that matter. The only pet of interest is their own. There is always an exception that proves the rule, though. I guess the picture is saying something about camouflage, because it wouldn't be the first time I nearly sat on the cat on its favourite chair. In symbolic terms, not all peoples regard cats favourably. The cat was the only creature to remain unmoved by the death of the Buddha. But strictly speaking this can be seen as a sign of being a higher form!. I am naturally biased since my clan is Clan MacPherson, who's motto is na bean d'on chat gun lamhainn, touch not the cat bot (without) a glove. This message was a warning to other clans. The cat with its claws unsheathed was likely to do a wheen of damage.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Magic eye

This was a fun shot, playing with the camera - at night! It's a little toy and I think I obtained it from the Millenium Dome in its early days. You have to bounce the ball and it lights up. The eye has many symbolic meanings. It's much featured in Egyptian art and the Welsh ilgad y dydd means the "eye of day. But this week, with so much trouble in the news, I wondered whether this was a demonic eye? The evil eye can be used to destroy livestock for example. When the possessor of the evil eye looks longingly at some object or person, it causes injury to what he looks at. "I take refuge in the shadow of God against the harm which the envious can cause when possessed by envy." said the Prophet. We can be comforted though, because there are a variety of things that can help. The horn, the crescent and the hand can defend against it - as well as the horse.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Baggot Street - at night

I set out with the deliberate intention of getting a night shot in Baggott Street in Dublin 4. The technique for this kind of shot is to work at dusk, just when the sky is starting to get darker but with enough remaining light for a successful exposure. I just missed the ideal time but caught a velvety blueness with some cloud detail. Night is always a little mysterious. In their work on symbols, Chevalier and Gheerbrant describe the Greek notion of Night. It moves across the sky, pulled by four black horses and followed by a retinue of maidens - the Fates and the Furies! Night corresponds to the unconscious in the darkness of sleep. a world of dreams and shadows. That bright white light makes a very clear boundary in the shot. So maybe in the picture, the bright burger joint stands in for day, consciousness and awareness.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Christmas Reds

I snapped this very quickly with a high ASA that guaranteed something would come out. But just as I pressed the shutter, a woman walked into the frame. But she made the shot work, didn't she? I am very pleased, so thank you, stranger. It looked very light and bright - with all these jolly magazines. And I thought it made a bit of a change from the usual supermarket entrance. You can see from this image how much red is used for magazines. Bright red is the colour of fire and blood. It brings good luck in China and, of course, Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without the red-suited (but commercially appropriated) Santa Claus! But There are different kinds of red. In his fabulous book, the Phenomenology of Perception, Merleau-Ponty points out that colours like red and green are "sensed". Such a quality isn't strictly part of consciousness. Colours are perceived in a way that is as rich and mysterious as the the object. The magazine reds that shout from the picture wouldn't be sensed in the same as the woolly red of a carpet. We are drawn to the bright reds of flags, posters and publicity material and we interpret them in a different manner from the red warnings of traffic lights, stop signs and darkroom lamps. There is ambivalence in red.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Mulligan's Time

In recent blogs I've been talking about time. What does this mean, you may ask. Well, psychotherapists are very careful about time. The client should arrive on time, the client should use the time properly and so on. At the same time .... time is a debatable concept. When I wrote the last blog about duration, I was struck by the fact that on that very evening, several television documentaries about time were screened. Synchronicity prevailed for that period. Time is often symbolised by the wheel and of course most ( but certainly not all) public clocks are circular. There are many such clocks in Dublin. You really don't need a watch - they're everywhere. So what time is it in Sandymount, Dublin? We rather value the idea of being in the present, but according to Bergson, the present creates nothing. Like a set task it carries out the past, but adds nothing to being. This is debatable if indeed time is composed of discontinuous instants. And it would threaten the value of the psychotherapeutic experience which somehow lies between the living, experienced past and the future. In the therapeutic space, for 50 minutes or so, time breaks.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Frozen Leaves

I thought this one was suitable for the season. The leaves that escaped the leaf blowers (no easy task) were caught in a late November frost. Even by mid day it was still freezing - quite unusual for Dublin. A bunch of leaves can represent a group, but here they're frozen. Their natural decay is arrested and for a while they are stiff. But the sun is coming. I saw this as a metaphor for the collective and thought again of Shelley who wrote "If winter comes can spring be far behind." Festive December breaks up the long winter days and at last we have break. Yet that break can be both joyful and stressful. Maybe because we have to stop what we are doing in the working world and spend relatively long periods of time with others. In some ways we have no option. So that's what the picture is about.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


I took this photograph on my way back from the psychotherapists' festive lunch. The way everyone was hurrying onto the platform, I thought the train was due - but no! So I sculled around, looking for an image opportunity. The scene reminded me of duration - perceived time. Even ten minutes might seem a long time to wait if there's nothing much to do or see. My hero Gaston Bachelard observed that temporal phenomena must "each be studied according to its appropriate rhythm and from its particular point of view". The psyche isn't linear and its continuity is in doubt. More likely it is based on a plurality of durations, a series of instants like the one represented above. This is recognised in Irish traditon. Some of those who entered the Otherworld - the sid - felt that they had been away only a few days. But when they returned, they had aged hundreds of years and fell dead. Heroes however, felt they had visited for days but had only been gone hours. The feast of Samain marked the beginning of the Celtic year. By ending one and starting the next it belonged to neither. Feasts are intense moments and attempt to escape time - but cannot prolong its duration. How long did I have to wait for the train? Ten minutes. How long did it feel ? Ages. But the duration was bounded. Even though I made my own duration, I couldn't escape time.