Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ballsbridge Sky

I decided to lose the colour in this image. The sky from Raglan Road was an incredible blue but I wondered what would happen if it was a contrasty monochrome image. I would have needed a red filter to do this the traditional way. Colours are charged with meaning - it's not enough to admire their beauty. You can't escape the power of colour. Some sections of the Christian church disapproved of colours in their buildings, because colour had symbolic value. Gradually, white became connected with chastity, black with penance and a variety of colours were incorporated into religious imagery. We are very used to colour around us at all times but it's a general rule in photography that a black and white image is about structure. Shape and form is primary to colour and when I was shooting with black and white film, I "saw" the image in monochrome and got to thinking about colour later. Now I can keep the information and with a computer I have the choice to use colour or not. When I look at this image I realise I usually miss some emotional connection when I'm lost in a blue sky.

Monday, March 30, 2009


I left the framing in this shot because I couldn't bear to cut anyone out. It reminded me of a Roger Corman movie though. In Corman's low budget shockers, he would always have extras walking around in pairs - and because of that, the audience's attention was drawn to the hokum in the film. I imagine the director of this shot said "OK people, walk around now and act naturally - and don't talk about films, OK?" It was the sweet stall that made the shot though. We still like our sweets and maybe because of that the shot looks peaceful. The ancient market place was said to make for a space where yin and yang were in balance, but before medieval times, markets were not particularly central to cities. Somewhat tainted as far as religion was concerned, they were confined to the outskirts - much as giant trading sheds are these days. As social and economic relations changed, markets were brought into the centres with the church and of course, the town hall. In the end, the closed market place brought trading under control of authority. So perhaps it's the open airy feel of this market that I like and the sale of colourful confectionery makes for a pleasing splash of frivolity in the space.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Shapes - The Auld Triangle

St Stephen's Green shopping centre is a great provider of dramatic images. Perhaps for "top shots" of this kind there can be no better place in Dublin. I can't remember what is inside Claire's shop, but I can remember what the roof is like! It's mostly triangles, which of course is fundamentally the number three. For geometrical theorists it is the primary plane surface. Just draw a line from the centre to the angles and any figure can be divided into triangles - as can be seen from the image. Triangles have provided decorative motifs for many civilisations - in India, Greece and Rome, triangles were often used in friezes. Symbolically, the triangle signifies fire (from the alchemist tradition) and can be symbolic of the heart. In many cultures and traditions, it also symbolises male (apex pointing up) and female (apex pointing down). In the famous and much-recorded Irish song the Auld Triangle, the author laments his position in jail and states his wish to be with the female prisoners in the nearby women's prison some distance down the Royal Canal. The prisoner would be noisily awakened by the guards ... And that auld triangle went jingle-jangle, All along the banks of the Royal Canal. Hence the symbol of the triangle - the men, the women, within the confinement of the respective jails.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Smooth Mysterious Green

The artificial bowling green in Herbert Park, Ballsbridge, presented an opportunity for a formal shot. It has a benign and soothing feel to it, this green. Green Erin was the name of the Island of the Blessed in the Celtic world and there was certainly a lot of green around last Saturday when the Ireland rugby team won the Grand Slam! A heraldic colour, it is know as vert in English but as sinople in France - signifying meadows, woods, fields and greenery. In the middle ages, medics wore a green robe - and they still do wear green in surgery. Pharmacists display a green cross outside their shops. Of course this is very Western. Islam's flag is green and is said to be the colour of the Prophet's cloak. It is also said that green hides some kind of secret. There is much to be said about green - more possibly than any other colour. There are many greens in the image and it is indeed a little mysterious. What secret is held by the green?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Innocent Child

The idea of the child is fairly constant throughout philosophy. Generally we speak of innocence, simplicity and spontaneity. Psychologically, childhood is a transpersonal rather than a personal state because the ego consciousness is not yet developed. Children are trainee adults. Ego consciousness gradually grows and this is why war can be so devastating to children. It is not merely the physical danger they experience. The sustained attrition of violence, uncertainty and loss experienced disturbs their psychological progression. During childhood, parents help their children's psychological growth and the child's ties to unconscious, instinctive and reactive modes of behaviour are broken. The child then develops an ego-centred reality. It becomes a person. The child adapts to the world and his or her psyche develops in accord with individual and collective principles. If all goes well. the child gradually gives up the parent archetype and the parent gives up the child archetype. In the process, the parents provide a holding environment for the child. Maybe that's why I very much like the fatherly way in which the father is securely holding the child in the picture.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Banish Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

I have been asked to write something on OCD - Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. But for the image, it was a vacuum cleaner that sprung to mind, since much of OCD behaviour is about cleaning, disinfecting or decontamination in general. For the most part, cognitive psychotherapy can sort this out very successfully. This works for a certain range but those with more serious conditions can become very ill. Christopher Bollas puts it well. "If you think your see signs of distress in me, put that thought away and replace it with the image of this activity I am carrying out now." This activity could be cleaning, hand washing, showering, hoovering, checking, locking up, hoarding ... or another of many things. But the activity could also be gambling, lying, hypochondria or anorexia. Compulsions are thought to be behavioural responses which alleviate tension or anxiety caused by the obsessive thought. The obsessive thought is likely to be an anxiety - perhaps about being harmed. A longer term analytical approach might ask what is it about themselves that the OCD affected person want to decontaminate? How does the compulsive action relate to the obsessive fear? What is being cleansed? Or in the case of an impulse disorder like gambling, what is it about the self that is being risked?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Facing Up

I caught sight of this advertisement in a pharmacy in Baggott Street and there was something about the profile that took my attention. Much later, playing with the image, I pinched it a bit to see what would happen. It was the door that I really liked, as if it was curving around the model's ear. We never see our own face do we? Only in a mirror and then it's the wrong way round. Face is very important. If through our own actions we feel diminished or embarrassed we can be said to have lost face. The face stands in for the whole individual so an example in symbolism can be found in ancient Celtic law where compensation was referred to as the face price. The face tends to be the part of another's body one sees first, as in Ewan MacColl's famous song The first time ever I saw your face, which he wrote for his wife, Peggy Seeger. Faces are for other people and not for their owners! The face also symbolises the evolution of humanity out of the darkness and into light - whereas the devils face is artificial. Anyway, I have to face up to being pleased with this face, even if it's a little pinched!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Three Chairs!

This is the hundredth blog so I feel obliged to recognise it. It's all about the numbers where a hundred is concerned. Chevalier and Gheerbrant say that one hundred is special because it individualises part of a whole which is also a part of a larger grouping - part of a whole within a whole. The Chinese "Let a hundred flowers bloom." refers to a doctrine which possesses all of the virtues. "Self praise is no recommendation." says Aesop, so lets talk about the hundredth image! When I took this one, I thought of a book for photography students I once possessed. It's a somewhat technical photograph of three chairs. Three is one of the most interesting numbers. In primitive times there were only three numbers - one, two and many. There are many triads in the human body for example. And for me, the channel of the dialectic - theses, antithesis and synthesis - is an important philosophical model based on the triad. I am aware that in one of the rooms where I work there are three chairs but generally only two people. Occasionally there is an important other in the client's relationship and although they are naturally absent - they sometimes seem very present. It depends. Sometimes the work can involve using that presence and that empty chair - or the hot chair as it's sometimes called. Focused expressive psychotherapy uses that technique. So I like my three chairs. Three chairs for the hundredth blog!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

St George, Ballsbridge Knight

Another detail from St Bartholomew's Church, Ballsbridge. From the time of the middle ages, knights signified chivalry. Knights were always about doing service. Never the master and always the servant, they fought good causes in a spiritual fashion. St George himself is characterised here as the warrior on the horse and of course the legend of the slaying of the dragon comes to mind. It is likely that St George had a more or less normal military career for the time. He was generally depicted as a soldier and the dragon theme resulted from romanticisation following the return of the crusades from the middle east - hence the white horse behind him in the image. But his execution at the hands of Diocletian earned him Christian martyrdom. I prefer to think of him as the heroic figure in shining armour who wanted to make the world a better place. He is not merely the man who one might wish to become in life but also the one who is good to have around.

Friday, March 20, 2009

St Patrick Revisited

This detail is part of a stained glass window in St Bartholomew's Church, Ballsbridge. Depicted here with the shepherd's crook, St Patrick guards the entrance to the kirk. There are of course many different legends about St Patrick and how he came from mainland Britain to Ireland. One story has him captured by pirates and here we can see behind him him a rather Norse looking ship. Was it pirates? Were they Irish? No-one can be very definite - although slavery was part of Irish society in these days. One legend has it that St Patrick was abducted from the Scottish village of Old Kilpatrick on Clydeside, but there are many competitors for that honour. The window itself was installed in 1925 and dedicated to the "Glory Of God and the Memory of Frances Louisa Conner". I haven't been able to find anything about Frances Louisa Conner yet, so if you know anything drop me a line.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Ballsbridge Mist

It was misty this morning. It wasn't a pea soup fog or anything like it, but its lightness made the road kind of mysterious. Symbolically, mist is indeterminate - a transition between two states. Shapes are murky - and either the mist gets heavier and they disappear or it lifts and they become clear again. In Irish myths, mist is associated with the Otherworld and in the Voyage of Bran it symbolises indistinction. It's always a good moment in a film when the hero - or villain - slowly and formally steps out of the mist. Maybe mist is mysterious because it is often depicted as bringing a message or heralding some change. The mist is the prelude to something happening as in John Carpenter's film, The Fog. When we dream of mist it can signify a change from one state to another. Which way is the dreamer proceeding - in or out of the mist? Or being stuck in a mist might signify the obvious. On the other hand, it could be about something we missed ...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St Patrick's Day Knots

This year, St Paddy's Day falling on a Tuesday seemed strange - we got used to it being near the weekend and taking a longish break. The celebrations will pass, but this monument, opened by Eamon De Valera in 1973 and dedicated to the Third Battalion, Dublin Brigade,will still be on this corner - largely unnoticed by passers by. The year 1973 ended the second and last term of De Valera's Irish presidencies. De Valera had commanded the Third Battalion, Dublin Brigade in the Easter rebellion of 1916. Following fighting at Boland's Mill, De Valera was forced to surrender here at this point in Ballsbridge. It is right that on St Patrick's Day we also remember those who gave up their lives for Ireland's independence. I particularly like the Celtic knots depicted on the cross and sometimes I pause for just a minute and trace the patterns. Common to both Ireland and Scotland, the interlaced knotwork is historically likely to be the last in the various patterns thought to be typical of the Celts. Yet they have something of the uroboros about them and are therefore appropriately timeless.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Lights, Action!

This picture of the fountain at Dundrum is taken at night on a high ASA. It's taken from the other side of the image depicted a couple of blogs ago. So apart from this being at night, the point of view has switched through 180 degrees. It was a satisfactory photograph but I felt I wanted to do something with the colours and the faint image of people sitting outside the restaurants. I think I disneyed it! It made a jolly splash of colour though and that jolliness is the feeling I get from the picture now. It is simple enough now to do this with a computer, whereas only a few years ago, this would have been a more complex task. I wonder if there is a sense of embarrassment amongst old timers about that. Many reject it out of hand entirely. This rejection is a phenomenon observed by existentialist psychotherapists and is what often happens when we get older. We get sedimented - stuck in our ways. This makes us reject many new things that are otherwise very beneficial for us. So sometimes we need to look at things afresh, think clearly about change and adopt a different viewpoint.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Big Wheel Turning

I had several attempts at cropping this image, none of which were satisfactory. So I left the original frame. This is the big wheel at Merrion Park, Dublin, erected for St Patrick's day celebrations. I was passing on Friday evening for a late dentist appointment and operators were testing it. I stopped to take photographs as they moved it round slowly, choosing a low shutter speed - so there's a bit of blurring whilst the centre and supports stay sharp. I wanted a dusk-like sky so there's a bit of work here on brightness and grain. What about the wheel? It's a good invention we are always reminded - mostly humourously. But the wheel speaks symbolically of cycles, beginnings and renewals. The hub of the World is the centre and as in this image it's still. The spokes radiate out cosmically, to the edge or circumference. The perpetual turning of the wheel refers to renewal. There is much to talk about in the symbolism of the wheel, but the purpose of the image is to demonstate that wheel should be good fun - and so should life.

Friday, March 13, 2009


This is the fountain in the lake at Dundrum shopping centre, taken from the vantage point of Dunne and Crescenzi, a most pleasant cafe. I used a low shutter speed for this one - just to capture movement for a dreamy effect. Philosopher and scientist, Gaston Bachelard reckons that water, unlike other materials, has a kind of destiny. Being dedicated to water is being in flux, because substance is always falling away. Water flows and falls and always ends in horizontal death. It always possesses a kind of melancholy - even at a thirtieth of a second, which is slow in photographic terms. Nonetheless, water is of the unconscious even here where it is plumbed and piped around and forced through jets and nozzles. Speaking of dreams of springs, Jung commented that such images were of the soul itself - the origin of inner life and energy. Because the water for fountains is circulated, it is always changing and therefore symbolises rejuvenation.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Double Time

St Bartholomew's Church, Ballsbridge is always photogenic. The clocks peal with Westminster style chimes right though day and night at quarter hour intervals, which is something residents have to get used to. Known as the Westminster Quarters. The notional words taken from Great St Mary's, Cambridge are "All through this hour. Lord be my guide. And by Thy power. No foot shall slide". Clocks are usually round, the circle with no beginning and no end - yet often they are placed within a square which symbolises earth and the material realm. Khronos or Chronos literally means time (from which chronology and chronicle) and is often depicted as "father time". Greek and Roman mosaics feature him turning the wheel of the Zodiac. Looking at St. Bartholomew's clocks from this angle we can see two of the four on the tower, but soon the spring will bring much foliage and the clocks at least on this side of the church will be completely hidden. But looking at the two clocks somehow reminds me of the old trade union song "Two nights and a Sunday overtime", the appeal of the worker for more working hours. The worker trades time to earn a living wage.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Woman and Window

This is the Waterloo Road, Dublin, early evening. Shops are closing up and people are making their way home from work. This part of the road is kind of gloomy, kind of bright - I can't quite make up my mind. Blink your eyes and you could be in Liverpool, Budapest, Porto. Rotterdam or anywhere. The shot is high ASA, available light and I like the grain (or noise as they say these days). But in particular it's the slight blurring of a single leg that seems to give the subject some kind of movement. The shop stands out doesn't it? It's almost like a sparkling tooth in the night. As we can see in the advertising, teeth can be a sign of happiness - when the lips are parted, incisors appear. Teeth sometimes stand for fame and renown, which must explain the constant use of this kind of look in magazine images of the moment. It can also mean happiness, ambition, strength and, of course, desire. I recall the expression often used in admiration of new born babies, "He's so lovely, I could eat him up." So teeth also stand for assimilation of the object.

Window Shopping

Another image from the Jervis Centre in inner North Dublin! The advantage for the photographer in such buildings is that balconies provide a good position. The only difficulty is that if one is looking down too much, the resulting picture looks like a surveillance photography. It places the photographer in such a position of power, that the image suffers a loss of credibility. In this picture, shoppers had distributed themselves in a pleasing way, just going about their business. Two things caught my attention however - the purple light above the information desk and the attractive window on the left. The matching colours were a bit of luck. Symbolically the window is really about the eye and receptivity of light. The round shape of the window matches the eye. The purple shade at the information desk is currently popular. As a variant of blue and red, it is most commonly associated with royalty and denotes rank or achievement. We have to bear in mind that certain shades of blue and purple were traditionally expensive to reproduce. The indigo dye for jeans remains expensive today. If you dream of this colour (and dreams with vivid colour are not so common) it may denote an inflated attitude in some part of one's life - something to recognise and work on perhaps.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Stairway to the Street

This is the one of the Jervis Shopping Centre escalators - the one going down to Abbey Street in inner north Dublin. I suppose an escalator is a kind of a stairway, so going up the escalator is symbolically associated with knowledge and down is to knowledge of the occult and the unconscious. In this case, the escalator is taking us in or out of a shopping centre so it has a more profane meaning. Shopping centres are concentrations - whole swirling vortices - of people and commodities. Here you can see commodities do what commodities do best - they appear on display. The commodity doesn't ask for much more than to be in a shop window or a shelf. We move through the glittering department store and look at the many objects on display. But who produces them, who profits from them? Who will buy them and how will they be used? You can't tell from looking at them. Most of all, we seldom think of them being produced by people. Somehow all that is lost in a world of appearance and real human relationships are hidden under shiny surfaces.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Hard Core

I guess this is what's going to happen to that nice blue pipe in the last blogs. The Pembroke Road workers were most obliging in letting me get this shot of the hard core being unloaded. It was exactly what I wanted, so my thanks to them. They are making, or at least remaking the pathway - which is more than just the route to town. The pathway also bears the trace of the builders, who symbolically make order out of chaos. Raw matter is shaped and ordered to a plan which is conceived elsewhere. When it is conceived it is thought of to exist for particular functions. It will be used. But somehow that vague group of people, users, seem to exist apart from the order of the builders. People animate the paths, often in a manner not invisaged by the builders and the planners. We users are in a different register entirely. We make our own paths.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


I was shopping early evening in Baggot Street and just caught this little bit of action - nothing more dramatic than a moving traffic violation, probably. In Baggot Street there always seems to be a lot going on, one way or the other. Clients often report dreams with something like this scene in them. A policeman is a figure of authority and symbolically suggests the father - complete with rules, regulations and orders. The father is regarded psychoanalytically as representing awareness rather than instinct, impulse or spontaneity. He acts rationally rather than intuitively through the unconscious. He is the law giver. If the dreamer considers himself as a free spirit, dreaming of a policeman my be a projection of part of his psyche which he has been unable to recognise or to integrate. Alternatively, it could be that the dreamer feels unable to fit within a specific order or framework. The dreamer needs to ask what the policeman means to him. Is there anything in the dreamer's life that resists or accepts authority? On the other hand, if you were trying to write a children's book and just couldn't get it together, then that would make for a different reading entirely!

The Other Side of the Pipes

Something drew me back to the pipes featured yesterday. It was a fine sunny day and the blue just shimmered in the light. If purists are wondering how I got the light like that, without my shadow getting in the way, I flipped the image 180 degrees around. This means you can read the radius markings on the side. The play of light on the curved surface demands attention to space as a phenomenon. The close up image reduces the context and leaves us with a restricted space. It's as though the space is occupied only by light - reflection, colour and form. There is no background and no horizon. Yet there is some kind of eroticism associated with the objects themselves - a sense of curving and touch. And this is such such a deep blue that I want to look for longer, tracing the light. I disappear into the blue. But in the end these are just pipes - pieces of material, conduits for Dublin City supplies. Soon, workmen will come and bury them under the pavement.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The pipes, the pipes

I felt I could have cropped this image more viciously but I wanted some sense of context so there's a bit of the Pembroke Road at the rear. Poor old Pembroke Road, it's consistently dug up, repaired, then dug up again. And these pipes will carry ... what? Alas, there is no sign on the road works to say. That I am afraid is an example of what Lefebvre calls the "terrible urban reality which the twentieth century instituted". These are not the pipes of Pan of but channels or conduits for the services feeding the city. Stuff feeds through the pipes as energy, which always has some kind of container as we see here. The cylindrical container is a protective and maintaining shield through which the energy flows. So it is with the living organism and indeed the psyche which is a part of the whole organism. CG Jung coined the term psycho-dynamics. This is based on the laws of thermodynamics and fundamentally relates to balance. The productive energy of the psyche implies a self-relationship. If something flows, it goes somewhere in a closed system that tends to balance. Reaching a new balance is one of the things clients do in psychotherapy.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Willow Knot

I went for a special effect on this image of a knot on a willow enclosure at Airfield Gardens, South Dublin. Somehow, stained glass seemed to suit the structure and the colour of the twine that was used to secure it. Despite the weeping willow's connection with death, willow has a sacred and protective character. Moses was said to have been found floating on the Nile in a willow basket and Diana too was found in a willow clump. I think this is a goat willow, sometimes known as a pussy willow. It may have been bred with another type of because unlike other willows, Salix Caprea doesn't readily root and grow after being cut. One of the enclosures was made from a male willow because it had catkins - which I used to love as a child. The willow is a very shapely, graceful tree and sometimes a woman's body can be called "willowy". The knotwork in the image is another matter. Often depicted in Celtic art, it is really an ouroboros, twining its way around the willow. It does look a bit like a snake doesn't it? I like to think it depicts something of the perpetual nature of the cosmos.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Base Metal

This plumbing detail, from Herbert Park in Ballsbridge, jumped out at me - probably because the lake had been drained and the edges became more obvious. When I looked at the image, I couldn't help wondering what had become of Guest and Chrimes of Rotherham! Well, I did find out something. Apparently, James Payne owned a small factory in Rotherham. He and Peter G Chrimes, a plumber in the town, patented an improvement in taps and founded a firm to make them. Later in 1875, son Richard Chrimes formed a partnership with John Guest to make a range of products for the expanding water industry. Judging by its age, one of their products clearly made its way to Herbert Park for the Great Trade Exhibition in 1907. Symbolising hardness and durability, iron is a base metal, not always favourably regarded. According to Plato, those from the underworld eschewed iron in favour of wooden spears, an aversion they shared with the druids, who preferred golden sickles with mistletoe. But in this case, Guest and Chrimes did well and their product was durable enough for me to take a photograph in 2009. Maybe that's all we can ask of ourselves - that we are durable enough!

Gateway to Inner Space

This rather Gothic gateway is a feature of Ballsbridge - or maybe it's in Donnybrook! Let's go for Donnybrook because it's just off the Morehampton Road. Really you can't miss it, because it has defied all attempts at fill-in development from which the area has suffered. I like the gateway very much and I gave messed around a bit with Photoshop - I spooked it up - because I liked the Citizen Kane look. In fact, it's far from gloomy, the little secret garden behind the gate called "The Grove". Formerly a walled garden, it was bequeathed by Kathleen Goodfellow and is run by An Taisce, the National Trust for Ireland. Now it is a bird sanctuary and could be considered an "enclosure" - in Celtic terms, a specific place which could be shut off. For psychoanalysts, that could represent the inner being - a place from where one draws one's strength. Followers of CG Jung would call it a sacred space. That is, an inner, intimate and personal space over which the individual has complete control. Only a select and chosen few may enter there.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Ballsbridge Mother

This is St Bartholomew's Church in Ballsbridge and is very close to where I live. For some time it has been my intention to photograph its clock tower over the seasons, a la Claude Monet's studies of Rouen Cathedral. Such a project needs organisation and patience - and perhaps this photograph is the start. Today, it just so happened that the sun was shining and there was a beautiful blue sky with fluffy clouds. Inside a couple of hours it was raining, so I had some luck. The church itself is a symbol and is feminine. I particularly like one of St. Hildegard of Bingen's visions. "I saw the figure of a vast woman, like the city. On her head, she wore a wonderful crown. Down her arms streamed rays of glory from Heaven to Earth. Her womb was like a thousand-meshed net with crowds of people going in and out." Hildegard was arguing for the female principle which has hitherto been restricted by most societies.