Monday, May 31, 2010

Trashcan Voleur

Ostensibly part of the voleur project, I caught this group in the Royal Hibernian arcade off Dawson Street. It's a for-preference route through to Grafton Street and there are some quite good shops that lie at the back. We pop briefly into the Underworld and out into the light. So, night and day, dark and light merge here - and we are in and out in a minute (unless we choose to linger at newsagent or cafe). This brings to mind what Jung called the shadow or Buddhists call Ignorance. The shadow is a sophisticated concept - but plainly enough, it is the dark enemy within, which will constantly control you until it is vanquished through integration and transformation. It is in doubt though whether it can be truly vanquished. Vanquishing is the stuff of dragons and as such is pretty much a metaphor. One thing is for sure. We had very well better acknowledge that we have a shadow. The MPs expenses scandal shows us that if you don't find your shadow it will come and find you. We often praise organisations that do good. But they too have shadow - a very, very big one because it it goes unacknowledged. The Church in Ireland has recently fallen into this category with child scandals. So at an individual and collective level, there is always both good and bad, but acknowledging the bad is absolutely vital.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Dreich Day in Baggot Street

I was mentioning the word dreich in the last blog and must tell you that there is no translation. It is used to describe a variety of things - normally, but not exclusively, the weather. A person, building, neighbourhood, clothes, demeanour - many things can be dreich. In the composition of the shot, taken in Baggot Street on a Saturday, it appears that our two subjects feel that the day is a dreich one. The fellow in charge of the advertising rig is probably waiting on the crowd for the rugby match - the crowd that failed to transpire to have its usual pre-match drink at the Waterloo. The waiter looks as if he is on his way to the Waterloo. He will have to acknowledge his feeling of dreichness when the first customer approaches only to suspend it and give it an appointment for later. On a day such as this I find it useful to counteract gloomy feelings by deliberately looking for interesting compositions in the street. It is not entirely confined to photography. Have a look around and see what you can see. I see these two people and I notice that one is looking at the other. But is he? Is he looking beyond the advertising rig to something happening on the street? Keep your eyes level with the street and notice all that's happening. Let your eyes drift left and right. Register everything and save it for later. You may find so many interesting things that the day doesn't seem dreich any longer.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

My friends all have Porsches (I must make amends)

I strolled out on a wet Saturday, which in Scotland we would call dreich, (a word that can be applied to anything miserable, including the weather). I took the camera bag and as I walked down the street, I shouldered the camera so that it was at the ready. When the Mercedes blue and the raindrops beckoned I reckoned it would make a student shot and be none the worse for that. As the shutter closed I was startled by a loud, irate voice asking what I was doing. The motorist had taken offence. I pointed out my task and all was resolved. But somehow the irony of this great Janis Joplin song stuck in my head and niggled and poked at me all the way to Baggot Street. Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz/My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends/ Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends/ So Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz. These times are very demanding and stressful and sometimes they get the better of us. So the antidote to the worry of being Porsche-less - or anything else for that matter - is to de-stress with an exercise like this. Imagine you are driving your car (or any car you want) to a beautiful beach where giant rolling waves crash dramatically on the sands. Proceed to a parking spot with a small retaining wall to the rear and begin to park your car so that it faces the sea. Put the car in reverse and gradually inch towards the wall. For each movement back take in a small breath and hold it. Keep reversing, taking and holding more small breaths. Retain your breath until you have reached the wall satisfactorily. You are ready to breathe out now. So turn to face the sea where a large wave is about to recede. As you watch it go, release your breath and imagine the wave carrying your problems away. Now they are lost in the vast ocean.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Up The Garden Path

I am resisting going into the psychology of language on this one, Chomsky being unavailable for the moment. Being led up the garden path is thought to be a cynical reflection on the idea that courtship took place in the garden. "Come into the garden Maud" is an example. We are often misled or deceived and when we find out we are furious and feel we were led up the garden path. And sometimes we lead ourselves up the garden path, driven by our unconscious motives, by a complex - or worse still, an archetype (a system of complexes). On their own both garden and path are extremely positive symbols for the most part - universal ones into the bargain. But somehow the concatenation is for the worse. Dazzled by thoughts of paradise and our incredible journey we place ourselves in a position where we become deceived. We see ourselves as heroes and are blinded. And those who identify with or fall in love with a particular archetype are liable to come under its domination with all that this implies. When an archetype is identified through analysis, it must be examined from all angles - through dreams, through art, through the back and forward work of the "talking cure". So if someone says, as someone did to me in a dream, "I'm a bit of a Hermes character", then work on the self is long overdue. I wonder who that person was!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Grafton Street Blues

I stood here for a while to get some people in the shot but passers by took one look and fled with head down. It was one of these days. Smiles were in short supply. Eventually this walking man obliged and the shot was made. This corner has always been a little sad in my opinion. In fact, it has the blues and it knows it has the blues. Just a corner of the city that should somehow be jollier but somehow fails to make itself fun. The space, I feel, does not recognise its potential for playfulness. It is traversed of course by many - mostly on their way from somwhere else to another place. The visual demarcation of paving and street furniture aims to set up some kind of spatial dynamic, but is ultimately inauspicious. What quest is there for pleasure and what would it look like or feel like if the quest was fulfilled and pleasure was taken? What gestures predominate in the space here? Would it be the gesture of the worker clutching his cup of coffee in its plastic container or the gait of the hooded youngster? The clutching of the coffee by the hand brings to mind the sense of touch and the power of the hand to explore the world - not only to grasp but to feel, caress, lift explore and so on ... and for the legs, walking, kicking etc. In the street, this articulation is a kind of communication. What are our two subjects saying to Grafton Street. and conversely what is Grafton Street saying to them?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Meaningless Toil

The collection of road signs was unmissable. It's been a while since the men - and they are always men - started work on the roads around the neighbourhood! In fact I can't remember when it started nor have I any idea when it will be finished. Perhaps never. And I cannot help thinking of William Morris and his notion of meaningless toil. People must certainly be engaged in unceasing toil and sometimes only the toil seems to be the point. When will we all be able to read Plato in the morning and go fishing in the afternoon? Certainly not this week. Heracles was always labouring and often would commit a misdeed and then be condemned to perform some particularly difficult labour. The first misdeed of course was the slaying of his own children for which he had to carry out ten difficult tasks. But the one I have in mind is the cleaning of the Augean stables - in just one day. The task was humiliating for many reasons. Yet it was ultimately meaningless because the cattle there were healthy indeed and did not need much attention except for the amount of dung that they created. Heracles diverted streams to wash away the dung and in so doing his task was dismissed - because not only had the water done the job but he was paid. As with much work, you just can't win and we have to put up with a lack of acknowledgement into the bargain. So what happened when Augeas scorned the work of Heracles? Being well put out, Heracles killed Augeas. That's one version and I am not so far away from current day roadworks. At work we are often faced with what seems like meaningless toil. Somehow we have to see through instructions and frustrations to retain a strong sense of ourselves and our own tasks.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Ladder Guys

This is very much a snapshot, spur of the moment capture. No time to do anything but fire the shutter. It somehow looked a lot nicer in monochrome, perhaps because the colour took away from the overall structure of the men on the ladder. The ladder hasn't changed its structure in millenia, has it? Always the symbol of ascension (or descension) and in this case of course it's to carry out necessary decoration and repairs. The earthly state is the point at which we leave and as we ascend, it makes things much easier if we cast away things we don't need. It makes the journey upwards easier. The men have to take a few tools but not too many since a ladder is a means of access and not a working platform. The double ladder as pictured here, is a very ancient symbol indeed. It often represents justice because the ascent and descent are evenly matched. In life, as with investments, things can go down as well as up. Psychoanalysts are fascinated with dreams of ladders and of course the feeling tone of the dream is important because there can be a sense either of elation or anxiety. The Greek for ladder is klimax and that immediately brings to mind, the sexual nature of ladders - in that they raise up rung by rung. Psychoanalysts would therefore be very interested in dreams of the fireman's ladder, extending and ascending towards the building. But as Freudians often point out, sometimes a ladder is just a ladder!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

An Herb Garden

Herbs constitute an empowering symbol of health and fertility. Herbs were so associated with the Gods that in some societies, animals were ritually sacrificed to the herbal plants. The ancient Bretons called herbs lauzaouenn, which in the plural form, means medicine. Camomile or chamomile, pictured here, is especially associated with calm and rejuvenation. Camomile will cure and bring back to life. Herbs are symbolically associated with fountains which Jung relates to the image of the soul. All inner life and spiritual energy is sourced at the fountain, which again is symbolically sited in the middle of the garden of paradise, where under a tree you would most likely find camomile. Mary Wesley's first novel, which she wrote at the age of 80, is aptly called The Camomile Lawn, which is very much about the passions of youth! (I have been corrected! It was her second novel and the breakthrough novel through which she achieved fame) Camomile is referred to as the plant doctor because having it in your garden will help the growth and health of other plants! Camomile has been known for many thousands of years and can definitely be traced to the Ancient Egyptians, who used it to cure fever. Alchemists developed extracts from many herbs of which one of the most important was camomile - and in the middle ages it was used to scent gatherings. In my opinion, by far the most important part of camomile history is its use as a bittering agent for beer, before this was replaced by hops!

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Just before the end of Baggot Street Lower, across from the bridge, is this plaque in the wall of the terrace. It's just outside the Health Board's research office but I am unsure of the date when the plaque was introduced. Certainly it was part of the Research Board's promotion, when it adopted the logo. "We leave no stone unturned" was the message. The turnstone bird is so called because of its habit of inserting its beak between pebbles and turning them over in search of a morsel. It can turn over its own size and weight so it's quite strong. Its song though, is a bit low and rattly so it's better too watch a turnstone do its job than listen to it sing. It's on the amber list of endangered species so there aren't so many of them around. It occurred to me that it was also a good symbol for psychotherapy. In the therapeutic alliance, we like to turn over stones and discover and acknowledge things about ourselves that we did not know. Now the turnstone eats what he finds - and we need to do the same thing. Having acknowledged our discoveries. we need to integrate them - which means accepting them, relating them to other parts of ourselves and using them in our daily lives. That's kind of "eating it", is it not?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Still Light

Now the reason for the photo should be obvious. I was so delighted I fished out the telephoto lens and recorded this repair for posterity. It doesn't appear to affect the functioning of the light much. Probably the plastic wrap-around does a half reasonable job of protecting the inside of the pole. The sky was this colour, no polarising necessary and there's something very pretty about the way the sunlight hits the branches. And indeed, the way the light hits the light! This kind of sky has little relief to it and it appears very flat even though the blue is a beautiful hue. In the night, the street light, should it continue to work, will illuminate the street with a restricted pool of light that grades off until the light shed by the next one. The street will become a shadow-filled space. Yet the object-as-streetlight itself is a kind of tombstone is it not? It exists somewhere between the light and the dark and so disappears from conscious sight. This is a very deceptive world. The street light belongs to a world of city planning and so dissolves into nothing very much. Until it goes out.

Monday, May 17, 2010


I had this picture on file for a while. It's the same set as the signal sequence add the big yellow lorry. A good day for photographs as you can see. I called it sightline because it occurred to me that although the two men are in front of the taxi, that is only according to where I as the observer am standing! I am standing here - but where's "here"? Maybe it's me that is in front of the two men and the taxi. What kind of intentionality are going on here? The man intends to drink the coffee - or is it a sign of something else, a proclamation that he is a coffee drinker? The technician is immersed in the act of being a technician. The taxi driver is perhaps looking for a customer. The photographer is lost in a sea of stimuli, but there's some kind of dynamic of intention. He is waiting for something to "make the picture". Yet it's a little unclear what that would be. He feels he will know when it occurs. He is seeking authenticity, yet he is in charge of the construction of the picture. What he arrived at was no more authentic than the same scene shot from across the road on the other side of the taxi. Just a two hundred and fiftieth of a second's worth of one individual's sightline.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

In the Woodshed

The potting shed (to be exact) is a good place to be. There is a very interesting and somewhat soothing smell to a potting shed and a warmth that cannot be manufactured in any other way. I called it the woodshed because I was reminded of Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. Now this novel is very, very funny and indeed satirical because it parodied a lot of famous novelists who write about the countryside - especially the Brontës of whom I am not that fond. Gibbons orphaned hero, Flora, chose to be looked after by the Starkadder family who lived on the isolated Cold Comfort Farm, near Howling. It was her Aunt, Ada Doom who was said to have been driven insane by something nasty she saw in the woodshed as a child. I would also be drawn to Dr Müdel, the psychoanalyst - called in by Flora to attend cousin Judith, who has an unhealthy relationship with her own son, Seth. There are many objects in the woodshed and on the outside, the cows, Graceless, Aimless, Feckless and Pointless. Gibbons good natured critique of rurally-based novels reminds one that it might feel good to be in isolation in the woodshed but not to outstay your welcome.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Stuff on the Ground

You can't just leave a hole in the ground and expect to come back and find it the way it was. Things change. The damaged access hole has gathered a myriad of discarded objects. It's colourful in it's way, this cheerful detritus. Stephen King would certainly have described it as "happy-crappy", should it have featured in one of his novels. The gravel from driveways is carried around by vehicle wheels and is everywhere. There are cigarette butts, which somehow don't count as litter. Then the sweet packets. Sorry Stephen King - I guess that would be candy wrappers. The Bauhaus school was given to such shapes and as a philosophy Bauhaus was far-reaching in its recognised abstractions of modern living as social praxis. It is time to speak of Bruno Zevi who spoke for organic architecture (1943) . Perhaps the geometrical space really is animated by the gestures and actions of the living beings that inhabit it. At the very least, this challenges the triumph of visual abstraction in the city, where developments assault the senses.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Roll out that Barrel

I had almost forgotten about this shot. It's the barrels that the big yellow cab of the big yellow lorry was carrying (a previous blog). I cropped the shot rather tightly and made some adjustments. I was pleased with the way it came out. Beer is more than 9000 years old, believe it or not. So if you are worrying about your units, try to remember the ancient ones quaffing their merry brew. I am not sure they worried so much, but probably such drinking took place in a rather stouter container than today. The hierarchical warrior cast of Rwanda, the Tutsi, speaks highly of its beer making - banana beer to be precise. It would be drunk by the higher caste as indeed maize beer in Peru was the province of elders. Ancient Egyptians associated beer with immortality, and it is thought that this has something to do with the fermentation. But whatever the origins, beer is a most pleasurable brew. So make sure you drink responsibly now, you immortals!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Trunk Call - long distance information

Raglan Road is always a great source of photographs. I am unsure why, since it looks like many of the other roads in the Elgin estate. Today, I noticed the demise of a reasonably large tree. It's always a bit sad, simply because they are usually fairly old and have "seen" a lot of time pass by in the locality. This one is what - maybe fifty years old? Not long for a good-going tree. But enough to make it a significant loss. Perhaps it had some problem, although the tree stump looks nice and clean. And the sawdust is extremely fresh so it must have been a recent operation. Today it made me think of Bety Bety Cariño. Cut down by a paramilitary gang in Mexico, her only crime was to fight for human rights and a better life for poor people. In many parts of the world, human rights are seen as dangerous. Literacy work can be particularly dangerous because of course if you can read and write, you are in a better position to tell what is right and wrong. Learn your a,b,c said Brecht. We tend to take literacy for granted but in a different context, it could make you vulnerable indeed.