Friday, May 25, 2012

Transcendence

Greetings me Dearios - the weekend is here and the sun is splitting the sky, so why are you indoors reading this when you could be out there doing something useful with your time? 
I don't know and I don't want to know. 
You can keep it to yourself.
But if you are still indoors, and you promise to keep quiet about it, your Cap'n will take you on a trip back in time.
Sailin' the Seas of Yore with a benevolent wind at your back.


***


It is hard to imagine the difficulties faced by early photographers, and by early I don't mean the likes of me who gets up at ungodly hours most days . . . no . . . I mean back in time. Early 20th Century in particular. Users of glass plates and makers of Platinotype and Cyanotype and Kallitype prints and all these incredible words that today are by-words to the ever present and soulless inkjet print
If you only make inkjets for whatever reason, and have never handled a wet print or worked in a real darkroom even for a brief period of time, then you have never experienced magic.
But darkroom work is tough.You approach the start of a session with passion and enthusiasm and you can often leave, for want of a better Scots expression, feeling like shite.
Productivity and fun in the darkroom are solely the result of sheer hard work; blood, sweat, tears and fixer-fingers. 
But you know, to quote Rik Emmet: "nothing is easy, nothing good comes free" and whilst it is hard to produce a print that makes you want to hang it on your wall, believe me, it is really worth the effort.
I can understand what you might be thinking though, namely how can something supposed to be so artistic and creative be so difficult? 
Well for a start, photographic printing is a skilled and highly concentrated activity. Hours whizz by in a flash and you find yourself out of time before you know what you have done (if anything!).
I have lost whole days, working from the morning and still not been ready to sit down for my tea . . . yes folks, it can be that bad.
Even masters, like a favourite of mine Mr. Eugene Smith, felt that darkroom work was the hardest and least enjoyable aspect of his work, and yet, you only have to look at one of his Pittsburgh pictures to know that his struggle under safelights was helping him produce profoundly beautiful works of art.




(W.Eugene Smith - Dance Of The Flaming Coke)




On the surface you might think it is easy to produce a print from a negative, and it is.
You can make a print in a snap. You can make a ton if you like, but whether those prints satisfy is another matter altogether, and it can become a problem that can lead to all sorts of self-doubt.
The older I become, the less satisfied I get with my printing, and the strange thing is, I know that I can print very well. To get to something that is enriching and visually stimulating is hard, damn hard, and I am not going to wax too long about it at the moment because it distracts from the purpose of this FB.
The point I am trying to make is how was it possible for someone (working back at a time in the early 20th Century, when the reliability of silver gelatine photographic paper [which we take for granted] was but a dream) to produce a work of such profound beauty that I seriously doubt any of the renowned photographic artistes these days could hold a candle too it.
The photograph I am alluding too was by one Mr.Frederick Holland Day and it was made in 1907. It is called 'The Vision'.
He was one of those early workers. A collection of dreamers and visionaries, impassioned artists, but above all else photographers and craft workers. Names like Clarence White, Frederick Evans, Alfred Steiglitz, Paul Strand, Edward Steichen, Alvin Langdon Coburn, George Seeley, Robert Demachy and many others.
Names not often heard these days but giants of photographic imagery.
Although primarily associated with Pictorialism (basically and to reduce a thesis down to a few words: trying to make a photograph [a product of science] look rather like a painting [a timeless, organic human endevour]).
I feel that their output is still relevant today - indeed the influence has crept back in, as large numbers of television programmes you see these days use narrow depth of field. Camera magazines are packed with photographs taken with lens apertures wide open for that soft focus effect..
But this is moving aside from Mr. Holland Day.
He was by all accounts a remarkable and private man who has been judged mostly solely on his imagery.
He was fond of making images with nude male youths, and you can just tell when you mention that, that people will go 'Nudge nudge, know what you mean squire'.
But I'll be contentious here - I don't think he was motivated by sexuality.
He was an educator, a publisher, widely travelled and moving in influential circles.
A man who was moved by poetry and romanticism and a yearning for earlier, simpler times. I believe that just maybe the use of the male nude was a harkening back to that imagined Golden Age.
And how can I say this?
How can I claim to know what motivated another artist?
Well I think the proof of the pudding is in the eating:






It is hard to believe that an image created over 100 years ago can still affect one so deeply.
It certainly does affect me. It is profound and beautiful and has seeped its way deep into my psyche over a number of years. There is something archetypal about it, evoking a dawning age; an idealised romanticism from the deep deep past of mankind.
The photograph is one of a series based on the Greek myth of Orpheus, the poet and musician, made by Day from 1907 to 1908 and shows a close up of Orpheus' head over his stretching figure. Apparently this is a visual metaphor, referring to  Orpheus' murder by the Maenads who tore him to pieces and beheaded him. His head was said to have floated down the river, still singing.
It is a platinum print held at the National Media Museum here in the UK and was donated by the Royal Photographic Society, and appears to be a contact printed from two plates. The actual image size [71/2 x 91/2 inches] doesn't appear to conform to plate sizes, however one could assume there was some cropping of the print involved before it was mounted. 
Timelessness is the marque of great art, and I believe Frederick (hope he doesn't mind me being too familiar) has achieved it in spades. The image is perfect - I don't think there are many images you could apply that term to.
Frederick gave up photography altogether when the Russian Revolution halted supplies of Platinum and I think that says as much about the artist in him as you could write in ten thousand words.
Whilst reading up more about him I came upon some facts of note. One of Mr. Day's other asides was that he tried to educate young immigrants in the slums of Boston.
One of these was a Lebanese youth by the name of Kahlil Gibran.
That is a name that sort of stops one in one's tracks. Indeed in tootling around I found a photograph of him made by Frederick circa 1898 when Gibran would have been around the age of 15.
 


(Kahlil Gibran by Frederick Holland Day c.1898)


The dreaded Wikipedia states: "Gibran started school on September 30, 1895. School officials placed him in a special class for immigrants to learn English. Gibran also enrolled in an art school at a nearby settlement house. Through his teachers there, he was introduced to the avant-garde Boston artist, photographer, and publisher Fred Holland Day, who encouraged and supported Gibran in his creative endeavors. A publisher used some of Gibran's drawings for book covers in 1898."
It is all too easy to put two and two together and think that the 'publisher' was none other than Copeland & Day - Frederick's own publishing company, which was active from 1893 to 1899.
Anyway, you'll know the name of Gibran as the author of 'The Prophet' (published in 1923), and I think I shall leave it to him to round off today's FB.
Now you should really go outside and get the wind at your back and the sun on your face.
Take care.

Excerpt from The Prophet:

This would I have you remember in remembering me:

That which seems most feeble and bewildered in you is the strongest and most determined.

It is not your breath that has erected and hardened the structure of your bones?

And is it not a dream which none of you remember having dreamt, that builded your city and fashioned all there is in it?

Could you but see the tides of that breath you would cease to see all else, 

And if you could hear the whispering of the dream you would hear no other sound.

But you do not see, nor do you hear, and it is well.

The veil that clouds your eyes shall be lifted by the hands that wove it,

And the clay that fills your ears shall be pierced by those fingers that kneaded it.

And you shall see.

And you shall hear.

Yet you shall not deplore having known blindness, nor regret having been deaf.

For in that day you shall know the hidden purposes in all things.

And you shall bless darkness as you would bless light.



Friday, May 18, 2012

Investigation On The Third

Greetings land-lubbers . . . well another week passes on the high seas and yesterday's dreams become yet another wave cresting a far-off horizon.
But I am troubled. Yer Cap'n really doesn't know why he wastes time with this 'ere Blog he really doesn't. Checking the ol' stats it appears that for every legitimate reader there's a dozen robots. And you know how I feel about them. So swab that deck before I kick the bucket over - I be in a mood and it is hard to get out of it.


***


This week's FB was going to be about something lightweight after the taxing excursions into square-ville of the last couple of weeks, but you know, I am not feeling so inclined . . so I'll still be square for one more week! Normal service will be resumed soon.
Last weekend, geed on by my own lyrical waxings about square photographs, I broke out the Rollei after not having used him in about 4 months and decided to see what I could see in a revamped dock area.
Years back it used to be warehouses and docks and now, because someone thought it was a good idea, it is housing and a hotel and shops and dentists and surveyors. Quite a change from the old docks of yesteryear and setting the scene nicely for the upcoming V&A.
The Tay is a wonderful and beautiful river, and as it enters the North Sea it widens to become something huge and powerful. It is tidal at Dundee and this partly explains the cities history as a major (and now semi-minor) port. The port was established in the middle-ages with a trans-continental trade in all things Scots but went on to become a major whaling port and from there into the Jute centre of the world.
The expanse of Dundee's former extensive dock area is hard to find these days as, when you come down off the Tay Bridge or when you come in via Riverside Drive and the Railway Station, the land you are moving over is actually largely reclaimed and was once dock.
You are moving over the memory of water.
Dock Street was just that, a street next to a dock



1928


1966
(1928 - this clearly shows the extent of the old docks - the red dot indicates the roof of the Caird Hall [and NO, it doesn't really have a big red dot on its roof . . I only say that because that is the sort of question I would ask].
1966 - less than 40 years and most of it is gone - the incoming spiral in the bottom right quadrant is the East-bound run-off from the newly built Tay Bridge. [Although un-credited, I do believe this to could be a Joe McKenzie photograph as he said that he was commissioned to photograph the road bridge from the air when it opened.])

Strangely, the river seems almost sanitised by its interaction with the edge of the city centre - to get a feel of its power you have to move upstream to the Rail Bridge and be patient as the traffic thunders past.
This is the best point to see the tide on the turn and it is really something else. As you can imagine, the bulk of the waters coming downstream on Britain's seventh longest river meeting with the power of the sea is not something to be taken lightly. Strangely though there isn't a mighty battle -  the surface of the river stills to an almost mill-pond calm that belies the fierce energies and currents moving under the surface. The tidal estuary current and the onward-flowing river forces meet and mingle and become something else, something that is changed and yet the same.
Photography can be this way too.
I spend a lot of time thinking about my craft. I think about images and technique, about cameras and light, about the upward-spiralling cost of making my little art pieces, about formats and film and permanence.
I find myself inspired by light and surroundings and I like my weekend mornings because I can usually get up early (especially at this time of year) and get out and photograph. I am very lucky, because I have an incredibly understanding wife who doesn't mind my early morning looning around and I can really immerse myself in the whole photographic process. I generally decide format the night before, pick up a camera and go. It is pure pleasure and a very fine way to spend an early morning.
During my excursions, I am, to put it poetically, transformed by light. I see something and I react intuitively to it. I know my craft and in having already put in the hours and hours of reading and photographing and developing and printing I am at the 'Joe Pass Stage', namely "learn it all and forget it all".
It frees you to react.
And when intuition doesn't work, sometimes I'll ponder and move around a bit and see how the subject looks in the viewfinder from a different perspective.
And when that still doesn't illicit anything, when I doubt everything, I have a little mantra that I use:
'Is this the world's most boring photograph?'
And you know, quite often, that little phrase halts the process just enough so you can think, 'Well, I've taken loads exactly the same as this and I haven't printed a single one.' And then I move on.
The world is ever changing, like the river. I am a surge of tidal movement and I am one with that world.
(Call the prose police . . . a crime has just been committed . . what a load of blarney eh?)
At the end of the day I just enjoy taking photographs for the simple fact that I am, to paraphrase Garry Winogrand: "curious to see how the world looks photographed."
Sometimes though, things look so incredibly strange that you are compelled to release the shutter no matter what your head and heart say. Such was the case with the photograph below.








I had been wandering around in a bitter wind and I had 3 of the Rollei's 12 frames left.
I saw these reflections and wandered closer and was struck by how three planes were fixed in one place: the doors and stairs on the far side of the centre; the reflection of the dock and the double image in the window. It wasn't an obvious subject at all. But my photographic-self got the better of me and I ended up making it anyway.
I don't think it would have worked half as well as a rectangular photograph (see how I managed to lever in the square theme there) - being square it has contained the space and concentrated the eye on the clear way through to the doors on the other side, which were just slightly off from the Rollei's lens axis.
It actually looked incredible in colour and I wish I had been using that, however this was Fuji Acros 100 at EI 100, developed in HC110 Dilution G for 19 mins at 21C. The exposure was 1/30th at f8. I placed the shadows on Zone IV. The result is a very smooth and fairly well graduated negative though a tad underexposed. I think my EI for this should be about 80.
Now although that is almost the end of this week's FB, please don't switch off your sets yet . . . the bit below is relevant!
Is there metaphor for being able to see clearly through obstructions by intuition in this photograph? Sounds a bit 'art-speak' to me, however when I came home and was thinking about it, I was listening to the music I mention below, and it struck a chord.


***


Some people, at times, can have an insight into what you are thinking and in some cases the words of a song or a book can exactly mirror your thoughts.
The following are some lyrics, in the original Italian and also with an English translation, by one of my favourite musical artistes, Mr.Franco Battiato. On the surface the music is strange and very very Italian, and I don't mean 'When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's Amore' . . . .
Franco's music touches all bases, running the gamut from cloying Italo-pop, through to rock with a progressive edge, through to choral masterworks and lieder. In other words what I admire most about him is that as an artist he is a complete man. He isn't pigeonholed. He does what he likes and if you like it too, then that is great. It is a difficult path to tread at any time, but especially these days and he is lucky in that he has transcended the need to impress and has an accepting audience. 
The only thing I will say is that my ears and his have drifted apart in recent years, I actually prefer his albums when he was working with the programmer and keyboard player Filippo Destrieri.
Anyway, this track is off his album Caffé De La Paix.

Ricerca Sul Terzo (Investigation On The Third)

Mi siedo alla maniera degli antichi Egizi
Coi palmi delle mani
Dolcemente stesi sulle gambe
E il busto eretto e naturale
Un minareto verso il cielo
Cerco di rilassarmi e abbandonarmi
Tanto da non avere più tensioni
O affanni.

Come se fossi entrato in pieno sonno
Ma con i sensi sempre più coscienti e svegli
E un grande beneficio
Prova il corpo, il cuore e la mia mente
Che spesso ai suoi pensieri m'incatena
Mi incatena.

Somma la vista
Ad occhi chiusi
Sottrai la distanza
E il terzo scoprirai
Che si espande e si ritrova
Dividi la differenza.

◊◊◊◊◊◊

I sit in the manner of the ancient Egyptians
The palms of the hands softly resting on the legs
And the torso erect and natural,
A minaret pointing to the sky
I try to relax and abandon myself,
To lose all tension
And anxiety

As if I had entered a deep sleep
But with senses ever more awake and aware
A great sense of well-being
Pervades the body, the heart and my mind
That so often chains me to its thoughts,
It chains me.

Add vision
With closed eyes,
Subtract distance
And discover a third state of being
That expands and returns.
Divide the difference.

(Translation © Gerald Seligman/EMI Records)

http://www.battiato.it

I love that last stanza:

Add vision with closed eyes; subtract distance and discover a third state of being that expands and returns. Divide the difference.

Pure magic!
Ciao Bambinos. Stay Square!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Tooty Tooty Toot . . It's Hip To Be Square (Part Two)

Greeting playmates.
Last week I worked ee 'arder than a bilge pump in a high sea! So this week we're taking some time out in the Sargasso.
The sails are down.
The grog is open and all the work is done.
So sits ye back and wiggle your toes in the Sun . . it doesn't get much easier than this.


***

I promised at the end of last week's blog something more Zen and I meant it.
This is a poor photograph of the most 'Zen' thing I own. The 'saucer' is part of the cup and the whole piece is hand decorated on delicate and thin porcelain. It has a certain unassuming presence and yet it asks you to pick it up and hold it by dint of its beauty and its functionality.




It is, I believe, Japanese* and belonged to my Aunty Jane - a remarkable and wonderful person.
I owe her my love of walking, because, somehow, she managed to encourage the podgy little boy you might have seen in previous FBs (who hated pretty much any form of physical exercise) to develop a deep love for exploring nature, and with that came the need to walk.
She did it with Penguin chocolate biscuits, and it was very simple.
We hardly ever had chocolate biscuits at home and especially not ones in shiny foil wrappers, so her bribery was really very easy. To wit: come along with me on this walk and when we get halfway we'll stop and you can have this Penguin. And we did and it worked.
Our halfway, was at the foot of 'The Brae' - a steep road that led from the A74 up to Lochwood. It was quiet back in those days as universal car ownership hadn't yet occurred, and we would rest and watch the clouds chasing their shadows on the Wamphray Hills. When we had finished we would head back up The Brae, or if we were feeling fit, head down to have a news with Mr & Mrs Fraser at Orchard Farm and then continue on a circular route back up and along the lanes to Rose Cottage where she lived.
I reckon the overall journey was near enough 3 miles all told, but the addition of that biscuit made it seem hardly any distance at all.
Thank you Jane!


***


Now, after that aside, this is where I get my tyre-fitters grip on, get out that tyre-iron and try and cack-handedly lever in something about 'Zen' in photography.
It's a concept isn't it?
Some photographs can have a huge amount of stillness and contemplation to them, whereas others will rush around like a two-headed chicken shouting about their importance. Certainly in the field of landscape photography I reckon you want more of the former and less of the latter. 
To my mind, the former equates to capturing 'atmosphere', whereas the latter becomes something that is merely a recording of place, usually titillated by the use of a wide angle lens, or that dreaded artifice of the graduated colour filter. 
Oh gosh (now the juices are flowing) I wrote a piece for Amateur Photographer a number of years back where I said that such photographers had a severe case of Cornishitis.  This was meant as no disrespect at all to the photographer Joe Cornish who has very much his own style, just more as a dig to the people who fill magazines with images that are trying to replicate his look. It is endemic actually and there is a certain magazine (not AP) concerned with photographing in the outdoors where, to be honest, the photographs have little more value to them than of being visual records of GPS points. There is no feeling for the place in them at all!
Landscape generally needs atmosphere  unless the scene is so utterly awe-inspiring that a visual record of it will suffice. Some masters manage to combine the two. Mr. Ansel Adams' masterwork 'Clearing Winter Storm' have managed to achieve that .  . but anyway, I am moving away from things a bit, so I'll clear my head, take a deep breath and continue . . . .
The thing with atmosphere (and I firmly believe this) is that it comes to you. You can't find it . . you might stumble upon it, but go out actively searching and I doubt you'll get anything.
It is a 'Zen' thing that occurs at the moment you least expect it - everything just comes together and there you go, your picture is almost fully-formed.
When you apply thinking about square photographs with an open attitude to the terrain you are moving through, you can find the most unexpected compositions turn up.






What is wrong with this photograph is that it has too much sky.
What is right with this photograph is that it has too much sky.
The two points contradict each other and yet the composition works.
I don't think it would have worked half as well as a rectangle, as the river would have appeared to be flowing out of the frame.
Being made as a square photograph balances everything. The format holds it all tight and, for want of a better phrase, gives an ordinary scene a 'Zen' and contemplative quality.
The river balances the vast sky and also the stand of scrub and trees that appear to be ethereal. To my mind it is quite possible that they aren't just a part of the natural scene, but possibly some sort of magical portal. They were dense and filled with birds who were just awakening, and although they were an obvious feature, there was some sort of secrecy to them. It is highly commendable (and a bit telling) that the farmer hadn't grubbed them out when all around for miles were 'modern' flat fields.
The light was extraordinary and unremarkable at the same time - just typical Fenland light.
The mood and atmosphere of the place found me and I was lucky enough to have my Rollei with me.
Despite the difficulties of square composition, a square photograph can move beyond its bounds.
***
We were staying at my Mum's house and it was the start of a period where her Alzheimers was starting to get worse, and there was a feeling of sadness that this could be one of the last 'normal' times we visited her. Despite this we filled our time there as we always did, with laughter and endless tea and Scrabble.
Of an evening, my wife and son and I used to go for nice walks along the Kyme Eau (as the river is called) and the quiet feeling of the place infused itself into us.
One still morning in April at about 6am I left my sleeping family and headed out with the Rolleiflex and a tripod to see what could find me. The fields were saturated with a heavy dew and I made a number of photographs before I chanced upon this feeling.
At the time it looked beautiful on the Rollei's ground glass, but little did I know what this combination of film and developer would produce.
I used Kodak TMax 100 at EI 100 and it was developed in 1:3 Ilford Perceptol at 24C for 12 minutes.
When I got back to Mums' the sun was shining in through our East facing bedroom window, next door's cockerel had started up, but everyone was still asleep. I quietly climbed back into bed with a big smile on my face and awoke an hour or so later with that same smile and we all went down to one of Mum's famous hearty breakfasts.

***

Just in case you are interested, Kyme Fen is a proper rural farming community based around the villages of North and South Kyme in Lincolnshire. It has deep historical roots being traceable as far back as the Ancient Briton tribe the Contritani; it was one of the areas of early Iron Age land reclamation and there is a feel to it that encourages contemplation and a willingness to settle.
Indeed just across the road from Mums' was a field with the earthmarks of an abbey, replete with fish ponds (for food). South Kyme church is heavily linked with the life of Henry VIII, and the village used to be the sort of place where people were born, lived, worked and died without going anywhere else.
So you can see that what on the surface might appear mundane, isn't actually at all.
Oh, and sorry about this, but just to break your contemplative reverie, that object you can see at the left hand bottom side in the river . . . it was a polystyrene fish and chip box.
Sadly even translucent and transcending beauty is touched by us messy humans.
Stay Square Mein Fronds!


* It is beautifully translucent, rather like that light on Kyme Fen.
I seem to remember seeing something similar on Antiques Roadshow about 15 years ago . . .if you know anything about it, please let me know!

Friday, May 04, 2012

Tooty Tooty Toot . . It's Hip To Be Square (Part One)

Greetings ship-mates!
It's a Saturday morning, the sun isn't shining and your ol' Cap'n Sheephouse has decided that it's time to renew the caulking on the decks.
The comfy familiarity of that piece of deck you always walk across? Begone with it. Gouge out that tarred rope and set to work. It needs to be renewed and different by the end of the day.
See, the world's a changin' faster than a spring tide and before you know it (if you're not careful) you'll be washed away.
Change is everything - follow that new current till it leads you to a promised land.

***

I have no idea what the above was about at all, but sometimes your fingers work in mysterious ways and maybe, just maybe, this has led on to an article that is about stepping outside of conformity. Whatever it is, sometimes the Cap'n lashes out with the cat o'nine-tails and you have to follow.
Anyway, the title of today's Weekend FogBlog alludes to a certain Mr. Alex Turnips of Sheephousecestershire, who in the strangest move I have ever seen from a teenager believes himself to be the soul-mate of a certain Mr. Huey Lewis. Who? you ask, mouth aghast, toast and bacon raining down upon your lap. You know,  . . . Huey Lewis And The News. That band from the 80's that liked golf and suits. Yes . . them!
I swear to you, Alex sees himself pulling up at the Old Course wearing a suit and a Pringle jumper and making a number of hole-in-ones whist an adoring audience looks on. This is very strange for someone of such tender years, because in a time of his life where it was set in stone (almost) that he should be raising a middle finger to conformity, he has done a particularly clever thing . . .
Look around you.
Youth these days, I feel sad for them actually, because on the surface they seem to have it all on a plate. Really. We have made sure that they have everything their hearts desire and they live (to a large extent, and I know that this is a bit of a generalisation) pretty untaxing lives.
They can communicate constantly without hogging the one household method of communication (which used to be the phone in the hall . . ) and escape for hours to worlds that someone has created for them by gaming, so that they don't even have to use their brains to create worlds from a printed page.
A lot of them seem to be ferried everywhere - no more standing at a bus stop getting soaked and arriving at your destination smelling like a musty ferret.
The privations I remember from my youth are no longer there - and it wasn't as if I lived a youth full of privations. On the surface it looks like they have it all.
That is entirely my generation's fault though, because we have taken away a certain very necessary thing from them: the need to struggle.
Think about it - there are no pricks to kick against, because they've all been covered up with soft spongy stuff to protect them. Instead of feeling a need to rebel against conformity we've made the world a safer (and less conformist) place for them! You can pretty much be your own person from an incredibly early age before you even know your self.
God knows though, if I were a youth of today, I'd feel I had to rebel against something - just take a look at that wall of hopeless defeat we've put up in front of them and then tell me they have it easy.
Despite this the riots of last year were nothing to do with knocking down that wall or even knocking on any doors that mattered. No dear reader, we've made such a bosh of it that when an opportunity came to try and change things, most of them saw it as nothing more than an opportunity to make a mess of innocent people's lives and get more stuff. How mucked up is that?
You can't even rebel through music anymore simply because it has all been done - my [punk] generation made sure of that. Yet thankfully you do still see lads and lasses of a certain age pursuing this path, because if they didn't what else would appall their doting parents?
Music is a BIG subject, but I feel I can write about it because that is how I have earned a living for the past 30 years.
From the rebellious youths point of view there are a million permutations: Death metal, Grime, Dub-Step, Toot, Rap, Math-Doom-Sludge, anything appended by 'hyphen core', you name it, think of a heady mix of the most unlikely things and it will have been done. Add in a goodly amount of swearing and voila! there's a ready youthful audience.
The likes of a band like Slipknot (who have had a shelf-life well beyond what I would have expected of them) still have an audience of youths who feel that in this bunch of middle-aged men they have a ready outlet for the uprising of hormones and glumness.  Yet there's nothing wrong with it.
This is where Mr. Turnips stroke of genius has come in, because when all around him is Uzi-toting, mother-hugging, death-grunting, black-studded, de-tuned, machine-made, faceless plastic* he has donned the uniform of a middle-aged man (metaphorically of course).
Huey Lewis and the News might well have sung 'It's Hip To Be Square' but blimey could they have realised how dreadfully old they sound(ed) - even at the time. Nowadays who the hell listens to them apart from an audience remembering the glory days of leg warmers and ra-ra skirts?
Is Mr. Turnips liking of them an incredibly subtle form of rebellion where something that seemed old to me in my 20's now sounds even older at the age of 50?
Forget rebelling against the music your parents liked, this is rebelling by liking the music your parents didn't like . . .
It is a contra-reverso-back-to-tomorrowland.
More fiendish than a googly.
More devilish than backspin on a ping pong ball.
In a word he has rebelled.
Am I appalled?
Yes.
Will I let him wear a Pringle jumper . . . er . . .
I do admire his stance though . . .

***

But what, you might ask, has this taxi ride through the tides and mores of early life got to do with photography? Well, before I jumped in the driving seat and headed off across country with the wrong tyres on, I intended to write about the square photograph. 
And no, it isn't a picture of Mr. Lewis. 
No, I am talking about 6x6 cm, 2 ¼", or 2¼ Square, whatever you want to call it. 
The square photographic format had been around since before Franke and Heidecke came out with the groundbreaking Rolleiflex in 1929, and it's importance was further reinforced by numerous copies and then post-WWII by a certain Mr.Victor Hasselblad, but it is weird, because logically and visually a square photograph shouldn't work
Think about it, the world is a rectangular place. 
You watch rectangular TV pictures, which (apart from the world around them) is yer average human's primary source of visual stimulation; you look at mostly rectangular paintings; books are just rectangles on their sides, the computer screen you are reading this on is a rectangle; ok if you're smart-phoning this, then that's a rectangle on its end too . . . and that iPad you're hiding behind that cushion? Yep . . . do you get where I am going?
Why the hell would you want to look at a square photograph?
And yet, when it is done correctly, it is the seemingly most natural of formats.
This problem has been succinctly discussed by Mr.Aaron Siskind:

"We as photographers have basically so little to work with in a picture. There's a given space, which we repeat over and over again. It presents a problem because I may want to change the space without changing the dimensions of the space. I had this problem with the meaning of the divers in relation to the kind of space surrounding them. The picture had to be square because I was working with the Rolleiflex. No two square pictures are square in the same way. Some are heavy at the bottom, and so they extend beyond the square. Some become horizontal depending on how you weight the space with blacks, whites and intermediate tones. In the case of the divers, I wanted no clouds, only white (or grey) in the space enveloping the figures; seemingly endless space."


                                 

                                 

                                 

                                 



"No two square pictures are square in the same way."


There is genius and a deep understanding of the format in that sentence.
His photographs are just incredible images if you think about it; they balance so well and Mr.Siskind has sequenced them so that visually they make a balanced narrative. In a word, they are a master's sequence.
So folks, it can be done. It is really quite an achievement to make what, on the surface, seems like a fairly limited square view of our wonderful world, produce images so incredibly dynamic. And especially so when you realise that he was using a Rolleiflex with its fixed standard lens. No telephotos, no motor-drives, no digital spraying . . .

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Bear with me reader, because we are nearly there . . 
Half the thing with square photographs is that your eye has to be attuned to the format - in other words you have to be like Mr.Huey Lewis, you have to think 'It's Hip To Be Square'.
Ignore what your brain is telling you about the fact it isn't a rectangle and concentrate. If you're using a Twin Lens Reflex, then you had better concentrate even harder, because that view of the world isn't just square . . .it is a tad dim and back-to-front!



This is a poor photograph, but basically you are looking down into the viewing area of a Rolleiflex . . that's the Cap'n's 'Indoor Shed' you can see . . .and it is back to front.


Adjusting yourself to the format you are using is obviously as basic as releasing the shutter, but there is something about the rectangular formats that fits the eye more naturally than the square. I think a lot of people find it easier to compose for a rectangle, and as I said before, I think this could well be to do with the fact that visually the world is slanted that way.
But this is about squares.
You have to think square, and that is a difficult way to think.
Personally I made many square photographs for quite a number of years and very few of them any good. It was only when I moved over to rectangular photographs (with the gift of a Nikon F from a friend) and then returned to making square ones, did I feel that I could make the format work for me.




                                   




I feel that I achieved a balance within the square with this photograph, and even though it is a single image I feel it has a narrative flow.** 
Remember the saying: "One picture is worth a thousand words"? 
Well, with regard to my humble effort I think that there is a story to be told with it or a story to be interpreted from it. The decision is yours, and thank you for your time.
It was made with my Rolleiflex T and I was using a #1 Rolleinar in a way it wasn't designed to be used.
The exposure was 1/30th of a second at F16. I placed the foliage on Zone VI ad have printed down from there.
The film was (sniff) Ilford FP4+ at EI 50 and it was developed in Kodak HC110, Dilution H for 20 mins.
I used fairly normal agitation for the first 5 mins; intermittent until 10 mins and then I left it to stand until 20 minutes.

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I realise this has been a long haul this week, so thank you for your time.
Believe it or not, Part 2 of 'Tooty Tooty Toot . . It's Hip To Be Square' is next week, but I think I shall make it more . . how shall we say . . Zen.
Stay Square mein fronds. Over and out.



* I could have easily slipped into lip-smackin' thirst quenchin' . . Pepsi
** I don't necessarily think that you need a sequence of photographs to have a photographic narrative. It is popular today to have a huge run of images and say that you have a narrative going. I'll counter this by saying that any single one of Sebastian Salgado's images (I am particularly thinking of Workers) would make a narrative in its own right.