Unintentional film stills


Looking back through the images taken from Rome's Eur district I was struck by a sort of half-formed narrative slowly appearing within the shots. The place was deserted, the whites and greys of the buildings adding an unsettling stillness upon the entire area - the only sign of life was the traffic on the wide boulevards, and Italy's small Fiats swerving around roundabouts at speed looked nearly comical in comparison to the towering architecture above. (which, out of habit or disinterest, the drivers ignored.)
These starkly impressive monuments to fascism loom over you like a held-in breath. It creates a cinematic and palpitating atmosphere; there is the sense that this stillness, stagnation, is temporary, a bell will sound
and streams of animated people with surge out of the buildings and populate the avenues - but simultaneously an air of resignation weighs down upon you like the stifling summer heat: a knowledge that it has always been like this, it will always remain like this. 

Michelangelo Antonioni shot L'Eclisse here in 1962. 

The individual becomes what everyone fears around these structures - miniscule, alone, insignificant. Still photographs reflecting the sensation of a place frozen in time, a stranger in a strange land, Chris Marker's La Jetée; Picnic at Hanging Rock. Déja vu, two people in the same place in different times - don't hold your breath here. 

These photographs were taken with no thoughts lingering behind them; but environments will make one act differently, walk differently and impress their presence upon a place in sometimes unnatural ways. Being in the Eur instilled a sort of reverence in me, and deliberateness of manner: every move I made felt slowed down, considered, paced to accommodate the nature of my surroundings. 

You just have to stand there and take it all in - it's not about you anymore. 

From the photo collection 'In Italy', Rome June 2014.

Pantheon, after Bruce Wild

I knew the Pantheon was the one place in Rome I needed to see, because of The Moon. A photograph which hung in the hallway of the family home throughout my childhood. For many years I had believed this photograph to be depicting the moon, and was very impressed at my father's ability to capture the moon up so close, a looming, perfect sphere suspended in the inky matte darkness.

I don't remember when I became aware that the photograph was not of the moon, but I had grown; grown tall enough to see the detail in the image: the visible rectangles of the coffered dome. Clearly this was no moon. How I managed to learn this was in fact a building, a large dome, and my moon was in fact a 9m diameter skylight, I don't recall.

My dad was in Italy in 1981 - he was in the crowd when the Pope was shot. In June, I went to the Pantheon to attempt to recreate his original image from memory. I had last seen the photo over a year ago, and had not studied it closely for more than five. I am not even certain I got the angle right.



Chess sets designed by Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp.

Man Ray chess pieces 1926 / Man Ray chess set 1947 / Marcel Duchamp chess pieces 1918-1919 / Marcel Duchamp pocket chess set 1943

The two friends in the midst of a game.

Den nakna ön

Hadaka no Shima (The Naked Island), has been one of the highlights of this season's Cinemateket programme so far, and it was spellbinding viewing tonight. I look eagerly forward to the remainder of the Japanese New Wave selection.
Kaneto Shindo's 1964 film centres on the continuous uphill struggles, living in isolation on a small island in the Seito Inland Sea.
Shot in black and white, and almost completely void of dialogue, Shindo uses repeated daily actions to spell out the monotony of hardship - the breaks from the constant work (a family trip to the mainland, local celebrations) stand out in stark contrast as short interludes of spontaneity. Dialogue is not necessary; even if there had been a script, it doesn't feel like family would have anything to say to each other that could be conveyed with language.
Accompanying the daily farming grind is an incredibly moving soundtrack by Hikaru Hayashi, perfectly reflecting and enhancing the back-breaking labour, one repeated motion after another. Tending to their precious crops, staggering up the rocky, precarious slopes of the island laden with full buckets of precious water - there is a certain elegance to the characters movements, as the gingerly place one foot in front of the other, sinewy arms supporting the yokes across their backs and shoulders in a delicate tightrope balancing act.

Films like this continue to fuel my love of, and fascination with, islands.

Kinder's Matakatia is just the same as mine

Kotanui, Monsieur Direy's House, Whangaparaoa, 1868 / Cliffs, Whangaparaoa, near Auckland, 1868 / Kotanui Rock, Frenchman's cap, Whangaparaoa, 1868 /
via The University of Otago Library's Digital Collections

Photographs by the Reverend Dr John Kinder of Matakatia Bay and Kotanui Rock in 1868. It never ceases to amaze me that these cliffs and rocks are nearly exactly the same today as they were then. In fact I was sitting at the base of that cliff just a few months ago. My only observation is that Kotanui's hairline is receding a bit these days.

And that there appears to be a pair of disembodied legs posing at the island's base.

Great Scott

Three photographs taken by Robert F. Scott on his ultimately fatal expedition to Antarctica, racing the Norwegian Roald Amundson to the South Pole across the desolate and uncompromising, yet epic and sublime landscape. 

Scott was an amateur photographer taught the technical basics by the expeditions professional, Herbert Ponting, so Scott could document the final trudge to the Pole for scientific (and now, historic) purposes. A collection of Scott's photographs have recently been rediscovered and compiled into a book 'The Lose Photographs of Captain Scott' by David M. Wilson, incidentally the great-nephew of Dr Edward Wilson, member of the Terra Nova Expedition.

They make me feel an astonishing sense of loneliness and isolation that I have grown to associate with rocks, ice, islands and the colour white.

some brief descriptions of the above photographs, via The Guardian

1. Dr Edward Wilson sketching on the Beardmore Glacier, lunch camp, 13 December 1911

Wilson is seen here sitting quietly, sketching. He was one of the last artists in the great expedition tradition in which the pencil was the main method of making records. He produced many yards of accurate geographical drawings, as well as extensive notes and sketches of anything of scientific interest. Here he is drawing the mountain ranges along the Beardmore Glacier, from Mount Elizabeth (left) to the Socks Glacier and Mount Fox (right).
This panorama is the finest example of Scott's mastery of his camera, gained on the march in extreme conditions. The combination of action and repose – illustrative of Scott's unique pictorial understanding – encapsulates the contrast between the Antarctic's majesty and man's diminutive presence

2. Ponies on the march, 2 December 1911

As the pony column disappears into the distance, the "sledgeometer" on the final sledge clicking the mileage as it goes, the straggle of ponies becomes veiled in the icy wilderness. Many of the men in this image would return, but not all. None of the ponies would: within a few days they would be shot.

3. Camp under the Wild Mountains, 20 December 1911

Scott took this impressive image to capture the interesting geological features around Mount Wild. On the sledge in the camp, two figures can be seen sketching. On the left, Apsley Cherry Garrard is drawing the view towards Mount Buckley; on the right, Edward Wilson is making detailed sketches and notes of the geological features so clearly visible in Scott's photograph. The other figure that can be seen is probably Birdie Bowers, who died with Scott on their return from the polar expedition, just months later. Scott returned his camera to base with the First Supporting Party as they departed from the top of Beardmore Glacier towards Cape Evans. Critically, this lightened the sledge loads for the push across the Polar Plateau to the South Pole. Bowers, with his lighter camera, was chosen by Scott to become the photographer for the final pole party.


Light Thickens

Yasujiro Ozu
The Only Son

Tacita Dean
Disappearance at Sea

- For many, Donald Crowhurst is just a cheat who abused the sacred unwrittens of good sportsmanship. But for some, it is more complicated than this and he is seen as much a victim of the Golden Globe as the pursuer of it. His story is about human failing, about pitching his sanity against the sea, where there is no human presence or support system on which to hang a tortured psychological state. His was a world of acute solitude, filled with the ramblings of a troubled mind.
Tacita Dean, 1997

The film Disappearance at Sea is part of a series of Tacita Dean's works under the same name focusing on Donald Crowhurst and the Teignmouth Electron, and the effect the sea had upon his mind.

The Only Son was Ozu's first talkie - exploring the mother/son relationship, and perhaps also the idea of 'big fish in a small pond' and vice versa. Ryosuke moves from a small town to Tokyo with his tutor,  to continue his education, but both are small pebbles cast into the swelling sea of people in Tokyo, and their efforts result in little success, Ryosuke teaching in a unremarkable night school, and renting cheap shabby rooms for his wife and child, and his tutor now running a tonkatsu restaurant in the lonely outskirts of the city.

At Sea

Clinton Watkins
Cont Ship #1

Joseph Cornell
Jack's Dream
c. late 1930's

The abandoned Teignmouth Electron is discovered: Donald Crowhurst's trimaran in which he attempted the Golden Globe Race, that would result in his eventual insanity and suicide.

via, via, via

The image from Jack's Dream by Joseph Cornell comes from a fascinating blog by the name of the art of memory, in particular a collection of atmospheric imagery of the ocean, film stills featuring the sea, illustrations of ships, fog lights and horns, misty rigging and alongside paintings and photographic works of waves. I stumbled across it looking for film stills from L'avventura (Antonioni, 1960).

My interest in islands and the sea grows continuously. Ships are, in a way, similar to moving islands. So much mystery surrounds both, and both can maintain an almost continuous isolation as long as one is deprived of the other.


girl with moon, stairs by Toshio Shibata

Waiting for these grey days to wind up and spring weather to burst out of the frozen, dead ground, preferably in one of those sped up versions of the life of flora David Attenborough is such a fan of. Malmö has a shadow of Narnia about it at the moment, where it's always winter and never christmas, and I would really appreciate it if Aslan got 'on the move' before my birthday rolls around in the beginning of April.

I suppose this winter has felt a little like climbing a never ending case of stairs. At the start, it is all rather exciting, and you can't comprehend how long these stairs stretch on for, and you pause every now and again to take in the scenery and you notice how it changes the further you progress. Then you get to the stage where admiring the view is the last thing on your mind and the main priority is putting on foot in front of the other, while walking headfirst into a stiff breeze, and instead of wishing for this toil to be over, regretting that you foolishly took it on in the first place.

In the meantime I will try and follow through with a few recent plans: photograph my immediate environs regularly, practice my knot-tying technique, spend an entire day speaking swedish, and see more films at the Malmö Cinemateket.

A spanner in the works

The door to my mind / forlorn fishing nets / dual 'Persona' /Naval Star gazing

It feels like lately I have been swamped by a deluge of swedish vocabulary, verb tenses and other such thrilling components which make up the untamable beast known as svenska. It is not as bad as it sounds, in fact, I thoroughly enjoy learning languages; nothing is so satisfying as drunkenly rambling in another language and people being able to understand you, as my friends and I discovered on saturday night. While my previous party trick may have been exclaiming 'How did I get so drunk?' in swedish, I am now able to give a detailed description of this inevitable demise.
Last night I prepared for my final swedish test by watching Ingmar Bergman's Smultronstället (Wild Strawberries) without subtitles. Judging by todays effort in my listening comprehension, it was perhaps not the most suitable method of practice, but in any respects the most engrossing. I am satisfied by the fact that I understood enough to figure out the plot lines.

The above film still is not from Smultronstället but another Bergman film, Persona, featuring the same actresses, Bibi Andersson and Ingrid Thulin. I have always liked the director who has a stable of trusted actors whose names become synonymous with the directors own.

I am also now completely intrigued by star charts, islands and fishing nets, to add to the ever growing list of 'things that inspire me that I really should do something about'. These include birds, faux bois, whittling, and such like. A collection of "things" laid out like in the positions of stars / faux bois embroidered stockings / balancing bird Alexander Calder-esque mobiles / whittled bath feet / tunnels of fishing net / on an island?

It all makes me feel rather intrepid. I definitely have more exploring to do in the coming warmer climes.
Spend my winter thinking, and my summer doing.

The mind boggles.

Love Story

Love Affair, or the Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator

(Serbo.Croatian: Ljubavni slučaj ili tragedija službenice P.T.T. )

Yugoslavia, 1967

Directed by Dušan Makavejev

Quite a strange feeling watching a film from a country which no longer exists. Perhaps it is due to living in a foreign country and learning a new language, but I am now continuously drawn to films in other languages. Just so I can hear how different languages are spoken.

The second film still feature amazing film cartoons! Early tetra-pak perhaps?