“For this was on seynt Volantynys day – Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make” 1382 Geoffrey Chaucer – 1382
“Sveti Valentin prinese ključe od korenin, zato so v nekaterih krajih na ta dan začeli z delom v vinogradih in vrtovih”
Despite the high cost of postage Britain was sending 60,000 valentine cards by post in 1835. Fancy Mechanical Valentines (cards) were available for a price. Produced with real lace and ribbons they could be signed with one of the many sentimental verses found in the ‘Young Man’s Valentine Writer’ that had been published nearly 40 years before.
But it was by inventing the postage stamp and reducing the postal rate in 1840 that Britain gave birth to the popular practice of mailing a valentines card, often anonymously, that has lasted to this day.
With 400,000 cards sent the first year alone the Hallmark Holiday was born.
Today this mostly commercial celebration has expanded to include roses, chocolate, diamonds and almost any heart-shaped piece of plastic you can imagine. Not to mention the untold millions of e-greetings and animated gifs.
And so ..in honour of the saint of good health, the patron of beekeepers and pilgrims, we wish you the warmest of Valentines Greetings.
It’s rare to come across someone who sees and experiences the world in much the same way you do. That they’re able to clearly capture and convey it in a way you instantly recognize is magical and rare. And while certain details may not be identical, it doesn’t really matter. It’s as if they’ve been able to reach deep into your heart, memory and imagination to conjure up the treasures sleeping there.
I felt this way yesterday when I stumbled across this video by accident.
I always felt that one of the greatest pleasures of living Montréal was exploring the city on foot. To me at least, Montréal seemed to have slipped from another world and a different age, directly into the consciousness of the immediate present. And for the curious pedestrian the city always made good on it’s promise to show you how it happened.
I can never explain the feeling of wonder and expectation I’ve always had while standing on the rise of Duluth somewhere near Coloniale. Like standing on the edge of the Prairie with the open wilderness of the entire country extending outward before me.
Or the ever present ghosts of collective history while walking past rural architecture at the bottom of the Rue de Grand Pré. Or the heat in your hands while drinking watery hot chocolate from a paper cup in the Chalet du Mont-Royal before stepping out into the frigid snow, to descend into the forest and emerge full into the heart of a frozen city below.
And while he doesn’t capture every detail I can imagine, a huge ‘bravo’ to the person who managed to so elegantly relate an experience I believed to exist only in memory and dream.
Listening to the radio is an experience that has been with me since I was a child.
For me, good radio has and always will be, the original and best blogging platform. That’s when it’s presented in competent hands. And while most of the world’s great broadcasters have squandered and pissed away their culture and heritage; the national francophone radio station in Québec has been at the top of my list for over 10 years now, and always close for the last 30.
Like most of the important cultural fabric in our daily lives, radio in Québec is always under constant threat of assimilation and negation, which is what leads me to this post today.
Tshinanu, it’s who we are – all of us. And while this song has rattled around my head for a very long time, I never really connected to it beyond the music. Re-hearing it this week made me want to look at the visuals and it was only then that I began to really understand. It’s all of us.
Over the many years and countless hours of darkroom work, I was always accompanied by shortwave radio and music. The work being in parts demanding, tedious and time consuming; there was plenty of time to intently listen. And this meant that music that wasn’t very good was quickly discarded and music that stood the test was played over and over again. Some of it so deeply ingrained that I began to enjoy it outside the darkroom and it still accompanies me today.
The other aspect of having the time to listen at length and depth meant that exploration of a subject was a welcome affair. Given that music resources were not what they are today, the dross generally fell to the bottom while good radio presenters, critics and liner notes often lead you down interesting and interwoven paths. The original resources being manageable, and roughly accessible to both listener and musician alike.
Amongst other things, I developed a lasting interest in film composers and arrangers. Two immensely creative areas that managed to have been washed out with the swelling tide of singer-stars and international commodification.
Bernard Herman, Quincy Jones, Henri Mancini, Lalo Schifrin and Ennio Morricone; they all became companions and friends. It was easy to search out their music and always a deep pleasure to hear.
I don’t really want to write about film music here as much as I would like to share. Because there is one album I return to again and again. And while rightfully Sunil Ganguly is not so much a composer, he was a masterful critic, arranger and musician.Not to mention my introduction to Indian film.
Not having grown up with Indian music I find it too vast a repertoire to know. But to roughly quote Duke Ellington, it comes down to the fact that there are two kinds of music in this world — music that is played well and music that is not; and the music that’s not played very well is generally the music that’s not very good.
Personally I would argue this makes Sunil Ganguly excellent. And why I’m leaving it for you too decide. A good listen change your week for the better as for decades it’s managed to benefit mine.
The last couple of weeks have given me an opportunity to look at some of the bigger questions in life and think about how I would like to address them. And while it has the potential of being a dark subject, I’m not sure I can sum it up any better than Ted Forbes does in this video. Harsh as it sounds at first, I think he manages to hit the nail squarely on the head…
I always like to think there were three things I could spend my life photographing …Well actually it’s only two, and I only really take pictures of one.
First and foremost I was always struck by trees. They’re everywhere you go. Intricately complex. And full of allegorical power. From the delicate shades of color when they’re bunched together in the distance to the hyper-realist detail when viewed up close. I know from long experience that trees are the most difficult subject to draw well. Perhaps even more complex and demanding than drapery and the human form.
It was the challenge of drawing drapes and humans and trees that made me shift from painting and drawing to photography. I set out to compile reference material so that I could study undisturbed for hours, the details of how physics, light and optics renders a subject in two dimensions.
I’m not sure I got very far with my giant book of trees and my eye began to stray towards other ideas. Other things began to jolt and occupy my mind. Like the basilica as a structure and a plan for experiencing space. An idea that deeply impressed on me and still colors my view of light, theater and architecture to this day. In short even though I keep them constantly in the corner of my eye, the trees were relegated to the sidelines.
My second subject was high tension transmission towers and pylons, and to some extent just poles. A fascinating visual story of structure and necessity, simplicity and balance.
From the first time I climbed a tower above a sea of rhubarb to Sam Miller’s 1998 film ‘Among Giants’ – they have never been far from my heart. The thinness of the steel laced together against the sky. Hydro towers more than anything else hum to me the music of the modern age. They’ve got my attention.
I look at them like crazy stick figures created by wedding Giacometti’s shadows and existential panic to Lissitzky’s revolutionary idea of “das zielbewußte Schaffen” where the artist is an agent for change .
Lone majestic giants marching over every corner of the earth, hydro towers as the 20th C structure of worship -always on the move.
Like the mosque, temple, synagogue and church that once strung every community together through faith. These 20th C sentinels stretch well beyond the age of reason and past the heavy industrial rails of the 19th. Mischievous electricity as the atomic age of transformation. Reaching right into our homes and held aloft by structural sculptures of progress that are always by our side …but then, I digress.
For in the end, it was the sky, and in particular clouds that held my gaze. A constant backdrop connecting us through time to a world that existed even before man.
The daylight contemplation of the heavens just like those who contemplate at night, not only seems proper but also necessary in adjusting our sense of scale.
It places us not at the centre of the universe, but embedded deeply in it. While small and insignificant, we become capable of sharing in incomprehensible grandeur. It allows us to connect with the vast forces we feel but cannot see.
It was Kenneth Clark who said that each new birth of civilization was welcomed by a new understanding and experiencing of space. Clouds can do for me as can art and faith. I suppose it’s how you look at them in the end that matters.
I can’t say where my visual interest in representing clouds comes from. How it moved from carefully watching for breaks in the sky that revealed “enough blue to make a sailors pants” as my grandmother put it (which meant it would turn out to be a fine day, sunny and full of wind) to the lavish visual creations of Albert Bierstadt and the westward expansion.
Undeniably the Western Plains and Eastern Slopes of the North American Rockies produce some of the finest clouds and skies. But one look at the work of the wonderful Russian painter Isaac Levitan leads me to believe planet is filled with limitless opportunity for shared creation.
In fact, studying art through history has been the largest influence on my work. And frankly it’s a two-way street. As a photographer I’ve taken many cues from the paintings of Vermeer and many Dutch painters of the early 17th C.
And when I discovered Kodachrome 64 I truly felt that I (and photography) finally belonged to the world of art. This film gave me a new and immense respect for Canaletto who seemed to travelling down a similar road. His clouds like Vermeer’s and countless others were free and unencumbered, unfettered and alive as a someone would later sing.
I was once told the definitive error in western painting was when Giotto painted the sky blue. And while I am in sympathy and agree – in less than 200 years Giorgione’s Tempest would introduce a more powerful, nuanced complex possibility to the question of representation in art.
It was lecture on Giorgione’s painting that first made me aware of the concept of clouds and landscape as legitimate dramatic subjects on their own.
While many consider the Tempest as the western world’s first ‘landscape’ painting I know that it’s brooding ability to perplex and confound us makes it more than that.
And while I appreciate Constable’s lithe and rapid depictions of early 19th C clouds before the age of steam …today I’m more interested in rediscovering the Baroque and Ultra-Baroque. Those towering masses of clouds capable of holding angels, saints and putti aloft no matter how light they should be.