Tag Archives: relativity

… musings re: photography, art, secret hoards …

When I take a photograph I stop time, from where I stand, from where I walk, from where I look. The image becomes inner, a pregnant, eternal moment. Artists who engage with the intimate reality mirrored in their surroundings might admit, or not, the erotic dynamics at play in this search for a glimpse of the beloved, an essence shining through the cracks from beneath fleeting surfaces. It’s not only artists who frame flashes of significance, everyone selects, does the stop-motion of perceiving, it’s how stories are made.

A self-portrait of Vivian Maier

A self-portrait of Vivian Maier

In 2007 a photographic archive was auctioned off to recover debts for storage rent. Most of her life Vivian Maier (1926 – 2009) worked as a nanny. In her free time she recorded what caught her eye, predominantly in the streets of New York and Chicago. She captured poignant moments, like soul mirrors, in brief encounters. Read the tale of how her archive was discovered and the puzzle of her life was assembled HERE

During my stay in Amsterdam I visited a retrospective of her work from 1950s to 1980s at Foam Gallery

It is my guess that, while she was without means to have innumerable film rolls printed, Vivian Maier distinctly memorised each unpredictable encounter she captured. What makes me think so?

Photo by Vivian Maier

Photo by Vivian Maier

The memory of defining and framing something on the move is powerful, with or without camera, though a creative record helps structuring and symbolising our perceptions. During the 70s, when I worked as photo-journalist, using analogue cameras, a Rolleiflex, like Vivian, but also Nikons, and a Hasselblad, I never wasted film. Each image was taken by choice.

Certain frames live on in my memory as iconic elements, and I recall the exact instant when I pressed the shutter, encapsulating something of essence.

A number of years ago I lost three 35 mm film-rolls on a plane from Berlin to London. I thought they were secure in my make-up bag, but the bag slipped unnoticed down the seat and I never recovered it. I mourned. It was the first time I re-visited Berlin, my mother’s city, since I was 7 years old.  Yet the images I took in Berlin and of the friends I travelled with are still crystal clear in my mind.

I recall the massive amount of negatives and prints I burned at an earlier point in my life, not to be burdened with storage, not to sit on my laurels, and for other reasons – profound stupitity, I know,  a self-destructive streak haunted me at the time. The vanished portfolio is now a secret hoard lingering in my memory. It is also a scene in my mythic poetic novel, still awaiting publication.

The story of the discovery of Vivian Maier’s secret archive grips the imagination. Why? Maybe because we all yearn to evidence our existence. Even if only one person holds up a mirror of approval, can GROG us, we are affirmed.

With the cornucopia of individual creativity unleashed through the new technologies of recent decades, the chance of public recognition is fickle, sponsors look for novelty, notoriety, eccentricity, looks, hard elbows …  A good deal depends on timing, and luck.

Yet no individual perspective is alike. The passions we pursue in communion with what we encounter inside, outside, our search, our uniqueness, is forever in need of expression. We want to be witnessed for the coherence and ingenuity of our individual world, our deeply felt values, skills and insights. And yet – I heard it said – if Einstein’s equation of relativity had never been published, it would still have influenced and shifted the collective consciousness.

I deduct that since we all benefit from the inspirations and inventions of individuals who may never have received credit for their genius, their life’s work, and since nothing is ever truly lost (I believe,) there can be solace in our giving, be it acknowledged or not, while we keep on the lookout and ready ourselve for a glimpse of the beloved’s curl.

And of course, nothing prevents me, or you, from expecting miracles 🙂


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…the revolt against regulations …

Our sanity is at stake if we don’t learn to bridge extremes. Below I paint two contrasting scenarios illustrating, arguably, two types of tendencies within our society. They relate roughly to left and right brain functions.  Each is a simplified, fictional abstraction and ignores the function of the corpus callosum and the complexity of individuals where many overlapping abilities, dichotomies, and all shades of grey and colour apply. Like Yin and Yang, one contains the other. In the two graphic scenarios I make the environment the crucial factor. To complicate matters, imagine being born with a predisposition into an environment that is not supportive of your natural inclination. It’s bound to mess you up for a while.

 First scenario …

Imagine you grow up in a disciplined environment where bedtimes, mealtimes, tasks in the home and considerate attitudes are encouraged, and in cases enforced, not to be digressed. As long as you toe the line you are accepted and feel supported.  Within this ordered structure, you learn to respect yourself and know your place. If this structure appeals to your temperament you will extend your expectations of order towards school life, friendships and work life. In other words, as a well-adjusted member of your community you anticipate similar coherent behaviour from others. You may feel particularly drawn to work for organisations that require a solid structure to function efficiently, the army, police, government, education, science, social services, the NHS or any large corporation. You become part of a sub-culture, a clan your feel protected by and will most likely defend. Natural forces may seem as something to be conquered. The concept of the unconscious and a free-wheeling imagination often fly in the face of rationality and seem alien. If your clan lets you down because its structure is crumbling and needs changing in order to survive, due to technological advances, financial pressured or corruption, you will have a really hard time and may feel betrayed.

What will be your challenge …?

 Second scenario:

Imagine you grow up in an intellectually and emotionally highly stimulating, or a merely disorganised home. You are frequently left to your own devices, have to think for yourself, find your own rhythm and make decisions as to your role in life. You may be lucky to find your field of action or feel lost and, or develop slowly. You certainly will experience adults as fallible beings, not semi gods. You might revolt against imposed structures and the way they inhibit your creative freedom. And if you are driven by innovative ideas you will find obstacles towards their manifestation whenever regulations are involved. You are a risk taker, but you need emotional intelligence and elbows to push through obstructions or linger in obscurity as misunderstood maverick. If you manage to find a voice, a platform and supporters, your influence could have wide-ranging consequences. Yet if you can’t find support for your wild ideas, what will be your challenge …?

The rational, first scenario, dominated our culture for centuries now. But if it hadn’t been for passionate, irrationally motivated innovators we would live in a very different world. You could apply all kinds of other dichotomies, the masculine versus feminine principle, historic versus psychic time, whatever concept you apply, it’s pretty obvious that what is called for is bridging, a facilitated traffic across 250 million or so nerve fibres of the corpus callosum that connects our two brain halves. Culturally integrating our dichotomies into some kind of functional unity seems a vital part of human evolution.

Many know a truth beyond appearances in their hearts, but truth seeks fresh expression. New maps are needed in time to make the expansion of consciousness intelligible, through science, through the arts, through sharing processes and insights, and through collaboration.

How to give expression to the implications of the enormous changes that happened during the last hundred years, the consequences of which are evident in the fragmentation of values around us? How to remain alert to the transformations in store, and find creative ways to birth ‘essence’ into the context of now? It‘s ‘playtime’ again because the rulebook we inherited has lost is meaning.

The collective is still trying to process the metaphor of Einstein’s concept of relativity, which in a psychological sense opened a climate of moral liberty and allowed us to play with perspectives, and which is why moral advice lost much of its authority. And we have hardly understood the symbolic reality of quantum physics, offering new understandings of human consciousness in relation to the universe, a spiritual liberty that a hundred years ago could have only been unimagined by a very small minority – probably mystics who always knew …

Light is both particle and wave, and though we can only observe one at a time it is one light .

And now we are swept up by the digital revolution, which makes the linear metaphor and our limited concept of history redundant and transforms our relationship to time and space.

The seeming liberty of democracies is threatening to  traditionalist cultures. Too many regulations in a democracy will cause a lack of co-operation or revolt. We need new maps, different living structures for families, including families of heart and mind, and we must find ways to translate what we think we know anew, fresh, and offer each other guidance in the changing room (the psyche). This happens in as many ways as there are individuals who value psyche as the bridge and gateway connecting the sensible to the spiritual world.

‘What else, when chaos draws all forces inward to shape a single leaf …’ C. Aiken


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