Dear John ~ A Household Treasure

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We see it every day. Or do we? Do we actually see, as in look and engage? We certainly pass by it night and morning and at times in between. It hangs on the bedroom wall, beside the spiral staircase, this portrait of John Lennon by stellar photographer and photojournalist, Jane Bown. And how do we come to have this particular treasure?

From 1949 and over the next 6 decades Jane Bown (1925-2014) was the The Observer newspaper’s photographer (The Observer being the sister Sunday paper of The Guardian weekly i.e in the days before its 2008 sell-off). Some time in the early 2000s, not long after we had repatriated ourselves after eight years in Kenya and Zambia, and were living in Kent, The Guardian offices in Farringdon Road, London, announced it was having a small exhibition of Bown’s work, not only portraits but also the chance to look at the contact sheets from particular shoots. There would also be the opportunity to  buy one of the limited edition reprints. So: one Saturday morning we took ourselves off to the capital by train, not a small event for two dislocated souls not then caught up with the way things worked in the home nation.

The key thing about Jane Bown’s work is she always used natural light – never deploying flash or even using a light meter.

Famously reluctant to talk about her working method, Jane once admitted that for the brief moment when she looked at somebody through a lens, what she felt could best be described in terms of an intense love.

Quote from the Guardian Print Shop site.

But to go back to the earlier question of how far we engage with the objects we surround ourselves with. Doubtless many have sentimental attachments – gifts, mementos, inherited items from loved ones; some are domestic tools, artefacts for cooking, home maintenance, cleaning, eating, and therefore deemed essential; others are specially acquired assemblages: dolls, snow globes, china pigs, model cars, snuff boxes, original art, books, orchids: stuff. Of course, given the quantity of possessions most of us house, if we gave due consideration to each and every one of them each day there would be no time to do anything else. There could be an element of the King Midas curse in this?

And the portrait of John Lennon? There is no doubting that when his presence is fully acknowledged, the times I stop and behold, he does feel like a presence. The keenness of gaze is almost too poignant. I start wondering what he might say to us now – in these times ‘of lies, damn lies, and statistics’. I’m thinking he might tell us to WAKE UP!

You can see more of Jane Bown’s magnificent work HERE,  HERE and HERE.

 

Lens-Artists: Everyday objects

Bringing Up The Rear ~ That Would Be Me

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Walled Garden, Attingham Park

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He who lives my house has a habit of walking into my shots so I have quite a file of Graham-from-behind photos. I rather like this one though, mainly because the truncated wintery view of the walled garden probably wouldn’t have added up to much if he hadn’t stopped for a moment’s contemplation.

Here are some more ‘back’ views come upon during Farrell expeditions around Much Wenlock:

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The path from Wenlock Edge behind the house

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Field path to Bradley Farm

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The lane behind Wenlock Priory

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The Linden Walk with passing speed-walker

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On Wenlock Edge looking towards Ironbridge Power Station

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A ‘now what’s she doing look’ on the old railway line

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Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: the back of things

Square Perspective #24

Wild Rose ~ One Single Flower

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This year there is a slender tumble of dog roses beside the field hedge gap into the allotment. The hedge grows particularly tall just here, a straggle of self-seeded tree saplings and hawthorn in the shadow of a spreading ash tree. At first it seems a puzzling place for Rosa canina  to take up residence. So much deep shade. I’d certainly not seen wild roses growing there before, though they once scrambled over the sunny hedgerow further down the field. But then that was before last autumn’s hedge cutting, when the farmer’s tractor-mounted slash ‘n mash device grubbed them up as it passed. So perhaps this new briar, flowering now in less likely surroundings, is an expression of survival, the ash tree’s stalwart presence ensuring swift retraction of the cut and ravage blades; providing sanctuary from an indiscriminate uprooting. Perhaps we all need an ash tree in some form or another.

The photo was taken back in May as I headed home after a spot of evening gardening.

Lens-Artists: One Single Flower 

This week Cee has set the theme, inspired by her favourite quotation from the Buddha: “If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.

Over The Garden Fence In All Seasons ~ Harvesting The Light

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Our cottage at the back looks out over Townsend Meadow and beyond it, to the sky over Wenlock Edge. It is a westerly view so every day of the year we have a sundowner light show. Obviously some days the spectacles are more striking than others, but the sky over the Edge is always worthy of a good long ponder.  We do much pondering here on Sheinton Street on the vestige shores of the Silurian Sea (circa 400 million years ago), when it was somewhere else entirely. Probably a little north of the Comoros Islands in what is now the Indian Ocean. A thought worth embracing. Or at least a prowl around its peripheries.

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I’ve posted these archive shots in response to Jude’s this week’s light challenge over at Travel Words:

“This week’s assignment – Use strong backlighting (i.e. shooting towards the light source, but do not look directly at the sun) to create a contre-jour image where the subject becomes a silhouette, OR shoot the light through flowers or leaves creating a transparent effect.”

 

2020 Photo Challenge: Light

On The Line ~ The Shadow Garden

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Jude’s ongoing photo challenge at Travel Words is well worth your attention. Her aim over the coming months is to help us be more creative with our photography. May is dedicated to the use of light, with a different assignment each Sunday. Here is this week’s:

‘Look for shadows. Strong light, casting well-defined shadows, can create interesting abstract images. Layering light and shadows brings a sense of depth to an image and can convey mystery.’

My shadow composition came about as a result of some domestic DIY. It must have been late summer a couple of years ago. I don’t remember what the job was, but it involved washing this dust sheet afterwards. And as the late-day sun headed over Wenlock Edge so the shadow garden was made.

2020 Photo Challenge #18 Shadows

Hurrah For The Talyllyn Railway Men!

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A couple of summers ago we had a perfectly batty day out on the Talyllyn Railway, the world’s oldest preserved steam railway. The line runs from the mid-Wales seaside town of Tywyn up into the hills to the old Nant Gwernol slate quarry – the shifting of slate being the original reason for the line’s existence. You can see the full colour account of that trip at: Partners in steam on the Talyllyn Railway – Woo-Hooooo. But as Cee’s Black White Challenge this week in all about ‘heads’ and ‘features’, I thought I’d celebrate the Talyllyn’s enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers with a little photo gallery of those we met that day. A pleasure to travel with you, good sirs.

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Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: heads or facial features

Kalamata Layers

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Late September and the locals had abandoned Peroulia Beach because, they said, ‘it was too cold’. Even to us Brits the sea was a touch cooler than hoped for. Still, you can’t come to Greece and not have a swim. And the glass-clear waters of the Messenian Gulf were so beguilingly blue. And then there was the backdrop view – the Mani that never quite came into focus all the time we were there, the rugged scarps of the Taygetos ever mirage like. Perhaps we dreamt it.

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Lens-Artists ~ Layered  This week Amy wants to see layered looks.

Squarely Filling The Frame In Townsend Meadow

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Today by way of an intermission from Two Go Pottering About In Pembroke, I’m back on home ground here – the field behind our house just after the wheat was cut in early September. It’s nice to recall the glorious sunshine too (since we returned from Wales it has been wet, wet, wet, the country locked inside jet stream weather effects). Also I thought I’d combine Becky’s line squares with Patti’s challenge to fill the frame. So here goes: bales, stubble, light and shadow, false horizons, landscapes and cloudscapes, textures and colour blocks. And lots of stalks.

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Lens-Artists ~ Filling the Frame

Line Squares #11

In The Frame ~ A Garden Treasure Trove

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We’re back in Corvedale, the lovely valley that lies between Wenlock Edge and the Clee Hills, not far from the ancient Heath Chapel that featured in Over the Edge and faraway.

Wildegoose Nursery is a plants persons’ dream, conjured within an old Victorian kitchen garden. The owners lease the walled garden from Millichope Park and, over the last few years, have transformed decades of dereliction into a magnificent showpiece for uncommon varieties of herbaceous plants. We went there because my sister Jo kept saying we should.  You’d love it, she said.

She was right. We did.

So: I’m posting this set of photos in response to Lens-Artists’ weekly theme. This week Amy asks us to think about how we frame our shots, and as this happened to be my particular challenge during our garden ramble: how to capture the essence of the whole, as well as the particular, it seemed a good opportunity to post them.

The colourways and combinations of the Wildegoose planting schemes are captivating, painterly, often flamboyantly informal, sometimes riotous.

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Incidentally, I think this lily is hosting an invader harlequin ladybird. They originate in Japan and according the Royal Horticultural Society, were deliberately spread about the planet as a biocontrol for aphids, though not in Britain, whence they came of their own accord. They began arriving here in 2004. Unfortunately they also eat butterfly and moth eggs and our native ladybirds, and there are fears they will outstrip our native strains.

One particular challenge camera-wise was how best to photograph the astonishing Millichope Glasshouse. This too had been restored, all 12,500 postcard sized hand-made glass overlapping panels replaced. The glasshouse dates from around the 1830s and is highly unusual with its curved profile.

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Restored from this:

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Originally a Victorian kitchen garden such as this would have been cultivated by a small army of garden men and boys, all under the stern eye of a head gardener like Charles Ashford, my own grandfather. The glasshouses would have been devoted to producing exotic fruit, tropical plants for table and drawing room display; the garden walls used to support espaliered fruit trees – peaches, apricots, cherries, apples of many varieties, pears, each sited according to the most beneficial aspect. There would have been hot beds for melons and cucumbers and for forcing early crops, strawberry and asparagus beds, salad crops and vegetables of every kind, and also borders for cut flowers. Such production units were very expensive to run and by the interwar period most big gardens like that were beginning to be abandoned.

Wildegoose Nursery does have some vegetable beds, but mostly the garden is given over to exuberant herbaceous planting. There is also a small, beautifully arranged plant sales area, and a very welcoming tearoom which served such lovely food, we forced ourselves to stay for lunch, even though we’d not long sampled their coffee and cake for a late elevenses.

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And here are some planting schemes that especially caught my eye:

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And here are some general garden views with Clee Hill in the background. I should add there was also a particular soundtrack to these scenes: above the hum of a million pollinators and the soft chatter of garden volunteers, the thrum of combine harvesters in nearby fields, and overhead, the plaintive mew of buzzards.

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P.S. There is a fee for going round the garden, but we thought it worth every penny.

Lens-Artists: Framing the shot

My Big Basket Of Beautiful Borlotti And A Few Shades Of Africa

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I cannot tell you how excited I get about the prospect of the late summer borlotti harvest. I grow the climbing version, also called Firetongue or Lingua di Fuoco – you can see why – and just now the leaves are falling from the stems and leaving clusters of hot pink pods to light up my allotment plot.

I harvested the first row last week, prompted by the sudden appearance of a fungal looking disorder on some of the pods. Usually I let them dry on the sticks, but the ones in the header were quickly blanched and put in the freezer. This anyway means they are much quicker to cook – favourites in chilli, re-fried beans and bean soup.

I’ve been keeping my eye on the second row. They are at the other end of the plot, and seem to be drying nicely with no signs of infection. I showed the diseased pods to the Resident Plant Pathologist chez Farrell i.e. Dr. Graham, but all he said was, ‘It’s probably due to the funny weather.’ Which is a bit like going to the G.P.’s surgery with an ailment and being told: ‘there’s a lot of it about.’ Ah well. As long as I have lots of pods to shell I’m happy. Until you open them you never know quite what colour the beans will be. I’m easily pleased. When all is said and done, they are SO very beautiful.

The basket is a favourite too – made by the Tongabezi people of southern Zambia (they who were forcibly displaced from their ancestral Zambezi Valley lands by the British in the 1950s so Lake Kariba and the hydro-electricity dam – between what was then Northern and Southern Rhodesia – could be constructed.) I bought it long ago in the museum shop in Livingstone, near Victoria Falls. The beans are also grown in Africa where they are called Rose Coco, and sold by farm mamas who measure out the quantities in old (scrubbed) jam tins at their roadside market stalls.

It’s interesting the apparently unrelated resonances that, well, resonate down one’s personal time-line on a Monday morning here on Wenlock Edge.

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copyright 2018 Tish Farrell

In the Pink #17