Living photos

In search of some eye-catching imagery to boost morale surrounding US involvement in WWI, the US military commissioned the English-born photographer Arthur Mole and his assistant John Thomas to make a series of extraordinary group portraits. Between 1915 and 1921, with the dutiful help of thousands of servicemen and staff from various US military camps, the duo produced around thirty of the highly patriotic images, which Mole labelled “living photographs”.

Mole (1889-1983) was born in Lexden, a suburb of Colchester, Essex but when he was 14 years old his family emigrated to America, where he became a citizen. He became a commercial and portrait photographer, came up with the idea of human photographs. These required the construction of a tower for the camera to be placed on and then with a megaphone Mole and his assistant John Thomas would move the troops into picture formation.

Arthur Mole and John Thomas – The Human American Eagle, 12,500 Men

Arthur Mole and John Thomas – The Statue of Liberty, 18,000 Men

Arthur Mole and John Thomas – 27th Division Insignia, 10,000 Men

Arthur Mole and John Thomas – US Shield, 30,000 Men

Arthur Mole and John Thomas – Liberty Bell, 25,000 Men

Arthur Mole and John Thomas – WW1 Horse Memorial, 650 Men

Here are two more, I think they are by Mole, but I am not sure.

Street Children

About WordPress

This is a book from 1964, of children playing on the streets. The photos are by Julia Trevelyan Oman and the text (designed to read like observed opinions) was by Bryan Stanley Johnson. The whole thing reminds me of the Mass Observation movement of the 1930s. It is curious to see the streets of what I can only assume is East London and the children looking happy enough finding ways to entertain themselves. It also brought to mind this video called Through the Hole in the Wall.

Todd Hido Roaming

Todd Hido is a photographer based in San Francisco. Many of the photographs here are from the book ‘Roaming’. I originally thought that the pictures were original chance moments taken from inside a car when it was raining, but now I know this is not the case.

Hido keeps at least three water bottles with him in his car. One time, I watch him spray his windshield before taking a landscape photograph. ‘I’ve learned from sheer disappointment that sometimes I need to take pictures, but it isn’t raining outside,’ he says.

Sometimes the artist sprays glycerin on the windshield, for a different kind of effect. It’s a technique he compares to changing paintbrushes. The size, direction and position of drops of water on the car window inform the photograph that results, and within these fictitious raindrops, Hido says he can ‘compose’ the real picture that he wants to see. Ultimately, each photograph is a composition. It is a way of giving shape to a mental state, as opposed to capturing an actual setting.

To me it doesn’t really matter if the subjects of the photos below are staged or not as they are just unusually beautiful to my eyes.

Years ago I was asked not to make a music video, but to find some footage for a song. It happened that very weekend I was in a car in a thunderstorm near Ashley and I shot some footage of a tree being distorted in the window screen with lightning. The song was a statement of forlorn hopelessness and the tree looked sad to me, it was the perfect moment. The result is here.

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 Todd Hido – Untitled  #3333, 2004

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 Todd Hido – Untitled #11385-1746, 2014

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 Todd Hido – Untitled #9198, 2010

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 Todd Hido – Untitled #3223, 2003

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 Todd Hido – Untitled #9197, 2010

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 Todd Hido – Untitled #6097-4, 2007

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 Todd Hido – #6093, 2008

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 Todd Hido – Untitled #11793- 9406, 2017

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 Todd Hido – Untitled 8227-A, 2009

Todd Hido – Roaming Katya Tylevich

Thorpeness

Thorpeness is a curious place on the Suffolk coastline. Between Aldeburgh and Sizewell, it is a toytown. There are some old properties in the village but many of them are 20th century.

In 1910, Glencairn Stuart Ogilvie, a Scottish barrister who had made his money building railways around the world, increased the family’s local estates to cover the entire area from north of Aldeburgh to past Sizewell, up the coast and inland to Aldringham and Leiston.

Most of this land was used for farming, but Ogilvie developed Thorpeness into a private fantasy holiday village, to which he invited his friends’ and colleagues’ families during the summer months. A country club with tennis courts, a swimming pool, a golf course and clubhouse, and many holiday homes, were built in Jacobean and Tudor Revival styles. Thorpeness railway station, provided by the Great Eastern Railway to serve what was expected to be an expanding resort, was opened a few days before the outbreak of World War I. It was little used, except by golfers, and closed in 1966.

For three generations Thorpeness remained mostly in the private ownership of the Ogilvie family, with houses only being sold from the estate to friends as holiday homes. In 1972, Alexander Stuart Ogilvie, Glencairn Stuart Ogilvie’s grandson, died on the Thorpeness Golf Course. Many of the houses and the golf course and country club had to be sold to pay death duties.

In many ways Thorpeness reminds me of Frinton-On-Sea, a protective elite of housing owners, but Frinton (though also hellish) has some fantastic art deco properties. Thorpeness is a poorly maintained theme park of some strange Tudor England. It reminded me of the home-made houses for tri-ang train sets and early dolls houses.

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 Tri-ang dollhouses #93 

While walking around I kept thinking of the quote below by Linda Smith on golf courses vs the countryside. To me Thorpeness is fake architecture vs historical homes.

People say ‘it’s out in the countryside’, a golf course is not the countryside – it’s the countryside tidied up, it’s the countryside for people who wished the countryside had wipe clean surfaces, it’s the countryside for people whose gardens are full of conifer and heather. 

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Contact Sheet

I found some photographic contact sheets by James Ravilious and I thought it was rather interesting to look at the way he took photos. The way he circles a subject, or photographs from one place. It shows that he worked at subjects he found interesting rather than taking just one photo alone.

James Ravilious was born at Eastbourne, England, the second son of Eric Ravilious, the war artist, wood-engraver and designer, and Tirzah Garwood, also an artist and wood-engraver. James studied art at St Martin’s School of Art, London, and then taught painting and drawing in London for some years. He married Robin (daughter of the glass-engraver Laurence Whistler) in 1970, and in 1972 they moved to Devon to live in a cottage near her family home in Dolton. They had two children: Ben and Ella. †

jamesravilious.com

BBC & Parr

Only by chance did I discover that these BBC One idents are photographed by Martin Parr. Not quite like his normal portrait work, as you can see from the Making Of photos below. They are as forced as most portraits are but I find it a curious collaboration compared with his point-shoot-and leave photographs.

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I have to say I find the idents a bit disturbing myself, the bird-watchers one the most, the way the people look directly at the camera isn’t something you get from TV other than the news and weather. They are a bit too quaint for me, too much of Ohh the British are an odd lot, it becomes too obvious for Parr’s work, its almost a parody of himself. 

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A Trip to Covehithe

A trip to the Suffolk coast it is always nice, but if you don’t know it, try stopping at Covehithe church. It is placed on that part of the Suffolk coast that is crumbling slowly into the sea. Now only a field saves the church from the fate that Dunwich church suffered.

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The original church is now a ruin. The oldest fabric in the original large medieval church dates from the 14th century, although most of it is from the 15th century. During the Civil War much of the stained glass was destroyed by the local iconoclast William Dowsing. By the later part of that century the large church was too expensive for the parishioners to maintain, and they were given permission in 1672 to remove the roof and to build a much smaller church within it.

This small church is still in use, while the tower and the ruins of the old church are maintained by the Churches Conservation Trust.

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The church was painted by John Piper and Piper is shown painting it in a documentary on our Youtube channel.

John Piper – Covehithe Church, 1983

Images from Instagram

My instagram account is a record of what I am up to or buying. Here are some photos from the past week. https://www.instagram.com/inexpensiveprogress

The Last Stand – Marc Wilson

In my searches over the internet I discovered the photographs of Marc Wilson and his project The Last Stand.

Between 2010 and 2014, Marc Wilson photographed the images that make up The Last Stand. Reflecting the histories, military conflict and the memories held in the landscape itself they expose the effect of the Second World War on the coastlines of the British Isles and Northern Europe. The decaying structures of military defence.

Over these four years Marc has travelled 23,000 miles to 143 locations to capture these images along the coastlines of the UK, The Channel Islands, Northern & Western France, Denmark, Belgium and Norway.

With each sheet of film costing nearly £7 to buy and process (and then a further £25 to produce each high resolution scan for printing) I photograph only what is needed. For the 42 final images from the 75 locations visited I have used just under 200 sheets of film. So an average of three shots at each location, not many when you have travelled over 1,000 miles to get somewhere. 

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 Marc Wilson – Brean Down, Somerset, England. 2012

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 Marc Wilson – Stanga-Head, Unst, Shetland, Scotland. 2013

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 Marc Wilson – Lossiemouth II, Moray, Scotland, 2011

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 Marc Wilson – Newburgh, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. 2012

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 Marc Wilson – Crammond Island, Fife, Scotland. 2012

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 Marc Wilson – Portland, Dorset, England. 2011

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 Marc Wilson – Findhorn, Morray. Scotland. 2011

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 Marc Wilson – Wissant II, Sainte-Marguerite-sur-mer, Upper Normandy, France. 2012

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 Marc Wilson – Widemouth Bay, Cornwall, England. 2011

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 Marc Wilson – Saint-Palais-sur-mer II, Charente-Maritime , France. 2014

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 Marc Wilson – Wissant I, Nord-Pas-De-Calais, France. 2012

Phil Coomes – The Last Stand, BBC 4 February 2013

Photos from the Summer

Here as the new year starts are a selection of photos from the Summer, as anyone who may have looked at my Instagram page would have noticed I am always taking photographs, I recently clocked over 14,000 posts on there alone. But here are a few simple photos of a bright and warmer time of England.

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