Off Byron Bay, where I was speaking last week at the Writers Festival, lies a headland which forms the most easterly point of Australia. The point over which dawn first breaks. There is inevitably something clichéd about images of sunrise. But there was also something dramatic about first light over Byron Bay, a light very painterly in its composition and palette. So, a few images from the break of day over Australia.
In his book Feral, the environmentalist George Monbiot describes the Cambrian mountains in mid-Wales as a ‘desert’ devoid of life. It is, he says, a ‘dismal, dismaying’ landscape, venturing into which makes him ‘almost lose the will to live’. Feral is a polemic for ‘rewilding’ Britain, which means for Monbiot covering moorlands with trees and forests. John Bimson (who helps run a wonderful little b’n’b, Bron y Llys, in the heart of the Cambrian desert) wrote last year about the disingenuity […]
Harlem was not always synonymous with African Americans. In the late-nineteenth century, it was home to a predominantly Jewish community – in his book When Harlem Was Jewish, historian Jeffrey Gurock estimates that almost 200,000 Jews lived there on the eve of the First World War. By 1930 that had fallen to just 5000. ‘Harlem’s era as a landmark on the Jewish map of New York was over’, Gurock observes. The reasons for the transformation were many and complex – […]
The Wellcome Image Awards are for images of living processes and structures using sophisticated microscopy and photography techniques – photographs, 3D models and digital illustrations. They are often extraordinarily beautiful. The 2017 winners have just been announced. Here is a sample of the work. The full set of images are at the Wellcome Image Awards website. . Vessels of a mini-pig eye A 3D model of a mini-pig eye using CT scanning and 3D printing. Created by ophthalmologist Peter Moloca, vascular biologist Ruslan […]
He was blind in one eye through a childhood accident. But what a wondrous eye was the other! It is almost impossible to miss a Malick Sidibé photo. Black and white and suffused with life. Sidibé, who died last year, was born in 1935 or 1936 (he was not sure which) to a peasant family in what was then French Sudan. ‘We knew nothing of the outside world’, he was later to say. ‘We were enclosed in a capsule. It […]
Tristram Hunt, historian and MP for Stoke on Trent, this week resigned his parliamentary seat to take up a new post as Director of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. The V&A is one of the most infuriating museums in London – a stunning collection, some superb exhibitions, but too often imbued with a desire seemingly to be more indulgent than inspiring or insightful. If I was unkind I might suggest that that is a good description also of […]
Standing stones have a strange, evocative power, perhaps because they offer a tangible, material connection to peoples like us, yet so different from us; peoples whose thoughts and actions we can appreciate, and yet which also leave us baffled; constructions that express the extraordinary lengths to which humans will go to find meaning in the cosmos, and yet meanings that we cannot comprehend. When non-believers visit Chartres Cathedral or the Blue Mosque or St Petersburg’s Grand Choral Synagogue or the […]
In 1693 Sicily was devastated by a great earthquake. The cities of the south-east – Ragusa, Modica, Noto among them – were destroyed completely. In the wake of the disaster came an extraordinary period of reconstruction. Not for the poor, of course, who continued to live in primitive hovels at the edge of cities. But for the nobility, and for the Church, rebuilding the cities became an occasion for the flaunting of wealth. The result was a series of dazzling […]
In the recent wonderful British Museum exhibition on the historical cultures of Sicily, the curators described 12th century Norman rule as a ‘Golden Age’ , an ‘Enlightened Kingdom’ in which the ‘coexistence of Western, Islamic and Byzantine cultures created what was probably the most progressive court in Europe.’ From the perspective of the time, the relationship between different peoples in Norman Sicily, as in Moorish Iberia, was remarkably tolerant. There was, of course, nothing equal in the relationship between different peoples; […]
. …the shattered side Of thund’ring Etna, whose combustible And fueled entrails thence conceiving fire, Sublimed with mineral fury, aid the winds And leave a singèd bottom all involved With stench and smoke… John Milton, Paradise Lost Now let hot Aetna cool in Sicily And be my heart an ever-burning hell! William Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus Some say its name derives from aitho, the Greek for ‘I burn’, others that it is a corruption of attuna, the Phoenician word for ‘furnace’. For poets, […]
The North Coast 500. Scotland’s answer to Route 66. Or perhaps not. ‘Get your kicks on NC 500’ does not quite have the ring of Nat King Cole’s original. The North Highland Initiative’s branding of a 500-mile circular route that begins and ends in Inverness as Scotland’s answer to the iconic US highway may make sense in terms of marketing, but not much else. But however one brands the route, what is unquestionable is that this is one of the […]
It may be the most God-fearing place in Britain. So strongly Presbytarian is the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides that it is said to be to be the last place in Britain where the fourth commandment – Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy – is observed in letter as in spirit. It is not just that virtually every shop and cafe and museum and sports hall and workplace closes its door. It is also that barely […]
I rarely set explicitly out to photograph lines or shapes. But the images are often defined by them. Perhaps I only notice the lines and shapes around me when I later look at the photographs. Here, though, is a somewhat random collection of photos from over the years defined by lines and squares and other shapes. And I will leave you to work out where each is from.
Two of my favourite contemporary photographers are Yener Torun and Damion Berger. Each transforms the way we look upon the world by using colour in almost opposite ways. Torun is not a professional photographer but an architect from Istanbul, whose work I have published before on Pandaemonium. His shots of Istanbul, usually taken on an iPhone, are of the city as few will have seen it, not the Istanbul of ancient buildings, grand mosques and tradition, but that of modernist […]
The Latvian capital Riga has a long and turbulent history, one that is, in a popular saying, as complicated as the Latvian language, and constructed out of as many influences. There existed a settlement on the site as far back as the second century CE. Its modern history begins in the thirteenth century with the arrival of German mercenaries and missionaries. German merchants had established an outpost from around 1158. Then, in 1201, the newly-proclaimed Bishop of Livonia, Albert, landed […]