Eclectic - from social documentary to "painterly" and abstracted pictures.
On many edges - leadership development - social development (esp children's education) - photographer - writer - web - ideas - marketing - networks - love music - customer 1st
- Those Damn Flags
- The Painter, the Photographer and the Mobile Phone
- On The Pond’s Edge
- A Flood Of Memories
- Jump .. Home
- Escape to the future, Escape to the past
- Coffee, whisky and reflecting icons
- The artist, the photographer and the rain
- Personal Brand – Imagery & Philosophy
- Golden tresses hung on clay
- The Saturday Market at Walcot Street, Bath
December 2013 S M T W T F S « Oct 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31
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Category Archives: United Kingdom
There is so little time
Left in Eternity
For our dearest dreams
To reach their climax
So little time
Written November 1968
Photography is a passion
Photography is a record
Photography is time
Like most photographers, digital happened to me years ago. Digital has exploded photography. Creativity is everywhere. Social media compounds the creative energy.
And whilst we all still compose and “take” pictures, in so many ways the computer is leading us. It takes skill, even bravery to override the camera’s automatic settings. The camera beeps and flashes if it is not focused right. Numbers appear, and symbols rotate.
Magic happens behind the view screen.
And it works.
A long time Glastonbury fan, I rely on the Nikon to capture impossible shots, zoomed way out, in lighting so bad. Serendipity plays a part, but the Nikon handles chance with its computerised dice.
The show of the ages
The Stones at Glasto. Everyone’s dream. Mick has been in special training, studying headliners, not wanting to copy U2’s disappointment. 50 years in the business and still at the top. And what a great gig it was!
But, much though I love Mr Eavis, those damn flags just get in the way. So imagine my surprise when a sequence of shots captured the three Micks, perfectly.
I was going through the images, comparing and contrasting, looking at the settings used. And then I remembered the very last film camera that I bought.
A Leica. M6. And a couple of lenses.
Time to dig them out of the family squirrel box.
A Noctilux, a lens that can see in the dark. Let’s try it. Where can I get 35mm film? Better yet, didn’t I read somewhere that the digital brother of the M6 can use every lens ever made by Leica? No messing about with new fangled mounts.
You still set the shutter speed by hand. You can’t actually see through the lens. The rangefinder glows bright, and your fingers twiddle and turn. You mess up, and there is no way the camera will rescue your image.
Is it sharp? Isn’t this taking too long? Wouldn’t the Nikon have taken 10 pictures by now?
Well, it works.
The rangefinder forces you to compose, to consider. The manual settings force you to re-learn how light really works.
And you rediscover time.
Time to think. Time to compose. Time to be sure the image is right. Once it’s set up, it also eliminates false precision. Set the exposure, and leave it. Don’t fiddle.
A trip to Ghent was a good test.
Usually, it’s a bag full of lenses, switching to match the possibilities. I am proud of the kit, and know how to use it. It takes time, of course, but it’s action, movement.
So it’s not a waste. It’s a positive to have such complexity. What happens if we drop all of that?
What happens if we keep it simple?
Let’s try just one lens, and not even a zoom. Let’s try 28mm.
And let’s push it as far as you can. Low light. Low shutter speed, hand held.
Technically, the Leica M9 has a smaller sensor than the Nikon. Lower megapixels. It has a more restricted ISO range. So grain shouldn’t be handled as well. But the eye is happy with the results, and that’s what counts.
It is true that the D800 takes absolutely stunning images. But never take a Leica to a rock festival and try to shoot from the other side of the field. Never take a Leica to a Formula One event. Yes, by all means capture the driver’s mood, their confidence, and their escorts.
But if you want the racing action, the Nikon wins every time.
Then remember that some of the world’s greatest photographers only ever used a rangefinder, a Leica. They did it on film, and they took their time.
I can never be Henri, and would never even dream that I could be. His “perfect moment” is etched in the world’s consciousness.
But when you spend a little more time, thinking about the scene, you calm down. Your brain is at work, not the computer. Images are more instinctively about the people, and less about the technology.
You take time to be sure the image is sharp, and that it is well composed.
And time slows down
It even deals with those damn flags.
Ok, maybe not exactly flags, but the wind blowing the streamers. The man, the piano, the cyclist and the streamers.
With one lens. One setting.
Those damn flags. Captured. Frozen.
A moment in time.
I, The Painter
Mix the colours
of golden apricot
and Spring cabbage
Lay the mixture
on the warmest paper
Create a melee
of contortionate light.
This is the process of painting.
Written July 1970
Painting was where I started all those years ago.
Yet photography has always been close to my heart. I remember getting my first serious camera (a Pentax KX) shortly after leaving University. I was later lucky enough to become a Nikon devotee, and still am.
In 1990′s digital started to appear. The Nikon D1 broke all the rules, and helped to make digital accesible, professional and mainstream.
Now of course it is almost all digital – no messy chemicals, no risks with the film, instant pictures which are infinitely modifiable.
Not just professionals, but all of us now have the ability to fix things later. We do not need to just rely on the moment of capture. Photoshop takes care of that.
“Clone out the weeds, the detritus”.
But it’s not just the transformation from film to digits. It’s the transformation in the device we use to capture the image. We have the iPhone to thank for an enormous explosion in photographic creativity. The latest Apple TV Ad notes that there are more pictures taken every day on an iPhone than on any other device. Is that true? I think I can believe it.
Is there a debate any more? You still hear purists saying:
“Mobile is killing serious photography”
“The world has gone LoFi” – not just the music but also the images.
I think that’s nonsense.
It’s still true that some understanding of the basics of photography are essential to creating good images.
Is the subject in focus? Handling the backlight? When to fill-in with flash? What is the rule of thirds? How do you manage depth of field?
It’s not just the camera settings, though. How many filters do you have on your phone?
They might just be simple auto fixes – but then we can grunge things, make them “noir”, pointillist, artistic.
So the devices have changed. And the way we process has changed.
But perhaps the biggest difference is how we now share images.
Do you post to Facebook? Google? Instagram? Flickr? 500px? EyEm? Oggl? Blipfoto?
Do you post in carefully constructed albums, or for instant sharing?
I remember the mantra of “Good subject, good light and good composition”.
Today, that seems to become questions such as “Share with who, and with which filter”?
“Create a melee of contortionate light” I wrote all those years ago. And that’s still true today. The light is constant – that is the artistic given.
But the melee has changed.
The melee is the sharing.
Despite this change, behind every good photograph, the purpose of the image is still the central question. What is the photographer trying to portray? What emotion is being elicited? What information is being imparted to the viewer?
Isn’t that still true, when you share to Facebook?
Why are you sharing? What are you sharing? What response do you expect?
This sharing leads to another massive shift – the “instant” critique of the picture. Whatever you upload, there is no going back. No fiddling in the darkroom. The image is there. Public. And it is voted upon.
Is it liked? Loved? Commented upon?
Perhaps as well that Anselm Adams wasn’t subject to such stress.
All you can ever do is delete the image, and admit defeat. It’s now. Instant, and it’s public.
A kind of social polaroid. Fixed. Frozen. Locked. And either admired or ignored.
So, did digital kill the craft of photography? No, of course not. It simply spawned dozens of new crafts, and made a few unnecessary.
And is mobile killing quality?
No, the wisdom of crowds, and their appreciation or dislike push us to quality.
There has always been snapshots. Fodder for the processing lab. Instagram is home to a lot of rubbish.
But it seems to me that photography has never been creatively more alive
Images of all kinds. All genre. All styles. All in copious quantities.
Quality is getting better.
And our discernment of a powerful image has never been better.
talking without words
an instant impression
the constant value
in the depths
of our hearts
It was a week of variety. There was a collection of toilet pods, pink for ladies, blue for men. Fun and funky, and who would have thought that images of toilets could ever look like an alien space ship, recently arrived in the Capital City at Sketch, a Mayfair restaurant..
The image pops out, telling us something new. Communication without words, just like the verse said all of those years ago. Photography is morphing into constant sharing, like a diary of everything we do. No words needed, just the image.
Before that, an intriguing new hotel called 21C in Cincinnati, a museum concept where business meets art. When the image is of an image, there is a double impact. There are so many things to ponder, and images to share. The artist created the sculpture, and proudly set them in place. The hotel created an ambiance, and a mood, to show them at their best. And the photographer took a view that was unique. Images on images on images. It’s a visual world after all.
On the way home, the plane’s technology worked just fine, and you never will need that life jacket. The transfer from Cincinnati to Boston was easy. Delta’s seats had space and comfort, and the in-flight Wi-Fi helped us all to stay connected. The crew tried hard and smiled throughout.
Images in flight.
It was pretty on the ground, and the air was clear allowing a few quick pictures. But inside the cabin, subtle things defeated a perfect trip. On a night flight, airlines sometimes offer their business customers a “quick meal”, to cut down eating time and to let them get more sleep. After all, the flight from Boston to London is only around 6 hours, and you loose 4 or 5 hours on the time zone shift overnight. It’s not called a “Red Eye” for nothing.
“Yes sir, I will bring you a quick soup and not the full meal, so then you can sleep”.
Nice promise, but pity it arrives at the same time as everyone’s meal. Just too hard to organise things I assume. But then, why say that it was possible? Words become promises, and promises that aren’t delivered lead to reactions and pain. So which will I remember most about that flight? The fleeting glimpse of the ground 35,000 feet below, which could have been on any flight, almost anywhere. Or the specific disappointment of insufficient sleep?
We’d all accepted a delayed flight, as we couldn’t do much about it, and the airline carefully explained what had happened – so we were all sympathetic. The words worked. Eventually the plane landed smoothly in London, and the pilot was pleased that we offered him our business. Rain welcomed us and an image beckoned of the airport around us.
Unfortunately the dock wasn’t ready, as though Heathrow had never had a plane arrive before. We all paid intent attention to those essential messages on our smartphones, and even took a picture or two. We all managed to avoid the outside world. Still, a little annoyance about the dock overshadowed things. It wasn’t the words or images. It was the lack of words. Of warning and sympathy. No words could reassure.
Whatever images inspire, if the simple words of communication disappoint, it all falls apart.
Sketch was a very cool restaurant, designed to be a visual treat. Art meets food. The staff was immaculately turned out, and everything was very professional.
Did they need a little too much “push” to change us to a better table? “I won’t comment on that, madam”. So we all moved on.
The food was excellent, served quickly and with a little panache. Looked and tasted good, too.
The sommelier asked
“Would you like a drink, madam? Certainly, madam”.
[Not that I approve of the way you are drinking my wine … but I will try not to let that show on my face].
Of course when he forgot to bring the drink the whole effect was spoilt. Words of apology become words of reaction.
The negative words overtook the positive, if only for a few moments.
Images are so diverse, so strong, and so creative. And there are an infinite number of them. What is this do you think?
It’s a light at Sketch – abstracted. To the artist, it doesn’t really matter, as the shape and colour is all. But to others, knowing what it is needs words. And if the words disappoint, so does the image.
Great intentions let down with small mistakes. Beautiful images lost because of simple words.
Images can’t cover for words or deeds.
“Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it. It is what the client or customer gets out of it.” Peter Drucker
Tall and straight with vestal eye.
Sunset embodied in life eternal,
Golden charm of folded petal.
Coloured scarlet with flaming torch.
Virgin purity of snowy white,
Or rainbow hues of any in nature.
Short and bushy in green confusion.
Often chosen with ecstatic movement,
Showing love, cherished enchantment,
But creature of death to people fallen.
This we ask of a solitary flower
Which we ourselves can never reach.
Written Summer 1967
It’s snowing out there. And, this being the UK, a national disaster is being declared. We read that 11 inches of snow fell on Moscow last night, and almost 200 people have died in that country because of extreme cold. “Snowpocalypse” the Moscow press are calling it.
Yet the M4 gets closed down with an inch of snow. People pretend they can’t get to work, and show themselves in snowball fights on Facebook. And then they wonder why their management get annoyed.
Some years back, I took a picture of a Rose, ignoring the odds and poking its tongue out at the heaviest frost of the year.
It became one of my most viewed images on flickr.
In 1967 I also wrote a poem about a rose. Looking back, it’s too complex and wordy – but it is a poem of its time. It’s how I felt, and it was of course heavily influenced by the sights, sounds and social upheaval of the “Summer of Love”.
It was the year that the Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys, the Who and many other bands tried to out-innovate the Beatles.
Which was an impossible task.
John, Paul, George and Ringo were demonstrating what a “high performance team” is. Extraordinary achievements followed with quickening momentum, and every member of the band contributed in a unique way – the smoke and the acid flowed like water untroubled by small pebbles. They were leaving the others behind.
“High Performance Team: A small group of people so committed to something larger than themselves that they will not be denied”
Katzenbach, J and Smith, D (1993), The Wisdom of Teams: Creating the high-performance organization.
“I am a Walrus”, sang the man in that high-performance team.
“Sitting in an english garden waiting for the sun.
If the sun don’t come, you get a tan
From standing in the english rain.
I am the eggman, they are the eggmen.
I am the walrus, goo goo g’joob goo goo g’joob”.
Was the Rose sitting in the garden, waiting for the sun? Or was the Rose in a team with the rain?
The Rose was both part of the whole and yet totally alone.
The picture doesn’t work without the background, and the Rose could not survive without the help of the sun, piercing the frost. Yet the Rose was standing tall, doing what it does best. It was not just surviving – it prospered.
And it made the garden and its world a happier place.
By being together alone.
“We could feel alone when we were together, alone against the others”.
Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms
On The Edge Part 1
Listen to the speed with which things stay the same,
listen to the silence.
Share the edge
Share the win
Share the loss
There is a shine to the depth
which can reveal its limits
whilst refusing to notice its blackness.
There is a word to be said which lightens the load
whilst it hastens the gathering changes.
The seer once noted the multiple futures
and offered the newspaper jacket.
The headlines he wrote
and the instant response
just meant he delayed the stories.
Tell me old man what is the correctness
of edge, and sorrow, and joy.
Tell me the difference so I can reply
with edge, and pain, and politeness.
Share the edge
Share the win
Share the loss
It’s the New Year
Time for resolutions, reflections and predictions.
Too many times I have tried making resolutions, and failed. mainly because the resolution was just unreasonable, or was too much of a change in habit or action.
If a resolution is going to stick, it seems to me that it needs to be both realistic and to be shared with others. Of course I have read all those motivational books – “do it for yourself”. But so often resolutions involve other people – be kinder, listen better, don’t get angry.
There’s a classic philosophical question which fits. “When branch fall in the forest. if there is no one there to hear them fall, do they make a noise?”
And, there is another story. Hui-neng, a well-respected Buddhist monk who later became known as the founder of the Zen school, one day happened to be passing by two monks.
“Two monks were arguing about the temple flag waving in the wind. One said, ‘The flag moves.’ The other said, ‘The wind moves.’ They argued back and forth but could not agree.
Hui-neng said ‘Gentlemen! It is not the wind that moves; it is not the flag that moves; it is your mind that moves.’
The two monks were struck with awe.”
Then I remembered a poem I wrote a while back, about being “On The Edge”. Yes, it was about being different, changing, edgy. But when I read it properly I realised it was also about things being the same.
Listen to the speed with which things stay the same,
listen to the silence.
And the poem talked about “multiple futures”, which seems to be appropriate for New Year choices.
On New Year’s Eve, it was raining heavily, and the pond had a brooding and black presence. The last day of the Old Year, so it seemed to fit the mood and the moment.
Then, New Year’s Day, it was bright, sunny and full of joy.
The same pond. The same plants. the same fish. Just different illumination. The plants and fish hadn’t changed, but their context had. The scene was completely different.
When we move through life we can’t control everything. Contexts change. Realisations occur. Things get illuminated. And shit happens.
So what we can do is think about multiple futures, and try to anticipate. The pond doesn’t change. But the way we look at it does.
But will you really “see” if you don’t share? First, of course, you must “see” for yourself, to reflect and wonder.
And, second, you should share with others, to describe, discuss – even argue – but then delight in the unfolding changes.
Happy New Year – and may your resolutions come true!
Share the edge
Share the win
Share the loss
A Burtonian Poem
a mist descending
rolling with tidal motion
over the blackened parapet
of the Trent Bridge.
in Hartshorne a farmer wakes early
to milk his cows,
for him every day is the same.
children making early morning tea
for their parents.
the walls of a bed sit explode
in the agony of a hangover.
black coffee enters a thousand throats.
the Sun rises high above the valley,
casting the shadow of Winshill across the traffic
at the Swan.
slowly the suburbs awaken,
to read the Mail or the Daily Express.
birds sing in the trees throughout the borough.
school boys in dark blue,
a duffel bag on their shoulders,
a girl friend in their hands.
shop girls arriving at work,
to make up and talk of their weekend.
the market traders prepare their stalls
to do battle with Paddy.
in the bed sit
a young man is sick
return home to sleep.
cars flow steadily down the Ashby road,
to meet the chaos of Bargates
and the waiting traffic wardens.
He drove into town, for the first time for ages. The floods were very bad – the worst for years. Even the swans sought refuge. Rivers Trent and Dove merged to form a new inland lake. The floodwalls just manage to stop an invasion of the town. Christmas lights sparkled on the water, daring it to come closer.
The Trent keeps flowing.
He recalled the times he walked the Burton streets. Drinks at the Queens, bowling on Saturdays, browsing in the bookstore on Station Street. Later, walking in the Trent meadows, maybe getting lucky. There were no fancy restaurants, and the pubs just had beer. The market was by Royal ascent, and was the only place for both potatoes and presents. Now of course Sainsbury’s vie with Tesco.
The Statutes Fair still takes over the market in October. It was founded in 1824 “for the hiring of servants”, and was once called a “human flesh market”. It doesn’t change. As he walked through the marketplace, he remembered that day in 1966, when he first went to the Fair with his girl. And he remembered the party where “Good day Sunshine” was the dance music du jour.
Today the Abbey, a thousand years old, is a restaurant. The car parks are bigger than the market stalls. As he dined, the staff was knowlegeable about the history of the place, with tales of monks trying recipe after recipe to create the perfect beer.
Local brewers, who ran the town, later built the Victorian swimming pool. Now the global Coors sign glows across its fiefdom.
In his day, the pool was due for demolition, but that took years, and the heavy smell of chlorine was still a persistent memory. He did remember submitting a design for the new pool, in a contest at school. But no one bothered to reply, even though he built a cardboard model with a curved roof.
Today they claim a “state of the art” fitness centre.
He was fiddling to get WiFi, a sign of the times which would have been magic in the clubs of old. Yet, even with this modern twist, faces from the past floated by, like broken branches on the swollen river. He wondered what became of them all?
“We will be at war with the Chinese in 5 years” said a school friend – in 1961. The Power Stations both sides of the town were deemed nuclear targets. What was it like to live in their shadow? He could barely remember.
The Trent keeps flowing.
It’s time to meet the family. The ancestral tree shows that nearby Tutbury had been “home” for over 500 years. The antique shops in that High Street bear witness to so much, and the graveyard in the Church to so little. Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned there for a night – but who remembers anything else of that town?
He wonders what happened. How was his line broken, and why was it fragmented to allow him to wander the world?
There is much news to swap, and many stories to tell. Pictures are shown. Yet there is a sense of flood. The waters cover the details of the land, and make it all murky and brown. Detail gets lost, and things merge.
Generations flow, and people move on. Learning happens. Success and failure. Dreams change. Things shatter. Conversation takes unexpected twists.
There are new bars in town, and the old schools are no longer there. The new hospital gets mixed reviews. Family is treated there, yet it all seems rather a perfunctory experience. They weren’t really happy about it all. Is it just a personal view of entitlement, or a thoughtful perspective on patient care?
When he walked these streets, there was no such concept. He cut his thumb, building balsa planes, and the nurses seemed fine. He still has the scar. Just physical, not mental of course.
Aubrey de Grey says we can all escape death by surfing the longevity curve, waiting for technology to catch up and solve the problems we have. A fantasy? Not really. It already happens. What is now routine surgery was unimaginable when he was growing up.
It would have been considered magic (or at least that’s what Arthur C. Clarke wrote).
Family conversation often takes strange twists. Let’s debate the new migration that makes the town a melting pot – welcome to some, unwelcome to others. Respectful debate veers so close to lines which are moved as generations change.
How can anyone forget that the town has centuries of history, of Romans and monks, of battles and beer.
He leaves. He’s really pleased to have seen everyone, and thoughtful about what it all means. Yet he knows he will never know why it all happened as it did. He will never be able to connect his sense of himself, of where he is today, with that understanding of where he came from.
But the Trent doesn’t forget. The Trent knows.
The Trent keeps flowing.
Jump .. Home
Jump once Jump twice Jump thrice
And we feel the life that there is around us
within us beside us and beyond us.
And there is another jump with another beyond that.
Jump twice and there is no jump
Just a distant measure of success
Jump thrice and the smile disappears
Because the jumper has lost his beat
Jump once Jump twice Jump thrice
And the works becomes clear by comparison.
Home is where you came from. Home is where the family is. Home is where you work.
Home is where you are.
Where is that, exactly?
“Runaway Train” was a favourite song. Cool video too. But was years later that the meaning became clear, explained first hand by someone who did it. Someone who left home to find home. Someone who believed that actions not ideas were the key.
Home is not an idea. It’s an action.
Well, let’s recall the pediatrician story. Some time ago, a new expat family were asked how they would know if they were well settled in their new assignment.
“When your toddler has a problem, who will you call? Will you go to the local doctor, first, and ask for advice? Or will you call the pediatrician “back home”?
Call the local, it means you are home. Call the pediatrician, it means you aren’t home”
It’s the test of being home. Where is your doctor? Who do you trust?
Home. The place we feel safe. The place we go back to. Where we hide, and where we celebrate. We all have somewhere like that. Even travellers have the caravan, embedded in their group.
Home is where the way of life fits living the way you want to.
Jump home then.
The ugly Expat was having a beer by the pool, his pretty companion happily munching on nasi. She lounges with a certain style, practised and without conscience. The sun covers everything like a cloak of anonymity, baking everyone with its constant stare. Well trained staff walk backwards and forwards, offering ice but little consolation. He looks across the pool.
Is he thinking of home? Perhaps more to the point, where are her thoughts? She is a long way from home. Or maybe she is home. Who knows.
A young Japanese mother, daintily dressed in black, was also by the pool. She plays with her toddler. Careful to avoid the sun, and equally careful not to smile. Snacks arrive. Cold drinks refresh. Other mothers watch, yet they seem lost in their own dreams without truly seeing. The toddler is oblivious.
It’s raining at home. It usually does. The day you need the Sun it plays a peeking game.
The police car sat on the bypass, keeping watch lest laws get broken. At the Queens, the likely lads enjoy an illegal Scotch, hidden deep inside a creamy coffee. Scarves at a nautical angle, the afternoon will be spent playing snooker and giggling at music magazines.
Trying to be mod, failing to be hippie, ignoring the pervasive scent of hops and barley. And still hoping to have an amorous evening in the meadows.
Home it was.
Safe, comfortable even as wonders needed to be explored and worlds waited to be changed. Yet it was a place to leave, to put into the perspective of experience and never to repeat. But oh, the stories that it led to. The myths it created.
“Sing out if you want anything” said the Purser, knowing that the acquaintance was brief and the impression immense. Darkness enveloped the flight, with everyone doing their best to turn away. Too late now.
A single cube made it all right. Sleep now.
Home is where you stop, and this bird isn’t it. The infamous second night. But the bird is known, like so many others. It starts here, goes there, and does so with a cosy sequence.
Home used to be 2K. And it still is. But rarely.
Let’s catch some fish – coral trout, spangled emperor, Spanish mackerel and have a barbie. Family from all over, fishing, cooking, eating. And smiling. Don’t forget the smiling. They come together both through tragedy and the start of new lives. They are together because the chose to be. And home is wherever they are, as family.
Jump. Jump all over.
It was home, overlooking the South China Sea. No skyscrapers in sight so it couldn’t have been real. The big boss visited, inspecting the kingdom. Drinks flowed, and cautious small talk from the dozens present. “Would you like peanuts?” asked the 3 year old of the big boss. “Of course, thank you” he replied. He was handed exactly one peanut. Maybe for the first time in his life. One peanut. But it was the 3 year old that was home, not him. Her peanuts after all.
Spiritual home. What an old-fashioned concept, never recognised in an election. Is it a collectivist or individualist place. It’s neither. If individual, how can you be attached to others in some big whole? And, if collectivist, what does it mean to your soul?
So, “where is home”?
Home is where your spirit is. On the grass, by the pool, at work or in love. It’s everywhere and nowhere. It’s now yet, yet also was then. One thing is for sure, though. It will be there tomorrow.
Jump there. Once, twice or thrice.
Home will be right there.
I, The Painter
I paint with the magic brush of a new vision
My work is such, as the world has never seen
I attempt to capture life’s meaning with solid colour
But really I can never crave fame nor loathe it
I simply paint those pictures that I see
There was rain everywhere. And it went from last Sunday to this day. The photographer knows that the light after the rain is the best … deepening colours, accentuating shadows, brightening the contrast. The technology always gets in the way, but the eye can still see. The photographer loves the rain.
Yet the artist can’t manage. It’s so fleeting and ephemeral, yet so persistent. A brush paints a stroke, and when it’s finished the moment has moved on. No instant. No instance. The rain stops the enjoyment, makes him focus on it and not getting wet, rather than celebrate the moment and capturing the view.
Rouen kept Monet busy for so long. He kept coming back to see the shades, the colours, the nuance of light. He helped found an entire genre of art. But did he ever catch the rain? No, he saw through it, ignored it, focused on the subject. The rain was an irritation, not an addition.
Everyone tried to ignore the rain.
Rain, rain, rain.
The wipers tried to control it all, and the tempers frayed. Cars moved along at frightening speed, no one thinking that the “two second rule” might actually be applied, never mind extended. But the rain ignored everything, and just did what it does best.
The town was full of people. It couldn’t have been locals, as the car park had no queue, and, after all, we all knew where to go. Restaurants pretended that the inside was sunny. Shops offered space for umbrellas, yet the supermarket struggled to deal with it all – where were the batteries, anyway? Everyone was trying to adapt. The locals nonchalantly ignored the tourists, and everyone ignored the rain. Or at least they tried to. Scarves got wet, hair got wet, everything got wet.
People were taking pictures of buskers with no tune. There was a very odd couple. One was a guitarist with a bluesey tone, probably in his thirties. And there was his partner who looked like he escaped from Hippie heaven, playing percussionist spoons. People walked past.
Even time seemed to shrug things off, as the rain continued.
The stalls showed their art, with much creativity hidden by the awnings protecting against the wetness. The market was replete with vinyl. How many carpets can you buy, and where did all those old hats come from? Victorian glasses, anyone? And every face, every feather, every coat suggested that Sergeant Pepper lived in Bath.
Yet the rain had no mercy.
It cared not for history. Beatles 50 year celebration? Maybe, as the boys did write a song called Rain.
When the Rain comes down.
Everything’s the same.
When the Rain comes down.
I can show you, I can show you.
Rain, I don’t mind.
Shine, the world looks fine.
Can you hear me, that when it rains and shines,
When it Rains and shines.
It’s just a state of mind?
When it rains and shines.
Can you hear me, can you hear me?
And then. It stopped. From one moment to another. Like someone turned a really big on-off switch. The rain evaporated to its home in the sky, where it belonged.
The sun won – and the crowd regained the advantage. Even the pampas grass decided it was time. Stand proud, stand tall. And stand for the moment. Embrace the sun and shake off the rain.
The artist was pleased. Now he could do something of interest. He could capture the light, capture people, imagine life, and show his true colours. The artist now had a chance, at least to create an impression.
The photographer, though? How many times can he use the same f-stop? Where’s the challenge in that? Nothing moves, the light is even, the image looks as it did a month ago, a year ago.
The photographer wants the challenge of the rain to start again. He wants to struggle, to perservere and to win.
“Life’s not about waiting for the storms to pass … It’s about learning to dance in the rain.“
what should be
nor is it
it is simply
I wrote that simple verse in 1969 (!) but it came back to me after the events of this past couple of weeks. And the picture? Well, it was an early morning shot, in the rain, at the company offsite I was at just a few days ago.
Two unrelated things – a poem and a picture, more than 40 years apart? No, they really are connected, as imagery and philosophy are both part of one’s personal brand.
Philosophy? Doesn’t that just mean how we reflect on things? What’s that got to do with branding?
I was trained in Philosophy, or at least had a qualification in the subject. David Hume was always a favourite – and his proof that miracles do not exist was life changing. Not sure that going to gigs and organizing marches is quite the same thing, but at least there was some kind of thought behind it all. Of course, that was before Sartre got involved with darkness and nothingness … that’s another story.
But, if philosophy is reflection, how does it impact us as individuals? There is the kind of reflection that comes from things we have done, either well or badly. Sometimes we just want to learn. Sometimes we want to make excuses. And sometimes we are forced to reflect because of outside influences or events. We philosophize about all of these things, to try to draw patterns and create guideposts for the future.
Last week, the philosopher was talking to a group of young people, explaining how things were going in the business, and where they needed to go. And he made the suggestion that they all define their “personal brand”, because that is important to them as individuals and would be helpful to the group.
But what does that really mean? Is a “brand” a half-fiction, like a good advertising campaign – based on some core idea or truth but with a fantasy twist? Is it just fancy images and superficial content?
Is it a statement of fact – I am what I am – and it can’t be different?
Or is it a work in progress?
It was a talented group, with an eclectic mix of day-to-day skills spread across diverse cultures, different jobs and across thousands of miles. A year ago it was rather a mixture, and maybe a bit fragmented – drawn together for the first time and not sure how the pieces fit. This year, everyone was seeking a sense of purpose and the understanding of a common future.
And it all had a rainbow hue and a twinkle in the eye.
So what is this “brand”, and how does it reflect philosophy?
Well, a brand is partly defined by the skills we have learnt, the education we bring, our family history, and the intent that forms. It’s driven by our personal philosophy, which has been created over time. The classic definition is that a “brand” is a promise or benefit, supported by a reason or technology as to why it’s true – and it all sits on an image, a public face which is consistent and hopefully inspirational over time.
It’s more. What mistakes did we make? What will we admit? What would we do differently? And, most importantly, how can we help others learn and grow from what we have done and from where we have been?
And, imagery is part of a brand, whether personal or otherwise. How do you speak? How do you project? What’s your style? What will people remember? Imagery. Not superficial, but constant. Not without purpose
“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”
So said Mark Twain. Or, as Gandhi said:
“Be the change that you want to see in the world.”
And it’s still more. What do we value? What don’t we accept? Where is the line drawn? Where we will leave our mark in the future? What will we be valued for – and what will our tombstone say?
“There are two lasting bequests we can give our children: One is roots, the other is wings.”
said Hodding Carter.
Brands are built on values. We each own our brand. And our brands reflect our unique philosophy, our past and our future. The brands reflect our values, which are not fixed but always in motion.
What are our roots? And where will we place our wings?
It then changed. There was the insanity of indoor hockey, the recreation of the Olympic moment (but without the weeks of rehearsal). Certainly too much of a good time, and there were images galore.
Yet there was the camaraderie of a team – forming, storming, norming, and hopefully performing.
And it changed again. The corporate idea of how it should all be. Meeting with other teams, where the values are at stake, where the lessons need to be broad. Where there’s fun but with some purpose, however well hidden between the lights and the music.
So what happened to the personal brand? Did it get submerged, lost? Or did it get honed, sharpened?
Time will tell.
One thing is for sure.
The ideas of philosophy, of what is, will endure.
The question is, what’s your philosophy?
What are your values? And what is your brand?