Saturday, 29 September 2007

The Decisive Moment

An idle moment. Via Kay von Aspern to Andrew Wiese I came across Henri Cartier-Bresson’s 'The Decisive Moment' in the online edition. A must-have bookmark, and it's made my day. Very interesting to see the book in this form. I've held it in the flesh, but have not had time to look at it more carefully. What a treat. Thanks Kay and Andrew.

Venus in Furs

As Boing Boing says, here is an all-too-short clip of the Velvet Underground playing "Venus in Furs" at Andy Warhol's Silver Factory. A worthy link in my scrap book.


Sunday, 16 September 2007

Not Adlestrop

A real life sequence of events can suddenly jog my memory, remind me of a song, a film, a book. A favourite poem in this case. Sitting on a train not so long ago, Clapham Junction, south west London, I saw someone on the platform who caught my eye. Before taking a photograph, I usually weigh up the situation in terms of how good the picture is, the risks involved etc. However sitting in my carriage I felt somehow protected. The train started to move, and I raised my camera and snapped. My subject saw me and smiled. But with every second the distance between us was increasing, and I knew I was safe. Not the bravest way of conducting street photography, but no less valid for it either.

And here is the poem I was reminded of. I first read it in The Independent, I don't know how long ago, maybe ten years. But I have never forgotten it. A mad scramble to find the cutting when I got home, (I cannot recite it by heart), but luckily it turned up.

'Not Adlestrop'

By Dannie Abse

Not Adlestrop, no - besides the name
hardly matters. Nor did I languish in June heat.
Simply, I stood, too early, on the empty platform,
and the wrong train came in slowly, surprised, stopped.
Directly facing me, from a window,
a very, very pretty girl leaned out.

When I, all instinct,
stared at her, she, all instinct, inclined her head away
as if she'd divined the much married life in me,
or as if she might spot, up platform,
some unlikely familiar.

For my part, under the clock, I continued
my scrutiny with unmitigated pleasure.
And she knew it, she certainly knew it, and would
not glance at me in the silence of not Adlestrop.

Only when the train heaved noisily, only
when it jolted, when it slid away, only then,
daring and secure, she smiled back at my smile,
and I, daring and secure, waved back at her waving.
And so it was, all the way down the hurrying platform
as the train gathered atrocious speed
towards Oxfordshire or Gloucestshire.

Saturday, 15 September 2007


It is extraordinary to think of a tree being a thousand years old. This can be the case with the baobab tree. I heard a programme on BBC Radio 4 on which Thomas Packenham was being interviewed about his new book "In Search of Remarkable Trees – On Safari in Southern Africa". It is perhaps a little early to be planning Christmas shopping, but this new book is something I would like very much. I lived in Africa as a kid, and remember these trees, which were also called 'the upside down tree', because it looked like they had been uprooted and replanted with their roots sticking in the air. The tree on the front of his new book (below) is not a baobab I don't think, but an impressive sight none the less.

Photo by Thomas Packenham

Thursday, 13 September 2007

On the Road

What better way to start my blog than with this link to my Flickr friend Matt Weber. Matt points out that "Fifty years ago, "The Book" hit the stores and made quite a big impression on young Americans, who hit the road in droves trying to find the America that Jack described so well..." The author Jack Kerouac also wrote an introduction to Robert Frank's "The Americans", which had an even bigger impression on me personally.

Photo by Matt Weber.