PHOTOGRAPHY: Seeing Simple Scenes Differently

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Cafeteria Seating at Schipol – ilagardien©engagé

By Ismail Lagardien

There are times when the simplest, the most every-day scene, stands out, and presents itself – intact. There were any number of these arrangements (above) at a cafeteria at Schipol Airport.

What makes photography special is that the most ordinary, the most banal scenes almost create themselves, and present themselves intact in the photographer’s mind. This, surely, is the power that lies where the creative impulse and the gesture of photography intersect, and when the photographer captures something that everyone looks at every day, but sees it differently and does something more than.

Brutalist architecture of the University of Johannesburg. ilagardien©engagé

On the beachfront, were I live in Port Elizabeth, there are everyday scenes that, when isolated from its surroundings, photography thrives, as much as it does, on decontexualisation. This is one of the reasons why photographs often need a good caption. Below is an everyday scene on the beachfront in Port Elizabeth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

TripAdvisor Make Money Because of Free User Reviews

 

An old pic of me playing hockey on the Fox River in Wisconsin.

By Ismail Lagardien

I have posted the occasional review on Tripadvisor, but never with any serious intent. It seems to me that Tripadvisor should, at least, start paying people to write reviews. To be sure, they’re making money through their site, and travelers don’t seem to gain anything, other than the belief that they are getting a place to air their thoughts.

Having spent most of my adult life as a writer of sorts, and most recently writing for newspapers or online sources for free, I am seriously reconsidering these little contributions to the Tripadvisor website. So, from now on I should put them all on this blog space. If I can write for other websites for free, I might as well do it on my own site…. It should encourage me to write more for this site.

As it goes, I travel to Iceland, Holland and Belgium next week. Instead of placing comments, reviews on Tripadvisor, I will share it on my own blog. Xa!

 

POLITICS: Sideshows and The Last Man Standing

By Ismail Lagardien

It’s always amusing when the people who got us into trouble assure us they can get us out of trouble. It’s amusing, also, when they tell the poor that things will get better, someday, and always they speak with full bellies. Bertolt Brecht explained that a lot more eloquently.

Before us, now, we have a Cabinet Minister, Malusi Gigaba, freshly risen from the plush comforts that surround him and telling us, the great unwashed, the toothless peons, the lickspittles and sycophants, all of us, that things will get better. If only we ignored the putrid stench of corruption, cronyism, prebendialism, avarice, greed, the sounds of crying, chests clogged with smoke along the Southern Cape, wells and dams that have run dry, and the never-ending ricochet of  shots fired in the fields of Marikana. These, he tells us, are “sideshows”. What is important, ah so conveniently the truth can be sometimes, is getting the economy working again. Of course, he is right, but it is he, and his party loyalists, who got us to where we are. Mr Brecht gave us insights into this.

The echoes of that other, “sideshow” are powerful; the truth about Washington’s secret and illegal war against the people of Cambodia from 1969 to 1973. Those other odious fellows, Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon, treated Cambodia as a sideshow. They claimed that secretly bombing people in Cambodia was necessary, and tried to deflect the truth: that the bombings spread the conflict, and led to the rise of the Khmer Rouge and the subsequent massacre of a third of Cambodia’s population.

In a review of Kissinger’s White House Years, William Berman cut close the bone.

“This obsessively detailed, shrewdly propagandistic, maliciously discerning, and artfully self-serving work is surely a most important contribution to the historical literature of our time. … the man’s vulgarity and amorality … remind us, again, of the obscene role he played in the early seventies in promoting fresh disasters in Indochina, Chile, and South Asia.”

Like the old dog Kissinger, when Gigaba speaks, I quiver. I laugh, also, sardonically, whenever he speaks. The minister is a bespoke-tailored fellow. He will have nothing to do with that standardised and quite tasteless clothes of utopian inelegance; that prozodezhda is not his style. Clothes are not for wearing, it is for making ideological statements.

Some people rise to the task before them, others remain in its shade, and quite unable, themselves, to cast a shadow. There are a few marvellous passages from The Fool, by Gilbert Chesterton, that really sums up the fellow, Gigaba.

“For many years I had sought him, and at last I found him in a club. I had been told that he was everywhere; but I had almost begun to think that he was nowhere. I had been assured that there were millions of him; but before my late discovery I inclined to think that there were none of him. After my late discovery I am sure that there is one; and I incline to think that there are several, say, a few hundreds; but unfortunately most of them occupying important positions. When I say “him,” I mean the entire idiot…

He was very well dressed… his clothes suggested the City and his gray moustaches the Army; but the whole suggested that he did not really belong to either, but was one of those who dabble in shares and who play at soldiers. There was some third element about him that was neither mercantile nor military. His manners were a shade too gentlemanly to be quite those of a gentleman.”

Where, you might ask, does all the wisdom come from? Surely that which he spews is mere frippery. It is, at best, lexical legerdemain; he knows how to arrange words cutely. Like a swaddling infant he speaks in sentences that only he can understand. He is like those among us who can recite passages of script in Latin, Hebrew, Aramaic, or Arabic, but really have no idea what we are saying. We know, only that we are the voice of our god. Gigaba is unimaginative, unoriginal, uncreative, and complete in his mediocrity.

Everywhere he goes there is that “powerful and obnoxious odor of mendacity” and “There ain’t nothin’ more powerful than the odor of mendacity!” Big Daddy Pollitt reminded us, in Richard Brooks’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Mr Gigaba, alas, he is the counter-point of Nietzsche’s Übermensch, the one who is willing to risk everything for the enhancement of humanity. He is Nietzsche’s “last man”, whose sole desire is to increase his own comfort and is quite incapable of creating anything beyond what he wants for himself. (Donald Trump is probably the best exemplar)

The only value of his life is his own value, projected, as Mr Chesterton said, a bit too gentlemanly to be a gentleman. Nietzsche’s last man is incapable of shame, he is the shame. Like a camel, he cannot see the hump on his own back.

The sideshows tell us more than the main attraction, to which our attentions are forced.

 

PHOTOGRAPHY: First Foray Into Digital Photography

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By Ismail Lagardien

This picture always reminds me of how ignorant I was when I first used a digital camera in 2000. I had a bag full of film equipment, and entered this new era completely naive. I did not know much about high-res/low-res and large/small format. It was all very new. The picture was taken in the Great Hall on Ellis Island, New York City. It would have looked good mounted and framed on a wall – after some tweaking on a computer, of course. 😎

Great Hall at Ellis Island, New York City

Craig Calhoun on Pierre Bourdieu and Picturing Algeria

Two of my favourite things: Photography and Pierre Bourdieu…

Picturing Algeria A book by Pierre Bourdieu

 

From the website of Columbia University Press

“As a soldier in the French army, Pierre Bourdieu took thousands of photographs documenting the abject conditions and suffering (as well as the resourcefulness, determination, grace, and dignity) of the Algerian people as they fought in the Algerian War (1954–1962). Sympathizing with those he was told to regard as “enemies,” Bourdieu became deeply and permanently invested in their struggle to overthrow French rule and the debilitations of poverty.”

Foreword written by Craig Calhoun (@craigjcalhounand reposted here from the Columbia University Press Blog.

“Mothers don’t get enough credit in histories of social science, and Bourdieu’s made a second crucial contribution to his career, even more basic to this book. She bought him a Leica camera. This came a little later, though, as Bourdieu’s engagement with Algeria grew deeper and became a crucial, formative influence on his career and life.” (Read Full Article)

Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity

In lieu of my love of physics, here’s some fun.

 

A simple explanation of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity

Albert Einstein explained that what we perceive as the force of gravity in fact arises from the curvature of space and time. He found that space and time were actually interwoven into a single continuum known as space-time. As he worked out the equations for this general theory of relativity, Einstein realised that massive objects caused a distortion within this continuum. Imagine a large body in the centre of a trampoline. The body would press down into the fabric, and cause it to dimple. If a marble was then rolled around the edge, it would spiral inward toward the body, pulled in much the same way that the gravity of a planet pulls at rocks in space. Einstein proposed that objects such as the sun and the Earth work in a similar way. In the presence of matter and energy they can evolve, stretch and warp, forming ridges, mountains and valleys that cause things moving through to zigzag and curve. Einstein determined that massive objects (like the Earth) cause a distortion in space-time which is felt as gravity.