Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Undated. Unlocated. Unattributed.

I hardly ever repost things on this blog, partly because of the copyright issues but mainly because, well, I've got plenty of my own stuff straining to get onto the page.  But I was very taken by this "found" image on Mark Woods' outstanding blog wood s lot, reposted from the blog arsvitaest, in turn reposted from bal des pendus, where it was given the caption "Undated. Unlocated. Unattributed."

Isn't that extraordinary?  Like so many found images, it's pure, perfect photography, a moment in time captured forever.  Can't you just hear the muffled hoofbeats, and feel the snowfall and the bite of the freezing air?  A reminder of how profoundly simple photography can be.

It took me a while to figure out what it was reminding me of so strongly, then I remembered: it was that very snowy winter of 1976/77, when I was a post-graduate student at the University of East Anglia in Norwich.  My life was turning, as I fell out of love with various old things, or perhaps I was just seeing the same things in new, confusing ways.  Was the horse loose, or being given a canter round the paddock?

That Christmas I was given a copy of Joni Mitchell's Hejira.  A vinyl LP, of course; the same copy is still close at hand after nearly 40 years, but worn and rarely played.  It's an album full of snow; crows, too.  If you know it, you'll recall the inner gatefold image of Mitchell ice-skating, in semi-silhouette, flapping the black crow-like wings of a shawl, not unlike the skirts of the woman's coat in the photograph.  Hejira has a very particular, haunting atmosphere, uplifted and underscored by those long, fluid lines played on the fretless bass by Jaco Pastorius.
Strains of Benny Goodman
Coming through the snow and the pinewood trees
 Pure, perfect music, in fact, a moment in time captured forever.

I'm shutting down now until after Christmas, so may I wish you all the best for 2016, including at least a few pure, perfect moments!  And don't worry about capturing them on camera.  If I've learned anything in 2015, it's that you can always construct an evocative picture -- you can even find one, as above.  So be sure to leave yourself room to live the experiences and emotions for the pictures to evoke; don't let the camera get in the way.


Wolf Herold said...

Came here by way of A. Molitor's 'Photos and Stuff' and found this gem.
Man, you struck cords...

Happy Holidays!!

Mike C. said...

Thanks, Wolf, and welcome!

Best wishes for 2016,


Tamsen Ellen said...

wood's lot is genius. Shame the photo was never attributed when uploaded to tumblr. it's a beauty!

Mike C. said...

Tamsen Ellen,

It is a wonder -- I don't know how he keeps it up. I've lost count of the things I've "discovered" simply by seeing them there!

I doubt anyone knows who took that photograph -- it's almost certainly a "found" item from an anonymous album. Although, whenever I see it, "Lartigue" goes off in my mind!


St Bucky said...

Mike, you sure hit it with the reference to Joni Mitchell's Hejira. I remember that photo inside the album, and yes, this photo strikes me in the same profound way. I have a 94 year old friend named Julia, and, in my head, she is that Hejira skater, and has been ever since I purchased that album in the 1970s. Thanks so much for your wonderful words about two spectacular photos.

Mike C. said...

St Bucky,

Thanks! It's very gratifying for me when an old post gets some attention, and reassures me that there are still some attentive readers out there to please.