Capture by A photoblog


One picture of you, and no more

by Giovanni Tiso

Reblogged with kind permission from Bat, Bean, Beam.

It was taking me so long to draft an obituary of my beloved Alain Resnais for Overland that I re-watched some of his films, in search of inspiration. That’s how I was reminded of the scene in Last Year at Marienbad in which Delphine Seyrig’s character wanders down a corridor and finds inside a desk drawer hundreds of identical pictures of herself.

In the context of the film, the pictures signify Seyrig’s inability to find external evidence of her past that isn’t frustratingly ambiguous or elusive. As a stranger tries to persuade her that they used to be lovers, her only defence is that she can’t remember him, and it gets progressively weaker.

I had forgotten about this brief scene, and I’m struck anew by that image. A single picture, but in an indefinite, infinitely multiplying number of copies. It’s hard not to think of how digital images circulate on the web, or are stored and backed up in the cloud. Conversely, there is nothing so culturally alien to the present time as the idea that there may be only one picture of any one of us.

In my dissertation I drew a contrast between Winston Churchill, whose life was documented in minute detail form the moment of birth, including a great deal of photographs, and my maternal grandmother, of whom there was only one picture before the age of fifty. This one.

Nonna was sixteen at the time, and pregnant with her first child. The picture is so worn because my grandfather took it with him on his military service. I suspect that this was in fact the reason why the picture was taken.

That there is virtually no visual record of my grandmother until her daughter’s wedding, and a very sparse one since, is in no way unusual. It’s not just that cameras and films were still expensive until the 1960s. It's also that the lives of working class people – and women especially – were not deemed worthy of documentation. Nonna shared in this reticence, and was always reluctant to have her picture taken. In the one we selected for her tombstone she looks like she’s saying: ‘Why are you doing this?’

It hardly bears pointing out that we have collectively moved past such prejudice and misgivings, and that most people are as keen to self-document as the state and corporations are to document them, regardless of class – and when it comes to a visual record, even more so. (This at least in Western countries, and probably outside of them as well.) It’s also trite and boring to speculate whether we may be taking and sharing too many pictures, creating a surplus of description that impoverishes each individual image. Which, to the extent that it may be true, is most often meant as a critique of other people’s behaviour, and seldom reflexively, to question the roots of that desire to see oneself socially immortalised.

But I wanted to turn that question around this week, starting from the arresting image of a drawer full of the same photograph. What if you were forced – due to a material constraint that is pretty well unthinkable – to pare down your personal visual archive to a single picture? Which one would you choose? How would you operate that selection? What would that picture come to mean to you, and could you bear to let go of the others?

Let's say it has to be a photo of you, not to make it a question of who else is involved, or fulfil their own quota of one. And if it has to be a photo of me, it would probably have to be any one from the set which included the one below. So let's say this one.

It was taken on a Sunday afternoon, in 1975. I know it was a Sunday, because my father worked on Saturdays and we had guests that day. The photographer was a friend of the family who died just a few weeks ago. There are few photos of him, because he was always the one behind the camera. And he stopped doing it, eventually. He had grown tired of friends using his portraits for their tombstones.

I am attached to this picture because there aren't very many of me as a child, and because I can see bits of the house in which I was born, and how little it has changed (I spoke about this before). Except for the armchair, that I destroyed by jumping on it repeatedly. Were it the only picture of me, I think I could live with that. It would speak to me of another life.

To have a single portrait of oneself means to have one more than almost all of the people in almost all of history. But wouldn't that image become an obsession? What if you forgot everything about your life except the context of that one picture? Or remembered everything, except for that. You are sitting in the garden of a wealthy estate, on a sunny day, not far from a statue of which we can only see the plinth and legs. You seem to be happy. You just don't know why, or who the person in the picture is.


A Month of Sundays

by Jackson Perry

Fab Feb, on the March.

Someone told me it was March, and I gave them 'the look'. This just isn't possible.

There is a strange sense of déjà vu with all this. Just as I was about to post an 'Indian Summer' thread, the weather happens, and our friends in Christchurch are under the cosh again. Wishing you all the best, and I can't really think of anything appropriate to say, other than FFS world, sort it out!

Looking back on February, it was a busy and eclectic month of activities. To reflect my jumbled state of mind, I'm lumping it all together, in the hope you'll all weigh in with your own liquorice allsorts.

I'll fill in the details in the captions.

Capture away.


Auckland Pride Festival

Pah Homestead

New Zealand Fashion Museum - Hello


Laneway 2014 + Lorde

by Jackson Perry

The fifth Laneway... was this the fifth? Certainly the third, and likely the last at Silo Park, although it seems negotiations are 'ongoing'.

Let's get this bit out of the way early. The venue and organisation yesterday, from where I was standing, walking, lying on the grass, climbing the gantry courtesy of Visa View, was top notch. Hard to fault it, so I won't.

I also found having made my plans well in advance using the Laneway app, I was never at a loss what to do next. Although when Jagwar Ma did their ear-splitting aural assault, I did perhaps drift over to the Thunderdome for a little respite.

I'll let the photos tell the rest of the story.

Capture away.


ETA: Last night Lorde did her make up show on the Laneway site at Silo Park. If we can move past the ridiculous headlines our nanna daily has put out there, the fans were thrilled. We should remember that Ella and her crew, 48 hours prior, were in LA getting two Grammys, and tomorrow embark on a month long tour of Europe. She didn't have to come back for her fans, but she did, and the performance was brilliant.

I added a couple of photos to the main post, and will put one or two more in the comments.

Finally, not sure this will be there for long, so while it is, grab Dan's (@Danbakes) recording of Lorde covering James Blake's Retrograde.


Emma in Egypt

by Emma Hart

There are several places in Egypt you're not allowed to take cameras. They're not allowed inside the temples at Abu Simbel, for instance, or anywhere in the Valley of the Kings. There are other places, like most of the museums, where you can't use a flash, and the rooms are very dark.

In other places, like inside the temples that still have rooves, you get caught in a dilemma: a grainy no-flash image that catches what you're actually seeing, or a brighter one that changes the colours and washes out the details? In Egypt, photography could be difficult, and I have to assume that's the reason why, in winnowing these photos down for Capture, I've ended up with mostly photos of Jordan.

My travelling companion and I ended up taking complementary strategies. He took a waterproof travel camera, that could handle the dust and sand. I took a more temperamental beast with excellent optical zoom. I don't know that it made a lot of difference most of the time.

And still, the best shot I took of the Treasury at Petra, I took on my iPhone.


BDO - Post Hoc

by Jackson Perry

There was no shortage of hype for this year's Big Day Out, The Comeback Tour. Then when Blur pulled out, there was no shortage of gripe. I was certainly looking forward to seeing them.

Looking back on last Friday, after 40 minutes in the 'bladder control' queue, 40 minutes in the 'this grey beard is painted on' age verification queue, and giving up before the 'died of dehydration' queue, I could easily get drawn into the post mortem. Make an orderly line here.

However, it certainly wasn't their fault Vodafone's 3G service was down the whole time I was there, coming back just in time for me to post a photo of a letterbox on twitter as we left. It was a nice letterbox. I mean look.

Let's face it, there were some issues. They have been acknowledged, and next year the organisers have promised to do better. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt for now.

Overall I liked the venue. The trees, grass and readily available shade were a welcome change from the gravel pit Mt Smart had become.

My highlights of the day, in no particular order;

Naked and Famous - I was convinced.

Arcade Fire - I saw them at BDO 2008, and they just keep getting better.

Hives - If he would only SHUDDUP! Also, calling fans 'Hobbitses' doesn't necessarily endear them towards you. M'kay?

Ladi6 - She always wins the '100% into her performance' prize.

Possibly my favourite of all was Tom Lark with Lydia Cole in the MetroMag Cube. They were wonderful. I'd like a whole gig just with them.

It is possible that not being allowed my bag in the D has meant the main stage photos are a little 'distant'.

Feel free to add your own photos/memories in the comments.

Capture away.