Monday, August 29, 2011

Out Wandering Around...

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Yesterday afternoon I was out wandering around
I set out specifically to go photograph a poster of a clown
Seen the day before on the way to work
For if not photographed, things like this tend to disappear... forever
A red traffic light in a small town had forced me to stop
Right next to the clown, with time to see it out the side window
With time to make a mental note to return with the camera soon
And somehow despite all the distractions of the ensuing day
On the way home I remembered, so yesterday on waking up I went
Out to wander around, to photograph a clown
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Sometimes I wonder whether a given photo is better in black and white . . . what do you think ?
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Here is the full scene as seen along a local road . . .
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On the way back home from the clown town, I couldn't resist the temptation to stop at a nearby cemetery, which I've stopped in before, but I wanted to take another look. As is almost always the case when going back to a place already visited, I saw details there yesterday that I hadn't noticed before; a few of them follow here.
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A decorative ceramic cross from years ago, decorations made these days seem decidedly lacking in heart and soul when compared to the crafts of yesterday.
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For some reason these fake plastic flowers really grabbed me . . .
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This next one made me think of Bob Dylan's "Everything is Broken" . . .
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If you've been following these pages for any length of time, you may recall seeing some other fading faces from graveyard photographs. Old photographs like this one that were printed on a ceramic oval, and then which have faded over the years in the sun and rain and frost and fog, never fail to captivate me entirely, to entrance, to enchant, and to inspire me to take the photograph, so as to remember this face before it is entirely gone. Will my photographs also fade away into oblivion one day ?
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To quote from the Dylan song mentioned above :
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"Broken cutters, broken saws
Broken buckles, broken laws
Broken bodies, broken bones
Broken voices on broken phones
Take a deep breath, feel like you're chokin'
Everything is broken"
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More plastic flowers. We live in an increasingly plastic world. Even some cemetery memories are left in plastic.
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Rust eats away slowly but surely . . .
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Even angels are not left untouched by rust . . ..

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Flowers, real and plastic alike, end up in the detritus bin. I always liked that word : "detritus". I wonder what detritus I will leave behind when I go, before I too end up in the detritus bin ? A pile of photographs, a few poems, an echo of a song played on an acoustic guitar ? .


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Footnote added to this post Tuesday night : ... my gut instinct to go back quickly on Sunday and do the above photos of the clown poster with hip hop rappers coming out of his head was justified, as when I went by this afternoon on the way to work, the rapper poster had already been torn off to make room for a new ad poster for the Club, leaving the clown with half his head torn off. After taking this photo on my cell phone I tore off the rest of the remaining clown face, brought it home as a souvenir of this post. It just goes to show, you should always photograph something when you see it if you think it is worth a photo, because it may not be there tomorrow.
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39 comments:

Bienvenue chez French Girl in Seattle... said...

Bonjour Owen. I, too, enjoy visiting French cemeteries. There is so much to look at, so many lives you wonder about while looking at faded photographs and plaques. You, sir, have a great eye for detail, and you take the time to reflect while taking pictures. Great post. Veronique aka French Girl in Seattle

Alistair said...

A very thoughtful and thought provoking post Owen. I think your mood is reflected in the photographs perfectly, as is the question, common to us all I think.

It reminded me of a quote from one of my favourite poems by Norman MacCaig;

"And he is now in that place where no one is. But you can see his tracks still, in the snows of the world."

I always love your photographs from cemeteries. From my visits to France, I have to agree that they are some of the most interesting and moving places to take photos.

And my favourite? It has to be the very first one. Superb, simply superb!

Cheers.

Lorrene said...

The dumpster by the cemetery is unique. Even the cemetery has a cemetery. All that rust and breakage is just a reminder that nothing lasts forever except the soul.
The clown picture is great. The whole post is great. Thank you.

Nathalie said...

Of course that clown NEEDED to be photographed, especially with the other poster on top of it. I like it better in colour - because of the red nose I think. Simple, basic, but totally indispensable.

And then the cemetary - I'm not quite with you on your fascination for such places but I have to say I never fail to be moved by your photos of these fading memories...

ρομπερτ said...

It might indeed be a smile, which is able to make complete what once was broken into pieces.

Thank you for this reminder very much. Please have a good Tuesday - the colour version I like better.

jeff said...

J'aime assez cette affiche qui, déchirée comme ça, me fait penser à une couverture de Comics ! Batman VS The Joker !...
Mais par contre, je n'arrive pas à me faire à l'idée que tu shootes dans les cimetières ! Pas du tout une question de respect... je te fais confiance... mais plutôt question ambiance !
Bon, je m'en vais dormir in pace !...:)
Amitiés Owen...;)

Owen said...

Dear French Girl,
imho French cemeteries are among the most beautiful in the world... Actually, if I may qualify that, it is the older cemeteries which are really full of incredibly fine art, in the stone work, the engravings, the forged iron, the ceramics, calligraphy. More recent cemetery work seems to have lost the soul that was in it years ago, polished marble slabs... Often cemeteries have an old section and a much more recent section, sometimes separated by a wall... I never go into the recent areas. A similar analogy can be made with postage stamps. Back in the 192s, '30s, 40s, 50s, France and French colonies or territories had some of the most beautiful postage stamps in the world, absolutely lovely engraving work on them, deep rich colors, real artwork. Today they are shallow and glossy affairs, lacking heart... But this is true in many domains the world over. I'm not sure where it is all heading...

In any case, thanks so much for your kind words, and you are right, I walk very slowly in cemeteries, often stopping, to ponder the stories on the stones, or to appreciate the artistry in some small detail. History is very visible in such places.

Owen said...

Alistair,
Thank you good sir for the poetry, a very fine line indeed, we should all be so fortunate as to leave a visible track somewhere in the snow... the ever deepening snows. Yes, profound thanks, I am touched by your thoughts here. French cemeteries, in my opinion, are always worth a visit...

Owen said...

Hi Lorrene, hope you are well... I've never seen a sign quite like this one, for the detritus. It is good to see that someone is taking care of the place, cleaning it up a bit... Many thanks !

Owen said...

Dear Nathalie, indeed, indeed, the clown was absolutely crying out to be photographed, and I loved the way the rap group people seemed to be pouring out of a rift in the clown's skull, jokers all...

As for cemeteries, and my fascination with them, for me they are living history and art museums as well as monuments and memorials to all those who have gone before us; to be treated with the greatest respect, in silence, in reverence, but deserving to be remembered in their own right, in photographs, as they are constantly evolving, out of doors, in the weather, at the hands of vandals and administrations which reclaim the oldest graves to recycle the ground. Much art is disappearing, if not photographed, it may be lost forever...

Owen said...

Tag Robert, smiles can heal many wounds and many evils... so keep smiling :-D Be well in your beautiful part of the world...

louciao said...

Visiting your blog, Owen, reminds me of that line from Forrest Gump, "Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get." Although I never know what I might find here to bite into, I almost never have to put it back in the box. The goods are all so rich and tasty, and linger so sweetly on my tongue, that I just have to keep on coming back for more. It's a deadly combination: lo-cal and addictive.
By the way, which is the clown in the first picture?
It's hard to pick a favourite from this assortment. The clown is a bit too nutty, the bin a bit too soft-centred... I think I'll choose the rust-wrapped Jesus to savour as tonight's bedtime snack.
If I should die before I wake, Owen, just put my ashes in a chocolate box and lay a bouquet of those faded daisies with the rusted stems on top, would you please?

Owen said...

Salut Jeff,
En fait, tout petit, j'étais élévé sur un régime de comics, mon grand frère était un fana de Marvel, donc je baignais dans les Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Superman, Batman, The Hulk, Spiderman, etc etc, les comix originaux, et j'adore encore aujourd'hui ce style d'art graphique, des images colorées, simples, puissantes...

Je me souviens que tu as déjà exprimé une réticence pour le sujet des cimetières, mais pour moi, et c'est juste moi, il n'y a rien de troublant dans ces endroits, je les vois comme des havres de paix, des lieux ou les vivants peuvent venir vénérer ceux qui sont partis, sans forcément lien de parenté. As-tu déjà rendu visite à Père Lachaise ? C'est un parc, un musée d'art, et tous les jours il y a beaucoup de monde qui viennent apprécier l'ambiance de paix, de silence, de vénération du passé, de l'histoire, de l'art.

Quand je pense que tôt ou tard nous allons tous y passer, dans le sommeil éternel, je ne vois pas de mal ni de malsain à méditer quelques moments dans ces lieux, à apprécier la poésie de l'histoire, de la vie, de la mort. C'est devenu presque un rite pour moi, certains vont à l'église regulièrement, moi je trouve que des visites aux cimetières m'aident à faire face aux questions les plus profondes, en passant un moment de silence et respect près de ceux qui ne sont plus de ce monde... avant de revenir rejoindre famille et amis avec la joie de vivre, de vivre encore, aussi longtemps que le destin me le permet...

Bonne semaine dans le sud... sans doute plus chaud qu'ici ou l'on se les caille...

Owen said...

Ah Lynne, how you make me smile...

Of course they're all clowns ! Jokers one and all... maybe you could photoshop some bright red noses and clown makeup onto the others, to complete the tableau ?

As for chocolates, and chocolate boxes, lo cal and addictive, yep, the Magic Lantern Show is a certified low fat blog, guaranteed not to cause weight gain, as there is nothing too heavy here, just, as Mr Kundera put it so well, the unbearable lightness of being...

And let's hope that none of us are going to be doing the die before I wake thing anytime soon, may we all have many good years to come, and lots and lots of chocolates ! You do crack me up, without fail. Ah, those faded plastic daisies are a trip, I have to admit that was the first time I ever saw any beauty hidden in a plastic bouquet. Will have to look more closely next time, might be onto something there, a new trend in the post modern decaying plastic art scene... :-D

Steve said...

So is the clown dreaming of hip hop or just a lickle bit of drum and bass?

Adam said...

Owen - clowns should always be in colour, to better show the evil in them!

Concerning cemeteries, I read an interesting article recently about how many of them are now full, and how this poses an important question about what role the dead should play in our lives. In French cemeteries, you find all these rusting remnants and fading photos, but in Germany for example, graves generally only survive for around 30 years before being replaced by another. This is clearly the more practical solution, but are we all ready to accept that?

:: Karine :: said...

bonjour owen adoré !
j'adore ta réponse à jeff et je suis pareil que toi :-) il y a quelques jours nous sommes allés avec edouard au cimetière, pas loin de chez nous, où tu sais et nous avons âssé un moment à méditer notamment sur l'existence, le bonheur d'être sur cette terre et le bonheur d'aimer ! nous y avons vu la tombe d'un petit garçon de 9 ans et il est certain que cela fait réfléchir !!!
il y a toujours des enfants dans les cimetières et c'est ce qui me fait le plus mal, souvent je pleure (même en t'écrivant je suis très émue) et je pense à mon petit garçon que j'aime profondément !

quant à la photo de clown, je suis désolée je ne les aime pas du tout ! ni les cirques sauf celui du Soleil : http://www.cirquedusoleil.com/en/welcome.aspx que je suis allé voir !

j'espère que tu as retrouvé ta voix mon cher owen suite à ton passage chez moi :-) merci pour tes "nons mots"

bisou bisou bisou

Owen said...

Steve, the clown was most certainly dreaming, probably imagining how he could borrow some hip hop ideas to modernize his routine a bit, make it more appealing to today's urban/suburban youth ??? Or he was having some sort of nightmare ?

Owen said...

Hey Adam, ah, evil clowns, yet as children we thought they were hilarious in their big shoes and red noses... Stephen King certainly helped to vilify them, but others have too...

As for cemeteries, I would be extremely saddened to see more of the old graves disappearing here in France, for me they are the heart and soul of French cemeteries, all the old art. I've visited a cemetery or two in Germany, not many, but for me they held none of the charm and beauty of French cemeteries. Yes, it would be a shame for the old graves here to get re-cycled too soon, although I understand that space is an issue. In Paris things got so bad a couple of hundred years ago that many of the old cemeteries were emptied of their bones, which were then sent to the catacombs. Guess I better not lose too much time then in my documentary work... still have many many thousands of cemeteries here in France yet to visit. If I could get a grant for funding maybe I could do it full time for a few years... know any potential sources of funds for such a project ?

Owen said...

Chère Karine,
Après passage à Un Jour l'autre jour, ma voix est restée éteinte pendant de longues heures, mais elle commence à revenir, petit à petit... un crapaud doit croasser quand même :-)

Je ne peux que partager pleinement tout ce que tu dis sur les cimetières, ce sont des lieux très émouvants... toutes ces histoires des vies qui se terminent, parfois trop tôt, beaucoup trop tôt...

Ce cimetière se trouve sur un tout petit chemin peu fréquenté entre le hameau de Mongresin dans la forêt de Chantilly, et le village de Orry la Ville, dans les champs. Il y a des tombeaux surprenant dedans. Le cimetière à Vineuil St Firmin est égalemment surprenant dans la richesse de l'histoire qu'il contient, cela vaut largement une visite... des personnes ayant travaillées au Chateau de Chantilly sont enterrées là. Et puis aussi le cimetière qui est dans Chantilly près de la gare est plein d'histoire du coin...

Merci infiniment pour ta gentillesse et ta compréhension.

Désolé pour le clown, j'ai des sentiments mixtes moi aussi, mais j'aime le graphisme de telles affiches, colorées, et ici le contraste entre clown et rappeurs était trop fort à résister pour moi, il allait de soi que je devrais faire cette photo...

Je te souhaite une belle journée, voire semaine, ensoleillée...

all ways 11 o'clock said...

Owen, this is a very big post. i have come back
a couple of times. the clown picture for me
works both in colour and in b+w. the colour shot is beautiful and funny. but the b+w brings out the eyes in the clown
opposite to the the sun glasses of the rappers. the b+w seems more a statement to me. more and more i am leaning toward b+w in my stuff so this might be a little one sided. great stuff here in both and i am happy you have asked the
question!

i love your graveyard stuff very much. the faded pictures of faces and the plastic and the dying flowers all makes one ask questions. we step back
and ask ourselves about living and dying.

this is a great post Owen and somehow the two themes here really work together.

~robert

mythopolis said...

You know, you've posted some great stuff all along, but to me this is one of the best. All the images and all the words provoke a lot of thought and feeling. The layered embellishment of living, and the brevity of it.

Laurie said...

Wonderfully wonderful, Owen!

Stickup Artist said...

I never know what I'll get when I get here, but it's always something surprisingly unique and deliciously entertaining. As for the clown, I have to go with the colorful one with hip hop spilling out of his brain. Good eye on that one. That's just too much! Beautiful cemetery shots! I especially love the all the rusty bits. You take the very best photo walks!!!

LE CHEMIN DES GRANDS JARDINS said...

Très bonne série de photos sur le sujet des cimetières si particulier et dont tu te sors, très bien.
Je n'aurai pas mis, pour ma pat, la poubelle qui n’apporte pas grand chose à ton travail.

Roger

Catherine said...

I prefer the black and white version of the poster - it enhances the juxtaposition somehow, plus I really like that fading face that is vanishing...very spooky.Greetings from the Riviera...

Owen said...

Hi Robert, really appreciate your company here, your thoughts... it was just a sort of a "day in the life" type post, summing up what took place Sunday afternoon, or most of it... with a few reflections added in. Am happy if this clicked with you at whatever level; blogging is strange in that respect, one puts things out in the blogosphere, and then wonders if it's going to connect with anyone... I'm alway happily astounded when comments come back saying that this or that post worked for somebody... one cannot work in a vacuum, not for long anyway. As for the clown, my gut feeling about needing to get back there and photograph it quickly was justified, because I went back there today on my way to work, and already someone had torn off much of the old posters, to put up new ones, leaving only part of the clown's face, which I photographed again... am adding it as a footnote to the post...

Owen said...

The footnote photo has been posted...

Owen said...

Hey Myth, that's for sure, we know that we are here, but we don't know when we're leaving, so best to make the most of it while we can. Many thanks, your thoughts here mean a lot to me, I know you have a long and rich experience in life and art, if some of this connects for you, then I am floating on clouds...

Owen said...

Hi Laurie,
Now that is a wonderfully succinct comment... short and sweet. Oh, and one part I left out for the time being about Sunday afternoon is that I also went back, as it was on the way, to find that tree photographed a year ago that was busy eating a metal sign which had been nailed to it. The tree and the half eaten sign are still there. I took another photo or two, but visibly it hasn't changed much since the first time. Anyway, am glad you enjoyed this...

Owen said...

Ah, Stickup, you and Lynne, eating chocolates... my favorite chocolates are the ones with cherries in liquor syrup in them... Hopefully someday we'll all be able to get together and go for a photo walk... I'd love to get back out to California someday before too long. So many places I want to go. Where there's a will, eh? Take care, and watch out for wildfires... !

Owen said...

Bonjour Roger, merci mille fois pour ta visite ici, cela fait très plaisir de voir de nouveaux visages passer la porte de la lanterne magique... et suis plus que content si les images du cimetière t'ont plues... sauf la dernière... bien que, j'avoue, j'aimais surtout la pancarte en grosses lettres, noir et blanc, très formelle, concernant le bac aux detritus... comme si il fallait prévenir de ne pas le remplir avec d'autres déchets. Cela m'a fait penser fort à un autre panneau de cimetière qui disait : "Interdiction de déposer des ordures en dehors des poubelles placées à cet effet" ... Vue que parfois on traite certaines personnes d'être des ordures, je trouvais cela assez drole, en tout cas, surprenant pour dire le moins. Merci encore en tout cas, et à bientôt j'espère. J'aime bcp tes oeuvres de land-art.

Owen said...

Hi Catherine, good to see you back in circulation after your very long move halfway 'round the world. Hope all is falling into place for you in the new homestead, it's not easy to change countries... I hope the adaptation period goes smoothly...

The Pliers said...

I like your new banner photo, Owen, in addition to the latest additions to your ever-expanding collection!

Owen said...

Dear Pliers...
Hi ! It seems like ages ! Hope all is ok with you... we must catch up... I've been crazy stupidly busy these past several months, will have to tell you all about it the next time we can chat...

The new banner photo is from down in the south end of the Massif Central, near Florac, an area that was just named "Patrimoine Mondial" or World Heritage Site by UNESCO in June. La Grenouille and I spent two glorious weeks there in July, and then we were out in Brittany for a few weeks in August.

Am happy to see out and about the cybersphere...let's talk soon...

Le Journal de Chrys said...

Coucou Owen

Quand je suis allée en Arles, il y avait le travail de Maya Goded et..... d'autres photographes mexicains dont Iturbide. Un travail en N&B de très grande qualité!!!!

Il y a très longtemps, quand je faisais de l'argentique, je me souviens être allée au cimetière, pour faire des photos avec mon 6X6, il y a une atmosphère particulière, n'est-ce pas?

Margaret said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this post. Thank you! And I, for one, would love to see another three years... :)

Springman said...

I am awestruck
You are a Sage.

Oakland Daily Photo said...

Here's a vote for the color version of the clown. That big red nose just draws the eye into the shot.

I'm shocked that the beautiful ceramic cross has not been stolen. Unless it's nailed down, it wouldn't last two days here. I confess that even I would be tempted to take this beautiful thing home.

I share your appreciation of cemeteries. As I've mentioned ad nauseum at ODP, the local cemetery was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, a fact that continues to awe me. Contrary to the practice of the times, it was designed to be open to all--all religions, races, classes, which makes me proud.

Years ago a visit to the Louisville Cemetery and Arboretum in Kentucky opened my eyes to the wider function of a cemetery. We often visit our own because it is a peaceful and beautiful place to walk. Some folks even come to picnic. Rich in history, art, architecture, and flora and fauna, we see something new and interesting every time we go.

Yes, sometimes we even think of death. We think about the loved ones who have gone before us and about our own eventual end. It's touching rather than scary or depressing. Visiting the graves of others, reading a bit of their history, somehow feels like an act of respect, even with those we don't know. While my own plans are for cremation, the idea of having a stone marker to commemorate my short time on the planet is a pleasing one.