February 12, 2011 § Leave a comment
If you want to know the stylistic development of culture and pop culture in the 20th century and you don’t have that much interest in the details of its content, I think you just need to look at and watch as many adverts as you can. This advert from the 1930s uses art deco stying – look at the head of the woman to the right of the Nestle picture! – to advertise small, mundane things. Advertising moves almost as fast as we do. Right now it’s stuck in some kind of hideous viral video rut, which I find particularly annoying. People just watch something funny and talk about it, same as ever; I think aiming for the style of stupid videos on Youtube is a bad idea, because it’s not really the style that makes them go viral – it’s whether or not it’s funny, or whether or not people find it genuine and entertaining. Maybe we’ll get more great adverts like the Hovis one that swept through the 20th century, which takes the style of some popular homegrown British films and telly shows and runs with it, clutching a small loaf of bread as it goes (becoming a minor viral hit itself in the process), or maybe we’re just going to be stuck with stupid men singing annoying songs forever, as they become less and less interesting. Or maybe the marketers and ad men will find other things to become obsessed with.
Sorry I haven’t posted much recently – I’m spending a lot of my time reading Lorine Niedecker, Shakespeare plays and Charles Olson for essays and general university stuff at the moment, which doesn’t leave that much time for other things. I am really glad, though, that the BBC is running a lot of shows about books at the moment, and if I get time I want to talk about In Their Own Words, which was on last year and is being repeated at the moment. It’s amazing and smart and unassuming, in all the ways that Sebastian Faulks’s show (the first episode of which I found sexist and irritating) just isn’t. It’s educational and mentions issues to do with gender etc. without needing them to be the focus of the show. It talks about Barbara Cartland, Evelyn Waugh and Alice Carter. If you didn’t catch it last year, you should watch it now. It’s on iplayer. Go on.
February 4, 2011 § Leave a comment
This photograph is from circa 1860. It’s such an early photograph – only a few decades after photography was invented, after the deaths of Byron, Shelley, and all that lost generation of dead beautiful young public figures who were the last that we will never see photographs of, and will never really be able to imagine living around us. And many people in the 1860s couldn’t afford photographs, and they were still a fair novelty, still something that required effort and love. Yet, even in the 1860s, people cared about their cats enough to photograph them – enough to get them to pose at a studio, even! I love this. I love how the cat is slightly out of focus, and looks slightly annoyed at the whole charade. I love that the photo’s been put in this ornate, beautiful frame. It’s such a wonderful glimpse into the smaller things that people cared about, even people back in 1860s Texas.
December 23, 2010 § Leave a comment
One thing that I’ve discovered this year that I now love fairly deeply is the Flickr Commons. It’s basically a searchable archives of copyright-free photographs (and illustrations, maps, etc.) held in museums’ collections from around the world. There are a lot of really old photographs here – the one above is from, as the link says, 1893. And it’s beautiful – I’m fascinated with the 19th and early 20th century world fairs, expositions, etc., and here you can see the beautiful, ornate structures, temporary monuments to the manufacturing and electric industries, and they’re perfectly sharp, unmoving. Below them, the people are a blur – it’s a tell-tale sign that it’s a long exposure, that this is an old photograph. The people seem more transient than the structures around them – but the people would have mostly outlived the structures that tower over them. All that beauty for a large, industrial fair; a temporary exposition. Incredible.
I’m going to make a series of posts looking at my favourite photographs from the Flickr Commons. If you want to suggest one, leave a comment or drop me an email.