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Photography

Fox for a Turtle: Still Searching for the Arcades

While we were in Manchester, Graeme took us to the beautiful Barton Arcade. I took some candid shots as we reflected on the days of Baudellaire and the flâneur, a literary type from nineteenth-century France portrayed in Baudellaire’s poetry as a man of leisure, an idler, an urban explorer and a connoisseur of the street. Allen lamented that the Barton Arcade seemed less grand than the arcades he imagines from Walter Benjamin’s beloved and unfinished Arcades Project (which is largely responsible for giving the meta concept of the flâneur scholarly importance). I guess this gives us an excuse to go searching, like modern day flâneurs, through the streets of Paris for something that resembles what Allen has in his imagination about Benjamin’s arcades – an impossible feat to be sure, but a journey that must be undertaken one day!

Fox at Edwards Shoes
Fox at Edwards Shoes

Barton Arcade in Deansgate Manchester is a beautifully restored piece of Victorian architecture originally built of iron and glass in 1871. The arcade was restored in the 1980s and now showcases high-end shops, and numerous office suites. There are three tiers of balconies inside with ornamental balustrades adorning the U-shaped shopping arcade and two octagonal domes rising from glass pendentives. It is said to be the best example of this type of cast-iron and glass-roofed arcade anywhere in England.

Benjamin writes about the creation of arcades in the city of Paris as an architectural change rooted in the rise of capitalism. Arcades consisted of passageways through neighborhoods, which were covered with a glass roof and braced by marble panels resulting in a kind of interior-exterior for vending purposes.

These passages were “lined with the most elegant shops, so that such an arcade is a city, even a world in miniature. Within these arcades, the flâneur is capable of finding a remedy for the ever-threatening ennui. He is able to stroll at leisure; one might even go to the extreme of allowing a pet turtle to set his pace, observing the people, the building facades, the objects for sale–entertaining and enriching his mind with the secret language of the city (Baudelaire). I can hear Paris calling for us.

Barton Arcade, Manchester
Barton Arcade, Manchester
Barton Arcade, Manchester
Barton Arcade, Manchester
Graeme, Jaeho, Allen
Graeme, Jaeho, Allen

High Speed Retro: Fun with Instagram

Although I had fun playing with the Instagram ap on my iPhone during my recent UK trip, I have to admit feeling slightly apprehensive about taking the phenomenon too seriously within artistic practice. Aesthetically speaking, Instagram and it’s predecessor, Hipstamatic, seem to follow in the footsteps of the Lomo, the analog camera with numerous incarnations at the center of the Lomographic Society, which professes a motto of “Don’t think, just shoot.”

Unlike the Lomo however, Instagram produces digital images well suited for social media platforms whose users demand instant gratification. It’s easy to take a shot, apply jazzy, retro-looking filters and share the results over a variety of social networking services in seconds flat.

A recent New Yorker article has this to say about the Instagram phenomenon:

“Instagram’s “Most Popular” feed is filled with sunsets over cities and beaches and points in between. It might be said, though, that all Instagrammed photos emphasize photography as an elegiac or twilight art, one that rushes and fakes the emotion of old photographs by cutting out the wait for history entirely, and giving something just a few seconds old the texture of time. We are creating a kind of instant nostalgia for moments that never quite were.”

Sometimes (from the archives)

Sometimes I’m awake as I lie sleeping,
Winding still images around my fingers like string.
My dreams are filled with moments I’ve forgotten.
Certain objects in my heart shift for my peace of mind. – MJJ

Sunflower KC, MO – Lomo by MJJ

(from the archives – Originally posted on 12/31/06 on a former site)

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