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I can’t believe that I’ve never featured this sign on the blog before, yet I can’t find a previous mention.

This post was filed under: Art, , .

‘Yevonde: Life and Colour’

This exhibition has recently transferred from the National Portrait Gallery to The Laing. Before visiting, I knew nothing about Yevonde, but I came away with a real appreciation for her life and work. She was a photographer who developed her practice in the period between the two World Wars, and who was a pioneer of the use of colour photography. There were several strands running through the exhibition that stood out to me.

The exhibition did a good job of helping me to understand how colour photography initially developed. It was a simple process involving taking multiple simultaneous images effectively through multiple cameras, with coloured filters in front of each one. These could then be developed using coloured inks and composited to create a colour image. It’s a simple and logical process, but one that was entirely new to me.

Yevonde developed a distinctive style for her colour photography:

If we are going to have colour photography, for heaven’s sake, let’s have a riot of colour.

My colour perception is pretty poor, but even so, the Vivex photography combined with Yevonde’s compositions seemed stunning vivid on the gallery walls, almost hyperreal. This is perhaps most celebrated in her work photographing women dressed as goddesses.

The exhibition included a small goddess-inspired dressing up corner, and during my visit, this was occupied by a woman who seemed to be having the time of her life, alone in front of the mirror. More power to her.

I was interested in Yevonde’s feminism, which was well represented in the exhibition. Most of the human subjects featured in her work were female, and it was suggested that much of her early interested in photography was driven by a desire to be independent.

The duties of a wife with a separate career have yet to be defined, and although complete unselfishness, has always been considered a sure foundation for domestic happiness, I am not convinced.

The curators placed one of the largest of Yevonde’s self-portraits alongside this quotation:

This is not the story of a woman’s life, but the story of a photographer that happens to be a woman.

Almost exactly a year ago, I enjoyed the Design Museum’s exhibition on Surrealism. I was therefore interested to see in this exhibition the interaction between Yevonde’s photography, and colour photography more generally, and surrealism. It is surely no accident that the often bright colour of surrealist work came about just as colour photography was beginning to make a splash.

All things considered, I thought this was a great exhibition. I learned things from it and gained new insights and perspectives on the art featured. It was well worth a visit.


Yevonde: Life and Colour continues at The Laing until 20 April.

This post was filed under: Art, , , .

Merry Christmas

What do you write in a Christmas Day blog post?

This is this blog’s twenty-first Christmas, and I’ve written ten previous Christmas Day posts. Most of them are entirely forgettable, but looking through them, two stood out.


In 2009, I ranted about the Dean of Newcastle ranting about Ann Summers. I wrote that

Christmas in particular brings out the worst in Christians. Many normally tolerant Christians see it as their duty to shout down those who don’t have god at the centre of their seasonal celebration, regardless of whether those people actually believe.

This brought back memories, but made me reflect that I’ve haven’t heard anyone complaining about Christ being take out of Christmas for years. I wonder whether the number of complaints has decreased, or whether I just don’t see them any more. It strikes me as the sort of argument I’d once have seen on social media, but that I perhaps don’t see any more as a result of abandoning those platforms.


Last year, I wrote that

One of work’s national leaders tied himself in such knots this week in his attempts to be religiously inclusive that he ended up robotically “wishing you all a wonderful set of end-of-year activities.”

No other Christmas greeting has ever made me laugh so hard and, while not his intention, perhaps that makes it the best greeting of all.

I had forgotten all about that and chuckled anew at the memory. I haven’t seen anything to rival it this season, sadly.


Looking elsewhere for inspiration: Diamond Geezer, an altogether more successful blogger for a similar number of years, normally sticks to a Christmassy picture.

So accept this shot of Newcastle’s Christmas tree. For more than seventy years, a tree has been sent from Bergen as a token of appreciation for support during the Second World War. This year, however, it seems someone noticed that we’re in a climate crisis, and that killing a tree and shipping it over 1,000 miles isn’t all that wise.

Instead, a new tradition began this year: decorating an existing, living tree that grows near the traditional site, and shipping a bauble from Bergen instead. Using a tree that’s still in the ground strikes me as going one better even than the King’s potted, replantable effort!

This post was filed under: Post-a-day 2023, .

Jesmond Dene waterfall

Newspapers often complain about television repeats at Christmas, and in some ways, this is a blog equivalent. The photos are new, but I’ve shared images of this waterfall many times, even as recently as last spring. Here’s an animated gif of the same place nine years ago.

William Armstrong, a noted manufacturer of armaments, used explosives to blast the rock and create the waterfall in the middle of the 19th century.

Armstrong is a fascinating character who is often cited as a supporter of renewable energy thanks to his interest in hydroelectricity and solar power.

But this can sometimes be overdone: both Wikipedia and The Telegraph have strongly implied that his eco-credentials were behind an 1863 prediction that coal mining in Britain would be over within two centuries. This is bollocks, as The Spectator’s contemporary report makes clear: he was merely predicting that ‘in a century or two, the United States, which possess coal-fields thirty-six times as extensive as ours, will supply the world with coal’.

I planned to use this post to moan that Rishi Sunak’s decision to approve a new coal mine during a climate emergency would mean that Armstrong’s prediction about coal production in the UK would be proven wrong. But that, too, would deviate from facts: Woodhouse Colliery is scheduled to cease production after twenty-five years, long before the 2063 ‘deadline’.

A landslip caused by extreme weather a decade ago badly damaged the Dene, and some paths are still closed off. It is hard to be optimistic about its chances of surviving the climate catastrophe we’ll be living through by 2063.

This post was filed under: Photos, Post-a-day 2023, , , .

Brrr

This post was filed under: Photos, Post-a-day 2023, .

First proper snow of the season

This post was filed under: Photos, Post-a-day 2023, .

Sarah de Lagarde fell on to the Tube tracks. Nobody helped. Why?

Sometimes, a newspaper story just takes my breath away, and a great example was published online yesterday: The Financial Times story about Sarah de Lagarde’s horrific accident on the Tube last year. This is partly because it’s a story that I’d completely missed previously, and because the story itself is so alarming, but it’s also attributable to Madison Marriage’s brilliant writing.

I would have guessed that people falling between a train and a platform was an exceptionally rare event: it’s the stuff of nightmares. To find out that it happens on the Underground every other day feels alarming, even considering the huge number of journeys.

This post was filed under: News and Comment, Post-a-day 2023, , , , , .

It’s Great North Run day

The stage is set for the Great North Run, which remains the world’s largest half-marathon. Starting in Newcastle, the participants run down to the coast at South Shields.

It’s the first ‘proper’ Great North Run weekend in several years: 2020 was cancelled due to the pandemic, 2021 took a ‘modified’ pandemic-friendly route, 2022 saw a sombre event with the associated smaller runs cancelled due to Elizabeth II’s death.

Sir Mo Farah has also chosen this year’s race to be the finale of his career as a professional athlete. He’s won the Great North Run six times to date, and the Metro has changed the cubic sign en route at Heworth to feature his silhouette. Local radio wags have called it the Metmo.

The Red Arrows will fly past at 1135, and shake our house as they do so.

I don’t think there’s been a year in the decades I’ve lived in the North East when I haven’t known and sponsored at least one person in the run. I’ve never taken part myself… obviously… but Wendy has done one of the shorter runs before. Perhaps more shockingly, despite living within spitting distance of the route, neither of us has ventured out to spectate at the main Great North Run.

Will that change today? We’ll see…

This post was filed under: Post-a-day 2023, , .

Morning mist

This post was filed under: Photos, Post-a-day 2023, .

Holy Jesus

The Holy Jesus Hospital in Newcastle is a Grade II* listed building, which started life as an Augustinian Friary in 1291. The hospital bit was built in 1682. These days, it’s a load of offices, so don’t go thinking you can have a poke round.

For my part, despite having lived in the North East for two decades, I’d never passed the building on foot until today. I’ve never made a special effort to see it, and it is well tucked away.

The tucking is due to the disastrous 1960s town planning decisions taken in Newcastle, which almost saw this historic building demolished. It was ultimately ‘saved’—but now has the Central Motorway thundering past it just a few metres away, and is cut off from the city by the multi-lane Swan House Roundabout. It can only be accessed by a series of underpasses. It became a local history museum shortly after being ‘saved’, but this closed in 1995.

It’s not somewhere it’s easy to just happen across… although I managed to do just that when wandering the area.

This post was filed under: Post-a-day 2023, , .




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