Saturday, 23 July 2011
Light and Dark
Weather is always unexpected. Seasons may attempt roughly to toe the line and reflect the time of year (it would be worrying if russet leaves fell from the trees in March). However, Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, in their attempt to find some distinction or definition, are hampered by what the elements throw at them. Weather likes to wrong-foot us. Went out without an umbrella? Ha! The rain doesn’t care. Experiencing an unprecedented heat-wave? Oh, sorry.
However, sometimes it creates extraordinary scenes. In the instance of these photos (the next part of my Bertie’s styling series), it was the storm clouds creating the drama. Great banks of grey in the distance – hovering like piles of mascara-coated cotton wool - were offset by intense sunshine in the foreground; illuminating and sharpening colours.
Looking at the seemingly stage-lit scenery is like seeing a photo with multiple exposures – different weather systems layered over each other.
But isn’t that exactly like life? There’s only one planet earth, but it houses multiple ‘worlds’. London is a prime example – within the space of three streets, one can travel from extreme privilege to poverty. This sense of overlapping lives – and experiences – has been high in my mind recently.
While most of the UK news has been centred on the News of the World scandal (which I will say, I have been following doggedly), with links all the way up to the Prime Minister, other atrocities and tragedies have been occurring worldwide. First, the famine in the Horn of Africa. While the bright lights of the western world have been focused sharply on Fleet Street and the media, the rumbling thunder of empty stomachs has been presented mostly as a background image.
Reading reports on the sheer numbers involved – the children who suffer – the abject loss, is devastating. The immediate reaction, after horror, is one of absolute sympathy; of wanting to do something, anything, to help those most in need. Unicef? Medicins Sans Frontieres? Red Cross? Which one would be most effective? But then the Googling starts. The questions pile up.
When I make a donation, will it be guaranteed to reach those who most need it, rather than being appropriated by corrupt governments? What about global over-population? What other ways are there to address the crisis, rather than tossing money around? How to make an active contribution?
I don’t know enough about economics or politics to form rational answers to the queries above, and if anyone is better placed to give more informed suggestions, then I would be very grateful to hear them.
Clothes, Cameras and Coffee may be a style and photography blog, but I am perfectly aware that I am incredibly privileged in being able to indulge in hobbies and creative aspirations. I have the time to write; to hunt out second hand bargains; to while hours away reading; because I live in a country of comparative material prosperity. Things may be a little less certain than we would like, but we are not in any immediate danger of extremities such as starvation or war.
But then there are events that bring these layered, multiple exposures – snapshots of other people’s lives – closer to home. The Oslo and Utøya attacks are uppermost in my thoughts. The horror is so extreme that I can’t even begin to articulate a response right now. One of my best friends is currently on a different kind of summer camp here in the UK – comparisons are inevitable. The rise of the internet, and 24 hour news channels, means that we seem ‘battle-hardened’ to what we see happening. However, reading details of what has happened provoked similar feelings to hearing snatches about the Beslan school siege when I was much younger – queasiness, bewilderment (and sobering realisation) at the pain humans are capable of inflicting upon each other.
One does wonder though – with the prevalence of a greater world knowledge, and information only a click away – if we shouldn’t have a greater consciousness to match? In all honesty, in an affluent country, it is all too easy to switch off the computer, and retreat into a warm house; pretending that nothing exists beyond the blank screen. Often this might be simply self-preservation – it is impossible to sustain having our minds filled with tragedy 24/7. Nevertheless, one of the fundamental human qualities is compassion, and we need to keep feeling this in order to respond.
To return to the original analogy, the weather backdrop to these photos was one of extreme contrast. All these appalling events around the globe are disturbing. However, they don’t negate moments of wonder or joy either. Life is both incredible, and hard and full of hurt in equal measure – a ragged bag of grief and laughter. It’s dark and light.
The black lace twenties dress was borrowed from Bertie’s, to style. My favourite details are the pink and green hem, with scalloped edging. I styled it using a variety of accessories and garments – including a pink vintage silk skip, a pink silk shirt (with matching scarf), a vintage carpet bag, black men’s M&S brogues, second hand heels, thrifted belts, a charity shopped cardigan and family owned jewellery.
Edit: After further research and discussion, I have made a donation to the DEC appeal, which is an umbrella organisation for fourteen charities.