Thursday, 1 January 2015

the man with a tortoise on his head - on portraits and poses

I am returned from Vancouver; a visit to my daughter who is lucky enough to live with a view of the mountains and parks from her city apartment.

On the way back I slept as 2014 eased into 2015. Rudely awoken at one point by a very loud announcement that I should prepare myself for an emergency landing, adopt the brace position, and  find my life jacket from under my seat.

It brought home to me the recent loss of another airliner into the ocean, and gave me a small taste of the fear that must have been felt for those moments before lives ended.

Fortunately for us, as we were informed by the captain some 30 minutes later, this announcement was a 'mistake'. Someone hit the wrong button. We carried on cruising and landed without further hitches. My heart beat settled, and we enjoyed the rantings of a London taxi driver for another hour before finally reaching the peace of home.

I learnt from the taxi driver a few cheerful facts about recent events

  • the ebola crisis has arrived in the UK
  • 1000 refugees have been abandoned on a boat
  • 20 million pounds have been lost on Boris bikes
  • it is dull and rainy because of a warm front stuck off the coast of Ireland
  • Southampton beat Arsenal; not good news
  • shares in the Post office are falling steadily
  • buses now control traffic lights in London, and you only get 8 seconds on green.....
  • thousands caught out by snow in the alps
  • an airplane crash......

By the time we got home I felt that either he or I should be treated for depression. Nothing like starting the New year on a happy note.

But at least I have some photos to remind me of the good times we had on our holidays.

Portraits of ones we love. Moments recorded for posterity. Remembering the good times.

A trip to MOA ( Museum of Anthropology at the university of British Columbia) had a fascinating exhibition, 'Pigapicha' on the culture of studio portrait taking in Nairobi over the past century.

Pigapicha means 'take my picture'

Studio portraits change with the fashion, just as our clothes and hairstyles do.

Rigid formal poses loosen up and smiles appear over time.

So much of the story is in the eyes.

Frames and borders change with the times too, as do studio backdrops and props.

These ones below particularly formal.

What do studio portraits say about us?

Why do we make them when we all have cameras and phones with which we constantly capture our daily lives?

Which are the better representation of ordinary life?

Would you rather be photographed with a tortoise on your head and with your watch ostentatiously front stage, to show that you have a sense of humour and are wealthy, or with a warm smile and a 'natural' pose?

Backdrops also change with fashion. 

Would you like the alps behind you?

Or prefer to be portrayed sitting on a coca-cola bottle or flower?

Times have changed. Many of the Nairobi studios have closed down now, and these type of images are no longer popular.

My daughter gets married this year.

I hope she looks happier in her wedding photos than the bride below.

1 comment:

  1. There is another guy who floats ovals onto his portraits.. Can't remember his name .. 1970's