Saturday, December 06, 2008

Thinking about the 1960s

click photo to enlarge
The other evening I came over all 1960s! I'd been listening to the Beatles' "Rubber Soul" album, after which I moved on to "Magical Mystery Tour". Then, with the echoes of "If I needed someone" and "The fool on the hill" still reverberating, I settled down to read a chapter of Reyner Banham's "Theory and Design in the First Machine Age" (published in 1960). Despite its rather forbidding title this is a very readable account of the rise of the International Style. I needed to look again at his review of the Expressionist architecture of Amsterdam and Berlin in the period between 1914 and 1923, a development that ran counter to the emergent and increasingly dominant work of the early modern masters. I wanted to place this style of architecture, and the motivation behind it, against the Post-Modern and so-called "iconic" styles of recent years. Well, it's something to do on a cold winter evening!

However, my mind wandered off at a tangent, and I began to think again about the reasons why, in the pre-WW2 and post-WW2 years the International Style was so successful in continental Europe and the United States, but barely registered in Britain. And from that I started to speculate on whether the revolution in society, architecture, style and music that erupted in England in the 1960s was, in part, a reaction to being so far behind in art, architecture and design. Perhaps the creative people of our country raised their collective gaze from parochial concerns, looked abroad, and the move into modernity that had been achieved elsewhere finally registered. Maybe, at some level, the sudden flowering of Carnaby Street, "Swinging London", the Beatles etc., that in turn gave rise to British art, architecture and design that is now acknowledged as amongst the best in the world, can be linked to the slowness with which the modern age was accepted here.

Which brings me to today's photograph. The thoughts outlined above gave me the idea of doing a few shots that harked back to the 1960s - to Mary Quant and all that. Given my photographic track record there's no chance that I'll be photographing people a la David Bailey, but I did think I'd try a few still life shots and compositions that use that decade as the jumping off point. Perhaps you'll indulge me! Here's the first, of a white mortar and pestle on black and white vinyl, converted to black and white. Mortars and pestles, in my mind, made a return to wider use in the late 1960s, perhaps because, as well as people looking forwards, there was a backwards glance and a plundering of the past going on at the same time - think the satin uniforms on the cover of Sgt Pepper's. Why the conversion given the colour of the items in the shot? Well, the shadows had an orange tinge that detracted from my intention for the image.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 35mm macro (70mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f16
Shutter Speed: 1.6
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -1 EV
Image Stabilisation: Off