Experimental Impressionism

I have decided to start on some new directions in my photography for the coming year. To be more precise, perhaps, I am experimenting with different image processing techniques using Photoshop as my primary editing tool.

Today’s image is an attempt at some photographic impressionism, using some of the blur tools in Photoshop. The subject is a narrow laneway in a town somewhere in southern France (likley Arles). The sun was still high enough in the sky to brightly illuminate the buildings in the alleyway, so I wanted to retain some of this brightness, while introducing some mystery and darkness to the outer edges of the image. The vertical blur reflects the direction of the sunlight from above. The archway leading into the alley provides a strong frame around the brighter centre.

I have been following other photographers in WordPress, Flickr and Instagram, and I sometimes find inspiration from their style and techniques. When appropriate, I am quite willing to acknowledge the source of my inspiration. For this particular image, I was influenced by the work of Olga Karlovac.

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French alleyway

Black & White Sunday Photo Challenge – Typical

On two occasions over the past decade, I have visited the Louvre Museum in Paris. On both of my visits, I viewed The Mona Lisa painting by Leonardo da Vinci. This is my first example of the use of this week’s theme word – I am certain that an infrequent visitor to the Louvre, like me, will “typically” view this iconic painting during a tour of the museum.

I took a photograph during each visit, and both images display a “typical” crowd of viewers crowded around the painting. Cameras and mobiles ready to shoot.

Perhaps “atypically,” there is one person in each image who is pointing a camera or phone in the opposite direction. The 2016 version is likely for a selfie, but not the earlier version.

These images have been posted in response to Paula’s Lost in Translation challenge for this week – Typical.

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Mona Lisa, October 2010
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Mona Lisa, April 2016

Doors of southern France – Part 2

This is the second half of my collection of doors from southern France, and this week’s contribution to Norm’s Thursday Doors.

We begin with another door from Narbonne – this one more institutional than the doors included in Part 1. Someone has gone to a lot of work to preserve the finish on these two wood doors. The two gargoyles are also quite well preserved.

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Office door in Narbonne

The glazed door is from a hotel in Avignon. The glazing and the opened door make this entrance much more inviting than any of the other doors – but then, for a hotel to be successful, this is a good feature to have.

Avignon is well known as the site of the Pont d’Avignon, located on the Rhone River. Several popes resided in Avignon in the 14th Century, and parts of the city are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, making it a popular tourist attraction.

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Hotel door in Avignon

The third door is from Les Baux-de-Provence, another historic village in southern France. Baux is a hilltop village that has been inhabited for thousands of years. There are typically more tourists than villagers in town on most days.

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Old door in Les Baux-de-Provence

The largest set of doors in my French collection belong to the Church of Saint-Trophime in Arles. The church is well known as a good example of Romanesque architecture – note the round arch above the doors – as are the sculptures on the portal.

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Church of Saint-Trophime, Arles

Doors of southern France – Part 1

This is the second instalment of my posts dedicated to doors and this week’s contribution to Thursday Doors. This week I have selected two doors from southern France.

These two doors are located in the city of Narbonne, which is located in the former region of Languedoc (now Occitanie) in south-west France. Narbonne is an ancient city, established in the second Century, and located on a major Roman road that connected Italy with Spain. The city became a regional capital, and it reached its zenith in the 12th and 13th centuries, after which it declined in importance.

Both doors are very Medieval in appearance, and one can imagine that they looked the same hundreds of years ago. The diamond motifs and the use of studs are two characteristics of Medieval-style doors.

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Blue door – Narbonne
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White door – Narbonne

Monochrome Arches – Series 3

It is now time to update my collection of Monochrome Arches with some more recent images shot this year. The first two images are post-Industrial Revolution structures from the latter half of the 1800’s. Built of wrought iron, they are impressive in their scale and engineering. These super-sized frames are way beyond the human scale, but they have other admirable qualities – a vantage point from which to view the world and a shelter from the elements.

Then third image is another addition to my collection of churches. St. James Church is framed by the gated entrance.

All of my images in the Monochrome Arches series are also framed with a white matte – a frame outside of the frame. They are sized to be mounted on a 12×16 inch or 16 square inch board.

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Eiffel Tower, Paris, France
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St. Pancras Station, London, England
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St. James Church, Avebury, England

 

Cimetière du Père-Lachaise – Part 2

It has been several months since I posted my Part 1 blog on la Cimetière du Père-Lachaise. For much of this time, I wasn’t certain that I would ever follow up with my planned sequel to Part 1.

This Parisian cemetery opened in 1804. It contains about 70,000 graves, including many famous artists, musicians, writers, politicians, etc. from the past 200 years. It has traditionally been of particular importance to the political left in France. However, at the back of the cemetery, up the hill and about as far away from the main gate as you can get, there are several commemorative monuments. These memorials commemorate several 20th Century wars, and some of the atrocities associated with these wars.

When I saw these monuments, I couldn’t help but wonder – how did these get here, and who was responsible for their installation?

I was especially struck by the monuments constructed in memory of the occupants of Nazi concentration camps, three of which which I photographed.

In order to learn more about the history of the war memorials at Père-Lachaise, I found a blog created by Jennifer Boyer-Switala. Some of her research is incorporated into the following descriptions.

Ravensbrück

Ravensbrück was a concentration camp located in northern Germany and built specifically to accommodate women. It was opened in 1939 and liberated in 1945 by the Russian army. Polish women were the largest population of the camp, but there were many other nationalities represented among about 130,000 female prisoners who were deported to the camp during these seven years.

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Ravensbruck memorial

The “Monument to the Memory of the Deportees of Ravensbrück Camp” was sculpted by Émile Morlaix in 1955. It was commissioned at a time when President Charles de Gaulle was trying to bolster French national patriotism by celebrating the role of the French Résistance during World War II. Many captured female Résistance fighters were imprisoned and died at Ravensbrück, which is likely the primary reason why this memorial was created.

Dachau

Dachau was the first concentration camp built in Germany by the National Socialists Party in 1933. The camp initially imprisoned German citizens opposed to the Nazi regime. Later on, résistants and victims of Nazi oppression were deported there, having been arrested in countries occupied or annexed by Germany. More than 200,000 inmates were imprisoned there over its 12 years of existence, prior to its liberation by US troops in April 1945.

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Dachau memorial

The”Monument to the Memory of the Deportees of Dachau Camp” was designed by architects Louis Docoet and François Spy and installed in 1985. It is constructed of granite and is surmounted by a large red granite stone. The red triangle was used to identify the category of political prisoners in the camp system. This differs from many of the other monuments in its simplicity – a stark antithesis to the atrocities and inhumane treatment forced upon its prisoners.

The Dachau monument was conceived during the presidency of Francois Mitterand. In the 1980’s, France was obsessed by its memory of the occupied years during WW II, and there were prominent trials of several French citizens who had collaborated with the Germans during the war. More than 12,000 French citizens had been arrested and sent to Dachau.

Auschwitz III

The camp at Buna-Monowitz (also known as Auschwitz III) was constructed by the Germans in proximity to the larger Auschwitz extermination camps. Auschwitz III was used to house a labour force to work at the nearby J.G. Farben Company factory, where synthetic rubber and synthetic petrol were produced.

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Auschwitz memorial

The”Monument to the Memory of the Deportees of Buna-Monowitz-Auschwitz III” was commissioned by the organization of survivors from the Auschwitz III camp, under the sponsorship of the French government. It is a bronze sculpture, depicting six skeletal men – one in a wheelbarrow – trudging towards their execution at the Auschwitz gas chambers. It is one of the most graphic memorials in the cemetery.

The memorial was sculpted in 1993 by a famous French cartoonist Louis Mitelberg (aka TIM). Mitelberg’s life experience (1919-2002) mirrored many of the prisoners’ lives. He was born in Poland, and moved to Paris in 1938 to study architecture at L’Ecole des Beaux Arts. After the war broke out in 1939, he joined the French army; was taken prisoner and placed in a camp in Germany; and later escaped, ending up in Edinburgh, Scotland. He then joined the French Free Forces and fought for the liberation of France. Following the war, Mitelberg became a cartoonist and a sculptor.

Louis Mitelberg was also Jewish. The Auschwitz III monument was the first original memorial at Père-Lachaise to specifically mention Jewish victims. Writing of the significance of this sculpture, Mitelberg wrote “For me, this work…represents the life of those who died, those who accompany us in our search for dignity.”