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Sunday, 20 March 2011


Fine watchmaker at work:

I found the photos unsatisfying too. I think you did a good job articulating why.

Interesting analysis of snap shots. It's great to be able to reliably find good writings about the general subject of photography.

In my view, when Barthes calls a photo "a message without a code" he really means that photos can be understood by anyone, i.e. their reference (not meaning) intelligible. (If you're referring to Rhetorique de l'Image, Communication, 4/64) The codelessness of a photo has to do with its relation to truth, not to its significance.

You have to admit, that video is funny. If it were a movie, it would be contrived and boring and ultimately stupid (like a Jim Carey film, for instance), but in this case, it is funny. Particularly the last bit when she comes at the cameraman. :)

I was looking at the photos, too, and there is quite a lot of them that elicit a "why's that funny" response. So people a hundred years ago had a different view of things. So what?

What you don't take into account, the categories you listed represent what people still photograph today. Admittedly, it's more of mobile-phone photography than anything else, but they do still show around the same things.

If the world were to end today, and these pictures were all that remained to depict what it was like to be human, d'you think we would be remembered with any degree of accuracy? As usual,Mike, your posts keep our brains alive. We suffer from the Illness of Expectations, particularly in photography, whether it be our equipment, or our images.
Sometimes it is ok to have photographs as cartoons!

The "This is not a brothel" picture instantly reminded me of this entry -- http://esotericlondon.com/2011/03/17/no-274-cleveland-street-w1/ -- over in Esoteric London. In that excellent blog Roger Dean and David Secombe provide wonderful context for their photographs -- usually by quoting some found text. It's the counterpoint between text and photo that makes the whole thing work so well.

I love that brothel sign! I think I will put one on my door. Should get any visitors chuckling. Maybe I will change my porch light to a red one.

"Although they give me more to think about than the ubiquitous scenics that bore me out of my mind"

Ah well, different strokes . . . Much as I enjoy TOPE, one of the mysteries to me is how you can recommend so many photographers in "Random Excellence" who present endless pictures of ordinary people doing ordinary things and ordinary buildings in ordinary places.

How anyone can prefer yet another picture of some kids walking down a sidewalk on the street of another '60s suburb, one pushing a bicycle, to yet another picture of beautiful trees hanging over a body of water, in some state of serenity or agitation, is beyond me. /;^>

I especially like the second image because it reminds me of Jacques Tati. I can just see M. Hulot trying to keep the trees in place in the face of a hurricane.


Insightful essay, Mike, but I think there's more to that final photograph -- the man holding onto the tree -- than is covered by your comment on composition and tension. I see in it a strong element of "message without a code": the man is leaning into the wind -- if you look closely it appears that he's not trying to keep himself upright, but rather he's trying to keep the tree from being blown over.

It's a 'decisive moment' .... as it might have been portrayed by Harold Lloyd.

"one of the mysteries to me is how you can recommend so many photographers in "Random Excellence" who present endless pictures of ordinary people doing ordinary things and ordinary buildings in ordinary places. How anyone can prefer yet another picture of some kids walking down a sidewalk on the street of another '60s suburb, one pushing a bicycle"

Huh? Sure you're thinking of this site? I went through the three most recent pages of the "Random Excellence" category and I have no idea what picture or pictures you're talking about.


Love that video- but it's got my BS detector going. That double whammy is so perfect- and the camera doesn't even flinch.

Sort of similarly, in color, is something I just found. "Graphoscope | A Travelling Photographic Dispensary": http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/lexmachina/graphoscope-a-travelling-photographic-dispensary?ref=spotlight

I think the second shot is excellent!

Meard not Mead. But yes can confirm. I have the same picture somewhere...

The Google Maps link provided by Harry Lime led me to this photo of 7 Meard St, Soho by Ben.Harper on Flickr...


"Because sometimes a sheet of A4 and some Blu-tak just won't do."

Ain't that the truth.


David Secombe from Esoteric London here ... nice to see our site referenced in this discussion (it wasn't an inside job I promise!)

You may like to know that the house in your photo - in Soho's Meard Street - used to belong to the artist Sebastian Horsely, who committed suicide a year or so ago. Horsely has a lengthy Wikipedia entry, so I won't rehash all of it it here, but it is a sad and ironic story: he was, in fact, a well-known frequenter of prostitutes, so the message on his door might be seen as a sort of double-bluff.

We are doing a piece on Horsley later this year (we are doing a Soho week) and John Claridge has sent us a fantastic portrait of the artist for this purpose (we are opening Esoteric up to other photographers).

All best, David.

The door is 7 Meard Street in London, where the writer Sebastian Horsley lived.

He was a well known frequenter of prostitues.

I think Harry Lime is correct in the location: No 7 Meard Street. I did a quick Google on the text of the sign, and there are a few references, blog posts and Flickr photos. Among the links was an obituary of an artist who lived there at some point in the last twenty years. I hadn't heard of him, but by all accounts an "interesting figure" who underwent a crucifixion for the sake of his ideas on art. Worth a read anyway.


I'm now going to have to give my browser history a deep cleaning to get the text of that Google search out of there. It could easily be very misinterpreted!

"This is not a Brothel. There are no prostitutes at this address."

These are NOT the droids you seek...

"This is not a Brothel. There are no prostitutes at this address."
kind of like
"I am not a crook" ?

Speaking of soho bordellos:
When I first moved to NYC in the late 70s I sublet a loft on green street in soho. Every day once an hour a tour group would stop just below our second story window and some guy with a megaphone would go on about a famous brothel, one among 23 on that block along with more than 40 bars. I think there was a famous murder in our building but at that part of the lecture the group had moved up the block. I must have heard that 5 times a day for 3 months.

I've looked at B&WTF before, and pretty much agree with your impression.

I like www.shorpy.com a lot better. I've wasted hours there.

I tried to link to the following picture, but it's too big, or I'm not clever enough. Anyway, it should make you smile.


Oops, now the picture comes out too small. What's funny, besides the real amusement on the soldier's faces, is that the guy in front is holding a tiny rabbit.

Yes, B&WTF seems a bit of a mixed bag. I'm sure there are a few film and TV stills in there, plus I spotted a Joel Peter Witkin photo and a couple of images of Yves Klein artworks.

Someone has already noted that the door pictured, in Meard Street, Soho, was the entrance to a house that contained the apartment of the late Sebastian Horsley, an artist of sorts. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sebastian_Horsley
As someone has pointed out Mr. Horsley was an enthusiastic and vocal consumer of prostitutes, so perhaps this sign is after Magritte: "Ceci n'est pas un bordel."
I first photographed the sign about 7 years ago. In fact two of the doors on this small frontage had similar signs, one simply stating "There are no prostitutes at this address". Which of these two locations contained his flat I'm not sure. Anyone with even a passing acquaintance with the area will not find it difficult to understand why the signs were put up.
The area abounds with all kinds of anomalies; for example nearby Berwick St. Market, characterised by an abundance of prostitutes' walk-ups as well as a selection of fruit and vegetables, has been chosen as the location of an Islamic Centre.

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