Grahamstown in Black and White

It’s an unusual place – Grahamstown – located in a basin at the headwaters of the Kowie river. The poor black population in the eastern townships look across to the middle class suburbs on the other side of the valley.  There are not many South African cities where black and white are so closely juxtaposed. I live in Sunnyside, on the south side of town, and our house is quite high up on the side of a hill. A lot of my pictures look down into the valley.  I’m frequently photographing into the light too.  The cathedral is nearby – further down Hill Street – with the northern suburbs lying beyond.  Makana’s Kop is another Grahamstown landmark. It dominates the eastern side of town – across the Belmont Valley.

I wanted a set of black and white pictures so I needed to capture textures and shapes. South African townships are typically laid out on rectangular lines. This makes for clear compositions.  The two pictures here were both taken in winter with low angled light. Before dawn Vukani was wreathed in mist and smoke. I managed to catch the first rays of sunlight cutting across the mists.  Monument to Makana was taken just after a storm had passed at sunset.  Highlights of rain outline the regular street patterns.  The 1820 Settlers Monument is the large rectangular building that lies in the foreground of the picture.

In summer we are likely to get thunderstorms – but many of them drift eastwards past the town.  From the stoep of our house you can see them over the horizon – behind the spire of the Dutch Reformed Church.  Of course some of them do hit the town bringing heavy rain and dramatic lightning.

Off to the north west is the Rhodes University campus.  It’s surrounded by tree lined streets. Some exotic monkey puzzle trees are in the foreground of this picture.  Belmont Valley lies to the south east.  It’s where the Kowie River runs down to the sea. The leafy suburbs shown here are above and below Hill Street. They are beside the old road down to Port Alfred.

The last two pictures are also taken from the south side of town.  They’re higher up – on Mountain Drive – where we take our dog walking.  Both of them are looking right over the bowl containing the old districts of Grahamstown.  The townships have now spread right up Lavender Valley and out on to the plateau at Hooggenoeg.  The mountains on the skyline are the Amatolas.  The last picture is looking north-west – into the semi-arid Karoo. It shows the Winterberg range that is approximately 80 kms away.

Contact me at roddyfox@mac.com if you’d like to purchase any of these images.  They’re reasonably priced. All of the pictures were taken with my Olympus OMD EM5 MarkII.  I’ve edited them in Lightroom using the Nik collection of plugins.

 

 

Trees – at Space Creative and Culinary on October 28th

I always like to make a mosaic of the images I’m going to show.  So this first picture’s your overview of the 14 images that’ll be up for sale at Space Creative and Culinary, 14 Fitzroy Street, Grahamstown on 28th October.  They’re almost all pictures of trees: Balanites, Baobab, Birch, Cabbage,  Fig, Fever, Hornbeam, Oak, Shepherd’s and Yellowwood.

Trees Exhibition

The first thing you’ll see is that some of them are naturalistic but others are mirrored or overlaid to show their fractal designs.  The four images on the top row are all single African trees pictured against the sky.  I’ve mounted them simply on card and they’re printed on enhanced matte paper – they sell for R750 each.

In the second row there’s the Fig Tree from the Botanic Gardens in Grahamstown on the left hand side and two Hogback Yellowwoods twining around each other on the right hand side. These two look quite special as they’re printed on brushed aluminium dibond – they’re the most expensive items for sale at R2500 each.

The black and white mirrored image of the Baobabs is between them, it was taken in the Okavango panhandle.  Printed on glossy paper and mounted behind glass with a black wooden frame it’s priced at R1500.

Baobab Temple

Two green mirrored images come next.  Both pictures were taken in Sweden: on the left is an Oak above the Göta River and on the right is a Hornbeam at Tureborg in Uddevalla.  They’re R2000 each, block mounted and printed on enhanced matte paper.

The three images of spiders’ webs were all taken early one misty morning at Tsitsa Falls in the Eastern Cape.  They’re printed on enhanced matte paper and block mounted ready to be hung –  they also sell for R2000 each.

The final two images are the most complex. They repeatedly mirror, overlay and use positive and negative versions of one lone Birch tree that I photographed silhouetted against the deep blue arctic sky at Tromsø in Norway.  They’re also block mounted, enhanced matte images and sell for R2500 each.

 

Trees – a picture and two poems

We will be missing two Poetry at Reddits occasions whilst we are away in Sweden: my contributions are here though.  There are two of WS Merwin’s poems and one of my pictures of Hogback’s trees.  All inspired by Beth Moon’s special book Ancient Trees: Portraits of Time – thank you Kate for the wonderful gift.

Twining Trees at Hogsback

Trees

I am looking at trees

they may be one of the things I will miss

most from the earth

though many of the ones I have seen

already I cannot remember

and though I seldom embrace the ones I see

and have never been able to speak

with one

I listen to them tenderly

their names have never touched them

they have stood round my sleep

and when it was forbidden to climb them

they have carried me in their branches

 

The picture I’ve chosen also reminds me of another of his poems, I think because of the way the trees twine around each other.

 

Separation

Your absence has gone through me

Like thread through a needle.

Everything I do is stitched with its color.

 

Looking forward to our next Reddits in October!

Symmetry in Nature – free download

I’ve had several requests for hard copies of Symmetry in Nature but unfortunately they’re sold out.  So here’s a decent quality free download: it’s the pdf file of the whole book:

If anyone would like to purchase the high quality pdf of the book (R75) please contact me.

Fractal Dryad

One of the most frustrating things about curating right through the Arts Festival is that I get a lot of inspiration but there’s no time to act on it until quite a bit later.  This year was no exception.  Many people have commented that a lot of my pictures resemble fractals – and I agree with them because they do – but I’ve never set out to make a fractal picture before.  I’ve chosen the pattern that’s found in trees, flowers, seeds and a whole host of other natural phenomena – a Fibonacci spiral of ever smaller images in a theoretically endless sequence. The key thing is that each image in the spiral is the exact replica of the same image at regularly diminishing or increasing scales.

Fractal Dryad

Producing an aesthetically pleasing picture that more or less follows these ideas has been difficult.  The problem is chosing an image that shows the spiralling nature in a dynamic way.  The sequence I’ve made starts at the large image to the bottom of the picture and then rotates up to the top left, across to the top right and on down in a clockwise direction until it spirals out of sight.  The base picture is from my Dryad series: where a mirrored image of a skeletal tree is projected on to Natalie’s back as she stands in front of a screen.

Here’s a screenshot from Wikipedia showing the mathematics that the spiral sequence is based on.

Fibonacci Spiral

I added further copies of the whole picture into the cut-outs of her head so that she appears to be looking out of her own shadowed outline.

Now I’ve finished working this out of my system it will be time for some more photography.  I’m off to Sweden in a couple of weeks time where I’m sure to find some more inspiration from nature.

 

 

 

 

Faces at the exhibition

Now the Arts Festival is all over and the dust has settled it’s time to share a few of my faces from the exhibition.

My former student, Meagen, was a welcome visitor towards the end of the 11 day run.  The eyes in the frame behind give a fun effect to her picture. The young woman with the tree earring came in one day and kindly agreed to pose in front of the Green Men pictures – Harry Owen pointed out that the Green Man appears to be looking back out at her!  Outside every day was Desmond, , our friendly car guard, ready to greet you, help out and very much part of the scene.  One morning I experimented with some new effects and did an overlay of two festinos studying my pictures as the light angled across them from the window.  Then, in the last picture, I had a chance to photograph one of the Rhodes’ Fine Art students (I’m afraid I don’t know her name), she is the red head who is posing in front of the aloes.

It was opportunistic but I think I’ve got some nice pictures and they bring out the memories of #NAF17.