Old-fashioned contemporary prints of Grahamstown’s Heritage Sites: a preview for #NAF19

There are 70 Heritage Sites in Grahamstown (recently renamed as Makhanda): mostly in the CBD, around the Rhodes campus and in Sunnyside. I’ve been photographing them as they are now but in an antique, or retro, style. So my sepia prints will have students enjoying a glass of wine on the walls of Fort Selwyn or you’ll see the mounds of uncollected rubbish along Bathurst Street. There might be donkey on the pavement in Church Square or Makana Revive at work filling the potholes outside The Cock House.

I’ve printed a small selection of eight views to be part of my exhibition Reflections at #NAF19. The first four are daytime shots. Bartholomew Streetscape and 10 Cross Street are both in the beautifully restored Artificers’ Square. The Grocott & Sherry street scene and view of the Cock House highlight two of the city’s most well known commercial buildings. You’ll see that although the sepia style and bleached look of the photo is old fashioned the content often has something contemporary. 

The four night shots were taken over recent months during the full moon. The moonrise, clouds and dark skies give an interesting backdrop to the pictures. Ironically, I have included the Cathedral (which isn’t a Heritage Site) but the Drostdy Arch, Fort Selwyn and St Barts are all part of the town’s military and ecclesiastical history.

Screenshot of the collection: Grahamstown Heritage Series

Screenshot of the collection

This screenshot will give you an idea of the scope of this series of pictures. My photo exhibition Reflections has over 40 various images in different styles. The sepia prints make up one component but I would like to exhibit 25-30 of them next year. 2020 being the Bicentenary of the 1820 Settlers. The small selection at this year’s Arts Festival is their first public outing.  You can see them at Johan Carinus Art Centre, Beaufort Street, for the duration of the National Arts Festival from June 27 to July 7.

Symmetry Series: nude studies and new work at #NAF19

I’ve been making symmetrical images for many years now. Usually of trees, grass, leaves, ferns and clouds – you can see plenty in my Symmetry in Nature book download. Recently I have been making them much more complex by dissolving nude female figures into the composition. Here’s a good example from this years’s #NAF19. It’s called The Three Graces and is a large piece (76 cms x 67 cms). The blog format doesn’t really do it justice but you can see what I mean.

The Three Graces Vaulted #NAF19: Symmetry Study

The Three Graces Vaulted at #NAF19: Symmetry Study

The backdrop is a picture of the ancient milkweed tree at Platbos Forest in the western Cape near Cape Agulhas. I have mirrored it horizontally and vertically to get a vaulted effect. I wanted you to feel the branches stretch overhead as if under the roof of a cathedral.

Platbos Milkwood Dark: Original Study before mirroring

Platbos Milkwood Dark: before mirroring

Then, of course, I needed to have a figure, or figures, to merge into this ethereal background. I wanted a nude female figure that dissolves into the roots, branches and vines. So I set up a photo shoot (with Natalie who I have worked with before) and she posed in front of a screen with a variety of images projected on to her. I used my own mirrored images of ferns, spider webs and – best of all – lightning for this.

Lightning of Grahamstown - Symmetry Template

Lightning over Grahamstown – Symmetry Template

Here’s a short selection from the shoot. You’ll see that Natalie gave me some beautiful shapes to work with. They’re tricky pictures to take as it’s dark with only the projected image for lighting – so shutter speeds were quite slow and ISO settings high.

My favourite images had the lightning and trees draped over her body. I then spent many hours reducing images carefully down to partial figures. These could then be overlaid on to the forest so they looked as though they were dissolving into, or emerging organically out of, a mystical scene. In the end I had three images of her that I used and that’s why the finished artwork is called The Three Graces. It’s so striking that I have two versions of it. I’ve used it for my poster and publicity.

You can see the final two image at my exhibition Reflections in the Johan Carinus Art Centre, Beaufort Street, Grahamstown. We are open from 9 am to 5 pm daily throughout the 2019 National Arts Festival from 27 June to 7 July. If you are interested in purchasing (or having a private viewing) then please contact me at roddyfox@mac.com.

The green wood hoopoes

There’s an Illawarra flame tree just outside my studio window where the green wood hoopoes go fossicking for insects. With the noise they make it’s easy to hear them, pick up the camera and try and get some pictures from the stoop. They don’t keep still for more than a moment or two but they stay in the same tree for quite a while prowling the branches and dipping their tails incessantly. Once their cries reach up to a crescendo they flash off elsewhere.

They have the most striking curved red beaks and rich metallic green and blue feathers. I didn’t manage to get a shot of their distinctive, barred long tail feathers – perhaps next time!

Fingo Village taxi ride: a photo merge

Two of the pictures I’ve taken in the past couple of weeks are merged here. It’s something that I experiment with every now and then and this time I’ve got an interesting result.

Take my picture across the valley, Grahamstown-Makhanda

Fingo Village taxi ride

The first picture in the merge is called Across the Valley. It’s a shot I’ve wanted for quite a while. Taken looking down Wood Street in Fingo Village your eye is drawn immediately across the valley to the leafy suburbs of Fort England and Sunnyside. The 1820 Settlers National Monument and PJ Olivier High School are perched on top of the hills beyond.

Across the valley from Wood Street, Fingo Village, Grahamstown Makhanda

Across the Valley

The second picture was one I took on the fly. I was standing on the corner of Bathurst and High Streets in the town centre taking pictures of the heritage sites when a taxi came cruising past. The conductor called out Take my Picture and so I did. Here he is in typical pose.

Take my picture, corner of Bathurst and High, Grahamstown Makhanda

Take my picture

With the photo merge I combined the two pictures together. So the image still looks across the valley but the taxi (which will take you there) is overlain on top. I use the Luminar photo editing software to achieve this affect.

I also gave the merged image a gritty analogue feel to hark back to the multiple exposures of the pre-digital age.

 

Egazini in ruins

Yesterday was the bicentenary of the Battle of Grahamstown.  I’ve always intended to visit the site but somehow never managed it. So this afternoon I took a brief gap in the rain to go across the valley to Egazini: the township based heritage site.

On the way there you get a good view of the slopes of Makana’s Kop up above the streets of Fingo Village. These were the hillsides that the Xhosa warriors descended to attack Grahamstown.

Makana's Kop was wreathed in low cloud

Makana’s Kop was wreathed in low cloud

When I got to Egazini I found that it was lying neglected – almost in ruins. A ring of wet embers showed the remains of a fire that lay within an outer ring of plastic rubbish. A dog was picking its way through the trash.

Dog scrounging in the litter at Egazini

Dog scrounging in the litter at Egazini

The impressive artworks are still standing but the eyes and mouth of one was vandalised. Egazini is in a beautiful setting with views up and down the valley. It’s easy to see Fort England, Fort Selwyn and the other colonial sites but I didn’t see any story boards or information about the battle or the site itself. Maybe I should have looked harder but what I saw didn’t inspire me to linger.

Egazini in ruins

Egazini in ruins

Egazini, the site of the battle of Grahamstown

Egazini, the site of the battle of Grahamstown

It’s saddened me to find this important site in such a ruined state – abandoned and neglected – like so many things in the newly renamed Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) it is full of potential that has gone to waste.

Grahamstown’s Cathedral of St Michael and St George: three different takes

Here’s something a little different – three different takes of Grahamstown’s iconic Cathedral of St Michael and St George. The first is in the antique sepia style I’ve been using for the Grahamstown heritage series. The second is the full colour by moonlight shot and the third is a multiple exposure fantasy. They are all taken from almost exactly the same spot – just outside Makana’s City Hall on the north side of Church Square.

You would think that the Cathedral would be a heritage site but it isn’t – though it certainly makes a dramatic impression towering over the centre of the city. As usual I’ve made sure that the antique heritage style contains modern elements: the flaring street lights and the security guards relaxing in the square.

The colour moonlight picture was taken when the full moon was highlighting the clouds above the spire. That gives the composition some nice depth and definition and I’ve bleached out the colours a little to give the picture more punch.

The fantasy picture is a multiple exposure. I used the wheeling star trails as the backdrop because the original picture had a lot of ugly coloured flares of light in the night sky caused by the streetlights. Then I decided to strip away some of the fabric of the Cathedral to make it look skeletal. The clock is stuck at midnight and I took the picture just before Halloween!

I’ve already sold one of these as a high gloss print (I can now print on demand up to A3+ size). Let me know using this contact me link if you’d like one. This new series will also be on sale (probably as unmounted prints) at #NAF19 in my exhibition called ‘Reflections’ at the Carinus Art Centre 27 June – 7 July.