Little did I know when I was finishing work on my exhibition for this year’s #NAF19 that I was previewing the name change debate of the 1820 Settlers’ National Monument. I’ve got a panorama, taken from the cuttings above the N2 bypass, that’s entitled 1820 Settlers’ Sunset. I’ve since been told that it looks apocalyptic.
1820 Settlers’ Sunset
That was before the name change became so topical on social media (Grocott’s Mail is a good place to read about this controversy).
The second picture is an unusual shot taken from inside the Monument building. You have to imagine that you are lying on your back with your head at the base of the giant yellowwood sculpture in the Fountain Court and your feet at the fountain. So you are looking up an inverted cross past the Skotnes murals at the ceiling high above.
Fountain Court, 1820 Settlers National Monument
In this picture I’m definitely asking you to see the Monument from a different – and challenging – perspective.
They both look much better framed and on the wall as they are large images. You can see them in my solo exhibition ‘Reflections’ at the Johan Carinus Art Centre, Beaufort Street, 27 June – 7 July.
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.
Makana Revive at work outside The Cock House
10 Cross Street, Artificers’ Square
Grocott & Sherry street scene
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.
Cathedral of St Michael and St George
Drostdy Arch by moonlight
St Barts by night
Fort Selwyn Moonrise
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
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.
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.
The beady eye of the green wood hoopoe
Green wood hoopoe upside down
Wood hoopoe posing on a branch
Green wood hoopoe on the flame tree
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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, 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.
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.
Antique sepia shot of the Cathedral of St Michael and St George, Church Square, Grahamstown
Cathedral of St Michael and St George by moonlight, Church Square, Grahamstown
Church Square at Midnight, a fantasy: Grahamstown
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.