1820 Settlers’ Sunset …

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, Grahamstown Makhanda

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

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.

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.

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.

 

Cycling by the heritage sites: Howse Street Grahamstown

The second post of the Grahamstown heritage sites is a street-scene. There’s no getting away from the new in this picture because there’s a young cyclist front and centre. Behind him Howse Street runs up to the historical core of the city. There’s power lines and street lights leading the eye towards the skyline and the heritage sites silhouetted there.

Howse Street Grahamstown Heritage Sites

Passing by Grahamstown’s Heritage Sites: Howse Street

The Cathedral of St Michael and St George dominates this picture and strangely it isn’t a heritage site: though it is one of the city’s iconic buildings. The buildings that run between the two spires are the backs of the Victorian shops that front on to Church Square. These are all heritage sites: as is the City Hall itself. Later in the series I’ll post some pictures of them as they are architecturally striking.

As usual there’s a bit of a back story to the picture. To get a shot with a passing cyclist I needed to stand in the middle of Beaufort Street – and that’s a busy thoroughfare – mid-way between two sets of traffic lights. So I needed to wait until both sets of lights were on red and there was a gap in the traffic. It meant I dashed out into the road on a number of occasions before I was successful.

Several of this new series will be on display at #NAF19 in my exhibition called ‘Reflections’ at the Carinus Art Centre 27 June – 7 July.

 

Enjoying the moonrise: Rhodes students on Fort Selwyn

The first post of a new series – Grahamstown Heritage – features the old and the new.

Fort Selwyn lies on Gunfire Hill and it was built for its strategic view over the city below. No great surprise that it’s one of Grahamstown 70 heritage sites. These days it has lost its military importance but it does make a spectacular vantage point. That’s especially true for students who come up from Rhodes University after Friday classes to watch the sunset and then the moonrise. All whilst having an early evening drink or two.

Enjoying the moonrise: Rhodes students on Fort Selwyn, Grahamstown (Makhanda)

There’s an interesting backstory to this shot. Night photos usually need a daylight reconnaissance. I’d already been to Fort Selwyn at night taking pictures of car headlights trailing across town. That’s when I first saw the students perched on the Fort’s ramparts. But then I had to go back in the daylight and work out how to get high enough to get the students and the town below plus the full moon and all of Fort Selwyn in one shot. I solved it by climbing one of the megaliths that surround the 1820 Settlers National Monument. When I returned that night I brought a stepladder, propped it against the rock, climbed up and installed my tripod. Then I just had to wait for the moon to climb high enough whilst the students enjoyed themselves. There was, of course, plenty of musical accompaniment from the sound systems in the open car doors. Not a soul noticed me, or the ladder, perched on the rock. You can see my shadow in the right foreground as a passing car’s headlights helpfully revealed the foreground of the picture.

I expect to have several of this new series on display at #NAF19. My exhibitions called ‘Reflections’ and I’ll be at the Carinus Art Centre. In the next day or two I’ll have the picture for sale as a print or for downloading over at my store.

The Fountain Court, 1820 Settlers National Monument, a Photo Essay

Here’s the large picture that’s drawn the crowds and the comments at my #NAF19 exhibition ‘Symmetry’. I did a photo shoot last year of the Fountain Court at the 1820 Settlers National Monument because it’s my favourite part of the building. The title picture’s taken as if you were lying on your back looking up to the skylight several stories above you. There’s natural light spilling in from both sides and down from the top but artificial light on the other two sides. I used my tiny 9mm fisheye body cap lens to pull in as much of the space as possible. The rectangular shapes of the famous yellowwood scaffolding sculpture, the many long pillars and banner-like Skotnes murals all help make this dramatic shot. The fisheye lens does a great job of curving them round the Millstone Fountain and sunburst roof decoration. Here’s the photo essay of the rest of the shots I took.

You can see the print at my exhibition ‘Symmetry’ which is at the Carinus Art Centre, Beaufort Street for the duration of the 2019 National Arts Festival. It’s printed on Premium Luster archival paper at 67 cms wide x 76 cms high.