Posted on May 21, 2014
We are never real historians, but always near poets, and our emotion is nothing but an expression of poetry that was lost.
Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space
shelter me from the storm
lose me in the mists of time
Who gives a truer account of history? The poet, or the historian?
Thank you to Chris Bronsk and his excellent post repercussions for reminding me about and bringing me back to Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space, which I have always read and savoured as an unreserved celebration of the pure joy of intimate poetic expression. The power of the poetic image is something which transcends history, time and even language. It is able to speak directly to our consciousness without the need for translation or interpretation. Through poetry, we can connect with our past, and with our imagination. Bachelard believed that “for a simple poetic image there is no project; a flicker of the soul is all that is needed.”
I have always been a fierce defender of daydreaming, and make time for it every day. I believe it is more than ‘escapism’; daydreaming makes us more open to the possibility of poetry – both receiving it and expressing it. It gives us the opportunity to indulge our dreams, create and practice the possibility of alternative realities; to reflect, be brave and honest with ourselves, and speak directly to our weary souls which are generally neglected, bruised and battered by the necessary drudgery of the day-to-day. Indeed, Bachelard has also been linked with the surrealist project which advocated the practice of (day)dreaming, or dislocation from reality, as a deliberate political act. Ultimately though, daydreaming (the ‘irrational’ primitive realm of dreams, poetry and imagination) provides us with a counterpoint to rational thought, and can actually help us to live happier, more fulfilled lives.
Let us then safeguard reverie, as our rich inner lives provide a vital antidote to reality, and I hope that today you are able to carve out a little chink in your busy schedule for daydreaming.
© images and content Emily Hughes, 2014
Posted on January 25, 2014
It’s been a while since I posted any pictures from my grandfather’s house. Here are some from last August I have only just gotten around to sorting through. My grandfather is a man who has loved and treasured beautiful things all of his life. He is a collector, and he has been fortunate to have the means to surround himself with beauty. When we are young we try so hard to distance ourselves from our roots; to assert our independence and turn our faces outwards, fiercely, towards the future we want so badly to carve out for ourselves. But as we get older we realise that the past has so much more to teach us, and looking back is not to be dismissed as shameful, or wallowing in nostalgia. After all, how can we really know ourselves without understanding where we come from?
I have always loved things. Trinkets, treasures, knick knacks. When I was small I made collections of marbles and rubbers and dolls – all sorts. I would line them up and categorise them obsessively. I began to understand, as I grew up, that I lived in a family that valued things. I didn’t appreciate that for a long while, but when I began to emerge from the secluded oyster of my world I saw that it was not so in every household, and now I find it is important for me to make my home a place where things are allowed exist, and not obsessively tidied away. I enjoy the gentle chaos of a home life which I grew up with, where there is comfort in the incongruity of mismatched objects, each of which holds meaning for us as a family in some way, and which live happily, haphazardly, side by side.
Many peculiar faces haunt my grandfather’s world. I’m sure he barely notices them now, but when I go there the wonder of a child froths up inside me as if I am seeing these things for the first time. And as time ticks on slowly, inevitably, they seem to want to tell his story more urgently to me.
When I do count the clock that tells the time,
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night:
When I behold the violet past prime,
And sable curls ensilvered o’er with white;
When lofty trees I see barren of leaves,
Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,
And summer’s green all girded up in sheaves
Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard:
Then of thy beauty do I question make
That thou among the wastes of time must go,
Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake,
And die as fast as they see others grow;
And nothing ‘gainst time’s scythe can make defence
Save breed to brave him when he takes thee hence.
Shakespeare, sonnet number 12
© images and content Emily Hughes, 2014
Posted on January 15, 2014
I’m back! And so is the photograph. Following a brief interlude, it resumes its journey. Read about the Journey of a Photograph Project here…
The intimate is not a space but a relationship between spaces.
– Beatriz Colomina
I was forced, recently, to take a break from blogging. Not really by choice, but because life burst forth in a relentless tidal wave of busyness (as it does every year at the same time), and something had to give. However, I have been continuing to make pictures, and the past few months has been a process of consolidation and gathering together of things which I have been thinking about and working on for a long time, years even. I have not made any ‘new’ pictures as such; it is the nature of photography that you can be extremely prolific when you are clicking a button (that’s the easy part), yet it’s the editing that take the time; the drawing together the threads of the narrative and the sifting through the rubble to seek out those lustrous gems. It has been more a process of looking back, reflecting, and…
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Posted on April 5, 2013
There is an old nursery rhyme that tells of Muhme Rehlen. Because the word Muhme meant nothing to me, this creature became for me a spirit: the mumerehlen.
Early on, I learned to disguise myself in words, which were really clouds. The gift of perceiving similarities is, in fact, nothing but a weak remnant of the old compulsion to become similar and to behave mimetically. In me, this compulsion acted through words. Not those that made me similar to well-behaved children, but those that made me similar to dwelling places, furniture, clothes. I was distorted by similarity to all that surrounded me. Like a mollusk in its shell, I had my abode in the nineteenth century, which now lies hollow before me like an empty shell. I hold it to my ear. What do I hear? Not the noise of the field artillery or of dance music a la Offenbach, not even the stamping of horses on the cobblestones or fanfares announcing the changing of the guard. No, what I hear is the brief clatter of the anthracite as it falls from the coal scuttle into a cast-iron stove, the dull pop of the flame as it ignites in the gas mantle, and the clinking of the lampshade on its brass ring when a vehicle passes by on the street. And other sounds as well, like the jingling of the basket of keys, or the ringing of the two bells at the front and back steps. And, finally, there is a little nursery rhyme.
“Listen to my tale of the mummerehlen.” The line is distorted – yet it contains the whole distorted world of childhood. Muhme Rehlen, who used to have her place in the line, had already vanished when I heard it recited for the first time. The mummerehlen was even harder to rouse. For a long time, the diamond-shaped pattern that swam on my dish, in the steam of barley groats or tapioca, was for me its surrogate. I spooned my way slowly toward it. Whatever stories used to be told about it – or whatever someone may have only wished to tell me – I do not know. The mummerehlen itself confided nothing to me. It had, quite possibly, almost no voice. Its gaze spilled out from the irresolute flakes of the first snow. Had that gaze fallen on me a single time, I would have remained comforted my whole life long.
From A Berlin Childhood by Walter Benjamin
© images Emily Hughes and searchingtosee, 2013