'B' is for Balloon

HERE IS THE second post in my Anthology of Photography. The letter 'B'. From popping balloons to lovely bokeh to the colour blue and interesting contemporary cyanotypes. Have a read and click some links. Hope you find something inspiring.

B is for...

When my daughters' were a few years younger and frequently going to birthday parties there was usually a BALLOON or two floating about our house. Sometimes they would draw faces on them. As they slowly lost air they would lie awkwardly like shrunken heads in the corner of a room somewhere in the house. My particular love was for the helium balloons that after a couple of days would start to drop from the ceiling and hover eerily in the middle of the kitchen. Here are some pretty fantastic shots of popping balloons taken by Eric Barger with more than a little help from his six-year-old son Aiden.

Apparently, Marilyn Monroe owned a Kodak BROWNIE Target Six-20. The Kodak Brownie in its myriad forms is broadly attributed to being the first camera to really democratise photography - a cheap, lightweight camera for the masses. The first ones didn't look like much; a cardboard box with a leatherette covering. I own an upgrade from the late 1950s, a Brownie Reflex 20. I bought it 20 years ago in a market in Glasgow. I've put a couple of films through it. And it works! I wonder if we'll be able to say the same for our smartphones in 50 years time.

I've spent quite a bit of time pondering my poor vision (I'm myopic) and how this has affected my choices in life. I wonder too if your vision is severely challenged to the point of BLINDNESS how would you approach a photographic project? I think it raises some interesting questions about visualising something in your mind's eye, learning the skill of using a camera and then seeking the support to realise your creative message. I find the work of Gerardo Nigenda particularly compelling. The black and white images punched with braille create a dual sensory experience. Vision and touch. So much of what I have learnt in my academic training of photography has been about the visual concepts of photography. There is so much more. It might be good to remember this.

One afternoon when I was a bit bored and the rain was coming down, I took the lens off my digital SLR and turned it the other way round just to see what would happen. I pointed my camera at the Christmas tree and its twinkly lights. The resulting pictures revealed the most beautiful circular shapes and colours. BOKEH. It's a funny word. According to Pring's Photographer's Miscellany, it's 'a Japanese word for senility or dizziness, and, by extension, haze or blur, but in photographic terms, it refers to the different qualities of out-of-focus effects seen in the background of pictures with a shallow plane of focus.' Well, I don't think I'm senile quite yet and I only get dizzy when up a high building, but that haze and blur. Oh yes, that's badass.

Oh, the colour BLUE! My eldest daughter the other day informed me that she needed a t-shirt for choir. Either purple, blue or dark blue. 'What sort of blue is 'blue'?' I asked. "Sapphire,' came the reply. Silly me. And then my youngest spent the ten-minute walk to school on Monday morning reliving the wearing of her favourite blue hoodie. The one with the daisies around the inside. For myself, the colour blue reminds me of the cyanotype process. Those funny blue pictures that can be made with a couple of chemicals, water, ordinary cartridge paper and the sun. It's not easy to find really interesting contemporary cyanotypes. British artist Esther Teichmann is one that springs to mind that sometimes uses cyanotypes in her large gallery installations. And these are pretty interesting too by American artist Meghan Riepenhoff made by placing pre-coated paper in seawater or leaving them out in the rain. And of course, it has to be noted that botanist Anna Atkins book of British Algae from 1843 is now seen as the world's first photo book. Its pages are made up from cyanotypes of all the varieties of algae and seaweed from the shores of the British Isles.


Top photo © Tanya Clarke 2011 and Bokeh photos © Tanya Clarke 2017