Friday Diary: Olympus OM 1 adventures by daintydora

Yesterday I indulged my (amateur) addiction to analogue photography, and went adventuring through the West End of Glasgow with my Olympus OM 1 camera.

Olympus OM 1 vintage camera

I'm lucky to have a husband who is an engineer and who leapt right into my love of analogue photography.

As well as the Olympus OM 1, he has lovingly reconditioned for me a Leica D.R.P Ernst Leitz Wetzlar circa the 1950's, and a Hasselblad 500 C. I know. I'm very lucky.

The beautiful images that can be produced in analogue are far superior to digital photography, but because of their age, provenance and price tag, I've been a bit scared to use any of my analogue cameras. (Scared to drop them!) They're also solid and heavy with lots of dials and settings and you really have to consider and set up each shot.

But yesterday I ventured out - we ventured out - to snap some street scenes in Glasgow's West End. It's a place close to my heart having lived in various locations in and around the West End when I first moved to Glasgow at the age of 16. And now I'm photographing my favourite streets with a vintage Olympus OM 1.

Introduced in 1973, the OM-1 was the first product in the OM Series. It earned wide acclaim as the world's smallest and lightest 35mm single-lens reflex camera."

It was a strange day for weather. One minute sunshine and gently billowing trees, the next torrential downpours with hail and wind so stern it snapped my big man-frame umbrella.

But I managed to spot and capture reflections in puddles and bluebells amidst the weeds and experiment with light metering and focus; blurring foregrounds and backgrounds for effect, for fun, and snapping shots between leaves and railings and into the sun as it peeped from behind clouds.

I'm using only black and white film because in it, I've met my match for mystery and allure and timeless, enduring appeal in the modulations and marvel of monochrome.

I'd love to show you, but of course I can't. Not yet.

The shots I've taken are preserved for now, safe inside their hard spool casing, inside my camera. And the film isn't finished quite yet.

You'll just have to take my word for it; imagine the shots of light and dark on Glasgow's West End streets with your 'inside eyes', your imagination, and trust my magpie's eye to find the sparkling, the fantastic and the extraordinary in the seemingly ordinary.


Observations on a City Street by daintydora

Look up. The shadows of sunlight on sandstone. The mouldings in the stone, intricate, but forgotten by those far below. A graveyard of design, engineering, history, effort and love.

Imagine the chiseler at work, in a workshop, with his tools. Then high up on a ladder, or scaffolding, sand slipping away into the hot streams of air, mixing with the workman’s sweat, melding with his thoughts.

Now, be-mossed, greened by damp and time, and the occasional encrustation of pigeon shit.

A billowing black plastic bag, tied roughly around a street sign, no longer for public view. The wind has pierced its synthetic strength and stretch, blowing holes in the substrate and allowing the sign to peep through. Soon people will be able to see the sign again, and perhaps be mis-directed by the wind and its work. The occasion of wind, an unseen marauder.

Clouds scuttle observing the scenes below, soaking up the emotions of the city dwellers; their anger and their tears.

Then lights appear as dusk beckons. Neon lights. Traffic lights. Repetitive and timed, lacking the beauty and the camouflage of the Victorian lantern. Everything lit up so bright and wide it hurts. No stars in sight.

But which street? Do you recognise it? Where the architecture and the art and the lights and the cars converge. Any street and every street. Your street and my street and every city centre street. Abundant with observations still to be had, there for the taking.

This one is in Glasgow though, of course. Imagine it with your inside eyes.



Alasdair Gray @ Kelvingrove Art Gallery by daintydora

This week I visited the Alasdair Gray exhibition running at Glasgow's Kelvingrove Art Gallery. Alasdair Gray Ticket & Postcards

'Pictures and stories were the closest I could get to the magic that might make me powerful and loved.'

Such an insightful quote from Alasdair Gray, describing his emerging interest in art and writing as a young boy.

His mother taught him that 'the gaps between people could be bridged with words and music'. I love that idea, because of course it then makes me think about 'the gaps'. Social gaps. Status gaps. Emotional gaps. The gaps between people.

I found Gray's art varied so much as the chronology of his works unfolded. Some seemed unfinished - the brown paper that Alasdair used 'because it was freely available and because it was cheap', was often left uncoloured, or as the skin tone for faces, hands and limbs. Many of the paintings are unfinished, or have been reworked/remastered, often with notes and dates of the reworking, like a diary entry (his handwriting is so neat and beautiful and art deco, in itself).

In some ways the unfinished aspect only adds to the vibrancy of his work; the art, real and brimming with the life that he so clearly immersed himself in and wanted to portray. Ordinary people in ordinary settings. Seventies prints. Detailed and fussy carpets, curtains, furnishings and backgrounds. Rooms festooned with the accumulation of life. Plants and vases and cushions and clocks.

In one particular work there is a girl at a piano and it is noted in the description text that Alasdair couldn't bring himself to paint all the detail of each of the piano keys, and yet, he'd done intricate work on the wallpaper, on the carpet, denoting the carvings on the wood of the piano, and on a painted dish. Painstaking repetitions. The fact that only the piano keys being played by the girl in situ have been marked out actually make their image all the more striking, as if the sound of their chords will be audible any second.

Many images held such detail that they invited commentary and discussion on what might be going on within them. The murals were particularly engaging with their industrial undertones (or overtones) of smoking towers and pylons and dark clouds.

The women had very masculine faces, and in the nudes, large protruding nipples. I particularly loved their hair, outlined in undulating waves and curlicues, and each face so full with emotion it drew you into the scene completely.

The image in the postcard above of the girl, haughty in her leotard [Two Views of Katie Mitchell, 1980], really resonated.

Marion Oag and the Birth of the Northern VenusThe sadness emanating from the girl above, [Marion Oag and the Birth of the Northern Venus, 1977], the patent boots and her patterned tights so well captured, made me feel empathy with her and her lost dreams or sorrow, of which I could only guess at. But the painting made me want to guess.

Much of Gray's work features a cat or cats, sleeping and draped about. The postcard top, middle, [Night Street Self Portrait, 1953 & 2006], to me features a cat roaming the streets like the 'black cat of death', omnipotent, prowling; a dark reminder of a fate that comes to us all. It could also be a dog or even a fox. The meaning is in the eye of the beholder. But the light/dark relief of chiaroscuro in the face is menacing and knowing, presiding over the scene as if in a modern-day graphic novel of crime and intrigue. The other colours only add to this sense for me.

I revelled in the details of the night sky and the moon and stars in much of Gray's work. Some of the skies could just as easily have been waves on the sea, and I loved the idea of the tide rolling in to a perfectly arranged West End living room.

Halfway through the exhibition there was a reference to a book called Dancing in the Streets by Cliff Hanley. I had to write down this fantastic quote:

There are prettier cities but few of them that I know have the seething cauldron effect that Glasgow has always had for me. Out of its horrible smoke-bleary streets it keeps throwing up jokes and songs and poetry as well as bloody murder.

And I couldn't agree more. Glasgow has always been an inspiration to me and it sets my imagination on fire everyday for writing, poetry, photographing, living, doing, seeing, drawing, experiencing all that the 'mean streets' have to offer.

'Glasgow is a magnificent city. Why do we hardly ever notice that?', observes a character in Alasdair Gray's first novel, Lanark.
Alasdair Gray TicketAlasdair Gray: From the Personal to the Universal runs until 22nd February 2015 at Kelvingrove Art Gallery.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery, Glasgow


Future Islands: It's not going to be you by daintydora

I went to a Future Islands gig last week, on the spur of the moment, in Glasgow. It wasn't planned, I didn't buy the ticket and in fact I'd never heard of them before. But I loved it.

And when I was there I felt moved by the experience.

The venue filled up and the darkness was punctuated by atmospheric smoke and coloured lights, and the bar and mirrors and silhouettes of people reduced to featureless black shapes with the lights behind them, flickering, creating a sense of being in a trance.

Alcohol was consumed, contributing to the not-really-there-but-right-THERE feeling.

I wrote down my thoughts immediately after - the lasting impression I have of the night:

Things feel surreal. Dream like. Blue tinted. Cocktails and whispers and whisky breath. Darkness simply a lack of light and the dancing enchantment of shapes; circles and shapes cutting through smoke.
Blue light to red. Nudging skin with other revellers, each and all feeling the beat inside. Beating through blood. Pulsing.
Red light to blue.
And the crush of heat and warmth and sweat at once claustrophobic and comforting; a shared experience with mostly strangers on a midweek night. Where did everyone come from? Doesn't anyone have a job? And what would it look like without the crowd? An empty warehouse with beer on the floor and empty plastic cups. Scraps of tickets. The lingering absence of sound; eerie and overwhelming. Silence laden with anticipation. Rafters and tape and extractor fans, cold, unnecessary. Mirrors reflecting back nothing but light bulbs and doors. Concrete floors. A vacuum of compressed experience that never was. Tiny interactions and satisfactions jumbled into nothing.
One night only. It's not going to be you.

But so many people came together to watch and listen. Jumping up and down. Electric sound. I could feel it inside, the music and the beat and the vibe and being alive and being there.

They're playing Iceland Airwaves in November. I'd like to be there, too.

I wished I'd bought some merchandise now. The LP perhaps, for the cover art alone. And as I left I saw this image and it felt like magic. Outside it was raining.