You may remember my lightning visit to Dublin last year. I returned there for a proper visit last week, and naturally I took some self-portraits. It was lovely to get out of the city as well, for a drive through the Wicklow Mountains and a round walk on the small peninsula of Howth, a fishing village that has essentially merged with Dublin. More photos of these places are to come.
Recently, I was asked by my friend Anouschka to contribute something to her creative online platform, LitCafe (a brilliant initiative, where writers, artists, philosophers and other creative minds meet). As the theme for October was “Déja Vu”, I thought I’d write a short essay about my ever-ongoing self-portrait series: why I do it, why I call it art, and how it helps me see the world differently. It’s available to read here.
I’d had the date marked on my calendar for weeks: 16 and 17 September, Market Garden weekend. On 17 September, 1944, many a Dutch citizen in the south of the country looked up to the sky to see ‘falling angels’, aka Allied paratroopers, taking part in the largest airborne operation of the entire war.
Some months ago, I was asked to contribute an article to TXT Magazine, an academic publication from the University of Leiden’s Book and Digital Media Studies department, which generally focuses on the creation, dissemination and adaptation of books and texts as objects. The theme of this issue was ‘navigating seas of text’. I knew I wanted to write about something World War II-related – naturally – and dove into my reading, finally settling on writing about the role of three American librarians during the war. I relished the opportunity to do research on and write about some cool ladies and about the importance of books during the conflict, and it’s very exciting to see it in print at last! I have scanned it in and it’s available to read under the cut.
While on holiday in Yorkshire last month, my friends and I decided to go up to Newcastle for the day. I didn’t know much about the city, except that it was at the heart of the industrial revolution in Britain and that it’s where Dire Straits singer Mark Knopfler is from. In fact, while making my way to Yorkshire from Wales – where I started out, visiting friends – I found myself on a whistle-stop tour through the north of England, passing through Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds before ending up in York. My impression of these cities was all too brief: driving through Birmingham, which was heavily bombed during the war, left me with the impression of a hodgepodge of soot-stained red brick buildings with garish postwar structures planted here and there. Newcastle, however, surprised me: I had expected more of the same. But the moment we passed that magnificent sculpture on the motorway, the Angel of the North, which personifies better than anything the north’s industrial charm, and drove into the city with a view of Newcastle’s seven bridges curving over the river Tyne, I knew we were in for something different.
As the temperatures are finally consistently running into the high twenties Celsius here, it’s funny to think that only about two months ago I was walking around in Riga in a snowstorm – granted, one that only lasted a day. We went out then, on Easter Sunday, thinking we might do some sightseeing, but ended up frantically hunting around for a coffee place to take shelter in. And as we sat sipping a cappuccino and nibbling on a poppy-seed doughnut at the foot of an imposing Russian orthodox church – the only proper ‘high rise’ in the centre of Riga, really – the sun came out and the snow stopped. Instantly the streets were filled with people, where only an hour before only a few arctic explorers like ourselves could be seen plodding along. Happily, the following days were filled with sunshine, and on the day we left, I carried my coat draped over my arm – it was that warm.
As opposed to the blink-and-you-miss-it blue twenty minutes we usually get here in the Netherlands — one of the best times of day for photographers, when the sun has just set and the combination of electric night lights and the still luminous sky makes for the most beautiful pictures — Helsinki was exceedingly generous with its opportunities for nighttime photography. Not only did the skies become a deeper and deeper blue much more gradually, the exceedingly modern architecture of the city almost gave it a sci-fi feel. Apparently Helsinki is famous for its starry nights, but sadly we didn’t witness any, although the clouds made for some spectacular skies as well.