This is basically a photographic post and my reason for doing it is that, quite frankly, I need to give myself a break from being a cynical sod. I’m so frustrated by politics and politicians that a week without them won’t do anyone any harm, least of all the readers of this blog.
It’s the end of November and in our household that means it’s calendar time again. I started doing family calendars the year after I began wandering the streets, camera in hand. Initially, I think I did one for ourselves and then the following year, I added in the children, and then the sisters and then for assorted nephews and nieces, each in their turn. They’re wall calendars and Apple — and many other companies — provides a user-friendly application that allows you to do this with great facility. In the beginning, there were 12 months and 12 pages, on each of which I placed several photographs. However, I finally settled on a format where each month has a single photograph, usually taken in the 12 months prior to preparing the wall-hanging. I also note the birthdays and wedding anniversaries (where appropriate) of family members, inserting a face on the appropriate date. In recent years, I’ve done three or four for friends and other worthies (without the family photos, of course) as New Year gifts.
It started off as an uncomplicated affair. But then, of course, the critics (i.e., the recipients) got in on the job. These days, drafts have to be submitted to the family censorship committee, comprising she-who-must-be-obeyed and those-who-think-they should-be-obeyed (or at least listened to). Their comments range from “That’s not a particularly good picture” through “A nice picture but not for a calendar” to “That’s a really nice picture to look at but I don’t think I want to gaze at it for a whole month over breakfast.
Each of the three cleaners-up usually suggests that I replace two or three of the images in the draft calendar with something more to their liking. Unfortunately, it’s hardly ever the same two or three pictures, meaning that half of what I had thought was fine and above board potentially needs to be replaced. To tell the truth,it actually feels to me a bit like those situations in which I used to submit what I considered to be a pretty good academic paper to a journal and the editor (bless ’em all) would send it to three reviewers. Each of these three panjandrums would come back with a series of comments saying that they really enjoyed reading it and thought it was a fine piece — but if the author were to do this, that or the other s/he would turn it into a super paper. Unfortunately, there was rarely much correspondence among this, that and the other and really, what each of the referees would have liked me to have done was to rewrite the article according to her/his way of thinking, i.e., produce three new papers.
Anyhow, those days are over and all I have to do is navigate the crazy paving between wife and daughters and pick a dozen photographs that they’re happy with for 2017.
The whole procedure usually gets under way when I try to remember how to make the application work because, when all’s said and done, I only use it once a year. That can take an hour or so. Then it’s choosing perhaps 100 images from which 14 (12 months and two covers) will emerge as “winners”. The hardest part of the whole operation is updating the images of the younger members of the family who change rapidly from year to year. (We oldies don’t change all that much.) All in all, I spend about two days on this actually quite enjoyable assignment.
So what I thought I’d do in this post is share with you the “victors” — even if the censorship board has hot given its final approval — and then add a sentence or two about each. Some readers of this blog might recollect having seen some of the photos before in earlier posts, but what the hell.
THE FRONT COVER is a variant of what is lacking in this region but which is present to some degree in this country even though if you live outside Israel, you might never hear about such a thing. There’s a women’s outfitter on a street a few minutes walk from where we live with a clutter of cats that sit on the pavement outside the shop most of the time and inside the shop some of the time. I had seen the rooster before on the main street about 50m away but one morning as I was passing, this is what appeared in front of the camera. And it was one of those pictures for which the caption just popped out of my head and landed in front of my eyes along with the image.
JANUARY This photograph is a typical winter’s day in Tel Aviv. It had rained the night before and the wooden planks on the promenade are not just damp but wet. The sea is rough, the wind is blowing and the clouds look as if they might just shed some more liquid in the near future. But the great thing is that you know it won’t last more than a couple of days. Having said that, we have yet to experience a day like this this year.
FEBRUARY I haven’t even shown this picture to the censorship board yet so it may well lose out. We have two oil drizzlers in the kitchen and they paint a pretty picture on the somewhat scratched glass table as the sun shines in through the window in the early morning autumn light. They might as well be a belly-dancing teacher and her acolyte.
MARCH March is daffodil month in the British Isles and after they made their appearance in the last post, these daffodils play an encore.
APRIL I may yet change this one. I photograph in the local markets from time to time and olives often turn up as “subjects”. The darker ones are lovely to look at but photographed under lights — natural or artificial — they are usually too shiny and reflective, so I settled for these green ones, which are, as you can see, a trifle dull.
MAY These are not what my dietician recommends but I think that he was referring to consuming them. The problem is that looking at them and photographing them is a temptation and consequently often leads to ingestion.
JUNE This is one of my favourite pictures and is the only one in the set that wasn’t taken in the past year. I was walking up a slope exiting Hampstead Heath when I spotted the man, the girl and the scooter. I photographed it in colour but realised as soon as I looked at it needed to be B&W. In colour, it’s just a photo; black & white, it’s a real picture.
JULY The cyclamen is a winter flower so quite why I chose to place it in July is beyond my ken — except that following a month of looking at the B&W picture, it needed to be something pretty and colourful.
AUGUST Last August we spent a few days with our son and his family at their annual retreat far away from London on the Isle of Skye. What struck me most was the ever changing light. I took several pictures at different times of the day and in different light conditions from the same spot. I was tempted to place four together on one page but decided that the sunset picture suited the calendar best.
SEPTEMBER Years ago standing opposite the Wigmore Hall in London on a cold November Sunday afternoon, the result of a security alert, I was talking to an acquaintance, a retired architect. He bemoaned the fact that people never look upwards as they walk along the streets because that is where interesting things are. A few months ago, walking along the north side of Oxford Street, I happened to glance at the other side of the street at the Boots the Chemist store at #193 and saw these windows above the shop front. The glass panes, reflecting the building against which I am standing, reflecting the light and the image at different angles yielded the image above. And there’s no Photoshop involved!
OCTOBER I photographed the date palms in the Remembrance Garden in the Yarqon Park near the house a few weeks ago when the trees were heavily laden with ripe fruit.
NOVEMBER Looking south along the Ayalon freeway that runs north-south through Tel Aviv, I was trying out a wide-angle lens. The high-rise office and residential buildings on either side of the picture are clearly visible. The channelised Ayalon river is on the east (left-hand) side, with the northbound traffic. The main north-south railway line is in the centre of the picture and the southbound traffic is on the western (right-hand) side.
DECEMBER The multi-coloured peppers at the Friday morning Farmers’ Market at Tel Aviv port are placed to brighten up what, I would hope, should be a dull, rainy December.
BACK COVER The Oleander Hawk Moth has made its appearance several times, staying for a couple of days each time, on the door to the stairwell of our apartment building. I was overruled about placing it inside the calendar.
And I really wanted to place this one inside, too, but I was told that it was too frightening!
… and the runners-up were …