The Debate

Of course, like so many others, I watched the televised debate of the contenders to be leader of the Conservative party, apart from Boris Johnson, who shirked the opportunity – I hope to his eternal discredit.

For what it’s worth (it’s been pointed out, correctly, that I have no qualifications for commenting on politics), I thought Michael Gove came out of it best: robust, quick on his feet, and confident. I had previously had very little idea of Sajid Javid, who spoke with thoughtfulness and dignity. But it was clear from the applause that the only candidate who has any opportunity and the determination to reach out to younger, swing voters, as represented by the audience, is Rory Stewart who offers a different style of politics: more concerned to listen, a bit rough at the edges, oddly earnest, but with the advantage of being humane.

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Old Town

In the interests of historical accuracy, I feel that I should record that, as I thought, the original location of Old Town, my favourite clothier, now long established in Holt, was at 32, Elm Hill in Norwich, the original Old Town, where they moved in 1992 and opened a shop ‘selling dustpans, brushes, enamel ware, hurricane lamps and balls of string’. In her twenty fifth anniversary history of the shop, Miss. Willey describes how ‘We had no definite plan other than to open a shop selling a selection of household items. In hindsight I suppose we were feeling a sense of loss at the changing face of the traditional high street’. I remembered this on my way to tea at the Britons Arms yesterday afternoon:-

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E.O. Hoppé (2)

Although unaware of Hoppé’s status as a portrait photographer, I have discovered that I do own a copy of a book for which he provided beautiful sepia photographs, 40 of which were tipped in: that is, Tancred Borenius’s Forty London Statues and Public Monuments, published by Methuen in 1926. Borenius was by then the Durning-Lawrence Professor at University College, London and, like other émigré art historians (most notably, Wittkower and Pevsner) had become interested in the art – particularly the medieval art – of his adopted country. The book is a survey of London’s public statuary and Borenius must have asked Hoppé to take the photographs specially for the book.

Here is Charles I, isolated from his surroundings in Charing Cross:-

The Monument:-

Charles II:-

So, it goes on, ending with the W.H. Hudson Memorial in Hyde Park.

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E.O. Hoppé (1)

I confess my ignorance: I was not aware of E.O. Hoppé’s work as a photographer before admiring the atmospheric images he published in 1926 in a book entitled Picturesque Great Britain in the Sainsbury Centre’s exhibition on W.G. Sebald. Sebald would have known of him because, like Sebald himself, Hoppé was German. He arrived in London in 1900 to work for Deutsche Bank, was given a camera as a birthday present in 1903, married the sister of a friend, and left Deutsche Bank to set up a photographic studio in Baron’s Court in 1907. Incredibly well known in the 1920s as a fashionable portrait photographer, close friend of George Bernard Shaw, he moved to topographical work in the late 1920s, and subsequently sold his photographic archive to the Mansell Collection in 1954 where it was categorised by subject, not the name of the photographer, so his name disappeared nearly entirely from public view. It’s a very Sebaldian life story – loss, fame, talent, exile.

I hope I am not transgressing copyright by reproducing this picture of him:-

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Norwich Cathedral

I stopped off in the Cathedral on my way to tea in Elm Hill in order to enjoy the full extent of the Nave – pure Romanesque up to the level of the Gothic vaults, which are thought to have been added by Bishop Lyhart after a fire in 1463:-

Most of the circular piers are plain, apart from two at the end marking where the altar stood, which are deeply incised:-

In one of the aisles the light is coloured by John McLean’s recently installed stained glass, one of which is in honour of Elizabeth Esteve-Coll, the University’s former Vice Chancellor, and Moya Willson, her deputy:-

The chancel:-

Incised decoration in the north transept:-

And in one of the aisles:-

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W.G. Sebald (2)

After lunch, I went to the second of the two Sebald exhibitions currently on in Norwich, this one, W.G. Sebald: Far Away – But From Where ? on a balcony of the Sainsbury Centre. It is much easier to interpret his own photographs here, as they are shown unframed in display cases together, rather charmingly, with the boxes from Boots where they were processed. He must have acquired a camera with a panoramic facility because he is very keen on panoramic images, as when he photographed Whitechapel Market and the Alderney Road Cemetery in April 1998 (he managed to get into the cemetery). He then got Michael Brandon-Jones to print details in black-and-white, distancing them from reality, and these images were then used, sometimes shrunk, to illustrate the books, as if they were found photographs (some of them were), not modern Boots snapshots.

This is a photograph he took in Mile End Cemetery in January 1999:-

Here it is in (I assume) Austerlitz:-

Michael Brandon-Jones owned a copy of E.O.Hoppé’s Picturesque Great Britain published in Berlin in 1926 and it is Hoppé’s aesthetic – grainy and atmospheric – which informs Sebald’s own approach to photography.

This is Hoppé’s photograph of a Steelworks in Sheffield, a detail of which was reproduced on p.108 of Austerlitz:-

There is then a screening of Tacita Dean’s elegiac film of Michael Hamburger’s Devon apples. She uses 16mm. film in the same way as Sebald uses his photographs, as a distancing technique. And the screen prints Tess Jaray made based on extracts from The Rings of Saturn and Vertigo.

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W.G. Sebald (1)

I spent the morning in the exhibition Lines of Sight: W.G. Sebald’s East Anglia in the Norwich Castle Museum, which resurrects and helps one to analyse the complex process of transmogrification which occurred between Sebald’s own photographs of East Anglia, which are mostly quite dull, had they not been taken by him as visual records of the long walk he took in August 1992 and of the way they were then converted into more memorable, often cropped images by Michael Brandon-Jones, the photographer in the Art History Photographic Collection in UEA. He it was who turned the images into black-and-white in such a way that they could be used alongside postcards, book illustrations and archival images throughout the text of The Rings of Saturn, and which are so important to its atmosphere of historical and topographical suggestiveness.

These are the instructions which Sebald gave to Brandon-Jones on the printing of his photographs:-

And this is his list of the order in which the photographs were to appear:-

This is the picture of Sebald setting out for his walk which was used for the cover of the first German edition:-

One of the best and most unexpected things in the exhibition is a clip of a film made by Kenneth Griffith about Roger Casement which caused Sebald to fall asleep in his green velvet armchair when it was first broadcast on 28th. October 1992. It’s in a style of suggestive and poetic documentary film making which is nowadays unimaginable, but not surprising that Sebald admired it.

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