Mary Quant: Freedom In A Dress.

On Tamara’s recommendation we went to the Mary Quant exhibition at the V&A in London. Your intrepid reporter reports…

Because of Mary Quant and her Bazaar shop in the King’s Road, Chelsea ceased to be a small part of London; it became international. Its name said there was a new way of living and a new way of dressing. It was a break: It wasn’t what your mum wore, any more.

In 1960, Quant and her partner flew to New York, just two years after the first commercial transatlantic flight. British newspapers publicised Quant’s exciting venture, epitomised in a terrific photograph of Quant and her partner Plunket Greene. They are hand in hand but separated; each is a complete person – woman as well as man. With them on a lead is a very English sheepdog, and they are all running down Fifth Avenue in New York, running towards us into a bright, free, go-getting future.

American journalists pushed her ‘kooky’ look, which increased her celebrity status. Quant pitched her clothes and ideas to US buyers in upmarket department stores. She met fashion editors and she got down to business – touring the garment district, she was at home in that world, impressed and eager to make the most of the scale, pace and organisation of American ready-to-wear. Her ground-breaking designs were displayed in New York store windows.

Manufacturers spotted Quant’s unique ‘Chelsea’ style and its appeal to the youth market and youth culture, and recruited her for their designer collections. Quant learned about efficiency, scaling, pricing and sizing from American manufacturers, and in exchange she gave them British ‘cool’ that American consumers adored. By 1965, she was regularly commuting between New York and London. She was international.

Mary Quant’s designs are sexy, but only when they are worn. On their own they are boyish, echoes of schoolgirl uniforms, designed for a small bust, a small frame. The colours say freedom and ownership, owned by those who wore them.

The exhibition is on at the V&A in London until the 16th Feb, 2020. It’s on two floors, with videos of Mary Quant talking about how she started, what she did and why she did it. And of course, there are the clothes.

White Dead-nettle

white dead-nettle flower

White dead-nettle (Lamium album) has hairy, toothed leaves like all nettles I know of. It doesn’t sting, unlike other nettles.

The dead-nettle leaves in the photo are the small ones around the flower. The big leaves in the photo are from a different plant.

If you were to carefully pull off one of the white flowers and suck gently on the tubular opening at the base of the flower, you’ll enjoy a puff of a sweet aromatic taste.

Multiple Focus

Morris dancers in conversation at Apple Day at the Botanic Gardens in Cambridge
Morris dancers in conversation at Apple Day at the Botanic Gardens in Cambridge - closeup

I was drawn by the two Morris dancers in conversation at Apple Day at the Botanic Gardens in Cambridge. Their white costumes and the way they were cut off at the knees behind the hedge attracted me to want to photograph them.

Then I moved around and saw this scene of people talking. I don’t know whether I can explain why I like the photo, but it is something to do with the multiple points of focus.

I shot it with the Fuji X100s, which has a 35mm-equivalent lens. That creates a feeling of nearness with the scene, but not as extreme as with a very short focal length lens.

There is a lot of interaction between people going on in the picture. They were speaking quietly, obviously aware of their surroundings. I would guess that awareness dictated their tone, the volume.

If someone were to wave a magic wand and freeze them all in time, this is what is would be like. You can click the image to see a larger version.

Morris dancers and others in conversation at Apple Day at the Botanic Gardens in Cambridge

People’s Vote March October 19, 2019

The weather was sunny, the crowd was huge, the EU flags were everywhere. A sober tone, knowing that it takes a lot to keep going in the face of Governments bent on avoiding the push for a new referendum on Britain exiting the EU.

And then it rained. We had come to a standstill, anyway. So many people were trying to get to Parliament Square that the march came to a stop.

So we stood for a little while, and some people sheltered from the rain. I took a photo of some of them. It was only when I looked at the photo on the computer that I saw that a man to the right of the frame seemed to be pointing and perhaps saying something to the man in the flat cap and glasses.

The people closest seem disturbed by what the pointing man was doing. I wonder what was going on? It was the only note of discord (if that is what is was) in the whole time Tamara and I and my daughter Madelaine were there.

And then Tamara shouted across for me to take a photo of the woman holding the placard that read Help! I’m trapped on an island run by mad people.

Madness? Yes, at some level it is madness to want to turn the country into a Neo-feudal society.

Abstract Wires

A ventilation grate, some wires or cables, a piece of wood at an angle, and everything against a brick wall.

A ventilation grate, some wires or cables, a piece of wood at an angle, and everything against a brick wall. The Tate website says that:

Abstract art is art that does not attempt to represent an accurate depiction of a visual reality but instead use shapes, colours, forms and gestural marks to achieve its effect.

Sliding sideways from art into photography, I guess we can use the same definitions more or less. And I guess the photo is abstract. You can’t see exactly what everything is. But you can maybe guess what things might be. Is it abstract?