The best library in the world

My Grandma’s house is not so much a house as a library.

Her incredible life in Rome, Paris, London, New York, Tripoli and Nigeria and a career at the BBC and the UN have all culminated in the most incredible collection of books. Fluent in English, French and Italian, there are hundreds of dusty old books hidden away that I couldn’t even begin to understand, dating as far back as the early 19th century.

Unfortunately, my wonderful, adoring Grandma passed away last summer at the grand old age of 91. I was very close with her, and loved to hear her stories about the amazing life she led (‘did I ever tell you about the time I met Marlon Brando?’). When she died, I was heartbroken that I wouldn’t get to hear any more of these stories.

How wrong I was.

Luckily for me, my Grandma was a bit of a hoarder. Going through her house and sorting through her incredible collection of dresses, furniture and items from around the world has been just like sitting and listening to her stories (‘did I ever tell you about the time I crashed in the Libyan desert?’). Apart from the suitcases filled with hundreds of letters written to her father, sister and husband throughout her life and travels, which I’m sure I will spend years reading through, she left behind around 2000 books.

My Grandma was overjoyed when she discovered I loved to read, and even more so when I chose to study English Literature at University. As well as her stories (‘did I ever tell you about the time I interviewed Toti Del Monte? Didn’t care for her’) we would spend hours talking about books, which authors annoyed her (most of them) and which ones she had met (also most of them). Going through all of these books was an absolute joy for me, although one undeniably tinged with sadness. My dad and I set about cataloging the hundreds of dusty old paperbacks and beautiful Folios, finding first editions and exciting inscriptions dotted around amongst the shelves.

Despite my parents’ desperate pleas of ‘we can’t possibly keep them all’, I wouldn’t dream of getting rid of any (except sharing some with other family members). Suffice it to say, I now have a very long reading list.

I love seeing the books people have collected and choose to display on their walls – it says so much about a person. Next time you are visiting a friend or relative, take a moment to look at their bookshelves.

Credit: Becca Lazar http://beccalazar.tumblr.com/
Credit: Becca Lazar http://beccalazar.tumblr.com/

Currently reading: E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India. Although I am still in the early chapters, some of the commentaries on racial prejudice still resonate today. With the formidable rise of UKIP and rhetoric of hate and fear directed towards other races and cultures, the upcoming election will undoubtedly define the progression or regression of racial attitudes in the UK.

In memory of Marie Antoinette Lazar and her adventures – ‘be good, but not too good!’

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Magnum and the Dying Art of Darkroom Printing

Love this, if you ever have the opportunity to experience a darkroom, take it! The scribbles all over these photographs remind me of my own work, both literary and photographic! Never be afraid to scribble down your ideas – not only is it interesting for you to look back on but I’ve found so many second-hand books with someone else’s scribbles all over them and it makes them so much more valuable to me.

the literate lens

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of spending some time with Pablo Inirio, master darkroom printer at  Magnum Photos in New York. I was thinking about that interview recently as I heard the news of Kodak’s bankruptcy and pondered the precarious status of “old media” like books, film and silver gelatin prints.

As Magnum’s printer, Inirio gets to work with some of photography’s most iconic images. In his small darkroom, the prints lying casually around include Dennis Stock’s famous portrait of James Dean in Times Square (right) and a cigar-chewing Che Guevara shot by Rene Burri. Intricate squiggles and numbers are scrawled all over the prints, showing Inirio’s complex formulas for printing them. A few seconds of dodging here, some burning-in there. Will six seconds be enough to bring out some definition in the building behind Dean? Perhaps, depending on the temperature of the chemicals.

Of course, this…

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Pilot

As this is my first blog post, I’m treating you to both a poem and a photo that say something about me. Firstly, here is a beautiful sonnet I discovered last year (hint: my name is Genevieve).

Maid of my Love, sweet Genevieve!
In Beauty’s light you glide along:
Your eye is like the Star of Eve,
And sweet your voice, as Seraph’s song
Yet not your heavenly beauty gives
This heart with Passion soft to glow:
Within your soul a voice there lives!
It bids you hear the tale of Woe.
When sinking low the sufferer wan
Beholds no hand outstretch’d to save,
Fair, as the bosom of the Swan
That rises graceful o’er the wave,
I’ve seen your breast with pity heave,
And therefore love I you, sweet Genevieve!

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

To those of you who, like me, have grown up with the torment of never finding your name on a key-ring, mug or, more recently, coke bottle, you will understand my joy at discovering Coleridge’s sonnet, ‘Genevieve’. Having studied and loved the Romantic poets, stumbling across this beautiful poem was a moment of joy for both my inner literary nerd and the child who had to battle with the difficulties of a 9-letter name (note: the first word you learn to write is your name. I resented every Joe and Sam in my class). Who needs a cheap teddy bear when I have a Romantic sonnet! I may just forgive my parents for my pretentious and overly-complicated name yet…

Here are a few photos I took over the weekend visiting my favourite place in the world and second home, Walberswick. It’s a tiny village in Suffolk, and these photographs were taken on a walk to and from Southwold, across the River Blyth. It’s a beautiful place, and one that means a lot to me and my family who have been visiting for generations.

I will be posting regularly about my main areas of interest, a range of literature from Shakespeare to T. S. Eliot and Photographers from Cartier-Bresson to Winogrand, with a focus on 20th Century street photography, as well as some of my own work.

Southwold
Southwold Common, 1/11/14
1/11/14
Walberswick, River Blyth, 1/11/14
IMGP2623
Southwold Beach Huts, 1/11/14