Monday 4 January 2021

Picture Post #60 The Teapot

'Because things don’t appear to be the known thing; they aren’t what they seemed to be neither will they become what they might appear to become.'

Posted by Martin Cohen

The magic teapot… Or is it an Aladdin’s lamp? 

The shape so familiar, but here given a different quality… 

The photographer is Jindřich Brok, a Czech photographer born 20 January 1912 and who died in 1995. He’s not very well-known, or indeed successful. So for more than that, you have to go to the Czech Republic itself where one website confirms he was the son of salesman in Kutná Hora, where he began photographing in 1929. After the death of his father, he took over the business, which he expanded to include a photo department and studied a particular kind of photography - the photography of glass. And then came the Nazi occupation, during which time he was interned in the Terezín concentration camp. 

Perhaps that is why there is a bleak aspect to these images, almost spectral, or ghostly?


Thomas O. Scarborough said...

Thank you, Martin. Your last line is an interesting one -- which no doubt it is meant to be!

It brings to mind a book which made a special impression on me: Cosmopolis (1990), by Stephen Toulmin, who was influenced by Ludwig Wittgenstein at Cambridge.

In this book, Toulmin traces how major thinkers' philosophies were infused with their background and personality, or shaped by their experience of the world. It was a holistic view I greatly appreciated.

Keith said...

I see a brittleness and vulnerability to the image of the transparent teapot, resonant of much of the wide-ranging imagery that Brok’s larger body of black-and-white photographs hauntingly capture. Putting this deceptively simple teapot image in important context of Brok’s collected work, spanning glass forms and Jewish old cemeteries, there’s a consistent severity and vulnerability that, presumably, arose from his internment in Terezin and the depravity he witnessed.

Tessa den Uyl said...

Sometimes I would like to think that it would be possible to perceive without any previous knowledge, to see what one would perceive! Brok's background makes me look at this picture of a smoking chimney from a building where suffering boils itself into oblivion. I would have seen an Aladdin's lamp at first and interestingly one faces one own's ambivalence
into a (simple) teapot.

Martin Cohen said...

Yes, three different perspectives here! Myself, I came across the image posted by one of my fellow 'Tweeps' (meaning someone I follow on twitter). They added a sentence about the image but it was not about the photographer, rather a free comment on what it meant to them. Unfortunately, in the ephemeral world of Twitter, the tweet has vanished again!

However, I think- and is this what Tessa says here? - all images and paintings - and indeed books!- should be approached 'anew', without packaging - be it the author's life or the era or whatever. It is after all the spirit of the work, to be a creation placed in the world, even if also it turns out to be a reflection of its human creator.

And so, yes, to the image! I found it without context originally and as I hope I hinted in the post, it is to me a clever image because of the juxtaposition of this homely outline of a teapot and the spectral light of the interior. Does this perhaps have a spiritual feel too? The teapot becomes a life-form, animated by its bubbling soul?

Tessa den Uyl said...

Perceiving anew, yes, I do think this is an important exercise? This involves attention to everything that surrounds us ( including people, information, and how we perceive behaviour, knowledge). If we would bring ten thousand person’s to the Louvre and take away any previous charged information and have these person’s choose a work which attracts to them, most probably many will not pick the most famous ones. We’re influenced and therefor act upon those influences. From this point of view I guess we do not choose much!

Back to the teapot, honestly I face a similar difficulty, like with all images. First B/W photography is of a quality that is seemingly surpassed in this era, while grey tones are telling everything about form. This is education? And Today, this makes one look at a timeless image like this one in B/W as dated? Although the object is surely not, and to my believe when an image withholds in time, this is certainly a quality that reflects our own timelessness. To bring this into an image is not as simple as it might look. To extend this to the written language as well, this works in a similar way. We are touched on a long term when we recognise timelessness within a work, no matter who the maker is. This could be one explanation why technique is not the first necessity to make a good work, rather a certain sensitivity towards life is the key to create?

Milo said...

Splendi picture!

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