In 1884, Auguste Rodin won the commission to create a memorial to the six brave citizens of Calais who gave themselves up to besieging British troops to save their town from destruction in 1347. His winning maquette showed the six men huddled together and set on a high plinth.
By depicting the group sacrifice of all six, rather than focusing on their leader, Eustache de Saint Pierre, Rodin’s proposal presented a powerful statement of solidarity in the face of external threat. It was an approach that resonated with the committee following the humiliation of the Franco-Prussian war.
Over the next decade, Rodin worked feverishly in his studio creating full-size nude sculptures of the six men, which he then covered in loose clothing dipped in plaster.
Over 100 casts, full-sized sculptures, masks and other fragments of hands, legs, and torsos filled his studio to form a repository of component parts that he continuously assembled and re-arranged. His task was to represent each of the six men
… as isolated, face to face with the fear of death. I have wanted to show that the body, even weakened by the cruelest of suffering, still clings to life.
It is this deep wellspring of humanity that emanates from the figure of one of the Burghers, Pierre de Wissant, as he faces death. The anguish of his decision is evident in every sinew of his twisted body. His head turns away from his fellow burgers and his right arm is raised in a tortured salute; his utter dejection is painful to experience.
At roughly life-size, Pierre de Wissant stands amongst us, so we interact with him and relate even more closely to his presence in the world. Rodin’s final decision on the installation of the Burghers of Calais was to eschew the high plinth and place the six men on the ground so the public could walk amongst them and with them to experience the full tragedy and the impact of their sacrifice.
However, the Mayor and his committee wanted a more heroic memorial and, as initially conceived, set them on a high plinth so viewers had to strain upwards to see them silhouetted against the sky. It wasn’t until 1924, after Rodin’s death, that they were finally re-installed on the ground as he intended.
Public sculptures of this period were based on a hierarchical arrangement of figures with one singled out for glory at the apex (in this case the leader Eustache de Saint Pierre), but Rodin created an entirely new kind of memorial that overturned that grandiose heroic mindset.
His composition is circular, the figures are all the same height, and when viewed in the round from multiple perspectives, each becomes momentarily the focus of our attention.
Also, rather than show the great dignity and resolve of the six men, as the committee might have been expected, Rodin focused on their inner turmoil as they faced death, nooses around their necks and walking to their imminent execution. “I have not shown them grouped in a triumphant apotheosis; such glorification of their heroism would not have corresponded to anything real,” Rodin explained.
So by reimagining the nature of commemorative sculpture, Rodin created a very modern memorial that rejects recourse to an external redemptive power and replaces it with the belief that every person can acquit themselves through the heroism of their deeds. The act of sacrifice has ennobled the lives of these six men, and they need no further salvation.
Our empathy for Pierre de Wissant is heightened because although cast in bronze he is so tantalisingly human. His carefully modeled form is convincing as flesh, the light flowing over the surface describes each muscle and every sinew. Rodin took great effort to find a suitable model to represent Pierre, who moved around the studio to enable him to record his idiosyncrasies and capture his inner motivations and emotions, but the final figure is an agglomeration.
The parts of his body were separately and in combination, chosen to give the most intense expression of suffering. In the process of creating all six figures, feet were added to different legs, one torso was re-used for other characters and Pierre and his brother Jacques de Wissant share the same right hand. Every element serves an expressive purpose. Through their modeled faces, in their flowing drapery or through the choice of slightly larger than life hands and feet, Rodin builds the emotional power of the group.
Rodin has made each of these men live again the last concentrated moment of life.
That life force is palpable in the presence of Pierre de Wissant as we circle his anguished body, empathizing with his momentous decision and wondering if we too might be capable of such courage and self-sacrifice.
Versus Rodin: Bodies across space and time is at the Art Gallery of South Australia from 4 March – 2 July 2017
Ted Snell does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.
Think about this: Stephen King has been releasing one, sometimes two books a year pretty much every year since his first novel, Carrie, was published in 1974. That’s 43 freakin’ years of consistent output! He’s become such a mainstay of our culture that it’s easy to take his genius for granted.
King’s been writing since he was 7 years-old, when he would copy and rearrange the stories out of his favourite comic books. Impressed by her son’s talent, King’s mother urged him to write an original story. He began submitting short stories to horror and sci-fi magazines at age 12 and would use a nail hammered into the wall above his typewriter to hold all his rejection letters. By the time he was 14, the nail wouldn’t hold the weight of the letters anymore and King had to replace it with a larger spike. By the time he was 16, King was still getting rejection letters, although at least now there were hand-written notes of encouragement from editors scribbled on them. By his mid 20s, King was selling the occasional short story to pulp and mens magazines but not nearly enough to make a living. He was working in an industrial laundry, cleaning maggot-infested restaurant and hospital sheets, while his wife Tabitha, also a writer, worked at Dunkin’ Donuts. They had two young children, were living in a trailer and although King managed to find better work as an English teacher, he was starting to despair that his writing career would never take off.
“Good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognise them when they show up.”
King chanced upon the idea for Carrie when he recalled working as a high school janitor. While he was cleaning the female locker room he paid special attention to the shower curtains since he knew the boys lockers didn’t have them. He imagined an opening scene (NSFW) in which a girls locker room didn’t have the curtains and students were forced to shower in front of each other. What if a girl had her period in the shower but didn’t know what it was, and all the other girls laughed and threw tampons at her? How would that girl retaliate? Then King remembered reading an article about telekenisis and how there was evidence that it was prevalent in young girls, especially around the time of their first period. Boom, that’s when two unrelated ideas came together to create something new. King knew he had found an idea for a book and wrote three pages of a first draft while working his teaching job. He hated it and threw it in the trash. It was King’s wife Tabitha who found the pages while emptying the bin and encouraged her husband to finish it. Carrie was published in 1974 and was King’s breakthrough novel. King finished off the decade with a string of bestsellers including ‘Salem’s Lot and The Shining.
By the ’80s King and his family were living in a beautiful house in Bangor, Maine, and King was writing at his dream, massive oak desk. However, he was also an alcoholic and a drug addict. He would write all hours of the day strung out on cocaine and medicate at night with a whole case of 16-ounce beers. In 1985 and at risk of losing his family, Tabitha held an intervention and gave King an ultimatum: get help or get out of the house. Thankfully, King managed to get clean and put his family life back together. And thankfully for us, through it all, he never stopped writing.
– The quote used for the comic and all the info sourced for the post come from King’s fantastic memoir/how-to bookOn Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. A must-read for anyone with the slightest interest in writing.
– Further reading: Stephen King’s Family Business. A beautiful profile of the entire King family from The New York Times. Not only is King’s wife a writer, but so are his two sons and daughter-in-law.
– My Top 5 Stephen King books: Misery, Different Seasons, The Stand, The Long Walk, Under the Dome. I admit I haven’t read any of The Dark Tower books (hangs head in shame). What’s your favourite?
It’s Top Tag Tuesday once again and that means we’ve highlighted some of the best photos for each of the top-five trending tags on Flickr this week!
THE SPACE IN BETWEEN
As every Monday, the theme for this week’s macro challenge, ‘The Space in Between,’ is trending on Flickr. The Macro Mondays Group asked Flickr photographers to capture some of the most interesting things they could find in between two objects and make that the focal point of their images.
As you’ve probably guessed, ‘Natur’ is the German word for ‘nature.’ As the spring season approaches, Flickr photographers are heading outside to take pictures of blooming flowers, full rivers, warmer sunrises and other signs of early Spring.
What better place for capturing nature at its best than a rural landscape? Small towns and farms are surely great places to stare at the sky, breath some fresh air, and ruminate on life’s important details.
It’s Carnival season in Spain and that may be the reason why ‘España’ is a trending tag this week. Spaniards know how to celebrate every occasion properly and carnivals are no exception. From South to North, Spain celebrates this unique festivity with different fiestas across the country and the photographers are using their country tag to represent!
We can’t deny our excitement for the upcoming season. For the most part, Flickr is saying ‘goodbye’ to Winter and ‘hello’ to Spring with some rocking pictures of rainbows, melting snow, and hailstorms.
In July 1980, a group of Salvadoran migrants crossed the border between Mexico and Arizona. They walked over a remote mountain range and halfway across a wide desert valley in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. There were more than two dozen of them—people who had left behind lives and jobs to come to the United States.
The migrants had hired guides to lead them on their journey through one of the most desolate areas of the Sonoran desert. But the heat proved too deadly and they hadn’t anticipated how far they would have to walk. Around a dozen of them died the first day out.
The survivors were eventually found huddled in the sparse shade of some scrub brush. They were delirious and suffering from intense dehydration and heatstroke. U.S. Border Patrol agents brought them to a hospital in Tucson. It was there that a Reverend named John Fife of Southside Presbyterian Church first encountered the migrants and began to learn more about why they had crossed the border.
These migrants had fled from El Salvador’s civil war. For decades, the country had been ruled by a series of oligarchs and corrupt military leaders. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, left-wing revolutionaries began to grow in power and influence, and the military responded by trying to crush the resistance. Death squads targeted union leaders, community organizers, and other people they suspected of sympathizing with the guerrillas. Many civilians were caught in the middle of this violence.
Similar conflicts were unfolding in Nicaragua and Guatemala. Hundreds of thousands of Central Americans were trying to get away from these dangerous and bloody civil wars. They were fleeing their countries, making their way up through Mexico, and crossing into the United States.
Rev. Fife and his congregation began to help these Central American migrants. Their efforts would mark the beginning of a new — and controversial — social movement based on the ancient religious concept of “sanctuary,” the idea that churches have a duty to shelter people fleeing persecution. There’s been a lot of talk about “sanctuary” in the news recently and the modern movement in the U.S can trace its roots back to Fife.
Fife’s first inclination had been to work within the rules of the immigration system to help the migrants seek asylum.
Since 1980—when Congress passed The Refugee Act — the U.S. has asked people to meet a number of requirements in order to qualify for political asylum. Applicants must establish that they have a “well-founded fear” of persecution in their home country, based on their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or social group. They also have to prove their government is actually involved in the persecution or that it can’t control the groups that are.
While the standards for asylum are straightforward, establishing one’s eligibility can be a challenge. The process relies heavily on a single person’s testimony about what they’ve been through, and there is seldom physical evidence to support the claims.
Despite the challenges of qualifying for asylum, Rev. Fife and his church—with help from some legal aid organizations in Tucson— began arranging legal assistance for the Central American migrants. They started visiting detention centers and helping people fill out the appropriate paperwork. They arranged for lawyers to represent them in court.
But Fife found that, in many cases, even when migrants met the requirements for asylum, they were not getting it. He began to wonder what was behind these decisions to deport people who seemed to be making valid claims about the dangers they faced back in their home countries.
Central Americans hoping for asylum faced significant hurdles. Just as they began turning up at the U.S.-Mexico border in the late-1970s and early-1980s, tens of thousands of refugees from other places — like Cuba and Iran — were also seeking refuge in the United States. The government was overwhelmed with applications.
Most Central Americans had also historically come to the U.S. for jobs—not because they were fleeing political persecution. The government was inclined to view them as economic migrants.
Asylum policy also intersected with foreign policy in complex ways. Ronald Reagan, who served as president from 1981 to 1989, saw Central America as an important front in the Cold War and the fight against communism. He argued the region was so close to the U.S. that the country’s national security required it to stop communist movements from flourishing there.
The U.S. had a long history of supporting Central American governments that aligned with its economic and foreign policy interests. Because the U.S. government considered the governments of El Salvador and Guatemala to be political allies in the fight against communism, it was reluctant to acknowledge that these governments were involved in the persecution of their own people.
Under Reagan, almost all Salvadoran and Guatemalan border-crossers were classified not as political refugees but as “economic migrants.” Under that designation, many failed to qualify for asylum and were sent back to their home countries. According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice, fewer than 3% of Salvadorans and Guatemalans who applied for asylum were approved. In that same period, the approval rate for Iranians was 60%. For Afghans fleeing the Soviet invasion it was 40%.
This political climate put Rev. Fife and his congregants in a tough position. They didn’t want to encourage the migrants who were seeking help at their church to report to Immigration when they knew it was almost certain they’d be deported.
This was the quandary Fife was in when a man named Jim Corbett got involved. Corbett was a Quaker, and as the refugee crisis in Tucson continued to grow, his religious faith compelled him to take action, and he wanted Fife and his congregation to get involved.
Corbett pointed to the church’s failings in protecting Jewish people fleeing the Holocaust in the 1930s and 40s. Corbett did not want to repeat that mistake. Instead he wanted to emulate the actions of some Christians in the 1840s and 50s, when church people helped move runaway slaves across state lines and through the underground railroad to safety.
Corbett had already done some border runs on his own, picking up Central American migrants in Mexico and helping them cross the border to safety in the United States. But soon Rev. Fife and a handful of others started helping him. At first they used Corbett’s property to shelter the migrants, and then they started using the church as temporary housing.
Soon, on any given night, the church would have dozens of people sleeping in the main gathering space. Church members at Southside Presbyterian provided food, clothes, English lessons, medical care, and access to immigration attorneys. The migrants were still undocumented and faced possible deportation. But the church provided access to resources, guidance, and a place to stay.
In deciding to take the refugees into their church, the congregation was drawing on a long history of other houses of worship doing the same. In Greek and Roman history, people who were threatened with persecution could find protection in temples. When the Roman Empire became Christian, churches took on the same function. The concept of “sanctuary” can also be found in medieval canon law and British common law. More recently, churches had sheltered conscientious objectors during the Vietnam War.
Meanwhile, the U.S. government’s view was that churches in the sanctuary movement were harboring undocumented immigrants who had crossed into the country illegally. Religious institutions in the U.S. do not have special permission to harbor people who are breaking the law. And, as it turns out, the government was keeping an eye on the sanctuary movement’s growing operation.
Despite potential legal ramifications, Fife thought that by going public the church could generate attention and gain support. They invited a few other churches across the country to join them in a public announcement — and in March of 1982, they hung a huge banner on the front of Southside Presbyterian Church that said, in Spanish, “this is a sanctuary of God for the oppressed of Central America.” They held a service and publicly welcomed a new family from El Salvador to join the other refugees who were staying at the church. And they staged a press conference to explain exactly what the “sanctuary movement” was and what their goals were.
As word spread, a network of religious sanctuary spaces began to form. By the mid- to late- 80s, hundreds of churches and synagogues across the country had declared themselves sanctuaries. And those religious spaces were in turn connected to a network of churches that extended down into Mexico and Central America.
One of the government’s criticisms of the sanctuary movement was that it lacked the expertise and resources to evaluate potential refugees. But Rev. Fife argued that they had a vast network of priests and pastors in Central America who could help them vet potential migrants.
Meanwhile, as the movement grew bigger and more visible, the whole endeavor became more controversial — and riskier for participants in the sanctuary movement.
Next time on 99% Invisible: undercover government informants infiltrate the sanctuary movement and legal battles raise fundamental questions about the separation of church & state.
I would generally say: “Shoot only RAW”. Why not? It’s just another format.
But why could you do RAW+JPG, or just JPG? What would be valid reasons?
Here are a few.
You want to be sure that you have the shot – a pic could be corrupt, but if you have two you may be OK.
You may need to print a copy, like on a printer, straight from the card
You have to upload loads of pictures quickly, like for a newspaper shoot of a sports match
You want backups as in the first example, but you have two memory cards and can write to both at the same time. Every time I shoot, I save RAW to card 1, and JPG to card 2 – that way card 2 can be a 32GB while card 1 is a 64 GB.
You want to compare the camera’s treatment of the raw data with your computer’s.
So a you see, there’s quite a few valid reasons. When you see super simple solutions on the Internet, like “Authority Figure X says ‘shoot RAW only” – well, the world may not in fact be that simple. Be wary of simplicity, while you chase it at the same time, because “less is more”.