Friday, November 25, 2011

Sepia Saturday 102 : Fish, Giraffes And Great Seals


The theme image this week was an extremely busy photograph entitled "Roadside Stand Near Birmingham, Alabama" by that great American photographer, Walker Evans. My matching shot is entitled "Auntie Miriam Near Noah's Ark, Blackpool" by that great Yorkshire photographer, Frank Fieldhouse (a.k.a. Uncle Frank).  Note how the photographer has cleverly balanced the composition so that it appears that a giraffe is stood on the lady's head and two sloping pediments spring forth out of her ears.

The Noah's Ark ride at Blackpool's famous Pleasure Beach was originally built in 1922 by William Homer Strickler, an American fairground construction engineer who was also responsible for building Blackpool's famous Big Dipper. Strickler must have regularly crossed the Atlantic because he was responsible for many of the famous fairground attractions of the North West of England and met his death in 1930 when he fell from a duplicate Noah's Ark he was building down the coast in Southport. My photograph captures the famous attraction in the mid 1930s when it had already undergone a couple of make-overs to its' external appearance. The internal workings - the cogs and the pulleys that made the floor shake and the animals move - remained the same and can still be seen to this day.

The giraffe, along with the 23 similar wooden animals that adorned the exterior, were added in the early 1930s and were designed by the famous British sculptor, Percy Metcalf. Born in Wakefield in 1895, Metcalf was a fascinating character who can best be described as a jobbing sculptor (I am sure he would have viewed such a description as a compliment as will the only other "jobbing sculptor" I can think of, my brother Roger). In addition to creating fairground animals, he designed pots, war memorials and car mascots. Perhaps he is most famous for his work with coins : he designed the first coinage of the Irish Free State and in 1940 he designed the George Cross medal. He was also involved in the design of the Great Seal of the Realm which is used to symbolise the Sovereign's approval of important state documents. There is something quite appealing about an artist who can turn his hand to ceremonial seals and wooden sea-lions will equanimity.

My first thought was that my photograph was a pale shadow of the level of activity of the Evans original. But. like any good old image, once you scratch under the surface layer of silver salts, there is an intriguing world on display.

TO SEE WHAT OTHER PEOPLE MAKE OF THIS WEEK'S THEME, GO TO THE SEPIA SATURDAY BLOG AND FOLLOW THE LINKS

26 comments:

  1. I'm really impressed that the internal workings remained the same and can be seen to this day.

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  2. You are not really being fair to the photographer. The giraffe is definitely to the left of her head and the sloping walls miss her ears by inches.

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  3. Your brother sounds interesting. I would probably call him a freelance sculptor.

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  4. I had an Aunt called Miriam, she was really my Dad's Aunt. Kept a Boarding House in Margate - had a son in the French Foreign Legion. Taught my little Brother to play Poker whilst still at the Infant School.

    I like Roger's Hat. Can he send me one.

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  5. I'll promise to send you a real giraffe to play with. Whenis your birthday?

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  6. I'm just SO glad to learn that the USA is not the only place with really tacky stuff along the road. ;o)

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  7. I got a big kick out of that last comment. Tacky stuff by the side of the road. You should see some of the shots I have from Jamaica. Quite an interesting brother along with yourself history man. Thanks for your work on SS.
    QMM

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  8. Another great snap and story. I recognize the pose as I would try to position the giraffe on someone's head too.

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  9. I never did get to Blackpool during my years in the UK so didn't get to see this Ark. Your aunt looks very happy.

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  10. Haha, Uncle frank has really done remarkably well with the composition! :)

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  11. I should add how interesting I think the background of this is. I'm all for "jobbing" anything, - I mean, people who can use their skill everyday to entertain, inspire or amuse a large range of people, or just be useful.

    Whereas Tracey Emin ....!

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  12. Not really a good advert for your wares - to fall to your death from one.

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  13. CB : Indeed, hardly a death-defying ride : by definition.
    Jenny W : I agree, I like to think of myself as a "jobbing thinker"

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  14. Interesting photo indeed!

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  15. Great photo composition lesson. Imagine what a perfect parody it would make it the giraffe and slopping walls lined up exactly!

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  16. A Yorkshire Giraffe!

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  17. What a cool spot! You just don't find that sort of photographic composition nowadays, do you? Mind you, I suspect that in Salvador Dali's effects, there might be a few of similar styling.

    Sorry, I couldn't make the deadline this week, Alan. You might be interested to know that I've moved back to Blogger. Unfortunately, the import/export business that it entailed kept me occupied to the exclusion of participating here.

    Kat

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  18. Love this! If your giraffe is looking for his long lost twin, I think it's posed in a local eccentric's front yard.

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  19. Great photo, Alan. The old Noah's Ark ride was worth 10 of these modern things with a whole series of animals to chose from. There's not much art required from a designer for a big bucket that whirls arond at speed. Bring back the Metcalfes of this world.

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  20. I think Uncle Frank was being ironic :-) Jo

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  21. You made me laugh with your comments about the giraffe on your aunt’s head, but it wsn’t as bad as some I’ve seen, where people have unwittingly had various objects growing out of them! It looks as if Auntie is wearing a hairnet, and very sensible too on that gusty Blackpool beach.

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  22. Sounds like a place my grands would love- thanks for sharing!

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  23. I knew I could count on you to come up with something...unusual!!
    :D~
    HUGZ

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  24. My parents lived near Blackpool for a time but in all the times I visited them there, I didn't see the Noah's Ark ride. I never realised what I was missing.

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  25. It's all such wonderfully grand folk art. I hope the figures created by Metcalf have survived. Just wonderful!

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  26. I love Uncle Frank's photo--but your description of how it's composed is priceless!

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