Nobody believes me now but my first camera was a Brownie box camera, a camera that was invented by Kodak in the early 1900s. It wasn’t mine exactly but I got to use it when I was about 12 years old.
It had been left on top of the book shelf in the seomra suí of my mother’s house in Ranelagh – but I was able to get at it by standing on my tippy toes on the back of an old armchair and reaching up for it.
Nobody wanted it anymore.
But I had a book about photography and this was a camera that I could use. (I’m surprised now that there was still film available to buy for it). It was very basic – one shutter speed, one aperture – but it also had one yellow filter which made the clouds in the blue sky stand out and I remember, I even fashioned a lens hood for it, out of an old Elastoplast spool cover…
That’s enough of the “technical stuff” but I was reminded of all this recently, at the current exhibition at the Olivier Cornet Gallery entitled: Chiens Bleus, Chiens Gris.
It features the graphic works of LEYHO along with photographs from the First World War by Cornet’s great-granduncle François Bost and some specially commissioned photo intaglio prints by Robert Russell.
For instance, the photograph below was taken by Bost from an aeroplane during the war. You can just make out the trenches – and those tiny white dots are the unfortunate soldiers. It was taken during the Battle of the Somme in 1916.
One wonders how such beautiful images could be taken of such horrific scenes of wanton slaughter…
Whereas Cornet’s relative survived the war, LEYHO’s relative Francis Régeard, also a great-granduncle, was killed in the trenches during the same Battle of the Somme.
But Régeard had kept a notebook/diary recording his experiences as a soldier and this is still in the possession of the family. It was this diary that inspired LEYHO to produce a graphic novel or comic book illustrating the harrowing wartime experiences of his great-granduncle.
Again, one wonders how such beautiful, deeply moving images can be created out of such terrible circumstances, the art somehow bringing healing or redemption to this wretched world.
Because we still have wars. We still have the slaughter of the innocents.
But for every savage act, let there be a beautiful artistic response. Remember Vedran Smailović, the Cellist of Sarajevo. Remember the Rose Revolution in Tbilisi, Georgia. Remember Dareen Tatour, the Palestinian poet still in prison because of a poem she wrote…
Beauty trumps evil, don’t you think.
PS: The art critic Aidan Dunne has written a good review of the exhibition (click here)