“Which explains the curious phenomenon whereby valuable elements may be easier to experience in art and in anticipation than in reality.The anticipatory and artistic imaginations omit and compress, they cutaway the periods of boredom and direct our attention to critical moments and, without either lying or embellishing, thus lend to life a vividness and a coherence that It may lack in the distracting woolliness of the present.”
From The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton
We acquired this lovely book from David Liknaitsky who bought it for my wife, Sheila, spontaneously one day at the V & A Waterfront, Cape Town. I resolved then to forgive him in perpetuity the socks he inflicts on his friends and passers-bye alike. De Botton’s prose style is a wonder to read: lucid, clear as a bell but never dull. Master of the telling word or phrase he fully deserves the accolade form Jan Morris “de Botton has never written a dull sentence in his life”. How many of us can say that?
Besides the elegance of his style, de Botton mines his consciousness for fragments and ideas that most of us hurry past in our eagerness to reach a destination. The other great asset of the true artist, therefore, is “patience”, something I must continually remind myself of. If it’s worth doing, it is worth spending the time and effort to do it well.
Cape Town offers a variety of “urban environments”: country life, old elegance, office
block modern, shackland, suburbia bland, new money, and what I call “Urban Funk”. The best spots for UF by all accounts are Observatory, recently designated a National Heritage site and Long Street in the Cape Town CBD. Observatory, widely called Obz, resides in the shadow of Devil’s Peak and the mighty Groote Schuur Hospital.
To be faithful to de Botton, if I recorded all I would need to include scraps of paper in the gutter, boring and broken facades and the unmistakable signs of poverty. But Obz is more than that. It has had an important role in the evolution of Cape Town and has lifted itself out of decline to become one of Cape Town’s more interesting suburbs mingling crime, funky architecture, cafe and night life, gracious older homes behind trees adapted to the noise and smells of urbania and the
bold and sometimes artful use of colour and design to rise above the mundane and banal.
But the dirty little secret of urban photography is voyeurism. Watching the locals and capturing them at work and play in 1/500th of a second without being intrusive and disconcerting. Wandering into shop interiors and dealing with man’s best and worst friends are all part of the challenges of urban photography. Here are the images from one such shoot. I hope you like the taste, smell and ambiance.
(Remember: clicking on an image takes you to the bigger version. )