Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Twice Told Tuesday - The Hellenist?

Twice Told Tuesday features a photography related article reprinted
from old photography books, magazines, and newspapers.


Leaves From A Notebook
The Hellenist
A.J.A.
The Amateur Photographer
1907

WITH a rush and a swirl the girl passes by me. She has worked all day in a city office, and now she is out for a spin on her cycle to soak her body in ozone and draw deep breaths of pure country air into her lungs. She does not know that she is a potential Hellenist, a rebel against the hateful, smothering, binding sheets of modern civilisation, a reactionary against prunes and prisms and chiffon, one who is returning to nature to learn the joy of living.

I wonder what effect this wave of Hellenism which is sweeping over England will have on art. Will the healthy open-air life and the pursuit of wholesome, vigorous outdoor pleasures bring back something of the joyousness that inspired the ancient Greek? I think it will ; and I think it must deal the final deathblow to Victorian insincere insipidity and the morbid decadence that followed. It does not matter how the Smart Set fool and frivol, it does not matter if the lower class still brouse in their stuffy rooms and take cats' walks in the nearest recreation ground, for the great middle class, the upper middle class, and the lower middle class have taken to the open air, and this is the class which breeds the artists.

You have taken to the open air, my friend, only as yet to cycle hatless through the country, or to flog the streams and prick and scare the trout and spoil the fishing. But with the fresh air bathing your body and making your blood course clean and strong, you are learning to know the joy of living ; and presently you will learn to know the moors, and streams, and fields, not as a town mouse out for a holiday, but as one who has part and inheritance in them ; and you will learn to love beauty of form and colour in nature, and beauty of health and strength and comeliness in human beings, which is Hellenism.

I look out of my window : it is Saturday afternoon, and a weedy, stooping youth is passing. He wears mouse-coloured gloves and carries a camera, and his face is pale and his shoulders bent with much work in his small and ill-ventilated dark-room. He is shambling towards the common to expose plates, and presently he will return to his small and ill-ventilated dark-room and develop weak negatives and make joyless, depressing prints in two tones of mud-colour.

. . . . But hark! With a swish and a swirl my hatless girl comes past, my Hellenic girl with her rich, sun-browned cheeks : and she, too, has a camera strapped on her handle-bar.

I wonder what her photographs are like? Her camera looks workmanlike enough, and her tripod is not flimsy. I am sure the men whom she will photograph will be men, not clothes props or seedy decadents; and the women will be glorious healthy women like herself. She will photograph the sunshine, and the poplars, and the aspens, and the rushes, and the fountains that the Greeks loved. She will make joyous, happy pictures, neither weak nor crude, but full of light and atmosphere.

I do not know this girl, I do not want to know this girl, and perhaps lose an illusion. I love to hear her swirling past, I love to see her face bright with the joy of living, for it is a foretaste of a new Hellenic England where all will be strong and comely and wholesome, where morbid introspection has vanished, and a joyous, healthy love of beauty taken its place.

Hellenistic: The term "Hellenistic" refers to the Greek word "Hellas" for Greece. The period was characterized by the Greek-ifying of the ancient world thanks to the affinity that Alexander the Great had for Greek art, architecture, and intellectual ideas.

Sources:

Book:

A.J.A. "Leaves From A Notebook." The Amateur Photographer. London: Hinton. 1907.


Photograph:

Chickering, E. W. Madge Lessing. Photographic Print. Digital. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 US. Accessed July 2009.

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