Lens Artists Challenge No. 176

Ann-Christine this week suggests that we go for a minimalist challenge but, as she says, that doesn’t mean just one picture. Use 1, 2 or 3, as long as you use only one image for each story you have captured.

What is a photo story? Some photos are taken just for their story, and some stories come to mind when you see your photo on the screen. A lot of photographic storytelling involves shots of scenes and phenomena that cannot easily be explained through words.

Here are three of mine.

My first images are of a young man I met a few years ago in the violin-making centre of Italy, Cremona. The afternoon I spent with this young luthier in his workroom watching him undertake the delicate tasks of cutting and filing, staining and painting taught me more about dedication, passion and love of a craft than I’d ever hoped to learn. And while he talked to me about how he sourced the wood and what it meant to go into the forest to find just the right tree, I was conscious of the mass-produced violins that were flooding the country from China and how his future is no longer as assured as it was a few years ago. Below is a postcard of the Conio family, grandfather, father and Stefano, all luthiers. Their life inspires me when the world seems full of dross.

The Conio family of violin makers in Cremona.

If you’d like to know more about Stefano, read my blog about him which covers in more detail exactly what he does.

My second subject is somewhat similar in that he too, is totally hands-on. A bodhrán is an Irish frame drum, a circular wooden frame covered with goatskin on one side, the other side open-ended allowing one hand to be placed against the inside of the drum head to control pitch and timbre. It is played by striking the skin with a bone known as a cipín.

Eamon Maguire makes his bodhráns from start to finish totally by hand. So hands-on is Belfast dwelling Eamon (above) that he first catches his wild goat, one of those that roams the hills of Antrim (he has a special licence to do this), kills it and then cures the skin to make the drum. Then and then only, he can begin the delicate work of making the bodhrán, before fine-tuning and embellishing it with his signature mark, a tuft of goat-hair and a quotation from the Book of Kells.

Eamon makes the finest bodhrans in Ireland and he supplies these to most of the Irish bands we are familiar with today including The Chieftains and The Fureys, to musicians like Bob Dylan, and to celebrities and Presidents of the USA. His work can also be seen in private homes and galleries from San Franscisco to Tokyo. He is also a fine sculptor in Irish bog oak which, yes, he digs up himself from the bogs and he plays in a band and teaches Irish set dancing!

Although like the two men above, she may have been hands-on from beginning to the end of this effort, she lives a somewhat different life. It is just after dawn on a beach in Thailand and this old lady is setting up to sell hard-boiled eggs to the early workers, locals, who will shortly pass by. Not for her the more lucrative tourist trade which the umbrellas in the background will soon welcome for beers and snacks, those sites are too expensive, so she buys eggs in the market, carries them home and boils them (probably outside on an open fire as few women like her have kitchens) and then hauls them down to the beach in the hope of selling them.

Before the tourists flock down to the water’s edge she will have packed up and gone, and they’ll never know someone like her existed. This is subsistence.

13 thoughts on “Lens Artists Challenge No. 176”

  1. Great stories Mari! I’m always fascinated by great crafts-people and the wonders they produce, but it was the Thai lady on the beach with her eggs that really captivated me. I hope she sells enough to get by, at least.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I thought that was the one you would like, our thoughts often go along the same track. I’m not often out very early (!) but on that occasion I’d been with a friend to give alms to the monks at dawn (it was almost dark so quite early), then we had a soup breakfast and walked along the beach where we came across this old lady. Lucky for me I had a Thai friend with me who was able to converse with her and yes, she makes enough now to keep herself and her grandson, as with the tourists providing work for more locals, they in turn, have more to spend with her.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Three good stories. I see them connected by the word “independent”, each wanting to go their own way, use their own ability and ply their craft/trade their own way. I’ve seen people like this in Nepal, especially skilled workers in stone and brass.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Dr. B. Yes, there are some brilliant craftspeople all over the world and we hope they can keep going despite AI and multi-processing. I think there will always be a place for the top craftspeople but it’s the in-betweeners and the new intake I worry for. Eamon really was a law unto himself – one of the most interesting men I’ve ever met.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely! I have no skills whatsoever, can do nothing with my hands, but the brain still functions! I would love just to play an instrument, piano for preference, which I was taught as a young girl but I’ve forgotten how to play now. I can still read music which is strange but I can’t get my fingers to do the correct thing – again, something to do with the right and left-hand side of the brain I think. The old lady was making enough to get by due to increased tourism providing jobs for locals – so that’s good to know as it’s good to see some filtering down of the benefits. Even so, she had to pay a few Baht to somebody for permission to sit on this bit of public beach and sell her eggs!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Tina. I’m glad you enjoyed them, sometimes it’s difficult to know if one’s own connection to the occasion is swaying one’s judgment so feedback like yours is so important.


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