30 June 2010


Levi van Veluw is a Dutch photographer. Lanscapes is his 4-piece self-portrait series.

29 June 2010

Everybody knows this is nowhere

Ryan McGinley is a photographer from the United States. While I have chosen his individual (non-series) photographs, McGinley is more known for his project work. See Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere series.

28 June 2010


Denis Darzacq is a French photographer. The featured photographs are from his Hyper and La chute series, and they are not digitally manipulated.

25 June 2010


These are scenes from The Sweet Hereafter, an awarded film directed by Atom Egoyan (1997, Canada). The film is based on the novel (of the same title) by Russell Banks (1991).
The story is simple and heartbreaking. A school bus from a small American town runs into an accident, as a result of which almost all the town's children die. The accident is not in the focus as much as the aftermath, the impact it had on the town.
And indeed, Hameln, too, must have become... strange and new.

Where waters gushed and fruit-trees grew,
And flowers put forth a fairer hue,
And everything was strange and new

24 June 2010

Prince of the apple towns

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry,
Time let me hail and climb
Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
Trail with daisies and barley
Down the rivers of the windfall light.

And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
In the sun that is young once only,
Time let me play and be
Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
And the sabbath rang slowly
In the pebbles of the holy streams.

All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air
And playing, lovely and watery
And fire green as grass.
And nightly under the simple stars
As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the nightjars
Flying with the ricks, and the horses
Flashing into the dark.

And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all
Shining, it was Adam and maiden,
The sky gathered again
And the sun grew round that very day.
So it must have been after the birth of the simple light
In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm
Out of the whinnying green stable
On to the fields of praise.

And honoured among foxes and pheasants by the gay house
Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long,
In the sun born over and over,
I ran my heedless ways,
My wishes raced through the house high hay
And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows
In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs
Before the children green and golden
Follow him out of grace.

Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
In the moon that is always rising,
Nor that riding to sleep
I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.

The poem is Fern Hill, by Dylan Thomas (published first in Deaths and Entrances, 1946). Press here to hear it recited by Anthony Hopkins.
The film scene is from Ratcatcher, a British film written and directed by Lynne Ramsay (debut, 1999).

23 June 2010


This is the opening scene of Krysař, a renowned animated film directed by Jiří Barta (1986). In this version of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, it is not the rats that infest the town and it is not for the rats that the Piper comes to Hameln.
In the opening scene, Barta introduces the city of Hameln as a character in its own right. Hameln is a mythological, gothic Gormenghast, a one single jointed, twisted structure. It is a medieval town of blacksmiths and iron, without even a trace of trees, grass or birds. The underlying machines of the town set the sunrise in Hameln, and the risen sun is of dim quality that does not allow for a full palette of colours.
Townsmen - cubist puppets of dark walnut wood - are an integrated non-separable part of Hameln. Barta explained in an interview for Kinoeye that he wanted to show the townsmen as mere puppets, as wooden machines, in striking contrast to the emotional, dynamic and dramatic world of rats (also visually, since real dead rats were used to create the rat puppets).
"The puppets' world," explained Barta, "is one of horror."
Barta further dehumanized the townsmen as he made them squeak in unintelligible gibberish, while the Pied Piper, Agnes and the old fisherman remain markedly silent. The Pied Piper keeps his silence even when he is insulted by the townsmen and paid, mockingly, with a black button.
Barta's Pied Piper does not retaliate in the same way as Grimms' one. At sunrise, he stops the time in Hameln and begins to pipe.

22 June 2010

Pagan Pied Piper

One of the better visual portraits of the Pied Piper can be seen in this animated video - ... a fictitious take on reality... - directed by Ron Winter.
The Pied Piper is a song by Yoriyos, the son of Yusuf Islam aka Cat Steven, and it appears on his debut album Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (2006).
The lyrics are nothing to write home about. But the visuals certainly make up for the lyrics:
- the indie-folk image of the Pied Piper, with a touch of punk and Gorillaz;
- Piper appearing an eco good guy, his limbs being all branchy, his hair all leaves;
- Piper not revealing his face and wearing an obvious mask;
- the pagan procession of child followers...
It's brilliant. It makes me go all wicked-wicker-man. This wicked Wicker Man.

21 June 2010

Gothic Goethe

Goethe wrote "Der Rattenfänger" (1802) as a monologue, a first person narrative (in verse), by the Rat-catcher himself. Goethe, who considered to write the Piper into "Faust", in the role of Mephistopheles' friend and servant, made the Pied Piper seductive and boastful. Indeed, how would the Pied Piper perceive himself? As a seducer, whether of rats, children or maidens:

Sometimes the bard so full of cheer
As a child-catcher will appear,
Who even the wildest captive brings,
Whenever his golden tales he sings.
However proud each boy in heart,
However much the maidens start,
I bid the chords sweet music make,
And all must follow in my wake.

Yet, what would Goethe's seducer be without a pipe? A very, very dangerous man. For Goethe's Piper is no musician.
The posted composition is Goethe's poem made into an art song (Lied) by Hugo Wolf, a Slovenian composer. While the singing is seductive, boastful and even cheerful, the instrumental accompaniment is

20 June 2010

Where have all the young ones gone, long time ago…

"He returned on June 26, Saint John's and Saint Paul's Day, early in the morning at seven o'clock (others say it was at noon), now dressed in a hunter's costume, with a dreadful look on his face and wearing a strange red hat. He sounded his fife in the streets, but this time it wasn't rats and mice that came to him, but rather children: a great number of boys and girls from their fourth year on,"

can be read in The Children of Hameln, a folk tale as recorded by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (1816, Deutsche Sagen).
"In total," recorded the Grimms, "130 were lost."
There is no evidence that the legend of the Rat-catcher (or the Pied Piper) is actually based on any real event. The fact that the event is told to have happened on a specific date rather than once upon a time seems to lend the tale authenticity in the public eye. What is essentially a folk tale has been repeatedly recorded as an actual event. Being that these recordings are themselves centuries old, they lend yet another aura of authenticity to the legend.

"In the year 1284 after the birth of Christ
From Hameln were led away
One hundred thirty children, born at this place,"

is inscribed, centuries long already, on the town hall of Hameln. The town records begin with "the event" – an event that may very well have never happened. The “fact” is kept eerily alive by town regulations that prohibit any music to be heard on the Pied Piper’s (so-called “drumless”) street.
Many explanations have been offered of the actual event in 1284 that might have spawned the legend. Please refer to Wikipedia for these. As for me, I am far more fascinated by the tale itself, its many possibilities and reincarnations in art over time. These I will bring before you in the coming days.
So far, I’ve been quoting Robert Browning’s excellent rendition, The Pied Piper of Hamelin (1905).

Once more he stept into the street;
And to his lips again
Laid his long pipe of smooth straight cane;
And ere he blew three notes (such sweet
Soft notes as yet musician's cunning
Never gave the enraptured air)
There was a rustling, that seemed like a bustling
Of merry crowds justling at pitching and hustling,
Small feet were pattering, wooden shoes clattering,
Little hands clapping, and little tongues chattering,
And, like fowls in a farm-yard when barley is scattering,
Out came the children running.
All the little boys and girls,
With rosy cheeks and flaxen curls,
And sparkling eyes and teeth like pearls,
Tripping and skipping, ran merrily after
The wonderful music with shouting and laughter.

Posted above is Ingrid Bergman’s take on Browning’s verse. Bergman's reading is charming and endearing, and all the more deliciously creepy for that.

18 June 2010

26 June 1284

"It has been 10 years since our children left."
(The first entry in the Hamelin town chronicles)

17 June 2010

What came before 26 June 1284

Into the street the Piper stepped,
Smiling first a little smile,
As if he knew what magic slept
In his quiet pipe the while;
Then, like a musical adept,
To blow the pipe his lips he wrinkled,
And green and blue his sharp eyes twinkled
Like a candle flame where salt is sprinkled;
And ere three shrill notes the pipe uttered,
You heard as if an army muttered;
And the muttering grew to a grumbling;
And the grumbling grew to a mighty rumbling;
And out of the houses the rats came tumbling.
Great rats, small rats, lean rats, brawny rats,
Brown rats, black rats, grey rats, tawny rats,
Grave old plodders, gay young friskers,
Fathers, mothers, uncles, cousins,
Cocking tails and pricking whiskers,
Families by tens and dozens,
Brothers, sisters, husbands, wives—
Followed the Piper for their lives.
From street to street he piped advancing,
And step for step they followed dancing,
Until they came to the river Weser,
Wherein all plunged and perished!

The Rat-catcher arrived to the rats-infested Hamelin in June 1284. He was promised a handsome pay by the mayor to rid the town of rats with his pipe. He led the rats, playing his pipe, to the river Weser. Rats followed, enchanted, close on his heels and at the end of a cliff they all jumped into the river and drowned.
The Rat-catcher came to collect his dues. The town people refused to pay up... and the Rat-catcher left, calling:

"And folks who put me in a passion
May find me pipe to another fashion."

The town people still did not bend.

"You threaten us, fellow? Do your worst,
Blow your pipe there till you burst!"

The Rat-catcher returned to Hamelin on 26 June 1284 to do his worst.

06 June 2010


His queer long coat from heel to head
Was half of yellow and half of red;
And he himself was tall and thin,
With sharp blue eyes, each like a pin