Black-and-White: a few images

Nicéphone Niépce produced the first photograph in 1826 or 1827.  From that moment a new medium had arrived.  In the 1840s there were experiments in colour photographs, though they were only realized by Gabriel Lippman in 1886.  In 1895, the Lumiére brothers invented the cinematograph — images could move.  The magnificence of black-and-white photography (really only shades of grey) was clear long before the 20th-century.   I share images that I have had for so long that I have lost the names of the photographers.  I pay tribute to you whoever you may be. I have the cheek to include one of my own.

In this image, with its sharp focus on rough textures, there is tension in the composition:  does the visual line flow from left to right or from right to left?  I find that interesting.

This image from the 1960s captures the thin line between life and death, the flowing into the other.  I call it the “Grave City”.  I think the city is New York.


This image takes me quietly by storm.  It is by photographer Jerry Uelsman in 1961.

What smitten emotion does this image portray?  The inner feeling is amplified by the blown winters tree.

Most of us see things like this happening.  Some of us grab a camera and capture the image.  In many respects, this is well composed, contrasting plain black and white surfaces with frenetic shadows.

I’ve quite been unable to say what the appeal is here.  This Russian photographer captured his subject on a patch of melted snow somewhere in St Petersburg.  It probably has to do with the three contrasting textures, elegantly placed.

Call me arrogant.  I still think this image I took of the Pieke in Stellenbosch was rather successful.

I would love to retrace the source of this image.  I think it was on a train in the then-Rhodesia, that is, prior to 1980.  The image appeared around the world.

This image from the Dutch Volkskrant was labelled Ransdaal which left me unsure whether this is the photographer who took or the place it was taken.  An image that takes your eye further along the road, while the young mother tends to her baby.

This image comes from the war in Bosnia in the 1980s-1990s.  It is the texture of shattered glass that brings out the tragedy of this child caught up in a war.

I am not sure city is in the background.  But the agony of that wire lost in the snow does it for me.  I think the image is from the 1960s.

This strange and dynamic image could come from a dream.  It begins to show us that the medium of photography is not limited.  A truly creative image.

(c) Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

October, 2018



I regret not being able to acknowledge photographers.  Some of these images I have had before there were computers, never mind blogs.




Two poems from the French Resistance

I struggle to understand and appreciate the poems from the French Resistance.  When I do grasp, by means of translation, I am moved.  For various reasons, it lets me think of poems by Louis Leipoldt after the Anglo-Boer War.

Combat, with Albert Camus as editor, was the chief underground newspaper of the Resistance in which poems were published, always under noms des plumes.

Leo Marks, British writer and cryptologue, maintained contact with the various resistance movements in occupied countries.  His Code Poem was used extensively in the French Resistance, for the funerals of the fallen.  The reference to yours is to the occupied country, in this case, France.

The life that I have

Is all that I have

And the love that I have

For the life that I have

Is yours and yours and yours


A sleep will I have

A rest will I have

Yet death is but a pause.

The peace of my years

In the long green grass

Is yours and yours and yours

Liberté is a much longer poem written in 1942 by Paul Éluard.  So doing, he becomes targeted by the Gestapo and the French Milice as a terrorist.  With whetted skill, he survived the war.

The poem has twenty verses, each with the same refrain: I write your name, with the your name referring to freedom.  As I read the full poem, it becomes a pounding anthem for me.  I share a few verses.

On golden images

On weapons of warriors

On the crown of kings

    I write your name


On the plains of the horizon

On the wings of birds

On the mill of shadows

   I write your name


On the fruit cleft in two

On the mirror and in my room

On the empty shell of my bed

   I write your name


And by the power of a word

I begin my life again

I was born to know you

To give you a name



© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

October, 2018



Poems: (my translation of Liberté);  Funeral Helper

Wikipedia:  Leo Marks;  Paul Éluard



Marbling – source lost

Graffiti bird (a la Cocteau)






Paul Éluard (1895 – 1952)

When I take my walk in the afternoons, I see his name, one of several poets — Breton, Jacob, Desnos, Apollonaire, Tzara and Prévert — after whom the streets in this area are named.  As with some of the others, Éluard was part of the French surrealist poets.

Paul Eluard, 1911

As a young man he realized that he had to be a poet.  His parents were not supportive of the idea, but his Russian lover by name Gala, supported him physically (he was not always well) and intellectually (she was his muse and critic).  After the Great War he met with the Surrealists and served their cause for life.

Eluard (top) and the Surrealists

After some years he and Gala parted.  She met Salvador Dali who worshipped her all his life.  From this time Éluard’s life became epic and in the Second World War he and a number of Jews hid from the Germans in an asylum.  They survived.

He and Louis Aragon are considered as the great poets of the French Resistance and his work is strongly political.  The poem Liberté was pamphlet-dropped by the RAF over areas of France.  It holds a special place in history and in the hearts of the French.  I offer one of his love poems which was probably dedicated to Gala, though he was happy in other relationships as well.


She stands on my eyelids

Her hair in mine

She takes the form of my hands

She takes the colour of my eyes

She sinks into my shadow

Like a stone from heaven


She always has open eyes

I cannot sleep

My dreams are full of light

Thus, let suns evaporate

Let me laugh and laugh again

Let me speak without saying anything


© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

October, 2018



Wikipedia:  Paul Éluard

Pinterest:  the poem  (my translation). 

I have a translation of Liberté in English, for those interested.  



My photograph

Wikipedia: Paul Éluard, 1911


See also, Two Poems from the French Resistance,, 27.10.2018


                                                “ A woman is more beautiful than the world

                                                         I live in …

                                                                I shut my eyes ”    –  Paul Éluard




The South African landscape in painting

I pay tribute to those painters who have stood in the South African landscape with something like awe.  As with the 19th-century landscape poets before them, they paused and were touched.  The need to capture what they saw, what they felt, was strong.  I share some of these works.

An etching by Cecil Skotnis.

A detail of that etching.


A work by Isabel le Roux.

A work by Pierneef.

An etching by Eunice Geustyn called Passage.

A work by Erik Laubscher.

A work by Willie Strydom.

(c) Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

October, 2018



Some of the sources of images have been lost.  I acknowledge what I can.

Isobel le Roux  –

Pierneef  –  cunda club

Willie Strydom  –



Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man

This drawing was done circa 1485.  Leonardo was illustrating points by the Roman architect Vitruvius (active 46 – 30 bce) who asserted in his treatise on architecture that the circle and the square are the forms that create the perfect space.  This concept was resurrected by many Renaissance architects.  Leonardo is attempting, perhaps via architectural principles, to show that man’s anatomy, probably divinely ordained, was perfect.  It is known that he had to “bend” his extensive knowledge of the human anatomy, experience recorded over many years on dissections of bodies, to fit the circle-square.

This iconic image also represented the Renaissance philosophy that man is the measure of all things, an idea that came from the Greeks in the ancient world.  The image is so iconic that the European Union approved it to grace the first one-euro coin.

What interests me too, is the visage of the Vitruvian Man.  Leonardo was one of the supreme masters of producing various expressions on the faces he drew.  It could not have been by accident that the expression on the Man’s face is, in my opinion,  an unhappy one.  Thus, in this perfection, in this philosophical enlightenment, the perfect man he draws carries no inward peace.


© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

October, 2018


Wikipedia:  Leonardo da Vinci; Vitruvian Man



Full man –

Coin –

Visage –




Cote d’Azur




Art history: some images of the woman

The first in a series of three

Art does not improve, we are told.  The media of art change. In its time, art is good, bad or indifferent.  We have never equaled what the Egyptians achieved thousands of years ago.  I have seen paintings of women from various periods in history and it is interesting to see what has changed – form, colour, intention.  I offer some images, with gut responses.

What interests me from the earliest Egyptian images is the dignity the artist affords the image of the woman.  In the second image there is even wonderment.

I am not sure of this image, but I believe it is prehistoric rock art  from the Atlas Mountains.  It might well depict a queen and her hand maiden.

For me Cycladic art almost stands above history in its timeless modernity.  Women, probably as goddesses, were especially honoured in the art of these Greek islands.  This figure, probably votive, is at least 4,000 years old.

On this Greek vase, an imitation of work from Classical period, the woman happily plays her own flute.

This is an image of a woman painted on a coffin in the first century ad.  It is part of other similar images from Fayum, Egypt.

Here is the Queen amongst the dignitaries of the time, depicted in the mosaics at Ravenna.  She is beautiful and poised.  This is about five centuries ad.

In this early medieval illustration of courtly love we see the man, probably a knight, on his knee, proffering the wound of his heart to the woman on a throne-like chair.

© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

October, 2018



In some cases I have had images for many years and the sources have been lost.  I acknowledge what I can.

Woman on the Greek vase – my photograph

Ravenna mosaic –











Art history: some images of the woman

The second in a series of three

Mariology in the Catholic Church manifests more strongly by the 11th-century when images of the Madonna and Child became  ubiquitous.  This too, it is said, made for more dignity for women in general.  Fra Lippi’s Madonna and Child is, for me, one of the great achievements.

The late-Middle Ages ushered in the Renaissance and Botticelli was one of the artists depicting the woman with delicacy as Venus, a departure from the Madonna and Child.  The image for me, wistful and windblown, is strangely modern.

By the 17th-century there were more changes in the way artists saw women.  Here is a Jan Steen, an artist that had me laughing out loud in the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam.

It is difficult to put a time on the rock art of Southern Africa.  This is a depiction of women that is a few centuries old.  It is perhaps my all-time favourite in San rock art.  It is surreal and sensual.  It conveys to me an essence of women, elegant and elevated, with their spirit free.

In the 18th-century Watteau painted the women of his time as few had done.  In this detail of a larger painting, the woman is busy with something, a breakaway from the static portraits expected of painters like Watteau.

In the next century Renoir would shake up the photographic conventions of the academies and usher in Impressionism.  The women he portrayed have a warmth that has endeared his work to many.

The changes to come after him would be more radical.  Both the Fauves of France and the Expressionists of Germany would leave almost all the traditions behind, in colour and form, as they depicted women.  This is Matisse’s Woman with hat, probably his wife Amelie.


© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

October, 2018



Some of these images I have had for many years and sources have been lost.  I acknowledge what I can.

Fra Lippi Madonna –

Botticelli Venus –

Watteau –

Renoir –

Matisse – Wikipedia


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