Category Archives: Photography

Guess Who Friday

It’s a Bank Holiday Bonus Guess Who Friday!

Can you tell who this famous gent is? PM or email answers please, and enjoy the sunshine!

Guess who friday


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The Road to Oxiana and Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque

I just love this photograph of the dome of the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque in Isfahan, Iran. It was taken by Hamzeh Karbasi, and the chap standing on the edge gives a perfect scale to the majestic dome. I have been wanting to travel to Iran for years, having been smitten by Robert Byron’s Road to Oxiana. If you have not read this book, go now to the nearest bookshop and buy a copy. Take my car. Do it Now. (Or if you must then click here to find it online.) I guarantee you will not be disappointed; OK it’s not exactly Fifty Shades, being a travel account of Persia, Mesopotamia, and Afghanistan in the 1930’s, but it is widely recognised as the greatest of all pre-war travel books. As Paul Fussell neatly put it in Abroad, “What Ulysses is to the novel between the wars, and what The Waste Land is to poetry, The Road to Oxiana is to the travel book.”

Dome of Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque

Sheikh Lutfollah Mosque (مسجد شیخ لطف الله) is one of the architectural masterpieces of Safavid Iranian architecture, standing on the eastern side of Naghsh-i Jahan Square, Isfahan. Construction of the mosque started in 1603 and was finished in 1618. It was built by the chief architect Shaykh Bahai, during the reign of Shah Abbas I of the Safavid dynasty.

Shah Abbas dedicated the mosque to his father-in-law, Sheikh Lotfollah, a prominent religious scholar and teacher who came to Isfahan at the orders of Shah ‘Abbas, and resided on the site. This beautifully proportioned and decorated mosque, with arguably (I am told… I am no expert!) the best mosaics from that era, took nearly 20 years to complete. The pale tiles of the dome change colour, from cream through to pink, depending on the light conditions. The mosque is unusual because it has no minaret or courtyard as it was intended as a private mosque of the royal court, and therefore needed no call to prayer.

The interior of the dome is simply stunning. One of the unique characteristics of the mosque is the peacock at the center of its dome. It is said that if you stand at the entrance gate of the inner hall and look at the center of the dome, a peacock’s tail is formed by the sunrays coming in from the hole in the ceiling.

Byron has been described as a writer of breathtaking prose – “prose whose sensuous, chiselled beauty has cast its spell on English travel writing ever since.” At his best Byron had a remarkable ability to evoke place, to bring to life a whole world in a single unexpected image, to pull a perfect sentence out of the air with the ease of a child netting a butterfly. The perfection and visual precision of the writing in Oxiana, combined with its wit, its farcical playlets, its intriguing scholarly essays and its fierce passion for its subject – a search for the Central Asian roots of Islamic architecture – make the book a timeless classic. I can’t recommend it enough.

Of the interior if the dome Byron wrote “I know of no finer example of the Persian Islamic genius than the interior of the dome: The dome is inset with a network of lemon-shaped compartments, which decrease in size as they ascend towards the formalised peacock at the apex… The mihrāb in the west wall is enamelled with tiny flowers on a deep blue meadow. Each part of the design, each plane, each repetition, each separate branch or blossom has its own sombre beauty. But the beauty of the whole comes as you move. Again, the highlights are broken by the play of glazed and unglazed surfaces; so that with every step they rearrange themselves in countless shining patterns… I have never encountered splendour of this kind before.”

Sheikh Lotfallah Mosque


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Photographing the Raj

Such is the hegemony of the BBC that this week it has unwittingly taken down the website of a fascinating collection of photographs of the British Raj. Not the most important news story in a week that has seen breaking global news, but Auntie takes pride in adding ‘magazine’ pieces to their homepage: One of the best regular features is that ‘In Pictures’ section that tells the days news using images from across the globe.

This week it featured some awesome photographs from Lala Deen Dayal also known as Raja Dayal, who in 1894 became the official court photographer to the 6th Nizam of Hyderabad, Mahbub Ali Khan, Asif Jah VI. So many avid BBC readers clicked through to the website that hosts his original images that it has been down ever since the piece was published.

His photographs are unique and stunning. They often showcase important architectural and artistic triumphs and capture the scene so elegantly. However it is the photographs of the people that are most fascinating. For example, in this picture the Grand Duke Alexander of Russia and companions after a cheetah hunt in March 1891.

Grand Duke Alexander of Russia and companions after a cheetah hunt in March 1891

Dayal began his career in the mid-1870s as a commissioned photographer; eventually he set up studios in Indore, Mumbai, and Hyderabad, and employed over 50 photographers. In addition to his Royal appointments he was given commissions by many sections of the Raj, and was appointed photographer to the Viceroy in 1885. It was at this time that Dayal created the firm Raja Deen Dayal & Sons in Hyderabad.

Dayal was given the great honour of being appointed photographer to Queen Victoria in 1887, and in 1905-1906 accompanied the Royal Tour of the Prince and Princess of Wales.

He died in Bombay in 1905. After his death his family continued the studios with the seventh Nizam in Hyderabad, where his fourth generation descendants run the studio.

When the hype has died down you can visit the website here, but in the meantime, the BBC story is here.

Bibi ka Makbara, which bears a striking similarity to the Taj Mahal is a alrge maqbara located in Maharastra. It was commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in the late 17th century in the memory of his first wife, Dilras Banu Begum

Bibi ka Makbara, which bears a striking similarity to the Taj Mahal is a alrge maqbara located in Maharastra. It was commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in the late 17th century in the memory of his first wife, Dilras Banu Begum

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What if the stars came out only once every 1000 years?

“Ralph Waldo Emerson once asked what we would do if the stars only came out once every thousand years…

No one would sleep that night, of course.

The world would create new religions overnight.

We would be ecstatic, delirious, made rapturous by the glory of God.

Instead, the stars come out every night and we watch television.”

~ Paul Hawken, environmentalist and journalistDeep space

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Guess Who Friday

And there is just time for a round of the perennially popular “Guess Who Friday!”

Who is this dashing gent, and why is he famous? Answers (so as not to spoil it)in a message please…

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Happy 150th Birthday London Underground

So, London Underground is 150 years old today… despite the drivers, the striking (get it…) thing about this feat of engineering is still its sheer breadth and beauty.

There is a really good birthday article in today’s Guardian (and it must be good for me to recommend it from the Gurinad) that you can read here. There is also a fascinating website all about those disused stations and odd turnings that trains no longer use here. The site is not brilliant, but the content is really impressive!

However, I can’t recommend highly enough this blog. Basically to celebrate the 150 years of the underground this chap has listed and photographed his 150 favourite bits of the network. Its a really impressive selection and images, and serves to highlight just what a wacky and wonderful creation it all is…

My current favourite image is this one from South Ken Station… it’s so evocative of the museum quarter of london that I love so dearly, and I entirely agree with him that “Everything about this entrance, the layout, the lettering, the curve of the pillars, the curl of the brackets, screams – or rather sighs – breezy elegance!”


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Guess who Friday

Look! Colour photographs! (a novelty on this blog…) but for your weekly instalment of of the marginally popular ‘Guess Who Friday’ try to guess who has a special birthday!

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The last Survivor of the Battle of Trafalgar

I want to tell you briefely about this wonderful image I came across last night; its a photo of a Frenchman, and a Frenchman who fought the British, but let’s not let that get in the way of a good tale; he was quite a remarkable man, if only for his longevity.

Emmanuel Louis Cartigny was born at Hyères on 1 September 1791 and died there on 21 March 1892. He was the last survivor of the Battle of Trafalgar which, as any good history student will tell you, was fought on 21 October 1805… think of Nelson and “kiss me, Hardy!” (oh, and ignore all that populist Victorian nonsense about “Kismet [fate] Hardy!” it is total nonsense… anyway, we digress…)

During the battle he fought on the side of the French Empire, under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte, against the British. Queen Victoria even visited Hyères between 21 March and 25 April 1892, when she stayed at the Grand Hôtel de Costebelle. In the photograph below, taken circa 1891 by Henry Ellis, he wears a small black cap and supports his right hand on a cane. He wears two medals including the Legion d’honneur. The image is in the Royal Collection, and therefore belongs to the Queen (who I doubt reads this blog, and I hope will not mind me reproducing the image…)

To think that a self confessed “old codger” named Sam Ledward is still alive and living in Wales at the grand old age of 106, this makes the Battle of Trafalgar only just beyond one step of living memory. (Leward must have been born in 1906, only 14 years after Cartigny died.) You can read more about the escapades of the “man who was declared dead in 1936” here.

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Guess Who Friday II

“Too easy!” they cry… (well, one of them whimpers …) “More! More!” is the call from the struggling internet hubs…

Ok, so; Who is on the piano… and who else is ‘on’ the piano? [rubs hands with fiendishly cunning hand cream.]

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Guess Who Friday

Hello, and welcome to this week’s installation of the ever (marginally) popular ‘Tim’s Guess Who Friday!’

Last week you had an easy young JFK offering… this week should be a touch harder.

Who are these famous figures standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial?

And for your bonus points, can you tell me who was standing in the exact same spot about ten minutes before this photograph was taken?

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