Saturday, August 18, 2018

Letter from home

Usually I have a topic in mind when I open my laptop in bed to blog. Today I don't. That's because in the last two days I've been consumed by two things - the novel a literary agent gave me as a present, and how to rewrite my own work in progress.

I went to stay with my good friend in London this week. As well as the catch-up and fun, I met a literary agent, I saw two compelling photograph exhibitions and the BP Portrait awards at the National Portrait Gallery. Stonking. I love the BP Portrait Awards. The exhibition is on till September 23rd and it's free. Go and see it and tell me which is your favourite. Mine is Bruce Robinson by Alastair Adams. You can see all the portraits here

The photograph exhibitions were also powerful. One was Tish Murtha's documentary photography at the Photographers Gallery. It's gritty. One part of it features photographs of children and young people in a depressed area of west Newcastle in 1981. There's also a typed copy of a submission that Murtha sent to parliament about the tragedy of unemployment and the appalling "opportunities" offered to young people on leaving school to make up for the fact that there was no work. At exactly the same time as the letter was written, I was working for the Manpower Services Commission doing evaluation research on their programmes, though I was looking at services for disabled people, not the euphemistically titled  'Youth Opportunities Programme.'

The second exhibition was also documentary photography but in a different country at a different time: Dorothea Lange's work in America in the 1930s. She documented the plight of migrant workers, particularly those escaping the dust bowl. She was the photographer's answer to John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. You'll have seen at least one of the photographs, as it's iconic. 'Migrant mother' by Dorothea Lange can be found on the net if you Google it.

I didn't have enough time to spend on this exhibition. I had forgotten it was on until my friend mentioned it, and we slipped it in at the last minute.* There was so much to see I have even thought of going back on a day trip. Dorothea Lange also photographed the internment of Japanese Americans in the second world war and these pictures were on display. At the time, many of them were seized by the army because they were so obviously critical of what was happening.

So that leaves the meeting with the literary agent to tell you about. It was a friendly chat. She offered advice. I knew she didn't want to take me on. I'm going to act on her advice, and when I'm ready I'll tell you what it was. Oooh, I'm getting so cagey  - first I withhold details of the Croatian wedding, and now I won't tell you about my writing life. This blog is disappearing.

*The Dorothea Lange exhibition is on at The Barbican until September 2nd. I urge you to see it. It's huge, and covers far more than I have mentioned.


marmee said...

I am so glad you posted these pics! That painting is extraordinary! I am going to try and see if they post any more of the exhibition online. The Croation wedding looked so very nice an occasion and you have gained another lovely daughter in law! We had a family wedding last year and it was so relaxed and intimate as well and i thought then that this generation seem to be doing it better than mine did. My son and his beloved took it a step further and had a civil ceremony in france , just the two of them, afterwards walking home together and sent out such a romantic little notification via phone talking about having decided to walk hand in hand into the future together...oh my I just love how my young ( not so young either) people have done it.

Sue Hepworth said...

Hello, Marmee. Yes, that's what it was - relaxed and intimate and beautiful and touching.
Your son's sounds lovely too with that simple romantic message.

I am sure you'll find all the pictures from the BP awards online, because you can vote for which you like best on there.

ana said...

You note that the novel recommended to you is consuming. That seems to be a very positive review? The exhibitions you shared look wonderful. Oh to be able to see the Lange especially. Maybe one day here in Sydney. We can dream

Sue Hepworth said...

If we can see the Lange here, I don't see why there might not be a travelling exhibition to Australia.
The novel is Meet me at the Museum, by Anne Hodgson. I've finished it now. It was a very thoughtful gift from the agent.

Sue Hepworth said...

Sorry Ana. Meet me at the Museum is by Anne Youngson.

Phoebe said...

The BP exhibition is available to see online, and your favorite is also mine. Just FYI, reproductions of this and other pix are for sale at the NPG site. Of course they’re nothing like the originals but definitely can offer some satisfaction.
The wedding looks so lovely, but I don’t see this as generational. My wedding, which took place million years ago, was relaxed and intimate and now I see huge Bridezilla extravaganzas everywhere.
The above sounds terse and cold but it’s the best I can do after un-glueing myself from MSNBC.

Sue Hepworth said...

Hi Phoebe, it doesn't sound terse and cold to me.
My wedding which also took place a million years ago was small, relaxed and intimate too. I come back again to that cliche in film and TV where women have been planning their weddings since they were dressing up aged 6. I didn't. Am I strange? I loved dressing up, but not as a bride. I can't remember thinking about that. I did want to a bridesmaid but only so I could have a posh, pretty dress.