Posts Tagged ‘SOUTH AFRICA’

Dreams, Trains, Ideas

October 18th, 2012

What can be more conducive to reverie than a good meal, a comfortable seat and a long smooth train journey?

Last Saturday I travelled from Frankfurt am Main to London, changing at Brussels, on the way back from the Frankfurt Book Fair — my 36th. It was a good fair, with plenty of top-level discussions about image licensing and clearances, price agreements and long-term contracts.

It’s been a rough old time in the picture library business but we’re hanging on in there and I am convinced I can see a silver lining here or there amongst the heavy cloud cover. A week at the Buchmesse always boosts my confidence.

There was a lot to think about on the way home. My mind ranged through meetings, proposals, promises, developments, the way forward, new ideas and so on until I fell into a light doze.

Earlier there had been a slight altercation between a Canadian and a German Muslim over seat allocation, and I fell to pondering on national stereotypes. Meanwhile my reading matter for the journey was the account books of C. F. Martin, luthier, based in Nazareth, Pennsylvania in the nineteenth century, not a page-turning thriller by most standards.*

So when I awoke there were three fresh ideas to make me smile.

Firstly, how about a series of picture books on national stereotypes? And before we all rush around tut-tutting and waving our hands in the air at such racism, it’s undeniable that a shared educational experience will produce a population that generally moves in the same direction and accepts the same discomforts. For example, most Americans are keener on owning guns than most Brits. Germans are generally more efficient than Greeks. Italians design prettier cars than the Welsh. And many of these attitudes could be illustrated by photographs — fotoLibra photographs, of course.

I suddenly remembered the pre-war Punch cartoonist Pont, and his series on The British Character. Wonderful, one-frame situation comedies, with captions such as

  • Fondness for cricket
  • Importance of being athletic
  • Absence of enthusiasm for answering letters
  • Preference for driving on the crown of the road
  • Love of travelling alone
  • A tendency to be hearty
  • A fondness of anything French
  • A tendency to learn the piano when young

You can imagine his drawings. So in my spare time I thought I’d rattle off a few observations on the national characteristics of the English, the Americans, the Spanish, the French, the Germans, the Italians and any other nation where I’ve had some experience of the inhabitants, each illustrated by a suitable fotoLibra image. If you have any suggestions for captions — and for images — please let me know. I’m looking for an affectionate and gently ironic tone. But I’m happy to offend, if it’s funny enough.

Then I contemplated Herr Martin, German immigrant to New York in 1834 and his subsequent move to Nazareth, PA, where the company he founded still makes fabulous and sought-after guitars. I discovered that Nazareth was a suburb of Bethlehem, PA and I thought that would have made Mary and Joseph’s life a little easier, having to travel 10 miles instead of 110. But there’s a Nasareth and a Bethlehem in Wales, as well — and they’re the same distance apart as the original Nazareth in Judea and Bethlehem.

There we are! How about a pilgrimage across three continents? A description of three journeys from Nazareth to Bethlehem — one in Israel / Palestine, one in Wales, one in the USA. It would be a road trip, maybe even one short and two long walks, discovering the sights to be seen and the wonders to be shared in three such different environments, all with a common heritage. TV series? Book? Magazine article? I have yet to decide. But an agreeable concept.

And then Mr Martin and his lovely guitars. I am fortunate enough to own one, a 1972 D-35 Dreadnought acoustic, named for the British battleships of the early twentieth century. When I’m away from it, my fingertips get soft and itchy, and it’s not really practical to lug it around. Why couldn’t I rent one while I was in Frankfurt so I could have a quick strum before bedtime?

Eleven years ago I spent three weeks in George, South Africa, rocking on my heels. On the second day, fearing I might go stir crazy, I found a music shop and asked the owner if he would consider renting me a guitar for three weeks. He looked at me as if I was black. Then someone renting my house in Wales asked if there was a local shop which could rent him a guitar for two weeks. There isn’t.

Why not? Don’t be silly, I told myself, there will be a giant corporation which has this sewn up. I just haven’t heard of it yet. RENT-AN-AX dot com probably has depots scattered across the world where tired businesspeople can have a Strat delivered to their hotel room when they check in. Blindingly obvious. Ah well.

I got back home, and looked up rentanax.com. No such website. So I registered it. I am now the proud owner of rentanax.com.

Now what do I do? Anyone want to start a guitar rental company?

Me, I’ve got a picture library to run.

*Fascinating nonetheless: C F Martin & His Guitars: 1796—1873, by Philip F Gura, Centerstream Publishing, Anaheim Hills 2012.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Missing Member

February 3rd, 2011

No, this is not a complaint I suffer from, but a situation has arisen at fotoLibra which we’d like to sort out.

Here’s a new title from the highly regarded travel publisher Bradt Guides, who publish guide books for Serious Travellers, not tourist lubbers like me.

Bradt Guide to Namibia

Notice the cracking front cover image which fotoLibra sold them. It’s always good to get a front cover sale, not just for the money but also the prestige, especially by being associated with an imprint such as Bradt.

The evocative photograph of “Dune 45” was taken by fotoLibra member Tjaart van Staden. We emailed him the good news and he took it very calmly.

So calmly in fact that he didn’t respond. So we emailed him again. No reply.

We wrote to him. A real letter, with a stamp. No answer.

We checked his website. It had been taken down.

Now Tjaart van Staden is not a common name in Wales, but it may well be in Midrand, Gauteng, South Africa, where Tjaart abides — or abode.

We tried again and again, but we can’t find him.

So we can’t pay him.

I’m putting this blog up in the hope of tracking him down. If Tjaart ever succumbs to the old ego trip of Googling his own name, he’ll find this blog post and get in touch with us. But in case there’s a whole band of Tjaart van Staden impersonators out there, just be aware that a) there’ll be some questions asked to establish his identity and b) don’t put the deposit down on the Maserati just yet Tjaart, because the payment won’t cover it.

Hello, TJAART VAN STADEN, formerly of MIDRAND, GAUTENG, SOUTH AFRICA — please contact fotoLibra, where you will hear some news to your advantage!