After last week, when it seemed almost every other file had a photograph, and a memory, appropriate to our “Through” challenge, I thought it was likely that I might find it more difficult to satisfy the criteria in future. Indeed, that has proven to be the case, but not for want of appropriate images, but rather the opposite.
My inclination was to submit a dance photograph – arranged steps, arranged on people deployed at arranged positions within a confined space – the ultimate expression – to my mind – of the challenge. Sadly, I own none of the photographs I would like to have presented. After delving into my Aperture Library, I am appalled to find that after some hours, and severe and diligent editing, I have only managed to whittle my “Arranged” folder down to 38 images – a totally unacceptable outcome.
Again and again, I turn to the criteria of the challenge:
“… find something in your environment which was arranged by a human hand for others to enjoy”.
The arrangement of buildings, or interior spaces? A little more cerebral than manual, perhaps, and not always designed with pleasure in mind. Delete.
Arranged, as in the placement of people, or objects onto/into something? Since it is the elephant, rather than his splendid mahout, who [sic] is physically doing the arranging, this series – magnificent, oh my gosh, how magnificent – must be deleted. In any case, can we really deduce the intent to give pleasure on the part of the nimble-footed animal? Then what about the intended pleasure of returning guests’ laundry in an oh-so stylish cane picnic basket, each item of clothing carefully arranged as in days of old? Delete this too, on the grounds that the intent is commercial, rather than personal.
Surely it cannot be denied that the purpose of arranged flowers is about the giving and receiving of pleasure? From the artless gathering of a posy to the exacting technique of ikebana, I find it impossible to delete the category. Be objective, woman, start editing! One could eliminate the artless posy on the grounds that its arrangement was more serendipitous than intentional, despite its intent to please, as also the old bronze pot filled with rosy pink anthuriums. The purple/blue manel, waterlilies, in their white marble basins? Difficult, especially as they are the focal point of the stunningly arranged foyer of an artfully designed interior. No, it is pure sentiment that keeps them on the list. Out. Perhaps two images remain?
Well, what about the arrangement of clothing? I have always admired the precise adjustments women make to arrange their saris just to, or the nonchalant arrangement of a shawl, and there is certainly an intent to give pleasure on the part of the wearer – though more perhaps for the arranger than the arrangee? The same could be said for the arrangement of a lustrous cloth of gold across the shoulder of a revered Buddha statue in Vientiane. In any case the pleasure should be of a spiritual rather than temporal nature. Out!
The entire gorgeous category I call ‘market displays’ must be jettisoned on the grounds of commercial intent – the pleasure is designed to encourage us to purchase. It kills me, but yes, that means the delightfully arranged chilli posies at the Rialto in Venice; the display of eight varieties of bananas, arranged with astounding precision, despite the considerable weight of each colourful stem; the sophisticated pavement enticements outside the florists shops in Paris in the Autumn; and the intricately arranged pandanus leaves which Lao women use as frames for their temple offerings. And yes, that also means deleting the sweet-smelling millet brooms, arranged to show off the exactitude of their construction. All out.
How about the colourful collection of cushions and mats that were arranged in the shade for people to rest on during intervals of the Galle Literary Festival? Or the table arranged for 40? In both cases, neither the composition nor the image is good enough. Then what about ‘arranged in rows’? The row of vendor’s stalls marching up the banks of the Mekong might have been constructed by human hands, and it certainly gives me a certain amused pleasure to see the first (or is it the last?) one, the water lapping at its feet, but their construction was not designed to give pleasure, nor the water pots, arranged in a row to cool on an airy shelf. And the row of women, hidden beneath their conical hats was an accidental arrangement, so must also be deleted. But there is one image in this series I think I must move to my ‘possibles’ list.
Neither a market display, nor an artistic arrangement in its own right, the colour wheel of iridescent skeins of organically dyed silk yarns arranged on the old rice winnower doesn’t pass muster either: the intent of the arrangement was pedagogy, not pleasure.