“Now, everything changes”: Berlin 1989

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November 8, 2014
“Now, everything changes”: Berlin 1989

In November 1989 Graham Harrison flew to Berlin to photograph a city which has changed as German history has changed. “Now, everything changes,” said the Russian man in a rain coat, the chill air condensing his words of discomfort to mist. Like me, he was leaning on a barrier in Pariser Platz in East Berlin looking across the desolate military zone that surrounded the Brandenburg Gate. Beyond the gate stood the Berlin Wall through which, nine days earlier, a flood of East Germans had surged west, free to travel for the first time without permits or border checks. In the gaudy enclave of West Berlin, beyond the chip, chip, chipping of western souvenir hunters pitting the redundant symbol of the Cold War, the new...
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Hugh Trevor-Roper at Oxford

January 15, 2014
'One Hundred Letters from Hugh Trevor-Roper' published by OUP in 2014 and the Telegraph Sunday Magazine article 'Lord Dacre Crosses Over' published in 1980. All photographs copyright Graham Harrison.

“We have invented language, refined it so that it can express even the subtlest thought, even the obscurest sensations; why then should we not use it, and dissolve difficulties by articulating them?” Hugh Trevor-Roper in a letter to James Howard-Johnston, his stepson, written at 8 St. Aldates, Oxford, June 19th 1960. “The trouble with controversies,” wrote Wallace Notestein, Professor of English History at Yale, to Hugh Trevor-Roper in 1968, “Is they will take your mind away from history. Historians need leisure and quiet almost as much as poets.” Of course, Trevor-Roper never did take the professor’s advice to heart. And although his critics stress the absence of the monumental volume that might have been expected of a high-flying Oxford don (and his relish for...
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Captain Cromie: Love and death in revolutionary Petrograd

January 1, 2014
Sonia Gagarin, The Cruiser Aurora & Honoured by Strangers

A love affair, espionage and brutal death in revolutionary Russia drew the curtain on the extraordinary life of the First World War British submarine captain Francis Cromie CB DSO RN. For his biographer, Roy Bainton, however, the Baltic adventurer remains an enigma. By Graham Harrison. Appointed Naval Attaché to the British Embassy at Petrograd (St. Petersburg) during the tumult of the Russian Revolution, the 36-year old submarine captain was thrust into a murky world of spies and espionage, but his affair with a beautiful Russian socialite meant he may never have wanted to leave Russia, and he never did. In 1918 the Bolsheviks shot him dead on the embassy grand staircase and he was buried in the city’s Smolensky Cemetary. Yet it wasn’t the...
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Blackwell’s Photo Point

October 13, 2013
Blackwell's Photo Point © Graham Harrison

The wonderful Blackwell’s in Oxford has a sign telling visitors where to stand to photograph the bookshop’s cavernous Norrington Room. Graham Harrison wonders why. You can understand that for the hurried tourist a sign telling them where to take a photograph might be useful. For someone moving a little slower, as I was last Friday, a single sign seemed somewhat baffling for a famous university bookstore. Why no ‘Furtively Scribble Notes Point’ or ‘Take ISBN for Amazon Point’ as well, I wondered. After all, the position the sign drew you to overlooked enough wise thoughts committed to paper to last for all time. There are volumes on religion, philosophy, psychology and law and there is even Sontag’s On Photography which still seems to be...
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And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness

July 24, 2013
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness

In Genesis, the latest in his series of epic projects looking at global issues, the Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado celebrates the beauty of the unspoiled places of our fragile planet as a means of persuading us that their preservation is essential to our understanding of who we are, writes Graham Harrison. The photographer who brought us Biblical famine, great migrations and workers of the world has spent much of last decade documenting primal man and nature in some of the remotest places on earth, places that have so far escaped the influence of modern society. Salgado dug deep to achieve his aim in just five chapters. Now 69, the photographer undertook 32 journeys that included months spent with rain forest tribes and 47 days...
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It’s only pictures and pictures are all I have

July 4, 2013
Elkie Brooks by Graham Harrison on the PPY web site.

In 2004 the British Press Photographers’ Association published Five Thousand Days. This monument of a book contained some of the most dramatic and moving work produced by British press photographers in the fifteen years following the fall of the Berlin Wall. These photographs were shown at an exhibition of the same name at the National Theatre in London. In 2006 the Press Photographers’ Year was launched. Associated with the BPPA, the PPY has since then held a series of equally impressive exhibitions at the National Theatre. The latest show, The Press Photographers’ Year 2013, opens in the Lyttleton Foyer at the National Theatre on Saturday. The PPY assert “In an age of rolling television news, internet and satellite communication, the traditional still image burns...
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Edmund Hillary and Mount Everest, the Goddess of the Sky

May 28, 2013
Sir Edmund Hillary and Mount Everest, Thyangboche, Nepal, April 1987. Photograph © Graham Harrison

Wednesday, 29 May 2013 marks the sixtieth anniversary of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reaching the summit of Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain. Graham Harrison looks at how photography became an integral part of the adventure. “The icy peaks below us were glowing clearly in the early morning light and Tenzing pointed out the Monastery of Thyangboche, faintly visible on it’s dominant spur 16,000 feet below us,” wrote Edmund Hillary of the morning he and Tenzing Norgay are believed to have become the first climbers to reach the summit of Mount Everest. “It was an encouraging thought to realize that even at this early hour the Lamas of Thyangboche would be offering up devotions to their Buddhist Gods for our safety and...
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Me, Man Ray and a dead Proust

February 5, 2013
Me, Man Ray and a dead Proust

For the critics Man Ray’s best work was his photography, especially his nudes and portraits. In 1975 Graham Harrison asked the ageing surrealist if he could take a portrait of his own but was only allowed a long-shot across a gallery. The result was an image Harrison felt uneasy about, until recently. Admire Man Ray’s art – Cadeau, A l’heur de l’observatoir – les amoureaux and Object to be Destroyed – if you like, but for me there’s nothing quite like Ray’s photography, especially his nudes and his portraits. Ray was an American with a French spirit. His images are sensuous and romantic and have a lightness of touch. Moving to New York was the making of Ray’s friend Marcel Duchamp. Moving to Paris...
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Would ‘Klein + Tomatsu’ have been better for Tate Modern and Moriyama better for ‘Everything was Moving’ at the Barbican?

January 9, 2013
Would ‘Klein + Tomatsu’ have been better for Tate Modern and Moriyama better for ‘Everything was Moving’ at the Barbican?

  On catching the end of William Klein + Daido Moriyama at Tate Modern and Everything Was Moving Photography from the 60s and 70s at the Barbican, Graham Harrison concludes William Klien + Shomei Tomatsu would have been a more challenging pairing for the major Tate Modern show. “We were starving and they threw us chocolate and chewing gum. That was America.” So the ‘godfather’ of modern Japanese photography, Shomei Tomatsu who died on 14 December, tells us at Everything Was Moving Photography from the 60s and 70s at the Barbican (until Sunday). Tomatsu continues “Since then I have been obsessed with occupation.” There are strong images of the American occupation of Okinawa following Japan’s surrender that brought an end to the Second World...
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The Harrisons of Oxfordshire

February 10, 2012
The Harrisons of Oxfordshire

A photograph of three generations of Harrisons taken in 1914 prompts a look at my father’s family who may have lived in Oxfordshire for a very long time. Let’s start with the gentleman with the beard, that’s Nathaniel Harrison my great grandfather, an Oxford man. Town not gown. I can see my father in Nathaniel’s face as he looks out at us from the past, with his wife Maria Francis by his side and his eldest son, my grandfather in the boater, Nathaniel William and his family on his right. Born in 1836, Nathaniel with the beard worked as a rent collector and clerk, then a coal merchant and finally a chiropodist. He lived with his wife Maria Francis in Pembroke Street, Cowley where...
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