To give it its full title, Mystery and Melancholy of a Street.. is an emerging style influenced by the Metaphysical art of the Italian painter Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978).
The critic Robert Hughes described de Chirico work as resembling that of his contemporary, Edward Hopper:
“their pictures’ low sunlight, their deep and often irrational shadows, their empty walkways and portentous silences creating an enigmatic visual poetry.”
I felt something about the deep shadows in works like ‘A Mystery and Melancholy of a Street’ (1913), ‘The Anxious Journey’ (1913), The Red Tower (1913) and ‘The Enigma of a Day’ (1914) solidified, in my mind, a style that I had been – subconsciously at least – developing for several years.
In 2018 I accompanied my daughter on a trip to Slovenia and just prior to that trip I had began to research the works of de Chirico – particular those works he painted in the years between 1911 and 1930 – and Slovenia was the first opportunity I had to consciously shoot images in that style.
Originally, my intention was that ‘Mystery and Melancholy’ would form the basis for a small, stand alone, project – it has though become more of a defining style that now influences much of my work, better defined as Anxious Journeys
The Anxious Journeys Series
Alongside my two long running projects – The Unreturning and the Township Project – this theme has now become the defining narrative for almost all of my new work – based loosely around traveling.
Some images represent new work when travelling has been possible and others, like Staycation, represent images taken during the Covid-19 lockdown periods of 2020 and 2021. This series also includes the reworking of older narratives in this style:
I’ve always been inspired by some of the great documentary photographers and photojournalists – Brassai, Don McMullin, James Revilious and Paolo Pelegrin are just a few of the names that come to mind…
In this section I have reworked some of the past events that I have covered and activities that I have recorded (including some portraits I have taken) alongside publishing new work.
Past work has included royal visits, events like Oxford Fashion Week and protest – climate change and the visit of Donald Trump.
- Coming soon
In a completely unconnected way I also came across a fragment of a poem that also connected with this style:
I would say this landscape Too is a document. But What is a landscape? A procession Across the soul that thinks.
Following some research I tracked down the poem: ‘The Foggiest’ by the American poet John Ashbery (1927-2017).
Further research revealed that Ashbery may well have provided the only English language translations of di Chirico’s poems and novels and, in particular, his 1929 novel ‘Hebdomeros’
All images © W N BISHOP