A Sense of the Marvellous / by Jeannine Cook

I saw a large and diverse exhibition of black and white photographs of Paris, Twilight Visions: Surrealism, Photography and Paris, at Savannah's Telfair Museum. In the introductory explanation about all these photos which mostly date from the 1920s and 1930s, there was the phrase, "a sense of the marvellous". It struck me, because it is so important to retain that sense, especially if one wants to be an artist.

The exhibition did indeed illustrate some wonderful moments. Serendipitous sights - the wonderful reflection of buildings in a puddle by the pavement's edges by Ilse Bing, for instance, or extraordinary patterns of shadows and people beneath the Eiffel Tower by Andre Kertesz - were accompanied by more planned photographs of the illuminated Eiffel Tower. or old street scenes in Paris. There were many photographs which were much more "contrived", in keeping with the prevailing surrealism movement. But it was the photographs that record the photographer's eye and awareness of magic and marvels that I savoured most.

Perhaps I am greatly influenced by all the childhood hours I spent with my photographer grandfather, Frank Anderson, as he photographed herds of giraffe or other wild animals on our farm in Tanzania. With an important body of work to his credit, as he documented the disappearing tribes and the East African wild life, Frank had a keenly developed sense of the marvellous. He taught me that observation and awareness, as well as quick reactions in capturing a photograph, are key. Key to art-making, but key, too, to a deep enjoyment and appreciation of life. It was an invaluable preparation for my later life as an artist.