Tuesday, 31 May 2016


"Manhattanhenge", Source: New York Times

Just a few minutes ago, I got a very nice e-mail from a friend who is a New York resident half of the year and lives in Stockholm the other half. The e-mail included a reference to an intriguing article in the New York Times. It so happens that on two days, twice a year, the sun is setting along the west-facing streets of the Big Apple. Sunday and yesterday were two of those days, causing hordes of photographers to congregate, tripod and camera in full swing, to capture this wonder of nature  – and spare some time to contemplate the passage of the ages, I hope.

In olden times, there was the habit of building stone circles to the same effect: Stonehenge comes to mind. In Sweden we have a much disputed counterpart, called Ales stenar. It is an impressive build-up of huge stones that the official state authorities claim to be a burial site, of some 1550 years of age. However, an independent researcher has a more intriguing claim: it was a temple dedicated to the sun-cult, with two of the some 50 huge stones of the circle placed exactly at summer and winter solstice. Furthermore, there is carbon dated evidence that this temple of the sun could be much older, 5000 years or more, which would place it in the same league as Stonehenge.

I am an agnostic, but feel nonetheless the urge now and then to worship the sun, photographically speaking. In this context it is unfortunate that my kitchen window, which forms the basis for photographic excesses on this blog, is facing due North. So no splendid counterparts to the title picture can be taken by me for you to admire. But wait! I have lived for more than seventy years already, and have more kitchen windows to show for! In particular, I am thinking about my splendid Brussels apartment with a view, from which I could produce sunset pictures from January to December.

I could produce sunset pictures alright, but mostly in theory only, since Brussels is the "Cloudy City", preventing photographers from taking such trophy pictures most of the time. This irked me, because there was one view from my apartment that I much admired, and where I longed to place a setting sun. I had made exact triangulations and knew, that 18 October (or the corresponding date in March) was the day to plan for.

Could you believe that it took me five years of bi-annual stand-by until I finally got a sunset where I wanted it to glow? During those years, I could experience clouds, light rain, heavy rain, even snow, but never a sunset. Finally, after long and patient waiting, there it was, and ready I was, with my big Toyota Field Camera on tripod, to get it on film. Please take a minute to contemplate the outcome. It took me five years to accomplish it!

"Brusselshenge". View from my kitchen window at Ave Gabriel Emile Lebon
on 18 october 2004


Anonymous said...

Ein Fotograf mit der gnadenvollen Begabung, die Schönheiten der göttlichen Natur für Freunde festhalten zu können!

Per Magnus Wijkman said...

Dear Emil,
Your last blog reminds your faithful readers of the pagan sources of the sunworship so characteristic for modern day Swedes. You mention Ales stenar  overlooking the Baltic in Southern Scania with a magnificence more similar to Stonehenge than to younger Viking burial places (skeppssättningar). Ales stenar has inspired a number of Swedish artists – from the poet Vilhelm Ekelund (1880-1929) to the film maker Bo Widerberg in Kvarteret Korpen. It is a well-kept secret, however, that the Irish Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney upon visiting Ales stenar in 1989 wrote a poem with that name. Here it is in Swedish translation by Lars–Håkan Svensson as published in Svenska Dagbladet 3 september 2013. In spite of several attempts I have been unable to find the English original. And being a man of principle, I will not translate the Swedish translation below back into English.
"Skepp har förlist i jorden, så när du står
 på detta gräsdäck har du stöd nedanifrån.
Du finner din plats igen och är nu
sista befäl på ensamhetens farkost
lyssnar efter en köl under jord
likt en sovande plogbill. Du lämnar inte
din post bland dessa solstings drabbade stenblock,
solida årtullar i välavvägd linje från för till akter,
bålverk för jordens skrov och dess tystnad.
När du sträcker på dig som kullens höjda öra
och samlar kraft för att avläsa tomma horisonter,
måtte vinden bli ditt vittne, tidvattnet ta emot din hälsning."
Your friend Per