Framing The World Through My Photographs

Site Specific

Before researching  into the history of the cathedral and the blitz I hadn’t realized how much history it had not being from Coventry my self. History being an interest of mine I decided that choosing the map with the cathedral was the best idea.


  • The raids of the night of November 14th 1940 was given the name by the Nazis Operation Moonlight Sonata, as the raids were planned for moonlit night so that the air crafts had the best visibility of their targets as well as giving them viability of British fighter planes. The raid lasted around 11 hours which left Coventry destroyed.
  • There were 41 raids on Coventry when bombs were dropped. The first was on 18th August 1940 and the last was on 3rd August 1942. There were 28 incidents in 1940, 9 in 1941 and 4 in 1942. There were fatalities in 21 of the raids. There was over a 12 month pause from the last raid in 1941 (5th July) and the next raid in 1942 (28th July).

When looking on youtube for any information on the blitz I found a few clips that I found useful.

I found the clip very useful in my research as I find reading tricky so the voice over on this video was helpful as hearing  information  helps. At first I hadn’t watch all the way through the video clip I hadn’t realised that there were personal accounts from survivors of the blitz really put into perspective the effects the biltz had on the city.

Whilt thinking about how to approach this assignment I was researching anything to do with Coventry in relation to the blitz.

I came across a poem called ‘Coventry Rose’ by Neville Macaulife  : (see below )

A city lay gently dreaming,
As moonbeams peeped and pried,
Trying each little window,
To see the folks inside.

And oft within each window,
A slumbering figure spied:
Here a babe in cradle,
A young mother by his side,
Or there a farmer home from field,
Or worker in snorry stride.

And every little moonbeam
Was gentle with its light,
Careful not to waken,
Careful not to fright.

For every humble worker,
And every weary wife,
Is king and queen of stately dream,
When ends the working strife.

A city lay gently dreaming,
As moonbeams did peep and pry,
And then-a sound of engines,
Unbidden filled the sky.

Now swift, each dreamer from his slumber,
Did violent leave betake,
With cries of “quick!” and “get below!”
And “shake the kids awake!”

And soon ten thousand feet were rushing
Down dark and winding stairs,
Infants snatched and carried,
Old folk wheeled in chairs,
Out of the little houses,
Borne by unspoken fears.

And now the gentle moonbeams
Lit-and lit well-the way,
To deep and cavernous shelters,
Wherein to wait the day.

But even those swiftest awake
Sometimes found shelter too late!
For now, with huge and terrible sound,
Explosions echoed all around.

And the little dancing moonbeams
Now fed each bombers’ eye,
That peeled and shrieked a dreadful dirge,
For those about to die.

And many a little cottage,
With all still trapped within,
Did burst and burn with brilliant flame,
As if to purge some ghastly sin.

And sometimes a blazing nursery
With toys still scattered and piled,
Did make of its fire a funeral pyre,
The last blessed Rites for a screaming child.

And as each rushed to shelter,
Down ancient, flagstoned street,
There was none did note a little rose
With no means of such retreat.

The little rose dwelt quietly
On such sudden need to fly:
“The earth doth shake most strangely,
And men do shout and cry,
But I know full well the hand of man,
When flames are in the sky!”

“But whatever draws near,
I will meet without fear,
For this land is mine
Where grows my vine!

Claim of my roots, deep and long,
Ward of my thorns, barbed and strong,
So here I stand and vow to be,
Tomorrow’s day, alive and free.”

For ten long and dreadful hours
The bombers came and went,
Like insects drawn to fire,
Or from some great Darkness sent.

But with dawn’s first beaming ray,
They, as foul dream, faded away,
For not to be seen,
‘Mid deeds so unclean,
By the holy light of day.

And then back from each shelter underground,
Crept richest and poorest of all the town,
Equals in dread of that to be found;
And the sun revealed, by first light,
Their darkest fears of all that night:

For what had stood full six centuries,
In splendour and in might,
Forged on that land by Masonic hand,
Was gone in a single night.

Of that City of Three Spires,
Scarce naught did yet remain,
And of the Church and little chapel,
That had in their shadow lain,
Of these, no trace was there,
Except for rubble piled high,
On those who’d knelt in final prayer.

From St. Mary’s Hall to the ancient walls
The blaze outshone the day,
They counted lost each little house,
Each building tall and grey,
And noted missing neighbours
With deepening dismay.

They counted lost each absent child,
Each daughter, fair and sweet,
They counted lost each warden,
The soldiers of the street.

They counted lost each fallen babe,
And spade by spade,
In manner brave,
They dug another little grave.

Now swift the City Fathers met,
In Council long and grim,
The city burned and ruined,
Unto the very fringe,
The fate of Europe hanging
Upon a creaking hinge:

They gazed upon the ruins,
And then the Eldest harshly spake:
“What butcher’s bargain wrought they here?
They’ll not this city take,
For by our hand, we’ll hold this land,
Or our fathers’ names henceforth forsake!”

“And though they come again tomorrow,
And burn all that remain,
They’ll find most savage welcome,
From all might of this domain.”

“And by all let this be known,
To bear this grim advice:
That they who tuned this fiddle
Shall pay the fiddler’s price.”

“For when all the dead are counted,
And rest in grave or urn,
Then with savage hand, we’ll storm their land,
And grimly reap our just return!”

And then glancing down upon the ground,
To which only ash seemed wed,
He saw a little, gentle, fallen rose,
To count among the dead.

Thought he: “Poor loss a Summer flower
When Winter’s rage is here,
Small use to fire cannon,
Small use to unleash shell,
Would that all our losses
Could thus be borne so well!”

And hearing this, the little rose would speak:
“The city children oft danced around my tree,
With their prattling tales of frogs and snails,
They sounded much like thee!”

“And though they be strange clocks
That mark these dreadful hours,
I think they’d no more winding need,
Would you but hear the voice of simple flowers!”:

“Will more cities burned one good remake?
Can corpse begat a child?
Hath man made this a better place
Than when all the Earth was dear and wild?”

“A rose cannot with wisdom speak,
Nor can she be a fool,
She can but hope that man this earth,
Will with wise Dominion, someday rule.”

“So let Earth turn full circle
‘Ere vengeance be begun,
For the light of love is setting
Beneath a blazing sun,
And he who stays the march of war
Hath the greatest battle justly won.”

“So hear a dying rose beseech you,
Forego your rage and wrath,
And find other course of action,
That for rose and man be common path.”

“For I’d hoped my petals, fair and sweet,
Might grace some little, quiet street,
But the city, in her final hour,
Made only call for might and power,
So ‘mid her ruins let me rest,
But would you heed my last request?”

“When you build upon these ruins
A new city, fair and free,
Girded with mighty highways,
And buildings of majesty,

Might you-perhaps in some shady corner,
by chapel or oaken tree-
somewhere pause, and think to plant…
Another rose like me?”

And saying thus she was borne away,
Perhaps on some angel’s hand,
No chart had marked her kingdom,
No gun had marked her stand,
And naught did mark her little grave
Upon the ruined land.

When finding this poem I thought about doing a series of photographic responses to the words in this poem, though I was very unsure of how to go about doing this however this is something I would like to go about doing in my own spare time.

I also came across a song written and composed by Greg Harper. When I first listened to the song I found it to be very harrowing and somewhat depressing but the song isn’t meant to be a happy one due to the subject matter that it was composed around.


When I first decided to  look at the cathedral and the blitz, I wanted to try find survivors of the blitz and create a short film compiling different stories from different survivors. whilst researching this idea I cam across a small project that BBC Warwickshire had done in 2010, which is similar to the idea I had….

I think realistically proceeding with this idea with the amount of time I have considering the essay in this module is going to be to tricky do well, however if I had had more time on this project I would have really liked to have proceed as I personally interested in listening to peoples stories.

Not being from Coventry the Cathedral ruins have always been fascinated by the Cathedral ruins as the light always hit it in a way which makes it look beautiful. I would like to capture more of this beauty even though it came from such devastation.

I want to use old and new images of the Cathedral ruins.

When speaking to Chantal she suggested layering the two images together one of the old one of the new, and playing with the opacity of the images so that you can see both slightly. In Photoshop I did a quick mock up of this idea.

                                                                                 Screen Shot 2013-11-11 at 15.32.17

When seeing this outcome I didn’t feel it worked as you can not clearly see any of either images clearly. As ideally I would like the photograph of the Cathedral ruins as they are today to be in colour. Shooting in colour will show progression from the technology that  would have been used in the 1940’s. Though colour photography was around in the 1940’s it wasn’t so readily available like it is today.

There are other ways round of layering the images over each other with the use of acetate so the either image is effected and the film can be lifted to see the original. To use this idea I would have to create a book, which is a skill I learnt in the first year using the japanese stab binding technique.

thelma stab

Creating a book – when creating this book the images would need some context behind them as to someone who doesn’t know about how Coventry was destroyed in WW2 they wouldn’t make much sense.

It may also be nice to include extracts from the Coventry Rose poem.

Pavel Maria Smejkal- Fatescapes

Smejkal is  Czech artist who in one series of work called Fatescapes remove part of the scene from the photograph with careful manipulation.

fate 1 napalm girl

fate 2

robert capa

Although I am not using the same idea as Smejkal however I am showing the same space in a different way. As I will be finding old images of the Cathedral just after the destruction of moonlight sonata and how it is today as the ruins are still standing.

When speaking to Chantel again and discussing my idea of a book with her again she reminded me of how much time I have left and that maybe a book would be too much to do do well in the short time I have left.

When re thinking my project I thought a photo film would be a good idea as I can merge the old and the new images together with the effects available on premiere pro. As a musical person who plays piano I am aware of a piece of classical music by the composer Beethoven called Moonlight Sonata, which is a beautiful piece of music which I would like to use within my photo film as a juxtaposed to the devastation the raids left on Coventry to the beauty of the music and how I see the beauty in the cathedral ruins.

Before going out to take my photographs I esearch some old images my going to the Herbert gallery to the archives , unfortunately I could only find one image, therefore the rest of my images will have to be sources off of the internet, which means that the quality will be effected. I found five photos of the cathedral just after the raids printed them out so that I could take them with me . I want to match the composition as best I can.


Whilst out photographing I was surprised at how difficult I found it to match up each photo to the ruins as there are today as there are slight differences the ruins. The photographic conditions on that day were bright but all cloud covered. Whilst editing my photographs I used the dodge tool to pick up some of the slight shadows in the sky, this really brought out the contrast in my images and improved the overall appearance of my images. I would have liked to have gotten more images however when I went back I realised that it was graduation therefore I couldn’t take the images.

After my I had all my images I compiled a few new images in photoshop which will be text with the relevant information about operation moonlight sonata as my images need support my information as if the viewer didn’t know what operation sonata was they would have a better understanding.

When thinking about how to open my photo film, I wasn’t sure what to open with as I didn’t have another image that I hadn’t used. I then thought about using Screen cast-o-matic to record my self typing the title of my film, I felt this was effective as I could hear the typing. When in in premiere pro I had to figure out how to crop a video clip so that I could get rid of the screencast-o-matic logo. Whilst creating the film I had to think about the length of time that I would leave the text up as I am a slow reader and if I didn’t leave it  up longer enough the information my not get read fully.

In my first cut of the my film I had the archive images first so that they faded into the new ones. But when speaking to one of my peers they suggested showing them the other way round so that the viewer see the cathedral as they know it today and see the devastation that was caused.


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This entry was posted on November 19, 2013 by in 250MC.
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