Skip to content

The Power of an Image

February 1, 2022
Image of a large mural painted on the side of a three-storey house, entitled “Riders of the Apocalypse”.  Artist is Brian Barnes, painted in 1984.  World leaders at the time, Margaret Thatcher, Mikhail Gorbachev, Ronald Reagan and Yuri Andropov are depicted riding on bombs flying from the left to the right of the image, which the dove of peace, the CND symbol and other images representing peace, environment and Greenpeace politics fly in from the right to the left to meet these bombs.  In the background is an image of planet earth on a deep blue backdrop.  At the bottom of the image is a green curved block line onto which are painted small pictures of people’s faces.

Brian Barnes, a Kent-based artist and mural painter, passed away on 28th December 2021. For around 12 years I lived in Sanford Housing Coop, which features the final political mural that Mr Barnes created, “Riders of the Apocalypse”, in 1984*.  In this blog, I’m calling it ROTA.

This image brings forth such a mix of emotions I’m finding myself sitting here entranced by the power of a captured single moment in time igniting memories and emotions stored and filed away over many years.  12 years of ROTA being my lighthouse beacon of home, the marker by which I directed visitors to know they had arrived, a reflection of my principles and knowledge that my neighbours, my community, was similar in how we wished to see people housed and cared for.

A still picture can evoke myriad emotions and whisk you to a long-forgotten place or person.  It is time-travel in two dimensions.

I became a bit of a joke (kindly meant and true) for always taking photographs everywhere I went.  I have thousands dating from when I started with a trusty click-and-wind as a young teenager.  I was very into photo-stories (side-eyes Jackie, Patches and Blue Jeans) but I’m now all about the digital age. 

The image I take says more about me and who I was and have become that the captured moment depicts.  People I’ve lost touch with, experiences and emotions I felt, pain and joy, all are there.

The advent of the camera-phone is a blessing and a curse.  I no longer take the time I did in ensuring the moment I click the button what I want to see is memorialised.  That click is not actually needed in digital photography.  The sound is so evocative to us it is part of the experience now.

I can take many pictures and edit them.  I no longer print them because I can save them to an x-drive.  I get a calendar made with photos from the previous year; there is still something about flipping through pages or seeing the printed image that has the tactile link a screen cannot deliver.

An image can change ideas, beliefs, states of mind, emotions.  It is propaganda, it is what the creator wants us to see.  Our reactions come from outside the experience of the creator.  The image is created with meaning, however frothy the intent might be, but the perception will never be exactly as intended. An image is so much more than what the eye immediately perceives.  It is a doorway to a personal journey which awakens all the senses.  The power of an image is great indeed.

*Interview with Brian Barnes, by The London Mural Society


From → Autobiography

One Comment
  1. I remember that mural very well. I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of a talented artist who, like you say, provided a beacon from some distance down the road and encapsulated something of the socio-political soul, or heartbeat, of that collective. Much has changed in the world since I last saw that painting in person, myself included, my name, gender, physical location and much that is within, while the world has changed even more. Yet I like to think some things that are great and good creative expressions of spirit and hope will outlive us all, this painting being one of them.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: