PICTORIAL STORY

September 24, 2022

END OF AN ERA

THE QUEEN AND ICONOGRAPHY

Photography by Mish Aminoff
Words by Mish Aminoff and Karen Ghostlaw Pomarico

Mish Aminoff is a multifaceted and multidisciplinary artist who engages the arts with passion. Photography becomes her eyes; she paints to express what she sees, sings from the soul, and dances with an open heart. Her photography is intuitive and spontaneous, allowing the moments captured to fill the frame with authenticity. She has had a camera in her hands since she was a child, seeing things in a different way, developing an approach of depicting the world around her in a unique manner. Her multicultural heritage gives her a unique awareness and acceptance of the community she lives in.

When The Pictorial List heard the news of Queen Elizabeth’s death, we thought of Mish’s unique eye and awareness she brings to her visual storytelling, and asked her if she would fill her frame with the authenticity she sees in the streets of London during this time of loss, depicting the “End of An Era”. In the photographer's own words, I let Mish open the aperture, revealing her impressions on the days following the Queen’s death leading to the funeral procession.

“These images document, from my visual perspective, the streets of London in the immediate aftermath following the death of Queen Elizabeth ll. She had been queen for 70 years - longer than I have been alive - so I have always known her to be the Queen. Her image has been a constant in the fabric of daily life; her miniature representation appears on coins, banknotes, stamps. Even in the domestic arena, my breakfast marmalade has the symbol of her crown on the label, with the words “By Appointment to Her Majesty The Queen” printed in tiny capitals. When I speak, my London accent is definitely more “Queen’s English” than cockney.

The morning after her death was announced I traveled into Central London. For me, it felt momentous, like the end of an era. The streets at that point were quiet, the atmosphere oddly surreal and I intuitively started photographing.

During 2022 I had been photographing aspects of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. The images tended to contain a lot of nationalist imagery such as Union Jack flags and bunting. Whilst there were photographs of the Queen in shops and people’s home windows they were often humorous; including paper masks and life-size cardboard cutouts; the sort of thing you might see at a funfair. However, immediately after her death the types of representations and the scale of these images changed markedly. On London Underground, illuminated advertising was either darkened and switched off out of respect or the advertising was replaced with the Queen’s portrait. Suddenly, her face was everywhere, projected on walls, monitors, light boxes and screens. She was magnified, sometimes reflected. These images were often much larger than life, filling walls and building facades. Her iconic representation now spanned everything from a tiny postage stamp to large mural projections.

One of the things I found interesting was that rather than one official portrait, images have been chosen that encompass many decades. The streets are filled with a variety of her portraits as a young queen, middle aged woman and senior.

One such portrait, used for her Silver Jubilee back in 1977, was made even more iconic by American artist Andy Warhol, who created a series of screen prints of Reigning Queens in 1985, in addition to screen idols Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, and musician Elvis. At the September London Colour Walk, Artist Sue Kreitzman repurposed her Andy Warhol tea towel, a merchandising spin off of the art work, sewing it into the back of her multicoloured coat.

As well as the tributes as the week progressed I couldn’t help noticing juxtapositions of the Queen’s representation with street art and signage. Increasingly these became more commercial - her image could be found side by side with adverts for store offers. Sometimes light box signage oscillated between dedications to Queen Elizabeth and completely unrelated merchandise, which had a surreal, almost absurd quality.

What made the Queen so recognisable? To me the Queen’s accessories function as metonymy, where a single white glove, seen at the edge of a magazine cover, undoubtedly belongs to Her Majesty. Beyond the obvious crown, her pearls, brooches, hats, handbags and shoes are not just accessories but powerful symbols communicating ideas of identity, stability and sovereignty.

What has surprised and bewildered me are the extreme contrasts and polarized opinions in the reactions and emotions to her death, even amongst my friends and colleagues. They range from people feeling utterly bereft to total indifference. There were 250,000 mourners who queued for up to seventeen hours to pay their respects and catch a glimpse of her coffin. There are people who feel censored - that they are not allowed to express any dissenting opinions. There is also deep anger and pain with regards to her role in colonialism. Afua Hirsch’s recent article for The Guardian newspaper headlined ‘This is a Britain that has lost its Queen – and the luxury of denial about its past’ was an eye opener for me. Whatever your feelings are about the Queen, I hope you find something interesting and visually pleasing in this series of photographs.”

The Pictorial List would like to thank Mish for her sensitive documentation and pictorial translations of her observations during these mournful and unsettling times in the United Kingdom. She shared with us an authentic look from her own visual perspective depicting the events she witnessed. We commend her respect for the diversity of opinion, reflected and captured through her brilliant photography. We appreciate her honest portrayal of this significant period in history.

Please take a look at her portfolio and learn even more about Mish and how photography and the arts have become a thread in her beautiful tapestry of life.

Join her mailing list to read her blogs, they will not disappoint!

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and are not necessarily shared by The Pictorial List and the team.

IMPORTANT LINKS >>>