'Just' is a belittling word…

A shutter-pressing, page-turning, ink-scrawling comment.

Month: October, 2013

The Leaves Are Falling Faster

Leaves are an everyday sight for most people in the world and autumn is many people’s favourite season due to the smells, the colours and cooling weather after the summer (if we in England are lucky enough to get a hot summer…)

Memories of running down the lane in my little red wellies, jumping in puddles and piles of leaves, listening for those satisfactory sloshes and crunches, alongside my love for the season make these images by Bill Stormont all the more beautiful than they already are aesthetically. Everyone, hunt out your woolly hat, push your umbrella into your coat pocket, bring out the wellington boots and simply go for a walk, making sure to notice the leaves on the way!


My Sunday Interview with … My Grandparents

After looking at my family photographs last weekend, I had numerous people kindly tell me they found my last post an interesting topic. I’ve had a busy week but something I have spent a little time on has been researching my growing collection of analogue cameras. Some of these (including my favourite at the moment – the Zeiss Ikon Nettar 515) were given to me by my paternal grandparents. I thought it would be interesting to talk to them this week for my Sunday interview and found out how photography has been involved in their lives and their thoughts and opinions on particular aspects; the digital age, for example.

Nan and Grandad

My grandad, John, was born in 1934 and started using his first camera (a Coronet box camera that he very kindly found out and let me have yesterday, much to my delight) when he was around 13 years old to photograph his increasing interest in planes. It also travelled all the way to Gibraltar with him during his national service in the army. He showed me his very first photo album, full of planes and could still point out which he had been up in as he kept a detailed log book of each flight, which also contains some tickets and more photographs.

My grandmother, Sheila, was born in 1939 (her mother used to tell her that it was her crying that had started the war) and fondly remembers her dad being a budding amateur photographer, whilst it is a long-running family joke that Nan herself is notorious for chopping people’s heads off in her photographs. I began by explaining what my blog is all about and why I wanted to interview them and so it began…

S: I don’t do much photography *laughs*

RG: I remember you saying your dad was quite into it.

S: Oh yes, he loved it, his photography. I mean, he wasn’t professional, just holidays and things like that but he did love taking his photos.

RG: Can you remember him always using cameras or was there a specific age from which you remember him photographing?

S: I always remember he always had his camera with him when we went on holiday. He did take things at home as well because he loved his garden; he often used to take pictures of that.

RG: How would he have developed the film? Did he do it himself?

S: No, you went to the chemist in those days. You just went to the chemist and they did it, didn’t you?

J: Well, I always used a photographic shop on Springbridge.

S: Oh yes, Springbridge, that’s right! Ealing. Broadway.

J: Hmm I used to have a tremendous problem with mine, every time, because mine were all aeroplane photographs,  well not always, but with the aeroplane photographs, when they developed them, they always cut off some of the bits that I didn’t want them to cut off. I mean, say if the aeroplane was facing left to right, I didn’t mind them cutting off the tail on the left, but I hated it when they cut off the front where the propeller was, as then it hadn’t got anywhere to go, if you see what I mean.

S: But why would they cut bits off if you’d want it in the shot?

J: Well because you could see looking at the negative that it was all there but presumably the frame that they put it onto somehow when printing was a little bit smaller so they had to choose which bit to chop off. I used to have to take them back and complain, which I hated doing, but it used to upset me so much that, you know, ‘Oh, they’ve chopped off the wrong side!’ I had to explain to them what I wanted and make them do it again.

It was very difficult taking pictures of aeroplanes with a box camera. With my box camera, you only got 8.

RG: 120 film and they’re large negatives aren’t they, 6 by 9, like the Zeiss you gave me?

J: The folding camera, yes. I can’t remember where I got that from though.

S: I’d forgotten about Springbridge. That was where everybody went, wasn’t it?

J: Well there wasn’t anywhere else really.

S: It was over the railway, a little hump right over the railway. A little camera shop full with cameras in it and I suppose the man did it in a little bit at the back of the shop.

J: I wonder if it’s still there.

S: I have a feeling we drove over it recently and it wasn’t there. I remember it was a camera shop for years and years and years, all the time I was there.

RG: So, Grandad, do you have a favourite camera out those you’ve used in the past?

J: I suppose I was reluctant to stop using the box camera because I’d used it for so long; I always took it to Farnborough with me. But it’s so difficult because you take 8 pictures with it and then you had to change the film, which is difficult in the daylight. The flying’s going on and you didn’t want to miss anything.


S: Well that was always the problem if they got stuck. Sometimes they’d get stuck and you’d have to find somewhere really in the dark.

J: But I don’t suppose I’ve had many cameras in my lifetime. I mean, that box camera, that was the earliest one I ever had; it even went to Gibraltar with me. Cameras were hard to come by when I was young, well, you couldn’t get film, of course, after the war for a long time.

S: Nobody took photos. That was really why there were hardly any pictures of me as a baby.

J: And of course, it was all black and white. Colour film hadn’t come in yet. Or, I think, it was beginning to come in but it was very expensive. Only rich people could afford it.

S: I thought it came in much later.

J: We had colour film on our honeymoon, didn’t we?

S: Very funny colour. The colours weren’t true, were they?

J: I don’t know, some of the colours have changed, faded and changed over the years. I mean, we’ve still got pictures but the tones have changed slightly. The prints this is.

RG: Can you remember 35mm coming in and using it?

J: I remember 35mm coming in but I didn’t have a 35mm camera for a long time after that because I couldn’t afford it. I can’t really remember how I came by my first 35mm camera. I remember even as late as when I was working in Bexhill deciding to go and buy myself a decent camera. That was more the one I think you’re probably using *looks at Nan*

RG: So is that one of those fully automatic ones rather than an SLR?

S: Its plastic I know that. It’s there beside you.

RG: Oh, I have one of these! My friend bought it for me from a charity shop; she’s good like that.

S: So if you have one, you’ll know when we bought it, as it was new.

[I looked in my notebook when I got home and saw that it (a Panasonic C-420AF) was first made and sold in 1988.]

J: I never had an SLR, like your Dad did.

S: We’ve never had a camera as good as the one Sally left you, have we?

RG: That’s a compact digital, isn’t it? How have you found moving onto digital?

J: Good, apart from getting the prints off, which is not difficult now because Matthew or Hannah [my uncle and cousin] do it for me…

S: But we can’t do it by ourselves *laughs*

J: We’ve only once been into Tesco to do it ourselves and it was a disaster.

S: We were in there an hour and still didn’t know what we were doing…

J: Sometimes I’ve accidentally taken videos instead of photos if the camera is on the wrong setting by mistake. There was one that went on for about two minutes and I hadn’t realised and it’s in the car and you see the roof and floor of the car and hear Nan talking *we all laugh*.  The man in the shop managed to print a still from the video so I’m reluctant to take them off the camera. Instead of printing what was on there, though, he said, ‘Oh you’ll just want the plane’ so he blew it up and it was so large, the grain, it was all pixelated.

S: Didn’t want that, did you.

J: Knowing it can be done, I haven’t eliminated them as sometime I want to go and get them done again.

S: I think it’s good with the digital because you can look immediately and see what you’ve taken…

J: That’s the beauty of it.

S: …and if it hasn’t come out very well you can take another one but on the other hand, showing people is very awkward because the screen is so small you have to get it in the right light and some people just can’t see it at all. So we can’t really wait to have them done but then you say we can’t have them done yet because you haven’t filled it, if you see what I mean.

J: I leave it until I have quite a few to run off otherwise it’s not really worth it.

S: Yes and then the excitement of the day, the holiday is over…

RG: So that’s quite similar for waiting for your film to finish, the 24 to 36 exposures or likewise.

J: It is.

S: Yes. What people used to do in those days, is just take lots of film, if it was Christmas or a holiday, you’d just take one after the other and very often you’d come home and take the last one of the cat or something *we laugh* and then you’d send them off.

J: Hmm in those days it was the thrill of waiting to see what you’d got because you didn’t know what you’d got.

S: They’d come through the post and half of them would be a thumb or a blur or something.

J: Yes *laughs* but it really is the beauty of the modern camera when you can look straight away, like you say.

S: There’s good and bad in all things modern and old, really. I think we’ve always, although we’re not good at it, we’ve always got a lot of joy out of taking photographs. If they’ve turned out right, it’s exciting, isn’t it?

J: Well, so many people are giving up. Not bothering to take pictures anymore.

S: No, we have several friends who say they don’t take photos anymore and I think, ‘Oh, that’s a shame. It’s nice going somewhere different and taking shots of things.’

J: They don’t seem to want to record their past, or what they’ve seen.

RG: Hold that thought…I’ll come back to this…


J: Nan’s just taken a film and there are 24 on there and when I send it off, that’s going to be five or six pounds. Now, I’m getting 60 or more for just a little bit more money. One of the drawbacks with the modern camera, though, is that you do need to keep the batteries up to date. It runs through the batteries quick, especially when you’re looking to see what you’ve taken all the time or playing your movie ones, that sort of thing.

[During this part of the conversation, Nan asked whether Grandad had enough film in his camera for a party they’d be going to the next day before asking (less than a minute after being reminded the camera is digital) if you can put batteries in the camera whilst there is still film in there… It’s okay; she is a self-proclaimed ‘Potty Nan’.]

S: It’s too beyond me, I can’t believe it. You’ve been born into it, we haven’t. [This was after I had tried to explain how digital cameras work.] You can’t believe how it’s changed from those photographs, like we have in our hall, where the man would’ve pulled the cloak over him, had the big flash and no one would’ve dared to move, which is why they all look so solemn.

RG: Did you ever have a photograph taken like that?

S: No, I’m not as old as that. No, the only portrait I ever had is downstairs and was when Pat [her sister] was about four or five and I was bout eighteen months or two or something but I can’t remember that.

J: Well, we did go next door for one. He never went to digital; he gave up when it went to digital.

S: He got rid of everything, you know. I don’t know how he could do that. You’d think it would just become a hobby. He loves wildlife and things. It’s lovely when you go round National Trust or places.

RG: Some of the cameras you’ve given me, Nan, have Auntie Pat’s initials on them. Did she enjoy photography as much as your dad?

S: Yes, she had a few cameras. She always used to take pictures. She had a Box Brownie that she used a lot. She must’ve had Father’s camera after that.


RG: I said I’d return to it, and it’s because I wanted to ask you a (sort of) topical question about photography as evidence. I wrote a blog post a few weeks ago about how some people, arguably most people, use photographs as evidence and as a record. Is this relevant to your photographs?

J: Oh definitely, as far as aeroplanes are concerned. Also, as far as family is concerned as well because we always take pictures when we’re on holiday. Nan loves to photograph the cottages we’ve stayed in, inside and out.

RG: Would you say it’s the main reason you photograph?

J: Yes. It’s nice to look back on photographs; remember old times and times in the past.

S: I suppose, when you think about it, it is for that reason. Even when you’re on holiday, you like to remember that place, so it’s evidence you’ve been there. You can say to other people, ‘Do you remember so and so? I’ve been there.’ Couldn’t you?

It would be very good for real evidence, wouldn’t it? If you took something and there was somebody in the background. You could say, ‘Look, there he was. He wasn’t where he said he was.’ If you see what I mean.

RG: Would you say evidence or memory…or are they the same thing in a photograph?

S: Hmm difficult…*laughs*

J: Well, they’re not the same thing, are they?

S: No, you could record a memory without taking a picture, though you couldn’t really prove that that as evidence if you didn’t have the photo of someone there.

RG: The sorts of photos you take are of family and holiday snaps…

S: Yes, they’re mostly for looking back at memories and I think they’re very, very good for older people. You know, when older people go into homes or can’t get out anymore, they can look back at photos and remember things as they might not have much future left, but they might have good memories. They do say that people with Alzheimer’s or Dementia can sometimes look at photographs and remember. So I think they’re very good, very good talking point.

RG: Do you ever look at a photograph and think, ‘Now, where was that, and why did I take it?’

J: Yes, I do, and that’s the reason why I tend to now, and have done for years, to write on the backs of the photographs the place and the date so that we can take them out and see where it was. Also I think when we talk about things that have happened in the past, and we think, ‘Gosh, how long ago was that?’, usually if we can date it within a year or two, I can go to the albums and get the one from that year and find the photograph of when we went there and see that it was such and such a date.

I do often go up and get an album out to look at it just for the fun of looking through. Lots of people have hundreds and hundreds of photographs and never look at them and occasionally we do. It’s good.

RG: Do you think they may be a day when there are no physical photographs?

J: I would hope not, but it could do, where they could all be in archives on this microfiche business or that sort of thing. Film is being phased out, is there going to be a time when film is no longer available? You don’t seem to think there’s much of a problem in getting it, except that it’s probably more expensive to get the older type film. But to the ordinary layman, it is difficult to get it unless you know special places for it.

RG: Well, we’ve covered a lot and thank you so much for your time. Next time I visit, I definitely want to have a nose through your albums again and hear some stories about the memories that come hand-in-hand with the contents…

“The grub is a bit rough but it’s all right…”

I am finding this blog so very interesting that I felt it must be shared! The letters were written by one Joseph Henry Thompson and reading first hand experience of WWII provides both an intriguing insight and a touching story behind the era and the man himself. Can’t wait to read more, don’t want them to end, so think I will limit myself to one a day at the most (I seem to have come quite late to the party and there are over 70 letters already transcribed by his niece…)


Precious Photographs

Firstly, let me apologize for the quality of the following images. My scanner is far from the best, with a shallow depth of field meaning there is more frame detail than sharp photograph. Secondly, this post is all about me, a little lengthy and not in the least academic and I thought my fortnightly blog post would be. Just having returned to lectures for the beginning of my final year, plummeting headfirst into research already, I thought I could do with something a little light-hearted.

Tidying my bedroom at the end of last week, I polished the photo frames I have on show and got to thinking why exactly I had chosen to put these in frames, on my shelves, mantelpiece and those I have crudely stuck to the wall. This thought has continued to plague me for a few days now. What is it about a photograph that deems it worthy enough to be shown to anyone who happens to be in view of it? I have already come to the conclusion that, of course, it is an utterly personal choice but it still interests me as to how people choose their showpieces.

I am close to my family and wouldn’t be without a family portrait of some sort. I have one photograph of my parents, my brother and I, which I chose to print and put into an ‘18th Birthday’ frame upon receiving it for, you’ve guessed it, my 18th birthday. This photograph was taken shortly beforehand, as we hadn’t had a proper, staged portrait taken since I was about four years old (my brother no older than two years old). Recently discovering my love for photography and being given a new camera for Christmas, I put it on my new tripod and set the timer. This was the shot that was sent to all our grandparents, aunts and uncles and extended family and friends.


At the same time, we took the opportunity to get one of me and my brother. I chose to place this in another newly acquired frame. A year later, a great aunt of ours gave me a lovely bejewelled frame, similar to the one I already had, with a photograph of the two of us on my first day of school. I don’t know if she knew it was a photograph I had always loved; the garden gate the best place to photograph in our temporary home near Tesco at the time, Sam’s cute little Tigger shorts and us both so blonde. In my room, I generally place these two either next to one another at an angle or opposite each other, symmetrical, like a sort of ‘then and now’ exhibition.



Finally, and a little strangely I suppose, I have some photographs from long ago; a beautiful little photo of my mother, taken I think even before she had me, a photo of our first cat, Lucy (of whom I also still have a cuddly toy imitation of which I have had since I was born), and a photograph of myself when I was a baby as well as a larger photograph of myself at a similar age. These last few my mother found recently upon discovering a box in the attic that hadn’t been touched since we moved into our current house about 9 years ago. I found this incredibly interesting; that I had completely forgotten I had these photographs and their frames, and that I had photographs of myself as a baby in the first place.



I asked my mother why I had them at all and she said simply, “You always like pictures of you as a baby.” We just looked at each other, I think I probably grunted an ‘hmmpf’ and I carried on unpacking the box, but upon deciding what to keep and what to throw away, I realised that, yes, I do like having images of me when I was younger around. There are some on the walls at home that I adore; the fore-mentioned portrait from when we were younger and one of my brother and I in my grandad’s garden in Somerset, with me in a pair of cumbersome roller-skates and Sam holding my hand and waving with the other beside me.

The funny thing is (funny peculiar, not funny ha-ha), is that I can’t think why. It’s not because I was a good looking baby, not because they were images taken by someone who has passed away, or because they were particular events. Perhaps it has something to do with nostalgia and reminiscing, but these were times I was too young to really remember.

The final image is one of my father, brother and I when we were, I think, at a wedding. It is cut strangely because it used to be in a snow globe photo holder. I love how I have my doll on show for everyone to marvel at, how Sam and I are looking away from the camera, but still posing, as if there was another person distracting us with a camera or otherwise and how you can imagine just from this one image how I am a bit of a daddy’s girl (and I still am, in my mind at least).


I do also have plenty of photographs of friends and my cats, but there is perhaps something in the way these are cello taped to the walls suggesting that, as much as I love them, my family photographs are subconsciously more sacred. This could just be because the photographs I have of my friends were all printed in Tesco from digital files, rather than some of the older images that would have all been shot on film and specifically sent off for.

So, I think I surround myself with these images wherever I go for many more than one reason. Because I know the subjects, they have a deep meaning for me, they are aesthetically pleasing to my eye, bringing back memories. However perhaps it is more likely to be because I don’t live with my family all the time anymore, so it’s nice to see their faces every day. Truth be told, does anyone really ever put images they dislike on show? Maybe it is as simple as that…


Test Yourselves…Answers

A couple of weeks ago I posted a little photographic quiz. See how many of the big names you managed to correctly guess with the answers below…

(left to right)

Louis Daguerre

Annie Leibovitz

Richard Billingham

Bill Brandt

Anna Fox


Robert Capa

Julia Margaret Cameron

Alec Soth

Henri Cartier-Bresson

Lee Friedlander

Steve McCurry

Cecil Beaton

Eugene Atget

Diane Arbus

Eadweard Muybridge

Don McCullin

David Bailey

Gillian Wearing

Irving Penn

Dorothea Lange

Sally Mann

Henry Fox Talbot

Philip Lorca diCorcia

Man Ray

Robert Frank

Martin Parr

Nan Goldin

August Sander

Joel Meyerowitz

Paul Strand

Rineke Djikstra

Richard Avedon

Walker Evans


Thomas Ruff

William Egglestone

Thomas Struth

Cindy Sherman

Nicephore Niepce

My (late) Sunday Interview with…Sarah Neuenhaus

Sarah is a close friend and an influential peer of mine. In the last couple of months, she has been preparing and getting very excited about her imminent trip to The Gambia so I thought I would interview her about whether she intends to take her camera with her…

RG: What would you say is your current field of photography?

SN: I like photographing people but I don’t think I’m very good at it so at the moment I enjoy just taking photographs that people would hang on their walls. Sunsets, flowers and things I could sell as prints.

RG: You’re planning to visit The Gambia soon, after already spending a little over a week there in 2008. What lead you to want to go again?

SN: The people and last time we went we took money to build part of their school so I really want to go back and see what that looks like, the result of fund raising the money for them and to see what’s changed, if anything has changed, to see if the people’s lives have been made better by it and if there’s anything more we can do.

RG: Are you fund raising at all this time?

SN: I’m just fund raising for me to be out there this time, towards flights and the hotel for instance, but I’ve been asked by other people I’m going with to leave space in my suitcase for things like pencils, musical instruments so I guess they’re fund raising for, or donating things like that.

RG: That sounds like a good idea. How have you been raising the money?

SN: I have been giving people Smarties and asking them to fill up the tubes with small change, I’ve been saving my tips from work, I held a tea and cake sale for the ladies at church which went well and in a couple of weeks, I am hosting a Gambian evening where I am going to cook Gambian food and we’ll sit on the floor, eat with our hands and learn about Gambian life.

RG: How will you be involving photography and your creativity in your trip?

SN: I am taking my camera and I am going to buy a video camera to have with me too. Hopefully, I’ll be producing a promo video for the established group I’m going with to have on their website to encourage more people to go on future trips. I’m not sure if I will exhibit the images or put them out there at all, maybe just as still images in the film, but I will definitely be concentrating on sharing the film.

RG: Do you have a personal ultimate aim for travelling out there? Something you intend to see or bring back with you?

SN: Well, I hope I can make a difference to just one person at least. I would eventually like to become a sponsor, to make a difference to a child’s life, to go back and visit them to see how I am helping them have a better life but that depends on money and when I would be in a situation to do this.

RG: On a different note, who or what are you interested in and influenced by at the moment?

SN: Photographically? I don’t know if they inspire my work, but I like looking at the work of wedding videographer Joseph Young. His work is just phenomenal and beautiful, really emotional to watch. I suppose it doesn’t inform my work at all at the moment but it’s something that could have an impact on my future work. I guess if I’m going to make a film after Gambia, it’s someone to look at and it may have a surprising effect.

RG: My topical question for you was difficult to find. I wanted to ask you something about Gambia so had to do a little bit of research myself. So…What is your opinion on the controversial national Media Commission Act amended in 2003 by the Gambian Parliament that regulates the operations of journalists?

SN: Well, I don’t agree with it because..erm..I don’t want to offend anyone *we titter nervously, both hoping we actually understand the Act and haven’t got the wrong end of the stick and subsequently don’t embarrassingly offend anyone. We apologize in advance, just in case*…erm…because I think it’s biased. They obviously don’t want somebody to find something out, in my opinion, otherwise why would you not allow anyone to publish something in their own words?

So, the only news reports or journalists views they have come from the government, the state, but that’s very biased because if you ever wanted to say anything about the country or take photos out there or publish media, you can’t. It hasn’t come from state, and it’s difficult for people to have their own opinion. But doesn’t that just mean that the whole country is held under one opinion? Are they ever allowed to have their own opinions, to disagree? I think that’s what I worry about; the people who do disagree, and what could happen to them.

RG: Did you notice anything before relating to this when you were there?

SN: Not really, although when we went to the capital, we drove past what I think I remember to be the presidential palace and there was a long line of women in colourful clothing, there must have been about a hundred of them, and naturally, we took photos from the taxi as it was eye-catching. They seemed to get angry, a couple started after the taxi, shouting at the driver and walking towards us as if they didn’t want their pictures taken. We were thinking, “Why are they so annoyed that we’re taking their photo? It’s a free country.” But looking back maybe this was because, in essence it isn’t a liberally free country, they agreed with the state or the opposite and were protesting or something and didn’t want to be recognised.

We’ve been told this time that when we go to the embassy we can’t have our cameras in our bags, let alone out and in use, as they’ve had problems in the past which is going to be difficult seeing as I want to be filming and photographing…so, we’ll see. *laughs*

RG: It does seem to be quite a hot topic. Is there any way we can keep up to date with the progress of your trip?

SN: Yes I have a blog!

RG: Great! I will be checking that out later, for sure. I can’t wait to catch up with you after your trip to see how it all went and I hope you have a very rewarding experience while you’re there.

You can follow what Sarah is getting up to in preparation for her trip and how it all pans out at http://sarahneuenhausgambia.blogspot.co.uk/

Checklist: Camera, Tripod, Keys, Weetabix…

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Sarah and I woke up ridiculously early in order to experiment with some night photography in Broadstairs. There were two main reasons for doing this and considering I, like the majority of students, find it difficult to get up at all, let alone at 4.30 am on a Saturday, they had to be good.

The first: Sarah was soon to become 22 years of age and it was on her bucket list to watch the sunrise whilst 21 or younger. She doesn’t drive so I said I’d take her down to the seafront one morning if she really wanted to. She did. It was all her idea really.

The second: After seeing the Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2013 exhibition, we were both thoroughly inspired to take our cameras out into the night and see what happens.

We left the house at 5 am, managing to remember to take breakfast with us. Sarah had her flask full of tea and I had made sure to put an extra amount of milk and sugar on my Weetabix as I knew it would be sitting for a while and I fancied that it would soak it all up and be much more tastier that way… We’d packed our camera bags the night before, had our pajamas on under our clothes and set off in awe of ourselves at actually managing to get out of bed without getting straight back in.

I wasn’t sure what to expect at all. I have never really clicked with landscape photography so I was rather dubious that I wouldn’t just turn the camera off after ten minutes and sit huffing away about how useless I am until the sun showed itself and I could go back to bed. However, I was pleasantly surprised. I actually like my photographs, even if I have seen them before a million times on postcards and hanging over people’s fireplaces. I suppose, actually, that this is one of the reasons I am happy with my images – it proves I can technically compete with other photographers. I will definitely be going again, and it seems like there may even be a little group of us next time, as a few of my photographing friends I have mentioned it to have said, “Oh, let me know next time, and I’ll come with you.” Of course, they were the only people not to say, “You got up at what time? Just to photograph?” And there is that word again…Just.

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'Just' is a belittling word...

A shutter-pressing, page-turning, ink-scrawling comment.