A Study in Scarlet

These photos were taken in Edinburgh, Scotland in January 2001.

The series is named "A Study in Scarlet" from the famous story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who was born and educated in this city.

Edinburgh may seem at first glance an old and grey city, but when you get to know it, it has a glowing center, which for me is symbolised by the many instances of the color red one finds in it.

(This series was published in summer 2002 by Amateur Photograher, Britain's largest photographic magazine.)

Yours, Eolake Stobblehouse

PS: an art professor wrote this.

    dontwalk-s.jpg phonebooths1bs.jpg
    bus-redcoat3s.jpg buswindow1s.jpg
    buswindow3s.jpg apples-s.jpg
    museumofscotland-s.jpg phonebooth-s.jpg

    ... A poet was inspired inspired by this series and wrote the following...

    Red In Edinburgh
    by Foye Lowe

    The apples are red, in Edinburgh.
    Like the glow of my rosy cheeks
    When I was there.

    The bus groans and grunts in Edinburgh.
    At least it did when I was there.
    Aboard the bus, beneath white hair,
    A neck scarf here, a back coat there,
    Will splash bright red on colors dead,
    In Edinburgh.
    The ash of death surrounds the red,
    In Edinburgh.
    One red portends a distant death,
    And warns "no smoking" here
    Aboard the bus, in Edinburgh.

    A storefront boldly walls the street.
    Enameled red, it gapes to tempt
    A lusty tryst, in Edinburgh;
    While, in the street, as tersely said,
    The aft-borne lamps of cars and vans
    Demand one "Stop!", in Edinburgh.

    On moves the bus, in Edinburgh.

    Once off the bus, if you should stroll
    In search of Scots Museum,
    With hopes a lass in mini-kilt
    Will guide your tour, and flirt,
    You'll see your stark, bipedal form,
    Portrayed in red, forbidding you to cross:
    "Nae, stay", it'll say, without a word,
    On the bare slick streets of Edinburgh.

    And strangely there, where danger's robed in red,
    The booth which guards the public telephone -
    The very means of seeking succor,
    Of gasping, grasping, for the line of life -
    Is . . . not at all in irony, not at all,
    In red, all red, likewise dressed.
    The color hot, to warn, alarm,
    Will bid you "Come,
    Oh, do come here!", in Edinburgh.

    And there, where skin is monochrome,
    A demolition chute, merry red, be-wary red,
    Descends its scaffold camouflage
    As though to mate the red sedan
    Beside the wall parked tight, in Edinburgh.

    At last you'll reach the place
    Where go has gone, and go will go no more,
    Embalmed at Scots Museum,
    Where runs the metal chart
    Of chronic hypertensive life,
    Magenta-red, along the alley-way:
    You'll find the heirloom whisky's
    Locked away, in Edinburgh.

    Then when you've walked until you're tired,
    And you seek rest in Edinburgh,
    You'll pass a place where food is sold,
    And through the glass you must behold
    The beckoning red of shaded lamps,
    Hanging warm, to bid, not warn.
    But you'll go on, to some café
    So strong adorned with shades of red,
    Like embers, glowing subtle fires of life.
    And there infuse the vital sera in
    The veins of your world-weary soul.
    Oh, yes, there's red in Edinburgh.

"A Study in Scarlet": The Images of Eolake Stobblehouse
By Claudia Moscovici

Eolake Stobblehouse's series of images, "A Study in Scarlet," are a wonderful example of narrative photography. Its title is borrowed from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's first mystery novel, published in 1887, which introduced the famous character of Sherlock Holmes. The mystery centers around a corpse found in Brixton, with the word "RACHE" scribbled on a wall next to it. To catch the killer, Holmes prints a newspaper ad claiming that he found a wedding ring at the crime scene. This lure, which is of course a lie, attracts the first suspect, who turns out to be a man disguised as an old woman. I won't tell you the rest of the plot, nor reveal the true identity of the killer, in the hope that you'll read this intriguing novel. Suffice it to say that Holmes alludes to the color scarlet to describe his murder investigation to his friend and companion, Dr. Watson. He states: "There's the scarlet thread of murder running through the colorless skin of life, and our duty is to unravel it, and isolate it, and expose every inch of it."

Stobblehouse's photography does not, of course, unravel a murder mystery. Yet his series of photographs, all taken in Edinburgh, Scotland, pick up on the same color motif as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's fiction. I'm not just alluding here to the focus on scarlet (bright red). More meaningfully, Stobblehouse shows viewers how Edinburgh, which may seem, as he states in his introduction to his series, "an old and grey city," once you get to know it, actually has "a glowing center, which for me is symbolized by the many instances of the color red one finds in it".

In Doyle's mystery the scarlet of blood, a motif for death, runs throughout the "colorless skin of life." By way of contrast, in Stobblehouse's photographic reinterpretation, red punctuates and gives life to the apparent colorless drabness of the city. In his images we see that even small dabs of red illuminate the town, just as brief moments of joy liven up our lives. In one photograph, Stobblehouse features the red figure of the "Don't Walk" sign against the gray of the pavement; in another, the bright red of two telephone booths against the gray background; in a third, the red sweater of an elderly lady surrounded by the grayness of the bus; in yet another, the bright red of a car and a pipe popping out with color against the backdrop of the gray parking lot and building.

Sir Arthur Doyle focused on the color red to follow the trail of evidence and solve a murder. Stobblehouse inverts this literary paradigm to highlight signs of life in Edinburgh, a city he knows well and loves. His eye-catching set of images follows the clue of scarlet to reveal the vibrancy of a place that seems to lack energy and color only if you don't know how to look at it the right way. Yet his images follow the same narrative logic as their literary precedent. Just as Doyle attunes his readers to the mystery in his novel, so Stobblehouse opens his viewers' eyes to the mystery of Edinburgh.