My disappointment and frustration with Bell’s portrayal in Herzog’s ‘Queen of the Desert’ led me to start writing a blog piece about what is actually fascinating and significant about her life and her relationships - and yes, that includes her ‘love life’ (when this is not being mis-characterised and hatchet-edited as part of the movie process) - as well as thinking about what perspectives might best be brought to bear when analysing and studying the important aspects of Bell’s world and agency. The resulting study is something of a psychological narrative, punctuated by Bell’s encounters with real flesh-and-blood people. (I also have a lot more to write about the circumstances around her death, and how it was received and documented.)Read More
It [Bethlehem] was politics etched into the stones of a built landscape; it was 'tribal'; it was staring Bell in the face. It was a unique and special Christmas at an extraordinary time in history - and it shaped Gertrude Bell.Read More
A particular photograph in Gertrude Bell's collection, taken in her very early years as a travel photographer, has drawn me back to it many times. It's an image of a European woman bathing in the Dead Sea in Palestine - then part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire - wearing full Victorian bathing gown and looking for all the world like she's in a state of rapture rather than in a harsh and unforgiving viscous lake of salt which burns like fire in your eyes and scorches even the slightest graze. It's not a typical formal Bell view of a building or a place - it's a thoughtful, intriguing composition.Read More
How someone died is not always relevant to how they lived; but in the case of Gertrude Bell, I believe that the circumstances of her death tell us a great deal about how she felt about her own life - which in turn casts light on a whole host of historical circumstances of that era, not least the impacts of class and sex, during a time when the Middle East was being carved up and re-plated for Western consumption.
I've studied Gertrude Bell's work for over 25 years. I never felt especially attracted or connected on any personal level to the woman who manifests herself in her writings, but was always fascinated by the richness of her archaeological and photographic output and how that legacy was handled. Yet, just lately, I find myself being drawn again and again to read about the circumstances of her death. I think I know why this is, and it certainly is personal - this year I'll be the age she was when she died. And I think I've finally found the connection that was missing.Read More