RECENT NEWS > Marko Dukta "At the going down of the sun ".
Human stories from slabs of stone !

Marko Dukta "At the going down of the sun ".

A poignant reminder expertly communicated .
Our most recent speaker, Marko Dukta, was one of our most interesting, and his timely talk “At the going down of the sun”, on 10th November, was both thought provoking, and inspiring, to say the least. Of Italian/ Ukrainian heritage, Marko has a history in Marine Biology, and has worked extensively in the field of commercial photography. He is currently studying for a PhD at the University of Gloucestershire, focusing on the River Severn and its role in shaping the landscape.

Marko is well known locally for his work with Bristol Cathedral, particularly in the context of its recent, magnificent exhibition, featuring The First World War, its impact on the area, and its enduring relevance to the local families. His ability to blend historical events with a narrative of photographic techniques, and poignant stories of the real people who died in the conflicts, is second to none, and the research he has undertaken over the past four years was skilfully and sensitively presented to our members, in a riveting two hours. His very well-structured talk began with the very familiar extract from Binyon’s poem “The Fallen” :

“Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning.
We will remember them.”

And remember them we certainly did, as he took us on a fascinating photographic journey through the moonlit memorials in the sprawling, Victorian graveyards of Bristol, Bath and its surrounding areas. Through Marko, those who died in the War and are buried in Arnos Vale, Haycombe and the like, were made real to us; brought back to living memory through snippets of their past, fading photographs and anecdotal insights, born of passionate, personal research into their direct descendants.

Using the natural urban light of the environments, together with subtle illumination of individual graves or headstones, Marko captured the mood and atmosphere of the cemeteries “at the going down of the sun”. Through these, we were first made aware of those buried beneath the memorial stones, or in communal graves nearby, and later led to a deeper understanding of their contexts and their unique place in our local history, through Marko’s thoughtful, matter of fact commentary.

We learned of Millie, widowed in the Great War at 35, pictured in later years on a beach in a grainy black and white photo, with two grown up daughters and her grandson, Terence Pompey, now in his eighties who was personally interviewed by Marko, collecting the finer details for his admirable project. Millie was eligible for a widow’s pension and remarkably received the sum of just £1 a week from the time of her husband’s death until she herself died just before it was increased in 1972. Not before time! Then there was the 19 year old Norwegian who died of meningitis for want of penicillin on board a ship fast approaching Bristol to seek treatment for him; the victims of the Bristol Blitz, buried en masse, but remembered on the individual slabs and stones that Marko so skilfully transformed into human stories; the Sri Lankans and Jamaicans in Soldier and Sailor corners of the rambling, Victorian landscapes, and of Mary, the child who died running from a shelter, whose mother, Lillian survived the blast, and whose son Chris has been remarkably helpful in providing detail about the family history.

Marko’s talk was a wonderful social comment, that brought history alive, and its largely unsung heroes back to life, in the haunting images he created. It is certainly an evening we will remember fondly, especially on Remembrance Sunday, as we wear our poppies with pride and considerably more insight as a result of his talk, hearing again about those who……

……. “went with songs to the battle, they were young,

Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.

They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;

They fell with their faces to the foe.”

Jenny Short 11.11.22