A phrase that would be wonderfully confusing to any 1930s photographer

Having had some unexpected downtime, I used it to visit the Tates – Modern yesterday,  Britain today. Of course the big exhibitions have either just closed or are about to open, but my favourite of the three I did see was the Fahrelnissa Zeid at Tate Modern. Not a stellar name (she only warrants a six-page card leaflet for a start), the best of her pictures are colourful abstracts (with an unexpected lurch into big-eyed portraits at the end of her life). The other two I’m probably just not the target audience for – Whiteread’s stuff seems to be mainly about the story that can be told about them. As objects they’re quite banal, indeed the display outside in the “free” section (Untitled (One Hundred Spaces)) seems like a range of prototypes for bollards. But she’s very well-liked by people who like that sort of thing, so it’s obviously me. Similarly, the Queer British Art contained a lot of perfectly-all-right-but-that’s-about-it stuff. One of the pleasures of Tate Britain for me is that there are often things appearing that are unexpected and delightful – today it was the Ray Harryhausen and STAN FIRM INNA INGLAN: BLACK DIASPORA IN LONDON, 1960s-70s. But disappointingly nothing in the Queer Britain, although I did like a reference to Cecil Beaton’s “use of soft focus”. I think he was just, at that time, not very good at focusing. We take focusing rather for granted these days, as our phones do it for us. A phrase that would be wonderfully confusing to any 1930s photographer, I’d have thought.