Featured post

Sofa Portraits now available for pre-order

  1.          Sofa Portraits is now available for pre-order from my website (orders will deliver in October/November)   The pric...

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Nixon in China

Via Exposure Compensation comes the top images from the Bush era, generally of him gurning as he makes a gaffe. Check out the emotion on Bush's face as he prepares to make his farewell conference here. However, my favourite is of Bush choosing the wrong door to leave a conference room in China.

Which brings me on to these great images of Richard Nixon in China. The pictures are by Byron Schumaker, amongst others, and show Nixon with Mao, Zhou En Lai and, most terrifying of all, with Madame Mao. Miaow!

More images available here.

Make your own origami cat

I love origami cats. This is how you make them.

Art market drops 75%

Art market drops 75%.

It does in my house at least. I managed to beat the dealer down to 5p for the book and the cat.

She'll get it all back when she gives me a portfolio review next week. They've gone up - 20p a pop now - but you do get the opportunity to talk about your work with...

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Elijah Gowin

I saw Elijah Gowin's Falling and Floating work on Manchester Photography.

The pictures are made with an intricate technique that puts found images through traditional printing, photoshop and cut-and-paste the old-fashioned way - using scissors.

I don't know how much the subject matter owes to the technique. There are multiple interpretations you can put on these images, especially the falling ones, and to a certain extent, the high-contrast muted pallete helps to that end.

There's a lot going on in them even though they seem so simple - and that's what I like above the arts and craftiness. A little bit Rodchenko, a little bit sci-fi, a little post-apocalyptic, a little bit 911 all twisted into a nostalgic childhood memory idyll.

The more you look the more you see in other words - something quite rare.

See more images at http://www.robertmann.com/artists/gowin

Juliana Beasley polaroids

Juliana Beasley has posted a series of her polaroids on her blog here.

In her Lapdancer book they are small and sink into the cover pages, but here they jump across the screen and, together with Juliana's text, give more of a feel for the social mechanics of dancing.

As Juliana says:

"The following Polaroids are bits of my personal treasure-trove, memories of working in a "theatre" strip club in a strip mall on Kapiolani.

Two of the photos are from Queens and New Jersey, but all have one theme in common. I decided to have a "fan photo" taken with various feature dancers as a mimicry of customers who often paid for the same service, in order to take a token of the nights evening, and the dancer, away and home with them."

Monday, 26 January 2009

William Klein, New York and doing something new

The White Tiger and Slumdog Millionaire nod towards a more 'real' India, a break from the romantic, colonial and magic realist depictions of the country we are more familiar with. In the same way, Bonfire of the Vanities was Tom Wolfe's realist New York epic.

In the foreword to the current edition, Wolfe writes about the disdain held in the 1960s and 1970sfor the realist novels. Instead, there were Absurdist Novels, Magical Realist Novels, novels of Radical Disjunction and Puppet Master novels.

"The Puppet Masters were in love with the theory that the novel was, first and foremost, a literary game, words on a page being manipulated by an author. Ronald Sukenick, author of a highly praised 1968 novel called Up, would tell you what he looked like while he was writing the words you were at that moment reading. At one point you are informed that he is stark naked. Sometimes he tells you he's crossing out what you've just read and changing it. Then he gives you the new version. Ina story called The Death of the Novel, he keeps saying, a la Samuel Beckett, 'I can't go on'.Then he exhorts himself, 'Go on,' and on he goes. At the end of Up he tells you that none of the characters was real: 'I just make it up as I go along."

Wolfe says many of these people were wonderful writers, but that realist fiction provided a wealth of material that had the ability to move the reader in a way the non-realist material could. Realism in the novel gave Wolfe the ability to get all the currents of New York into one book, to get the big picture.

Reading that made me think of photography and getting the big picture. For New York, William Klein's pictures give the feeling of the city (which I have never been to, so what do I know?) in a very dynamic way - there's energy there. I don't think there is any photography of London or England that encompasses the city/country in anything like as satisfying a manner.

Perhaps that's because there is so much about photography that avoids the big picture, the basic truisms of life. There is little real imagery of childhood that conveys what it is to be a child with any depth - though Klein hits the spot. That is why I photograph my daughter, because photographing her involves a huge theme that is close to home and enables my photographic work to my family than it would be. It's a labour of love in other words.

A lot of people photograph their children for similar reasons as me. But what about other things? People say everything has been done, but it hasn't. I featured a football ticket a couple of posts ago; where is the convincing photography that conveys either what it is like to support a team or what it is like to play for a team. There isn't any. Or how about migration? Books like New Londoners or Promised Land provide a nice perspective to it, but how about something that has a sense of purpose and place, of being and not being in a place.

I think photography has really limited itself in what it can photograph, what it is permissible or cool or hip to shoot. We have endless images of flyovers and water towers, endless cliched portrayals of the homeless or addicted, but what about images that show what school is like or motherhood or commuting, that get under the skin and have the feeling and emotion that accompany all those things.

At the same time, I also think that people will loosen up in the coming year, and that new subjects and ways of portraying them will open up. Pleasing the editorial, art or commercial markets doesn't make so much sense if there is no light at the end of the tunnel. People will either stop shooting altogether or start shooting what they really want - whatever that might be.

not quite the same in photography, so why not

Friday, 23 January 2009

Exotic India and Harvey Milk

White Tiger by Aravind Adiga shares some of the themes of Danny Boyle's Oscar-nominated Slumdog Millionaire; it gets beyond the surface exoticism (as pictured above) and spirituality of India to show the culturally-embedded corruption that infests the country's beating heart. Adiga's hero likens it to a Rooster-Coop, a place into which you are trapped for life by the ties of religion, village and family.

What marks Slumdog Millionaire as special for a big-ticket movie is the main characters are all of Indian-descent, there is real-life Hindi language in there and things aren't made too easy for western audiences (despite what the Guardian called the complaints of Amitabh Bachan ( see his blog here where he says he didn't complain).

This is quite a change. I remember seeing Gandhi and Cry Freedom, films where the lives of Gandhi and Steve Biko need Candice Bergen and Kevin Kline to make sense of the less-Angloid people's lives.

How we've moved on. Or have we. Near the top of my list of films to see at the cinema (that-I-won't-see-until-they-come-out-on-DVD ) is Milk, starring Sean Penn as the gay San Francisco councillor, Harvey Milk. There are no gay actors in Hollywood, so it's obviously unfair to suggest that gay actors should play gay characters. But as Philip Hensher says in today's Independent.

"Clearly, there are people out there who can only see the world through the apertures licensed by the film industry. In the case of the lives of homosexuals and lesbians, those apertures are unusually tiny – I've never seen anything in the cinema remotely resembling my life, or the lives of people I spend most of my time with, which seems, on the face of it, distinctly peculiar. Films like Milk enlarge the Hollywood repertoire. We shouldn't kid ourselves, however, that the movie industry is starting to think of us as human, or anything."

Read the whole article here.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Car Crash everything

Back to J.G. Ballard's Miracles of Life where he writes about the birth of his book, Crash. In 1970, Ballard came up with the idea that there was "a strong connection between sexuality and the car crash". In Miracles of life, he cites the deaths of Kennedy (a special kind of car crash), Grace Kelly and Diana as examples.

Back in 1970, Ballard was still not entirely convinced, so he decided "...to test the unconscious links between sex and the car crash by putting on an exhibition of crashed cars."

Three crashed cars were delivered to the gallery, closed circuit TVs were installed, and a young woman was hired to perform topless. And so to the opening.

"During the month they were on show the cars were ceaselessly attacked, daubed with white paint by a Hare Krishna group, overturned and stripped of wing mirrors and licence plates. ... My exhibition had in fact been a psychological test disguised as an art show, which is probably true of Hirst's shark and Emin's bed."

Ballard wrote the book, which was then made into a film which caused a huge controversy in the UK at least and as far as he was concerned, his case was proven.

Car crashes recur in literature and if there is a sexuality about them, then it is a very dark and violent one, in which the car symbolises economic power and much, much more besides. In White Tiger, the excellent booker-winning novel by Aravind Adiga, the crash involves a poor young street girl getting run down by the wealthy and corrupt Pinky Madam - who is driving the car on a drunken whim of fate. The murder sums up the relationship between rich and poor in India, in particular on the streets of Delhi and serves as a stimulus for all kind of dramatic plot developments.

A similar thing happens in Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities, in which a young, black teenager, Henry Lamb, is run down by Sherman McCoy's Mercedes ( though his lover, Maria Ruskin, is driving on a whim of fate). Sherman McCoy is a bond trader (jump you fucker, jump!) and the story of both the hit-and-run and his misguided financial investments still seem relevant during the current financial crisis - a car crash of epic proportions if there was one.

If Bonfire of the Vanities is the ultimate economic disaster novel ( and if, like me, you are completely clueless and want to understand the background of both the deals in the book and how the current spate of bank crashes came to be, watch Evan Davies' excellent BBC series, The City Uncovered, in particular Tricks with Risk.).

If we are on the theme of car crashes, oh dear, I have to mention Manchester City, now the richest club in the world, and a disaster that just never seems to stop. It wasn't always that way. I was looking around some old things the other day, and chanced upon this ticket. Yes, 1976, the last time City won anything, The League Cup Final, Man City V Newcastle, 2-1, Dennis Tueart's overhead kick, it must be on youtube or something.

So the image for the day - my League Cup Final ticket from 1976. The Glory Days and I was there. And it only cost £1.50!

George Georgiou

I interviewed George Georgiou for the BJP last month. Below is the text and you can see the images in a pdf George made of the piece here

‘Happy is he who calls himself a Turk’

“When you first arrive in a place, you are so informed by images you have already seen that it is a burden you have to lose,” says George Georgiou, the London-based photographer who has recently returned from 8 years working in Turkey, the Balkans and Eastern Europe. “The next thing you do is look for difference, which is something else you need time to get over. Once you have done that, you start to look at what is familiar and then, and only, then can you appreciate what is different - because only then can you appreciate that it is really different.”

The differences of Turkey became apparent to Georgiou from the start of his four year residency in the country. Whilst working on a feature on where Europe ends and Asia begins. Georgiou quickly discovered the diversity of a country where the secular and religious, the military and the civil, the traditional and the modern coexist in an uneasy harmony. “To start to understand a place, you need to stay a long time,” says Georgiou. “So I started working on this idea of Turkey being the meeting point of east and west.”

The result of that work is Fault Lines, a book (to be published later in the year) that reveals the complexities of a country that is struggling to reconcile its multiple personalities. Taking centre stage in that work is the Turkish landscape. “We are used to seeing Istanbul or the Mediterranean resorts,” says Georgiou, “but most of Turkey is on a huge plateau above 1,000 m. I wanted to get this non-romantic version of Turkey where the landscape represents the harshness of its geography and its topographical place in the east.”

Continue reading here.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Good Luck Obama

Good luck to Barack Obama. I know where I'll be at 5pm GMT today. I also know the disappointment is lurking around the corner, I know I should be cynical and say he'll end up corrupted by the power he'll be surrounded with, but still, I like to think he won't. He's already achieved so much by becoming president and the sheer fact that he can say things like Hope and Change and Yes, We Can and not sound unbelievably trite stands as an achievement in itself.

So good luck Obama, good luck America and good luck the world. Be an example that all of us can believe in. We need that.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Jean-Baptiste Tournassoud

Mrs Deane
very kindly sent me a image byJean-Baptiste Tournassoud. It reminded her of my Isabel flora series. These images are from the family life series on the link above and they are just wonderful - fresh, unmannered and filled with tenderness and love.

Much, much more is on the Tournassoud website, including this biography highlighting his early experimentation with autochromes.

"Tournassoud's love for photography develops very early on. In 1900, he befriends the Lumiere brothers and becomes, along with them, one of the very first photographers to experience with the Autochrome. Whether at home with his family or away on assignments, Tournassoud will take several thousands of photographs -in black and white and in color- ranging from scenes of military life including the First World War, portraits, family life, landscapes and still lives. The World War gives him an opportunity to carry out many photographic missions on the front line: these missions brought him a special mention for "invaluable services rendered in the line of duty". In October 1918, he is named director of the army's Photographic and Cinematographic Section within the office of the Minister of War, George Clemenceau.

In 1920, Major Tournassoud retires from the army after 32 years of service and moves to his native Montmerle where he will devote himself to photography until the end of his life. Back in his village he becomes a photographer of animals. His "portraits" of animals gives him great notoriety especially when he publishes his work on "the great French thorough-bred horses". Tournassoud would also take photographs of his surroundings including industrial landscapes, monuments and cities. With the eye of a painter and an excellent knowledge of the rules of composition he will produce spectacular still life imagery. Using people from his village as models, he will stage scenes of daily life to illustrate the folklore, traditions, and the different crafts of his region."

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Patrick McGoohan: "We are all prisoners"

Patrick McGoohan, star of The Prisoner, has died. McGoohan was an anti-authority, anti-consumer as shown in this excerpt from an interview he gave in1977.

"We're run by the Pentagon. We're run by Madison Avenue. We're run by television. And, as long as we accept those things and don't revolt, we'll have to go along with the stream to the eventual avalanche.

"As long as we go out and buy stuff, we're at their mercy. We're at the mercy of the advertiser. And, of course, there are certain things we need, but a lot of the stuff that is bought is not needed. We all live in a little village. Your village may be different from other people's villages, but we are all prisoners."

Read more here.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Artist match up

This is Roland Emmerich's flat in Knightsbridge, London. It has images of Mao, Lenin,Pope John Paul II, models of Abu Ghraib, dolls of Chas and Di and a photograph of Mahmoud Ahminedjad photoshopped with hairy chest and a nice six-pack. More photography is provided by Alison Jackson, oh the days! More images of his flat here.

"The idea was to provoke thought, amuse and maybe shock a little," says the designer, John Teall, a former social worker if that makes any difference. A bit too much sauce, perhaps?

I think a little bit of Philip Toledano wouldn't go amiss here, so for Roland Emmerich, director of Independence Day and The Day before yesterday, here is a little bit of Toledano's America, The Gift Shop to brighten up his home. He can stick it next to the Diorama of the Kennedy assassination.

Cut-price shaman speaking in voices...

More favourite bits from J.G. Ballard's autobiography. In the 1960s, Ballard was editor of Ambit, a London literary magazine of sorts. But Ballard wanted less poetry in the mag and more science.

Poetry readings, writes Ballard, , "...were a special form of social deprivation.In some rather dingy hall a sad little cult would listen to their cut-price shaman speaking in voices, feel their emotions vaguely stirred and drift away to a darkened tube station."

Which is just so perfect and grim and English.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

J.G. Ballard and Jack Birns

I read J.G. Ballard's autobiography, Miracles of Life , last week. He talks about his childhood in Shanghai before the war, where the brutality of the times was evident even to a seven-year-old. He writes:

"Given the harsh facts of existence on the streets of Shanghai, and the famine, floods and endless civil war that had ravaged their villages, the servants may have been reasonably content, aware that thousands of destitute Chinese roamed the streets of Shanghai, ready to do anything to find work. Every morning I would notice fresh coffins left by the roadside, sometimes miniature coffins decked with paper flowers containing children of my own age. Bodies lay in the streets of downtown Shanghai, wept over by Chinese peasant women, ignored in the rush of passers-by. Once, when my father took me to his office in the Szechuan Road, near the Bund, a Chinese family had spent the night huddling against the steel grille at the top of the entrance steps. They had been driven away by the security guards, leaving a dead baby against the grille, its life ended by disease or the fierce cold. In the Bubbling Well Road our car had to halt when the rickshaw coolie in front of us suddenly stopped, lowered his cotton trousers and leant forward over his shafts, defecating a torrent of yellow liquid at the roadside, to be stepped in by the passing crowds and carried all over Shanghai, bearing dysentery or cholera into every factory, shop and office."

Ballard was interned with his family in Lunghua Camp - and this became the basis for his book and the Spielberg film of the same name, Empire of the Sun. Ballard reminded me of Jack Birns post-war work on Shanghai, when the Nationalists were holding out against the eventual Communist victory. Sadly, Birns died last year (read his obituary here), but his pictures live on, especially in his book Assignment Shanghai. They're not all as brutal as this, but these fit the Ballard book perfectly.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Roger Ballen interview

There's an interesting Roger Ballen audio interview on Lens Culture blog.

George Georgiou again

Last month, I had the pleasure to talk with George Georgiou for a story in this week's BJP. Like Jeffrey Silverthorne, Georgiou also touches on going beyond the familiar, something that has relevance both for his Turkish work and his images from public transport in the UK and Ukraine. Georgiou photographed from trams and buses in the Ukraine to get the idea of transition across, joining a long line of great photographers to work in the public transport field - Walker Evans, TomWood, Bill Sullivan, Robert Frank, Daido Moriyama and Luc Delahaye just a few who spring to mind.

Below Georgiou talks about the importance of finding, and losing, the familiar.

“When you first arrive in a place, you are so informed by images you have already seen that it is a burden you have to lose,” says George Georgiou, the London-based photographer who has recently returned from 8 years working in Turkey, the Balkans and Eastern Europe. “The next thing you do is look for difference, which is something else you need time to get over. Once you have done that, you start to look at what is familiar and then, and only, then can you appreciate what is different - because only then can you appreciate that it is really different.”

I'll put the full text up later. In the meantime, read more on Curious George Georgiou in this week's BJP.

Monday, 5 January 2009

The repeated things we live by

The BJP had an interesting interview with Jeffrey Silverthorne last month in which he said "I like working in ordinary spaces such as the kitche, bathroom or basement. They are places of transformation and alchemy and for storage of the collective unconscious.

It is the repeated things that we mostly live by. Maybe those things are experiences, or maybe they are desires and fears that may never happen. But if they are repeated, then they have weight and resonance. Lif is many kinds of relationships. The beautifully difficult thing to do as a picture-maker is to try and make use of what is most usual to resonate with the viewer - aspects that are not simply applied or illustrated in the photograph."

More on Jeffrey Silverthorne at Arles here. and at Vu here.

Above are Women who died in her sleep and Young boy hit by a car. See more images here.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to you all.

The picture is especially for all those on the annual wagon again. My English grandmother is second from the left, it's from Chorley in 1913, and it's a Methodist temperance march.

I think.