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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...

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

BJP Goes Monthly

It's Official. The BJP goes monthly from March - first issue comes with an interview with Don McCullin who is a true great of photography - especially his English work. (His very dark exhibition  at Imperial War Museum North in Manchester could do with somebody turning the lights on. I could hardly see anything in the darkened rooms), an interview with Gerhard Steidl and much more. Simon Bainbridge, the editor says

"We believe that print magazines have a positive future, but somewhere along the line publishers have lost sense of what makes them so appealing, and in doing so they’ve given too much ground to the internet. Why do something in print that you can do equally well on the web? So, when we began thinking about what we could deliver as a monthly, we decided to play to the strengths of print. While many magazines are cutting costs and chasing readers that now have an allegedly shorter attention span, we are investing, rewarding them with a redesigned magazine that uses higher quality paper, has superior repro and delivers more depth."
It kind of makes sense, and it will be bigger, glossier and better but I will miss the weekly BJP dropping through my letterbox.

Read the whole story here.

Free: Ring of Colour


The NHS leaflet came through our door on Friday - it details what to do if you get sick with everything from a cough to a brain tumour. 
But it doesn't mention what to do if you're just getting a bit miffed from the cold and misery that afflicts this grey and pleasant land (that's England). So for those of you suffering, here is a free download - an original Ring of Colour.

Instructions as follows:

1. Make your Ring of Colour. Take care to use colourful pens.
2. Put your Ring of Colour in the middle of the table, on the arm of the chair or the pillow of the bed where you sit or lie.
3. Pick up the Ring of Colour whenever things get too grey. Gaze and handle.
4. Repeat whenever Necessary.
5. Accept no lesser substitutes other than the above or your own Ring of Colour. They are crap and don't work and are made by art-college brush-monkeys on the minimum wage.

Monday, 22 February 2010

What is the photographic equivalent of an adverb!

The Guardian featured a load of writers and their rules of writing. Top spot goes to Elmore Leonard (who has a book out next month called 10 Rules of Writing), but Anne Enright comes a very close second with 1. The first 12 years are the worst, 3. Only bad writers think that their work is really good. and 7. Imagine you had a terminal disease. Would you bother reading this book?

Now then, how does this translate into photography? What is the photographic equivalent of an adverb, or weather, or an exclamation mark? And what are the "parts that readers tend to skip"?

Read all the writers here.

Elmore Leonard

1 Never open a book with weather. If it's only to create atmosphere, and not a charac­ter's reaction to the weather, you don't want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead look­ing for people. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways than an Eskimo to describe ice and snow in his book Arctic Dreams, you can do all the weather reporting you want.

2 Avoid prologues: they can be ­annoying, especially a prologue ­following an introduction that comes after a foreword. But these are ordinarily found in non-fiction. A prologue in a novel is backstory, and you can drop it in anywhere you want. There is a prologue in John Steinbeck's Sweet Thursday, but it's OK because a character in the book makes the point of what my rules are all about. He says: "I like a lot of talk in a book and I don't like to have nobody tell me what the guy that's talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks."

3 Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue. The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But "said" is far less intrusive than "grumbled", "gasped", "cautioned", "lied". I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with "she asseverated" and had to stop reading and go to the dictionary.

4 Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said" . . . he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances "full of rape and adverbs".

5 Keep your exclamation points ­under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.

6 Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose". This rule doesn't require an explanation. I have noticed that writers who use "suddenly" tend to exercise less control in the application of exclamation points.

7 Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly. Once you start spelling words in dialogue phonetically and loading the page with apos­trophes, you won't be able to stop. Notice the way Annie Proulx captures the flavour of Wyoming voices in her book of short stories Close Range.

8 Avoid detailed descriptions of characters, which Steinbeck covered. In Ernest Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants", what do the "Ameri­can and the girl with him" look like? "She had taken off her hat and put it on the table." That's the only reference to a physical description in the story.

9 Don't go into great detail describing places and things, unless you're ­Margaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language. You don't want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill.

10 Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them.

Anne Enright

1.The first 12 years are the worst.

2 The way to write a book is to actually write a book. A pen is useful, typing is also good. Keep putting words on the page.

3 Only bad writers think that their work is really good.

4 Description is hard. Remember that all description is an opinion about the world. Find a place to stand.

5 Write whatever way you like. Fiction is made of words on a page; reality is made of something else. It doesn't matter how "real" your story is, or how "made up": what matters is its necessity.

6 Try to be accurate about stuff.

7 Imagine that you are dying. If you had a terminal disease would you ­finish this book? Why not? The thing that annoys this 10-weeks-to-live self is the thing that is wrong with the book. So change it. Stop arguing with yourself. Change it. See? Easy. And no one had to die.

8 You can also do all that with whiskey.

9 Have fun.

10 Remember, if you sit at your desk for 15 or 20 years, every day, not ­counting weekends, it changes you. It just does. It may not improve your temper, but it fixes something else. It makes you more free.

Congratulations to Amy Williams!

Bath is a great Olympic town - there are medal winners all over the place thanks to the University's training facilities. But the best gold medallist must be  Bath's own Amy Williams for winning Britain's first individual Winter Olympic gold medal for 30 years.

Pictured above is the training track where she did it - making Bath the world centre of the Skeleton Bob! It's not about the gear, it's about what you do and what you believe you can do. Well done Amy!

Friday, 19 February 2010

Figjam - I would sell on personality alone

My favourite quote from the gallerists I interviewed for the BJP was from the delightful Gemma Barnett of The Photographers' Gallery Print Sales.

"If I could start again, I would be tempted to sell on personality alone."

That is a a polite way of saying there are photographers with massive egos,  egos which outweigh their talent and ability and, these ego-rich photographers might represent an overwhelming majority of photographers.

The sad thing is photography - galleries, magazines, academia - favour that kind of ego and the endless self-promotion that go with it. Endless proselytising of one's self, to the point where one actually believes it, is not consistent with a well-balanced, loving personality. Is there a middle way, or do you have to be an egomaniac to get ahead? Or just rich? Or well-connected? Or just capable of getting things finished and done? Or just capable of being able to put a few sentences together, or a few pictures, or stick to one idea and not wander off on a massive digression? Or all of the above?

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Patti Smith on Robert Mapplethorpe

Robert Mapplethorpe is one of those photographers I don't entirely get (John Gossage is another one - I can look and look at his books, but no, nothing comes through), but when I talked to people from London galleries a few weeks ago (for an article in the BJP), it was fascinating to hear the passion he generated and how this helped transform the British market for photography.

Tim Jeffries at Hamiltons showed his work first in the UK and Mapplethorpe prints redefined contemporary pricing.

“When I first met Robert Mapplethorpe I was relatively new to the business. I was so excited by being in his presence, I didn’t think of asking the price of his prints. Then I found out they were going for US $1,500. This was in 1987 when our other most expensive prints were US $1,000. I thought I was going to have trouble selling them, but they flew out of the door. It was a turning point because if you have the opportunity to work with a truly international superstar it brings a new market with new collectors and a new inspiration.”

And for the lovely Michael Diemar at Diemar and Noble, they started him on first the way of the collector and last year, the way of the gallerist.

"I started buying Mapplethorpe, the first picture I bought was a Maplethorpe flower, and gradually I worked myself backwards in time until I was buying 19th century Gustave Le Gray prints. You need a background either as a collector or working in an auction house to have a gallery that deals with the whole of the history of photography. You need a real feel for the photograph as an object."

Mapplethorpe was also a great self-promoter and Just Kids, the recently published autobiography by Patti Smith details his transformation from small time hustler to global superstar. Another one to put on the to-buy list.

Edmund White does a great review here. 

Patti and Robert were both born in 1946 and both were raised by poor parents, she in Germantown, Pennsylvania and then New Jersey, he by a Catholic family on Long Island. Like all ­lovers, they told endless ­stories to each other about their childhoods: "We used to laugh at our small selves, saying that I was a bad girl ­trying to be good and that he was a good boy trying to be bad." They both succeeded. As a child he'd been a ­mama's boy and had made necklaces for his mother, but later, as an adult, he identified himself in the public mind through his photographs with pain and blood and exotic sexual ­practices, and even with something as seemingly transgressive (but actually innocent) as pictures of child ­nudity. She had held factory jobs in New Jersey, where the other workers accused her of being a communist ­because she was reading a bilingual edition of Rimbaud's Illuminations. She'd given birth out of wedlock, as we used to say, to a child she'd had to put up for adoption. Later, when she lived with Mapplethorpe in Brooklyn, she turned herself into a ­disciplined poet and breadwinner. For a long spell she supported the skinny, charismatic Mapplethorpe, who at the time was making "altars" of found objects somewhat in the manner of the American surrealist Joseph Cornell. He discovered photography only later, but once he settled on it as a career he was tenacious and highly tactical in plotting his rise in the world.

From The Guardian.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Jaron Lanier: How the internet destroys creativity

Jaron Lanier is interviewed in The Independent and talks about why the internet is ruining our creativity.

Essentially, it's ruining our creative, it destroys creative industries and it turns us into spouters of wrong information with formulaic identities: the kind of thing we talk and think about when we say how all blogs look the same/there's nothing new out there/it's all self-promotion etc.

Essential reading in other words, and gathered together in Lanier's book I am not a Gadget: A Manifesto.

Lanier gives us his advice on how to heal the world wide web:

Heal the world wide web: Lanier's expert advice
* Don't post anonymously unless you really might be in danger. 

* If you put effort into Wikipedia articles, put even more effort into using your personal voice and expression outside of the wiki to help attract people who don't yet realise that they are interested in the topics you contributed to. 

* Create a website that expresses something about who you are that won't fit into the template available to you on a social networking site. 

* Post a video once in a while that took you one hundred times more time to create than it takes to view. 

* Write a blog post that took weeks of reflection before you heard the inner voice that needed to come out. 

* If you are Twittering, innovate in order to find a way to describe your internal state instead of trivial external events, to avoid the creeping danger of believing that objectively described events define you, as they would define a machine.

Read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Bert Hardy and Henry Moore

Waldemar Janusczak twists the knife into Henry Moore in the Sunday Times for oh-so-many reasons. Most interesting here is the accusation that Henry Moore's underground pictures were based on a Picture Post story by Bert Hardy. He also touches on the rebranding of Moore for the exhibition.

A huge Henry Moore exhibition is heading our way, and one of the things it seems determined to prove is that Moore was not who we think he was. The avuncular Yorkshireman with the cloth cap and the polite twinkle was just a front. Underneath, he was altogether darker, edgier, weirder. According to the catalogue of this image-denting event at Tate Britain, the country’s most popular post-war artist was actually driven by powerful secret urges. His art may usually have appeared pleasantly blobby and as sentimental as a Christmas card from yer nan, but its real aim was to explore aspects of the human condition that were “abject, erotic, vulnerable and visceral”. The Tate is about to imply that Postman Pat was Hannibal Lecter!

Or something like that. At the very least, the show is suggesting that Moore was a dissembler, a pretender, who explained one thing while he did another. To make its point, it will re-examine his so-called Shelter Drawings, the distressing images he made in the early years of the second world war, of wrapped-up Londoners huddled in temporary shelters on the London Underground, waiting darkly for the bombs to pass.
The shelter drawings are probably the most celebrated works Moore ever made, and certainly the best loved. They seemed to capture, so movingly, the resilience and stoicism of the British during the Blitz. Buried together in their living tombs, swaddled like bandaged maggots, the poor, sightless London masses are silently withstanding everything that Jerry could throw at them. These weren’t just scenes of solemn resistance on the Underground. This was the most moving portrayal of the unbreakable British spirit anyone had ever produced. Or so we thought.
By 1980, there had already been 70 ambitious Moore exhibitions in 25 countries. Anyone wishing to get away from his work would have needed the escape skills of Squadron Leader Roger Bartlett and his boys. What have they got outside Unesco in Paris? A Henry Moore. What stands outside the Lincoln Center in New York? A Henry Moore. What sits on a plinth outside our Houses of Parliament? A Henry Moore. What do I see every day on my constitutional as I tramp from Hampstead Heath to Kenwood House? A goddam Henry Moore. 

We are dealing here with a presence so vast and total and thrusting that it felt like a pillow being pushed down on your head. A fame so suffocating that it seemed to cut off your air supply. When the acerbic Tom Wolfe made his famous complaint about modern art, that it had led to the depositing of “a turd in every plaza”, whose ubiquitous turds did he have in mind? Henry Moore’s.
So when Moore finally expired after his seemingly interminable gong-encrusted innings, I confess to feeling little sadness and lots of relief. Everyone else must have felt this way too, because the avoidance of him that started the moment he died was, in its way, every bit as spectacular as his fame had been. Overnight, a total silence on the subject of Henry Moore appeared to descend upon the land.

How interesting, then, that the new Henry the Tate is hoping to slide by us is distinguished by hidden sexual yearnings and dark copyright steals. It’s a thoroughly predictable rebrand: Marks & Spencer getting taken over by Agent Provocateur. Frankly, you would have to be as eyeless and blind as one of Moore’s reclining blobbies not to suspect naughty origins for his provocative lumps and bumps: the sunken sculptural orifices, the dangly protruding bits.


What does it all prove? That Moore was sneaky? Oh, yes. That you should never trust a straight-talking Yorkshireman? Oh, yes. That he dissembled and plotted and hid his sources? Oh, yes. That all this newly discovered deviousness is the tip of an iceberg, and that beneath the avuncular surface of Henry Moore an inferno was probably burning? Oh, yes.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

3 Kinds of Crying



Three kinds of crying, but which one is best?

Crying Babies

Crying Celebrities

Crying Wife

Monday, 8 February 2010

What to do with all those leftover pallets: Make a Sledge?

picture: John Duncan

Here in Bath, Spring is in the air and  The Big Freeze (aka in other places as a bit of snow and a little bit nippy) of January is well over, which is a shame. We were living a dream, a cross between Norman Rockwell and The Road, all home baked   pizza and bread, I made a sledge  and we were one step away from getting our own shopping trolley it was so darned parky.

Instead we rode around the hills of Bath on the homemade sledge. No, that's a lie - we didn't ride anywhere on my sledge. It was made out of a pallet (find out how to make one here - if you  want to burn pallets instead, John Duncan shows you how to do that here) and it weighed a ton. You could put it on the top of the Eiger and it wouldn't budge it was so heavy.

Improvements? Make one out of iron, or concrete or the weights keep fit places throw out after all the January sign-ons give up on their New Year weight loss regimes.

It's the year of DIY in photography too - making your own photobooks is the thing and The Independent Photobook blog by Mrs Deane and Joerg of Conscientious covers it. It's very much on the slick end of book making at the moment, but that seems to be changing as the global reach expands and  everyone gets rougher and more handmade through the year. There are definite geographic variations but the Dutch are leading the way big time in what is being made. A little bit of Dutch punk in there will do everyone good - and will remind us  traces of the old style liberalism remain.

 Perhaps most interesting are the offerings from FW books (especially Koen Hauser's De Luister van het Land and Jaap Scheeren's Fake Flowers in Full Colour), Grace Kim's artist's book Love Hotel - and the five zines from Zine look an interesting buy. There's also Mrs Deane's gem of Dutch geo-photography, Hier (which she was kind enough to send a copy of).

There are lots of exciting things happening with the printed page, and one gets the feeling that something new is popping up here and there is a defining era in the history of photography in the air - a kind of Provoke or 1955. It will be interesting to see what work comes out of this and how it is defined by the end products.

From the UK, it is great to see Nick Turpin has Publication out, a wonderful-looking loose leaf street photography magazine similar to Lay Flat ( which has its second issue out soon).

Friday, 5 February 2010

My David Cameron


Many more takes on the airbrushed David Cameron posters from here.That's the original one at the bottom.

And make your poster - using this template here. Or this generating page here. Lovely.

Domesticated Opening: Swindon

Opening tonight and running until February 28th is Domesticated.

It's at the PostModern Gallery (in the old post office), right next to the Wyvern Theatre. Two of my large Sofa Portraits are in along with all other kinds of wonderful stuff. 

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Peta, Baby P. and John Heartfield

Peta have run foul of everyone for running the above poster of Steven Barker, responsible for the horrific abuse of Baby P., and making the connection between cruelty to animals, rape and child abuse. Read the whole story here.

The poster is an extension of the link between vegetarianism and wider ethics (see the Paul McCartney poster above), for which John Heartfield did the original response with his "Don't be afraid, he's a Vegetarian" Hitler poster.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

A Room of One's Own: Rachel Cusk on Women Writers

From the 2009 past - Rachel Cusk writes about Virginia Woolf and Simone de Beauvoir in The Guardian

"When Virginia Woolf said that a woman needed a room of her own and money of her own to write fiction she appeared to be alluding to a female future where possession – property – equalled words as inevitably as dispossession, in the past, had equalled silence. A woman with a room and money will be free to write – but to write what? In A Room of One's Own Woolf asserts two things: first, that the world – and hence its representations in art – is demonstrably male; and second, that a woman cannot create art out of a male reality. Literature, for most of its history, was a male reality.

"...it is the masculine values that prevail . . . This is an important book, the critic assumes, because it deals with war. This is an insignificant book because it deals with the feelings of women in a drawing-room. A scene in a battle-field is more important than a scene in a shop – everywhere and much more subtly the difference of value persists."

I think there is a relevance to photography here - the way in which dark images of chaos and destruction are  venerated in certain branches of photography, and how quiet images of stillness and tranquillity are venerated in others.

Rachel Cusk is well-known in the UK for writing books, especially a bad-mother book. She's also known in the West Country for being dismissive about the book group she was part of ( see Rachel Clusk's article on the book group) and the (possibly unfair - and it's possibly unfair because I'm possibly making it up) suggestion by members of the book group that perhaps Cusk might consider that it was a room of one's own Virginia Woolf was talking about, not 6 rooms (and only in London) with a couple by the beach on St Barts (see letters from a member).

And here is her bad-mother book - A life's Work. And here are Women's reactions to a life's work

Monday, 1 February 2010

Jennie Gunhammar: Lupus and Parkinson's

I had the pleasure of speaking to Michael Diemar (of Diemar and Noble) last week. He mentioned how he was interested in photography with feeling, that doesn't just replicate overworked themes for the purpose of wall decoration. "There should be a personal investment in the image-making. It’s not just about getting an idea and photographing it. It’s about being part of the idea and feeling it – and making something people can believe in."
His and Laura Noble's gallery opened last year and the first show was Jennie Gunhammar's Somewhere I have never travelled gladly beyond.

This was a portrayal of Jennie Gunhammar's twin sister and her partner, who both had incurable, degenerative diseases; Lupus and Parkinson's Disease respectively. Sadly, Jennie died soon after the show. Michael Diemar gives a moving tribute here.

Jennie had been suffering from lupus since 2002. Jessie, her identical twin sister, was diagnosed with the same illness in 2004. Lupus attacks the immune system and is incurable. Lupus charities receive far less funding than other well-known diseases such as cancer, due to lack of public awareness. Lupus often goes undiagnosed as the symptoms can be extremely varied. Weight loss is common and the first time I met Jennie I was shocked by how thin she was. Jennie was always very straight forward, a Swedish trait she was proud of and when meeting new people would explain "I have lupus" so as not to be mistaken for being anorexic. While she was thin and frail she was also extremely beautiful, and she had the grace of a renaissance queen. I soon discovered that she also had a will of iron and an absolute sense of purpose, namely her photography.

I had fallen in love with Jennie's photographs long before I met her. They were images from a project called "somewhere I have never travelled, gladly beyond" (published in a book by Damiani), a moving portrait of Jessie and Stan, a Parkinson's disease sufferer, their lives together, the love and tenderness between them but also the difficulties and the pain they had to live with. They are remarkable images, beautiful, sensitive but also unflinching in their honesty. Honesty was the most important thing to Jennie when making images, far more than any notion of art.

Art was an extremely serious matter for Jennie and she abhorred photography that was mere eye candy. Art was for her about a total investment of herself, her emotions and sensibility.
Read the whole article here.