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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...

Friday, 9 December 2011

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Chris Coekin's The Altogether

It was good to see Chris Coekin's The Altogether in the BJP's Top 10 Photobooks of 2011 - it comes with gatefold pages and has a continuous text running through it on the outer gatefold. The special edition also comes with a vinyl record. The book is inspired by union banners (which aren't in the book) and is something of a commentary on the closing of Britain.  This is what Chris says about the book. The book is £20 and is available from mail@walkoutbooks.com or from the purveyors of evil here.

Well, I really enjoy the photo book and think that it's a great way to disseminate work and unlike exhibitions there is a longevity and you can reach a wider and more diverse audience. For me though, the book has to feel that it's more than just a vehicle to illustrate the images, actually much like an exhibition I suppose in that a book needs curating too. I want the concept of the work to manifest itself within the design and tactility of the book.

The Altogether is inspired by manufacturing and the manual workers who make and produce, craftsman who are skilled and work with their hands. I wanted to try and engage the reader somehow with the book much more than just looking at the images. The gatefolds make the reader work, in that you have to physically discover the image, you have to work at it. The continuous gatefolds within the book is actually a complicated binding process. The only way to achieve this while keeping it hard back and stitched is to physically hand-fold the gatefolds and trim them by hand. This, although logistically difficult to get right  (months of negotiating with the printers about what was achievable and not...and basically me wanting something that they thought couldn't be done) fits in with the context of the project. I like the idea that the books have been through this manual process of production, much like the hands on production that the factory workers do.

 I also wanted a tactility to the book, the cover is foil blocked and embossed so when you run your fingers over it you can feel the design. The text is a verse that I have written, I like to use text within my books, you may recall that it was a feature of my last book The Hitcher in which I included text from my subjects and also a short story that I had written. The book is also designed so that you can read the text from left to right without opening the gatefolds, like a normal book. 
The text is featured on the vinyl record, it is recited by the workers in the factory, and it appears as spoken word over the music that I produced from the factory floor. I chose vinyl because it is essentially a manufacturing process that hasn't changed since the invention of vinyl records, they are made in factories. 

It took me a long time to source the typeface, I wanted something that felt a little raw, well used and man made. Again this fits in with the context of the tools that I photographed for the book. 

Some of the portraits are directly based upon Trade union banners and posters and some are inspired by them. The banner painters are anonymous artisans and unfortunately their paintings were never recognised by the art establishment. Much like most working class people I was introduced to these paintings long before accessing traditional paintings exhibited in most municipal museums and galleries.

Presently I'm now concentrating on getting it out there, it's really difficult doing it alone. It has been well received so far and I have a couple of reviews coming up. It's difficult getting the books out there, the photo book world is very small actually.

I started Walkout Books with The Hitcher which was in association with The Photographers' Gallery. I learnt a lot with this book and indeed with Knock Three Times published by Dewi Lewis. I have to say though that I have been fortunate in that I have been able to attract external funding and grants so that I can publish the books, otherwise it's far too expensive.

The Hitcher has done really well though and essentially apart from what's out there now there is no more to distribute, I have a personal small stock left that's it. So this gave me the confidence to continue with Walkout and publish The Altogether and I'm looking forward to where it takes me in the future.

My books are also high quality offset printing. This is important to me that they are professionally produced and have that quality, I want them to stand up against the bigger publishers. I suppose it's also important for me that they differentiate themselves from print on demand such as Blurb for example. I'm not sure how I feel about these types of books, there are so many and I have many students who produce books via them. 

The Alogether is available at  WALKOUT/BOOKS .

Monday, 5 December 2011

The Velvet Cell

I am currently writing a labrynthine feature for the BJP about new publishers and am a little overwhelmed at the response and the range of what is out there. I have talked to so many lovely people and had so many email to-and-fros that I really have too much to talk about - not all have which is coherent. 

I think it's  that fractured sense of creativity, and the openness with which people are approaching publishing and bookmaking that is part of the delight of it;  there is not one way of doing things, there is not one overwhelming authority of what is good, peope are coming at it from all sorts of different angles and there is a sense of a merging and overlapping of different streams of  photography, arts, fashion and design - and that is a good thing. 

I have experienced a diversity of thoughts and ideas and nearly all of it has been life-affirming and mind-expanding - people are opening doors, not closing them. 

So with that in mind, I thought I would run a few longer interviews with individual publishers, starting with Eanna Freeney at The Velvet Cell - who sell beautifully packaged booklets at only £7. See, amongst others,  Urban Satori - Nykoh, On the Plane - Philip Kalantzis Cope  and Brooklyn - Luke Swenson.

So Eanna, why did you start a publishing company?

I started publishing for a number of reasons. For a start I’m passionate about photography, not just my own. I also love books and design. So for me it’s a convergence of all these interests. Its an amazing chance for me to work with amazing artists who inspire me, and I get to work with design and see a finished product. Publishing is great in that it’s so renewable. Every book is a chance to rejuvenate yourself, try a new style, do something bold. I began designing exhibition catalogues before deciding that I wanted to build up a base for different photographers. Around the same time I was becoming disillusioned with the prevalence in mainstream photography and photo books with landscape and portraiture. I love these styles but I felt that photography of an urban nature, of the great Stieglitz tradition, was severely underestimated and under-represented. I wanted to build a publishing house around this. I’ve always been fascinated with urban photography especially and wanted to give a platform to others who shared this passion. After a while I decided to broaden the focus to different genres of photography but it began as a dedication to urban photography of a sociological nature.  

Who decides what gets published?

I decide who gets published. Simple as that. I study Photography and am acutely aware of the role of the publisher in often deciding what artists make it and what artists don't. I am aware that publishing, and other institutional facets of the art world, must balance this without being exclusive and discriminating. However, I think for small publishers like The Velvet Cell, all we can really do is invest in the artists who we share an affinity with. 

What kind of books do you want to publish?

For the past year I have published booklets, in a limited range of 100. They are small, intimate and affordable. They afford the viewer a close experience with the work on display. However, this year The Velvet Cell shall be moving on to producing larger format books, enabling us to display the photographers in questions work in larger detail, hopefully doing it more justice. All books will be limited edition.  

Why the urban and night time theme?

The urban and nocturnal theme derives from how I fell into photography. I am very interested in the urban environment and city-life. I have always been inspired and captivated by photographers like Alfred Stieglitz who looked above street-level and was obsessed with the form of the city, rather that the action at street level. Like photographers Gregory Crewdson and Rut Blees Luxembourg I have always been interested in themes of alienation and dislocation experienced by people living in cities. When I moved to London in 2009 I spent a lot of time with my camera trying to make sense of my new surroundings. East London, in particular, is a post-industrial area where whole communities are re-evaluating their identities in the wake of de-industrialisation. I found this fascinating and a most interesting subject for my my photographic practices and for this publishing house. My academic background in sociology has, without doubt, gone a long way in shaping my interests.  

Are there any other small publishers that inspired you?

Plenty. PPP was a very early inspiration. I pick dup their book Tokyo a long time ago and marvelled at its production for months afterwards. Right now Hassla are a big inspiration but also Layflat for the sheer quality of their publications. Rokov Publishing, a new independent imprint who released their first book this year, is also doing great work around nocturnal and sociological work and is a great inspiration.  

Who designed the books?

The books are designed and distributed by myself. Designing the books and trying new things is one of my favourite parts of publishing. 

Where did you have the books printed?

The books, to date, have been printed by a small UK-based printer. But in the future, for larger publications we will be using printers in both the Baltic region and Hong Kong. 

What made you decide to have them printed there?

A relationship with your printer is one of the key elements to the success of any publishers and you find that once you find one that you trust and who produces good work you tend to stick with them. I was recommended them by others I know in the publishing business. 

How important was it to be at the printing?

Unfortunately, due to many circumstances, including an overly busy schedule, Im rarely available to be at the actual printing. It’s always a big regret but when you trust your printer then you feel secure. For me it’s not the most important factor, that is the design. 

What are your upcoming publications?

We have three big publications in the pipeline at the moment and are planning to begin new venture of The Velvet Cell that publishes exclusively larger format books. For the first one we are in the middle of arranging shows in both Los Angeles and London to support it. I don't want to give out too much detail just yet but we will also have two more smaller books coming out in the early months of the new year, 

How easy is it market and sell the books?

Marketing the books and selling them is perhaps the most challenging aspect and certainly takes up far more time than you'd imagine. Obviously reputation is a massive thing and as your back catalogue grows more people come to know and trust your publications. Quality always has to come first and I’d rather produce quality publications that I believe in and be unknown to most than to compromise quality and sacrifice what I believe in. For marketing it’s a matter of contacting as many people as you know that would be interested and hoping that word spreads. 

There are many small, new photobook companies. Why is this do you think?

There is certainly a boom. I suppose for many reasons. Firstly the internet facilitates publishers to exist with no physical location necessary such as a bookshop. Therefore expenditure is vastly reduced. Secondly printing costs, in general, are both cheaper and more accessible than say ten years ago. The internet brings people together and connects people with similar interests. I think the interest in photo books and independent imprints has always been there but just now it is easier to do. This also goes hand in hand with the fact that photography is more accessible now for everyone. Everyone has a camera now, on their phone or a point and shoot. Even SLRs have reduced massively in price and people don't need to be educated about aperture and printing to be able to be a photographer. So there is a glut of new emerging photographers out there and the old publishing system, that still prevails either isn't equipped to deal with them all or there simply isn't a market for all to be published. It’s certainly a challenge to the established standards. 

Monday, 28 November 2011

More small publishers

Above pictures from À PROPOS DE GISÈLE by Estelle Hanania and JSBJ's very cool blue zines. Buy for 15 euros at JSBJ.

OK, so here are a few links of some more small publishers suggested by lots of people - thank you so much for your ideas. So many, so many, some are more affordable than others. 

Have a flick through the links below and see what is on offer - there is some fabulous stuff out there.

More self-publishing, but here is a taster of The Photobook Show in Brighton next week.

Also on self-publishing, here is ABC., the Artists' Boooks Cooperative.

This is where you find things such as  Mariken Wessels: Queen Ann. P.S. Belly cut off
which is where the above picture is from. Here's Joerg Colberg's review of the book

And here is Jeffrey Ladd's review.

Jeffrey runs Errata Editions which reprints old classics - part of the historical rediscovery of the photobook that the Parr/Badger Histories crystallised. More histories of Dutch/Mexican/Spanish/German photobooks are in the works as we speak and Parr is doing a 3rd Photobook History volume which has to be  good news.

For more on Japanese photography and photobooks, see Microcord, Japan Exposures and the Ivan Vartanian book on Japanese Photobooks of the 60s and 70s. Also note that The Photographers Gallery will be having show of 150 Japanese photobooks from the last year. It's in May 2012. It's a kind of bookshow/exhibition. Get your white gloves out. No kidding.

For many, many more small publishers go to last year's Amsterdam Art Book Fair.

 One Year of Books blog

 Où est passée la journée d'hier

Takiura Hideo

 Meier Und Muller

Oodee Books 


Above picture by Claudine Doury - Sasha

 Buy at  Le Caillou Bleu

Editions Fpcf

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

New Publishers

pictures by Maya Rochat's Ma tete a couper

I'm currently writing a feature for the BJP on small publishers. If you hadn't noticed, small publishers are sprouting up all over the place like mushrooms in the rainy season.

So I've been talking to all these people involved in publishing, printing, design and bookselling and what a delight it has been.

Most notably I was pointed in the direction of Delphine Bedel by Bruno Ceschel of Self Publish Be Happy.

Delphine Bedel runs Hard-Copy, a Master's Course in Geneva where students are teamed up with designers to produce their own books. More on this in a later post. You can see Delphine and others talking about publishing at last year's Amsterdam Art/Book Fair here.

Delphine led Ben Freeman at Ditto Press in London - they do all kind of fancy printing work, including risoprinting Maya Rochat's book for Hard-Copy.  My phone then headed up to speak to Alec Soth about Little Brown Mushroom and a Head with wings by Anouk Kruithof.

One thing all these small publishers have in common is a willingness to take a shot in the dark, to experiment and try new things. Unfortunately these things can go a little bit wrong as Alec Soth found out when he was confronted with 500 books that had to be filled with tipped in photographers - Alec can do lots of things but he can't tip photographs to save his life.

That similar Oh-My-God-What-Have-I-Done moment was also experienced by Elijah Gowin of Tinroof Press when his 3 pallet-loads of Of Falling and Floating arrived on his doorstep. See his video on Offprint Paris below - Offprint is a small publishers fair with all sorts of good things floating around.

Offprint Paris 2011 from Elijah Gowin on Vimeo.

The big fish, comparatively speaking, at Offprint was Markus Schaden who co-published Ricardo Cases  pigeon book, Paloma Al Aire. Markus talked of the excitement of the new photobook era but also the danger it posed to him as a publisher, and how everybody has to be everything (photographer, publisher, curator, exhibitor and distributor) these days - something echoed all around by almost everybody.

Markus led directly to Helge Schlaghecke of White Press. Helge published Doug Rickard's A New American Picture which was a google street view book which connected to one of Mr Parr's favourite books which is the CCTV based Looters by Tiane Doan na Champassak

And if anyone is thinking of Christmas present ideas, don't hesitate to get me a Pogo Books Boxed set,
some French elegance at JSBJ or something from Alec Soth's favourite restrained American design of Hassla Books.

See Anouk Kruithof's Happy Birthday To You here.And documentation of the making of it here.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU was published as a result of a conceptual social project by Anouk Kruithof, which she developed during her stay at "HET VIJFDE SEIZOEN" from January to March 2011. This is an artist-in-residence in the area of the psychiatric institution Altrecht in Den Dolder, the Netherlands. Kruithof has interviewed 10 patients about their wishes for their birthday and in accordance with those wishes, she organized and celebrated these birthdays for and with them.

Anouk Kruithof on Christoph Hansli's Mortadella. See the book here. It might be a tad expensive mind.

Now all I have to do is make sense of this chaos. I will try to do so, brought on by an overwhelming wave of optimism, creativity and openness from all the lovely people I spoke to.

And your favourite new publishers? I'd love to hear your ideas.


Monday, 21 November 2011

Of Falling and Floating and Printing in China

I have always loved Elijah Gowin's Falling pictures. He sent me his new book Of Falling and Floating the other day. It's published by Elijah's own press, Tin Roof Press
and is a wonderful exploration of various dark themes that add up to an apocalyptic perspective of the post-911 world. This view ties in with the birth of Elijah's own children, adding a layer of fear to his life, a concern for the future and for the legacy we bequeath our children that was not there before.

The first major themes is that of baptism, or birth - Gowin takes pictures from the internet and then combines and alters them so they look like distorted 'polaroid transfers' or instamatic prints. So people are baptised, there is water, people kneel and heads are held. It looks sinister, it looks like people are being tortured or shot, like people are dying. This effect is compounded by some other things happening at sea - a burning ship, a plume of orange smoke, clusters of people swimming. Perhaps they're swimming for safety or shore.

The falling pictures are  strange combination pictures where the colours and scale are all wrong, where joyful tumbles turn into plummets of death, where the evocations of Rodchenko and Siskind merge with those of the 911 Falling Man. People fall onto land, into Stephen Gill undergrowth, and into water. They fall flat and face first, sideways, upside down, braced for landing, ready to die.

The final scene is shots of sunlight from a camera pointed into the sun. There is no happy effect here, no 60s swing into psychodelia or McGinley tilt towards the happy and light.

Instead it's a Japanese sun, an atomic sun, a harbinger of a slow and lingering death amidst the parched earth and dead sea of all that Falling and Floating. Gowin says that there is an optimism in the pictures, but if there is the consolation in our falling is that we sometimes do it with a sense of rhythm and a sense of grace. .

See and buy the book here.

Tin Roof Press is one of any number of small publishers that have risen up in the last few years. I'm currently writing a piece on this for the January edition of the BJP - and what a pleasure it is to talk to so many open and committed souls.

Truth is there is no single coherent reason for this phenomenon, but Tin Roof is on one side of the new-publishers spectrum. See Elijah explain being on press in China here - On Press with Tin Roof Press.

Printing "Of Falling and Floating" from Elijah Gowin on Vimeo. And here he is at Offprint Paris (a gathering of wonderful small European publishers).

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Anthony Luvera's Residency

Another person I interviewed for my BJP article on collaboration (the whole article is in the November issue - or on the ipad version. ) was the ever thoughtful, energetic and talented Anthony Luvera

So it seems only natural to follow the previous post - which was essentially about reclaiming art from consumption - with this one where Anthony explains why he is interested in reclaiming photographic representation from the politics of (media) consumption as well as how he showed the work he and others had made on the London Underground. Fabulous!

Anthony Luvera – The Artist

“There is this preconceived notion of a homeless person as a bum or a down-and-out” says photographer and academic Anthony Luvera, “but I’m interested in the experience of homelessness as a transitional thing, as something you experience and then move on from.”
Luvera’s work with  homelessness and changing how it is represented began in December 2001 when he was invited to photograph in London for Crisis, a homeless charity. “I was really interested in the critical writing of people like Abigail Solomon-Godeau, Allan Sekula and A.D. Coleman. They question the context and meaning of documentary photography and how it is represented.”

 “So when I was told how I could help these people and how amazing everything looked, I wasn’t interested. I could have stayed two weeks and made amazing pictures that people hadn’t seen before. But I wanted to develop relationships with people, to hear the stories that they told and to make those relationships a central part of my practice.”
So Luvera rejected conventional top-down documentaries of the poor and gave the homeless people he met cameras to document the people and places they found  important. He also trained them how to use large format cameras and became an assistant in their making of Assisted Self-Portraits.

“Over the next five years, I worked with 250 people  and ended up with an archive of over 10,000 photographs. When I showed this work on the London Underground, suddenly I started getting these weird requests for images. I got requests from a bible manufacturer and a Hollywood costume designer. This  got me interested in the ethics of archives and what they are for and that’s how I got involved with Belfast Exposed.”

In Belfast, Luvera combined his academic with his photographic practice, the latter of which is collected in his recently published book, Residency.  “I’m interested in identity  because it’s a process that is always in flux. I’m not interested in why people are homeless so much as what they think about being homeless and being represented as homeless.”

“In London, I would ask people to take me to a place that was important. In Belfast that had a whole different resonance. If you’re from Belfast you’re from a particular area that carries economic, religious and political weight. So for the homeless in Belfast, there is a double whammy of exclusion because homeless people find themselves excluded from places both socially and politically.”
“There was also a level of suspicion of me as a photographer that I hadn’t experienced before. As a community, Belfast has been exposed to the polarising gaze of photography. Many people I met had memories of photojournalists being at events – this person parachuting in, taking pictures  and leaving. Then they would see pictures of Belfast represented as a rabid, warring place when the reality was very different.”

Through his work Luvera hopes to change the politics of representation and the relationship between the people and places involved in the production, exhibiting and publication of images.  “In Belfast I wanted to  involve the participants in every part of the process, from the photography to the exhibition where pictures were put at eye-level so the viewer would look them straight in the eye. People are used to looking at homeless people from above.” With his work In Belfast and London, that’s a perspective that Luvera is helping to change.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Art that sells is the destructive 1%

Joerg at Conscientious was sent a comment by Aaron Hobson.

Aaron asked:

 “I was wondering if art galleries, blogs, and magazines will soon only be filled with socially outgoing, marketing driven artists that also enter competitions?”

This got taken up all over the place including on Flak Photo Network, a Facebook resource run by the super-positive Andy Adams.

It seemed interesting to me how much the question became to do with the very nature of art. Essential things like marketing and galleries were central to the conversation, but why is this.

Of course marketing and selling is important to photographers and artists but that is not what art is about (although it is what Art is about). In a similar way, the making of art has very little to do with galleries. These places are, in the sense that they are commercial galleries, interested in a particular and very narrow kind of art that can be displayed within a space in a particular kind of way, they are interested in people who can produce work that galleries can show. And so people produce the kind of work that they can show, they kind of work that sells, the kind of work that wealthy people like - which is problematic. It's a symbiotic relationship where what galleries, gallery consumers, and gallery feeders produce is intricately linked in an unbalanced but self-replicating chain.

There are particular ways of communicating within this chain, but they all require a certain respect for the communicative and productive forms of discourse of the chain. Central to the forms of discourse is the idea of a product that is recordable in some way. If it can't be recorded, it can't be shown. If it can't be shown, it can't be talked about and it can't be a product.

The gallery and all its discourses (including the academic, media and online discourses) are about the tangible in other words, and because of this art becomes imprisoned by the politics of consumption.

So we lose a central element of the idea of art is some kind of near-mystical idea of the sublime, of its ineffability, its transcendence above the mundane details of the everyday. It is about beauty, elegance and grace or insight, poetry and emotion.

It is almost as if every time somebody looks at something in a gallery, they are looking at a way-of-seeing, a way-of thinking or a way-of-feeling that is outside their realm of possibility, that is from the heart and the soul, that is free and uninhibited by the preconceptions of the market. And if they try to buy something, they are trying to buy something that is outside their realm of possibility.

But by buying that something, one is at the same time destroying it. Similarly by selling something one is doing the same thing. The gallery makes a venue that is comfortable for the buyer, that has a familiar air of decoration and opulence, that plays to their vanity as a wealthy consumer. The very act of buying and selling, of marketing, of advertising, networking, of entering into a discourse of consumption is doing  something which must not have a pound or dollar sign at it's heart.

And in doing so, it destroys the art it is supposed to uphold. The gallery destroys art by making it something to be consumed. What it tries to do is sell taste and feeling to people who essentially don't have taste and feeling.

But at the same time, the artist who takes part in this, the person with the sense of the sublime, with heart and soul and feeling, enters into a diabolical contract. The price of the price is to lose one's heart, to lose one's soul, to become what one is supposed to be. It's a simple trade off - you pay me and I will give you my integrity, honesty and dignity - kind of like any job I suppose.

For me, art is something spiritual and physical. It's a way of being, a way of making that is more to do with the making than what is made - if you're into what is made, then you're talking about craft or design rather than art per se.

It is about relationships and escaping the earthly world, of emptying one's soul of the transitory and illusionary things in life - of escaping ideas of politics and power and wealth except to critique and belittle those earthly things - all the things that are absolutely central to the idea of the gallery and the people who consume there.

The problem with that kind of art is it doen't need to be recorded or preserved, indeed it shouldn't be recorded or preserved. It's an etching in the sand on a beach, a scrabble of twigs lined up against a log, a sculpture of thorns in a rosehip, a scribble on a wall, a stencil of an eye, a homemade manga cartoon or a bunch of dodgy birthday posters - just a few of the misguided artistic endeavours of this household in the last few months.

I know that most if not all gallery owners want to escape from the gallery-as-art-shop but find it difficult to do so because they have bills to pay.And that most artists find marketing and selling a grind that belittles both them and their work but still have to do it because, guess what, they have bills to pay..

People do need to make money, they do need to promote themselves but I think it would be good to recognise that galleries and their patrons do not have a monopoly on art, that patronage does not equal creation. We need a little redefinition of our terms where the art that is consumed is the destructive1% and the unearning and unrecognised art that never gets labelled or hung  is the positive and life-affirming  99%. Nobody's going to buy tickets for that kind of art, it's not a blockbuster show, but it's the art the matters - and it's not something you network or market or connect for. You don't sell it, you don't consume it, you just live it.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Chris Capozziello, Collaboration and the BJP

I have a lovely feature on collaboration in this month's BJP portrait special. Included are interviews with

Arlene Gottfried, 
We are the Youth,
Timothy Archibald,
Klaus Pichler,
Tony Fouhse, 
Anthony Luvera
and Chris Capozziello.

It was hard work but fascinating to talk to all the photographers involved. What came across was a lack of certainty about what they were doing, a refreshing questioning not just of what others do in photography but what they were doing as well. Nothing was clear cut and people were extremely eloquent in making their doubts apparent, whilst also being willing to defend their perspectives and their practice.

Everybody had a different take on collabaration with subjects, but Chris Capozziello's project on his brother Nick crystallized when he realised that it was about his relationship with his brother, about his ideas of kinship and suffering.

Below is the interview with Chris.

Chris Capozziello – the Brother

“I sometimes wonder why God put me on this earth the way I am. It feels like he never answers me, but I never get angry at God because if I didn’t have cerebral palsy I wouldn’t be the person I am.”

So says Nick Capoziello Nick has cerebral palsy and suffers from cramps that can suffer for minutes, hours and sometimes days. His brother Chris is a photojournalist who has photographed Nick’s life for the last 11 years.

“I was brought up a Catholic,” says Capozziello. “I remember being a kid and seeing this huge crucifix in the church during Mass and thinking why is there disease in the world, why is there suffering, why did this happen to Nick?”

Faith and suffering haunt Capozziello’s work with Nick, but it took time for Capozziello to allow his own voice and feelings be heard. “I used to have the pictures in my portfolio but I didn’t include text. I didn’t really want to have that conversation with editors. I didn’t want people to feel pity. I couldn’t know why I was making these pictures.”

“Then I was asked to show work at the Look Between Festival last year. I’d been sharing what Nick had been going through after brain surgery last year with colleagues they said the thing about the story was Nick was my twin. That’s what made the story so powerful.”

Capozziello made a multimedia presentation and suddenly  the response to the project changed dramatically. “What really solidified the project for me was when a woman came up to me after the multimedia presentation. She hugged me and told me she was a twin and how she had suffered as a twin. I asked her what she did and she said that she was an editor at National Geographic. I was amazed that she was in a job where she saw pictures every day but could still be touched.”

 “You can be so close to a story but miss the point of it. The point is that Nick is my twin brother and I’m the healthy one. The change in response came partly because of how much I was willing to disclose. When I was ready to talk, not just about what it is like to have cerebral palsy, but also to introduce Nick and myself as human beings, to say this is my twin brother, and question how and why he was born like this. When I could talk about that, everything changed.”

Suffering is also an essential element of the story. “Often when people look at Nick’s story, they feel turned on by him in a way that makes them care about him, and about our relationship. I think it is because they begin to think about their loved ones who suffer or who have suffered. It creates a connection, a bond of solidarity. My aim is not to raise awareness about cerebral palsy. There are organizations that do that now and they do it well. My aim is to tell an honest story, and share it with others.”

“There’s also an element of hope to the story. Five years ago there was no hope. Now, after the operation, there is. But hope is dangerous. It makes you think that things can better. And things don’t always get better.”

Below is the  slide show made by Chris, The Distance Between Us..

The Distance Between Us from Christopher Capozziello on Vimeo.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Ra One - not as bad as Baz Luhrmann's Australia

Ian Jack writes in the Saturday Guardian on the life and times of Sushil Kumar, the Indian winner of Who wants to be a Crorepati and how the BBC styled him as the real life Slumdog Millionaire. The winning prize of 5 crore rupees (about £400,000) was presented by Amitabh Bachchan, India's all-time Number 1 Film Star. Jack wrote about how Sushil Kumar's life was misrepresented by the BBC - who lazily decided  to go with a hugely innaccurate Slumdog angle.

As Jack had it,

Life often imitates art, but sometimes life is squeezed, bashed and bent into the shape of art because the complexities of reality are too bothersome to express, and in any case, fiction has been there first with a better version. We want fiction's echo, and you can hear it on the news.

Indeed. Tied in to that quote and also fascinating is the fact that Kumar's ancestral home had been repossessed by money lenders, a recurring theme in Bollywood movies, most notably in Mother India, Mehboob's fantastic but skewed perspective on rural Indian life.

With the exception of Amir Khan's more interesting projects (Peepli Live for a contemporary example, Lagaan for a historical one), poor Indians barely get a mention in mainstream Hindi Cinema anymore. It's all Mumbai mansions, outrageously opulent lifestyles and questionable ethics. Films like Dabangg or 3 Idiots may have their good points and it is hard to resist imitating Salman Khan do his policeman swagger-Schtick in Dabangg - the fact that boys in Peshawar and Kabul were inspired by him to wear their glasses on the backs of their shirts is inspired, but modern Hindi cinema is so far from being great film that it is laughable.

So it was with some trepidation that I accompanied my wife to see Shah Rukh Khan's latest movie, Ra-One. First of all the movie was playing at Cineworld in Hengrove Leisure Park. This is the sort of place that people should occupy, a wasted space of car park surrounded by the detritus of 21st century consumption - KFC, Mickey D's, Frankie and Benny's, a Premier Inn and Cineworld.

Fuck the magic of the cinema, walk through the doors of Cineworld and forget the ticket office - they have a machine for that now. Instead spread across the width of the foyer facing the entrance is a sales point of coke and popcorn. There's a type of phenomenally expensive coffee bean called kopi luwak - where the beans have been eaten by a civet and then shat out through wholesome civet guts. It makes the coffee extra tasty - and extra expensive.

Such is the price of popcorn at Cineworld, it must be a West Country form of Popcorn Luwak, made from the unpopped kernels that had been inadvertently consumed by bullet headed van drivers from Knowle West and Bedminster, and then shat out through wholesome Bristolian guts. There's a little Cineworld man somwhere who forages through all their waste products to sift out the little popcorny nuggets of gold. At least, given the price that's what I expect has happened. And given the taste too.

So that's the cinema. How about the movie. Well, there were 7 people there and that's never a good sign ( the reviews were never a good sign either). We sad down, watched the most misguided mega-ad ever (For Muller Rice and Yogurt. Watch the ad here. Insanely Crap!), laughed at the previews of some appalling upcoming Bollywood releases - Desi's Boys: a couple of muscle bound numbskulls become gigolos. Or how about Rockstar; a man wants to be a rock star but has never been in love. How can you write meaningful songs when you've never been in love... You get the picture.

Well, that was the best part of the evening. Because after that Ra-One started. How bad was it? Was it as bad as Baz Luhrmann's Australia? Well, nothing's as bad as Baz Luhrmann's Australia. That was so bad that it failed Dino de Laurentiis' bad test - that there are only two kinds of films worth seeing; the really good ones and the really bad ones. Australia proved him wrong.

So at least Ra One was bad in a way that was bad enough to pass the de Laurentiis bad test. It was amazingly bad, fascinatingly bad, a monument to badness. It started off with a disastrous dream sequence where a child is dreaming of his father being a hero in a video game. It made our stomachs shrivel like a dried up worm - this is a Bollywood movie, over 3 hours when you throw in the intermission. How would we survive?

The badness intensified, with a cringe-making performance by Shah Rukh Khan as Shekhar, a Tamil video game maker down on his luck. Ra One had been SRK's dream for 20 years and now he was finally getting it made. The only problem is he was 20 years too old for the part and nobody had dared mention this to him. Nobody had said no.

Similarly nobody had said no to the lame Tamil cooking jokes, the pitiful Jackie Chan cracks whenever the Chinese character (the best thing in the film) showed up. Nobody had mentioned that having a Terminator ripoff ("It's Terminator 1 and Terminator 2 - but in the same movie!") 20 plus years after the fact was a bad idea or that having a villain whose usp was being evil was not ideal characterisation - that once he had killed Shekhar's son, that was it, game over. Which is problematic because if you feel little sympathy for the son, then there is no real interest in seeing the villain-without-a-personality get defeated.

Ra One is a disaster of a film and it got made because nobody said no to SRK, and because he was too vain not to let it go or get somebody younger to play the lead role. Most of all the film is a failure because it was a plot written on the bag of a crisp packet, a crisp packet which was passed to some writer-underlings who were then expected to come up with a script. Well, they did and it was a stinker because nobody had dared say no.

Just say no next time boys! And that goes for you at the BBC too.

The pictures at the top are SRK with his Tamil hair, inspired by Rishi Kapoor in Coolie (pictured with Amitabh Bachchan). Rishi Kapoor's hairstyle was a direct influence on Harry Enfield's scousers (pictured at bottom). You can read more on Tamil stereotypes here.

 Let's end with a couple of good songs, ot-proof