Posts Tagged ‘UK’

The heirs of the East London Group

Friday, August 30th, 2019

 

A couple of years ago, the Spitalfields Life blog published a rather lovely book called East End Vernacular. It featured the work of the almost forgotten East London Group – a collection of painters who showed together from 1928 to 1936 and who all portrayed everyday life in a changing East End. They were mostly working class, realist painters who drew and painted what they saw around them. The book struck a real chord with me. As I’ve written many times before, I grew up in the 1970s in a grim and gloomy Hackney; a much changed landscape from the gentrified hipster hangout of today. As soon as I could, I fled the tower blocks and the grainy streets and made a career photographing (and sometimes writing about) the places that I could only imagine as a child. I spent more than two decades working (and sometimes living) mostly in Indian and Africa – but pretty much anywhere across the world that wasn’t where I was from. So the book was like a window into the past for me – more because it featured what I might call the heirs of those original artists. People like Jock McFadyen, Anthony Eyton and Dan Jones (a reproduction of whose painting of Brick Lane in the 1970s we now have on our wall at home) who painted a more contemporary vision of my formative streets.

A year ago I decided to try and photograph them all at home, in the studio or making work on the streets in a way to reconnect with my own past. The photographs connect in some way with my last book, The Englishman and the Eel as a form of re-discovery and trying (at last) to come to terms with that. It’s been a long process: a quick look at the embarrassingly extensive archive of this blog shows that I was stumbling around trying to find an answer to that more than ten years ago. See here for more on that.

Anyway, I digress. With the help of the Gentle Author, I managed to make contact with them all and each was generous with their time and thoughts. My only regret is of course being too late to manage to photograph one of my heroes, Leon Kossoff who had been ill for some time and died recently. He had a studio off Dalston Lane in the early 1970s and I remember seeing some of his work of my local area as a teenager and thinking clearly how the world could be made to seem different.

Here are three images from the portrait set of twelve. You can see the rest of them on my site here. For those technically minded, I wanted a clean, simple look to them all and decided rather than to shoot them as reportage, I’d use one or two Elinchrom Ranger heads on each set-up trying (OK… sometimes three) to make them look not lit but as natural as possible.

 

 

 

Adam Dant

 

Ronald Morgan

 

Peta Bridle

 

Melvyn Bragg and the portrait

Saturday, January 13th, 2018

 

Apparently, the seminal British television arts programme, The South Bank Show is forty years old this weekend. I remember watching it on a Sunday evening with it’s extravagantly coiffured presenter, Melvyn Bragg.

I thought this might be an appropriate time therefore to show an image from a (very brief) portrait session I had wth him some years ago. I can’t remember the client but I do remember that the venue was the South Bank Centre and that I probably had less than five minutes – a pretty standard amount of time to make an impactual and polished image under the cold, dead eye of some insufferably intransigent PR (plus ça change…).

In those days, it was rare to be able to set up a background (as seemingly all celebrity portraits have to have now) so I chose a neutral wall and used a metre square Chimera soft box mounted on a Lumedyne head with a heavy battery pack that no doubt I’d struggled with on the ‘Tube at rush hour… This is back in the days of film when I was shooting 6×6 and one had to meter slightly more carefully than with the more forgiving digital cameras that we now take for granted. I remember very little about the shoot except looking at the contact sheet I see that I shot just ten images (from a roll of twelve) and Bragg was polite if brief. He did comment on my camera – as many people used to – an old Mamiya TLR – a C330 built like a tank with bellows… (years later I’d photograph Arundhati Roy who insisted that I only use that camera because it looked “like an antique”). The softbox was great at wrapping light around the face if you set up right and had time to adjust and it was a stock-in-trade technique I used when I knew I’d be pushed for time and wouldn’t be able to use a second head for a little help with the shadows. All key light, no fill.

I shot a portrait for a European magazine yesterday – something I don’t do enough of these days and I used three lights on one set up (for those interested in such things, a big, deep 100cm Elinchrom Octabox as key and then two other kicks with a brolly and another shot into a reflector underneath). It took more than twenty minutes to set up before I shot a frame … I did at one point miss those earlier simple shots… but not the inevitable wait for the film to come back from the lab to determine whether the job was a success…

 

 

Melvyn Bragg, British broadcaster and author

A new book – The Englishman and the Eel

Friday, September 29th, 2017

 

 

I’m delighted to say that my new book, The Englishman and the Eel will be published by Dewi Lewis this  November.

A sort of companion to my last book (also with Dewi), The Palaces of Memory – Tales from the Indian Coffee House, it explores the eel, pie and mash shops of my childhood. In doing so it examines the rich, largely undocumented cultural heritage of generations of working-class Londoners in a city whose only constant is change. After spending the best part of twenty-five years working in Asia and Africa, this marks a departure and a conscious effort to return home and examine Britain at a crucial juncture.

You can order the book from Dewi’s site or directly from me.

Here’s one of my favourite, but less obvious images from the book…

 

Cindy and customers at T and J Kelly Pie and Mash shop, Loughton, Essex

 

The King is dead…

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

 

 

I’m no Elvis fan but I know lots of people have a very soft spot for The King and his music. For many, the anniversary of his death today is a significant one so I thought I’d show a few images that I made at an Elvis convention some years ago in Blackpool as a mini tribute. Once upon a time I was shooting a good deal on a rather lovely 5×4 Horseman Camera with Polaroid Type 55 (pos/neg) instant film. Working that way allowed me to shoot rather formal – but unexpectedly beautiful images that I could peel apart and then give to the subject (whilst shoving the negative in a big tank of fixer). It was a lovely way to work but my back never forgave me for the weight of kit I had to lug about. Anyway, here’s a triptych of some of the work…

 

 

 

 

ps. You might like to look at another image of Elvis fans that I made years ago that I featured on this blog in 2015…

The Folly of Poundbury…

Friday, October 28th, 2016

 

 

Yesterday, I was delighted to learn that Prince Charles and family – surely Britian’s most celebrated benefit claimants – were visiting his very own bejewelled architectural confusion, Poundbury. Three years ago, I visited the same town – a kind of Daily Mail wet dream of Middle England, to write about it for a special edition of the German magazine, Brand Eins. I found the place mostly deserted with a chill wind whipping through a stage set of architectural pastiche and folly. Charles, a fan of the work of Albert Speer, has overseen the creation of a fantasy land: a reimagining (from a lonely castle window) of a ‘former’ but entirely fictional Britain well suited to the Brexit generation (British homes for British people…) – an airbrushed past of classical architectural tropes masquerading uncomfortably as an (upmarket) housing estate.

You can read the piece called ‘The strange Death of the British Utopia – or how Britain live in her own past’ here (warning: it’s long…).

but I leave you with an image of a deserted street and a Neo Classical … errr bus shelter.

A traditionally styled shelter in Poundbury. Poundbury on Duchy of Cornwall land is Prince Charles' attempt to create an urban extension to Dorchester famed for Its pastiche of traditional architecture. Dorset, UK

A traditionally styled shelter in Poundbury. Poundbury on Duchy of Cornwall land is Prince Charles’ attempt to create an urban extension to Dorchester famed for its pastiche of traditional architecture. Dorset, UK

 

 

A traditionally styled building in Poundbury. Poundbury on Duchy of Cornwall land is Prince Charles' attempt to create an urban extension to Dorchester famed for Its pastiche of traditional architecture. Dorset, UK

An empty street in Poundbury. Dorset, UK

Amateur Photographer Magazine

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

The current issue of Amateur Photographer Magazine features a rather lovely five page spread about my work with a nice interview by Oliver Atwell.

 

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Tearsheet – Shoreditch

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

 

Here’s a recent tearsheet from Thai Airline’s Sawasdee Magazine of a piece that I wrote and photographed on London’s Shoreditch.

 

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Tearsheet – UnCommon London

Monday, June 1st, 2015

 

I’m delighted that my writing about London’s eel and pie tradition is included in the new UnCommon London book.

UnCommon is a compendium of guide and travel writing “and is more of a ‘companion’ for the traveller before, during and after the journey.” UnCommon London joins editions on Malta, Stockholm and Dubai.

Commissioned by my old friend Mike Fordham, my words are illustrated by May Van Millingen.

Here are a couple of pages to give you an idea…

 

 

 

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Tearsheet – National Geographic – Dinosaur Autopsy

Monday, May 18th, 2015

 

It’s not every day that I get a ‘phone call asking me to photograph a dinosaur, let alone one being cut up … but there’s a first time for everything.

 

A couple of month’s ago, National Geographic Channels called and asked if I could do just that. The job, in two parts, was to photograph dinosaur ‘bits’ for the poster for the show and secondly, to photograph the unit stills. The ‘organs’ were crafted by the extraordinary Crawley Creatures company in Buckingham (responsible for models in Star Wars and a host of other screen productions) and photographed in their workshop which we (my assistant Tristan Fennel and I) converted into a makeshift studio. The client wanted a ring-flash to simulate a real forensic photography look to the images. Here’s the final poster and a set of various set-ups (with and without models and props) and one of me checking exposures and trying not to fall off a ladder.

 

 

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And a gory one from the three days at Pinewood Studios with everyone knee-deep in (fake) blood.

 

 

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Be My Valentine

Saturday, February 14th, 2015

 

UK - Blackpool - A Rock and Roll couple dancing in a Blackpool Hotel during an Elvis Convention

UK – Blackpool – A Rock and Roll couple dancing in a Blackpool Hotel during an Elvis Convention