Category Archives: Art

Master of Photography – Sky Arts

If you’re not familiar the show, or the format I urge you to go on catch up tv services and watch this now before reading on. I liken it to many other similar formulaic shows, not quite Big Brother, but think Next Top Model or X Factor even. Basically a group of photographers from across Europe apply to take part in a TV show where each week a person with the subjectively weakest set of shots gets eliminated from the challenge. In fact is very much like X-factor except that there are no ‘joke’ entries for the audience to laugh at. Everyone selected has good skills whether technical or creative or both. There is a variety of backgrounds to the contestants with series 2 including a young woman I think just 18 as well as a war photographer and a professional who’d previously photographed Paul McCartney.

Each week the contestants are set a different challenge and then ‘mentored’ by a professional photographer whilst editing their final shots. This series featured Martin Parr and Steve McCurry to name but a few, and of course there are ‘celebrity’ judges this year in as well as the returning sharp tongued Oliviero Toscani there was also Darcy Padilla and Guardian picture editor Caroline Hunter.

I really enjoyed the first series, whilst I know a lot of people can find these cheesy, I find seeing how a set of different people approach the same task really interesting, and often find myself thinking what would I do in that situation? (Answer: mostly, it’s a blank… hence why I wouldn’t stand a chance in one of these competitions). A lot of this is not just about skill, but about creativity and imagination under pressure. And the situations to me aren’t all that realistic, for example I can’t imagine that any publication would go to the trouble of paying a photographer to travel all the way to another country but then only give them 2-3 hours, in the middle of the day, with a limited boundary to ‘capture the city’. However other challenges such as meeting a celebrity having 20 minutes to create a rapport and shoot, isn’t that too far out there ~ and for someone like me, utterly terrifying – not the celebrity part, just meeting a stranger and being expected to build a rapport immediately – for this particular challenge I found the actor Clive Owen very down to earth, but obviously uncomfortable with some of the photographers, he was clearly great at being directed – and part of being a good portrait photographer is being a good director also. I found a lot of the challenges in this series were of this nature [short lead in time to build trust], and some of the phrases I heard over and over, ‘not close enough’  ‘too removed’ ‘too impersonal’. It definitely felt that the judges encouraged a fairly aggressive nature to ‘get the shot’ and that just doesn’t sit well with a lot of people, and I refuse to believe that’s the only way to get anything worthy.

So aside from the opportunity for some once in a life time mentoring and the kit room. Have I not mentioned the kit room yet? Basically the photographers have their pick of equipment, across the range of top brands, leicas are always popular… which whilst it seems like the things dreams are made of, wouldn’t you opt to go with the system you know best? It would be different if you were given the time to learn the equipment but given the nature of some of these challenges I personally would go with the camers I could use blindfolded. So yes, as well as these perks each challenge is set in a different European country and this series the challenges were:

Travel (Sicily)

Rush hour (Hambug)

Celebrity feature (Rome, with Clive Owen as the celeb)

Erotica (also in some country house in Europe)

Paralympic atheletes

Street Fashion (London during Fashion Week)

Home Sweet Home (home towns, inner selves aka the Self-portrait episode)

Human landscape – European people and their diverse environments – or as the tv show put it, marginalised people, including travellers in Dublin, Sami people in Finland and Macedonian farmers.

Unfortunatley the Sky Arts website isn’t forthcoming with lots of info about the series or photographers, hopefully it will give more information in future or maybe its due to the scandal* surrounding one of the finalists? I found the series equal measures inspiring (thinking about attemping my own versions of the challenges) to intimidating (I could  never do that etc. etc. self doubt ad infinitum)

.*mild drama

If you’ve seen the series I’m keen to hear your thoughts – favourite photograph/photographer? Do you love/hate the series?

 

 

Weekend in Luxembourg

This week has been one of good omens, or coincidences, which ever you prefer. At the weekend me and the husband were discussing some of our favourite trips, and Luxembourg came back into the conversation – we travelled there for a gig just under 2 years ago to see DJ Shadow. We’ve made city breaks for gigs a bit of thing now, but especially since moving to Oxford where a lot of bigger bands don’t play, particularly non-UK based bands: they’ll often play London and Manchester and sometimes Glasgow. Travelling to London started becoming an unwelcome expense – not just the travel, which sometimes included a horribly basic hotel or having to get a late night coach home that takes 2hrs, but also drinks being incredibly overpriced (£5 for a very bland lager sir, single vodka and redbull that’ll be £9 madam etc..). So we made a concious decision to start travelling, to gigs especially to cities we’ve not visited before and bonus if the venue is just that side of smaller and more intimate.

DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist at den Atelier

DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist at den Atelier

So that is how Luxembourg came about initially, it also helped that at the time I had a fair amount of nectar points that can be exchanged for easyjet flights making the weekend even cheaper. We saw DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist in den Atelier, a really cool intimate venue where you could pretty much see the stage from anywhere, it felt like the crowd was probably only 500 people, but according to their website they can accommodate up to 1200, but it felt like seeing them in a small club.

So the day after we’d been talking about how nice Luxembourg was, another favourite band Interpol* announced a European tour, with UK dates in Manchester and London. So we checked out where else they were playing and narrowed it down to Copenhagen and Luxembourg (both weekend dates). After a quick search it was clear that Luxembourg was going to be the cheapest option by far, so to cut this rambling short: exactly 2 years to the day we saw Interpol play in Amsterdam, we booked tickets to see them in Luxembourg. Also the same day a blog post about Luxembourg came up on my feed, so it felt like all the signs were there.

So two years later, I’m going to tell you about my favourite things in Luxembourg, as it seems I never bothered to blog at the time!

The first thing we did was pick up at Luxembourg Card similar to city cards, its actually valid for the whole country, getting you into many attractions and exhibits for free and to be honest is actually a lot cheaper than most other city cards. We picked up a 2 day card and definitely got some good use out of it just with Luxembourg city. It also includes public transport in the price making it super easy to get around and we actually managed to make it to at least 5 attractions over the 48 hours as I recall (would’ve been 6 but the Bock du Casemates is closed in winter).

mirrors with the worrds Rectum Newt Racoon in a large gallery space with a woman in front taking a self portait with wooden crates in the background

Rectum Newt Racoon – Self portrait in front of sculptures by David Altmejd

These included the Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean (MUDAM) a contemporary art museum where the building itself is as impressive as the art it holds (€7) and the next door fortress Museum Dräi Eechelen (€5), Casino Luxembourg (which is now free, but was I think the standard €5) which was full of typography and graphic design. Not to mention the historical Musée d’Histoire de la Ville de Luxembourg (€5), Musée National d’Histoire et d’Art (€7) and Villa Vauban – Luxembourg City Art Museum (€5) ~ it’s worth noting that some of these venues we probably wouldn’t have bothered going to without the card, and I’m glad we did because they were in stunning buildings with loads of history. It was good to see art and artefacts that were outside of our usual tastes, and of course all these venues meant seeing parts of the city that we might otherwise have ignored due to the comfort of staying within a certain walking radius. If you have the means and will to go further afield there are breweries and swimming pools and other stuff included in your Luxembourg card that is valid up to 3 days, worth noting the days don’t have to be consecutive either – so if you want to spend a day doing museums, a day travelling or doing nothing, then another day doing something then that’s ok – you just fill out the days you actually use the card.

Luxembourg is also home to a what I was going to simply say, a delightful park to walk along that follows the flow of the river, particularly from where we were based close to the Rue Dr Charles Marx, it was a nice walk into the centre via the infamous Adolphe bridge  but as the Luxembourg website says so much more eloquently “Laid out along more romantic lines, the Pétrusse Parks combine steep slopes, strange rock formations and the ruins of fortifications and bastions to form a harmonious unit”

the blue painted metal Adolphe Bridge, viewed from a distance surrounded by green vegetation and trees

Adolphe Bridge, Luxembourg City

Other things to do include the Notre Dame cathedral, maybe not as impressive as it’s Paris counterpart but still a beautiful church, very close to the gold lady war memorial. In the same area is the Place Guillaume II which has a few statues and the surrounding streets are very picturesque.

So after all this we’re very excited to return, particularly as it will be high summer, rather than winter, so we’d  love to hear any more tips of what to do in the comments!

*not just a favourite band, but a band touring their first album, of which several songs were ‘our songs’ early on in our relationship so actually hold a really special place in our hearts

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Blog Challenge: Choosing Your Adventure

Day 8, should have been Saturday, but I was feeling rather under the weather and didn’t go out. So Sunday was my day for fun, I started out after brunch and went into Oxford to do a bit of gallery hopping and maybe some shopping. When I got into Oxford it turns out there was an arts and craft market on Broad Street. This turned out to a great opportunity to see what sort of price points others were using and whether I was way off bat with my calculations for a Christmas arts & crafts fair I’m doing in about 2 months time. Good news, similar products were on sale/selling at approximate prices to what I’d intended, also I noticed that the frames I’d picked up from a well known design store to trial some prints in, were also widely in use, so I’m in good company.

After I’d perused and picked up many a business card (I like to have a nosy at people’s websites as well), I headed to Modern Art Oxford to check out some more art. For the whole of 2016 to celebrate the gallery’s 50 year anniversary they are running continuous exhibitions, which means the galleries don’t shut down during change over like they normally would, it also at least feels like there’s more exhibitions on than there would be in a normal year.

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Exhibits from Gothic and MAO

The main space upstairs was dominated by a Richard Long piece on the floor resembling a maze, the gallery was flooded with light and there were some kids making up games walking over the/through the maze, which was pretty cool. Also in this room there was a sound installation of an orchestra replicating a thunder clap, I liked this too although i’m struggling to put into words why, maybe because galleries can often be too quiet so a bit of noise is good.

After looking at the rest of the exhibition including some instructions to ‘Imagine the clouds dripping. Dig a hole in your garden to put them in.’ from Yoko Ono (you were allowed to remove the instructions to take away, but I didn’t), I headed downstairs to the cafe which has temporarily moved into the outside foyer. Here I had the best cookie, salted caramel and tahini. It was amazing.

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Latte and world’s best cookie, courtesy of the Missing Bean at MAO

Then I went for a walk, taking some photos (with my film camera, so not ready yet) and then up to St John’s college, as I’d spotted a sign saying ‘Gothic’ outside when I went past on the bus. It turns out that Gothic is the name of the exhibition of architectural objects, photographs and films by the MA Architecture students from Oxford Brookes. It was a great exhibition, the lighting of the textures in the photographs and the objects themselves in the exhibition were really interesting and not at all what I would expect from an architecture exhibit.

Today reminded me that it’s good to get out there and see what other creatives are up to, refresh your mind, feel inspired and just take things easy. I’m looking forward to the week ahead for once, rather than having that Sunday night blues.

This blog post is in response to Natalie’s 10 Day Freedom Plan Blog Challenge Day 8

Blog Challenge: Setting Yourself Up For Success

Day 5 of the challenge looks something like this: Create a daily success plan for yourself that takes only 15-20 minutes and schedule a time in the day where you can squeeze it in. Write a blog post about what you will do, when you will do it, and how it will get you closer to your dreams.

However upon reading several other entries it seems that we are supposed to deploy the pomodoro technique which I am familiar with, and involves working in 25 minute spurts,but this snippet of information passed over my head. So I’m going to try and plan Saturday to be productive – with 3 most important actions which are:

  1. Work on my website (get the pages added, and some content)
  2. Cut out the final layer stencil for my screen print
  3. Get some reading done (2-3 chapters)

I have existing appointments Saturday morning, so I usually get home around 11:15am, where I will crack on with making some brunch and my favourite coffee.

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Mondrian Cake, San Francisco MOMA

12pm work on my website – based on previous experience, I’m going to allocate 3 hours to this activity, so that’s 6 pomodoros (counting the 5 minute breaks inbetween)

3pm go for a walk/run provided its not raining

4:30pm stencil cutting – fun job but one I’ve been postponing for a few weeks

5pm make dinner

7pm reading 2-3 chapters, this one may not seem important to most, but I feel I’ve let my reading slip a lot over the last 6 weeks. Including books that are important to/inform/influence my artistic practice

I guess I’ll add a mini update Saturday night on whether this worked for me or not

This blog post is in response to Natalie’s 10 Day Freedom Plan Blog Challenge Day 5

 

Blog Challenge: Unlocking Your Superpowers

Day 4 (although I think I’m technically a day behind on this, the challenge is to post what your super powers are and why you think that. There was also a suggestion of straw polling friends and family to see what they thought. There were some variations, such as being highly organised and capable, technically proficient… to my husband’s response of ‘photography, crochet, blogging, all the stuff you do’ nice that he has so much faith in me, even when I don’t!

In fact I’d previously mentioned in an earlier response to this challenge, that if I could only apply the same level of organisation to my outside work activities as I do in my day job, I’d probably get a lot more done.

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Karlstejn Castle

So I’d list my superpowers as: Photography, when I put my mind as well as my soul into it, creativity, a good eye, and passion will take you far, but knowing your equipment, location, light etc and planning for the unexpected will take you so much further. Some of my favourite and most (critically) successful photos have been where I’ve scouted locations in advance, and had a good idea in my minds eye of what I want to end up with. This superpower of course goes hand in hand with my organisational skills – I am the travel planner in our house, I research everything, sometimes probably to the point of obsession. My day job involves coordinating the diaries of multiple very busy people (no mean feat), I just need the nous to apply it in all areas of my life. Also when I want to learn something technical, because it benefits me, I can handle it, sometimes I can even teach it to others!

So that was my super powers.

This blog post is in response to Natalie’s 10 Day Freedom Plan Blog Challenge Day 4

Oxford Instameet

A couple of weeks ago I headed out on an Oxford Instameet organised by the wonderful folk at Independent Oxford and Natasha from Candy Pop, billed as the chance to meet with other local creatives, I was curious as to how it may differ from other photo-walk type events I’d been to in the past.

We met in the café of Modern Art Oxford, somewhere I’d been meaning to visit for ages as their twitter and instagram feed is full of delicious looking food – I opted for the coffee cake and was not disappointed! The most obvious difference for me was that the ratio of female to male had swapped considerably as I’m usually one of the few women (if not the only one) on other photography based meet ups. Also most people there (if not all) were in some way, whether full time or along the day job, trying to make a living/business out of their creative endeavours – some rather successfully. The ladies were all brightly dressed and ready to jump, jump, jump for photo ops in front of many of Oxford’s colourful houses and doorways, you know you’re making a splash when the tourist groups stop to photograph you, instead of a historic landmark!

It was also really inspiring talking to everyone and finding out what they were up to, and I guess my biggest take home lesson, was that success doesn’t happen overnight and that’s ok. Now I know that may sound obvious, but in today’s super social-networking universe it seems that people go from bogging zero to dragon’s den hero in a couple of years. It can leave you (ok, me mostly) feeling a bit of a failure when a business doesn’t go anywhere for the first few years. I was quite happy to throw in the towel a few months before moving to Oxford and give it a rest for while….

But after speaking to one of the ladies who’d spent 8 years building up her online business to the point of taking it on full time, living the dream, quitting the day job, I’ve felt a renewed energy.  So almost two years after moving here I’ve started working on my website properly, and looking to get back in the print studio (something I was going to do over a year ago!), basically sorting my sh*t out.

Overall it was a really fun day, with fab people and I can’t wait for the next one – if you fancy coming on the next Oxford Instameet check out the Facebook event page

 

 

Review: The Painter of Modern Life

The Painter of Modern Life
The Painter of Modern Life by Charles Baudelaire

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I struggled to decide whether this should be 3 or 4 stars, but given that I didn’t enjoy reading a vast chunk I’ve knocked it down to 3. It was an interesting style of writing, and what drew me in particular to this book (aside from Baudelaire being recommended to me on several occasions at uni), was that it was part of a series ‘dedicated to those writings that changed the way people thought about the world’ or something… To be honest, I probably could do with re-reading the beginning, or reading it solidly over a few days rather than sporadically over a few months, as I really can’t remember much from the first part. some of it clearly struck a chord with me, as I’ve underlined and highlighted several passages, but the swathes of praise for Delacroix sort of fell on deaf ears, as I’m not that familiar with his work (and to be fair, nothing in the passages made me think ‘oh I should go look him up’). The final passage on photography and how it should not be considered art, and should remain low-brow was fairly amusing to me, not least because it was referred to as mechanical; as are certain types of printmaking, but he lauds that earlier in the book.
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