Tag Archives: Europe

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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