Patterns, art, and circuitry. I took a series of photographs of lit circuit boards when I was living in #Bristol. Computers have their own neurons and digital photography means playing with them. When you push the limits of what a sensor and its attendant circuitry is meant to do, sometimes you find yourself in the realms of what they never knew they could do. The subject is a motherboard from a defunct server on which a family business was built. It’s a mirror for the binary imagination of the early digital camera recording the image
The visual cue for the veiled woman comes from the beautiful artwork to Joy Division's album ‘Closer’. The artist, Peter Savile, used a black and white photograph from a cemetery in Genoa, in which a vignette of statues of mourning figures grieve over the dead. Apparently, Tony Wilson almost pulled the artwork because of the tragic suicide of Ian Curtis just before the record released. I'm glad they didn't.
The music we used to inspire these photographs was a very specific recording of ‘The Eternal’ - a live bootleg from The Warehouse in Preston. The song creeps over you slowly building a ghostly atmosphere, flushed with emotional insight. As it happened, the band were having enormous technical problems at the show with mics and the PA. Perhaps Ian Curtis’s entry into the song was delayed for these reasons. But the result is a song which builds a powerful darkness with slow chanting synths until after a few minutes Curtis’s voice pierces the darkness like a shaft of light. The effect is incredible. One of my favourite recordings of all time.
The image is another of my pieces referencing renaissance imagery of the Madonna, the symbol and embodiment of emotional connection. The veil is a powerful device, hiding the figure just beyond the reach of our eyes, as so much emotional truth around us is to be found.
Laurel is an accomplished wordsmith with a heavenly voice, Anteros a brutally exciting pop rock band ("bitter dream pop" in their own words), both are set for great things. The gig was a massive hit- such a contrast of styles working so well is testament to the curatorial nouse of the teams at Clash Magazine and Metropolis. Click the image below to link to an exclusive gallery of my photographs over at Clash now
I recently shot the promo photography for a new dance piece by Didy Veldman called "The Knot", which has just been highly lauded by The Guardian. Poster with my photo below:
The theme of the work is marriage and relationships, put simply. We did the shoot before the choreography had been started, but Didy had a lot of creative thoughts and energy which we were able to discuss and use as inspiration. This is my favourite image from the shoot, featuring Dane Hurst and Madeleine Jonnson, and shot in the Royal Ballet School and in the grounds of Richmond Park, West London.
Billboard features one of my Foo Fighters shots in an article about the world's top recording studios. Metropolis Studios of course makes the list, and my photograph of Dave Grohl and the boys when they dropped in before Glastonbury shows them smelling of roses in Studio A lounge.
Available in print or online. Read the full article here
Manchester's IAMDDB is one of the hottest artists on the British R&B and Soul scene. Her live sets are beautiful and irreverent, and her adoring crowd love it. Here's a gallery of shots I took of her performing in London recently over at Clash Magazine.
In my opinion as a humble, long-suffering, lifelong Londoner, the most beautiful event that happens in this city each year is the Notting Hill Carnival. The original 1960s melting pot area of this metropolis, now synonymous with romantic comedy and gentrification, is still a place at least one weekend a year where you can see life at its most intense, joyful, chaotic, ridiculous, gorgeous, contentious, tiring, enlivening, blissful, random, productive, creative, hilarious, reassuring, inspiring, and loving. A place associated with times of great happiness and sadness for me, I fundamentally feel grateful every year for the chance to see life exploding in all its forms (in a cloud of colour, bass, and jerk chicken smoke) into the world - like someone just opened Pandora's crate of spiced rum.
Just before headlining Glastonbury, the Foo Fighters were in Metropolis Studios, where I took a set of photos of the seminal band. They were lovely guys: down to earth, fun, and interested in the history of the prestigious London recording studio, and Dave Grohl cheekily teased me for the way I rolled up a cigarette with the paper stuck to my lip.
I shall be releasing the photos first on Instagram but in the meantime here is a portrait of the much loved Mr Grohl
UPDATE* The video is now live on Youtube, please like and share!
My current project is artwork and a music video for the release of the track 'Murphy's Law' by a great new band called James King and the Regals, whom I also shot recently:
The song describes a tussle with pessimism, personified in the figure of Mr Murphy - named after the inventor of the famous more formulated version of sod's law. I recall that the real Murphy himself was a test pilot, whose catchphrase was "If anything can go wrong it will go wrong". A wise axiom for a man who flew around on glorified bombs.
Nevertheless, for the rest of us this view is a perspective which can have a more negative meaning. My reaction to the song was that it embodied both negativity in the shadow figure of Murphy, as well as positivity, actually represented by the artist creatively reflecting on his experience of pessimism, thus asserting some kind of resistance if not mastery to such a gloomy thought process.
This was my thinking when coming up with the creative for the video. In order to embody this opposition of positive and negative, I felt I wanted to contrast images of life with death: exuberant colour with dark monochrome setups; lavish rushes of light with deep black; the denuded skeleton or skull against beautiful and lavishly dressed and styled female forms; movement against stasis; and other technical contrasts such as crisp cinematic definition footage shot on Arri against degraded handycam video.
This is the artwork I created for the digital release, based on composited stills from the video:
Perhaps the concepts which I just described are visible in the juxtaposition of almost Victorian cameo portrait of the model (talented singer Emma Lauran) against the skull from my anatomical skeleton, whom I have named Yorick, along with fluorescent video distortion against clean monochrome lettering.
At any rate, it went down well with the band.
Below is short clip from the video which was cut to trail the digital release. I enjoy punchy editing contrasted with slower sections, but this bit is from the end of the song where it's mostly the former. If you follow my Instagram stories, you probably noticed the featuring 'power zooms' which I've grown to love over the last few months. The other model in the video is the fantastic Liv Turnbull, and you can see some shots I took of her here.
The full music video will be out soon. If you like what you see or would like to comment, do get in touch or follow me on Vimeo
So after an 18 month break I have decided to start filing blog posts again. In this hiatus, I realised I have been building up quite a bank of topics, meditations, and anecdotes to write about, so if you follow my visual / audio work, watch this space for some long overdue literary output. I know a lot of you used to read my blog articles regularly, so I apologise for the pause. But sometimes a holiday is as good as a change.
Over the last year I've been working a lot on portrait and music photography, and have been focussing my film work on music videos - namely two videos for God Damn (One Little Indian Records) - songs called 'Ghost' and 'Sing This'; a video for 'Losing My Mind' by Metropolis Records artist LOOP; and I'm about to release my latest work for a great track called 'Murphy's Law' by James King and the Regals, a fantastically talented new artist set to make a big splash on the indie music scene. So I figure this latest project is the good place to (re)start...
This October I shall be involved in the capacities of composer and photographer in an exciting new project at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Conceived of by Dane Hurst, the evening will feature a set of dance pieces in the gallery space inspired by the 17th century French artist Prud'hon. I shall be photographing the dancers as they perform and the resulting images will be projected live on to screens in the gallery space. The audience will be able to move around the dancers, immersing themselves in the performance from any position. There is the opportunity for audience members to take sketches, with the gallery's life-drawing tutor on hand.
Musically, I shall have several pieces being performed, including the 'Breaking Through' duet from Finding Freedom, and a new piece entitled 'Goodbye in the Night'.
The event will take place over two evenings on 16th and 17th October this year. Details below:
The duet which had audiences on their feet and put tears in eyes was performed again at the Wilderness Festival last weekend. This time Dane Hurst performed the core duet from 'Finding Freedom' with Romany Pajdak of the Royal Ballet, and the duo went down a storm, by all accounts.
Last month I took some promotional shots during a rehearsal of the piece. If you missed the piece at Wilton's or Wilderness, there will be further opportunities to see it soon. Some big plans are in the works!
This shoot was to generate promotional material for a new dance production, 'My Dust Will Tell' choreographed by Estela Merlos. The piece will be performed at The Place in January 2015. I first worked with Estela on a piece performed last year at the Barbican pop-up theatre 'Dalston House' . Formerly of Rambert, Estela is now an independent dancer and choreographer. She is extremely talented, her performances are full of fiery energy and beautiful control, and she's always fantastic to work with- we had a great time working on this shoot. We did make a hell of a mess though...
Here are some images from my recent photoshoot of singer-songwriter Natasha Miren, a rising star of the London music scene. The shoot took place on the streets around Bethnal Green and Hackney Wick at the end of Summer.
A highly talented and charismatic artist, Tash was great to work with - exploring the environment, seeing what sort of images we could come up with. We tried to avoid the traditional graffiti backdrops of East London photography, although one little piece did inevitably creep in.
Like any art form, photography is a process, so I like to take a peripatetic approach to shooting rather being tied down to one location or studio whenever controlled lighting is not absolutely necessary. It rarely is when you are trying to capture the detail and nuance of reality, rather than remove it.
Have a listen to Tash's soundcloud page, or try and catch her performing live in London if you can. Also, we have an exciting project collaboration in the pipeline, so watch this space...
I don’t know if you have ever noticed of the monkey-business bin men get up to. They work in the twilight hours when there ain’t many folks around. Rooting around in bags of used nappies, then scampering back to base before sunrise. I happen to know that bin men regard themselves as being a breed somewhere between vampires and a tramps.*
It must be an intensely antisocial yet highly social job. Imagine how popular you would be if you turned up in a caff / in bed/ at the opera after work at 8 in the morning smelling of fish poo and radishes? However, the teams of refuse-collectors always seem to be fairly tightly knit (I once saw one jokingly hold a razor blade he had just found to his mate’s eye then cut off some of his hair with it- ahh, the japes!).
Why do they do it?
The begged question.
There are the extras I suppose. They turn quite a bit of a side business by doing trade collections from scurrilous builders. You know how they will never take away that old fridge / tv / coffin that has been lying in your front garden for months? Next time they come round, pull on your pants (and bra) and run outside into the brisk morning air, and bribe them with a fiver. They will happily provide you with a bespoke waste solution. They probably make more by leasing the council’s civic facilities than by their regular pay. It all sort of balances out when you think about it.
Then there is the foraging. They love spending hours sifting through your rubbish like it is an episode of Bargain Hunt, looking for a nice figurine / desk set / wedding present. Check out these furtive snaps I took of the binmen, who jackpotted on our neighbours’ pile of about a dozen bin-bags.
They really relished it. First the clear the rubbish from the tray of the lorry, then they tear open the bags. They proceed to rifle through the stinking booty, with priority pickings ordained via a pecking order. This chap made a nice little pile of gayly coloured boxes, which he then stuffed into a recycling bag (fittingly). He then somewhat coarsely advise his colleagues that they were not to copulate with his stuff on pain of death.
They spent a good fifteen minutes outside this one house. It was like they had found a fresh roll of lottery scratch cards in there. Now I could make out some of the tat they were rescuing from landfill. I cannot believe that anyone could find any financial value in any of it. But I reckon it is not about money. It is about the fun of hunter-gathering. Just like young boys hunting for conkers. Or the incontinent rush for bargains at a car boot sale.
It is funny how the hunter-gatherer habit comes back so naturally to us. Our ancestors, when gathering probably used every drop of daylight walking along, staring at the ground, discerning grass from edible leaves, poisonous berries from fruit. Every time they found something good to eat, they would have felt that that little pang of accomplishment, just like when a schoolboy finds a big shiny conker in the grass.
I think this is also the feeling a photographer gets when he is out doing is thing. Whenever you know you have found a good composition, an interesting subject or the like, you get that tiny dose of endorphins. You carry on walking and hunt for more. It is totally engrossing. Your eyes start becoming sensitive to composition and colour, just like when you are searching for blackberries or mushrooms, your eyes become tuned to the shape and colour of those fruits. You get your eye in.
I first became aware of this parallel in Burnham Beeches, a forest west of London. I like to go there hunting for porcini mushrooms. But this time I had my camera, and I became addicted to taking photographs of the shapes and compositions thrown up by the black trees against the autumn sky (not the most interesting pics, I know, but I weirdly find them fascinating).
Now this is not the first time I have taken photographs obsessively. I do that more often than sitting on things. But it was because of the association with mushroom picking that I noticed feeling a similar sense of gathering-pleasure. As though I was looking for bereft cutlery / door furniture / children’s toys in a pile of rubbish.