Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Have a look at the home gallery of the IPA to see them all.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Friday, November 12, 2010
So, my love and I found this vase in my grannie’s bathroom. When Grannie Flo passed on there it was, nestled between her Glastonbury wellies and the Aldermaston CND march banner she cherished unto death. Sniffing it, I guessed she used it to keep her stash of hash fresh, and later, to keep her false teeth in. It now whiffs of Steradent.
The vase is kind of bluish with a green fluorescence and, seeing a similar jug go for 53 mill at Bainbridges Auction House, we expect big things from our evaluation. Okay, not £53m, but maybe the late 30’s? We were a little peeved that the auction house would take £12mil in fees but, heyhoe, what the heck. It will leave enough to refurbish our shed into a serious player in the real ale brewery game. At least, we can clean the mysterious green mould off the containers.
Anything left over will go to my Mum’s weight lifting class to upgrade their equipment. The sight of middle-aged grannies toting purloined road bollards over their permed heads brings one to tears. I did suggest, at the annual vicarage bring-and-buy, they borrow the brass altar chalices to work out their diminishing, vapid triceps, but the vicar wasn’t best pleased.
The auction house that sold the vase employs eight people and their highest sale previously was £100,000. This latest hit, netting them the said £12m in fees, is £1.5m per head, although I doubt they will share the proceeds. I guess life isn’t like that.
And so, art lovers, here I stand, vase in hand. Don’t concern yourself with the cracks, the Araldite can hardly be seen. Although the Artists Mark may appear to be marker pen to the uninitiated and the ancient Chinese script maybe borrowed from a laundry bill Uncle Cyrus brought home from Singapore when he was deported for mistakenly flashing a Papal Nuncio in the seventies, any anonymous Chinese buyer won’t see that anyway.
I will take an offer.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Silvan Zingg is a self taught Swiss piano player who fell in love with boogie woogie the moment he heard the great black jazz pianists of the 20's and 30's. For ten years he has held a boogie woogie festival in Switzerland. Not only is the event memorable for its guest piano players but the fantastic dancers who strut their stuff. Just like Will and Maeve here. Have you ever seen a better dancer than this young guy?
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Today I received a terse email from Waterstones:
“We see from our records that you have previously purchased an eBook from Waterstones.com whilst having a registered address outside of the UK and Ireland.”
Eight, actually. Oh, dear! What have I done? Broken some ancient ritualistic more? Driven sheep up the high street at Mickelmas? Sold a virgin a coloured headscarf? It gets worse.
“We regret that with immediate effect, we are no longer able to sell eBooks to customers placing an order from anywhere outside of the UK and Ireland.”
It’s a bank raid alert! Are granite-faced villains smuggling Bank of England layout plans hidden in downloaded Harry Potters? Is Alice’s Mad Hatter really crazy? Put that teapot down and raise your paws, rabbit!
Maybe Kathleen Winsor’s classic novel has been re-titled “Forever Amber Alert.”
But no. It’s just dear old Waterstones getting fusty again without thinking it through.
Let me explain: I live in Spain. One million expat Brits live in Spain. All read books in, wait for it, English. Now not all of them have an e-reader, but who’s to say they won’t in the future. It’s a safe bet a lot will if current trends continue.
They buy goods from a thousand UK companies from Lakeland to Marks & Sparks. Christmas will see the internet humming with goods to loved ones in Blighty. Millions of pounds worth, coming and going both ways.
But not from Waterstones, oh, no. They mince around with mealy mouthed phrases about ‘territories into which we can sell ebooks.’
Here comes a new technology product and immediately some Adolf wants total control. On the Internet, for heaven’s sake. Don’t they know those spooky airwaves travel over oceans and mountains? So the million English speaking Brits in the Iberian Peninsular must get their future downloads in their mother tongue from where, exactly?
Well, we’re already doing it. If I tell you where, these greedbags will try to stop it. I’ll give you a clue. It’s where you get all those aggravating spam messages for Viagra and the like. Now the e-book trade wants to drive book downloading underground, too.
Isn’t progress wonderful.
Friday, October 15, 2010
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Friday, August 27, 2010
Thursday, August 5, 2010
It’s not the same everywhere. New transport systems peak, so historians tell us, after about 50 years. The canal, the railway and, latterly, the car all went into decline at half a century. Motorway building has reached its capacity unless we want to concrete over the countryside.
But something new always comes along. Usually it’s the emerging, technologically strong nations that supply it, as the Victorians did in their heyday. America appears too introverted to oblige, scratching at its own financial wounds, obsessed by big oil and politics.
The emerging powerhouse of the East is maybe where to look.
Since spending time in China a few years ago I am fascinated by this diverse, contradictory, dynamic, overwhelming continent. The dichotomy between old and new, rich and impoverished, communism and a modernist version of freedom makes this country, that covers an area the size of the USA, equally frightening and fascinating. To me, we seem like Lilliputians prodding Gulliver and hoping the strings will continue to tie him down.
Previously they built the first magnetic levitation train in Shanghai. The Maglev only runs 30k, shuttling passengers from the Airport to downtown Shanghai in eight minutes at 430kph, but it was hugely innovative. No track, no wheels, just electro-magnets. I featured it in my book, The Deadline Murders.
Now the Chinese have stepped up the transport game once more, this time in Beijing. When faced with too much traffic, a need to widen the road system and way too much pollution they wanted an idea to carry more commuters, knowing it was impossible to dig an underground system. Enter The Straddling Bus, a design to get more commuters to work with less emissions and less traffic.
It’s blindingly simple. Instead of widening the roads, they are building a trackway either side. Placed in it will be the wheels of a series of these straddling buses that each carry 1200 passengers 4 m above the roadway. Each allows the normal traffic to pass by underneath. The bus creates an arch across the roadway, allowing vehicles under 2m to pass through. The bus stops are set high and the commuters enter and depart from the roofline. And it’s run by electricity and solar energy. The first track will be laid in Beijing’s Mentougou District at the end of this year.
I think it’s brilliant Chinese inventiveness. Tell me we are working on something that clever?
Friday, July 23, 2010
When the roots of an oak whither, the body of the tree can’t sustain its leafage and the leaves become redundant. It’s the way the tree's life evolves unless the cause is found and rectified.
In my particular interest, this is what’s happening to Press photography. It’s that terrible word, Redundancy. The root decline of newspaper sales is bringing about vicious staff cuts and with it the loss of specialised skills, honed by decades of on-the-street experience. New blood can’t replace it, freelance paparazzi don’t have it, reporters with cameras will never achieve it.
So what is it that’s lost?
It’s the knowledge once gleaned by an apprentice snapper working beside a grumpy old news editor on a local news agency/newspaper who works that apprentice all hours God gives for tuppence. Driven to make a flower show into a photographic marvel, naming everybody in it correctly. Or knocking a door in tragic circumstances to collect a picture of the bereaved, without adding to the angst. Befriending the zoo, the local theatre, or the ballet school on a quiet day for an offbeat picture. Or suppressing your fear and climbing with the steeplejack up the church spire during restoration. It’s the diversity of experiences rubbing against your untrained creative skills. It’s learning what to take pictures of. It’s creating something relevant.
It’s being a freelance, thinking on your feet, watching the news, anticipating events forced by the need to eat and pay the rent. Then producing a portfolio of well considered pictures so much better than those of others around you that your work forces its way into the national newspapers. Then that old news editor grudgingly buys you a pint.
And finally, one memorable day, spreading your wings, being invited onto the staff of one of the great titles or news organisations, achieving a life’s ambition. Once there you are tested again. You cover another diverse diary of daily assignments that stretch your life skills to their limits, whilst allowing you to display your matured creative talents.
If you got to the top of that oak tree you joined an elite, leaving thousands in your wake.
Not so today.
The grim reaper accountants are wailing to the newspaper barons, Newsprint is doomed! Get out fast! Save what’s left of your fortunes! And that’s what they’re doing. And so the prophecy is self-fulfilling. Almost daily photographers are being cut on the nationals and the local papers. The cry is: As we’re all doomed don’t improve the content, cut the staff instead.
What nonsense. An editorial hall of proper newspapermen has more imagination, drive, verve, piracy, guts and gladiatorial entrepreneurship than an empire of bean counters. Their wails simply reflect these quill based assassins’ own bland, anaemic outlook. Their holy grail is the punter-in-the-street with a cellphone camera. It’s cheap coverage, who cares about the content? That way is the death knell of quality picture coverage.
The papers will end up looking awful and amateurish. If the paper’s owners know this, they don’t seem to care.
But there is a legacy of hundreds of picture journalists past and present who do – and behind them the shades of thousands more who dedicated their lives to great picture coverage in our national newspapers. That’s why Fleet Street was remembered as the best in the world.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
When top German paparazzo, Hans Paul, said of his celebrity pictures trade, “there’s hardly any money to be made anymore,” you have to take him seriously. Hans once made $120,000 from a single, pregnant Julia Roberts picture.
The pap snaps industry, said Hans, is under serious threat from the new kids on the streets, known as the Snaparazzi or MOPS – industry jargon for Members of the Public with phone cameras. Others report that apparently, non-photographers are turning pro in their droves: and they include ex-gang members, waiters, garage mechanics, bus conductors, the desperate unemployed and even the homeless, in order to make a buck. There are even children paparazzi. It’s now a new street sport. In the modern Oliver Twist, Fagin will run a team of kid paps.
Now there’s an iPhone app for .59p called CelebAround which buzzes in your pocket should you be within 500 metres of a celebrity. Presumably you then drop the wife and shopping to dementedly pursue the hapless C list starlet around Tescos.
Hans’ point is, of course, that all these citizen snappers are accepting peanuts from the tabloid Picture Editors for their ‘exclusives,’ because they don’t know the street value of their snaps. A picture sold for fifty quid by Mavis from accounts, who came across a soap star in a clinch with a married footballer on her lunch break, would fetch many thousands in the hands of a savvy pap.
The top Pap Masters like Darryn Lyons, the legendary boss of Mr Paparazzi, he counts his earnings in millions, is aware of this, and offers online to sell-on your phone celeb pictures at top prices. Many others do it, too, but the brilliant Darryn is the pack leader.
The national newspaper Picture Editors, of course, hate it. Pressured forever by their bean counters to cut costs, nothing pleases them more than when a fresh faced punter rings who, “just wants to see his picture in the paper. Pay me what you like.” That’s donuts all round!
What an extraordinary outcome for the trade I worked in all my life and, to a small degree, I am responsible for it. I’ll explain why.
The broadsheet Daily Express of the sixties and seventies sold 5 million in its pomp. Still rich from the post war need for entertainment it was said it had ‘a barrel of gold in the front hall for the staff to dip into on assignments.’ With no commercial television worth speaking of and the BBC still hidebound there was no opposition, except other papers.
What it had was a ferocious and, some say, corrupt Union system. They wanted to dip their beaks in the barrel, too and many fights ensued. I was its Picture Editor in the late sixties, early seventies. I had 50 cameramen in London, many more abroad and could call upon 37 in Manchester and 43 in Glasgow. All on big salaries with backup staff. So no need, you see, to buy in domestic pictures. We were self sufficient – but at huge cost.
(I once bought out an entire Boeing 707 at Heathrow just to fly a cameraman to rendezvous with the Queen Elizabeth. The liner was half way across the Atlantic and under threat of a hijacking.)
Enter the digital eighties. Moving still pictures got easier. Scan them and transmit without loss. Wonderful. Entrepreneur Eddie Shah launched the first colour edition paper, called, Today – and I picture edited it. Murdoch’s Sun had taken on the Unions at Wapping, leaving us alone. Staff photographer numbers were down to twenty, and four in Manchester. Now Agency snappers made up the difference. The paper still came out – but my digital picture systems made it easier for freelances to offer their work, helping to fill the paper. Editors then clamoured for Diana pictures and celebrities. Beady-eyed Management smelled a trend.
Who needs staff photographers? Why can’t we fill it with paparazzi and Diana pics.
Come the nineties, the Daily Mirror moved East and I joined as its Picture Editor to oversee the picture move. London was now gridlocked. No cameramen could get from East to West quickly so I set it up as a transmission paper. No darkrooms, just a trusty laptop, a car and a digital Nikon. When the IRA bombed Docklands and closed our offices, we got the pictures into the paper from a kitchen in south London.
Every innovation I introduced, from the first electronic picture desk to electronic video grabbing in the eighties, culminating in free-to-air picture submission and contracted electronic picture library access in the nineties, was done to speed up the editorial process. Get the paper out quicker and with better picture quality.
But the trend became obvious. Less staff were needed to produce national papers. Now papers are printed by tiny staffs, with bigger buy-in budgets. All Snaparazzi are welcome. The Nationals, with web news sites cutting into their sales, now have skeleton picture staffs. The once grand Express has two photographers, the Mirror two, but all have an open door policy for any offered pictures from anywhere.
And behind them all are an army of ghosts, made redundant by progress.
That is the price of change in a relentless world.
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Monday, May 17, 2010
|Wild Wonders of Europe|
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Those awesome pictures at the very heart of the volcano I brought to you in the previous post drew an eruption of comments from around the world. The Boston Globe site was engulfed by over 7,346 of them in many languages. They also make fascinating reading, if you have the time. (click on the link if you want to read them.)
All interpreted them differently, as you would expect from such a diverse audience.
Some ‘saw’ the face of Jesus in the cloud, of course. Some praised Allah. Others praised the farmers who struggled on under its emissions. Many feared for the animals wandering lost in the darkness. The cynics dealt with it through corny jokes such as, “where are the virgins when we need them for sacrifice.”
All were stunned by the magnitude of Nature.
For myself, I was also thankful for the skills of the photographers and the brilliance of the modern equipment that made it happen, as you might expect given my background. Modern image technologies bring us closer to Nature. Using it we can try to understand the forces that go into evolving life itself. With the volcano it was lava landscape gardening the Earth.
This week two more brilliant sets of images showing life’s evolutionary forces were published. Each as different as they were similar. Firstly, NASA celebrated 20 years of the Hubble telescope with a release of some of its work. Secondly, the advent of Spring hay fever allowed the brilliant Dr Martin Oeggerli to show us close up one of the culprits causing it, using a Scanning Electron Microscope.
NASA’s Hubble is now an old lady, having been in space for 20 years. Dr Martin Oeggerli received his first camera from his dad only in 2004. Martin’s day job is in the University of Basel Pathology department in Switzerland, doing cancer research work. Hooked on photography he began using his own techniques to colour interpret the wonderful close-ups created there by the Electron Microscope. Now he is a world leader in the art with a company called Micronaut and many exhibitions. Chances are, if you see a close-up of some bug or micro specimen it is Martin’s work.
To me these two diverse images share a common bond. They are the use of science technology to reveal the beginnings of life itself. The pollen in creating the flower. The solar system in creating the stars on which life can live. And that is thanks to the skilled people who use it.
This brings me full circle to the volcano pictures.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
The UK is in the middle of a hard fought election. Each new TV bulletin features the latest public opinion poll results. They are supposed to show us where the parties currently stand with the voters. Independent litmus tests of our polling day intentions.
I don’t trust them from personal experience. Back in May 1979, with the Labour Party in power, amid a general disillusionment with James Callaghan as PM, the Leader of the Opposition, Margaret Thatcher, was campaigning against him. She was the new leader of the Conservatives. As polling day grew closer the poll predictions had Maggie leading by a canter. It was going to be a landslide.
I was then on the Daily Mail, a UK Tory paper. They set up an editorial Election Desk, a separate ‘mini’ editorial room. I sat with the election desk news editor as picture liaison man. As the political stories rolled in I picked out the picture worthy ones. Come the eve of polling day the news editor’s phone rang, just before print deadline time. It was Lord Rothermere, the paper’s owner, with his nightly check on the poll prediction.
The news ed. told him, ‘Thatcher’s running away with it.’ The good Lord paused and reflected, then issued his instructions. In his paper, on polling morning, there would be an overnight ‘shock’ swing to Labour of 7%.
And so, as the voters finished their egg and soldiers and prepared to go to the booths, the 1st Edition ran with that prediction.
Cannily, he didn’t want the Tory faithful not bothering to come out and vote, assuming Maggie had won it easily without them. So he gave them a shock headline, and it worked, as we now know.
Friday, April 9, 2010
I’m not a fan of graffiti. I don’t consider it art, just trick typography. It doesn’t bring the satisfaction that art does. It's more a cry for attention. I like street photography and street art, just not four bloated letters filled in with a silver aerosol. That’s just my opinion.
But 3D Pavement Art or Chalk Art which uses anamorphosis to create the illusion of three dimensions, that’s something else. Magnificently transcending when done by the master exponents like German artists Edgar Mueller and Manfred Stader or American master painter in chalk, Kurt Wenner, who worked for NASA as a scientific space illustrator before his love of the Italian Renaissance painters took him to Rome to study them. The UK has Julian Beever who now works all over the world drawing evocative pavement scenes from his vivid imagination.
Anamorphosis has been used since the Romans to induce optical height and width. It was widely used in Renaissance and Baroque paintings.
But these modern masters in chalk create wonderful illusions on our streets and terraces. So successful are they that major companies employ them to spice up their product launches and their work often moves inside galleries now.
The Muscular Dystrophy Campaign runs the Young Pavement Artists Competition, an annual event with a nature theme for budding new chalk artists with great prizes to be won for the kids who enter. Who knows, maybe one of them will go on to greatness like the top exponents of this brilliant art form.
Here are just a few of the greats: