If you’re in London either of the next 2 weekends you can come see some of my new works as part of Sydenham Arts’ Artists Trail 2023. Here’s a link to their artists page (I appear in alphabetical order by my first name with full details of times and venue) and the event main page. Below are images from the series that will be presented at the show. (Unfortunately, I’ll be in the US over both weekends so I won’t be there myself.) Click on any of the pictures below to see them full-screen (you may need to click through via the post-title, above, if you’re reading this in an email or on social media).
Our week in Edinburgh coincided with the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival and we were lucky enough to get great seats for the Norwegian Mona Krogstad Quartet at the Jazz Bar on the evening of July 19th (over a month ago, now!) to hear this excellent ensemble. A great time and rather than describe the music subjectively and inaccurately, I can recommend you listen to them. Click any of the pictures below to see them all bigger (you may have to click the post title first if you’re not seeing this directly on the web site already).
For those interested in technical details, these were difficult shooting conditions as it was dark and I was just shooting with my walk-around zoom lens from my seat so as not to disturb those around me. Needless to say, they were shot at a very high ISO and were reasonably noisy as well as sometimes not that sharp at low shutter speeds. I used DxO’s Pure Raw to recover as much quality from the raw files as possible before processing in Capture One, simply using the default settings.
There were music festivals going on everywhere we went in Belgium. This one was in Bruges’ Grand-Place or Grote Markt. All the bands we heard sounded like American bands but when they announced songs or players it was all in Flemish. This band played My Sharona, among others.
We wandered away from the beach into the town and came upon a plaza that had been set up like a beer garden where a Flemish band were playing American reels to an attentive audience.
Another set of postcard pictures taken at the above-captioned cathedral which was stunning. By chance we arrived just before a concert was put on by an English girls’ boarding school (Badminton School).
The same Rock Choir we say marching in the parade the day before (and the same one we saw at the Museum of Rural Life a month or 2 ago) performed as part of the carnival on Sunday. Here they are covering Dolly Parton’s Jolene.
This week was a great one musically although no cameras were allowed in either event. We spent a couple of days in London. On Wednesday evening we were at the Hammersmith Apollo for Shakti’s final London appearance. They gave a rousing performance that brought the audience to its feet after nearly every number (a tiny taste below – if viewing this in email click the post title to go to the browser and see the clip). And to make things even better, the show opened with a performance by Gary Husband and Nguyen Le.
Then, Thursday I was fortunate to be included in a group of English photography students invited to a discussion in a small theatre at the recently re-opened National Portrait Gallery between Stanley Tucci and Paul McCartney about the just opened exhibit of Paul’s pictures from 1964 (you can pay to view a recording of the live-streamed event here until July 6th). Here the secrecy was even greater and we were made to turn off our phones and seal them in envelopes before being granted entry. Tucci conducted an excellent discussion and McCartney was his usual charming, entertaining self. Interestingly, the discussion centered far more on photography and the Beatles’ experience on their triumphant initial US tour than I had dared hope. Below a shot from his Instagram. Two tremendous experiences.
We had chanced upon Plymouth’s Pirate weekend! If viewing in email, click the post title to click into the images and see them larger.
This past semester my photographic practice has been exploring the subject of inequality: wealth and income inequality as well as gender and ethnic disparities. I have been incorporating text from signs into scenes using Photoshop. For the summer, my tutor suggested placing text-based images I create into the landscape and rephotographing them. So before departing on this trip I prepared 3 images. One simply says “Broken Promises,” a famous graffito from the Bronx, another shows mathematical symbols for inequality, “<>” and “≠,” and I also abstracted a sign I saw in the car park of the Palm Springs Art Museum on a trip several years ago that simply says, “Imagine Art Here.” Then I asked Margaret to hold them for me while we were near Golden Cap. I also found places along our walks to place them in the scene. I’m not sure they’re really doing that much for me. Click any image to see them enlarged.
Last week we conducted some group tutorials on our projects. I showed various things I was working on, including some of my seesaw inequality images and explained why I was dissatisfied with them and not sure they were worth continuing. Suggestions from my group included:
- Use Photoshop to lengthen the seesaw and dramatize better the gap between my capitalist and proletariat.
- Re-shoot in London with skyscrapers behind – a graphic illustration of the inequality that exists there.
I’m not sure any of those is really having the desired effect but I took a stab at them in Photoshop, crudely lengthening the seesaw and then inserting a shot I had taken of skyscrapers in London last spring into the background, a couple of different ways. It was fun to play with, though still not quite as clear as what I was hoping for:
This semester I wanted to start work on much more deliberate, composed subjects. Most of my photographs, for the last 50 years or more, have been just what I happen to have seen. Now I want to create work that shows my intent, leveraging my skills. My subject is inequality both economic (wealth, income inequality) and social (ethnic and sexual inequality). The first scenario I came up with was to have a capitalist (think of the Monopoly Man) at the top of a seesaw, held there by the labor of proletarians at the other end. The shoot was a couple of days ago.
Needless to say, everything that could go wrong did go wrong. I had asked classmates to join as my models and many agreed. However, the day of the shoot our all-day workshop was cancelled due to teacher absence so I had to reschedule since many people were not on campus. I had planned to shoot with the Pentax 645 film camera as well as the Fuji digital. For lighting I planned to use 2 flashes on light stands, triggered independently by transmitters on the cameras, the Pentax tripod mounted. In the end, I couldn’t get the extra flash I needed for the Pentax. I tested the trigger for the Fuji at home the night before but on the day nothing I did would get it to work, so I wound up shooting with the flash on the camera. We started the shoot around 5:00 pm as I wanted it to be somewhat gloomy and the sky cooperated, however it was quite chilly, which was rough on the models (and my hands) and the ground was quite muddy, limiting what I was prepared to ask them to do. Here are a few images from the shoot and notes from my journal on what could be better (click any image to see them all enlarged).
- Lighting. Obviously, not getting any of the flashes or triggers to work is a big problem but more significantly I need a much better understanding and control of how the light is falling. In the shots above I’ve had to reduce the highlights on the faces significantly and introduce a diagonal linear gradient for the bottom right of most of the images to reduce excessive light on the grass and mud in the foreground. There is also the problem of the shadow under the seesaw and in a few other places, suggesting the need for some reflective fill.
- Costume – compared with, say, Karen Knorr’s Gentlemen and Belgravia, this looks childish and amateurish. I’ve used unsubtle masks to darken the Capitalist’s red sneakers to black (in some of the images) but it’s either obviously blackened or the white trainer laces are showing. Really need to think about the capitalist attire as well as the proletarian attire.
- Models – Again, using Karen Knorr’s work as a model, I should use professional models in appropriate attire. Need to think about how the models can represent the ethnic/sex aspects of inequality, too. I can probably still use students, but I’ll need to wait for finer weather and really choose models and attire carefully and deliberately in advance to meet the picture requirements.
- Composition – Lots of problems here. The seesaw isn’t long enough for the height difference needed to dramatise inequality, so the idea doesn’t come across. So, either the concept doesn’t work at all, or I need a much longer, higher seesaw, which will introduce another set of compositional problems. The angle of the shot might need to be entirely different, looking up at the capitalist from behind/beneath the proletarians, for example, or looking down from his end. There’s not enough room at the low end of the seesaw for all the people I want, so they’re spread out, again weakening the gap between the 2 ends. The muddiness also meant I couldn’t really ask my classmates to get down as low as I might have liked.
- So, a disappointing outcome but a lot of learning…
They were being video-graphed by the woman you can see ton the bottom left corner of the top left photo as they performed their synchronized routine. They had gathered a crowd of watchers but I couldn’t find any other information about them. Click any image to see them all full sized.
And after the bonfire, came the fireworks.
Going home after my last day at work.
Back to the theater. For my birthday, we went to a crowded (masked and vaccinated) Broadway theater to see David Byrne’s American Utopia. I couldn’t resist grabbing one surreptitious shot from the balcony.
Interactive video installation by David Gumbs, appears to use and Xbox Kinect to bring you into the swirling, psychedelic, kaleidoscopic image.