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
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
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:
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...
My friend Jack and I walked around the river Thames last Sunday. The greyness of London at this time of year soaks through your pores. Last Winter I wrote a piece of music, called ‘The White Sky’. With all that anaesthetic blankness overhead, Summer can feel as distant as a house you you moved out of years ago.
I have written before about the South Bank, and how much I love its blend of expansive modernist architecture, ragged but lovely humanity, and the timeless industry of the River. Its faded and renovated squalor embodies the grandeur and the humanity of the capital. When I was young, my parents used to take me to see Bach’s St Matthew Passion at the Royal Festival Hall every year. Even back then, I felt how strong the character of the South Bank was: this thriving concentration of artistic output in the midst of urban dereliction (it used to be a lot seedier twenty years ago, believe me). Nowadays, I like to meet up with friends there. There is always something interesting (and free) to stumble upon such as a musical performance in the RFH lobby or a photo exhibit in the National Theatre balconies. It is the quality and the abundance of this sort of thing where you really see the advantage of living The Big Smoke.
So we wandered round the Thames. We met a girl on (what used to be called) the Hungerford footbridge who was trying to sell dream-catchers. She was somewhat furtive about the fact she wanted to money for them. Jack fancied her. I have no idea what a dream-catcher is.
At the foot of the bridge we went straight in for a free hug (were they the same troop as at Glastonbury?), watched the skateboarders, and discussed Joanna Newsom. A girl was down on the beach beneath the Oxo tower, combing for something or other.
Then Jack mugged a child, and we had a look at some more stuff, and parted company.
With some more time to kill I headed back onto the bridge by Embankment for the second time that day. It was getting dark and I was tired so I stopped to listen to a morbid yet persistent steel-drummer. The West Indian clangs sat weirdly with the gloom, but it was a nice way to take in the end of the day over the Thames, since I was cold and tired.
Looking across to St Pauls, the Barbican, and the Natwest Tower made me think about the persistent grind of London. Working and surviving in this city can really feel draining although people do not often like to admit it. Actually, come to think of it, sometimes it’s all we talk about, perhaps because it is something we all share. The city looks awesome of a Winter dusk. Shelley wrote of the eponymous mountain in his poem ‘Mont Blanc’:
Power dwells apart in its tranquillity,
Remote, serene, and inaccessible
The lines could have been written for those fortress casinos in the square mile. If good old Percy Bysshe were writing today, he might well write about the city instead of Mont Blanc, and he could have picked a worse spot than the Hungerford bridge to reflect man’s relation to the vast and awful power down the river.
I looked over to the terrace on the South Bank where the free-huggers had been. The crowds had mostly gone home. It gets cold down there when the sun goes. I noticed there was an arc of people performing. The double amputee at the end of the bridge was still begging after hours in the bitter evening, poor sod.
I approached the horseshoe of singers by the river bank. There were a few people stopped to listen despite the cold so I took a seat on a bench. Close up you could see that they were a dozen or so young ladies probably around the age of twenty. I realised they were American immediately when they started to sing. Not from their accents. Everyone sings in American accents. The clue was in their quality and understanding of performance, of which Americans are the masters. They are just better than everyone else at entertainment. It’s like when you see Russian ballet dancers, Italian drivers, Australian cricketers, Spanish Flamenco dancers, British football hooligans, French pickets, or German nudists: as far and wide as you travel, when you see one there is something inside you which clicks and thinks: ‘They’re taking it to a whole different level. Shit, that comes from the source.’
The girls (a troupe from Princeton Universty NJ called The Tigressions) were singing a capella standards, and their own arrangements of modern pop hits. Rich harmonies, perfect tuning, packaged with all that American charm. Perfect to warm the proverbial cockles. I recall them singing an arrangement of ‘Happy Ending’ by Mika. It was surprising to hear something so luscious and personable amidst all the cold riverside concrete. Singing just for the joy of singing. No pretensions to fame and stardom, that bane of true music. Just a group of young ladies on holiday in a ridiculously grey city, enjoying singing with each other.
There were others who were enjoying this spontaneous performance as well. I noted a slightly gruff looking cyclist who seemed absorbed by the music. He sat there intently, taking it all in, clutching his bike frame. Also there was a little girl who went right up to the singers and stood right in front of them. She was young and uninhibited, bathing in the overlapping vocal lines.
I hope the young ladies from New Jersey enjoyed their vacation in London. At least they looked like they were having fun, despite the gloom. It is indeed cool that they were able to contribute to and even become part of the life of the South Bank in their visit. I was grateful, at least.
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.