Things for which I am grateful #325-352: Photography.


My goodness, where to begin?

There are so many brilliant photographers that I could probably fill all 365 things to be grateful for with them alone.

I’ve had the privilege of working with some outstanding photographers during my 30 long years in the ad industry. Most of whom were artists in their own right. I’m not going to feature them here just in case I forget someone and invoke their ire.

Instead, I’m going to show some of the photographers whose work has inspired me over the years. Certainly not an exhaustive list. Hope you like them. Feel free to make your own suggestion.

We could argue the toss as to what makes a great photograph – composition, light, concept. But what I feel a great photo should do is tell a story or ask questions of the viewer.

Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams

Eve Arnold

Eve Arnold

Richard Avedon

Richard Avedon

Diane Arbus

Diane Arbus

Cecile Beaton

Cecil Beaton

Brassai

Brassai

Henry Cartier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson

Desiree Dolron

Desiree Dolron

Robert Doisneau

Robert Doisneau

Fan Ho

Fan Ho

Horst P. Horst

Horst P. Horst

Tom Hoops

Tom Hoops

Nadav Kander

Nadav Kander

Joey Lawrence

Joey Lawrence

Saul Leiter

Saul Leiter

Annie Leibovitz

Annie Leibovitz

Robert Mapplethorpe

Robert Mapplethorpe

Helmut Newton

Helmut Newton

Norman Parkinson

Norman Parkinson

Herb Ritts

Herb Ritts

Cindy Sherman

Cindy Sherman

Edward Steichen

Edward Steichen

Harry Thuillier

Harry Thuillier

There are always more photographers who spring to mind as soon as one clicks the ‘publish’ button. Here are a couple who slipped through the net…

Vivian Maier

Vivian Maier

Sebastiao Salgado

Sebastiao Salgado

Don McCullin

Don McCullin

Bill Brandt

Bill Brandt

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Bella Italia! – Things for which I am grateful #288 – 324


Bella Italia288!

Trevi Fountain, Rome.

Trevi Fountain, Rome.

I once sold books in Italy.

It was, what people commonly refer to, as a ‘character building’ experience.

Which is another way of saying – it was a crock of shit.

The job, that is, not Italy.

I love Italy.

If you haven’t been to Rome289, you must try to if you possibly can. (Not as easy for some readers as it is for others.) Not only is it one of the most stunning cities on the planet, (and I’ve been to at least three), it is also the birthplace of that famous empire spanning five centuries.

The Forum, Rome.

The Forum, Rome.

Wherever you turn you are confronted by an ancient monument or building, some dating back a couple of millennia, such as the Pantheon290, the Colosseum291 the Palatine292 and the Trevi Fountain293.

The Pantheon, Rome.

The Pantheon, Rome.

Obviously, there’s The Vatican294 too, which is well worth a visit, even if you’re not a cat lick. I’m not at all religious and my eyes didn’t start burning at the sight of St. Paul’s295.

The view of St. Paul's through a keyhole which I've peeped through!

The view of St. Paul’s through a keyhole which I’ve peeped through!

I’ve never ventured further south than the Amalfi296 coast, (south of Naples297). There are spectacular cliff-top towns such as Sorrento298, Positano299 and Amalfi itself. Nearby is the wondrous relic of Pompeii300 which takes you back in time to when Mount Vesuvius301 erupted and preserved many buildings, artefacts and people! Then there’s the gorgeous island of Capri302 just a short boat ride away.

Pompeii.

Pompeii.

Walked up those steps. Amalfi.

Walked up those steps. Amalfi.

Positano, Amalfi coast.

Positano, Amalfi coast.

The island of Capri.

The island of Capri.

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North of Rome, you have Florence303, Pisa304 and the Apennines305, (which our Pennine range is named after). On the west coast there are the marble producing towns of Carrera306 and Massa307 where the river runs white from the quarries in the mountains. And the sophisticated tourist spot of Viareggio308 on the coast.

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And who could forget Venice309 in the north east? Seat of the once-mighty Borgias. A stupendous sinking city amidst an intricate maze of canals. In summer, the weather is to die for. Seriously, it is. I once got sunstroke in Lido de Jesolo310, so pack plenty of factor 50 if you’re a pale-blue-skinned Anglo Saxon, like me.

Venice carnival.

Venice carnival.

Venice.

Venice.

Then there’s the food. Obviously, pizza and pasta are top of mind. But spare a though for the taste bud tingling chicken cacciatore311 or bistecca pizzaiola312. You can’t beat a bowl of Penne Picante313 or a simple pepperoni and anchovy pizza314 in a traditional trattorria315. All washed down with your favourite tipple – in my case, (case being the optimum word), of Barolo316.

Does it have tomatoes in it? I'll have it. Pollo alla cacciatore.

Does it have tomatoes in it? I’ll have it. Pollo alla cacciatore.

Food of the gods.

Food of the gods.

Spaghetti vongole.

Spaghetti vongole.

Let us not forget the pioneering artists: Leonardo da Vinci317, Michelangelo318, Raphael319, Giotto320, Botticelli321, Titian322, Donatello323, Caravaggio324 and my old favourite – Modigliani. You can hardly turn a corner without bumping into a masterpiece.

Anatomical studies by Leonardo da Vinci.

Anatomical studies by Leonardo da Vinci.

Michelangelo's 'David'. (Detail.)

Michelangelo’s ‘David’. (Detail.)

Nice. Caravaggio.

Nice. Caravaggio.

If you like art, you’ll love Italy. If you like ancient architecture, you’ll love Italy. If you like history, you’ll love Italy. Most of all, if you like pizza, you’ll love Italy.

And yes, I can speak Italian. But only if you want to talk about books. (Specifically, encyclopaedias.)

Of course, there are many Italian delights that I have yet to discover. Maybe after I’ve sold my first million copies. Speaking of which, check out this piccolo classico…

LOVE-IS-BLOOD-COVER copy

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Love-is-Blood-ebook/dp/B00FSTI5K0/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1381575505&sr=1-1&keywords=Love+is+Blood

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Bonny Scotland – Things for which I am grateful #278 – 287


Bonny Scotland278

Edinburgh Castle from the Grassmarket.

Edinburgh Castle from the Grassmarket.

I count myself extremely fortunate to have lived in the stunning capital of Edinburgh279 in 1991-92.

I probably would never have ended up there had I not befriended an amiable Scottish chap by the name of Richard in the queue for the Hacienda nightclub in Manchester some six years previously.

As our friendship blossomed, I went on several trips to his homeland, none of which I have any recollection of whatsoever. I’d just wake up back in Manchester feeling like my brain had been covered in batter and deep fried.

Bloke in a skirt.

Bloke in a skirt.

Anyways, after I’d been made redundant in Leeds I managed to get a job in Leith280 which is just a short jaunt down Leith Walk from Edinburgh to the docks. It was more of an up-and-coming area when I was there, with lots of great pubs and eateries.

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I stayed with my aforementioned friend’s parents in the beautiful Stockbridge colonies for the first couple of months. Then I moved to a bijou little pad on South William Street in the West End.

I was shown the ropes of Edinburgh and Leith by the fabulously talented painter, Michael McGinn. (Who also has a rather wonderful antique/retro shop called McQuirkey’s, should you be round and about with your shopping hat on.)

Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to. The architecture is staggeringly breathtaking. And the people… well, I couldn’t understand a word they said. It was six months before I realised they weren’t calling me Ken.

Edinburgh is very spiky.

Edinburgh is very spiky.

Glaswegians reckon Glasgow281 is better than Edinburgh because of its people. They think Edinburghers are a bit toffee-nosed. But I reckon it’s the other way round. Glaswegians are jealous, because their city is a bag of washing in comparison. I did go to Glasgow a couple of times. It was like a cross between Manchester and Dresden circa 1945.

A recent Tourist Board flyer.

A recent Tourist Board flyer.

A couple of other notable places to visit are: Stirling Castle282, which is a bit like a miniature version of Edinburgh; you can’t go wrong with a trip to the Highlands283 with its ominous, towering mountains; or the serenity of the Lochs Lomond284 and Ness285. Venturing still further north to the Kyle of Lochalsh286 and the Isle of Skye287 you’d be forgiven for feeling like you’ve entered a Celtic nirvana.

Stirling Castle.

Stirling Castle.

Wallace monument, Stirling. (I walked up this thing with a wee baby strapped to me.)

Wallace monument, Stirling. (I walked up this thing with a wee babby strapped to me.)

The Highlands.

The Highlands.

A handsome lassy.

A handsome lassy.

Loch Lomond.

Loch Lomond.

Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness.

Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness.

Kyle of Lochalsh.

Kyle of Lochalsh.

Isle of Skye

Isle of Skye

Imagine what it’d be like if they actually owned the place!

Which brings me rather clunkily round to the question of Scottish independence. Watching the debate from south of the border I can’t help noticing that the majority of the ‘No’ campaigners focus on financial benefits of staying together whilst the ‘Yes’ campaigners talk about a fairer society.

Scott monument, Edinburgh.

Scott monument, Edinburgh.

I know Jockos don’t give a monkey’s what a Sassenach like me thinks, but for what it’s worth, I’d vote Yes.

To me, it’s nothing to do with money and all to do with self-determination. Heart over head? Probably. But isn’t that what patriotism is all about?

If I had my way, we’d have an independent North of England as well. It’s had its resources and wealth stripped and sent darn sarf for centuries.

With an independent Scotland, the downside for us Angles, is that it would probably sentence us to permanent Tory rule. (Which would be worse than living in Hades, or worse – Norn Irn!) But that isn’t Scotland’s problem – it’s ours. And, if that’s who the majority of people vote for south of the border, then so be it. It’s called democracy. Which doesn’t seem to be very evident in Scotland at the moment with only 1 out of 59 seats being Tory.

Leith.

Leith.

I love Scotland – its history, its poetry, its literature, its spectacular nature, its architecture and its people. (I’ve got some great Scottish mates. Well, I did have before this post.) If they do decide to give independence a shot – good luck to them, I say.

Though, if they vote to stay in the Union, I think we should have a  referendum in England the day after to see if we still want them.

Addendum:

To be honest, I think there should be less borders in the world, not more of them. However, I suppose my leaning toward the ‘Yes’ campaign has more to do with building a fairer society than with leaving the Union. Perhaps if the UK as a whole could do this, then I might not be in such favour of the split. Though, the chances of this happening with Conservatives running the country is nigh on impossible with benefits, NHS, education all being cut whilst their banker cronies are sucking up the big bucks and peerages in London.

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Joy Division – Things for which I am grateful #277


I know a lot of people find Joy Division a bit depressing, but I love their frenetic energy and controlled emotion. (Paradoxical? Absolutely. That’s why they were brilliant.) They had a unique style and voice which no one else had at the time. Plus, they were quite smart! (Punks were a bit too scruffy for my liking.)

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Being at art college in the early 80s, it was de rigeuer to be in a band, and I was no exception. The only slight problem to my impending rock stardom was my musical inability. That didn’t stop me trying, mind.

A group of mates, and I, got together to do a benefit gig for the El Salvador Solidarity Campaign. (The clichés just keep on coming, don’t they.) Anyways, we were doing covers above a pub in Leeds and, as I was petrified of being on stage, I didn’t move a muscle. Well, apart from the ones in my hands to play the bass.

When we got round to playing New Dawn Fades, I started to relax, a little. I loved the song and I could play it pretty well, so I began to go for a little wander around the stage. Unfortunately, I wandered a little too far stage right, and promptly fell off the stage.

I can still see the contorted faces of the audience twisted in fits of hysterics. So much for my dream of being a rock star.

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If you didn’t know, lead singer, Ian Curtis, committed suicide in 1980 just as they were becoming famous. He suffered from depression and epilepsy and, if we’re to believe the excellent biopic, Control, they link his depression to his epilepsy meds.

Ian Curtis with his daughter, Natalie.

Ian Curtis with his daughter, Natalie.

They’re not everyone’s cup of tea, but have a listen if you want to hear a truly original voice that is unfortunately lost to us.

I think I’ll save my anecdote about playing New Dawn Fades, with a band I stumbled upon practicing in an upstairs warehouse in the Italian naval port of Livorno, for another day.

Some facts about Joy Division:

They were originally called Warsaw after David Bowie’s Warszawa from the album Low

They changed their name because of another band called Warsaw Pakt

The name Joy Division originated from a prostitute ‘wing’ of a Nazi concentration camp

After Curtis’s death, the remaining members went on to form New Order

Ian Curtis is survived by his wife, Deborah Curtis, and their daughter, Natalie Curtis.

Deborah & Natalie Curtis.

Deborah & Natalie Curtis.

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Things for which I am grateful #276 – Writing


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I’ve always loved writing, ever since I was a boy. Genre never seemed to matter. I’ve tried my hand at most things: poetry, short stories, screenplays and novels.

Whether I’ll ever be good enough to make a living out of it is another matter.

Even if I should fail in that endeavour, it won’t stop me writing. But I am going to take a little breather as I’ve just finished typing the final words of my second novel, Peripheral Vision.

I hope the first draft isn’t quite as bad as Mr. Hemingway predicts. Though, I do appreciate that the hard work will begin when I come to do the second.

Right then, a little jaunt to the off-license, me thinks, for a cheeky bottle of Shiraz to celebrate.

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If you’d like to read any of my other work please feel free to click the links:
Love is Blood http://amzn.to/1bEApBh
Let me fail in Sunshine http://amzn.to/17Fa0FP
Woman’s Best Friend http://amzn.to/17AZUWk

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Things for which I am grateful #275 – Betty Blue


Or, to give it its French title, 37˚2 le matin. (Which, presumably, should be 37.2˚ le matin. Sorry for being an English pedant.)

Which, apparently, is the normal body temperature for a pregnant woman in the morning.

 

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So what’s it all about? Well, Betty, played by the enigmatic Béatrice Dalle, is as mad as a box of frogs. Why a box of frogs are mad, I have no idea. Perhaps it is because (understandably) they are cooped up in a box. Or maybe it is because the actual concept of frogs in a box is absurd. Why not kittens or dogs? Well, I imagine the former would be quite cute, rather than mad. In fact, I’ve probably seen a video of a box of kittens on YouTube. And a box of dogs would be impractical, as one would need a very large box. Perhaps a ginormous box of elephants would be a better simile? Except, somehow, it’s just not quite as funny as a box of frogs. Monkeys could work.

Whatever the origins of the simile, it does little to rid mental illness of its stigma. So, for that, I apologise. (But, she is.)

Betty and Zorg are young lovers. Laid-back Zorg is perfectly played by Jean-Hughes Anglade. He works as a handyman for a beach shack owner and all is well when Betty first moves in with him. Until she finds his hidden manuscript and can’t understand why he doesn’t want more from life.

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She takes matters into her own hands, (after being sexually assaulted by the shack owner), and promptly burns down their house. The pair head off to Paris to stay with a friend where Betty types up Zorg’s ‘masterpiece’ and sends it to publishers. Zorg takes it on himself to hide his rejection letters so’s not to upset Betty. She eventually finds one and takes her revenge on the man who sent it.

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They move to an idyllic rural town to run their friend’s piano shop. It’s here that Betty finds out she’s pregnant – much to the delight of them both. It’s not long after that she finds out she has lost the baby, (or isn’t pregnant – I can’t quite recall). But the news breaks her heart and she self-harms in a most horrific way.

As a result of her extreme actions she is catatonic and hospitalised. And that’s about as far as I can take it without spoiling the ending.

It’s a heartbreaking masterpiece of love, mental illness, unfulfilled dreams and what a partner of a person suffering from such an illness will go through to empathise and help care for her.

betty_and_zorg_in_love_300-300x200

If you haven’t seen it, I urge you to do so. And if you have, watch it again. (I watched it again this week after almost 30 years and, what it reinforced to me, was the power of loving commitment – no matter what.)

It’s written and directed by Jean-Jaques Beineix and has an inspirational and mesmerising soundtrack by Gabriel Yared. (See clip below.)

 

 

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The Boating Party with Sean Hayes


Luncheon of the Boating Party, 1881. By Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

The Boating Party is a series of interviews with writers, artists, photographers, filmmakers, musicians, sculptors, illustrators, designers and the like.

In times of economic hardship, the Arts are usually the first things to be axed. But, in my view, the Arts are one of the most important aspects of our civilisation. Without the arts, we wouldn’t have language or the written word. Without the arts, we have no culture. Without culture, we have no society. Without society, we have no civilisation. And without civilisation, we have anarchy. Which, in itself, is paradoxical, because so many artists view themselves as rebels to society.

To me, artists aren’t rebels, they are pioneers.

And perhaps, most importantly; without the Arts, where’s the creativity that will solve the world’s problems? Including economic and scientific ones?

In this interview, I am delighted to welcome Irish creative director, Sean Hayes.

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Who inspires you?

People who have discerning minds.

 

What inspires you?

A belief that everything is malleable. Nothing is set in stone.

 

What was the last thing that inspired you?

Rupert Sheldrake’s banned TEDx talk on YouTube.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKHUaNAxsTg – t=1088

 

What makes you unhappy?

Misunderstanding.

 

What makes you happy?

Understanding.

 

What are you reading?

‘Who Owns the Future?’ Jaron Lanier.

 

Who, or what, are you listening to?

The rain.

 

What’s your favourite film?

Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey

 

If you could go back in time, where would you go?

December 5th 1975. Bob Marley and the Wailers in concert at the Lyceum Theatre in London to witness the recording of one of the greatest live albums ever – Bob Marley and the Wailers LIVE!

 

What frightens you?

People who do not possess discerning minds.

 

What do you do to relax?

I take photographs. It’s a form of meditation for me.

 

What do you do when you’re angry?

Anger is fear in stealth mode. Deal with the fear and the anger vanishes.

 

What can’t you live without?

Oxygen. Family. Friends. In that order.

 

What’s your motto?

Say simple things in unexpected ways.

 

Where is your Utopia?

West Cork, Ireland.

 

If you only had one year to live what would you do?

Spend the year visiting and thanking all the family, friends and folk who have loved and supported me in life and apologize to those where I failed to return their love and support.

 

Up who’s arse would you like to stick a rocket, and why?

Sepp Blatter. (Swiss football administrator who serves as the eighth and current President of FIFA). Blatter represents everything that is perverse with the prevailing corporate culture of winner-take-all. He exudes a deep sense of unquestioning entitlement and is mindlessly corrupt.

 

Who would you like to be stuck in an elevator with?

Scarlett Johansson.

 

What are you working on at the moment?

Increasing my understanding of the world and everything in it.

 

What is your ambition?

To love and be loved.

 

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?

Throw the Internal Combustion Engine onto the ash heap of history. It has stunted the development of cleaner and more sustainable energy sources because the Petrochemical conglomerates make vast fortunes from oil and actively suppress technologies that challenge their hegemony.

 

Which six people would you invite to your boating party?

Elon Musk (Business Magnate, Inventor, Visionary), Rupert Sheldrake (English author, lecturer, and researcher in the field of parapsychology), Scarlett Johansson (Elevator repair person), Graham Hancock (British writer and journalist), Linda Moulton Howe (American investigative journalist and ufologist), Nick Cave (Musician and author).

 

What would be on the menu?

 Ideas.

 

What question would you have liked me to have asked?

Hy-Brazil – a mythical island off the west coast of Ireland – appeared on nautical maps from 1325 until it’s disappearance from seafaring charts around 1865. Why? A great mystery.

 

Thank you, Sean.

To see more of Sean’s work click on any image to go to his Tumblr site.

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Sean Hayes’ biography:

I’m an advertising Creative Director with over 25 years experience of planning, creating and executing marketing campaigns for European, American and Japanese brands. In 2010, I started taking pictures of the world around me with a newly purchased iPhone. I haven’t put it down since. All the images in my gallery have been shot and processed using my smart phone. Preferred subjects to photograph are portraits and landscapes. My photographic work has been exhibited in galleries and exhibitions specialising in mobile photography in Brussels, Milan, Miami, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

I was a runner-up in the Landscape category of the global Mobile Photography Awards 2013 and was awarded 2nd place in the People category of the same competition in 2014.

Links:

http://seanski50.wordpress.com

http://seanmobilephotos.tumblr.com

http://seanmobileportraits.tumblr.com

 

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