Thursday, 30 December 2010

Merry Christmas

Well it's nearly 2011 and I would like to thank all of you who have read this blog and those who have supported Diemar/Noble Photography. Our Christmas event was a wonderful evening, thanks to all of you who made it out on such a cold night to celebrate with us. The raffle was a huge success with the lucky winner present at the event.

Our current show, 'I Won't Be Your Mirror' with photographs by Lisa Holden ends on Saturday January the 8th. Our doors re-open on Tuesday the 4th January 2011. If you would like to make a purchase before the VAT on the 4th do contact me directly on to book an appointment.

If you have not had the chance to come and see the exhibition I encourage you to do so as it really is spectacular in the flesh. Standing in front of Holden's work is mesmerising. Their physicality is powerful with the grand scale of some of her pieces drawing you into them as if to tempt you to step inside.

I hope you all have had a wonderful Christmas, with a great Year to come!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Thoughts on identity...

Identity is a subject that re-occurs in everyday life much more than we realise. Few of us take the time to really consider it. Most of us would find it difficult to explore, but Holden's investigations of her own identity procures the most imaginative visual results.

The process of putting her reflections into a visual form is as complex as the subject itself. Lisa Holden's work reveals her life both psychologically and physically through stratification. Photographs are taken, pulled, stretched, snapped back, blended, overlapped on the computer. Others are painted or varnished then re-photographed and worked into the images.

This combination of disciplines act out the variety and conflicting elements that make up any individuals persona as a result of their life so far. Psychologists always delve into childhood, family and relationships. In fastidiously looking at her own life Holden embarks upon her own self-analysis with her eyes wide open. There is a conflicting comfort in knowing more about ourselves, both to understand, forgive, resolve, accept and move forward.

For those who see this as a self absorptive act I say, you are wrong. Often understanding oneself is the key to understanding others. This is by no means a selfish act, but one of humanity and depth.

I'm happy to dive into Holden's art and let the waters run deep above me. Peel back the skin and we are all the same underneath after all...

Monday, 15 November 2010

Let me count the ways...

As many of you know I frequently blog about about the current exhibition at Diemar/Noble Photography. This is no exception. However, the way I feel about this show runs very deep. Lisa Holden's work is a joy to behold. However, please don't take my word for it as seeing it in the flesh far outweighs anything I can say in this blog.

To be truly inspired by Holden's images, one must dive into dark waters in order to resurface in the bright light than shines above. Her work is rooted within herself yet draws upon many experiences all of us have in our lives. Holden delves into her past, present and future to display the harsh realities of her life as an adopted child, through to her exploration of herself as a woman in todays society and her body. These self portraits differ so much it is easy to think that there is more than one model. Each work is multi-layered to the point that each plane blends into the other yet with a clarity that floats like oil on water, building imagery so complex that you find yourself succumbing to it completely, rather than trying to pick apart the layers.

Each composition can contain anywhere between 5 to 70 layers. Photographs are scanned, pulled, stretched, varnished, broken down, put back together & worked on until they are finished. Holden's perfectionism means that she works on many images at once, only the best make it into a series. She often has things printed & if she is not happy with the results, they are discarded. In working on a computer screen the scale of the work once printed can change a piece dramatically. She is a true artist in every sense, committed, disciplined & always striving to create something worthy.

In exposing herself through her work we can see into her soul & if you look hard enough your own too...

Monday, 11 October 2010


Today on the eve of my birthday I would like to share with you my favorite quote of all time, by the mighty Oscar Wilde

This appears in the preface of my little faux leather book dating somewhere in the 1950's found in a great secondhand bookshop in Derbyshire.

"The artist is the creator of beautiful things.
To reveal art and conceal the artist is art's aim.
The critic is he who can translate into another manner or a new material his impression of beautiful things.
The highest, as the lowest, form of criticism
is a mode of autobiography.
Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.
Those who find beautiful meanings in
beautiful things are the cultivated. For
these there is hope.
They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only Beauty.
There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written or
badly written. That is all."

It gets better...

"We can forgive a man for making a useful thing as long as he does not admire it. The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely.
All art is quite useless."

When he says useless he is speaking of it being an impractical object and it is enough to simply enjoy it for enjoyments sake. A man after my own heart. All art may be useless in practical terms, but my god it is invaluable in spiritual terms.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

And now it's in print

As a serial blooger, my journey to tech-heaven has been as a late-comer to using a computer, let alone an ipad! Yes I succumbed to the slim sexy machine that it is...

Anyway enough salivating for now. Looking back to a time when I didn't have a mobile phone let alone a laptop, my fear of all things high tech was palpable. I felt reassured by books, paper could be held in your hand. It didn't get lost or deleted quite so easily. Writing everything down on paper before typing into a computer seems laborious, but that's how I used to work. It wasn't so much that I was incapable, but that my confidence was low.

I have now learned the only way to find out how to do something is to give it a go! I applaud anyone who has the get-up-and-go to do something for themselves and who invites others to join in. Launched as both an online blog and a paper And now it's in print does just that. The decision to produce a newspaper version as well as an online one is commendable, to draw in a wider audience, spread the word across the mean streets of Melbourne. James Noble headed up the design and production team. As the designer of the gallery website I would recommend him highly.

Having never visited Melbourne, (I will be next year, yippee) this encouraged me to explore the city more as it has come to life through the endeavors of a group of light minded creative individuals- all with great websites of their own - searching their city for others who are doing exiting things too. Curating the site and inviting others to point out great things on their doorstep is an inspiration for us all.

They successfully launched their first edition and it will appear online soon. Why not take a leaf out of their book and point out some great sites to them or do your own....

Friday, 24 September 2010

What's collecting got to do with it?

As Tina Turner once said, "Whaats collecting got to do, got to do with it?". Well quite a lot actually. As many of you know I am an avid collector of photography, but what is often missed is the importance of understanding why people collect photography and how they collect. Some photographers are keen to sell their work, approach galleries, magazines and newspapers to share the wonder of their work to the world at large. Their aim, to achieve world domination and to become as famous and successful as Andreas Gursky, to live the dream before they die in obscurity to justly be found later as a genius of the medium. These dreams of their work fetching huge may I say offensive sums of money at auction, breaking records of previous sales, their net worth ever climbing higher with each subsequent series, admired the world over.... You get the picture.

Well, in order to reach such status you have to realize several things, the most important of which is that most of it is a fallacy and breaking auction records is all well and good but to reach such heights one must work hard and prosper through making great work, promoting and having a great agent and/or gallery behind you. Until then it is worth knowing one thing: the market.

In order to sell photographs it is imperative that you understand the way in which a collector finds, enjoys, buys and displays their collection. This is one of the reasons I felt would not only help budding collectors but photographers too when I wrote my book. The course announced for October 9th at Diemar/Noble Photography is well worth attending if you are a photographer as well as those of you whom are interested in adding to or beginning your own collection. The joy I get from my own collection and searching for new additions to it is a wonderful part of my life. Having sound helpful advice can sometimes feel thin on the ground. Having a trustworthy gallery, fellow collectors and keeping my eyes open for emerging talent allows for this to be a more enjoyable endeavor. As a gallerist it is my reputation that must be upheld in advising our clients well to build their own collections and benefit from the advice we freely give.

The course is a day of seven lectures with plenty of breaks and an hour for lunch, so that everyone has the opportunity to stretch their legs and think about each lecture as the day goes on. If you are curious and would like to attend please go to the website and look at our education page to download the full details and feel free to call if you have any queries. The photograph displays the use of a black light used to test the age of print. We explain and demonstrate this on the course. Places are limited and go fast. We keep the numbers quite small so that everyone has the chance to put forward their questions on a more intimate basis, getting to know both myself, my fellow Co-Director Michael and each other. I look forward to seeing you at the gallery soon.

Remember, if I wasn't passionate about collecting I wouldn't be doing it!

Black light photograph courtesy of Diemar/Noble Photography: Copyright - Colin Coutts
Self portrait of a budding collector!

Monday, 13 September 2010


The forthcoming exhibition at Diemar/Noble Photography may have a strange name 'Quetzalcoatl' Photographs by Manuel Alvarez Bravo, but its origins are what fascinate me most. I will leave the details of Bravo's career to our website. Quetzalcoatl is the name of a mesoamerican diety. The name means 'feathered serpent'. Aptly it was related to gods of the wind, of Venus, of the dawn, of merchants and of arts, crafts and knowledge. What a perfect connection to the gifted Bravo whose imagery is both magical, wondrous, clever and beautiful.

His understanding of shadow and form are exquisitely rendered with prints so stunning you can stare at them forever. My own personal favourites are pictured here. The tools have such weight and abstract presence they seem to be carved into the paper rather than printed upon it. The gymnast's lithe form curves with such a sensuous twist, we do not need to see the face of the woman whose form fills the frame perfectly - the shadow of her fingers crisscrossing over her breast like an aloe vera plant - mimicking the creases of her gymnastic suit. This somehow subtly seems to be referential to the Mexican origins of the photographer, intentionally or not.

The use of hard and soft shapes is also fascinating in the x-ray image of a hand holding a flower in 'Giving Hand'. The delicacy of the flower has a strange haunting quality as the graceful gesture is eclipsed by the bone structure of the hand, then your attention keeps drawing your eyes to the fine stem and petals held between the finger and thumb.

In 'Our Daily Bread' I find myself thinking of scarves, gloves and Christmas despite it being taken in a place of warmth. The animals resemble reindeer but are probably some other mammal native in the Americas.

These charming, intelligent images elude a warmth and understanding that many photographers' could certainly learn from today.

Saturday, 4 September 2010


After attending the preview of Light Sensitive on Thursday night, I felt compelled to write about it & urge anyone who reads this blog to go & visit. The exhibition comprises of 24 graduates from the MA in Photographic Studies at the University of Westminster. This class of 2010 are a diverse group of individuals whose work has been beautifully curated by Elizabeth Upper, the editor of Above Magazine. her use of the impressive P3 space seamlessly guides you through the work from every angle, nothing jars. Upper has managed to showcase the work somehow uninterrupted - that is, each body of work breathes & commands its own space- so one can view & absorb each series in isolation without distraction. However, the flow & choice of placement appears effortless despite the broad range of imagery on offer. Curating any group exhibition is difficult, yet Upper has wielded her skills to produce a duality of bold & subtle arrangements to great effect, she is definitely one to watch...

When asked to write the essay for the catalogue I was delighted to do so. Of course I would encourage you to buy it, especially if you happen to be a photographer. Why? Well, instead of a long arty ramble I decided to be honest, brutally so in fact with 20 top tips or rules for photographers' which has so far gone down quite well... (as far as I can tell anyway) I hope this essay proves useful for their future in the field of photography.

Having walked around the exhibition there are definite highlights, the first of which is the series that opens the show by Debra Fabricius called Urban Drift whereby she has covered a nine mile span of Regents Canal, taking photographs from the towpath. They reveal the scars left by urban development as nature keeps growing & flowing around it.

disruptus by Colin Coutts was a visceral delight comprising stills, video & audio to impressive effect. His portraits of worn deteriorated gardening gloves on metallic paper are superb. Combined with the mesmerizing video & audio, the darkened space pulls you in as the gloves wave you in & out of the space! (As I have done here with the images chosen)

There were several projects which were conceptually fascinating also, to mention but a few Sharon Boothroyd's If You Get Married Again, Will You Still Love Me? tableaux's inspired by remembered words from children whose father's were separated from their partners are sombre, my favourite was Boy On Chair. Secondly Kossi Kunakey's exploration into the Black & Asian beauty industry discusses the troubling notions of beauty in those communities whereby hair straightening & hair lightening are sought in order to procure a more Western appearance. As a curly haired woman myself I have often been bemused by those who feel that straight hair is the only way to be attractive & love to see an afro in all its glory, ditto with dark skin. Naturally dark skin - in my humble opinion - is much more appealing than orange fake-tanned skin, which is the preferred look of many young Western women. Oh why can't we all just get on with what we've got without resorting to nasty chemicals!

On the subject of colour, Elliot Wilcox's images of climbing walls are abstractly enticing, cropping the walls in order to photograph the details & variations of the walls to great effect. This transforms a rather hard surface into a more meditative image from an unlikely source.

Jessa Fairbrother's series Subtitled portray whimsical self portraits exploring clichés. I cannot say too much about this work other than to urge you to go & see it. Read the text in a frame first, then admit your own guilty cliché pleasures before passing judgement. Enjoy the wistful long exposures.

There is some very strong landscape photography in this show too. Caroline Brown's Sandlings series, you are invited to immerse yourself in the Suffolk countryside, from low vantage points. Some make you feel like a field mouse nestled in the grass looking out into the big wide world with wonderment, surely an emotion felt by Brown also?

I feel I must stop here, less I give the game away. Go & see for yourself!

Friday, 27 August 2010

Say it with flowers...

With the approaching 'Trio-Talk' at Diemar/Noble Photography on Wednesday filling up fast with less than 10 places left I urge you to book if you haven't already. TEL: 0207 636 5475 to book, details on the gallery website.

It is very rare to gather three artists to speak about their work, all of whom have fascinating insights to tell about their extraordinary work. As regular readers of this blog will know I have been photographed by one (Neeta Madahar), then introduced to (Lisa Creagh) by Neeta & realised that I had been at the same university as another (Kate Owens) who was at Kingston assisting the Head of Photography (Vince Wade) at the same time I was there! It was a marvelous moment after arranging a meeting with Kate at the gallery to realise that we had met before. In some way it seems that an exhibition with these marvelous women was destined to be.

Incidentally, all of us have been models for the 'Flora' series for Neeta, hence the picture of Kate here with primroses. We can all testify to Neeta's amazing achievement in creating such wonderful portraits.

The response to show has been overwhelming with visitors finding insights to the work each day has been a joy. I can't wait for the Q&A session at the end. Each artist will speak for 20 minutes then we open up to the floor. If you have any questions that you are dying to know the answers to do let me know and I will do my best to find out the answers. Better yet, come to the talk & ask for yourself.

The photo's : 'Lisa with Primroses' by Neeta Madahar
Neeta Madahar by me on the day of my shoot
Kate Owens at the gallery with her work on new SX-70 Polaroid film

We may be recording the event, if so I will post up the link in the future.

Friday, 13 August 2010

The future is Bright, the future is Brittain Bright!

Brittain Bright's (pictured here on Polaroid's taken with my beloved SX70) series Spirit Collection reveals a dual relationship with botany that capture my own personal feelings towards flora & fauna, both good & bad.

How can one have a bad relationship with flowers, I hear you say? Well, as we all know memories are often triggered by sights, sounds & especially smells. I have very strong feelings about roses. Red roses to be precise. I love the smell of roses, the look of them, with their fascinating complexity & even the way the petals feel to the touch. However, a single red rose reminds me of death. I have had 2 instances in my life when someone close to me died. On both occasions these moments were marked by the coincidence of the gift of a red rose. When other people get them doesn't bother me, it's romantic. But woe betide anyone who buys a single red rose to me as a gift. Yes one of my weird quirks, but there you go!

Brittain Bright's series brought my foible to mind as it's light & dark imagery filled me with strange wonderment & awe. These plants stored in jars in the huge herbarium at Kew (originally they used white spirit, hence the name of the collection) since 1930 have outlived some of the people who put them there. A strange thought...

With complete access to the specimen's Brittain spent nearly 2 years taking out jars and photographing them with a large format camera on the small desk space she was given to work in. Technically, these photographs are extraordinary as the imperfections of the glass, coupled with the combination of natural & fluorescent light gave her many challenges to overcome each time. Using either a dark or light backdrop to avoid the distraction of the room beyond, we are given a close view of the delights contained within. Each titled by the Latin name of the specimen (a language many of us no longer speak) the mystery of what is encased becomes all the more enticing. Ironically, as most of us do not know the latin our imaginations are left to run riot as to the original appearance of the plant. As with all things in jars their appearance changes with time. Petals become transparent, cacti spikes go from cream to dark brown, whilst the flesh goes an anemic cream colour, the green simply fades away...

The details of the contents are written by hand or typed (depending on when it was housed) on strips of paper inside the jar, so as not to obscure the view of the specimen. As a result the words are sometimes visible in the photograph. We are presented with a puzzle to solve - like evidence at a crime scene - to piece together or attach new meaning to as we see fit.

Visitor's to the current exhibition have all seen the most remarkable things within her photographs. Although I know this work very well, there is nothing better than seeing it on the wall, to get to know it all over again & find new depths inside the clear liquid. This is often aided by others comments. As a gallerist, it is wonderful to hear the remarks her photographs provoke & the conversations that follow. Brittain herself pointed out a similar experience a collector gave for choosing the print pictured here. They said that the bubbles in the test tube had miniature seascapes within them! They were right! Since then, whenever I look at this print that is what I see too.

Imagination is such a glorious thing. I once had a pair of ugly curtains in my bedroom. They had huge vertical columns of burgundy flowers (30cm wide, huge flowers) edged in dark brown lines, with a background of horizontal oatmeal textured fine lines, yurgh! However, I grew to love these curtains when I couldn't sleep. I would look at the negative spaces between the flowers & find things within them. As I recall there was a goat, a shape like the UK & a leotard amongst other things. Staring at these curtains I must have passed countless hours in the insomnia-addled evenings of my teenage years. When we moved house I said goodbye & good riddance to the nylon/cotton mix eyesores. However, years later in a charity shop in Grenwich I came across them again! (Well probably not the same ones, but the same fabric.) I was filled with elation & even considered buying them! A pair of curtains revealed what a sentimental fool I am, but also reminded me of the importance of an active imagination.

I urge you to take a long hard look at Brittain Bright's photographs ( there are a few images on her website too) & see the countless possibilities that the jars reveal to you. Enjoy the wonders her images unearth & post it on Twitter, shout about them on Facebook& best of all see them for yourself in the gallery. Amaze me, you know you want to!

Sunday, 11 July 2010

This is NOT the Chelsea Flower Show, it's better!

The set-up of our current show at the gallery was a team effort with help from our dedicated & talented interns Mary & Radi ,curator Will Hewson & photographer Magnus Arrevad, could never have looked so fantastic as result. I must take this opportunity to thank them from the heart for all the hours they cheerfully put in. The space has yet again been transformed by the new show and radiates with glorious colour throughout. Magnus' photographs of the night are wonderful!

After a quick change & glamorous make-up, hair complete with flowers Mary and myself were ready to go! The picture of us both was taken in the cab on the way back to the gallery.

After a fantastic opening night, 'This Is Not The Chelsea Flower Show' has been busy with visitors & sales. Thank you to all those who attended & for the wonderful comments on all of the work on display. Artists Brittain Bright, Lisa Creagh, Neeta Madahar & Kate Owens were all in attendance & were busy answering questions all evening from the press & public. It was a carcophony of flowers as many guests entered into the spirit of the night, wearing flowers in their hair, buttonholes & on their clothes. Matthew Barnett also asked people what their favourite flower was see the results on Youtube.

The Japanese magazine Pen is featuring us in their September Issue, which shall be on their stand at Tokyo Photo Fair 2010 in September. We look forward to seeing the magazine when it is released.

From the moment you approach the gallery the flowers prevail. Firstly, there is the beautiful window display by The Black Poppy in a frame in the window. It is striking & bespoke for the gallery. I shall be sad to see it go when the show ends. It is not what is seems with the most incredibly believable fake flowers to compliment our exhibition. The general public are bemused that they have yet to wilt, but this isn't a flower show as we know it!

Upstairs we have 2 pieces by Neeta Madahar from her Flora series. Their impressive beauty is mesmerizing. No, before you ask the image of me is not on display, I am not that vain! The 2 we have are Sharon with Peonies & Christina with Freesias (as pictured). They are well worth seeing in the flesh due to their size, complete with all their stunning 5x4 detail.

Kate Owens 28 Day Flower Diary is on display in the form of 6 large framed prints. The whole set of 28 prints is also available in a superb lime green portfolio, in an edition of 12. Buy early to avoid disappointment as these will go fast. Each visitor had their favorite on display & was quite revealing, often surprising. The flowers (50% of which she has grown herself) have been arranged into bouquets -alongside diary entries & the flowers meanings - Owens explores the inherently personal attributes & associations we as individuals have with certain flowers. Personally, I find the red rose reminds me of death (note to admirers, NEVER give me a red rose) but - when given to someone else - very romantic.

Lisa Creagh's mammoth piece from her series The Instant Garden: Charting the territory between the photographic and the virtual is an image that reveals itself slowly as the symmetry gives way before your eyes to expose nuances of difference. The 6 small works also on display have proved just as popular as their intimate yet complex compositions draw the viewer into her world of controlled natural forms. As the specimens

Downstairs we have a fabulous, extremely rare oversized Dora Maar print & a stunning Robert Mapplethorpe, as well as 6 amazing photographs from Eikoh Hosoe's series Ordeal By Roses (Barakei). This work has haunted me for many years as an avid fan of both Hosoe & Yukio Mishima. Watch this fascinating video on Youtube. One of Mishima's many novels Spring Snow - one of my favorites - was also the subject of a Jeff Wall photograph After 'Spring Snow' by Yukio Mishima, Chapter 34. There is an interesting video about it on the Tate website. My copy is pictured here with a picture of the man himself on the cover looking quite fierce!

Finally, last but by no means least is the darkly evocative series Spirit Collection by Brittain Bright. Again, as in the case of Kate Owens, Brittain's work has received a very strong response with visitors being strongly drawn to certain images. Because of the abstract nature of the plants, distorted by the jars that house them, suspended in 'Kew Mix' they take on many forms, likened to many things from squids, elephant skulls, stick insects, jellyfish & seascapes. The name of the collection comes fro the initial substance white spirit that was used originally in 1880 when the collection began.

So do come & see this exhibition & see for yourself the varied, dynamic & breathtaking work on display. I look forward to welcoming you Diemar/Noble.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Recontre Arles 2010

It was a brief visit to Arles this year, but as usual a worthwhile one. After a great day looking at all the shows in the town, the heat was enough to stop anyone in their tracks, but we struggled on.
The highlight of the exhibitions for me were the Ernst Haas and Polaroid shows. Such wonderful colour and compositions. Although some of the images seemed dated with their ideas for viewing now, in context they were groundbreaking at the time.

On Saturday evening the town was filled with hundreds of people parading through in national dress and quite a sight to see, I hope it happens again next year and I have a better camera to capture it fully. The blurred smile of a chap with his fake horse reminded me of a Goya painting, hence my choice.

The lovely portrait of Yvonne De Rosa is holding an issue of Foam Magazine on display in Arles, with Lluís Artús' image from the Beach series.

By far my favourite exhibition experience was the shooting gallery in the SHOOT! EXISTENTIAL PHOTOGRAPHY exhibition - whereby you have 3 pellets to shoot a target. As each round is fired a camera records a picture of you as once popular in post-war American fun fairs. If you hit the target you are rewarded with a photo and your target. I was a good shot (those archery lessons came in useful after all) and proudly showed off my 'killer' photo.

Then there were the reviews! Wow what a selection. 10 reviews per session, 20 per day so quite a long day. The work varied dramatically in both subject and quality. It is always a great exercise to keep my photography knowledge supple. This year a selection of work was displayed by the reviewers in an exhibition in the new location for the reviews which was much cooler than last year, thank god. Less of a chicken-run setup and more of a personal one-on-one with a large table for each reviewer which helped no end when larger works needed more room to view. I think next year I shall stay much longer and see more work as I really enjoy the process. It is even better when people take your advice and you see the results the following year.

If you missed the opening fortnight never fear, the shows are on till the end of summer, worth a visit if you happen to be in the south of France this year.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Collaborating with an Angel Part 7

So I'm sure you are wondering what happened to the portrait. Well when we looked at the results of the first shoot I did look fabulous and all but there were a few things that we wanted to change. So the dreaded 'R' word was uttered: RE-SHOOT!!!!
The bracelets were too Indian looking and my love of the Japanese aesthetic was not coming through strongly enough. So back to the drawing board, literally. My original design for the dress (drawn on the way home on the tube, so excuse the draftsmanship) minus the crazy collar (less 'Snow White' that way). Then Neeta found some amazing jewelery from a store in Bath called Alexandra May. It was very hard to part with it after the shoot. The shoot was much easier second time around as I knew what to expect. The make-up was done with an added midnight blue eyeshadow I brought, for the full Liz Taylor effect. I had the routine down pat much quicker for the picture, (it became a mantra) it went as follows: turn side on - breathe in - look at the hat - eyes to the camera - follow Neeta's suggestion. What was her suggestion you ask? Well it varied from 'sultry eyes' to 'sultry eyes, knowing smile' or 'knowing smile eyebrow raised'. She called me Liz through the whole shoot, to fully channel Ms Taylor. I think it worked. We ended up with a fantastic array of pictures and 30 photo's, polaroids and digital shots later it was a rap. I awaited the final result the following week to see the fruits of our labours. The 4 hours attached to the set was well worth it. The end of the day was emotional for all concerned as it was the last in the series of 17. There will be a book available from Nazraeli in the summer. I'll surely let you know when it is released. I must take this opportunity to thans everyone who was on the shoots for making me feel like a goddess all day.As you can see the resulting image is incredible. It is hard to see it as me! (The image is provided by Neeta Madahar and is her copyright.) Neeta, my biggest thanks go to you for making me beautiful and choosing me as one of your sitters, I will be eternally grateful.

Threads for thought

How wonderful that the Threads show has been so well received by the press and public alike. The Evening Standard were enamored with the William Klein images of sultry temptresses smoking in stylish hats and through veils. Metro also fell for the charms of Klein. A fellow blogger, Fashion Is My Muse has also posted a delightful review of the exhibition and the gallery itself, so thank you, I hope to meet them soon. Many of the vintage works in the exhibition are the only known vintage prints, so they are as rare as they are truly beautiful. The work is framed in some cases, with visible notes from the photographer to indicate where to crop the image or comments on the image itself. There is a glorious photograph by Norman Parkinson of a model in a rather fetching bikini underwater which is extraordinary. I Photo Central has showcased the exhibition, so do look here for a preview of the show. The truly imaginative devices used by these 6 masters - long before the likes of photoshop came and invaded fashion photography - are displayed here to great effect. Bourdin's delicate use of placement and gesture, the elegance of Steichen's model who appears like a porcelain doll, Blumendfeld's surreal use of mirrors all so different and inventive, yet compliment each other so well. Even if fashion is not your thing, it is worth seeing the exhibition just to see how these masters did it with lights, make-up and a lens. I think that many contemporary photographers' could learn a lot from these images. Parkinson's 'Fan Dress' is an image one can't help being drawn to. To quote the mighty Raymond Chandler, "It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window." Farewell, My Lovely (Chapter 13)

Monday, 26 April 2010

Collaborating with an Angel Part 6

OK so it's been a long time and the stage is set for the first shoot, yes there is more to come....
apologies for the delay, my life has run away with me a bit. The day was long but fascinating and tiring, both physically and emotionally. I have a new found respect for models. Standing still for extended periods of time under lights with a group of people watching (albeit a lovely group of people) is exhausting. 9am start and straight into hair and makeup. To create a geisha-style hairstyle mean having various lengths of tights stuffed with bubble wrap inside them inserted onto my noggin to be covered with my own hair to 'big it up' so to speak. False eyelashes, heavy makeup to withstand the lights and lots of chatting with the fabulous Kelly to create the glamorous look needed for the portrait.

There were several tests with me in the set as it was being assembled and lit throughout the day to check for positioning. After lunch and the final touch-ups we were ready to go..

The dress had been carefully covered with irises, I was pinned in and in position, then the hard work began. I had to overcome sudden nerves as the camera was loaded each time, the reality of the situation suddenly came over me after spending so long preparing and discussing the portrait it was really happening. The beautiful butterflies (real ones attached to twisted coloured wires) were great to focus on and distract me from the rest of the movement on set. Neeta gave me reassuring words of encouragement as I tried to channel the spirit of our inspiration Liz Taylor. The word 'wonderment' was used a lot as I had to look at the the butterfly as if it had just caught my attention and filled me with awe and surprise. Half way through this I had chance for a break and my first peek at a Polaroid of myself. Neeta looked at me with expectation and I looked at myself...

It's hard to describe, but despite all the work I couldn't see myself in it. By that I mean my identity had altered so much I didn't feel comfortable with it. I felt awful. Neeta sensed something was wrong and was upfront with me and said that I should tell her honestly how I felt about it. It was then that my emotions got the better of me and I felt so embarrassed. everyone on set took it in their stride announcing that everyone had pretty much done the same thing and there was no need to feel bad about it. All we had to do was to change a few things. So after a 5 minute breather outside it was back in make-up (me constantly worried I was being a prima donna) to let down a few more curls from my hairdo so that I was more 'me'. That's all it took and we were back on track.

It was 8pm by the time all 30 shots, digital shots and Polaroids had been taken. I was aching but glad that we had done it. Then everyone had to play in the set before it was dismantled. After choosing a Polaroid to take home and the removal of make-up, packing of cars, I hopped in with Vicky to head back to London, thinking this was the last time I would be 'Laura with Irises' for real.... little did I know there was more to come.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Ed Kashi

With the impending Ed Kashi Prix Pictet commission coming up next week at the gallery I am looking forward to the event on Wednesday evening. He will be in conversation with Francis Hodgson and Mark Jacobs. I know Francis and love his direct approach to photography and his critique of it. No doubt he will be asking probing questions about Ed Kashi's experiences. Mark Jacobs also has a fluid approach to the artform that so many of us appreciate. There are only 50 places for the event and more than half are already taken. If you want to go please email Pictet at asap before all the places go. There is also a book priced at only £5 which will be available to buy and get signed on the night.

Here is some info on the commission and the event:

Madagascar - A Land Out of Balance
The Prix Pictet Commission is an invitation for a photographer, chosen from the Prix Pictet shortlist, to create a portfolio of images related to the theme of the award in association with a charity supported by Pictet. For 2009, Pictet chose to work with Azafady, a UK charity and Malagasy-registered NGO that helps the poorest communities in Madagascar develop sustainable ways of living and increase local access to healthcare and education.

American photographer Ed Kashi was awarded the 2009 Commission. The resulting portfolio of photographs, Madagascar - A Land Out of Balance, will be premiered at Diemar/Noble Photography in London from 20 April – 1 May 2010.
Kashi’s pictures chronicle the compromised beauty of this threatened island, described as one of the greatest present-day ecological disasters yet recorded. As the writer Helena Drysdale says in her catalogue essay to accompany the exhibition, these photographs show a deteriorating situation ‘In the south, the failure of the rains has speeded up the desertification. The Masoala Peninsular has become a national park, but this has not prevented the pillaging of the rainforests by illegal loggers – aided by French shippers and the Malagasy government – or the subsistence farmers’ slash and burn. Madagascar’s soil continues to bleed unquenched into the Indian Ocean, and the Great Red Island slowly but inexorably dies.'

The Prix Pictet Secretariat, Candlestar, 8 Hammersmith Broadway, London, W6 7AL +44 (0) 20 8741 6025

I look forward to seeing you.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Collaborating with an Angel Part 5

I know it has been a long time since my last post and I do apologise prefusely. As you may imagine busy times and a new show has kept me on the straight and narrow, but for a 2 day extravaganza in Southampton! Yes the shoot.
The images in this blog episode are kindly provided by the mighty Neeta Madahar, with some of mine thrown in too.

To sum up the 2 days in as few words as possible: Anticipation followed by exhilaration, adventures, exhaustion and elation.

The 1st day began with a visit to the nail technician to make my nails look like iris petals, well plastic ones (I can never be trusted to keep my nails long, all the labouring work I do see's to that) then back to the Solent Campus to open and shape the crepe paper iris's. I spent the day trying to be useful with false nails on, no mean feat I can tell you. The iris shaping session was great fun and myself, Neeta, Kelly (make-up/hair stylist) and Somali (stylist) and Vicki (lighting genius) all sat bending petals and telling comedy tales. By the end of the day we all suitably giggly and in celebratory mood for the shoot the following day. A bottle of wine was opened (with the aid of a pair of scissors) to toast the day and a job well done.

I braced myself for the big day...

Monday, 8 March 2010

Marcus Doyle, Ten Years in the making...

As you may already know, Diemar/Noble Photography is proud to present Marcus Doyle's exhibition 'The House Martin and the Cinema' this week, opening on Thursday. The show is a retrospective look at his work over the last decade including photographs never displayed in the UK before. What you may not know are my personal thoughts on his work. I could wax lyrical for days about each and every image he has taken, but I will not. Instead I want to talk about one image in particular that really blew me away the first time I saw it.

As a painter Marcus and myself have had many conversations about colour. When I see a colour I like, my instant reaction is to mix the colour in my head as if it were paint on a palette. Marcus has a beautiful palette to work from, ie: nature, full of amazing shades and tones. The colours that come up in conversation most frequently are the following: prussian blue, Paynes grey, Naples yellow and viridian green. All favorites of mine. Then there is the blue, it's almost a Klein blue but not quite, it is a Doyle hue, the cinema is radiating it. The oh so quiet corridor curving towards the screen entrance out of view is punctuated by the white rail, that leads the eye into the the darkness. I can meditate on this image for hours. The colour appears like a layer of deep cobalt blue pigment, that is so dense I could sink my teeth into it. If something is good enough I always want to bite it, like testing a coin to see if it is real, there is a primal urge to do this with a great work of art. A random confession, but true all the same.

So rarely do we in our busy lives stop and meditate upon something or somewhere. For many standing in a gallery and contemplating a work of art is the closest we come to some kind of meditative state. This mental state is the beginning of further considerations about the wider experience of the world that we live in. There is nothing more satisfying than leaving a gallery with a head full of ideas that weren't there before entering it.

The Blue Cinema is more than a corridor, it is a space where thoughts and ideas can become miraculously projected into, to seek out in the darkness. The nervous excitement waiting to go in and see a film at the cinema is recaptured here with magical undertones. Not to mention the immense charm and simplicity of it all, so difficult to capture on film, so expertly done by Doyle. By choosing such a spot to photograph, the imagination is left to run riot down the blue corridor and beyond...

What is playing, or about to play could be anything, happy, sad, funny, poetic. It depends on how I am feeling each day. The image seems to suit every mood and just immersing myself in the colour is often still...

Come and see the work in the flesh, this jpeg can never do it justice. Standing in front of the real thing is such a joy and see for yourself what the darkness illuminates in your own mind.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Collaborating with an Angel Part 4

So now we are at the next stage which is the hair and makeup. Yes the hardest bit of all making me look good. The photo's are kindly taken by Neeta Madahar, so I give credit where credit is due. In the background you can see Kelly Cox who will be doing the hair and makeup. The look you see here has altered somewhat since it was taken but you can get some idea. Also finally a shot of the crepe paper irises we so diligently slaved over all weekend and Neeta has kept going with them this week too!

We tried the jewelry on and played with different ideas regarding the hair which is now going to be up in a geisha style with a curly twist. (Well, you see what they have to work with) The false eyelashes on this photo have been upgraded to some expensive Shu Uemura numbers which look very fabulous. I was also in my corset for much of the afternoon with the top half of the dress which has now been made to fit me perfectly. Never has so much effort gone into every detail of a shoot. It makes me feel very special I must say. Far more than I deserve. The nails (which are false in case I break some in the days leading up to the shoot) will be attached tomorrow by Kelly then off to the nail bar to get them painted like the iris petals. I shall be taking a real and fake one with me to show the nail technician. This girly business is quite exhausting. I have no idea how the stars keep up with it all. So the look is established, the work and prep has been done. Tomorrow will be the set build and lighting tests, followed by the shoot on Saturday. Keep your fingers crossed, that the next installment will be a happy one and all goes well...