Monday, 29 August 2011

Bertil Nilsson 'Undisclosed' THE LAUNCH IS COMING!

Hello faithful readers,

Just thought I could not get through a Bank Holiday without blogging! As many of you may know we have a wonderful book launch coming up this Wed 6.30pm for Bertil Nilsson's book launch. The book: Undisclosed
Images of the Contemporary Circus Artist
is a marvellous insight into the complex world of the circus performer. Writing the essay was a joy as there were so many images to look at & really imaginative compositions to absorb. The finished book is beautiful, with a really wonderful print quality & inset cover. I am so pleased to have played a part in the project & look forward to seeing you at the launch. We do have limited space as there are a lot of people keen to come as the book following has gone viral online so please RSVP:

For more details & examples of page spreads please click HERE!

Essay by Laura Noble
Foreword by Daniele Finzi Pasca
Text in English and French
28 x 24 cm / 11 x 9.5 in.
140 pages, 92 b+w photographs
Casebound hardcover
Duotone offset printing
Published by Canalside Books
ISBN: 978-0956887207
Edition of 1000
Publication date: 1st September 2011

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Contemplating the last week of the show in light of recent events in the Capitol & curating 53 works...

©Laura Noble

After a tumultuous time in the fair city of London, I have to say that I have been comforted by seeing images of London in the gallery on display in 'The Fitzrovia Photography Prize'. For those of you who haven't been to see it I urge you to visit in the next week as the last day is on Saturday August 20th. (opening hours Tues -Sat 11-6)

All taken 'Within A Mile' of the gallery you may well recognize many of the places, but I can guarantee that there will be aces you don't also. One image is taken through a microscope, another inside the room at the Savoy during the refurb that Claude Monet famously stayed in (see article about it here) & paint the view, extraordinary. Talking of extraordinary we recently received press from the Stylist magazine website, which praised the show & displays several of the images under the title, 'Extraordinary London'.

After spending time watching, listening, reading & discussing the horrible occurrences of late I was inspired & deeply moved by those helping with the cleanup of the city, many generous offers of help & money by citizens to help those affected.

I have chosen just a few pictures as a teaser to speak about so as to let you see the rest for yourself.

Berwick Street
© Julian Wakeling: Image Courtesy of Diemar/Noble Photography, London

I must of course speak about the winning photo first. This image jumped out when judging the hundreds of entries we received & was the image that had to be beaten to compete for the 1st prize. Taken on Berwick Street, the exquisite face of a woman is highlighted by the reflection given by the less romantic sign on the opposite wall notifying people that the 'toilets were for customers only' in the cafe he was in at the time. However, wether you have this information or not it still remains a haunting yet beautiful vision. A glimpse of a face through the re-enforced glass which appears like a barrier or even a veil with which to look through heightens the fleeting moment's precious capture.

"Red tabletop through restaurant window partially obscured by condensation"
© George Hill: Image Courtesy of Diemar/Noble Photography, London

George Hill's glorious image of a cafe shot through condensation reminded me of some of Saul Leiter's work (one of my favourite artists - I feel another blog coming on...) who's immaculate eye caught moments on the streets, transport & cafes of New York. The common bond between the two for me is not just that George has photographed similar subject matter but that she has carefully composed this image in light of it composition & attention to the colour pallet which evenly bounces warm & cool colours against one another & back again. The tabletop bisects the scene sloped on a gentle diagonal to further balance the image, pressed against the window, bringing the inside out. The condensation acts as a wonderful textured filter to break up the colours inside into soft forms, recognisable by their familiar shape not details, fractured by the water droplets on the glass.

Cold Night
Soho, London 2004
© Richard Bram: Image Courtesy of Diemar/Noble Photography, London

Richard Bram's caption with his photograph reads:

"I was hurrying through the back street of Soho from Tottenham Court Road to meet my wife at Andrew Edmunds for dinner on a bitter cold night with freezing rain, the rime visible glittereng on the metal tables and chairs. As I passed the fogged window of a café, I observed the couple inside looking like ghosts and made two frames."

What I love about this image is that we only see what we need to in order to register what is going on inside whilst leaving enough to the imagination to create a possible narrative (a romantic one in my case, life's too short to create miserable scenarios, there are enough of those in real life) as to the connection these two share.

You can alsoBram's work on display at the Museum of London's, London Street Photography exhibition, which is well worth a visit, perhaps compare the 2 shows & see how different the approach is to the genre. (if you do, please post a comment on this blog, all feedback is really appreciated).

This insight into a street photographer's observations of the world are invaluable to the budding street photographer. I have recently had to think about this myself whilst on my to & from the gallery I have been snapping with my phone little moments of fascination to add to the gallery's Twitter feed. It has been a wonderful surprise that there was no shortage of things to photograph & I am now quite hooked!

Tory Scum
©Olivia Spooner

I haven't been able to come close to the fantastic image entered by Olivia Spooner, whose 'Tory Scum' photo seems topical with recent events in mind. I suspect it was not up for very long before the high pressure water-jet washed it away. Thank goodness for astute street photographers' who capture street ephemera in times of upheaval. With news happening so fast, the political landscape changes daily, but also the physical landscape. The importance of recording these changes become imperative as well as informative when media sometimes is slow to keep up with live feeds from the general public. As I mentioned in my previous post, images can capture the world's imagination with clear, concise bold imagery. Spooner is definitely in this category. I have just begun following her blog which is very interesting also. (Her 'Dropped' series is fun too)

Ok so onto less dramatic things...
Here are some of my paltry efforts:

©Laura Noble

OK, the first is cakes, not surprising as I love 'em. However, I do have several reasons for photographing them.
1.If I take a picture rather than buying one I not only get to stop adding inches to the waistline, I can see them as a 'feast for the eyes' to be enjoyed at any time!
2.I do have many pics like this whenever I see a good cake display, they are so lovely to look at, with amazing colours & textures to drool over, imagining how good they taste. Let's face it, most are not as good as they look when you get right down to it. I also am not good at making my mind up, so would be in a jam trying to decide anyway.
3.As a huge fan of Wayne Thiebaud, my passion for the way cakes look was ignited upon seeing his incredible paintings.
4.They are wonderful subjects from a compositional perspective, with great colours, shapes, shadows, textures, wonderful joyous still life's & a lovely change from vases.

©Laura Noble

Next the fantstically designed seat on one train on the central line last week. I have no idea why there isn't more of these on every train in the right place as many visitors may not speak or read english but could get the purpose of this instantly! As a bit of design, the colours worked great together too, so I easily composed this shot. I hope it is pleasing to enjoy for the colours alone, regardless of the subject.

©Laura Noble

Then the fantastic Oswald Boateng window display in his Saville Row store, lit beautifully at night, to show the deconstructed pieces of his yellow jacket. This is a very knowing setup, picturing the jacket as a work of art, not just an item of clothing. In creating this deconstruction we are reminded of cubism. Walking past these expensive shops at night when they are closed has become one of my favourite pastimes as I can peer to my hearts content & take lots of pics, drawing inspiration from the window dresser's who create them as well as the items themselves. Placing it beneath the picture above, I love that the figure on the seat & the position of the jacket mimic each other too.

©Laura Noble

Still on the subject of window displays & deconstruction - or in this case destruction - another wonderfully simple window which caught my eye & my funny bone was this one. As a proud Northerner I couldn't resist cropping the red letters to spell 'ALE' instead of SALE!

Shop on Regent Street
© David Axelbank: Image Courtesy of Diemar/Noble Photography, London

Another window, this time on Regent Street, becomes a magical other-worldly moment in David Axelbank's hands. The square glass tiles outside the store provide a wonderful pattern across the ground under the mannequins' feet. This could easily be a theatre set. Some kind of yellow light flickers on the walls, with only a partial view of the mannequin again a new narrative has been constructed from quite an abstract composition.

©Laura Noble

So composing 53 different photographer's works to co-incide in the same space without jarring visually. The sign of great curation is that you don't notice it as it feels perfectly natural. When you see a wall display with multiple images upon it, they should display connections, links to one another in order to visually please the eye at first glance & reveal relationships upon much closer inspection. When deciding where to place these works, myself & my assistant curator Eleanor Kelly had a long day (11am - 11pm) deciding & finalising the hang of the show.

We decided that each wall was to be approached individually without a set format (which would have become visually dull & repetitive) & use heights & distances to add coherence to the final display. The space between works was the same, but the arrangements differed as grouping themes & balancing palettes to avoid bad placements.

©Laura Noble

Here is the drawing I made to use for measurements & to show the final appearance as I saw it. We could lay out the work on the floor & then put it up. As the central works were all portrait apart from the 2 which were landscape, therefore it worked best setting the corners in a little bit to give it a more circular feel, keeping the eye moving from one image to another. This circular effect gave a fluidity to the display, rendering a less rigid appearance.

©Laura Noble

The central image is predominantly yellow, thus acted like a central beacon to the display. Either side of this a single figure walking toward the central picture helps to create some symmetry. The green tones in each of the four corners harmonise the set of 9 with the red phone box picking up the red in the writing on the wall of the work above it. When you look at these relationships (after a LOT of swopping & changing the arrangement) it soon becomes clear when it is right.

But don't take my word for it, come & see for yourself. I look forward to your responses. If the comment book in the gallery is anything to go by, you should be in for a treat!

Monday, 8 August 2011

What makes a good photo? Part 2 The Power of Composition in light of current events...

Photograph: Amy Weston/

Well emotional imagery indeed with this photographer capturing a shocking image of a woman jumping from a building to the waiting Fire fighters below. She speaks about her experience here. Why is it so good? Well there are many things here that at first may not be evident. Firstly, the shock that this is the result of mindless violence in the UK. Secondly, the event is not the result of terrorism. It reminds us of some of the pictures taken on 9/11.

I have just spotted this today (as I began writing this yesterday) on the BBC news website. Very telling.

The now famous 'falling man' photograph by Richard Drew inspired an entire documentary. Never underestimate the power that an image can weald. If you look at the way in which this image was used in the poster promoting the film, you can see why it is so powerful, despite the crop. THere is a great article about it in Esquire, worth the look if you have the time to read it.

There are 2 very recognisable elements here, a man & the tower. The architecture of the Twin Towers is instantly recognisable. He is falling in a very angular shape which compositionally is very strong. He looks rigid, like the building he jumped from until it came crashing down that fateful day. Both images have the simple shapes of a figure against a strong block of colour. So without too many details we register, thus can remember, recall the image at once.

These people are not recognisable so can be projected upon, with anyone imagining how they would feel if it were someone they knew. It therefore becomes relevant to all.

There is no graphic violence, blood or gore & all the more powerful for it.

Photograph: Kerim Okten/EPA
Here is an image by Kerim Okten for the Guardian. It is just as powerful, scary, maybe it could be said procuring the fear felt by Londoners throughout the capitol. It also displays the organised element who are intent upon criminal damage. Again 2 simple elements for the eye to focus on & remember. This is by no means a rule, but simplicity works, information & clarity do much to get a message or event across.

This is by no means a new thing.

I have ben listening to the radio, hearing angry residents venting their dismay in the current chaos that London finds itself in. The power of the internet, twitter & pictures taken by the public have really come into their own. An anonymous individual has used Tumblr to launch 'catchalooter' to show the full power of the public.

The following statement is featured on the site:

Collating all images of looters from the londonriots. Get me on @CatchaLooter. If you recognise anyone, contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, or preferably via

This site does not support vigilante action; merely using social media to collate all images in one place.

It should also be clear that a photo appearing here does is not an indication of guilt in any way; wearing a balaclava and carrying a bag of stuff isn't illegal, nor is it evidence of looting. Just to be clear.

By holding fast & fighting back with the technology at our disposal a lot can be exposed if only to illustrate the events of recent days. It doesn't however diminish the importance of looking at this issue beyond blaming the criminals & looking at the causes. Lets hope that when all this dies down the media digs deeper into the problems that this has brought into the open. Use your camera, but be careful. Several photographers & reporters have been attacked.

There is much more to write on this & the subjects covered.

Till the next blog...

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Cork Street Open 2011, judging the highlights etc..

I was recently asked to be a judge for the annual 'Cork Street Open', with over 2,100 entries! All the proceeds go to charity, the beneficiary this year being PAPYRUS, who extend support to young people dealing with suicide, depression or emotional distress. Their work is extremely important & buying art from the show will go a long way to help.

As you can imagine it was a huge job, with 4 judges in total and a lot of work to look at. The submissions were varied and there were some real surprises amongst them. There was heated debate amongst the judges, as you might expect for such a massive amount of work to agree upon. You may like to read the blog entry by the Daily Mirror columnist for a view from the other side of the trenches! Personally, I am of the opinion that the vibrancy of our adjudication is proof that we were taking our roles seriously enough to disagree when we felt strongly about a piece of work. Individually we fought our corners so that, together, hopefully, we got it right - as right as personal taste allows. This, however, is for the audience to decide.

I have put only a fraction of the works I liked here in this blog, but please go & see them for yourself if you can, as reproductions never equal seeing something 'in the flesh'. Naturally, the first image is the photography prize winner that I had been asked to choose. This was an instant favourite for its beauty & simplicity. The paper aeroplanes encircling the tree shrouded in a light mist create a mysterious narrative, which is achieved without fancy photoshop trickery of any kind. A photograph of an installation whose construction can be understood reminded me of the charming fashion images by Tim Walker, whose imagery & creative use of props really bring his photographs to life. I look forward to meeting Jo Metson Scott & Nicola Yeoman who made this.

Then there is the painting that truly makes me want to paint just by looking at it. ('Sweet Dreams 1' & 'Sweet Dreams 3' by Alex J Hanna) There is nothing like the surface of oil paint on canvas or board, reflecting the world in magical tones, light & shade bringing even the most ordinary things into another way of being. Two pillows did just that & again the simplicity imbued the work with a magical quality, worthy of prolonged viewing.

The Winner of 'Best In Show' was hotly debated, resulting in Simon Shepherd triumphing overall with his comically titled 'Divide & Conker'. It is a ceramic work, so much more delicate than it appears.

Still life works were the highlight for me, with wonderfully executed renderings of bottles in a stylistically strong work by Jo Harris.

Food stuffs, jewellery & traditional vases all preserved in paint - perhaps to enjoy beyond the life of the objects themselves - were a joy to behold.

The painting titled 'Sausages' may be small but it is perfectly formed. I loved it!

Portraiture was prevalent, however I have only chosen one here as it speaks to me more than most. The 1920's & 30's stylings of 'Portrait of Liis in Goggles' by Sally J Fuerst felt like a work made in that era & appealed to me although the sitter was no-one I know, with her green lens' these indirect windows upon her left much to the imagination. Thoughts of murder mysteries or perhaps Amelia Earhart with a gothic twist, riveted my gaze.

Further mysteries ensued, with the Victorian influenced gloves pleading in an antiqued display case, conjuring Sherlock Holmes & Jack the Ripper into the proceedings. Technically stunning, with undertones of the late great Louise Bourgeois in her work 'Hand' 2001(Red fabric, wood, glass and steel 12.5 x 21 x 14 inches). The aptly named Eliza Bennett could use her name to step straight into a Victorian novel herself, wonderfully suited to her work. 'Pleading Affluenza' is not just a pair of gloves, they have been made from scratch to alter the proportions of the hands, elongating the fingers so as to emphasise the pleading gesture they make. Even the brass plate on the front adds to its authentic feel.

Two landscapes really made impressions for similar reasons. Firstly, the strange choice of a 'Hedge In Winter, Tregannick Farm' by Ryan Rodgers blocking what looks like a more traditional view of the countryside is more intriguing for it.

I also couldn't resist the conceptually strong & refreshing (excuse the pun) painted miniatures inside bottle tops titled 'Landscape For Emergency' by Iguna Gremzde. They were a welcome view during the hot sticky evening we spent judging in the Metropolis that is London.

Other small works which charmed were the cotton bud sculpture by Emily Margot & a tiny blue tit/plane titled simply as Silver Bird' by W M Hudson.

Animals & insects featured heavily in the entries we saw including a stunning drawing of a fly squashed inside a Book of Common Prayer.

What could have been the ultimate 'Best In Show' was the oddly pleasing 'Another Thursday on the Farm' by Georgia H Fiennes, with a pig, asparagus, blackbird stacked painting that has to be seen.

The quiet subtly fascinating 'You Are What You Eat - Gazelle' by Merlin Evans (another wonderful name) could easily be lost amongst the louder imagery on display, but well worth a close look.

'Nightflyers' by Sharifa Brooks Read won the 'Intaglio Printmakers Award' which pleased me no end as the combination of a few of my favourite things (planes, origami, flight, trains, 1920's & 30's design) all culminated in a beautiful print which is more than worthy of a prize.

Finally the carefully etched lines on metal created by Ben A Gooding are titled according to the number of lines on display (I must take his word for this, life is far too short to count them) are perfect to reflect upon (quite literally) decorative & despite appearances anything other than square.

Picture credits:
Winners of the Photography Award chosen by yours truly: 'Formations' by Jo Metson Scott & Nicola Yeoman
'Sweet Dreams 1' by Alex J Hanna
'Sweet Dreams 3' by Alex J Hanna
Winner of Best in Show:'Divide & Conker' by Simon Shepherd
'10 Bottles' by Jo Harris
'Sausages' by Amanda Coleman
'Four Shallots' by Rosemary Lewis
'Shell and Brown ribbon' by Rosemary Lewis
'Still Life - Vases' by Rusty Ashman
'Portrait of Liis in Goggles' by Sally J Fuerst
'Pleading Affluenza' by Eliza Bennett
The Founder & Director of 'The Cork Street Open' Kathryn Roberts, in front of 'Tranquillity VII' by Peter Goodhall
'Hedge In Winter, Tregannick Farm' by Ryan Rodgers
'Landscape For Emergency' by Iguna Gremzde
'Conglomeration' by Emily Marjot
Silver Bird' by W M Hudson
'Trapped I' Annie Ridd
'Another Thursday on the Farm' by Georgia H Fiennes
'You Are What You Eat - Gazelle' by Merlin Evans
Winner of the 'Intaglio Printmaker Prize' : 'Nightflyers' by Sharifa Brooks Read
'784' by Ben A Gooding (& detail of '784')

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

What makes a good photo? Part 1

I am always asked "What makes a good photo?"
Well this is subjective but I guess its something that has four key elements:
1. Composition (there are no hard fast rules these days, but you know when its right)
2. The subject is intruiging, interesting in an instant
3. You respond to emotionally (any emotion will do)
4. It holds your gaze & can be recalled from memory

There will always be things that are of no interest but that doesn't mean a picture cannot be recognised for its quality regardless. Here are two pictures, randomly chosen. Dear readers, I'm asking you "Are they good photos?"

Nothing more. I await your response & thoughts on the blog.

Remember, this is only Part 1, I may be playing devils advocate here but humour me.