Wednesday
Mar222017

EMPIRE STATE OF MIND

This year is the 200th birthday of the roller coaster, the first, "The Russian Mountains of Belleville" was built in Paris in 1817. This was little more than a hill and wheeled cart, since then they have become faster, higher and not for the faint hearted. For this reason I found myself at Thorpe Park for TNR and Taylor Herring to celebrate with a group of maintenance workers. 
 
I have been to the park many times and have been to the top of all of its roller coasters and you never quite remember how high they are till you are at the bottom looking up. This is never more true than when it comes to Stealth the fastest and second tallest in the UK, on which you are propelled 62 meters up at 80mph. However this time would be a little different, instead of being locked in to very secure carriage I would be travelling to the top a little slower in a box, suspended from a crane. There is nothing to quite describe the feeling of looking at open ended cage knowing that you are about to be hauled 205ft up in air like so much building material. 
 
 
This was nothing compared to maintenance workers who were climbing all the way up. They looked like the tiny dots of climbers starting the accent of Everest now I have no fear of heights so long I am not the one in control of getting me to them. I have to admit as we got to the top and I had to let go of the side to operate the camera my stomach did lurch but there is something about the camera that stops you from worrying about how high you are and makes you just appreciate the view. The wind of course was blowing us around all over the place so that we had to take turns shooting as the basket spun around but overall it was pretty calming. The maintenance workers were of course totally unfazed literally hanging around having some cake sat on top. Just like the iconic picture of the builders having lunch on a girder during construction of the empire state (sort of) apart from with safety equipment and zero chance of death.
So in short just another boring day at work suspended by a crane higher than Nelson's column having a discussion with some guys sat on top of roller coaster about how they have run out of prosecco at 7am.

Thursday
Feb162017

A CULTURE OF TRUTH

In a world where news is fake and people in power are trying to rewrite our past, present and future, we must find something to hold on to. Everything is spun one way or another for profit or power but newspapers and the wider press must find their place in this. It’s easy for people to call media outlets fake for their own ends, when there is so much bias in the industry, but it must be recognized that for the most part its function is the same as it always was, to show people the things they don't have time to see for themselves. As a photographer I would never willfully mislead with my photographs, either through photoshop or otherwise, not only from a moral stand point but also because the companies I work for would not tolerate it. As our work is called into question more and more - we must be beyond reproach.

Ok, so here is where I finally get to my point, there is one cure for a lack of trust in everything and everyone. Listen to all the opposing points of view, go and see it for yourself and then make your own mind up. Last week I did three jobs in three daysall at museums and art galleries, which seems to speak of the increasing trend of looking to culture to fill the gap that our lack of trust in other things has left. 

The first was at the Royal Academy who were opening Revolution: Russian Art 1917–1932 a show that seems to encapsulate both the uptopian and distopian vision of the Russian revolution. The art of this period is famous for its propaganda images showing dreamlike plenty and might of the workers but this is far from being a celebration of communism. The sheer breadth of objects from paintings and pots to gliders and whole flats shows a much more varied artistic expression than the simplistic view of the soviet state would lead to you expect. Most importantly though the show is punctuated by a dark space showing a film of all the people sent to gulags in Stalin's purges. Art can't be held responsible for atrocities but we still have the responsibility to show the whole story, something that I think the RA has done very well.

 

The second at the Science Museum was the launch of The Female Lead where I was sent by TNR. A panel of successful women had been brought together to speak to school children about their experience and the importance of positive role models for young girls. I have always been aware of equality issues not least in my own industry and have been told myself many times you can't do that, you will never succeed. However you don't realize till you listen to women who have challenged and overcome this just how different it is to be told not only that you personally wont achieve your dreams but that your sex is simply incapable of certain jobs. It is always worth looking at the attitudes of the past that we think are ridiculous and then looking at our own, to wonder why don't find them equally as ridiculous.

 

The third and last was the opening of Tunnel: The Archaeology of Crossrail, an exhibition at Museum of London Docklands. It is a collection of items discovered during the excavation of the Crossrail project to dig the Elizabeth Line. Now this is slightly different from the other two jobs I have talked about but no less important and perhaps even more relevant. The archaeological artifacts basically form spot history of the people of London from Mesolthic tools to marmalade jars even I recognize. This is not necessarily going challenge your perception of the history of London but these are real objects there for everyone to see. When it increasingly seems permissible to cast doubt on whether things happened or not, due to the fact we receive most of our information digitally, being able to almost literally lay your hands on the evidence is important.

 

This is all just my opinion, just a snapshot of a week at work and what it made me think about. My point is this: I feel very lucky in my job that it takes my to places I would not normally go and listen to opinions of people I would not normally come into contact with. I encourage you all to do the same.

Friday
Jan272017

Holocaust Memorial Day

Yesterday was Holocaust Memorial Day which I was covering for TNR and the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust. 

I will keep this one short as I think the subject speaks for itself. However in a atmosphere where just a couple hours before the world was set to remember the victims of Genocides throughout time, "the leader of the free world" felt comfortable extolling the virtues of torture, it is a tale worth telling. Especially if we consider that the results of elections and those elected can only be a mirror held up to the majority.                                          
I have photographed many survivors of Genocides across the globe with the Aegis Trust and others. In my experience they have a couple of things in common, determination to be full of life in the face of death and to tell of the horrors they have seen in order to stop it ever happening again. But happen it does, again and again.                                                                                                                                                     
I have no intention of this blog being a political one or of making wild comparisons between current world leaders and past perpetrators of crimes against humanity. However with the rise of divisive politics and isolationist sentiment, I think it is worth looking into the eyes of these people and considering what other people were willing to do to them because they decided their race, religion or tribe was less than. Scary isn't it, how the stereotyping of one group can lead to the murder of millions of individuals.
Saturday
Nov192016

PUNKS

This one does not need much waffle from me. Last Friday I was at Museum of London's debate of the future of punk as part of their Punk exhibition for TNR at PA. It was lively debate during which pretty much no body agreed with anyone else, very punk. If you ask me as a lover of all things metal and punk it has bright future, it may no longer be a mass movement but it is all the more subversive and important for that. Anyway, enough of that, here is little set of pictures I did of all the lovely people I met there.

Sunday
Nov132016

36 HOURS IN NEW YORK

I know, it sounds like a romantic comedy but let me assure that this is not at all romantic and only funny if your a satirist, then it is gold. This is a blog about how purely by chance I ended up in New York City the day the most hard fought and divisive presidential elections of our generation was finally decided.

Monday morning of last week I was busy photographing a Martian landscape in Trafalgar square (I know, I am constantly saying sentences that nobody ever says) when TNR Communications at PA gave me a call. "would you like to go to New York tomorrow morning?" errm yes, yes I would.

So the next morning I was on the early flight out of heathrow doing a mid air shoot for Virgin Atlantic, but that is story for another time. Having landed in the big apple, job done, I had a day and a half to myself before I flew back out. Lucky for me the eyes of the world were of course on NYC with both Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump in the city on eve of a momentous presidential appointment whatever the result. With no accreditation and a little more than a tourist as far as the American press were concerned I decided to go at things from a different angle. The heart of any real election is the voters, so I went out on the streets to document them watching the results coming in.

There was a relaxed atmosphere at the Rockefeller Centre and in Times Square as thousands of Hillary supporters gathered to watch what they expected to be the inauguration of the first female president of the USA. People chatted happily (apart from the NYPD telling me to get up off the floor every 2 seconds), surrounded by the stars and stripes, cheering every democrat state victory with no Trump supporters present at all. It became more and more tense as the results were consistently too close too call. There were never very many Trump supporters, New York being largely democrat and as senator Hilary's home ground but they increased noticeably as the night went on. You could almost see the moment it dawned on the crowd that Trump would win, there was a palpable feeling of dread before they started to drift away.

I did not see it out to the end, at midnight having been up over 24 hours and more than a little depressed over the now almost certain result  I headed for my hotel. What the legacy of this night will be remains to be seen, but you have wonder at a society that would rather elect a reality star than a woman.