Thursday, 30 September 2010

Atomic Exposure

Sometimes it's difficult to know what your looking at without a reference point of some kind to give you an idea of scale. For instance is this a macro image of a cancer cell or maybe Hubble's latest discovery taken at the furthest reaches of the Universe? Well neither in fact these are photos taken by Harold Edgerton of a series of atomic test explosions carried out by the US government in the Nevada desert and tropical atols during the 1950's, and the scale of these explosions are immense.

Harold Edgerton was a pioneer in the field of strobe photography, his pictures of bullets ripping through playing cards or bursting through apples, or of balloons at the crucial point of popping, or even the moment when a perfect miniature liquid crown is created when a drop of milk hits the surface toured the world appearing in Life magazine, bringing the beauty of nature to the general public much in the same way the work of Eadweard Muybridge did 60 years earlier.

After the war Edgerton co founded the company EG&G, which was contracted by the US Atomic Energy Commission to make a photographic record of their nuclear tests. This was not just a simple case of setting up a camera on a tripod and standing there waiting for the bang! No this was an altogether different kettle of fish that had never been tackled before. If you know anything about photography you know that at it's most basic level it is about controlling light. The amount of light that hits your film dictates what information is captured. The light given off by an atomic explosions is  famously quoted as being the equivalent of '1000 suns' which would burn through the film placed in any conventional camera. Edgertons problem was how to allow just a fraction of this light at the film, no mechanical shutter could move quickly enough to allow a fraction of this light in, so he and his team built a new camera that worked with a magnetic shutter that opened for a matter of nanoseconds (if your interested in the mechanics there is a small video here). These cameras were positioned on towers which were several miles from the detonation site and contorled from concrete bunkers.

I am in awe of not only the scientific achievement of Edgerton's work but also the raw beauty he captured in such a fearful and destructive event. I came across the images in this post on  The New York Times site. They recently ran a series of images by Edgerton's fellow camera man George Yoshitake who talks on the site about his experience of taking these pictures, it's well worth a look and listen.

Here are a few more of those incredible images. Click to enlarge them.

The small dots on the horizon are military tanks.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

The Age of Adz

I have just been listening to the new album from Sufjan Stevens. You all know of him already from his mesmerizing musical journeys through his prevoius two albums "Michigan" and "Come on feel the Illinoise", if you haven't where have you been?!

If you have then you are familiar with his soft sing song melodies, story telling lyrics all hung on a landscape of college band brass and gently plucked banjo. But 'The Age of Adz' isn't at all like this (apart from the first track which is familiar territory that lulls you into a false sense of security before the blippy synth wash of 'Too Much' and that is just a bit of a softener for the title track 'The age of Adz', anyway this is turning into a review I'll let you judge for yourself, the album is streaming in it's entirety here, put your headphones on and give it a listen!

Friday, 24 September 2010

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Murakami meets the Sun King

Photos : Gilles Truyens © EPV
The Chateau at Versailles has continued it's venture to make it not just touristic destination but a cultural one as well. After the exhibition by Jeff Koons last year they have invited Takashi Murakami to interact with the not so subtle surrounds of the Chateau and it seems more people object to him than to Mr Koons!

For some people it is just a step to far to turn a national monument into an exhibition space for Modern Art, the cheek of it, imagine what the king would say! It would be straight to La Bastille but now we are in the 21st century and being sent to Bastille isn't such a bad thing.

The Chateau of Versailles is by no means a subtle building, (infact as I type they are guilding the roof with real gold) and it is this factor that makes it a difficult space to exhibit art as there is so much more battling for your attention. With the Koons exhibition last year I came away with not so much a greater appreciation of his work but with a greater appreciation of the art of the curator. All the pieces sat perfectly in their environment, playfully interacting with the 'historical' artifacts that each room contained and judging from the images of the Murakami exhibition it looks like this has happened again and is a great factor for going to see the his work exhibited in Versailles. As he says himself about his exhibition;

"With a broad smile I invite you all to discover the wonderland of Versailles. I am the Cheshire cat that welcomes Alice in Wonderland with its diabolic smile, and chatters away as she wanders around the Château."

Here are a few pictures of what the exhibition looks like but I think it needs to be seen in person. 
Photos : Gilles Truyens © EPV

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Foundation HCB

Bresson's first Leica camera

One of my favourite galleries in Paris is the Henry Cartier Bresson Foundation in the 14eme. I suspect that everyone knows or has heard of Bresson, if not by name then by his photography. Anyway tucked down a little Parisian side street is the Foundation HCB. There they hold regular exhibitions of photography that possesses the same spirit as Bresson's work, usually street photography in black and white.
They also hold conversations on the first Wednesday of each month on various topics on and around photography and are free. The next is to be held on Wednesday, October 13th, from 6.30 PM to 8 PM and it is on the subject of New places for photography: Le Bal (Paris) and Le Point du Jour (Cherbourg-Octeville). If your free pop down, I  can't recommend them strongly enough, as much for the audiences questions afterward as for the talks themselves. For more info click here.
 I was fortunate enough to meet him by chance at the National Portrait Gallery in London when I was working there. He was pretty frail (I think it was around 2001) and was supported on either side by a couple of his entourage who seemed in need of support themselves. Anyway I built up enough courage to say hello to him in bad French, while he politely replied I remember looking at his eyes and  wondered about all the things those eyes had seen.

Tee Time

Just got an email from those nice people at F&F to let me know that the LDWR T-shirts have been printed and are ready to ship. The design is based upon the poster design I did for the LDWR box set that was released earlier this year. The shirts are printed on organic cotton and are available in dark grey, olive and green. 
Here is a sneaky peek of them straight out of the box, I'm sure there will be more shots to follow.

Friday, 17 September 2010


Crimée, Paris 2010

A quickly executed tag that I came across the other day in Paris, normally this would look like a thousand other tags but it has been made a lot more visually interesting by the way the has paint run.

Friday Photo

Versailles, 2009

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Trout Mask Original

The House where Captain Beefheart lived and rehearsed the legendary album 'Trout Mask Replica' is up for sale! Set in the San Fernando Valley, its owner is asking for $325,000, reduced from $849,900 when it was last sold 4 years ago.

If you are a Beefheart Fan then you have heard numerous tales of the rehearsals for this album about how the band live in isolation eating nothing but beans under the obsessive and sometimes tyrannical gaze of Beefheart.  If not here is a snippet of what it was like according to wikipedia;

The group rehearsed Van Vliet's difficult compositions for eight months, living communally in a small rented house in the Woodland Hills suburb of Los Angeles. Van Vliet implemented his vision by asserting complete artistic and emotional domination of his musicians. At various times one or another of the group members was put "in the barrel," with Van Vliet berating him continually, sometimes for days, until the musician collapsed in tears or in total submission to Van Vliet. According to John French and Bill Harkleroad these sessions often included physical violence. French described the situation as "cultlike" and a visiting friend said "the environment in that house was positively Manson-esque."welfare and contributions from relatives, the group survived on a bare subsistence diet. French recounted living on no more than a small cup of soybeans a day for a month and at one point band members were arrested for shoplifting food (with Zappa bailing them out). A visitor described their appearance as "cadaverous" and said that "they all looked in poor health." Band members were restricted from leaving the house and practiced for 14 or more hours a day.

If that has whet your appetite you can take a virtual tour of the place here or you can watch a bit of Anton Corbjin's (yes he who takes photos) film on the Captain.

In the meantime I'm off to check behind the sofa for spare change and then to see what the going price for vital organs are on ebay.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Vinyl is dead

Now how would you like to be remembered when you have shuffled off this mortal coil? A tree planted in the garden? Maybe a brass plaque on a park bench? How about a 12" record made from your cremated ashes? Well now it's possible, for the princely sum of £3,000 you can have 30 pieces of vinyl to give out to your nearest and dearest as a reminder of who you were. Each piece of vinyl can contain anything you want, your version of 'My Way', a speech about what life has taught you or even simple silence so that they can listen to the pop and crackle of your amplified ashes as the needle travels over your A side and B side as long as it is no longer than 12 minutes. As for cover art, you will have your name date of birth and date of death on the label and that is it, if you want to spend a little bit extra you can have your portrait painted by BP Portrait Prize regular James Hague and then made into the sleeve.

I love vinyl but I don't think see my self going for this, the thought of spinning for all eternity on the 'turn table of death' doesn't appeal. Personally I think that 30 years down the line I'd probably end up at a car boot sale stuffed in a wet cardboard box  between 'Showaddywaddy', Coldplay or The Black Eyed Peas then sold to someone for 50p! I could be tempted into collecting them though…

If you interested in finding out more you can click here

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Outer Circle update

Just got my copy of the outercircle CD through the post at the end of last week, this has been quite a nice project and it has been fun to see my papercut appear on posters, postcards and on artists websites and now on the CD cover.
The CD is available now from Manchester's Humble Soul and accompanies a week of concerts being held in Manchester, Bristol and London. You can get more info and give the CD a listen here.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Meet Ebbie

Yesterday my son and I had a little Sunday morning lie in. Nothing unusual in that I hear you say but this wasn't the usual Sunday papers in bed kind of lie in it was a Heavy Meal Thunder lie in! We snuggled up with my MacBook and went through the classics which obviously included Iron Maiden. Elliott was taken by their mascot Eddie and later on in the morning got his pencils out and drew him from memory, except that he got his 'd's' the wrong way round and in doing so created an all together different beast, EBBIE!!

I love Ebbie and so does Elliott so we are planning to get some T-shirts made up in true metal fashion! Anyone else up for some Ebbie action?

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Paper Players

I'm an old movie buff , if it's in black and white I'm there! While I was browsing for some classics this morning I came across this site by Kriegel . I really like his Paper Pack designs and they are free to download and you don't even need to use the colour cartridge! We just need Ol' Blue eyes, Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford to complete the classic 60's Rat Pack line up and have a paper reunion, in the meantime we could recreate any number of scenes from Cannonball Run, on second thoughts maybe not…