Over the past seven nights, London has played host to a stunningly beautiful light installation, Spectra, by the artist Ryoji Ikeda.
Installed at Victoria Tower Gardens, right next door to the Houses of Parliament, the installation (which ended at dawn this morning) consisted of a bank of forty nine static high-powered searchlights, grouped together in a 20 metre square grid, creating a single beam of light that shot up into the night sky. From afar the light looked elegant and faint, a thin line reaching up to the clouds; up close, where you saw just a portion of the whole beam, it became solid and powerful.
At the gardens themselves, Ikeda had composed an ambeint soundtrack to listen to as you wandered in and out amongst the lights. The atmosphere around the lights was remarkably peaceful, even with the large crowds drawn to the site each evening like moths to a flame.
The installation has travelled the world over the past few years, appearing in different forms in different cities. In London, presented by Artangel, it was one of a series of art commissions marking the centenary of the First World War.
Our creative director and resident photographer Alistair has been out and about for the duration of the project, photographing it from various different perspectives.
It’s an interesting exhibition, featuring over four hundred shots taken by Hopper between 1961 and 1967. Here’s what he had to say about them when they were exhibited at the Fort Worth Art Centre in Texas in 1970:
“I never made a cent from these photos. They cost me money but kept me alive. I started at eighteen taking pictures. I stopped at thirty-one. These represent the years from twenty-five to thirty-one, 1961 to 1967. I didn’t crop my photos. They are full frame natural light Tri-X. I went under contract to Warner Brothers at eighteen. I directed Easy Rider at thirty-one. I married Brooke at twenty-five and got a good camera and could afford to take pictures and print them. They were the only creative outlet I had for these years until Easy Rider. I never carried a camera again.”
The prints produced for that show were rediscovered after Hopper’s death in 2010, and this is the first time they’ve been seen together in the UK. While it’s great to see them in their original form, their size (the majority are 9.5 x 6.5 inch) and the size of the space feel at odds with one another – it’s a peculiar decision on the part of the exhibition designers not to blow any of the images up, even just as backdrops, and leaves the exhibition feeling a little sparse, and without pace. Looking through the images in the accompanying catalogue feels much more engaging and much more intimate.
The photographs themselves are an intriguing mix of social document and aesthetic exploration. It’s not as if Hopper was a groundbreaking or outstandingly talented photographer – but he was mixing in really interesting circles at a really interesting time. Andy Warhol, David Hockney, Ed Ruscha, Jasper Johns, Marcel Duchamp, Martin Luther King, John Wayne, Jane Fonda, Paul Newman, Peter Fonda, Hells Angels, hippies – they were all captured by his lens.
Paul Newman, 1964
Irving Blum and Peggy Moffitt, 1964
Double Standard, 1961
The exhibition runs until 19 October at the Burlington Gardens section of the Royal Academy.
Rory is one of the loveliest guys you could hope to meet, and an inspirational chef and teacher. He co-founded the hugely influential Ballymaloe Cookery School with his sister, Darina Allen, and runs his own cookery courses out of his home in East Cork.
The book is designed to be a riposte to the “just bung it in” school of cooking, focusing instead on carefully detailed instructions which don’t leave you guessing as to whether or not you’re getting it right.
Alistair went out to Ireland to art direct the photo shoot with the hugely talented photographer Laura Hynd (and got the chance to try far too many of Rory’s delicious dishes). Rory really stresses the importance of using the freshest seasonal ingredients, and took Alistair and Laura on a tour around Ballymaloe’s incredible gardens and greenhouses. Here are some of Alistair’s shots from there:
The exhibition is the result of eight years work, during which Salgado travelled the globe, seeking out examples of the unspoiled and the untouched – ‘my wish was to do a homage to the planet’. His travels, which began on the Galápagos Islands, took him through over thirty countries, from the arctic to the antarctic, from desert to jungle. Not bad for a man approaching his 70th birthday.
Salgado has previously done two major photographic projects – Workers (1993) which looked at manual labourers across the planet, and Migrations (2000) which studied the movements of peoples, driven by disaster, hunger, war and other pressures. With Genesis, his focus is much more on nature – landscapes and animals. People aren’t entirely absent though – he visited a variety of indigenous tribes, including the Omo Valley tribes in Ethiopia, the Zo’é in Brazil, and the Nenets of Siberia.
The exhibition at the Natural History Museum is the global premiere for the project (though individual stories from it have been serialised over the past eight years in magazines around the world), and the decision to hold it there adds a particular, and necessary, accent to the work.
In seeking to present the world in an untouched state (you’d be hard pressed to date any of these pictures to a particular century, let alone decade), Salgado is obviously hoping to show where we’ve come from, and how much we risk to lose. Framing the exhibition within the Natural History Museum helps to make this explicit in a way which it wouldn’t if the show was hosted in a more traditional gallery space.
Salgado is sometimes criticised for making his images too beautiful – that as a documentary photographer, he gives us too much art. But that seems to suggest that an image that communicates something powerful, that tells a particular story, can’t also be beautiful.
And this is a show that is wondrously beautiful. Shot after shot (and there are two hundred or so of them here) is breathtakingly stunning.
These thumbnails don’t even begin to do justice to the prints themselves – so make sure you get along to the exhibition if you can. (It will be travelling the globe in the coming years if you’re not in London.You can find the itinerary here.)
And being Taschen, it’s also available in their oversized Sumo format as a two-volume limited edition, which comes with its own wooden stand designed by Tadao Ando. Here’s a shot of Salgado having a flip through a copy:
And if it feels like there’s a slight discrepancy between publishing a 704pp hardback book with a spread of almost a metre and being concerned for the world’s untouched spaces?
Well then it’s perhaps good to know that Salgado and his wife Lélia (curator of the Genesis show) have worked for two decades on the restoration of part of the Atlantic Forest in Brazil, hoping to plant a million and a half trees before they’re done.
Over the weekend we had a bit of a play with the new iPhone photo sharing app Rando, produced by digital design studio Ustwo as an exercise in “just fucking doing it” – getting something up and running in super quick time.
The app is a stripped back from of photosharing – when you take a shot, it is automatically cropped within a circle. You can’t edit your shot, can’t add any filters, can’t name it nor tag it. You can’t like anyone elses shots, can’t follow any users, can’t set up a profile.
If you’re happy with the picture you’ve taken, you upload it, and it is sent at random to one other user of the app. They aren’t told any information about you or the image, other than being shown roughly where it was taken (so they’ll know which city you’re in, but nothing more).
Once you’ve sent a shot, you are sent a shot from someone else in return – you give and you receive.
It’s a peculiar experience, and initially at least, oddly addictive. You keep hoping that the next shot that loads up will be something unexpected, or beautiful, or funny. Or a glimpse into a life entirely different from your own. And there’s a vague feeling that you should try to make your own shots as interesting as possible. Give something good and karma dictates that you’ll get something good in return.
From a creative point of view, the circular format is really refreshing, forcing you to depart from standard rectangular compositions.
Interestingly, given the voyeuristic / exhibitionist format, it so far doesn’t seem to have descended into an endless stream of porn. Perhaps the folks at ustwo are just policing it carefully for now.
Well, it’s been a longtime coming, but Flickr have finally pulled a decent iPhone app out of the bag, and it’s looking Instagram square in the face.
It combines Flickr’s great sharing & viewing functionality with a fairly solid camera application (following hot on Twitter’s heels, using the SDK from the folks at Aviary).
It shoots at full iPhone size (2448 x 3264 pixels on the iPhone 5′s main camera, above; 960 x 1280 pixels on the front facing camera, below).
Before you take the shot, you can take a light reading from one place, and focus on another (drag your fingers apart on your phone’s screen to do that), set a background grid to straighten your shot, and zoom in (though that’s an artificial zoom, you’re really just cropping into the pixels).
Once you’ve taken your shot, before it’s saved, the app lets you play around with some admittedly rather arbitrarily named filters, as well as make various adjustments: cropping, brightness, contrast, saturation and sharpness. You can also add some very basic text, do some basic drawing, add brightness and fix blemishes. All of that while keeping the image at full size (though you can set it to be smaller in the settings if you want).
Once you’re done editing, you upload the image (it only saves to the camera roll at this point, which speeds things up, but can lead to you thinking you’ve saved a shot that you haven’t).
You can upload directly to Flickr of course, with all your tags in place, and send it to all the Groups and Sets you fancy at the same time. Rather neatly, at the same time as it loads to Flickr, you can send the image to Twitter (works well on the native app, but not at all on a third party app like TweetDeck) and Facebook (the images are hi-res, and dumped into a Flickr Photos album on your page).
Once you’ve finished shooting, you can do all the browsing you’d expect too – that’s Alistair’s Signs and lettering set below.
If you’re into photography, then London is a great place to be right now. There’s a wealth of fantastic exhibitions on in some of the city’s major galleries, most of them running right through to the beginning of January. We’ve been out and about recently to check out a few of them.
First up, there’s the brilliant William Klein + Daido Moriyama double bill at Tate Modern. Either half of the show would constitute a great exhibition, but together they’re a knockout.
William Klein is a master of many trades: street photographer, fashion photographer, graphic designer, artist, avant-garde film-maker, documentary maker and much more. He studied under the artist Fernand Léger before being commissioned by Alexander Liberman at Vogue magazine, and went on to create the seminal photographic essay Life is Good & Good For You in New York; shot the 1964 Muhammed Ali documentary Cassius the Great; and the feature film Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?
The Tate show features a wide spectrum of his work, sometimes printed at vast scale, other times presented in densely packed grids. (Check out the rather wonderful BBC Imagine documentary to learn more about him.)
Klein’s first film was the short Broadway by Light, an expressionist study of the advertising displays of New York’s Times Square:
Klein shot much of his work in New York, Paris and Tokyo. The second half of the show is devoted to another Tokyo documentary photographer, Daido Moriyama. His work is slightly edgier than Klein’s – many of his dark, grainy compositions feel detached, as if he’s more of an outsider than Klein.
There’s one great room in the show that’s wallpapered with thousands of Moriyama’s polaroid shots of his apartment, which is very reminiscent of some of David Hockney’s photo montages:
This show presents a few of his works, but the focus is on other photographers who were inspired by him but who shot in colour. There’s lots of great work on show from around 15 other photographers, including Jeff Mermelstein:
Walker is a fashion photographer who creates elaborate set pieces, often with a fairy-tale flavour, and the extensive show incorporates some of the massive props used in his shoots. There are also a series of his (slightly) more restrained portrait shots:
Over at the Photographer’s Gallery, check out the lovely Shoot! Existential Photography show, which features images from shooting galleries – booths at fairs where you shot a rifle at a target, and if you hit the bullseye, a camera was triggered to take a shot of you, and you took the snapshot home.
At the end of the show, you can even have a go on the gallery’s shooting gallery yourself (though it was out of action when we visited).