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Archived posts: Photography

Dennis Hopper: The Lost Album

Andy Warhol, Henry Geldzahler, David Hockney and Jeff Goodman

Andy Warhol, Henry Geldzahler, David Hockney and Jeff Goodman, 1963

 

The Royal Academy invited us along last week to check out their new show, Dennis Hopper: The Lost Album.

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.

 

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Paul Newman, 1964

 

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Irving Blum and Peggy Moffitt, 1964

 

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Double Standard, 1961

 

The exhibition runs until 19 October at the Burlington Gardens section of the Royal Academy.

All images © Dennis Hopper, courtesy The Hopper Art Trust. 

Master it – How to cook today

We’ve just taken delivery of one of the first copies of Master it – How to cook today, the new book we recently designed for the fantastic chef Rory O’Connell.

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:

Check out the full set over here.

Master it: How to cook today is published by 4th Estate on 23 May.

Sebastião Salgado’s Genesis

Sebastião Salgado’s incredible new show, Genesis, opened recently at the Natural History Museum, and we went along over the weekend to take a look.

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.)

There is a book of course, published by Taschen.

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.

Rando

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.

Anyway. Sort of pointless. Sort of fun.

Suburban Stormtroopers

This is what Alistair was getting up to a couple of weekends ago. Because dressing up as Stormtroopers is fun. Photos by Angus Stewart, uniforms by Millennium Costumes.

Flickr’s new iPhone App

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.

Good work Flickr.

A city full of photographs

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:

Meanwhile, over at Somerset House, you can see some more street photography courtesy of the wonderful show Henri Cartier-Bresson: A question of Colour. Cartier-Bresson was fascinated by capturing the ‘decisive moment’, but shot almost exclusively in black and white.

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:

and Joel Meyerowitz:

Lovely stuff.

Across the courtyard at Somerset House there’s a very different show, in the form of Tim Walker: Storyteller.

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).

If that’s not enough for you, the Barbican’s the huge show Everything Was Moving: Photography from the 60s and 70s is still on, as is the National Gallery’s Seduced by Art: Photography past and present, and over at the Imperial War Museum London there’s the Cecil Beaton show Theatre of War.

Olym-pics

That was pretty blooming brilliant wasn’t it? Bring on the Paralympics.

(All images © Alistair Hall, full set here.)

 

British Design 1948–2012

We nipped along this morning to the big new show at the V&A, British Design 1948-2012, a retrospective of the creative industries in Britain since the end of the Second World War. Timed to make the most of the Olympic hordes who’ll be hitting the capital this summer (the show ends the same day as the Olympic closing ceremony), it’s a clear attempt to grab back some of the glory from the sporting crowd. Which is no bad thing.

This is the first big exhibition of post-war design that the V&A has staged, and it covers fashion, furniture, fine art, graphic design, photography, ceramics, architecture and industrial products. It’s good to have all of that creative output lumped together, even if it does mean that you can only have a few key pieces from each discipline. Pleasingly there’s rather more graphic design than we’d anticipated, particularly from the period just after the war, with work from Abram Games, Edward Bawden, Reginald Mount, and David Gentleman.

The show is grouped into three main areas, Tradition & Modernity; Subversion; and Innovation and Creativity, which run more or less chronologically from 1948 to the present day. The three groupings don’t necessarily help, creating rather forced divisions between periods and styles. But there’s lots of great stuff on display, including four hand-painted maquettes for British road signs by Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert; and a page from Design Research Unit’s British Rail Design Manual.

The second section, Subversion, deals mainly with the rise of the art school and a more youth oriented period of design – so you get Jamie Reid’s Sex Pistols posters, Vivienne Westwood’s punk clothing designs, some Beatles album covers, and of course Peter Saville, Barney Bubbles and Neville Brody. Which is all well and good, but unfortunately this part of the exhibition is designed with a rather clichéd underground vibe – lots of black walls and industrial fittings, which really cheapens the work on display, making it feel like we’re walking through some sort of gaudy themed tourist attraction.

The third section focuses more on manufacturing industries, technology and architecture. Somehow the curators have managed to use Apple’s iMac as a pioneering example of British technology design (Jonathan Ive, the iMac’s designer is from these shores, sure, but come on…). Elsewhere there’s a model of Concorde, an E-Type Jag, a Topper sailing boat, and Kenneth Grange’s Brownie Vecta camera.

Meanwhile, graphic design in this section is represented by Wolff Olins’ hideous London 2012 logo (it just doesn’t get any better does it?); their Orange logo from 1994, and Alan Fletcher’s lovely V&A logo from 1989 (rather happily referencing Ian Dennis’s National Theatre logo, which is shown earlier in the exhibition).

Our favourite exhibit though was these Globoots from 1969:

They were unique at the time of their production, being double dip-moulded in two different plastics, so that the translucent uppers and opaque soles were made in one piece, without seams. And crikey, don’t they look like a certain coloured computer designed in the USA by a British bloke called Jonny?

Our only real gripe is that it features way too much art. The show is British Design 1948-2012, not British Art & Design 1948-2012, but we’re treated to work from Henry Moore, Eduardo Paolozzi, Allen Jones, David Hockney and Damien Hirst. Obviously there’s crossover between the disciplines, and many of those artists worked in design as well as art, but the pieces shown are their artworks rather than their design pieces. So for example, we get Hockney’s We Two Boys Together Clinging painting rather than any of his fantastic stage designs. This seems like a real shame, given how much great design has had to be left out to make room for the art.

Overall though, it’s a great show, and anyone interested in design should get along quick smart.

The show opens on Saturday 31 March, and runs until 12 August.

Picture credit for top image: Children crossing sign, by Margaret Calvert and Jock Kinneir for the Ministry of Transport, 1964 © Margaret Calvert

The Ride Journal – Issue 6

The latest issue of The Ride Journal (#6) has just launched, and as always it’s full of a fantastic mix of words, illustrations, and photography about all forms of cycling goodness. (More full than normal in fact, as this is their largest issue to date.)

This issue also includes a piece written and photographed by Alistair all about his ride from Land’s End to John o’ Groats.

You can pick it up from their site, and there’s also a list of stockists over there too.