Friday, September 19

Francis Bacon and Lartigue: the ongoing characters

There's a major retrospective of Francis Bacon's work on at Tate Britain until January, and Robert Hughes' article in The Guardian

reveals an unexpected link between Bacon and the photographer Lartigue:

"... Bacon's resort to photography, both still and cinematic, was constant, obsessive and over-the-top. Its sources and results have an enormous span, from the relatively familiar – Dr Goebbels orating, terrified crowds scattering from the tsar's police, or the bloody face of the nurse on Eisenstein's Odessa Steps, peering hysterically through her broken spectacles – to the utterly obscure. There are bits of Picture Post and images from those resources of gay porn, the body-culture magazines of the 50s. Sometimes the obscure details lie within images themselves famous. For instance, there is a well-known photograph of a racing-car at Le Mans, in which the speed of the machine and the panning camera movement turn the wheels into forward-leaning ellipses, distorted cartoonwise. So striking is this effect and so dominant the machine's image that few people so much as notice the figures in the background, on the verge of the track. But Bacon did, and he stole a pair of them, enlarging them for the right panel of Crucifixion (1965), where, in their odd soft hats, they look threateningly like a pair of Australian yobs leaning on a bar."

The ‘well-known photograph’ of a racing car sounded mightily familiar, and sure enough, a quick Google reveals that Bacon had borrowed the figures from Lartigue's racing car photo for the right panel of his triptych:

Sunday, September 14

All at sea on Bournemouth Pier

It's been a sad summer for English piers with both Weston-super-Mare and Fleetwood Piers being severely damaged by fire. Over the years, Brighton's formally splendid West Pier has slowly deteriorated from an elegantly wasted wreck to a bit of an eyesore. Meanwhile, Brighton's other pier, the Palace Pier, ‘rebranded’ itself as Brighton Pier. Of course, piers are inherently at risk given the large amount of wood on the premises but when closed or struggling piers and seaside funfairs burn down with regularity over the country various rumours surface.

On Thursday I paid a visit to Bournemouth's recently revamped main pier. It proved to be bit of an acquired taste, especially as you're required to stump up 50p for what at first wander seems to be a fairly mundane affair. The cafe at the end of the pier has moved upmarket considerably to become Key West Bar and Restaurant. A hoarding offered an all-day breakfast for £6.95, which I heard one lady point out as ‘a disgrace’. Later on in the warm and pleasant evening the largish restaurant had just two diners, and at least that many staff. An elderly couple peered in and muttered something about just wanting a cup of tea and that it all looked a bit posh (further menu item fact: cappuccino £2.50). I noticed that the cafe glitterball has inevitably disappeared in the makeover, although the ornate ceiling remains!

There are advantages to the low-key approach though. Much as I like the noisy Brighton Pier with Kylie blaring out of the sound system, you can forget that you're out at sea and the whole experience could be any old funfair, especially at night. Whereas on Bournemouth Pier there's no music, no slot machines, and in the near silence the noise of the waves takes over. And after dark, the underfloor lighting creates an eerie light show of changing colours.

Tuesday, September 9

Front - Chance encounters by the seaside

Justin Sainsbury's book "Front - Chance encounters by the seaside" is now available from Blurb:


Blurb's 15-page preview only takes you as far as the first picture due to the lengthy introduction, etc, but the pictures can be previewed here:


The book was laid out by professional designer, Mark Ogden (web site), and was originally printed locally as a short-run book. Hence a lot time and effort has gone into the production, rather than being a hit-and-run Blurb template job.

I have arranged an amazing 0% discount on the Blurb price. If you buy a copy, don't forget to leave a comment here and maybe Justin will buy me a Cornetto.

Monday, September 1

Street photographers – the saturated streets of London

I was walking down Villiers Street towards the Strand on Saturday when a couple of elderly American (I guess) tourists passed by me. Big glasses, loads of character, wearing coats despite the summer heat and humidity. I thought to myself – "they look like they've stepped out of a Bruce Gilden picture".

I turned round with the vague thought of getting a picture of them, when that instant a man steps up with a camera and off-board flash, crouches a little and zaps them from close up – just like Gilden.

They seemed completely unfazed by the experience.

I took the photo below a few seconds afterwards. The elderly American tourists are not featured - I thought they'd been photographed enough for one day.

Villiers Street.