Sunday, June 27

World Cup memories: the night Gazza saved my life

Today England play Germany in the World Cup, which means that the media is quite literally having a 110% field day over the previous meetings of these two great countries in various football matches and wars. Inevitably, this brings back memories of Italy, 1990 and the England vs Germany semi-final.

Italia 1990 was probably the only time the World Cup has received my total attention. I had just started my first "proper" job – I had moved to Crawley, UK to work in the publications department of a company (now defunct) that made flight simulators. This involved photocopying things, drilling holes through huge piles of paper, and then putting them in binders. The authors, who worked in-house, were a mixture of recent graduates, elderly fighter pilots and psychopaths, and it was important to put their documents into appropriately coloured binders. Shortly before I arrived, there had been a nasty incident when a psychopathic author discovered that his flight simulator manual had been housed in a pink binder, and he immediately squared up to the offender.

I watched the first games of the World Cup in a shared house full of different nationalities, including several Italians. There was a nice atmosphere. Then I fell out with the landlord, who lived in the house, moved out very quickly, and found somewhere else to live. I watched the England vs Germany game in the new house. I had the huge house to myself as the landlord and his wife went out and the other lodger (French) had better things to do. The landlords supported Charlton, or something equally improbable, and weren't interested in international football. Bizarre I thought! When the Famous Gazza Tears starting flowing, I remember not feeling sorry for him, as he was upset for himself rather than the team. England's loss via penalties seemed quite traumatic at the time, although I had no-one to share this experience with.

Above all, I associate my intimate knowledge of that World Cup with avoiding getting the shit kicked out of me. Two weeks later, I had an interview for a publishing company in Oxford fronted by little Bobby Maxwell, of pensions fame. After the afternoon interview – in no big hurry to get the train back to Crawley, and never having been to Oxford – I had a pint in the Grapes pub on the way back the train station.

Sitting there with my pint and in my crap suit, I had a horrible feeling that the huge bloke standing at the bar was looking at me in a very threatening way. I was trying to convince myself that I was just being paranoid but then his little mate started talking his huge, huge mate (getting bigger by the second) out of kicking the shit out of me. "He's not worth it”, etc. Oh dear…

The small mate then came over and starting talking to me about the World Cup. He was obviously giving me a chance to prove myself via the international bloke language of football. I made the right noises about Gazza, how gutted I was, and how an Englishman would never settle for third place, etc. etc., and eventually I seemed to convince his lurking huge friend not to beat me to a pulp.

I got the job, moved to Oxford, and never had any trouble in all the years I was there.

Whenever I see the Famous Gazza Tears now, I don’t think much about England, I’m more grateful to him for the continuing availability of my intact head.

Wednesday, June 23

Are rude blog post titles shit?

Chris Steele-Perkins laid into the Photographers Gallery in a recent talk at HOST in London, describing it as "shit" and a "tub of lard". A few days later his football show opened at the Third Floor Gallery in Cardiff, so I jokingly initially gave the previous thread advertising his show the title "Is Chris Steele-Perkins shit"?

On reflection a couple of hours later, I thought that he might not like his remarks, made in a talk to a small audience, advertised across the whole Internet, so I changed the title to something more anodyne.

However, since then Steele-Perkins has repeated his views on camera and in print. So for those who were puzzled by my title, here's his problem with the Photographers Gallery, as detailed on the duckrabbit blog.

"I am delighted my comments, made in passing, have evoked a lively response. I stand by my remarks of course, but for the sake of clarity I outline my position in a bit more detail.

I was around when the Photographers’ Gallery was started by Sue Davies, and it was exciting and showed, mainly, great shows and inspired people. It had a buzz!

A lot has changed. When I talk to people, from photographers to others in the arts I never, really, never find one who has a good thing to say about the Photographers Gallery. The response is from a disdainful shrug - that’s what we are stuck with, to an explosion of anger that the promise and hope that Sue Davies brought to the place has been so profoundly betrayed.

I care about photography, in its richness and complexity and I am angry at the way the possibility of the Photographers’ Gallery has been strangled over the years leaving a limp corpse requiring vast funding from the public purse to maintain its mediocrity.

I am angry that there are many more exciting, relevant galleries that are starved of funding because the money goes into maintaining this vegetative-state-gallery. Places like Side, Host, Open-Eye to name but a few.

I am angry that Photographers’ Gallery has become a misnomer. It is not about photography or photographers; it is about a narrow thread of photographic curation that is frequently dull, and/or poorly conceived. I also admit they do have a few good shows, but far too few, and across far too narrow a spectrum of the medium.

On the web-site it states "we are the place to see photography in all its forms". This is a grotesque claim and so patently untrue. Why lie? If it indeed was fulfilling that claim, with the caveat - at its best - then it could claim the name Photographers’ Gallery, and it would not be betraying the initial ambitions of the project.

I am angry it makes no attempt to support or promote British photography.

Someday I will write more about this, but I am sorry that the quality and relevance of the PG is not publicly debated in forums like the BJP and RPS Journal, and the Guardian Arts Page and the national media. This is a publicly funded institution (40%) and should be a beacon, but is an irrelevance; an expensive one.

People seem to be scared to speak out, I am not sure why. One thing is for sure, more money is going into it, and it will get bigger, and a larger corpse does not stop rotting."

Thursday, June 10

Chris Steele-Perkins at the Third Floor Gallery

Chris Steele-Perkins' show “For Love of the Game” opens this evening at the Third Floor Gallery in Cardiff. The exhibition runs for the duration of the World Cup.

“For years I didn’t like football, but as a photographer I was drawn to the way football became a part of people’s lives, their culture: how much it mattered to them and how much it got played - in refugee camps, in back streets, in muddy fields, in snooker-table stadiums, in deserts and gardens.”



Tuesday, June 8

in-public exhibition at Photofusion, London

The street photographers' group in-public is currently celebrating its 10-year anniversary with an exhibition of work by all 20 members at the Photofusion gallery in Brixton, London.

The exhibition features over 100 photos and - in the words of the poet - it's a very nice show indeed.

in-public are (in order of joining): Nick Turpin, David Gibson, Richard Bram, Matt Stuart, Andy Morley-Hall, Trent Parke, Narelle Autio, Adrian Fisk, Nils Jorgensen, Jesse Marlow, Melanie Einzig, Jeffrey Ladd, Amani Willett, Gus Powell, Christophe Agou, Otto Snoek, Blake Andrews, David Solomons, George Kelly, Paul Russell.

As a taster, some photos featured in the show:

(1) Photo copyright: Trent Parke (Magnum)

(2) Photo copyright: Narelle Autio, Spotty Dog

(3) Photo copyright: Paul Russell, Swanage

(4) Photo copyright: Andy Morley-Hall, Crashed plane

Gallery open:
Tuesday: 11:00 to 19:00
Wednesday to Saturday, 11:00 to 17:00
Free entry

17a Electric Lane, London SW9 8LA
28 May to 9 July 2010
Two minutes' walk from Brixton tube station.

Monday, June 7

Tony Ray-Jones and the white-ish cliffs of Bournemouth, part 3.

For those that followed my rambling voyages of partial discovery regarding this Tony Ray-Jones picture from 1969 ...

Bournemouth, 1969, Tony Ray-Jones

... I have come across a postcard on the Real Bournemouth web site from 1948 that puts the scene in context (click photos for larger images). The red spot is my estimate for where Tony Ray-Jones took the photo 21 years later. Although there is no path visible here in the 1948 photo, the diagonal rising wall and cliffs look right.

Bournemouth postcard, 1948

As I suspected (eventually), Ray-Jones was facing eastwards in the direction of Bournemouth Pier when he took the photo. Maybe the red spot should be further down, but I’m puzzled by what the white blocky things are below my red spot – they seem to be almost as big as the two benches further down, and hence bigger than anything visible in Ray-Jones’s photo... Or maybe they were removed and Ray-Jones was on the path clearly visible below them in the photo... Any thoughts? Am I going crazy?

My initial confusion about the image stemmed from the fact that I thought the cliffs in Ray-Jones's photo looked huge and distant, which doesn't tie in with any view I know in Bournemouth. Instead, it seems that the cliffs in the background in the image are quite close, and are now covered in vegetation or degraded. Either way, they are not visible now. A shame – I think the white/orange cliffs are more dramatic than the vegetation that covers most of the present-day cliffs.

To confuse matters further, the garden was replanted in the mid 1990s and an area of the gardens in the region of where I think Tony Ray-Jones took the photo was completely re-paved to form a round-ish viewing platform.

The blue spot in the old postcard marks the approximate spot where I took the photograph (BELOW) last year. Having now come across the 1948 postcard, I will try to take a photo closer to the spot where Ray-Jones was standing.

Update February 2014: Looking at this post again, and I've changed my mind - I think my photo below is pretty close to where Tony Ray-Jones was standing. The only really constant feature is the strong diagonal wall. The position of the bench with the wall arching behind it is a reference point, and is clearly visible in mine and peeping out behind vegetation in the Ray-Jones (it is not the same bench though - that has been replaced). Looking at Ray-Jones' photo and mine below at 100% I can match up some of the more distinctive shaped rocks that form the top of this wall to the right of the bench exactly. Bingo.

Bournemouth, 2009. Paul Russell photo: the same spot but the white cliffs have gone - the soft sandstone probably degraded. The garden has been replanted. The diagonal wall sloping upwards to the right, and arching over the bench, is the main constant reference point.