Creative thinking in action. When you see the cards, they compel you to pick them up and move the wee blighters fore and aft to test your own focus whilst simulaneously and subliminally causing you to ingest some important scraps of wisdom whether you like it or not. Cunning, I know but it really is for your own good.More »
I have to confess that this month I’ve been lured into a bit of graphic design. It’s a challenging project, matching typeface to photography and other design elements to suggest a certain flavour of tradition with a hint of nostalgia. For once, I had to go beyond the standard image editing tools and make tracks into the heady world of fonts. At the same time I started to read ‘Just My Type,’ a really well written book on the cultural meaning and context of a well turned alphabet character. (Also interwoven is a history of the printing press.) It’s a fascinating insight into the importance of speaking well in 2D. This got me on to thinking of how we are surrounded by signs, messages and graffiti and what they are unconsciously saying to us 24/7. Words demand attention. How many times do you read the same magazine cover, packaging or errant post whilst sitting on the loo? It’s compulsive. The writing is definitely on the wall, literally and everywhere. More »
We are Merchant & Mills. Of the two, I’m most likely Merchant. Our packaging reflects the company ethos of sound design with a nod to the past. By using strong images and announcing the product titles in bold, capital letters, it reaches both sides of the brain at once: the visual right and the pragmatic, linguistic left. It is futile to resist. It works on me. It makes me want the things inside the package. I am reminding you to covet. More »
The winter, now in full swing, puts a bit of a damper on outside jobs. The days are shorter, the weather unpredictable and the general tempo of things seems to slow down, grinding occasionally to an unwanted halt. Not being one to sit on my laurels waiting for the phone to ring or the email to ping, I took some time out this month to re-examine the offspring – photographically speaking. I like children. I made four and, if memory serves me correctly, I was once a child myself. I feel for mine though, as the progeny of a photographer they have between them endured some trials. When Edwyn, now 24, was eight or nine we took him one January afternoon to a freezing pond on Hampstead Heath where he had to stand shirtless, looking deathly and frozen for the jacket of a book; a grim tale of a depressed lad who one day turned and walked into a lake to be seen no more. In between shots Edwyn had to be cloaked in a towel and rubbed down. But at least he survived – and the book looked great.
I’m guessing that children are the most popular subject for pictures Gawd love ‘em. Yet still it’s rare that I see portraits or action shots that get to the heart of the wee beasties. There Is an awful lot of vibrant yet anodyne shots that look like Persil ads and the high street photographers, on the whole, perpetuate this shiny lifestyle look. The advent of mobile phones as cameras has done little to improve quality control and while I’m all for spontaneity, my tip is to slow down and be prepared for the spontaneous to occur. As Cartier Bresson said, ‘the more I practice the luckier I seem to get.’ On top of all this we all want our kids to look happy in pictures (so that they can’t later sue us for their therapy bills?) There must be piles to the moon of fake smiles and awkward grimaces attempting fake smiles. Anyone who likes a good movie will know that cheeriness and smiling is less poignant, somehow less deep, than the pensive and more emotional. Capturing those moments of struggle, reflection or simply day to day being is more likely to result in timeless, classic shots that the kids will want to keep and show. More »
One of my favourite aspects of the freelance life is never knowing where I will find myself next, especially as I find it hard to say no to any paid work in case I have to go get a proper job. So this month, I have photographed the preparation of strange and beautiful tomatoes by one of London’s finest chefs (lit by two tiny halogen lamps in a dark kitchen), shot a young lad under Brighton Pier and in the rolling hills beyond for a book jacket and spent two weeks following rising BBC star, Genevieve Barr as she knocks a bunch of disabled actors into shape at a drama workshop. Each job had its merits, the common thread being the opportunity to work with new people and face the challenge of getting good, publishable pictures that tell the story well, no matter what the conditions. More »
‘You cannot beat the vegetable baltis over in Sparkbrook,’ enthuses Colin, my grandly-turbanned Sikh cab driver, in a fierce Brummie accent, ‘it is to die for, but not literally, we all get on up here!’ he quips. So begins my introduction to the Balti triangle, Southeast of Birmingham’s heaving, modern city centre. It is a well-established melting pot, half a dozen streets being home to a vibrant Asian quarter, the majority of residents having roots in Pakistan’s east; Lahore and Kashmir. The area is under sporadic reconstruction since, in 2005, Sparkbrook found itself battered by 4 minutes of freak winds in Britain’s worst tornado in 30 years. Undeterred the British born second, third and fourth generations continue to make a success of all things Pakistani. From Uncle’s Home Stores, selling household goods and specialised cooking equipment, to the , bespoke and bejewelled sari making, to indigenous sweets (ladoo, burfi and para) and authentic gourmet cooking, they are a tough lot, hewn from hard labour and perseverance in the face of discrimination and hardship. The first wave of determined, Muslim migrants settled in this triangle of roads from the early 1960s when the established Irish residents, finding greater social acceptance became upwardly mobile and headed to the more genteel outlying suburbs. The neglected streets and cheap housing soon began to fill with newly arrived Pakistanis, seeking work at the nearby Lucas plant and the surrounding automotive factories. They brought with them their families, and their unique, spicy recipes; shops soon sprung up providing the fresh ingredients for a piquant taste of home like the unique Pakistani red carrots, renowned for their sweetness, or pre-packed fenugreek seeds and the ubiquitous ginger and garlic purée.
With the multi-faith mix demanding no beef or pork, the Lahore truckers’ favourite curry, cooked up in a hubcap (very spicy with chicken or lamb on the bone) is credited as the forefather of the Balti, according to veteran chef Mohammed Asram at the Al Frash Restaurant on Ladypool Road. ‘The bone gives flavour and we know what we are eating!’ The famous, deliciously spicy Balti is a uniquely Birmingham invention (the fast-heating pressed steel bowl was originally made only here). More »
Fes is never still and never quiet. From the first white light of the day to the hazy thickening dusk, people with heads held straight, are moving with purpose and urgency.
The movement is swift and graceful, the sounds more gruff and violent. They say here that a still head is a stone – dead. They have no saying for a silent head for they have never encountered such a thing. More »