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Wednesday, 30 April 2014

COURT AND CRAFT: A MASTERPIECE FROM NORTHERN IRAQ. Until 18 May 2014. The Courtauld Gallery, Somerset House, WC2R. Free / £6 (see below)

Bag, Mosul, northern Iraq, 1300-1330
Brass, inlaid with gold and silver
Height: 15.2 cm; width: 22 cm; depth: 13.5 cm
© The Courtauld Gallery, London

It is in a tiny room that the Courtauld Gallery is showing off an exhibition of non-Western art. Precious pieces from the Islamic world shown in the gallery for the very first time. The object of desire triggering the attention otherwise known as the centre piece of the exhibition is a 700 years old luxury metalwork bag.
A bag, or a handbag, a shoulder bag made in the city of Mosul in Northern Iraq. This early XIV century brass container inlaid with intricate scenes of courtly life in gold and silver was acquired by The Courtauld in 1966. Not knowing the origins and its purpose, the “wallet” sat there in the collection.

Bottle, Mamluk Egypt or Syria, c. 1330
Glass, blown, enamelled and gilded
Height: 27.5 cm; diameter: 17.5 cm
© The Trustees of the British Museum

The mysterious “wallet” eventually got un-clued and the exhibition considers this luxury craft tradition before and after the Mongol invasion showing off a collection of 40 related objects from the British Museum, V&A, British Library and pieces from private collection in Copenhagen, Berlin, Tbilisi, Florence, Baltimore and The Nasser D.Khalili Collection of Islamic Art.

The bag survived the brutal Mongol conquest in 1262 and belonged to high-ranking woman at the court of the II-Khanids, the dynasty established in the region by the grandson of Chinggis Khan. I am told that at the time, women had a lot of power.

It is decorated with a courtly scene showing an enthroned couple as well as musicians, hunters and revellers: one of the finest pieces of Islamic metalwork in existence. Court and Craft explores the origin and cultural context of this extraordinary object, alongside displays of illustrated manuscripts, ceramics and other luxury crafts: Tray, fine decorated glasses, ewer, basin, candlesticks, and incense burner. At the time, incense was an expensive luxury and great care was taken on its containers.

Bag: detail of lid showing court scene with a couple and their retinue

The bag court scene is reproduced on a larger drawing further in the room describing in details the scene with the original objects below the drawing from diverse collections in London and in the world.
At the centre, a richly dressed couple surrounded by attendants in Mongol costume who serve them food and drink, carrying paraphernalia of a princely life: parasol, falcon, lute. Beside the woman, her page is standing holding a mirror and carrying the bag. It seems that at the time, alcohol was highly consumed. The objects of the scene include a pair of crescent-shaped gold earrings, a Chinese mirror, a Syrian glass bottle (my favourite piece) and so on.

The exhibition also include manuscripts, a copy of the Qur’an made for the ruler Oljeitu and objects surrounding the trading cultures from the XIII century when its Mongol wave of invasion across Asia (Marco Polo happened to be travelling from the Mediterranean to China).

Once upon a time, Mosul was a city where Arabs, Iranians, Kurds, Turks, Christians, Jews and Muslims cross each other’s path.

Trailer – a guide with curator Rachel Ward =

Until 18 May 2014.
The Courtauld Gallery, Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R ORN
Opening hours = 10 am to 6pm - daily
Admission =
Free at all times for under 18s, full-time UK students and unwaged
50% discount with National Art Pass
Adult: £6, concession £5 – Mondays (including public holidays); £3

Friday, 25 April 2014

You & Me Forever. A film by Kaspar Munk. Opens today in cinemas

Director: Kaspar Munk
Cast: Julie Brochorst Andersen, Emilie Kruse, Frederikke Dahl Hansen
Denmark 2012
Duration: 82 mins
Genre: drama
Language: Danish + English subtitles
Certificate: 15
Distributed in the UK & Ireland by: day for night*

Official Selection: Gothenburg International Film Festival 2013
Official Selection: Edinburgh International Film Festival 2013

16 year old Christine and Laura are best friends. They drink, party, talk dicks, vomit and are still virgins. Maria is new at school. She’s been in New York, Berlin and seems to know a lot about life, dicks and partying. Her “devil”-ish attitude lures Laura to her world, alienating Christine who rapidly loses her best friend.
Laura’s parents trust their daughter. Maria’s parents are total absent. When Laura’s parents realise their daughter is lying, they become less tolerant. When Maria sets up Laura into a sex game with older boys, she will have a few thoughts coming up and re-adjust what’s best for her.

Like the Doillons (Jacques and daughter Lola) films on adolescence, You and Me Forever is a close-up portrait film living little space for the surrounding, apart from the countryside somewhere in Denmark when Laura is being “kidnapped” by her parents.

Laura, Christine and a young boy form a sort of ménage à trois in a disused graffiti building where one wonders if them standing on top of that building will end like Thelma and Louise.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

PICK ME UP: GRAPHIC ARTS FESTIVAL 2014. 24 April – 5 May 2014. Somerset House, WC2R. £10, concessions £8, Festival pass £17.50

Woolly Bear © Julia Pott

I was already “late”. Well, we never know with buses. The preview started at 6.30pm and for sure it would be crowded. A quick stopover @ M&A Express in Lea Bridge Road to recharge my Oyster, put some money on my phone and buy some juice... after two years of going there, they made me understand they don’t earn money from recharging Oyster and phones, so juice. Only when I sat on the bus, did I realise, they once again ripped me off... neighbours, boat people... always!

Over one hour on 55 to relax and be angry and think “this time I’ll talk to them... and the exhibition better be good because I will roll on the floor and show off my tantrums
I arrived just on time. Rolling on the floor was not an option as it was quite crowded + accidentally... this year festival was full of talented young artists – not that I went the other years – but I did get hooked.
Since, there is very little time, I’ll show off my little selection of my favourite. Just bear in mind it is in the same space as the Isabella Blow Fashion Galore, so it’s big.
-       Julia Pott. Some drawings but her animations “The Event” & “Belly” are greatly weird. She is inspired by Davis Lynch, Jon Irving, JD Salinger and Wes Anderson.
-       Isabel Greenberg. Comic and “Russian” dolls. Quite dark.
-       Kyle Platts from Sheffields (just saying). A feel of Pierre La Police. He is inspired by Yayoi Kusama and John Cooper Clark.
-       Carine Brancowitz. Studied @ Ecole Estienne. About drawing, she says “It’s what keeps me out of touch from reality and allows me to flirt with the irrational”. She is inspired by ancient Greek and Roman sculptures. One of her drawing between two women, one says “Je n’ai pas très envie de rentrer dans la vie” (I don’t really want to get into life).
-       Edward Carvahlo Monaghan. Strong colours for his titles Standard Bearer, Alchemist and Nomad.
-       Lynnie Zulu. Born on the border of Scotland and her mother is Tanzanian. It’s her afro side that attracted me from the other end of the room.
-       Edward Cheverton. He is simply funny: it was a lie... but an honest lie.
-       Jessica Das. Some of her pieces were already sold when I got there. To those who love cats... it’s called The Cat Island. She will lead a workshop on how to draw cute and cheeky cats on 27 April.

© Isabel Greenberg

Don’t miss the DJ – Radio room with old (I mean old) videos, film extracts = “New for 2014 is Pick Me Up Radio presented by Comms Bureau , which will stream live from Somerset House.  With specially invited DJs, interviews and take-over days, festival goers will be able to see the radio broadcasts being put together live and listen online remotely.” 

Check the event zone below for the family space

From the PR
Now in its fifth year, the UK’s original contemporary graphic arts festival Pick Me Up showcases graphic art in all its forms. Aimed at being the antithesis of a traditional art fair, Pick Me Up is a fun and informal festival featuring quirky studio spaces in which to shop for affordable artwork from the great and good of graphic arts, and a daily, lively line-up of events which encourage both budding and bonafide artists of all ages to get involved. Pick Me Up 2014 promises to be bigger and better than ever, with events led by the likes of family favourite Judith Kerr who is famed for the acclaimed Mog series and The Tiger Who Came To Tea, more late nights and an even wider range of illustration and design represented, from fashion and architectural drawing to comic books and album covers.

© Carine Brancowitz

Furthermore for the first time, Pick Me Up is collaborating with signature skate brand DC Shoes to commission t-shirts from ten artists to be exclusively launched and sold at the festival. The dazzling designers involved include former Pick Me Up Select and professional doodler Hattie Stewart and Andy Rementer, whose colorful and vibrant work has been featured through a variety of platforms including MTV, Urban Outfitters and Warner Brothers.

The festival is split into three main sections – events, collectives and galleries, and Pick Me Up Selects:

On each day of the festival there will be an exciting and eclectic schedule of events, activities, and special guests leading talks and workshops, all free with entry. Following its phenomenal success last year, the Children’s Choice Weekend will return with more interactive family-friendly fun from 3 - 4 May. Judith Kerr will be the guest of honour at the weekend and hosting an ‘in conversation’ event with her art director Ian Craig in which they will look back at her literary legacy and explain why she chooses to continue working with the publication of her new picture book set for later this year. Kerr’s name will be familiar within generations of families after writing and illustrating children’s classics such as the acclaimed Mog series and The Tiger Who Came To Tea. Kerr is also known for her celebrated novels for older children, such as the autobiographical When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, which gives a child's-eye view of the Second World War as a young Jewish girl is forced to flee Nazi Germany, much the same as Kerr’s own experience.
Hagoromo © Isabel Greenberg

This year Pick Me Up is proud to welcome illustrators at the forefront of a new wave of fashion imagery to host one-off events with a sartorial slant - Daisy de Villeneuve, Jason Brooks and Jo Ratcliffe.  Fashion illustrator Daisy de Villeneuve, whose funky felt-tip illustrations are some of the fashion world’s favourites and can be seen everywhere from Topshop to Vogue, will be leading activities on the opening weekend which will be focused on all things fashion. Fashion artist and author Jason Brooks, whose computer-combined illustrations are instantly recognisable and often imitated from his work on the identity for record label Hed Kandi and other luxury lifestyle brands, will be running a day of workshops on Saturday 3 May. Art director and animator Jo Ratcliffe, who drew and directed the animation in Lady Gaga’s ‘Applause’ video, designed the typography of Katy Perry’s ‘Teenage Dream’ album, and counts Louis Vuitton, Chloé and Kenzo as clients, will also join the line-up for a style special.

On Sunday 27 April cartoonist Gemma Correll will be running an event inspired by her celebrated portrayals of animals, particularly her Pugs not Drugs portfolio which has a string of celebrity fans. She will be joined by Pick Me Up Select artist Jessica Das who will lead a workshop on how to draw cute and cheeky cats to round off a jam-packed pet-themed Sunday.

On Tuesday 29 April celebrated current affairs artist George Butler, whose work covering civil war in Syria, G20 riots and soldiers in Afghanistan has been reproduced in the world’s most respected newspapers, will be talking about his work and astounding experiences. Graphic artist, print-maker and designer Anthony Burrill, best known for his typographic compositions, including the now-famous “Work Hard and Be Nice to People”, will also be leading a workshop.

On Thursday 1 May Camberwell Press presents 'Let's Get Quizzical' as a late night event. The Pick Me Up edition of London's premier pub quiz for creative minds will include question categories on illustration, art history, design, general knowledge and film.

Collectives and galleries

Cutting-edge collectives and contemporary graphic art galleries will each curate a customised studio space in the Embankment Galleries of Somerset House, where they will present a bountiful body of new and existing work. The Puck Collective, an evolving group of illustration collectives, will be curating their space with a war theme and building an arsenal of weaponry in card form throughout the duration of the festival in preparation for Andy War Wall on 2 May. This will be a unique interactive gaming event in which festival goers can join in or watch this World of Warcraft style game unravel, as people roll the dice to determine how the war will unfold. By the end, Puck will have produced a modern tapestry telling the epic story of the battle of Andy War Wall.

Also for 2014, Shoreditch’s Beach London gallery will launch exclusive new limited-edition products including t-shirts and skateboard decks, themed around the role graphic art has played in subculture. Unlimited, a Brighton-based independent shop, gallery and studio, will showcase and sell an exciting selection of concept-led, unique and innovative work. Galleries Handsome Frank, who represent top talent across five continents, and Outline Artists, who present limited-edition prints and original pieces from artists such as Rob Bailey, Kate Moross and James Joyce, will also be taking part at Pick Me Up.
Pick Me Up Selects

Alongside the collectives and galleries, Pick Me Up Selects are a group of international rising stars who have recently graduated or set up new studios chosen by the Pick Me Up curators and a guest panel of industry insiders.  They are all commissioned to create new work specially for Pick Me Up, so visitors can browse and buy a bargain from the next generation of graphic artists.  Past Pick Me Up Selects participants have gone on to achieve artistic and commercial acclaim across the globe like Jean Jullien, Mr Bingo and Sarah Maycock. This year the selection includes: Julia Pott, an animator based in Brooklyn whose can already call Bat for Lashes, Hermes, J. Crew and MTV clients; Kyle Platts, who creates colourful but creepy characters with a playful irreverence towards contemporary society; Thibaud Herem, a French illustrator based in Hackney specialising in architectural drawing with hand drawn detail; and Isabel Greenberg, a London-based comic artist who has produced work for publications including The Guardian and the V&A.

Dates:  24 April – 5 May 2014
Opening Hours:  10am – 6pm Daily. Late night openings on Thursdays and Fridays until 10pm
Address:  Embankment Galleries, Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 1LA
Admission: £10, concessions £8, Festival pass £17.50
Transport: Temple, Embankment  Charing Cross, Waterloo
Somerset House Facebook:
Somerset House Twitter: @SomersetHouse (
Pick Me Up Twitter: @PickMeUpLondon  (
Festival hashtag: #pickmeuplondon

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

After The Night (Ate Ver A Luz). A film by Basil Da Cunha. Out in cinemas and VoD from the 25th April

A film by Basil Da Cunha
Cast : Pedro Ferreira, João Veiga, Nelson da Cruz Duarte Rodrigues, Paulo Ribeiro, Francisco Mota, Ruben Dias
Switzerland 2013
95 minutes
Original version Creole (Portuguese based) Subtitles in English

Nearly 30 years ago, Basil Da Cunha was born in Switzerland from Portuguese parents. He studied cinema, shot some shorts shown in Cannes – La Quinzaine des Réalisateurs where he got a Special Mention. His debut AFTER THE NIGHT is again shot in the slums of Lisbon, Reboleira. Sombra is a “ghost” character out of prison. His only real friend is his pet iguana Dragon. Sombra is the kind of hero who knows that in the narrow streets of the ghetto, his time is dripping from the clepsydra. The gang, his family by proxy, doesn’t let him loose at nights...

E-correspondance with Basil Da Cunha for AFTER THE NIGHT

Bbldnrbtl: Whether with your short films NUVEM (Sunfish) or OS VIVOS TAMBEN CHORAM (The Living Also Cry), and now with your debut AFTER THE NIGHT (Até Ver A Luz), the (secret?) idea of running away, leaving, going somewhere else is omnipresent. Could you explain the feeling? Do you live in an emergent state of mind to be elsewhere or do you feel a foreigner wherever you are?

Basil Da Cunha: I think it’s very difficult to believe in this world for most of us. The idea of a better place is the only choice to those who feel a foreigner in their own country. To desire this idea is an act of resistance. To fight for it is an ode to freedom. A way to feel worthy above all.
Somehow, it’s a paradox because dreaming of being somewhere else is what outcast people do due to men being alienated by men. And this is the beauty of it. People who resist the funeral procession are heroes, however tragic it seems. Fronting a world that reject them or dismiss them is their only way out. A hope that life is elsewhere... one has to persevere in that path. No matter how you get there, it’s better than being a dead man walking or being submissive.
It’s a hopeless attempt with a bitter result, but it’s a one way path full of pitfalls. As for me, I don’t believe in what the world has to offer either but I have an unflinching faith in those who get up and chose freedom as their path. I do believe in man.

Bbldnrbtl: Your main character Sombra (Shadow) almost embodies the / a ghost. He almost acts by proxy or talks as if his own ventriloquist. He is like haunted by a vague memory that he has never lived in present (to remind a line from Jacques Derrida in Ken McMullen’s Ghost Dance). Could you say more about that character who haunts your films?

Basil Da Cunha: Sombra embodies a dead man walking, a convicted person whose path leads him to his end. He belongs to the past. When the world doesn’t reject him, it dismisses him anyway. He doesn’t exist or rather he doesn’t exist anymore. He is doomed and will disappear.
However, he is someone who endures most of the time but he manages to transcend himself. On one hand, there is a gang reality and its ghetto from which he is a prisoner and there is his own reality. From time to time, he “escapes” and I like to think he is very close to the Accattone of Pasolini and Meurseault from Albert Camus’ The Stranger. They are like his brothers. Misunderstood and imperfect.

Bbldnrbtl: Despite a real story and its non actors playing their own story, you chose to make a film with a narrative rather than shooting a cinéma vérité or documentary. What interests you in creation or improvisation? (here again, according to Derrida, cinema offers a ghostly approach when documentary doesn’t “cinema is the art of ghosts, the art to let ghosts come back” – from Ghost Dance)

Basil Da Cunha: I’m really into a magical cinéma réaliste. Reality is a starting point, that’s a fact, but dream can sublimate it. These people emanate from reality but they go beyond themselves and become characters. And then again, the narrative helps to entangle quite naturally tarmac and fantastical. That is the possibility to “get the ghosts back” from the past haunting characters who can’t forget their past because they are rooted in it. Somehow, it gives these characters an opportunity to float.
Most importantly, I love filming life, filming living things. So, there is no repetitive effect. The actors don’t read any script and we shoot in chronological order. Each scene has its own essence because actors can interfere in the initial idea but I also constantly “trap” them: I don’t want them to simply reproduce or imitate. The screen is their life, so the door is open for them to interact and for all of us to be “in danger”. We are all into improvisation. It is a meticulous organised chaos. While shooting or before or after, we drink, we smoke, we sing or we play cards. Even when the camera comes in and shoots, life is above the cinematographic machine. Having said that, every single part of the filming has been thoroughly thought because I need to guide them as well.

After The Night is out in cinemas / VoD from the 25th April

Bbldnrbtl: I wanted to know what is your relation with Voodoo, witchcraft or the occult since Sombra gets “de-possessed” and was the iguana your fetish / totem animal?

Basil Da Cunha: I know nothing about Voodoo apart from the sorcerers who live in the ghetto and come to my films. I respect this kind of stuff, but some of these dream sellers make me laugh. I do like the idea that dreams are as real as reality.
As for the iguana, there was this lad in the ghetto who had one and I wanted to use it in my previous short. I found it quite poetical. When he sold it, I had to look for a new one because I wanted it as a pet for Sombra... since I don’t really like dogs.

Bbldnrbtl: After The Night has a feel of Latin American underground gangsta films and I was wondering about your references?

Basil Da Cunha: I think our cinema is pretty naive. It’s hard to find a reference. Maybe the claro-oscuro from films noirs or Rubens, Marat. For sure, I feel very close to Pasolini or Fellini. Not only when watching their films, but also the way they were shooting. It was all about manipulation and a joint effort with people and a certain reality. There was a feel of generosity and they were always flirting with danger. I quite like Pedro Costa too, his way to deal with dialogues and lighting. I really like Michel Gomes for its total freedom. But the one above anybody, the king... is Akira Kurosawa. He is to cinema what Edgar Morin is to philosophy. He defied complexity.

Bbldnrbtl: At some point, Sombra gets shot in a disused warehouse. He escapes and found himself at night in a no-man land poorly lit landscape (somewhere between a Jim Jarmusch-Ed Rusha and Jeff Brouws’ tableau). The scene only lasts a few seconds and I felt frustrated... I wanted to escape the narrowing of the faces. What is your relation to landscape since they are many close-ups and the relation to drugs?

Basil Da Cunha: I didn’t see the point to film in situ. These close-up allow the viewer to enter a certain time space of the ghetto. As for the drug, it’s a backdrop in this film, like violence. I didn’t want these issues to take over the film. They act as pretexts.

Bbldnrbtl: What is the impact of your film on these people?

Basil Da Cunha: We are very proud of the film within the ghetto. It’s really beautiful to succeed in getting to the end of that adventure. It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last one, but so far it’s the greatest. Especially that it was made with a shoestring budget and thanks to the gang. We are constantly learning and each film, my actors are getting even better. So... so far, all good.

After The Night (Ate Ver A Luz) is not quite La Haine, nor Viva Riva, nor City of God, but it surely is nearing the path of Pasolini, and if this is the path that Basil has decided to fool, we might be in for a treat.

More info =

Monday, 21 April 2014

An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker by Danis Tanović, A New Wave film release from 25 April.

Courtesy of New Wave Films

No system is inhumane as long as there are good people among us.Danis Tanović

An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker
Written and directed: Danis Tanović
Cast: Senada Alimanović, Nazif Mujić, Sandra Mujić, Šemsa Mujić
Genre:  film-documentary
Length: 74 min
Original Language: Bosnian with English subtitles
Bosnia and Herzegovina / France / Slovenia
Cert: 12A

Silver Bear: Jury Grand Prix Berlin Film Festival 2013
Silver Bear: Best Actor Nazif Mujić Berlin Film Festival 2013

Sometimes in 2001-2002, I saw a documentary film called Southern Comfort by Kate Davis @ BFI hosting a Q&A with the director. The true story of a female to male transsexual from Georgia, Atlanta. The man was then diagnosed with ovarian cancer and was denied treatment by doctors fearing for their reputation to have a man in their waiting room. A transgender struggle with no chance whatsoever to survive. In the spectrum of the so celebrated new millennium, such a shocking tale existed in a Western society praising itself for being... advanced, developed, emerged! That admirable breathtaking documentary still resonates and its memorable sequences left me with a scraped brain.

The idiocy of stigmatisation and discrimination!

Recently, I was invited by Human Rights Watch Festival via the New Wave Films ladies to see the Première of Danis Tanović’s latest documentary film An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker.
Danis Tanović was born in Zenica, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and his feature debut, No Man‘s Land (2001), won awards at Cannes in 2001, an Oscar and a Golden Globe.
He has made more films about war and its consequences since then.
An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker is a documentary about a Roma family re-enacting an episode from their own lives.

Set in a small Roma community far from the urban centres of BosniaHerzegovina, the story unveils the alienation of a couple and their two small daughters. The father Nazif sells iron to a scrapdealer from broken cars that he debones or from metal debris fields nearby, earning at times €70 every now and then. The mother Senada is a housekeeper who looks after their daughters when Nazif is out “on business”. Opulence seems to be a word kept at bay involuntarily. One day, Senada is hanging the clothes she has just hand washed when she suddenly feels an abdomen pain and is losing blood. At hospital, she learns that she is losing the baby and is at risk of septicaemia. In need of an immediate surgery and lacking a stateprovided health insurance card, the couple faces a €500 bill... Despite Nazif begging for help from the hospital staff, Senada is denied treatment and they return home. A marathon is starting when Nazif spends more time searching for metal and getting in touch with NGOs while their electricity gets cut.
They managed to get treatment illegally... eventually. A “banal” episode... but a recurrent one!

Despite the episode being performed by the Roma minority family replaying their own real story, this uncompromising and unsentimental documentary doesn’t lose its grip of social realism near film noir. Danis Tanović and the Mujić-Alimanović family deliver a non dramatised “exhibition” of an oppressed minority suffering discrimination that became a national scandal now a worldwide political conscience.
How do we, earthlings of an “evolved” society contemplate, or at worse endorse, these suffocated screams... an underground genocide?

Saturday, 19 April 2014

LOOKING FOR LIGHT: JANE BOWN. A film by Luke Dodd and Michael Whyte. In cinemas from 25 April

"Samuel Beckett", 1976. © Jane Bown
Courtesy of Soda Pictures

Looking for Light: Jane Bown
Dir: Luke Dodd and Michael Whyte
UK 2014
UK release date | 25 April 2014
A Soda Pictures release
Running time | 90 minutes
Certificate | 15

Special Preview with Q&A with directors Luke Dodd and Michael Whyte, hosted by Brett Rogers, director of the Photographers' Gallery @ ICA = 22 April

Paris, 1992. I took a crash course on B&W photography for beginners. HP5, Tri X 400, D76, aperture, speed, lens, composition, click. Bringing up the grain (or not), dodging the light on the enlarger, rubbing the paper into the developer. Among the many things one learns and has to remember constantly when about to shoot is the political aspect of a photograph. How to position your subject in a frame according to a specific light (if using natural light like I did always), but how the photographer positions itself with his sitter. “Are you above, straight face to face or “kneeling down”?

After WWII, Jane Bown studied photography in Guildford School of Art and sent a picture of a cow's eye close-up shot to The Observer picture editor. In 1949, she got a call from the editor and the petite lady was sent to photograph Nobel Prize philosopher Bertrand Russell.

Luke Dodd and Michael Whyte’s film/documentary celebrates Jane’s six decades love story with UK oldest newspaper but also focuses on her unknown private life.
Born on the wrong side of the blanket in 1925, Jane was set to be adopted but was instead taken care of by a succession of middle class aunts.
Looking For Light: Jane Bown mixes interviews with Jane, her colleagues at The Observer Don McCullin, Nobby Clark, Lynn Barber; her son Hugo Moss, fellow photographers such as Rankin, sitter such as Richard Ashcroft (The Verve) and so on.

The story unveils Jane’s determination to work in the male dominated world of photography without a constant trail of dithyramb from the participants of the film (apart from Rankin... perhaps admitting his own mediocrity). If McCullin appears a bit harsh, it is not out of respect for her but gives rather an idea on how she regarded photography... which eventually Jane would admit later in the documentary that it was perhaps more important than being a mother or a grandmother. Photography was her family. For God’s sake, she carried a shopping bag full of SLR cameras and 35 mm when on a shoot. However, one of the best compliments comes from Edna O’BrienShe was very clever at being nobody”. This is precisely the secret in photography: how to extract the essence of someone or something by being invisible.

While we are listening to the in-depth interviews, we learn about the difficult relationship between Public School boys of the Observer editorial room and their photographers; Jane on Bjork “She has a strange sense of dressing”; Jane not knowing PJ Harvey, going to her gig in 1995 and asked PJ if she could join the road (Jane’s gypsy side); Nobby Clark on how Diane Arbus didn’t like people she photographed and how Jane cared for her sitters... interviews punctuated with moments of total silence when a catwalk of Jane’s photos “interferes”. Intense B&W moments observing the light that illuminates her subjects, captures their souls. A pure enjoyable meditation on light. A technique imbedded in British history of photography.

Whether photographing Dennis Hooper or Margaret Thatcher, Jane Bown falls in love with her sitter, transcending who they are as persons into semi-gods. What strikes me all along however is her choice to position herself, very often, above her characters as if despite her petite size, she wanted to elevate herself and dominates the situation. Perhaps, this is the result of someone who grew up being told to be quiet and found a home within photography, a refuge into the darkroom, where she emancipated... she looked for a light through a tiny hole. This is what the film is about... a search for perfect natural light! No props.

 "Bjork", 1995 © Jane Bown
Courtesy of Soda Pictures

In the film, appear photographs of a Gypsy child, Spike Lee, Francis Bacon, Sinead O’Connor, Samuel Beckett, an attendant in Earl’s Court, Bjork, Queen Elizabeth II (for her 80th birthday), Richard Harris, John Bentjeman, Rudolf Nureyev, Eartha Kitt, Winston Churchill, Jayne Mansfield, Jean Cocteau, Michael Caine, Lucian Freud, homeless people, Simone Signoret, Desmond Tutu, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Bridget Riley, Jessye Norman, Jean-Michel Jarre & Charlotte Rampling, Bono, a dockworker, Vivienne Westwood, Keith Richards, Lisa Minnelli, and the list goes on.

22 December: Jane Bown, photographer, (13 March 1925 - 21 December 2014)

Thursday, 17 April 2014

London Analogue Festival coming back in September 2014 - submission... soon!

Was it the end of London Analogue Festival (LAF)? From strange emails to an email announcing the end of the festival to another email, last week, from an unknown person revealing some awkward truth about another person...
I eventually managed to find the manager of the festival, David Guerrini-Nazoa to clarify the situation. He created the festival and like any new festival or young students running a festival... things can go wobbly.

In September 2013, I posted on the London Analogue Festival and named it as the best new festival in my c(h)rappy xmas list.

I wanted to meet David, so he could tell more about LAF. I wish I could have met him at Joe’s Basement, a photographic lab for analogue films. You could drop your 35 mm films 24/7 in Wardour Street, W1. One morning of Jan 2003, all shops were stiff locked. Busted! David suggested the BFI Southbank to meet up.

Most of his fellow students who were part of LAF went back to their countries and he carries on the festival. The first edition in September 2013 was crowdfunded. He says that there are analogue festivals worldwide to celebrate films or photography but none offer an umbrella to celebrate the analogue era in general. He and his fellow’s students wanted to offer platform for artists using analogue in the world. A place where they could meet, or at least where their art pieces would gather under a same roof.
They were overwhelmed as they received 300 submissions from the world, from different generations and all walks of life.

I was wondering if there was a comeback to analogue despite digital being quite a recent “era”, a sort of hype?
According to David, it’s not hype as yet. Some are curious to have a go, some of the older generation continues to use analogue materials and film directors like Scorsese only shoot with analogue materials. There is an aesthetic and process that digital doesn’t offer. Whether with films, magnetic bands and processing, analogue is very tactile. You touch a product from beginning to end. You see the evolution. Analogue won’t die out, says David, it will shift, and it’s in transition.

At present, they are running workshops in photography and the run film screening to raise awareness in analogue as well as raising money for the second edition that might still happen in New Cross.

The submission for September edition will open in a few weeks time. No entry fee will be required but artists will have to pay for their work to be shipped. So, keep an eye on or their website coming soon on 
I am waiting for the LAF dates TBC, so I can log my analogue diary.