Category Archives: Photographers

Annual Cardiacs pilgrimage to London

I had a hectic-frantic two days in London last week. Arrived on Thursday evening just in time to have an early dinner with Martin and then head to Forbidden Planet to meet M John Harrison, who was signing copies of his new book Nova Swing. We were slightly delayed because we all thought that Forbidden Planet was in New Oxford Street (it was, but it’s now in Shaftesbury Avenue. London keeps shifting and changing when I’m not looking). Forbidden Planet was slightly depressing, too many memories of a life I thought I’d left behind. Martin wandered around pulling out random books and making cutting comments about them.

After the signing, we headed around the corner to the Phoenix Arts Club, underneath the Phoenix Theatre in Charing Cross Road, where an elderly camp barman in a colourful waistcoat served us overpriced drinks. Meanwhile, the hits of the musicals provided an aural backdrop, like some kind of light-night version of Elaine Paige’s Sunday Radio 2 show. Very strange. Even stranger, among the theatrical ephemera were hung posters advertising all the latest sci-fi/fantasy doorstop novels (I presume something to do with the proximity to Forbidden Planet).

I made my excuses and left early, as I had to get to Islington in time to see Arthur and John’s band, Animal Maths, playing at the legendary Hope & Anchor in Islington. Animal Maths were great, although they could have been a bit livelier (I think I’ve been spoiled in this respect, having seen loads of great Sheffield bands recently who put on a good performance as well as playing good music). Both lively & musical (and photogenic) were headline band The Mighty Roars. After the gig I had a good chat with their Debbie Harry-esque Swedish/Swiss singer Lara, until another woman positioned herself between us and said to me accusingly “are you trying to hit on her?”. More photos of Animal Maths and the Mighty Roars on my photographers website.

After the gig I walked down to Angel tube station, only to discover that, at 12.30am, I’d already missed the last tube (London is such a lame-ass city!) so I went to the bus stop, where I witnessed a crash between two taxis, before catching a bus to Ed’s studio. Sat there chatting to Ed, Taku and Rachel, who were making leather reindeer for some film or shop-display or something. I read a chapter of Nova Swing to them before collapsing, almost unconscious, into “bed” at 4am.

The next day started slowly, a gentle walk around London (if only I didn’t have to lug my heavy bag everywhere), I meandered over to the BJP vision (the British Journal of Photography’s annual event for aspiring professionals). I wasn’t quite sure of my purpose in being there, I thought that perhaps I’d doze off at the back of a lecture theatre while picking up Photoshop tips by osmosis, but in the end I didn’t go to any Photoshop lectures, just one talk by portrait photographer Brian Griffin. Brian was charming, fascinating, eccentric in just the right measure, and inspiring. Although I’d promised myself I was going to keep my London trip on a tight budget, I couldn’t resist splashing out on a signed copy of his absolutely luscious Influences book BRIANGRIFFINFLUENCES.

Motoring on, I walked the South Bank to the Tate Gallery, where I disgusted myself by being too chicken to ride down Carsten Höller’s wonderful slides (even though I thoroughly enjoyed watching the excited faces of every single person emerging from the bottom), then continued towards Waterloo and over the river to the National Portrait Gallery where I took a lengthy look at the finalists and winners of this year’s Photographic Portrait Prize which I entered but didn’t make the grade for. There was some wonderful stuff there, but also some confusing choices, including initially the winner, although some time spent absorbing it and the information printed alongside helped me to come around to it eventually.

By this time, it was almost 6pm, time to meet Arthur in The Tottenham for our annual pilgrimage to the Cardiacs gig at the Astoria. While I was waiting for Arthur to turn up, I bumped into Andy Wilson, maintainer of the Faust Pages, who I hadn’t seen for several years. Andy alerted me to the fact that on the 1st December, the ICA are screening a film of the best Faust gig I ever went to (also, apparently, the best Faust gig ever). My review of that gig still lives on via the Faust pages. Damn, I shall have to get back to London for 1st December.

Arthur finally arrived and we went in to the Astoria. First up were Jon Poole’s band the God Damn Whores. They played some great mungey punky metal. I’d planned to keep my camera in my bag for the night, but the number of camphone-wielding fans tempted me otherwise: I started snapping away. Bad move. I was spotted and singled out for using a “pro camera”. I thought this would come to nothing when the bouncer wandered off again, but at the end of the support set he tracked me down (not easy in an audience of thousands) and hauled me out of the gig. I had to hand my camera over to the box office, in exchange for a cloakroom ticket, before I was allowed back in to see the Cardiacs.

Meanwhile, Arthur had bumped into some friends of his, Scaramanga Six. This band are (almost) local to me – from Huddersfield, and I had previously met their drummer (who lives in Sheffield) and been told many times that I ought to check them out, but I still have not to date (I’m determined to see them on December 16th, when they’re next in Sheffield – at the Grapes). So it was good to finally meet them and all freak out to the Cardiacs together. I can’t say it was one of my favourite Cardiacs gigs – I was already too drunk when they came on, plus my mind was on my camera for much of the night. Still, it’s not really possible to have a bad Cardiacs gig, and from what vague memories I still have, it was a lot of fun.

Afterwards I collected my camera and tried to revive myself with a coffee, before boarding a tube to Old Street where Scaramanga Six smuggled us into the Cardiacs after-show party. Much madness I am sure ensued, but I’m sorry to say that I was too drunk to really remember any of it. All the band were there, I got to say hello to William D Drake and the DJ played Gong and King Crimson. Woo-hoo! I just hope I didn’t make too much of a fool of myself. Arthur and I stumbled outside at around 4am, realised the only way of getting back to Twickenham was in a taxi (ouch), I forked out £40+ (ouch!) for the cab and then collapsed on Arthur’s living room floor, aware that I had to wake up again in about two hours to be sure of catching my train back to Sheffield. I checked and re-checked several times that the alarm on my phone was set for 6am and was switched on.

Several weird dreams later… I’m one-quarter awake, thinking “I could get up now, but the alarm hasn’t gone off yet”. I decide to check the time anyway. It’s 9am. Shit! I check the phone and there’s no sign of the alarm – I must have switched it off “in my sleep”. I’m normally very good at waking up to alarms at any time of the day or night, but once in a while, when I’ve pushed my body too far, it switches to automatic mode and “deals with” the alarm for me without any need for my waking mind to kick in. My train to Sheffield was at… 8.25am. I meandered, still drunk, into St Pancras and instead caught the 11.25, but as I had a time-restricted ticket I had to pay another £52 for the privilege. Ouch! (again).

Photography Portfolio Website

I recently got around to doing something which has been on my mind for several months: I built myself a more focused, photography-only website.

The website is intended to drum up a little more photography business for me, and ultimately to serve as a shop window for my art projects. I don’t feel like my work is quite fully developed yet (in particular, I wish I had a few more portraits & event photos to represent the kind of work I’d like to be hired to do), but I wanted to stake my claim and start building up search engine visibility.

Also some of the writing doesn’t quite feel comfortable – trying to write an artist’s statement is hard when I don’t really have a coherent vision of the direction I wish to pursue.

The site will always stay around this size – I plan to add “genre” sections on Fashion/Beauty, Music and Product/Still-life when I have enough good pictures to justify it, but I will never put more than 9 photos in a section.

Comments & criticism very welcome.

Kash Gabriele Torsello

Kash Gabriele Torsello A very strange day yesterday. I spent it at the Frieze art fair in London. The whole place stank of money, but I had a pleasant time. But then, the minute I was leaving after 5 hours of art overload, I got a phone call from a foreign number. It was from Associated Press in Rome.”I believe you have taken a photo of the journalist Kash Gabrielle Torsello?””Yes””And you have that photo on your website?””Yes”

(I’m thinking “weird, has Kash spotted it, and perhaps wants it taken down?”)

“We’re getting reports that Kash has been kidnapped in Afghanistan. It seems that you have the only photograph of him online. I got your telephone number by going to your website and viewing your CV. Could we use your photo to put out a press release about his kidnap”.

Very strange. I sent him the photo – which involved some serious improvisation, as it had “fallen off the end” of my free Flickr account and I had a train to catch from London back to Sheffield. By the time I reached Sheffield, it would have been too late for Italian press deadlines. I managed to find an Internet café, login to Flickr, pay the $24 to upgrade my account to Pro, recover the photo, mail it off, and catch my train, just.

I only met Kash once, when I took this photo: it was at an art gallery in London nine months ago. We chatted for quite a long time: I was just getting together the courage to try some street photography, in fact it was the day before I wrote this blog entry.

I was somewhat overawed at his courage as a photojournalist in Kashmir and Afghanistan. He told me “in Afghanistan, you never lift your camera quickly. There have been several assassinations by people disguised as journalists.” He told me about his work out there, about some of the incredible and heart-rending things he had seen. I was quite moved by it all.

I emailed him afterwards, then we dropped out of touch. A month ago, I discovered his profile on Lightstalkers and mailed him again. We chatted briefly by email. I saw that he was back in Helmand province. My last words to him were “Stay safe!”

More on the kidnapping:
BBC news
Observer/ Guardian newspaper
Editorial Photographers UK

I’m feeling very strange about this. It’s not as if I know the guy, but that makes this feeling even more peculiar. I just hope he makes it through this OK.

Update: Kash’s kidnappers have been in touch with the Italian authorities. In exchange for Kash’s return they have asked that Abdul Rahman, the Afghani who was sentenced to death for the crime of apostasy (abandoning Islam and converting to Christianity), be returned to Afghanistan. They have set a deadline of the end of Ramadan (which is next Tuesday, 24th October). I hope above hope that the kidnappers have a change of heart, although I am not very optimistic. I certainly can’t see the Italian government returning Rahman to Afghanistan to be executed.

The NUJ have set up a page for the latest news updates on Kash’s situation, where you can also leave messages for Kash.

Maciej Dakowicz

Maciej Dakowicz has some great late-night photos of Cardiff. Plus great photos of India, Cambodia, China, Poland and beyond, but I especially love the Cardiff ones as they inspire me to try more of the same myself – from time to time, I’ve captured snippets of the late-night street-life in Sheffield, but usually a little half-heartedly (I usually have to be at least as drunk as my subjects if I’m to get the courage to roam the streets at night with over £1k worth of camera wrapped around my wrist, but I do occasionally catch stuff like the Saveloy Girls).

Thanks to Paul Russell and the Street Photography Forum for the pointer.