Thursday, 20 June 2013

Good-bye Tony Soprano

The death of actor James Gandolfini, aka Tony Soprano, at the age of 51 from a heart attack, came as a great shock.
Shocking because he was so relatively young.
And upsetting because I, like so many others, truly loved the Soprano series. In the days before Playback, we would rearrange our social lives so that we didn’t miss an episode. And what episodes they were!
The hulky, threatening gangster who saw a shrink; Tony hiding his huge armament of guns in the loft of an old people's home; and the Mafia don whose own mother plotted his assassination.
‘The Sopranos’ especially resonated for me because my very first photography assignments in New York were for exactly these same characters.
For a short while I worked for the United Teamsters Union, the union of disappearing Jimmy Hoffa fame. The vast majority of American the trade unions worked hard - and honestly - to make workers’ lives better. But the Teamsters were truly the hard boys of the union movement in New York.
The Teamster’s offices, just off Union Square, was filled with Soprano characters.
One time I rode up the lift with a group of Tony’s and as one of them scratched his bulging stomach, I saw the pistol strapped to his belt. I rushed breathlessly to the editor’s office, stumbling over my words to warn him that there was a man with a gun in the building. The editor looked at me with a look of ‘Stupid fuckin’ college kid’ and said, ‘That was the vice president, you idiot.’
The next day I was fired.
Good-bye James Gandolfini, Good-bye Big Tony.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Akram Khan’s DESH

Sometimes when I see a piece of work or art that deeply moves me, I’m left with my mouth agape, unable to find any words to convey the overwhelming sense of awe.
One of those times was when I first saw Guernica at the Museo del Prado in Madrid. Another was when I saw the Taj Mahal at sunrise
And Saturday night I experienced this feeling again when I saw Akram Khan’s magnificent Desh. His dancing, as always, was a combination of extreme physicality, seamlessly merged with a delicacy, grace and humour. Especially amazing for a dancer who severely tore his Achilles tendon in 2011.
But what made Desh overwhelmingly powerful was the lighting, set design and animation. At one point, Khan danced behind a transparent screen, upon which were projected images of an entire jungle, including elephants and birds, and while in the jungle, he actually ‘climbed’ up one of the hanging branches, the lighting so exquisite that for a moment I believed he was actually climbing up this projection of light.
If you don’t know about Akram Kahn, please have a look at Akram Khan Company You’re surely in for a treat!
As a photographer, it was an inspiration on how lighting can be used to take strong imagery into the realms of greatness.
I’ve never photographed Akram Khan – now that would be a dream assignment! – but I have been very privileged to work with the CandoCo Dance Company. CandoCo was started in 1991 by Celeste Dandeker and Adam Benjamin and grew into becoming the first UK professional dance company focused on the integration of disabled and non-disabled dancers.
CandoCo Dance Company
This photo is of Sue Smith and David Toole performing You Are Now Entering The State of Love in 1996.
David most recently performed at the London Paralympic Opening Ceremony. 
Inspiring, to say the very least.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Tyranny of the Decisive Moment

I recently interviewed the photographer Malcolm Glover for the Hastings Online Times (otherwise known as HOT).
I've known Malcolm for years and have always been a huge admirer of his work, the way he stitches together multiple images to create one seamless image of a place, as well as a place in time. I call it stretching time, but he has a more poetic term, Sculpting Time.
I asked Malcolm about his transition from photojournalism to his 'sculpted' imagery.
"After almost twenty years, I had had enough of the Decisive Moment looking over my shoulder every time I tried to get an image. Always looking for that elusive moment became fascistic, and I began to feel that it really was a tyrannical approach to taking photos."
Gasp! Horror! Sacrilege! How can anyone possibly defame the name of the great Cartier-Bresson? How indeed -- and good for you Malcolm!
I have to admit that I'm still in love with the quest for the DM (the image, not the shoes), but it did put a grain of doubt in my mindset and has made me to see
things just a little bit differently when I look through the viewfinder.
Thank you Malcolm!
Please have a read of the full interview:
Malcolm Glover interview in HOT