Thursday, August 04, 2016

Bringing It All Back Home

In the National Gallery it's Van Gogh's Sunflowers. In the Louvre it's the Mona Lisa. And in Florence it's Botticelli's The Birth of Venus (above). It seems that every major gallery has one iconic work that is the principal focus of selfie attention.

Around these 'trophy' artworks the hushed reverence that was once the default gallery mode has been swept away by smartphone-toting tourists elbowing their way to a clear view on their screens or, even worse, blocking everyone else's by posing for a selfie. Anyone wishing to peacefully contemplate the actual painting in front of them is in for a hard time.

Collecting such photographs is one of the more explicable idiocies of tourism. Perhaps what I have been doing - taking pictures of people taking those pictures – is idiocy squared, but tourism and its idiocies fascinate and repel me in equal measure. Being a tourist traipsing around Europe's big cities, with no connection to anyone who lives there, carefully channeled through a string of 'must-see' landmarks to which no native gives a second glance, can be a deathly experience. Suddenly alighting on something recognisable, both to the viewer and to their Facebook friends back home, makes a connection between the real world and this transient state of novelty and boredom. Maybe that's what photography is all about. 

Florence 2016

Saturday, April 09, 2016

More Market Failures

Nine Elms regeneration zone
 There is a striking disjunction between the desperate shortage of affordable housing in the capital, and the extraordinary panorama of cranes, pile-drivers and high-rise residential blocks in various states of construction visible from almost anywhere in the city with a view.

Even more extraordinary, at least to someone unfamiliar with London's dysfunctional property market, is the fact that many of the newly completed apartments transforming the skyline are empty, bought off-plan by overseas investors as convenient assets in which to stash their cash. But now it appears that all is not well in the luxury homes trade.

Battersea Power Station
Last month Morgan Stanley warned that prices of new, upmarket London flats could fall by as much as 20% this year, and the International Business Times reported that Chinese investors who bought apartments off-plan in the Battersea power station development are having second thoughts now the time has come to pay the balance on their relatively small up-front deposits. Those in the know are clearly expecting trouble: although pre-tax profits at the estate agent Foxtons only fell by 3% last year, investors knocked 33% of the share price. If these are the first signs of a bursting bubble, it would be good news for anyone who thinks of four walls and a roof as home, rather than an offshore shelter for their dodgy money.

More pictures here.

Construction of Alto Apartments, Wembley

Friday, February 26, 2016

A Chorus of Disapproval

Members of the ENO chorus in rehearsal, 1998
The chorus at the English National Opera has just voted for strike action in protest at proposals to cut four jobs and reduce the current year-long contracts for the remaining 40 singers to nine months. The cuts follow a 30% reduction in the ENO's annual Arts Council grant.

In 1998 I spent a very enjoyable three weeks dropping in on rehearsals for the ENO's world premiere of Gavin Bryars' Doctor Ox's Experiment, shooting backstage, in various rehearsal rooms and even, occasionally, on-stage, for a spread in Opera Now magazine. There's a lot of hanging around in rehearsals and I spent much of it in the very good company of the chorus. I don't know how many of today's strikers were there back then, but they were a diverse, humourous, and pleasingly stroppy bunch. I hope they win. More pictures here.

Director Atom Egoyan and the ENO chorus in rehearsal, 1998

Rehearsal for ENO's Doctor Ox's Experiment, 1998

Friday, February 19, 2016

London in 50

I've created a rotating gallery of pictures taken in my wanderings around the city, some on my way to or from commissioned shoots, a few, requiring special access, by prior arrangement. London in 50 is a work in progress, definitely not definitive. I've delved into the archives for some, but intend that older images will be displaced by new as the gallery evolves.