Thursday 21 November 2013

Documentary - 2

The ongoing debate about whether photography can be considered art has never been resolved. Perhaps it is best seen as a subset of a 'what is art' discussion.

One definition that Suki quoted in a comment to my last post is that art is what you find in art galleries. You do often see photography in art galleries. There are galleries devoted to photography. My favourite is The Photographers' Gallery in London. Suki quoted Grayson Perry from his recent Leith Lectures where he claimed you could tell a photograph was art if the subject wasn't smiling. Another definition is that photography is art if it is black and white. Sadly one wonders if it really does come down to this in the eyes of some. Loizart in her comment to my last post suggests that photography is best avoiding getting caught up in the 'art' debate at all and be confident in what it does best.

I saw a wonderful exhibition some months ago at The Photographers' Gallery by Laura Letinsky called 
Ill Form and Void Full. This exhibition was clearly art. It was just that the medium was photography rather than paint, clay, movement, sounds or words. It might have more in common with abstract art. Does not documentary photography have then much in common with representational art? Are they not both interpretations of what is seen? A good photograph is not just a record. It interprets. It asks questions.

I am unclear why documentary photographs should be excluded from being art or even 'fine art' just because it is documentary.A friend recently gave me a book of photographs from Life magazine. You would recognise many of the photographs in it. Life is a photo-journalist magazine and has published many wonderful photographs over the decades. Are they excluded as art because they are documentary?

Before photography much drawing, etching and painting was documentary. If a photographic portrait is documentary then is not a drawn or painted portrait? No? What if the representation was very realistic as in photo-realism? If it is hard to see quickly whether a picture is photographed or painted then why should it be denied the possibility of being art through being photographed but not if it was painted?

Is there really a line between 'documentary' and 'art'. If so how is it drawn? Who draws it? Why?

 ~ ~ ~

Saturday 9 November 2013

Documentary - 1


That's what they said,


I'd scattered the photographs large and bold across the floor.


I've spent the last few years trying to escape from documentary. It was what I did. Now I don't. Or so I thought.

There were reasons for my escape from that harsh world of reality. Perhaps it wasn't reality. That harshness and suffering, even misery. Not real at all for those who looked in magazines, newspapers, colour supplements, books and galleries. Perhaps it was all a different kind of fantasy and artifice for them. If it had clearly showed the reality they would look away. Perhaps some did look away from the more powerful ones. I do now. In fact I no longer even try to look at them.

The Life Room project with Suki was so much safer it seemed to me.

It was about art, not reality. A place of gentleness and quiet, intense concentration. People creating not destroying. Growth rather than decay. Promise not despair.

But there too there is a power struggle. Who is in control? The artist or the model? Who is dominant and who submissive? They all give different answers. Suki has documented it and curated discussion on her blog. Do read some of the issues here, here, here and here. There was also an interesting Radio 4 programme relating to it the other day, Behind the Looking Glass.

So perhaps I am still involved in conflict and documenting it.


I'd tried so hard to escape from it but failed.

Must try harder.

Tuesday 22 October 2013

Berlin photographs 8

Berliner Dom

Suki used to work here. She tells me she got thrown out, which somehow doesn't surprise me.

Friday 18 October 2013


See more of my Berlin photographs tonight at the launch of Suki's new poetry collection 'Thin Bones Like Wish-bones'.

Do come!

Thursday 10 October 2013

Berlin photographs

At last - some of my Berlin photographs. I'll try to publish several over the next week. If you would like to see the whole series it will be previewed as an audio-visual slideshow during the launch of Suki's new poetry collection Thin Bones Like Wish-Bones. You can find an invitation here.

Fernsehturm reflection, Alexanderplatz

Sunday 29 September 2013

spinning light

I visited the Cloth and Memory exhibition at Salts Mill briefly again last week and the week before. I think that is at least four times now. On most of those visits the light was great - lots of sunshine pouring through the long skylights. On one day however it was cloudy and dull. The exhibition seemed less exciting. There was no artificial light and the exhibits suffered from not being lit. One of the exhibits on a previous visit sparkled in the bright sunlight. In the dimness they lost some of their interest and drama. Don't get me wrong - it is a fascinating exhibition but even on my last sunny visit later in the afternoon as the sun was going down I worried how the exhibits will fare on dull October afternoons ...

Here is a picture of the wonderful space, the Spinning Room, where the exhibition is housed.

Pictures of Berlin coming soon - I promise!

Thursday 26 September 2013

cloth and memory - red thread

A last picture from the Cloth and Memory {2} exhibition at Salt's Mill before I start to show you a selection from those I took on a recent visit to Berlin. Appropriately this work is by a German artist Katharina Hinsberg.

Katharina Hinsberg

Thursday 5 September 2013

Female Victorian Figures - a workshop at Hepworth Wakefield

When Suki, Helen Peyton and I were producing our event at Grassington Festival we received a huge amount of generous and excellent help from Bryony Pritchard. Bryony is leading a one-off movement session at The Hepworth Wakefield in a couple of weeks.

The session is focusing on representation and morals of Victorian women from aristocratic backgrounds as well as female pit workers. There will be opportunities for engaging the body through improvised movement and developing ideas for choreography individually and collaboratively.

The session is offered to adults of all ages and dance ability, but artists are welcome to come and draw the movement and bodies, if preferred.

You can find all the details here. It looks very interesting so do support it.

I must ask if she needs a photographer ... !

Wednesday 28 August 2013

cloth and memory

I've been twice now to the Cloth and Memory {2} exhibition in the wonderful Spinning Room at Salts Mill. The first visit was towards the end of the day and I didn't have time to look round properly before it closed. So I returned the next day with Suki in tow and my camera. I've been telling everyone I meet to go and see it ever since.

I took lots of photographs of the exhibits in the amazing space on the top floor of the mill with light streaming through the skylights and of the space itself. The interaction between the space and the exhibits is part of the whole attraction.

You can read more about the exhibition here.

I will be publishing some more of my photographs of the exhibition and the space here and on Twitter.

Sunday 4 August 2013

by the Leeds Liverpool canal

Taken in Shipley recently.

I'm going to Berlin for a couple of weeks. It is my first visit there and I shall be taking my camera so perhaps there will be more photographs to show here soon.

Sunday 28 July 2013


From the exhibition Dyke of our Time by Tania Olive at The Photographers' Gallery earlier this month.

See this series on Tania's website here.

You can see some photos I took at the wonderful Photograhers' Gallery in April here.

Wednesday 24 July 2013

Huddersfield Life Room

The latest in the Life Room series is of Huddersfield Art Society. Lots of contrast of colour and play. I hope you like it. You can find it here.

Friday 19 July 2013

New Life Room - Jane Fielder at work

Suki and I have now published the next Life Room. It is one of our favorites with the wonderful Jane Fielder. We had fun with the photographs of Jane drawing with ink pipettes on a huge canvas while Suki was in the shower! You can also see her drawing the outlines for Washing on the Line paintings which were exhibited with others from the Aire Valley Art Group in an exhibition at the Bexley Wing of St James' Hospital in Leeds.

See the new Life Room, Jane Fielder at work here.

Thursday 11 July 2013

Haworth Life Room

It was a great evening at Suki's place on Sunday, I understand. She and my assistant Mike launched the three Life Room slideshows that we are releasing over the next few weeks. Mike tells me they were very well received and he even bought me back a piece of birthday cake.

You can see the slideshow of The Haworth Group here.

Earlier Life Rooms - Dean Clough and Chris Murray's Studio as well as a gallery, Artists' Hands - can be seen here.

If you do not already follow it do visit Suki's blog and the serialisation of her autobiography A Small Life at

Sunday 2 June 2013

Is this the 'truth' about women?

I went to a private view at Leeds Gallery on Friday to see the Ashley Karrell exhibition, Expression of You, The Divine Feminine. I met Feisty Fraulein J , Bill Parker and Suki there. It was a great evening and I got into a lively discussion with Bill about the exhibition. I found myself wondering - is this  arrogant, pretentious and manipulative... or?  It raised lots of issues for me, starting with the title of it, and what it claimed to do. The concept supposedly behind it was that this was how the women wished themselves to be presented, their 'truth'. If these representations really were the women's 'truths', then I am very unhappy with the way many young women wish to be portrayed.

Insofar as the exhibition stimulated much discussion,  it was very worthwhile. I had a brief chat with Ashley and still felt that there were some issues with the concept - though enjoyed the debate it created. Later Feisty Fraulein J described it more eloquently than me on Suki's noticeboard this week, but summed up some of my thoughts.

I felt the exhibition as a whole was more stimulating than the individual photographs but Suki has bought one. I'm not sure she has bought one of mine yet!

There were at least five photographs of women in tears. I wondered who I should go to see if I want to cry. My therapist or a photographer?

Monday 20 May 2013

life model

I had two of the poem pictures I made of Suki's poems exhibited at the Domestic Cherry exhibition at the Artsite & The Post Modern Gallery in Swindon. I think this one is my favourite.

Thursday 16 May 2013

Swindon Literature Festival

SukiHelen Peyton and I were in Swindon at the weekend for the Literature Festival. Suki and Helen toasted the weeked with a glass each of red wine before we set off with me driving. We stopped at a service station on the way and had a picnic off the bonnet of the car in the car park eating the red caviar sandwiches that Suki had packed - she said it was all she had in the fridge!

On Friday we went to a lively poetry night for the launch of Hilda Sheehan's poetry collection 'The Night My Sister Went To Hollywood'. Beforehand we made lots of new friends in a small Portuguese tapas bar. Afterwards we drank lots of champagne to celebrate at Lower Shaw Farm where we were staying - Suki particularly liked the champagne!

On Saturday we were busy setting up for a performance of Under The Gaze. Suki also read from her poetry collection Kunst. Suki and Helen were brilliant. The audience loved it and there was a lively discussion. There is a review of the event here. If you missed it then do try to get to Grassington Arts Festival where it will be repeated.

Hilda drew a lovely picture of Suki at the event. When her young daughter, Flo, saw it she must have decided it was rude as Suki was naked so kindly gave her some clothes.

I like it!

PS A big thank you to Michael Scott for all his help.

Wednesday 8 May 2013

Dean Clough Life Room

Suki and my first LIFE ROOM was exhibited on a permanent loop at Dean Clough Galleries, Halifax, UK over the weekend. It can still be seen there on request - just ask at reception. I've now also put it online on my website here.

This picture is from that audio-visual presentation. It is of Doug Binder, Artist in Residence at Dean Clough, organiser of the life-drawing class there every Monday and curator of the current exhibition.

Thursday 2 May 2013


The LIFE ROOM is an ongoing audio-visual and creative writing project between myself as a photographer and the poet and life model Suki.

We are gradually producing a series of three minute audio-visual pieces representing around twenty life-drawing groups plus the studios of some individual artists, mostly from around Yorkshire in the north of England.

The first audio-visual piece, 'THE LIFE ROOM I: Dean Clough' will be exhibited at Dean Clough Galleries, Halifax, UK, on Saturday (4th May 2013), where Douglas Binder is Artist in Residence. Doug organises a life-drawing class there every Monday (to which anyone is welcome: see details on Suki's site here - scroll to Halifax). Our piece will be projected in a room close to Reception - do ask if you cannot find it. It is a series of photographs of the artists drawing and painting Suki, accompanied by a jazz track chosen by Doug. The context for our piece being shown is the launch of an exhibition by Doug and his life drawing group, plus exhibitions of the work of all the Dean Clough Studio Artists.

I will upload 'THE LIFE ROOM I: Dean Clough' both on this blog and on my website next week. In the meantime, here is a photograph taken from it, of artist Keith Hanselman.


Feisty Fraulein J and Calm Nick invited Suki to accompany them on a visit to Chester and I went along for the ride. April weather - lovely sunshine and sharp showers. The showers drove us into the shops and galleries. Suki needed to buy a button. Then we went for a latte and cake.


Suki and I stood outside a gallery being critical of a large oil painting given central space in the window. It was a female nude, seductive and coy, breasts hidden by an arm, her hips draped in silk. Ok for a footballer's wife's bedroom perhaps who could afford the £5000 price tag. It was by Mark Spain. I cannot find a copy online of the particular painting we were looking at but it was similar to Morning Light on this page.

It seemed kitsch, soft art porn. Why did it seem like that to me? What makes this so different from the many images prduced by artists of Suki? Suki does not generally pose to be seductive and coy.

Blatant, open, challenging perhaps, but rarely coy.

The art work of Suki somehow has more character - but trying to identify why was difficult.

The painting in front of us had been created with some skill. What was missing from it? What was at fault? The pose, the model, the artist or were we just being downright snobs?

Thursday 18 April 2013

Man Ray and Lee Miller

Suki and I had planned to visit the Man Ray exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery while we were in London. However Suki was busy scribbling. Poems or a new blog post I suppose. So I went on my own.

I stopped off at the V&A. They claim to have an "internationally renowned collection of photographs". However they only exhibit a few in a small gallery. They did show four by Man Ray.

Though my favourite in the gallery may have been Women spreading out their saris before the sun by Heni Cartier-Bresson.

The other reason for popping into the V&A is of course that they have a great cafe. However as it was Easter week it was completely packed. I managed to get a place at a table opposite a skinny (skinnier than Suki - really) art student bashing out something onto her battered Apple MacBook. Her iPhone was by the side of it and looked so damaged it could have been through a war zone. How do you get your stuff so bashed about visiting art galleries? It must be more dangerous than I thought. I need to take more care.

Intermittently I looked at her strangely shaped face when I wasn't busy scraping the lathering of mustard off my pastrami brioche to make it edible without sneezing the contents of my sandwich and my nose across at her.

I did get a quick snap of the cafe.

I went on to the National Portrait Gallery and decided not to go into the Man Ray exhibition after all. It was nearly half past four and I was meeting a friend from work soon after five. £15 seemed a lot to pay for a quick look round. I spent my time instead first of all in the bookshop going through all the Man Ray books they had there. The best one was of him together with Lee Miller (Partners in Surrealism.) Lee was in turn his student, his collaborator and his lover. That period at the end of the twenties and beginning of the thirties gave rise to some great work from both of them. He of course is more famous because he is a man.

However Lee Miller was a fantastic photographer in her own right. As well as the surrealist work she created with Man she later became a war photographer and a fashion photographer. She was at the liberation of the concentration camps at Buchenwald and Dachau. That had a lasting effect on her - she toured Europe unable to understand after the war why everything could not have been made so much better. 

Some of the photographs attributed to Man Ray were taken by Lee Miller. She deserves greater recognition.

The book about her and Man Ray cost £25. I thought how much better value that was compared with £15 to look round the exhibition.

I had a quick sprint round the contemporary galleries while deciding whether to get it then found myself walking through Trafalgar Square on the way to Embankment tube station, still trying to decide. Perhaps someone will buy me it for my birthday.

Thursday 11 April 2013

The Photographers' Gallery

Suki wrote here about our visit to London. I managed to give her the slip and searched for The Photographers' Gallery. It is a while since I had last been but thought I had remembered well exactly where to find it. Down a small street between Covent Garden Market and Soho. It was a lovely small gallery with interesting exhibitions and a small cafe.

I searched and searched and found a shoe shop that Suki would like but the gallery had disappeared. I asked in two other galleries but got only blank stares.

I got out my Blackberry and Googled it. Clearly it was nowhere near where I was looking. When I got back to the flat I Googled again. It had moved to new premises on the other side of Soho, just off Oxford Street, close to Carnaby Street.

I headed off there the next day. I hadn't been sure about the exhibitions from what I'd read quickly on the website. However a couple of them in particular were great. Geraldo de Barros was a Brazilian artist and designer. As a young artist he used photography to create fascinating abstract designs. Later after a stroke he cut up his older photographs to create very distinctive effects. Laura Lentinsky created large canvases in shades of white, photographs of objects and cut outs to produce still life pictures. Quite stunning.

Both were clearly artists who happen to use photography as their medium. I wished I'd taken Suki. I think she would have been interested.

The building was interesting enough to encourage me to take a few snaps with the pocket camera I was carrying. The cafe was excellent - a great pot of Earl Grey and lots of nice food that I managed to resist.

You can see some of my photographs as a slideshow below.

Tuesday 19 February 2013

more swans

My friend Suki helped me crop these photographs taken yesterday. We decided on a square shape - I'd be interested in what you think.

Monday 18 February 2013


I walked from Shipley to Saltaire this afternoon following two swans. I took a million photographs. I haven't sorted them yet but here is one to be going on with.

Friday 15 February 2013

canal in the snow

It has been a lovely cold sunny day today. Was it really snowing so hard on Wednesday?

Wednesday 6 February 2013


A window in Ellis Briggs cycle shop in Shipley. (They mend Suki's bike for her!)

Wednesday 30 January 2013

Monsters finish off Shipley cinema

Soon the monsers had devoured almost all of the cinema in Shipley after the fire ...

Tuesday 29 January 2013

Monsters in Shipley

The Shipley monsters continued to devour the cinema following the fire.

Monday 28 January 2013

When monsters invaded Shipley

When the old art deco cinema was destroyed by fire, monsters came and devoured it.

Sunday 27 January 2013

Friday 25 January 2013

Monsters attack Shipley cinema!

Last weekend a fire sadly destroyed an art deco cinema in Shipley. As it was unsafe monsters were sent in to destroy and eat it ...

(more over the next few days)