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A Tribute To...

a Schwitters inspired photograph

I had never heard of Kurt Schwitters when I rode past Tate Britain this week. I wasn't in the best of moods so was somewhat distracted.

Kurt was an artist. A painter apparently. Famous for his merz work. In fact he invented the technique. Well he called it painting when really he was cutting, ripping, sticking, layering perhaps even occasionally kicking found objects and textures into a fairly satisfying conclusion. In other words, a collage.

What was fascinating about his work was the story that was wrapped up in it. It is the nature of collage making that you cut or rip out found imagery and find some kind of order of the the mess you've made. As you're probably using magazines or newspapers for source material you kind of end up solving a cultural puzzle in your head. Gluing Simon Cowell's smug head to the top of Satan's trident perhaps. As Kurt was forced to travel across Europe before and during the second world war the items he used as his patchwork become remarkable. Telling a tale about his own personal journey and the world around him.

He lived and worked in Hanover, Germany building merz houses believe it or not before his work was denounced as degenerate along with a host of other artists work. He fled to Norway feeding his artistic urges with the rubbish and found objects of his journey. These small merz mark the time and the culture. better than keeping a diary in my opinion. 

He did eventually flee again this time to Britain, only to be locked up in a camp that can only be described as heaven. Artists, philosophers and thinkers who had fled from the tyranny of Germany were housed in a camp far away from the destruction and devastation of the rest of europe, tucked away on the isle of man. Safe, watered, fed they were free to work as they pleased, and he did, creating at least 200 new works. They even held regular exhibitions. "If Carlsberg did POW camps" is what springs to mind...

He was later 'released' and went on to influence the wider British art scene and arguably still does. It's hard to envisage what British pop art would have looked like without him. More importantly though my mood was better for having discovered him.

 Tate Britain 
 £10 a ticket  (£5 with the Art Pass)
on  til 12th May  2013


Spring is on its way...

I like the colour palette in this shot. Makes staring at traffic seem interesting. 
three guys too deep in discussion to notice the interesting silhouette they're inhabiting. A photo made by the gestures.
reflections create an abstract form
I liked the way this ladies hair was escaping her hair net just as she was escaping work
A squirrel making his get away with candy in mouth, good luck opening that wrapper without thumbs!


We arrived mid afternoon on a cold and frosty Saturday, mid January in Margate. It's winter but still, I expected a bit more of a buzz at this seaside town.

That frosty myth was sold to me by Mary Portas and Co. selling cheap rail tickets to UK destinations over the winter period in a bid to jolt into life a hibernating urban wilderness.

It doesn't want to be woken, it knows what it is. I don't think we are even wanted there.

The elements have bleached this town in the winter. Salt and snow have lined the pavements, trees and houses. Colours have faded. Doors are bolted shut. Rooms throb from behind the panes. 

It echoes the past and clings to it. 

like the oldest roller-coaster in Britain. A slow undulating circle which has seen better days.

The only modern feature is the Turner gallery. From the outside it doesn't look much. From within it carves panoramic views overlooking the sea, respectful of its namesake. Ensuring each visit is different and unique with the changing conditions of the sea views. 

The town harbors few commercial boats, just the juggernaut float past like flakes on the horizon line, but it will be catching new streams of traffic flooding into the the gallery I'm sure. A really worthwhile and well thought out space.

The people know that and seem to be reserving energy, holding back. 

A focus point, a totem pole to Margates new future as an attractive destination. The summer will come, the beach will thaw, and new life will breathe across it's passageways.

The Turner Contemporary

Interactive art inspires

The gallery has it's effect already, energising a generation

A fancy car, perhaps out of place on this highstreet



You enter via an innocuous small door leading from the main courtyard at Somerset House. Into an immaculate small room occupied by a Lancaster bomber which although is in a compromising position seems to have made it through the brickwork unscathed. 

The room is inspired by the opening scene from the brilliant British film A Matter of Life and Death by Powell and Pressburger. In one image a lady in uniform sits in a chair staring into space mostly unperturbed by the seismic crash that must have occured, alluring to the idea that she is reflecting on something or someone. It's then that you realise this is not a reality, you've entered a fantasy world and Tim is narrating it to us.

I arrived at the same time as a herd of art school students that had turned up bubbling with excitement and threatening to pop this bubble of fantasy. They didn't, they dispersed into the spaces inside. Enchanted perhaps by the novelty of each room and the diversity of work on display. From delicately crafted and complex scenes to intimate and often touching portraits of the brightest and greatest brits in popular culture (of which he's done them all, from Vivienne Westwood to the surviving cast of Monty Python).    

At one point I stopped to read a line from Tim's narative which really grabbed my attention, he talked about creating moments. Moments are talked about across the whole spectrum of photography but which I had never thought applied to fashion photography. It seemed such a manipulated and directed form that I suppose I felt it didn't deserve to share language with greats like Cartier Bresson (interestingly also on show at Somerset House) I guess I had always felt photojournalism was selling us fact whereas fashion was selling a fiction, so for me they couldn't be from more different ends of the scale. 

London for some time has been re-calibrating this idea for me slowly, from shows at the National Gallery to the V&A. Galleries are discussing photography's role in art and culture. In particular questioning a photo's truthfulness. It is this that his exhibition illustrated for me: that no matter what area of photography you are in your image is always going to be your opinion. A photo is completely subjective, like any art. fact or fiction doesn't come into it anymore. It is what you choose to believe.

"Tim's photos consistently illustrated how 
complex it was to successfully craft a 
moment that has never existed." 

I'm always a little skeptical when it comes to reading artists exhibition supplements. They have a tendency to over complicate the simplest of ideas, to the point where you feel you are being lead down the garden path.  

With Tim, he talks easily and fluently. Perhaps at times you want to believe what is being said, mainly about him going on these solo journey's with a camera, but in the end a good shot often comes down to the roles that others play. The set designers, the models, the clothing, a striking body position... there are so many people involved in making a good fashion photo that it can't always be him fetching the credit. There isn't enough made of that, perhaps on purpose. To cement the legend that is undoubtedly Tim Walker.

"Such a big time photographer must have 
dozens of minions chirping in his ear, 
I guess what we must really give him credit for, 
is the ability to say no."

As the exhibition ushers you around it's labyrinth of rooms and passages you realise how it has been curated with the style and slickness of a fashionable high street store. bleached boxes stacked in a stylised heap housing perhaps just one portrait photo is something you accept walking around. Or at least you temper your feelings towards it's unnecessary use because at least there is no one trying to sell you anything. 

In some ways its a shame the work can't simply speak for itself without the gigantic dolls and pools of sand. It makes you wonder if I would have left with the same impression, if the stage tricks had not been present. I guess the truth is I liked the extras, the artifacts of his discoveries and the evidence of his eye for detail. They play a huge part in the whole experience. Proof of their use in the shoot and not added at the last by post production, much to his credit.

But it makes so much sense that the fashion industry would want to associate with this style of fashion photography. effectively branding an idyll into our minds. Associating our favorite and most comforting fantasy stories with big high street brands. Projecting the incredible, somewhere only our dreams take us, but making it within everyones reach... and sometimes for an affordable price. The fashion houses hope to capture the imagination and appeal to your 'individuality'. But these photos are taken out of this context. No brand names on display here. So you are able to appreciate them more than you might anticipate because of this. Focus on their brilliance and not what they are trying to sell you.

This exhibition invites you to question photography as you know it. He does it all with a British flair, precision and sense of humour. They are bold and honest productions that deserve the all the praise they are getting. Simply go and see it.

Somerset House

Exhibition runs til  27 January 2013 

 Free  admission

Daily 10:00 - 18:00



Just a small slice of that spectrum that is Brixton


Capital Catastrophe...

I woke up to tragic news that a Helicopter had crashed into a crane. It's said that, using the Thames as a guide from the sky, the pilot had failed to see through the morning mist and reacted too late to a crane protruding from a the top of a tall building. It resulted in a fireball hitting the streets of London below and the deaths of two people. It's a minor miracle there weren't more casualties.

I cycled over late morning to see for myself and found both the low winter light and the intensity of the media crowd quite absorbing. I was focusing not on the investigation going on well out of sight down the road behind lines of emergency vehicles, but on the faces of those doing just that.

Their focus on the event meant they paid little attention to me.

best not disturb Sherlock