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Showing posts from 2011

Walking backwards

Robert Mapplethorpe

Back in the early 80's it was hard not to be impressed by Robert Mapplethorpe.  His images were everywhere.  He had both a unique vision and a level of technical ability which appealed widely, even to the mainstream art world.  The few detractors who insisted his work was pornographic were largely ignored by anyone with enough judgement to recognize deviancy had been transmuted into something of bold formal beauty.

Mapplethorpe, who died of AIDS in 1989, also made self-portraits.  I like his make up and hair in this one.

It seems so long ago.  Does anyone pursue a similar line of enquiry now?

I had got some new high heeled shoes (off eBay) and a few items of clothes (charity shops and a Chrissy pressie) so prepped for a dressing up shoot today.  Starting yesterday, of course, as it takes soooOOoooo long to get ready - and there would be very limited time with such weak winter daylight coming into the spare bedroom (with its blinds down).  Maybe a couple of hours at best.  I set my…

The journey in

Sunday was freezing but with dream-like bright sunshine.  Being so close to the shortest day the shadows even in mid afternoon were stretching far away. The blue sky looked like it was summer while five layers of clothing was just about enough to bear the cold. 

A lecturer on my course (long ago) had insisted that the Topographics style of photography was defined by the steeply overhead light (of the American mid-west), and that particular look could not be re-created in Britain - a couple of us tried adapting it to our higher lattitude and our damp island air.  But he had a point.  On Sunday the fierceness of the light was enough to appear to be burning up certain angles of objects while leaving other parts utterly lost in shadow - it was severe and wonderful and I felt as close as I've come to aligning what I could do with a camera to something I had loved in Lewis Baltz's New Topographics.  Oddly I was minded in particular of his winter series  'Maryland' (1976)  w…

Siemens 2

New Topographics photographers in America and Germany in the 1970's had different approaches to their landscape photography.  For instance, Lewis Baltz and the Bechers were  both documenting transformation of environment but the former was critical and Bernd and Hilla were not.  Personally I was surprised to find myself feeling an emotional reaction when being up close where there had been fresh destruction of fields and woodlands to make way for new development. But ideologically I do not regard my photographing of it to be a comment on it, but instead just an observation of the appearance of major transformation.  I found Baltz's work extraordinary but eventually weakened somewhat by his declared position when I discovered it.  I had actually been stimulated by his lack of sentimentality in his approach (compared to Ansel Adams et al) with images that I thought were not dictating a viewpoint to me.  Similarly photographers like Garry Winogrand and Diane Arbus revealed so muc…

The Zone

Andre Tarkovsky - STALKER (1979)

Entering damaged, off-limits land, for me, replicates the impenetrable mystery and melancholy of The Zone in the Russian film STALKER.  Today I was constantly in mind of it and even with the anxiousness of being somewhere both forbidden and terribly despoiled, it felt meaningful to be there.



Having used Google's satellite images to plan a possible back-door route in to the 90 acre development six miles outside town I discovered a limitation of assessing a path viewed from space - as from ground level they might have a tall security fence across it, right in front of you.  Luckily they don't expect someone to improvise enough to make a half mile diversion through a marshy wood full of brambles and fording a ditch at the one spot passable, along a railway line, between some flooded old quarries and and finally over a hill of former landfill, now punctured with HSO2 vents and associated piping.  But that was the way in. I'd set off late (had planned to go tomorrow) so the sun was setting as I finally started to approach the work.

The site I specifically had wanted to get a look at turns out to have been security fenced all the way around - so there was not much of a result there but another big development - the relocation from the city of Siemens manufacturing w…

Inside Outside (feat. feet)

2 am: someone else's spare bedroom

Day Out Out

Yesterday was a good day.  Up long before dawn to travel down to London, drop off my print at the Quarters Cafe in Highgate and go off and get ready for the opening of the Uncertain States show there that evening.  I've been a bit to-ing and fro-ing about going cross-dressed but as I had enough time to get ready properly I felt I had no excuse.  Fear wasn't sufficient to stop me doing it. Only when I was walking down the street to the train station and not quite certain of my centre of gravity in boots with high heels that I felt a bit less sure I'd get through.  And once on the train and heading back into London did it cross my mind I was getting further and further away from the safety of male clothes left behind.  It's the sort of hint of panic reminscent of extremely embarrasing situtations experienced in dreams sometimes in one's life.  When you feel vulnerable.

As it is winter the evening's are dark which means a little less scrutiny than at other times w…

Richard Ansett portraits with flowers

The TV series 'My Transexual Summer' which just finished last week was essential viewing for me.  It was respectful and insightful although at times the anxiety it induced was quite intense - but so too was the sense of liberation and joy as people learned to accept themselves and face their fears.  I just discovered Richard Ansett - who is curating a show next year which I have a chance of being included in - took a series of stills of the participants.  I might get to say hello to him next Tuesday at the Uncertain States venue launch and have a word about them  I see they continue an approach he developed whle working at a hospital in the Ukraine recently.


PhotoBox are an online photo printing service that let you turn off 'auto adjustments' in your account preferences - this means that the file you upload is printed without any 'helpful fixing' on their part, of exposure or colour.  They are super-cheap and fast, too.

So, being in a hurry and not having much success with my inkjet printing I gave them a go.  The print quality is very good, they use Fuji archival paper and there is good detail and clean colour (which appears a little cooler than on my eMac which is currently calibrated for Blurb book making).  There is also very accurate positioning in the center of the paper.  The only negative I can spot is that they fall short of a 255 white, there is a slightly creamy off-white base.  It's only noticeably when fitted within an ultra-white mounting board.  The matt surface is smart, looking more contemporary than gloss, which I also tried.  So I'm very impressed - and they are faster and more economical than a…

Inkjet fail

2 into 1


That's me in the corner


What to wear

Part of the motivation to have a dressing-up shoot today was to see what I might wear to the Uncertain States salon opening on Dec 6th.  I'm a bit nervous about it as I'm not particulary relaxed at social occasions but also I want to take the opportunity to go out in something other than regular male clothing.  Which adds additional anxiety and fear is a great inhibitor.  I'll be travelling from South London on public transport and I'm self-conscious most of the time anyway.  Grayson Perry made a valid point a few years ago on some programme he was making that transvestites need to stop making excuses for holding themselves back and blaming 'the world' out there.  It's not as bad as you think it will be.  That inspired me to take the risk a few times - though travelling around dressed up does make you realise hardly any transvestite people do it in the same way you rarely see openly gay couples walking around hand in hand or sharing a kiss.  Most of the tim…

eBay big shoe fail

The light fades quickly these days so my dress-up shoots only last 2 - 3 hours after a morning's prep dithers  into early afternoon.  So there's even less chance to take a time-out (and go bid on eBay) half way through.  Anyway the amazing shoes I'd seen last night would go for a whole lot, so there was no real point.  So post shoot and the light is gone and dresses and skirts and tops are scattered everywhere and I set the camera to download and had a peek on eBay.  They went for a ultra cheap £2.20.  Oh.  Obviously (?) there are far more significant disheartening events in the world but ouch!  E-ow.

Fade-insistent inks/anti-value

I don't know if there is much of a market for anti-archival inks for home photo printing but I'm interested.  I'd like ink which is carefully designed to have very limited stability and which will quickly colour shift badly (across various hues, ideally) before then fading in a few days to next to nothing, just a smudge, an indistinct trace in, ooh, say 26 weeks.  Give or take an hour or two.

My fridge freezer was looking bare, down to a 50 gm of cheese in one half and three-quarters of a packet of frozen mixed veg in the other, so I gave in and went to the supermarket after work, camera obligitory and packed in the morning.  I even managed to remember to actually get some food this time and as security only swept by as I was on my way to the till and had pocketed the ultra compact there was no need even for some rambling justification or other.

30 per cent off

The Blurb discount on orders of two or more books (see below) has crept up from 20 per cent to 25 per cent and has now reached 30 per cent (till Nov 28 2011).  My recent editing-phobia has correspondingly lessened from 100 per cent to 95 per cent to a slightly less oppressive 90 per cent.  A level of discomfort I found I could handle for about 75 minutes today and start the process of hacking my way through recent folders of photos I've mostly not properly looked at since downloading and backing up.

Like Garry Winogrand where shooting became the over-riding compulsion and the editing process was gradually abandoned (left to John Szarkowski at MOMA to labour through) there are advantages of not actually looking at what you've shot and just to keep on making more.  You don't have to acknowledge your huge failure rate or get trapped selecting which of one or two (or three or four) near identical images is the better.  It's tough but as long as Blurb keeps offering  discou…

Unexpected Offers

Some days are just way better than the average day (which is OK, on the whole, I'm glad to say) but now and then something special and unexpected happens and for a few hours life is different - sort of the way you vaguely wondered if it would turn out to be (a long time ago).  These satisfying interludes are usually accompanied after a few hours by a slight foreboding.

This irregular day followed soon after a phone conversation the night before that had finished at 4.30 am.  So I was feeling a bit light-headed from lack of sleep which gave things a slightly pleasant unreality anyway.

The definite highlights, though were two unexpected offers.  One was an email from photographer Richard Ansett who is considering including me in a show he is curating which is planned for next year WOW! and a brief message from Ursula who likes to dress in latex outfits including full face masks and who is deeply into S&M and who likes transvestites  and wants me to get in touch with her as she l…

A Room Of One's Own

Gift wrap

Cafe Show

The limitation of only showing one photo means I probably can't show a diptych (unless it's tiny and on a single sheet of print paper)  - so I'm submitting this image from a couple of years ago for the consideration.

photographer-model - 4MM

The Look/The Sky/The Construction Site

From somewhere deep down inside I wish I looked like her

eBay dream dresses temptation

It's hard to believe that for well under £100 delivered (from China) it's possible to have dresses as stunning as this : O

With text... or without


Shop fail

I went to get some food shopping for the weekend from the local supermarket but brought my camera along, too.  The last time I'd taken some Value Range shots there I'd set the camera to too low an ISO to avoid noise and many of the files suffered from camera-shake, so this was a chance to try again at 200 and also take more than one shot of each thing so maybe I'd get a useable one.  When I'd done a lap of the store and pushed my trolley up to the till I noticed I had hardly bought anything - an aubergine, a box of three pairs of sunblush sheer gloss tights (my total faves - and at half price, too so that was a bonus) and some crusty cobs.  I'd been distracted.  Sometimes it feels as if photographing things is like putting them in my trolley to take home.  It would be Value products only which would look kinda odd.  And I don't have a cat.


The little Uncertain States cafe show in Highgate opens in a month's time, on Dec 6th.  It's problematic getting time off from work just then, so I might not actually make it along - even though I'm already considering what to wear  if I did go - currently I'm likely to choose a plain but lovely velvety fabric black knee length skirt, with black tights and long black boots with a two-three inch heel.  Not sure about what top - tops are a challenge.  As too is picking one image to show (more important than what to wear?).  I tried a few combinations of photos this evening from the last two shoots I've done this month, one indoors, one outside.  It's an exercise in indecision and I almost certainly won't go with any of these - but at least I've started so that'something.


Abstract Hair

Low light and high heels

An autumn day with unrelenting cloud cover meant exposure times of around a second and a half in my front bedroom this afternoon.

Swoon dresses

I had the day off work and dropped off some Uncertain States magazines to the University photography and art departments.  I'd hesitated as it is potentially 'coming out' in my own city and I have no control over who finds out, family or friends.  They are largely self-contained  worlds, though so I don't think that copies will necessarily be circulated among local people.  I will probably ask if I can leave some at The Collection, the local art gallery, at some point, and that will be much more public. 

Afterwards I popped into a few charity shops nearby - and came across a swoon dress.  These are rare occurances of finding a dress so 'perfect' that I feel sensory overload just taking if off the rail.  For a few moments it's quite disorientating - maybe like striking gold - and I feel my heart beating faster and harder and even lose some of my usual self-consciousness at looking through women's clothing.  I also feel a protective urge to keep hold on …

Flight, and then again