Hello and welcome to my photography blog. I’m a documentary photographer and writer from Manchester in the UK. You can email me at: email@example.com or watch a short film or three here on vimeo and you can read my own publications here at Issuu.
“Art has two constant, two unending concerns: It always meditates on death and thus always creates life.” – Boris Pasternak
My first solo exhibition, Memento Mori would have half fitted Pasternak’s description. It dealt with the Victorian’s romantic notions of death, a view that some artists still cling to, even when death is all too often the result of violence. A little while ago, I wrote an article about the cinematic destruction of New York. Researching the Empire State Building, I came across the story of Evelyn McHale, which though often told, is I think worth repeating here, particularly as today (20 September) would have been her birthday.
On May Day 1947, the 23 year old Evelyn got off a train at Penn Station in New York City, crossed the road and checked into a room at the Governor Clinton Hotel. A little later, she walked the few hundred yards to the Empire State Building and took an elevator to the 86th floor observation deck. There she laid down her purse, took off her shoes and coat, neatly folding it over the waist hight wall, and at 10:40am leapt.
In her purse were some family photographs and a folded note, which in part read:
“…I don’t want anyone in or out of my family to see any part of me. Could you destroy my body by cremation? I beg of you and my family – don’t have any service for me or remembrance for me…”
But Evelyn is remembered, because her death became first a curiosity, and then an art work. She achieved a kind of celebrity, for she made a beautiful corpse. She fell a thousand feet and landed on her back on the roof of a car parked on 34th Street. She lay there in a pose that made her look as if she was asleep. Her hand delicately held the string of pearls she wore around her neck. Her feet were crossed.
Hearing the impact her body made, a photography student called Robert Wiles, ran over and took a photograph of her. Life magazine ran it in their next issue. The caption described Evelyn as “reposing calmly in a grotesque bier” (a moveable frame a coffin rests on before burial or cremation).
Twenty years later Andy Warhol used the photograph in one of his ‘Death and Disasters’ series, titling the work ‘Suicide (Fallen Body’). Evelyn McHale said she wanted to be forgotten, but Warhol gave her much more than her 15 minutes of fame.
My old collection of Orwell/1984 ephemera gets it’s first European exhibition courtesy of its new curators, the International Association of Privacy Professionals) at the 37th International Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners Conference in Amsterdam, Netherlands on 27 October – you can read about it on the IAPP’s blog. Getting the collection to a wider audience (as well as freeing up some space in the house!) was one of the main reasons I passed it on and look forward to it being exhibited in the USA at future events.
I spent yesterday in Leeds with Northern Ballet finding out about Jonathan Watkins’s ballet adaptation of Orwell’s 1984. A group of us were allowed a great behind the scenes look at the production which tours Leeds, Nottingham, Manchester and Sheffield from Saturday 5th September to Saturday 24th October.
As usual at this time of year, I’m sat on my arse watching the Tour de France instead of taking photographs – I did however get on my bike and go and take this one of Rapha posters in Manchester city centre advertising Le Tour. I think the “Acts Of Bravery Every Day Of The Week” one probably refers to commuting in rush hour down Chester Road where I took this photo.
Graffiti and street art are up my street, so I Now Then Manchester magazine asked me to write a review of Skyliner’s Field Trips to look at examples that litter/light up Manchester’s Northern Quarter. It’s the first thing I’ve written for them since the magazine became on-line only (I’m just a print tart at heart), but I can commend the magazine to you, dear readers.
Skyliner researches and writes very informative psychogeography pieces about Manchester that have more than once sent me out to look and photograph the underbelly of the fair city, so am very happy to commend the field trips to you.
Issue 15 of The Modernist magazine looks at “E for Entertainment” and is as erudite and eccentric as ever. My contribution to is called “Self Destruct” about the depiction of the destruction of New York City in films – it joins articles on Odeon cinema design, the Vox Phantom guitar and the golden age of kinetic board games.
You really should buy the magazine – your £5 will support the society’s work, but you can read my piece here…