15 Aug 2008
It has been months of scanning, editing, grading, retouching, resizing, converting, cataloguing, filing and uploading. At long last the new site is finished. Kai Davenport, a keyboard murdering programming genius has created a system that allows me to be in control of everything. We’ve decided on the familiar format of the computer desktop as the interface - everyone knows how to navigate their computer. Slide shows, clipboards, print sales, downloads and choice of backgrounds set it apart. One mental hurdle to overcome was how to price my prints - to put a value on my work. I’m hoping that I can create an income out of my archive to fund my personal projects. My prints should be as affordable as possible, so I’ve decided to offer a choice of Open, as well as Limited edition prints. What’s the difference? Limited editions are restricted in run sizes, are signed, embossed and come with a certificate of authentication. Open Edition (OE) prints are embossed but aren't signed or restricted in number. The price I’ve set is more generous than any of the competition. At 20” x16” the images are larger than just about every OE print out there, and they are printed on archival photographic paper.
Site finished - it’s on to stage 2 - publicity. The Edinburgh Festival is upon us, a captive audience on our doorstep. I’ve designed two leaflets and within 48 hours of emailing the order we we’re in possession of 10,000 A3 flyers. Before we can distribute them they have to be folded- individually! Once done, they were thrust into the hands of every unsuspecting tourist, dropped off at every venue, bar, gallery, newspaper and magazine. This continued for two weeks. Statistics show that this campaign had limited effect. Approximately one in 8 leaflets resulted in a hit on the site. Lessons have been learnt and appropriate changes are underfoot.
In another attempt to gain publicity I’ve asked 3 collaborators to write a catchy line for my press releases. Thanks to Carlos Acosta. Diqui James (Fuerzabruta) and Javier De Frutos.
6 Aug 2008
tora [toh'-rah] feminine noun 1. bullesque In this world of hyper-cyber overload I’m told I need to brand myself if I’m to penetrate. Several summers ago, whilst holidaying in Barcelona, I was amused by the country’s unofficial emblem- the toro. Posturing on top of hills, emblasoned on bumper stickers, key fobs, crockery and t-shirts, it was everywhere. Its colossal cojones and preposterous machismo pricked my sense of humour. A simple case of gender re-alignment would suffice. Emasculation or emancipation? Yes, cows have horns. Viva la tora!
3 Aug 2008
It was the summer of ’77. Armed with my Practica SLR I took aim and shot my first photograph- an aqua-marine Honda Superdream basking in the midday sun. Soon after I was frequenting local venues in search of musicians and bands to shoot. The Town Hall, the Polytechnic and the Rock Garden were the places I’d sow my creative seeds. My first portrait was of "the Bard of Salford" John Cooper Clarke, I was 16.
My first nationally reproduced work was shot at the Hare Krishnas UK head quarters, I was 19. The Bhaktivedanta Manor, a 16th Century a Tudor mansion in its own grounds, was gifted to the sect by George Harrison. Devotees attended to their chores with Stepford Wife serenity. On my first tour of the estate I came across the spiritual master A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Enveloped in a haze of powdered light, the guru was whispering into a Dictaphone. I was introduced to him by my devotee who, averting his gaze, bowed deferentially and swiftly ushered me into another room. In this facsimile of spiritual perfection something was amiss. I returned alone to satisfy my nagging curiosity.
The quiescent master was not in deep contemplation, his cupped hand was empty - no microphone. His hushed tones were coming from a loud speaker.
The founder had died some 20 years previously. Here he sat, reincarnated as a transcendental wax work.
Effigies and images of the guru inhabited places he’d frequented - a painting on his chair, a photograph of him in bed on a bed - Juju everywhere! I sent the images in on spec to the British Journal of Photography. To my amazement they ran them in their 1985 Annual.
2 Aug 2008
I was 12 when the Shaman appeared from next door. In his paisley print cravat and Jason King moustache he made me a proposition that would change everything. Following his instructions to the letter we passed into his secret domain, his “darkroom”. Caustic vapours choked the air, igniting my anticipation. Bathed in the sanguine glow of the safe-light he performed his magic. A mist of white light rained onto a pristine sheet of paper. He waved a wand in the path of the rays and with a magician’s sleight of hand, slid the paper into his brew and rocked. In a hushed tone he commanded me to concentrate on the submerged sheet. The paper turned into fog and through the fog emerged a fat suited man in a hard hat - a Ju Ju. Without a second thought I took him up on his invitation to become the sorcerers’ apprentice. Epiphany #1. On my next visit I sat outside the darkroom, waiting for the Shaman to materialise. On a side table lay an album of photographs. I picked it up and idly thumbed through. A carnage of colour fell from the pages. Exotic foliage fused with flesh, Ektachrome blues and emerald greens drowned in pools of crimson. A diamond encrusted dome shimmered like a celestial chandelier. This collection was a memento from his previous incarnation - a police forensics photographer posted in the Caribbean. This was his forbidden book of dark arts. The chandelier was the skull of a car crash victim, studded with a thousand shards of safety glass. He returned these scenes of terror back to the paradise they came from. Ring-flash exposed every detail with the precision of the surgeon’s scalpel. Looking at these images, I was blissfully unaware of their terrible consequence. I saw extraordinary beauty, horror exquisitely abstracted by the photographer’s crop. Epiphany #2: no subject is out of bounds to the photographer. Two years later, looking at Captain Beefheart posed in front of Joshua trees, came a realisation. I’d been following Anton Corbijn’s (http://www.corbijn.co.uk/) travels and now here he was in the Mojave Desert. Epiphany #3: photography could be my passport out.
1 Aug 2008
How to begin, to set the scene - the protocol? I’ll start by way of an epitaph. This is my earliest memory of a photograph. It was taken in 1965 by a talented amateur with a subject eager to perform. That’s my father stood in his ill fitting protective overalls, the grin of the mad professor, goggles poised on his swaddled head. What made this photograph different was its scale. At 12”x16” this was no ‘snap’. To a child a print this size was reserved for significant others: the powerful, famous or the notorious. The composition, the lighting, the drama, the central character, this was a photograph. Yet confusingly, somehow, the subject was my father David. This image, always a signifier of my eccentric, exuberant father, no longer resonates with his madcap joy. The pose is the same but the sentiment is now changed. David was misdiagnosed with lung cancer. He never smoked. A physicist by conviction, agonisingly he couldn’t reason the cause of his condition. His boots, laced with string and frosted with dust, concealed a terrible twist. David died on the 16th January 2007. The Coroner’s report came through, cause of death - mesothelioma.
Holding on - moments left, the last photograph, not the last image.