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Photography

LynchI spent a very agreeable Saturday with my friend Liz a couple of week’s ago visiting various exhibitions in London. The main objective was to catch the Warhol, Burroughs and Lynch shows at The Photographers Gallery, but we also took in the Royal Academy’s Sensing Spaces, before making the unwise decision to take in the Portrait Gallery on the first sunny day of the year on a busy Saturday afternoon.

The Photography Gallery shows were a mixed bunch. I thought the Warhol exhibition was largely pointless, with the images being shown more because they were by Warhol rather than because there was anything inherently interesting in the photographs themselves. The only shots that really made sense to exhibit, in my opinion, were the ones where Warhol had repeat printed and stitched together creating gridded montages much like some of his screenprints. At least with these there was some tangible link to how he approached the physical production of other works of his. I also thought the Lynch show was boring. Photographs of abandoned and derelict buildings, albeit expertly shot, were dull in the extreme. In fact, I would go as far as to say they were pretentiously dull; shot entirely in black and white I felt he was trying too hard to create ‘art’, and it was all a bit like looking at a 1980s British Journal of Photography annual. However, well worth the entrance fee alone was the Burroughs show. Of the three, he was the only artist who gave the sense he was truly experimenting with the medium, testing and pushing the capabilities. And the shots themselves had a far stronger narrative. While Warhol was playing and Lynch was trying too hard, Burroughs was exploring a medium and seeing what it could do and what he could produce.

RADiébédoFrancisKéréOver at the Royal Academy the Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined show was a blast. Each room had a different theme, and you were encouraged to be interactive with the work. As you walked around each exhibit created a different atmosphere in their given spaces which engaged the viewer and took them with the work. There could have been no more an explicit introduction to the uninitiated as to the power of architecture to influence moods and behaviour. For example, the image above of Diébedo Francis Kéré’s piece encouraged visitors to stick brightly coloured straws into the structure to create a furry, fun walkthrough. While the mausoleum  solemnness of Grafton Architects’ main room stopped people in their tracks, slowed them down and made them gape upwards in astonishment, (see below).

RAGrafton3And Pezo von Ellrichshausen’s monstrous wooden beauty could be climbed via a ramp or spiral staircases in the legs, which allowed a closer view of the Academy’s architectural gilding linking the imposing structure with the building that housed it and bringing a greater appreciation of everyone’s surroundings.

RAPezovonEllrichshausenWhile I wasn’t overly impressed with two of the shows at the Photography Gallery, I would still highly recommend a visit, and the Royal Academy is only a short 5-10 minute walk away, which would be a shame to miss while it is still on.

Warhol, Lynch and Burroughs is on at the Photographers Gallery until 30 March.

Sensing Spaces is on at the Royal Academy of arts until 6 April.

More photographs over on Flickr.

Claire and I have just returned from a holiday in the very untouristy Lincolnshire. We visited two years ago, knowing nothing about the county, (read a write up here), and decided to pay the delightful county another visit this year after scratching our heads wondering where to go for our summer break.

Interestingly, last time we visited, we commented on it feeling so unspoilt and un-gentrified, that it was probably reminiscent of the north Norfolk coast of 30 years ago. On our return journey back to Suffolk, we drove via the Norfolk coast, from Hunstanton to Cromer, which only served to reinforce this feeling—the difference between the two areas could not have been starker, and not just because of the amount of Volvos on the small country lanes. No, the most telling thing of the gentrification of north Norfolk was the signage. It is almost as if the entire north Norfolk coast has been branded by one design firm working to a single guideline with the area steeped in Farrow & Ball’s muted grey/greens and grey/blues, while upper case Gill Sans seems to have become the official typeface of the coast line. Upmarket eateries, gift shops and watercolour exhibitions all bare these hallmarks of ‘good taste’. I’m inclined to believe the National Trust marketing department has taken over the entire coastal district and marked it out as a middle class haven of national interest. (Sheringham and Cromer seem to have been left out of this gentrification process and there is a very clear visual divide as you pass by these bucket & spade and candifloss lower brow destinations).

In comparison, the visual language of Lincolnshire retains its vernacular, being a complete mixture of professional and amateur attempts at signage. Its historical typographic heritage is unashamedly on display, and as such, comes across as unpretentious, honest and down to earth. There is no typographic cleansing going on here, and long may it stay that way.

Find below a few typographic treats that caught my attention as we explored the Lincolnshire Wolds. More photographs to follow on Flickr—I’ll provide a link here when I’ve fully trawled through my memory cards.

Lincolnshire Co-op

Unfortunately this building is no longer a Co-op, there being a newly built store round the corner: Horncastle

The people of Spilsby are rightly proud of their new Co-op, enough to write graffiti welcoming others to the store.

The people of Spilsby are rightly proud of their new Co-op, enough to write graffiti welcoming others to the store.

To the train station in Market Rasen, on the edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds

To the train station in Market Rasen, on the edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds

Mareham on the Hill directions to a tiny chapel on a hillside behind a farm. We would have missed visiting the beautiful and picturesque church were it not for this sign. (Click on photo for more information).

An old pub and post office: Louth.

An old pub and post office: Louth.

Beautiful old school house in Spilsby.

Building ties as letterforms: Old Bollingbroke

Building ties as letterforms: Old Bollingbroke

Many Lincolnshire churches  had semi-circular graves. this one in Market Rasen had moss growing on the stone carving creating a living, growing  typographic memorial to the dead.

Many Lincolnshire churches had semi-circular tomb-stone graves. This one in Market Rasen had moss growing on the stone carving creating a living, growing typographic memorial to the dead.

Ghost typography on a building in Louth.

This restored building in Louth has had the original signage thoughtfully restored as well.

This restored building in Louth has had the original signage thoughtfully restored as well.

The Anderby Creek Cloud Bar, where no trip to Lincolnshire would be complete without a visit to both the bar, commissioned by the Cloud Appreciation Society, and to the miles of gloriously sandy dog friendly beaches that after 6pm are devoid of people.

Screen Shot 2013-06-09 at 10.50.44It seems that some people are still getting their knickers in a twist about Yahoo’s relaunch of their photo sharing site Flickr. Lots of people were complaining about it before the relaunch, and lots are complaining about it afterwards.

For the record, I (mostly) like it. I thought it had started to look dated, and when the iPhone app was redesigned in December 2012, my immediate response was that I hoped there would be a redesign of the main website along similar lines. And my wish came true.

Sure, the constant scrolling is playing havoc with my first generation iPad, crashing Safari as it does. But then so does Facebook and iTunes, as websites become so content laden that older processors can’t cope. But this is the way the web is going, and there is nothing I can do about it.

Visually, the new Flickr gives me a better view of all of my photos without having to enlarge them—previously the ‘large’ view was restricted to 5 images on my home page, which then switched to thumbnails for all subsequent pages. This always annoyed me. But now it gives an over view of someone’s visual interests from the outset. The photograph sizes are just enough to see what I want from the images I only want to ponder momentarily, and I can enlarge those that grab my attention and interest. Previously, past the first page, I had to enlarge pretty much every image to decide if I wanted to investigate them or not. This has got to be an improvement.

I accept that it may not suit the ‘professional’ photographer as well as it once did, but there are alternatives they can use. And they tend to have quite an elitist view about photography anyway and sneer at anything that has a mass appeal—you’ve only got to look at the bitching online about Instagram to see this, (which I’ve discussed previously on here).

So, well done Yahoo. When my Pro account becomes null and void and I have to pay for no adverts, I will do. You are a commercial enterprise offering a service after all—I want to use that service and I don’t want adverts—no complaint there from me.

To view my Flickr pages, go here.

Shutter

Shutters in a shut shop that used to sell cameras

Daniel Eatock Thank You Pictures

Earlier last month few could have escaped the surprise announcement of a new David Bowie album, scheduled for a March release, titled The Next Day.

The artwork dropped with almost as much of a shock, to some, as the album. The artwork places a white square over the original iconic cover of “Heroes”, Bowie’s 1977 collaboration with Brian Eno which is considered by many as one of his best works. While this was sacrilege to some, others, along with myself, thought it a brave masterstroke by Jonathan Barnbrook, who has worked with David Bowie for the last 10 years.

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David Bowie – The Next Day. Sleeve by Jonathan Barnbrook, 2013

On seeing Barnbrook’s work for Bowie, I immediately drew associations between The Next Day sleeve and a new jacket for George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four by David Pearson that was showcased on the Creative Review blog shortly before the announcement of the Bowie album. Here, Pearson obliterates the title and author of the book to reflect the redacting of history in this classic Orwellian tale.

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George Orwell – Nineteen Eighty Four, cover by David Pearson, 2013

Naturally enough though, I wasn’t the only person to make such a comparison as Richard Weston’s Ace Jet 170 blog testifies. And there, my thoughts would have rested, beaten in the blogosphere to writing a post about the Bowie/Orwell connection.

However, I then got thinking about these two pieces of work and their deliberate graphic obscuring—where one piece of communication has been interrupted by another to create a new work that forces the viewer to question what they are reading—and how this related to things I’d been observing in my everyday. For a little while now I’d been noticing such occurances as road markings being obliterated by the visual remains of where road works had taken place, their primary communication scarred and temporarily interrupted; or where different street signs had been overlaid partially obscuring aspects of one or both.

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JacobsWay

These observations have started to inform a new photographic project of mine, (working title Graphic Interruptions), which currently only consists of some test pieces posted to Flickr. The obvious differences here are that Barnbrook’s and Pearson’s work both deliberately interrupt one visual device with another to form a new narrative, where as what I had been looking at were mostly accidental. I don’t quite know yet where this project is going, but I’m finding it visually intriguing.

But then this visual intrigue was whetted again this week when I succumbed to buying the John Stezaker monograph, which I had been coveting for some time. The book was published in 2011 to accompany his exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery the same year. Unfortunately I missed the show, but was bowled over by the images that were shown alongside many of the rave reviews in newspapers and on blogs at the time. Could it be that this work, first seen a couple of years ago, had stayed with me and fed my visual thinking when walking around and noticing my graphic interruptions?

StezakerMaskIV 2005

John Stezaker, Mask IV, 2005

Mask IV is typical of the collage work that attracted me to Stezaker. At first, I didn’t make an immediate connection between all of the above and the influence Stezaker’s show, directly or indirectly, has potentially had on my thoughts about what the book calls ‘occlusion’, (the art of blocking).  But I am beginning to now.

And then, looking through the book, I came across two images that made me wonder whether Stezaker’s work had also influenced, consciously or otherwise, Barnbrook’s The Next Day sleeve:

StezakerTabula RasaXI2008

John Stezaker, Tabula Rasa XI, 2008

John Stezaker, Tabula Rasa II 1983

John Stezaker, Tabula Rasa II, 1983

With or without placing ‘The Next Day’ text in the white rectangle, you can easily see the connection between this and the sleeve of the anticipated David Bowie record.

My observations here are purely that, observations. I’m drawing together recent thoughts that may or may not have fed into each other, but that do spark a line of questioning regarding the narrative of an image. This might just become my 2013 obsession.

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Coastguard mast seen from the ground, Shingle Street, Suffolk

I’ve recently rejoined Instagram. My departure in December 2012 was, like many others, due to the announcement that Instagram was going to change their terms and conditions that would allow them to let advertisers use my content without asking. Instagram soon backtracked on this, but I had made the break. At the time I was considering leaving anyway, as I had started to question how many social networking sites I was on, and what I was getting out of them. So this minor media blow-up prompted my exit, and as such, I wasn’t bothered about rejoining once the back peddling started.

However, much to my surprise, I actually found that I missed it.

Around the same time, many photographers I know started getting quite vitriolic about people who use Instagram, and posted articles on their Facebook walls against the photo sharing app. One such was by Jonathan Jones in The Guardian, which pretty much calls anyone who uses Instagram mindlessly deluded. Now, if there is one thing that winds me up more than anything else, it is artistic elitism—so I rejoined Instagram, if for nothing more than to wind up people with such attitudes.

To be honest, I was a little incensed by such opinions, and so some furious notebook scribbling has resulted in the following points, presented here for your reading pleasure:

  • Anyone who is so vehemently opposed to something usually feels threatened by it, and this usually results in a defensive attitude. This is what I believe we are seeing here. Anything that looks popular is immediately denounced and elitist walls start rising, soon to be followed by over blown pompous statements and incredulous derisions that do not really have an ounce of an objective rationale.
  • Photographers do not own photography. It is a popular activity, for anyone to take part in for their own purposes. In fact, anyone who owns a camera is automatically a photographer, and therefore has as much right to do what they want within the medium as anyone else. For good or for bad.
  • I do not disagree that much on Instagram is vacuous and of little artistic merit. Particularly the filters, which I use sparingly and only to enhance a poor photograph. But that doesn’t damn the medium. A good analogy is with that of looking at Punk music between1976–79. Immediate and of the people, Punk encouraged anyone to pick up a guitar and get involved. This was both its beauty and its downfall, as a thousand god awful bands formed. But a few fantastic talents emerged that wouldn’t have otherwise, and they developed and grew to be of great importance to the wider world of music. So to with Instagram—it is there, free to download if you are lucky enough to be able to afford a smart phone, and there is stuff of value there if you choose wisely in who you follow.
  • Many of the people I follow are designers. There is something about its immediacy and ‘of the now’ nature that is appealing in sharing with people who have a particular visual outlook on their surroundings. As well as locations I am unlikely to see, typography, book jackets found in flea markets and architectural points of interest, to name a few subject matters that occur regularly, are visual thoughts knocked backwards and forwards between followers. To be able to check this in the middle of a mundane day is not just to feel connected, but it encourages the viewer to look at their own everyday from a different perspective.
  • Instagram is by far a better designed interactive mobile image sharing vehicle than Tumblr, which, in and of itself, tends to encourage the sharing of other people’s work with little to no respect for copyright. (No offence Tumblr, you have your purpose and are good at it).
  • There is just as much vacuous art photography outside of Instagram as there is engaging and intelligent work. Shit photography is not the preserve of Instagram, and photographers have no high-horse to get on from this perspective.
  • And finally, the concept that something can only be validated if it is on a gallery wall is beyond ridicule.

I use Instagram as a visual scrapbook for my on-the-go visual notes and thoughts, albeit a scrapbook that I welcome others to share in. I do not want to see photographs of other people’s meals or kids or snowmen with or without a wacky filter; so I don’t follow those that post such things. But I do want to see the photos of, say, Dan Hill, the architect, designer, writer and CEO of communication research centre Fabrica , whose City of Sound blog is always a stimulating and intelligent read and who has much to say on all things design related. To see the the experiences and interests behind what informs his opinions and his writing is always engaging, and never ever deluded.

A new year, a new page on the Dubdog blog.

Looking at the menu above, regular visitors here will notice a new page titled Work has suddenly appeared. Since I moved from Blogger to WordPress early in 2012, I have been meaning to create a section on this site to showcase some of my creative output, and have finally gotten round to making one. This was largely prompted as I’ve recently had to create a portfolio pdf for an application, (more news on this later), which will hopefully lead to some exciting news, (for me at least), later in the year.

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The portfolio showcases a range of work created over the last 10 years, and includes both commissions and self-set projects and its aim is to demonstrate as wide an approach to visual communication as possible. It was difficult to decide what went in and what was left out, and those familiar with my long standing portfolio site that I shut down in 2010 will recognise some of the work.

Having this facility here also allows me to add other content for visitors to download, such as my McJunk essay and presentation presentation slides. This is particularly useful for those that balk at the ever increasing costs of Blurb books and who can’t afford to purchase a copy of McJunk.

While I’m discussing the four letter word that is work, 2013 is starting to look like a creative year for Dubdog, which will be a challenge to fit in alongside the full-time day job, but should be rewarding none-the-less. I’ve been approached to do some design work for a renowned fine art photographer, and the next issue of the UCS academic journal, Childhood Remixed, is being published at the end of February, so I will be busy designing that from late January onwards.

As well as the above, I also have a couple of photographic projects up my sleeve. One, called Graphic Interruptions, has already started seeing the light of day on Flickr, where I’m investigating instances of  where graphic content collides, is interrupted by, or clashes with natural or man-made forms. Much like McJunk, I’m unsure of where this is going as yet, and as a project it is in its infancy, but none-the-less I finding it visually intriguing. Alongside this is another photographic project which is still in the testing phase, and may or may not be mentioned again, depending on initial results.

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Thanks to all the readers who have stopped by here in the last year, and I look forward to your company again throughout 2013.

Yesterday, Lucienne Roberts and Rebecca Wright of GraphicDesign& put a call out for people to record everyday occurrences of graphic design in the context within which they found them. In a pop-up lab at the Design Museum, they received tweets of photographs of graphic design to go towards a research project titled Everything, which endeavours to prove how interconnected graphic design is with, well, everything.

In the spirit of this venture, I joined Twitter, and started snapping away, setting myself the task of recording every item of graphic design, professional or amateur, that I personally interacted with throughout the day. I did ignore some examples I came across: for example, on reading the Guardian, I only photographed the adverts that actually made me stop and read them. But other than that, I tried to capture every piece of graphic design that caught my attention for more than a passing glance.

After sending a couple of photos to @gdand_, it soon became apparent that this was going to be a mammoth task. I think I got most items throughout the day, apart from being too focussed on getting a Guardian and some croissants while in the Co-op to get my camera out while shopping in the morning. However, because I did only manage a couple of tweets to GraphicDesign& before their 5pm deadline, as I ended up going for a family walk where there wasn’t a 3G signal, I’ve documented the results here.

1–3 Cat feeding and morning tea
4–7 Ablutions
8–10 Dressing
11–13 Driving to the Co-op (for safety reasons, photos were only taken while stationary)
14–24 Breakfast and washing up
25 Strimmer battery
26 Checking the Tour de France map in my office
27–29 Posters (and a street sign) in my office
30 Checking the Guardian website
31 Branded cutlery at lunchtime
32–34 Drive to Orford (Claire was driving)
35–36 Orford car park
37 The bin I disposed bagged dog waste in
38–39 Amateur graphic design
40 A Union Jack
41 Beware
42 Footpath
43 A lighthouse in the distance (yes, this does constitute graphic design)
44–45 & 47 More footpath signs
46 Realising the pushchair my grandson was in was branded
48 Condiment packets on the table of the tearoom we stopped at
49 Toilet sign
50 Tourist posters
51–52 Dead fish being sold
53 On the way to the Indian takeaway and pub
54 Indian takeaway
55–58 The Fat Cat pub with just enough time for a pint while waiting for the takeaway
59 The Sun in the Indian takeaway
60 Watching the Tour while eating the takeaway back at home

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