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Winners Manchester Blog Awards: what is a Blog anyway?

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Last month I was surprised (but very delighted) to announce on my blog that I had been shortlisted for the Manchester Blog Awards 2008 in the category of Arts and Culture. The winners were announced recently at a fun shindig hosted in the Northern Quarter, Manchester at Matt and Phreds Jazz Club.

Sadly (for me anyway) I didn’t win but see later in the post for who did !!. It was a really well organised evening (thanks Kate over @ The Manchizzle and the MLF folk), highly sociable and glued together with a musical soundtrack and some brilliant readings from many of Manchester’s top bloggers. I particularly enjoyed the night’s final two guest readers; Maria Roberts (Single Mother on the Verge) and Chris Killen (Day of Moustaches). There is good coverage and critique over at The Mancunian Way.

Both are very talented writers and have used their wonderful blogs to gain book deals. Maria’s debut book will be on Penguin and is due sometime June 09 and Chris’s “The Bird Room” will be published by Canongate Books in January 2009.

Here are a few grainy pictures I snatched from the evening …

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… some more photos are over on samscam. Sam was all over the place during the night and managed to get some great shots, he came over and said hello and seems like a very nice chap. There is also a podcast put together by one of the winners, he actually had two blogs nominated that night Manchester Buses (which won) and 14 sandwiches; how does he find the time !!??

After perusing all the nominated blogs I was delighted to see my favourite won best overall blog … and I don’t even have a baby! Check out travelswithmy baby, I loved the cutting dissection of Susie’s visit to Trof near Oxford Road :-)

Here are the winners ….

Best New Blog: Winner: Follow the Yellow Brick Road, Katherine Woodfine
Best Writing on a Blog: Winner: Every Day I Lie a Little, Jenn Ashworth
Best Arts and Culture Blog: Winner: Northernights, Danny McFadden.
Best Personal Blog: Winner: Travels with my baby, Susie Stubbs
Best City or Neighbourhood blog: Winner: Manchester Buses, Martin SFP
Citylife Manchester Blog of the Year: Travels with my Baby, Susie Stubbs

There are lots of people out there who don’t read blogs, in fact they don’t really know what one is and I am sure events like the Manchester Blog Awards can only help to raise interest and standards. I have trouble explaining what a Blog is when I am asked.

Just look at the list of winners above, you have:-

  • meticulous and specialist musings of a slightly eccentric topic,
  • a funny and honest fly and the wall account of life with a little’un in tow,
  • superb up-to-the minute info and analysis for followers of the clubbing scene,
  • personal flowings from a gifted and funny writer with a commissioned novel on the way.

I think the key is once you find a blog you enjoy, it is like finding a friend, something you will dip back into regularly, it’s a new kind of reading. This year I discovered a fab new band The National via a blog I read … for that I a shall be eternally grateful to the “girl on a train“, aswell as having great taste in music, she is a talented observational writer with a dry wit.

The blog is an organic form, as a creator and shaper it can be exactly what you want it to be; conversely it can have a tendency to wander off depending how tight the reins are clamped !! But hey, there’s nothing wrong with that. Scatterdrum is more like an influences scrapbook for myself and I really enjoy sharing links to great talent and topics, I am no gifted writer but hopefully, my blog allows people to glimpse a little of my personality. Hopefully this works in tandem with my website which showcases my photography work. It has provided me with a new creative outlet and pushes me to constrain my thoughts and share. Just for the sheer process of writing it is good for my brain and my discipline.

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National Photographic Portrait Prize @ the Lowry

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The prestigious National Photographic Portrait Prize (2007) is occuping the light and airy mezzanine floor at the Lowry, in Salford, until October 12th 2008. This is a must-see for fans of photography in general and portraiture in particular. We are lucky to have this exhibition touring in the North West as it is usually only viewed at the National Portrait Gallery, London. For 2007 there were 6,900 submissions by 2,700 photographers from around the world.

It provides an opportunity to see a compelling array of images which highlight the sheer depth and power of a single image. The 60 shortlisted photographs have been taken all over the world and feature wildly different subjects, styles, technique and atmosphere; professional and amateur hang side by side. Should you go with a friend don’t be surprised if you end up arguing the merits of your favourite and casting your eyes heavenwards on one or two of those included.

The images are framed and printed in a variety of ways; sizes vary from 10 x 8 to a couple which fill an entire wall. I presume each photographer was allowed a free hand to choose how their work was hung? This helps to make each shot feel individual and hopefully allows the viewer to remember this is not a series but an opportunity to celebrate the art of great portraiture.

I cannot really argue with the First Prize choice a brilliant and powerful study by Jonathan Torgovnik taken in Rwanda. I also had a great deal of time for the Second Prize winner “Lucila, a.m.” (photographers site here).

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A slow-burner which quietly snuck into my brain. I don’t remember much of a connection the first time I viewed it, but I was drawn back to it time and again … close my eyes and I can almost place myself in that same room with the warm sun streaming in through the huge glass backdrop.

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Charlie Crane (who I have blogged about earlier in the year when he was selected for the New Contempories showcase) has made it into the 60, he has such lovely prints and a real sense of style. Colin Pantall‘s “Sofa Portrait #3″ is part of a series which has had a fair amount of praise and publicity already …. subtle and captivating.

If you cannot make it to the Lowry in time you can view all the Winners and those shortlisted on the National Portrait Gallery website. Looking at images on a computer screen is nowhere near the experience gained in a gallery space, but certainly better than nothing! Entry for the 2008 Photographic Portrait Prize Award is now closed and the winner will be announced in November.

Were the “Best of Manchester Awards” any good? … in fact do Awards mean anything?

There seems to be awards being presented everywhere you look nowadays, so many in fact that it is impossible to keep up with everything.

I am all for being judged by your audience, critics and peers but one has to ask the question how impartial is impartial? Nowadays, I have no time for Awards with heavy sponsorship … step forward the Brits which is owned by the BPI (British Phonographic Industry aka the British Record Industry). It claims it’s aim is to be “supporting young people in music and education” aahhmm … surely it is about keeping British Music in the headlines and rewarding those that have mastered playing the game and who sell lots of records. I am not saying all Brit winners are talentless but it is just that, as far as I can see, the BPI are just handing out awards to those already successful.

More meaningful are those Awards which generate word-of-mouth and are trying to give a helping hand to those talented (often innovative) souls who have not yet cracked it. Here you may find artistic types who possess a huge belief, a love for their chosen field crikey some folk who might even be doing it for fun and not money.

The cynical amongst you will shout that all Awards by their very nature are never unbiased, yes, true I agree but I guess I’m just saying that some have their hearts closer to the right place than others and this is often down to the Judges sitting on the panel and whether there is any kind of hidden agenda to the Awards.

A check on the Judges for the 2nd “Best of Manchester Awards” held at Urbis recently were Peter Saville Graphic Designer and all-round Manchester Design Guru, Miranda Sawyer (writer, broadcaster), Luke Bainbridge (Music Journalist, Editor Observer Music Monthly), there was the head of A&R at Universal Music, with nods to respected bods @ Castlefield Gallery (Manchester) and Blueprint Music Studios and Elvis Jesus head honcho covering the fashion angle. So a pretty eclectic, informed and opinionated group. Things are lookin’ good.

300 entries fought to prove their work illustrated the best creative thinking and innovation in Manchester, things were wittled down to a shortlist of nine covering Art, Fashion and Music. There is an exhibition to accompany the Awards on the 4th Floor at Urbis until the 28th of September. From the work on show I had a couple of personal favourites … none of which turned out to be the eventual winner so there we go – what do I know !! Still I’d like the share them with you anyway :-)

I loved the graphics and ethos of the Red Deer Club “a small label with big ideas” and brainchild of nu-folk fan Duncan Sime.

On the 4th of May last year, UHC a socially-conscious Design Studio and Artists Collective who deal in “the finest blend of art, design and action” took to the streets. Helped by volunteers and “As part of a protest campaign against consumerism and climate change, 88 hoardings were covered with cream coloured ‘hoods’ emblazoned with the message, ‘trees breathe ads suck’.” (Manchester Evening News). UHC will always annoy some, but their work often seems to harness talent, invention and maybe a measure of eccentricity. Surely it’s not only me who applauds their aim to “present those traveling to work with a special gift – a few precious moments of peace and beauty in place of the incessant noise of advertising”. Wonderful illustrations too …

Finally I was rooting (pun not intended) for Paul Hartfleet to win in the Art Category with his Pansy Project. “Paul revisits locations where homophobia has been experienced and plants pansies. These self seeding pansies act as a living memorial to this abuse and operate as an antidote to it; some pansies wither whilst others thrive in car park borders and windswept road verges. Each Pansy’s location is named after the abuse received and the project is now worldwide with its very own website www.thepansyproject.com.

I know it appears I am blinkered, as his project heavily features photography and Paul’s current project features benches! but trust me, take a trip over to his own site and blog and see more of his fantastic work and ideas.

The actual winners were :

ART: Naomi Kashiwagi

MUSIC: Richard Cheetham, High Voltage

FASHION: Simon Buckley, Rags to Bitches

One final little footnote, I discovered a fab little Manchester band playing to the crowds at the Awards called Keith, a little bit Doors/Radiohead/Talking Heads all delivered with the customary Manc twang and swagger.

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Olympic Games – a shot of the photographers (and their expensive gear) in Bejing to capture the action

The Olympic Games is certainly generating lots of stories, drama and images at the moment. There are 1,100 Official photographers covering the event for a worldwide audience, I found this great shot on the gizmodo website which shows a sample of the press area covering the athletics in the Birds Nest Stadium.

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Just for a laugh gizmodo have worked out that in this one seemingly innocuous image there is probably a quarter of a million dollars worth of equipment on show. Going a stage further, if one was to include the fact that most photographers travelling to China to cover the Games will take at the very mimimum a second back-up camera body and at least 2 other lenses, then that is something like 22 million dollars-worth of professional camera gear in attendance throughout the event!

For many years Canon was the manufacturer of choice for the discerning sports photographer, but this picture shows that Nikon is now making great strides into this specialist market. The white lens is the Canon L-Series, I count 23 lenses on view and only 7 Canons. Also it looks like 16 fella’s and only 2 lady ‘togs …. not quite equality there yet!

Over on the caborian.com site there is a much wider view of the Press Pen, it seems Canon have a slightly better showing here but they are still in the minority. Most of the sports photographers are using a telephoto which will enable them to zoom in close on the action and the individual; they’ll probably be using anything from a 400 right through to an 800mm. Though the guy on the bottom row with the yellow cap looks like he’s sneaked in there armed only with his cameraphone !!

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Footnote. The beige shooting jackets on show are standard issue from the International Olympic Committee for all accredited photographers, I wonder if they come with a laptop hidden in one of the pockets?

UPDATE.  Feb 2010.  Nice link to the photography gear being used by Getty photographers for the Vancouver Winter Olympics 2010 over at PetaPixel.

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British Airways commission art for Terminal 5 @ Heathrow Airport

All I know about Heathrow’s Terminal 5 is that the launch earlier this year was a total and utter disaster as far as British Airways reputation is concerned. But amongst all the doom and gloom it appears some glimmers of light sneaked in there too!

I have the “plush patterns” blog to thank for my discovery of Christopher Pearson’s work. He was commissioned by BA through Artwise Curators (who coincidentally handled a recent commission for Idris Khan who I blogged about a few weeks ago) along with three other emerging artists to create some site specific art works for Terminal 5.

The installation is certainly an eye-catcher and consists of Pearson’s wonderful studies of the Growing Cycles of the English Oak Tree which were etched into 3 pairs of huge glass panels and now stand in the First Class Galleries Lounge. Each pane is illuminated to reveal the delicate strokes of the original design and it vividly brings the work to life. His website reveals an artist open to experimenting with new technology and innovative methods for displaying and creating forms of art. One to watch for sure and serves as a reminder that artistic work can often by enhanced by careful consideration of how it is displayed.

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“Silent Light” – Update. It’s being shown on Film 4 tomorrow night!

A little late in the day, but I just happened to notice a film I blogged about back in April is being shown in the UK tomorrow evening (Monday 11th August) at 11.30pm on Film4.

“Silent Light” is the latest film by the talented Mexican Director Carlos Reygadas and was given it’s theatrical release in 2007. The pacing is described as “funereal” so it might not be to everyone’s taste, but it is described as “overwhelmingly powerful” by the Guardian.

Below is some information on this award-winning film taken from the Radio Times website, my original post can be found here. I was initially struck by the beautifully composed still images from this film and I vowed to track it down and give it a viewing. Tomorrow evening will provide the perfect opportunity. :-)

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