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Archive for the 'culture' Category

Cultural Snapshot; Obama, Grammy’s and Berlin ….

It has been a visually interesting week.  I have browsed through the Obama official photograph taken by Pete Souza (the first taken using a digital camera -a Canon 5D) and the portrait project on his support staff in the New York Times (which for the record I really liked whilst many didn’t, but there you go) taken by Nadav Kander.  But for me two great bits of work really stood out these past 7 days:
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  • 2) An interesting photography project by Simon Hoegsburg called rather bleakly “We Are All Gonna Die – 100 meters of existence”.  This is a huge 100m wide photo he has created by combining hundreds of images taken of Berliners (is that a word/not sure!) on the same spot on a bridge over a period of 20 days in 2007.  It documents, it fascinates and tells lots of stories.  On first viewing I scribbled:

[check out the bikes YEP]
[check out the two people with eye patches …. weird !]
[trendy berlin.  great snapshot of city dwellers, only a few people clocked the photographer]

Hoegsburg is based in Denmark but studied in London and he isn’t just a one trick pony.  Have a look at his website, there is plenty of other strong work.  He even has a series on a cycle trip he took using a heavy Copenhagen city bike which you can hire there for one Danish krone.  He took off for Istanbul and went in search of the goodness in people.  When so much photography (art in general) can be a little po-faced, I found his work open, fresh, focussed and powerful.  One to watch out for.

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My favourite films of 2008.

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I usually bore all my filmy mates with my favourite films of the year, but hey, now I have a blog I can be even more indulgent!  My favourite music list will follow shortly, as soon as I’ve taken some more evaluative pills.

  1. There Will Be Blood /Paul Thomas Anderson, USA … ambitious, layered, passionate, engrossing, well acted.  Old-fashioned parable, epic in a good way.  Stunning cinematography.  Needed a great central performance and thankfully we got a top of the range Daniel Day Lewis acting class.  Powerful stuff.  Just spoilt by a drawn-out ending.
  2. The Dark Knight /Christopher Nolan, USA … very enjoyable, disturbing, moody and magnificent, Heath Ledger’s Joker lifts it notches higher on the entertainment levels.  Delve deeper and the messages are thick and potent.
  3. Juno /Jason Reitman, USA … original, funny, involving, imagine a comedy about abortion working so well. Great screenplay.
  4. No Country For Old Men /Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, USA … clever and creepy, vacuous, mans dark side exposed, not much hope on show.  Always interesting but worryingly uninvolving.
  5. Happy Go Lucky /Mike Leigh, UK … just the antidote I needed post “Old Men” and “Will Be Blood”, light of touch, beautifully acted, jaunty, charming and sweet. A film with a heart.
  6. Lars & the Real Girl /Craig Gillespie, USA … I really loved this, its original, affecting and thoughtful.  You are slowly drawn into a quite odd world which is brought to life wonderfully.
  7. Of Time and the City /Terence Davies, UK … rich, moving, interesting, thoughtful, individual, a very personal elegy and an essay on life.
  8. Charlie Wilson’s War /Mike Nichols, USA … entertaining, well acted, surprisingly better than I thought.  Philip Seymour Hoffman should have won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for this.
  9. Gomorrah /Matteo Garrone, Italy … realist and gritty, suffers a little being post-“Sopranos”, anti-gloss gangster deconstruction. Tight jumpy editing, visually strong and visceral.  Deserves to be seen widely.
  10. Sweeney Todd /Tim Burton, USA/UK … rich in colour and pantomime,  good fun, I closed my eyes sometimes but the sounds were even worse.  Burton back on form.
  11. The Kite Runner /Marc Forster, USA … emotive, a strong visual hook tells a universal tale.  Strong but slightly flat.
  12. Wall-E /Andrew Stanton, USA … innovative and exciting first 40 minutes, imaginative story then plummets to dullness. How could such potential diminish so quickly?  Massively disappointing.
  13. Indiana Jones /Steven Spielberg, USA … couldn’t resist, my hero returns for more hokum.  Better than Indy 3 nowhere near as good as Raiders.  Old Harrison just about pulls it off, thankfully the laconic Bogart delivery doesn’t diminish with age.
  14. Gone Baby Gone /Ben Affleck, USA … well told crime tale, sturdy acting.  Delayed release due to freakish parallel with real UK child abduction case in the news.
  15. Burn After Reading /Ethan Coen/Joel Coen, USA … poor, almost embarrassing acting and casting, the Coens back to coasting mode.
  16. Hellboy 2 /Guillermo del Toro, USA/Germany … what a let-down, the best bit by far (which produced the only audience laugh) is the singing of a Barry Manilow song.  Save your pennies and watch that clip on YouTube.

Missed but heard good things on:

Hunger (UK), 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Romania), The Class (France), Waltz with Bashir (Israel), In Bruges (UK/USA),  Man on Wire (UK/USA)

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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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jenn

kate

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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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Manchester Blog Awards 2008 … nominations announced.

I am thrilled to say I have been shortlisted for the upcoming Manchester Blog Awards 2008, supported by the Manchester Literature Festival and the MDDA (Manchester Digital Develpment Agency).

Wow, what a fab surprise. Of course, I just couldn’t resist having a mooch around some of the other nominated blogs and it is a really strong line-up for all the categories … I think mine sneaked in under the radar !!

“scatterdrum” is listed under the Arts and Culture category and the winner will be announced at Matt and Phreds in the Northern Quarter in Manchester on Thursday October 22nd. I am really looking forward to putting a few faces to blogs so to speak:-)

I must, at the very least, track down “Nine chains to the moon” as a fellow fan of the splendid band Wilco.

Here is the full list of blogs and links.

Best New Blog:

Dear Kitty
Coco LaVerne
Follow The Yellow Brick Road
14sandwiches

Best Writing on a Blog:

Diary of a Bluestocking
Every day I lie a little
Nine chains to the moon
Chicken and Pies

Best Arts and Culture Blog:

Scatterdrum
Quit This Pampered Town
Northernights
Max Dunbar

Best Personal Blog:

Travels with my baby
Single Mother on the Verge
Follow the Yellow Brick Road
40three

Best Neighbourhood Blog:

Hyde Daily Photo
Mancubist
Lady Levenshulme
Manchester Bus

For more details of the Manchester Blog Awards 2008 visit the Manchizzle blog.

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National Photographic Portrait Prize @ the Lowry

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jonathan_torgovnik

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).

lucila

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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