Cindy Sherman

Cindy Sherman at the National Portrait Gallery

Cindy Sherman’s major show at the National Portrait Gallery looks back at her long career at the peak of world photography .  She is most well known for taking pictures of herself but this is not a world of selfies as she creates a wide range of personas using herself as the model, many of which are unrecognisable as the same person.  This show covers her 40 year career with examples from each of her major series of work.

The exhibition takes us from her earliest work, featuring her degree show pictures through each stage of her developing different personas.  We go through film sets,  history portraits, magazine covers, pornography, fashion  to society women.   The range is staggering and often it’s a challenge to see Cindy in them,  so brilliantly has she taken on the persona she is seeking, creating the illusion of a changed identity.

I was lucky enough to have a tour of the exhibition by the curator, Paul Moorhouse, and this gave me a deeper insight to Cindy and her work.  One thing Paul  told us that really stayed with me was that Cindy does not let anyone in on her creative process.  She works entirely alone in her study as she creates these characters, not even letting an assistant into the study.   Back in her early days she had done some work on location but this had proved difficult as it required help from others and getting dressed and ready in public so from then on all her work was made in the studio.

Continue reading

Martin Parr Only Human

Martin Parr’s Only Human at the National Portrait Gallery

Martin Parr is one of our great British photographers with a career spanning over 40 years.  So I was excited to be invited to the preview of his new show, Only Human, at the National Portrait Gallery, especially as I knew Martin would be there himself.  It’s a brilliant display of his observations of Britishness in all its eccentricities and variety with particular reference to a country after Brexit referendum. Continue reading

National Portrait Gallery

The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize

Painted portraits or photographic portraits – is one medium better than the other for capturing a person, is there more skill in the painting or the photograph?  I was pondering these questions as I approached the National Portrait Gallery to view the annual Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize.  Earlier in the  year I had enjoyed their exhibition of painted portraits and here’s my blog about it so you can compare the two: BP Portrait Award.  I had really enjoyed many of those pieces still remembered them so was slightly apprehensive that I would not be as impressed, a little unfair I know, but there it is! Continue reading

The amazing London marathon and some star spotting!

The big event in London this week was really big – the London Marathon! But keep reading to the bottom to find out the star spotting….

The London Marathon claims to be the largest in the world with about 36,000 runners pounding the streets of London to conquer the 26.2 miles of agony. The elite man runner got round in just over 2 hours beating the course record but for the mere mortals it was 4 hours plus of pain and ecstasy on finishing. I found a great viewing spot on a bridge over the course to cheer them on and snap some of the fun sights. How people can run wearing the mad outfits is quite beyond me but it raises extra money for charity and that’s what drives most of the brave runners on. You could see the pain on their faces but many were cheery and smiling as they had one more mile to go to the finish outside of Buckingham Palace. Have a look at a small selection of photos: the runners flooding along the Embankment by Charing Cross; the rhino and lion; a tiger; Kate Middleton (!); a WaterAid toilet; pantomime dame (lots of men in dresses – any excuse!); the clown; the runaway bride; the chicken; and, the man with artificial legs who was an hour ahead of anyone else in these photos!

The Tate Modern has been showing the wonderful Sunflower Seeds installation by the artist Ai Weiwei but last week he was detained in his homeland by the Chinese authorities so I started the Twitter hashtag #releaseAiWeiwei and was really pleased to see that the Tate have taken it up on their building – or we just came up with the same slogan! Either way I hope it works..

 

 

 

One show worth seeing was E.O. Hoppe’s photographs at the National Portrait Gallery which was really interesting. From his studio portraits of the famous faces of his day to his realistic street photos of the poorer citizens, we saw a wonderful range of work in the 150 photos on display. The photo of the very small boy in a pearlie king outfit over his stripey jumper and worn out shoes was funny and very sad at the same time as his poverty was clear to see. In contrast celebrity and royal faces also graced the walls from a very young Margot Fonteyn to the future King George V and Queen Elizabeth

 

And finally, the star spotting which took place in the green room at recording of the Graham Norton TV show where I got to have my photo taken with one of my absolute favourites- David Tennant – and the rather lovely Josh Grobin who moved right up the favourite list. They were both completely charming and very handsome. Still recovering….

Bye for now,

 

Sue

 

Edinburgh and all those shows…

I had great fun in Edinburgh on my annual trip to Scotland to enjoy the Festival Fringe- the world’s largest arts festival. It’s only four and half to five hours train ride to Edinburgh through some lovely scenery including views across Durham and the cathedral, Berwick and the coast. You have to go in August as that’s when Edinburgh goes mad with at least 4 festivals at once and well over 2000 shows to chose from. The big challenge is how many to fit into one visit without getting overload and the trick is to mix up comedy, theatre and musical shows during the day. There are shows on all day and late into the night and we managed to get to 8 in all (1 play, 2 music plays, 4 comedians and 1 singer) plus a book reading by Fatima Bhutto and a recording of a radio show – would have been 9 but one theatrical piece over ran badly which was annoying and hard to work out how it happened. The radio show was cut short due to a fire alarm but was good fun with Fred McCauley interviewing a range of comedians from new comers like Paul Sinha to pros like Ardal O’Hanlon, Adam Hills Paul Merton. The photos are of the famous purple Udderbelly tent, 2 views of the wonderful castle and skyline and one of a restaurant – they have a Restaurant in the Sky where a platform is hoisted up on a crane and meals and drinks served with a fabulous view. The view of the skyline was taken from Oloroso’s bar, set atop a building on George Street it is a great place to take a breather from the shows and enjoy great views and snacks. It’s a place we’d wanted to go to for years but the weather had not been quite good enough but this year there was sunshine almost all the time and Edinburgh looked gorgeous. Our other good eatery was the Dome, a converted bank with a magnificent domed ceiling where no expense was spared and which is now a great setting for Sunday lunch.

I didn’t spend much time in London this week but did have time for one cultural excursion to the Camille Silvry exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. He (despite the expectations set by the name) was a French photographer who set up a portrait studio in Bayswater, just near where I live, and developed techniques that we marvelled. The photo which forms part of the brochure in this photo, is a combination of 4 different shots, merged seamlessly to give the clear figures in the foreground against the murky fog behind. He had a great sense of the theatrical and he became well loved of the London theatre scene and photographed many stars of the time as well as working under the patronage of Queen Victoria which gave him access to the upper reaches of society. His 10 year burst of creativity sadly ended in an asylum but left an amazing legacy. We revived ourselves at the excellent National Cafe where a light snack a glass of wine was the perfect accompaniment.
One more restaurant moment to mention was another great lunch at the Electric Brasserie – steak frites and a glass of red makes me feel Parisien and happy with the world!
Bye for now,
Sue

World’s longest toilet queue!

This week started in a big toilet queue – the world’s longest queue in fact! No, there’s not a sudden horrific shortage of toilets in London but an event for WaterAid to highlight the appalling number of people in this world who do not have access to a safe toilet. We queued outside Parliament in Gordon Brown masks to make this point and queues formed all across the world to lobby their own governments – altogether we were making a Guiness Record attempt on the length of the queue. A very important cause so have a look at their website http://www.wateraid.org/.org and there’s a photo here from the queue.

The National Portrait Gallery has a couple of special exhibitions on at the moment. One is the glorious portraits of Irving Penn who had access to an amazing range of famous faces, from Wallis Simpson to Greta Garbo and Rudolf Nureyev. The exhibition follows the development of his work over the decades and you can see some people photographed twice. His early device of photographing people in the corner of rooms moved on to photos of subject somewhat hidden – by clothing or by the closing one or both eyes. Also there is a small show of photos by Jane Brown who worked in black and white and only using available light which I really admire. Here’s the poster shot of Irving Penn and a sneaky shot of Jane Brown’s Mick Jagger I took some while ago at a foyer exhibition at the Guardian. A second Jane Brown was the irresistible shot of Henri Cartier Bresson taking a photo of Jane taking a photo….

We had a bit of rain this week but there was a warm welcome at St Martins-in-the-Field church who had a Vivaldi concert including his ‘Summer’ concerto. Wonderful music in a fabulous setting. 2 photos to give you the idea – one inside the church and one exterior view on a sunny day to show it at its best.


We were looking forward to seeing ‘Little Dog Laughed’ but it was not all we’d hoped although Tamsin Grieg was brilliant and worth the trip. The play just didn’t add up to enough, perhaps it was the anticipation? Looking to go next week to see a matinee so am on the look out for some bargain tickets.

Not so much eating out this week but if you find yourself looking for a coffee on Portobello Road I can recommend Gails but only if you are strong enough to resist all the cakes! Good coffee and a jolly atmosphere. Then if you are near Notting Hill Gate tube station, head for Pain Quotidien for coffee and snacks and you’ll not be disappointed. Today I’m off to a soft launch of a new Raymond Blanc restaurant so watch this space next week for reviews…
Bye for now,
Sue

Exhibitions and exhibitionists

Last week was full of exhibitions. It was the World Travel Market in London’s massive ExCel exhibition centre out east in the Docklands. It was sadly only for travel trade people, sadly because there must have been a stand from every country in the world and for a lover of travelling it was heaven. However, I was a there a couple of days for work and restrained myself from spending too much time looking at the wonders of South America and Africa.

It was a misty couple of days and the photo from the terrace captures that feel in contrast to the mad, busy, bright interior of the event.

I’ve been to a couple of great public exhibitions this week. One was a photographic delight – Beatles to Bowie: The 60s Exposed. This traces the course of the 60s and its pop stars through brilliant photography and magazine and album covers. It’s great fun to see all these icons in their earlier seemingly innocent times when we know what is in store for them. Each caption mentioned a key song from that artist at that time so there was shameless singing along from many visitors, including us at one point I must admit!
The second was at the wonderful Victoria and Albert Museum who are hosting the Maharja: Splendour of India’s Royal Courts. It’s a tour through their world over a couple of centuries of colour and excess. We saw fabulous jewels and paintings and even their 20th century luxuries when their commissions kept Rolls Royce and Van Cleef & Arpels extremely busy. There’s a lot of information and it look nearly 2 hours to get around and a coffee afterwards in the extravagantly decorated V&A cafe was essential.
From a lost worlds of Indian princes and the 60s to a film about lost millions and the internet but all about living lives on the public stage. ‘We Live in Public’ won the documentary prize at the Sundance Film Festival and traces the life of Josh Harries, a pioneer in the cyber world through his rise and crash including a section where he lives with his partner on camera 24/7 in a fore runner of films and TV to come. Josh himself was at the cinema for Q&A afterwards which was strange as the film portrays him as an interesting but very unsympathetic character, both of which were borne out in person. We squeezed in cocktails at the Criterion bar and a wonderful lunch in one of Soho’s authentic Italian restaurants – Il Porchetta – huge bowls of lovely pasta and very reasonably priced.
It feels like winter is nigh and the Christmas lights are coming on all over London – more on that next week and perhaps some photos.
Bye for now.
Sue
Sue Hillman