Monday, 26 November 2012

I wrote a comment piece about why Jews should speak out against injustices suffered by Palestinians.

Read the piece in full on the Independent website.


Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The Brighton Photo Biennial, which kicks off on 6 October, is the UK’s biggest photography event. Celia Davies, Head of Programme at Photoworks – the photography agency curating this year’s festival – talks to me about the importance of exhibiting your work and what not to do when applying for commissions…

How did you choose this year’s Biennial theme, “Agents of change: photography and the politics of space”? 
We wanted to put on a photography festival that felt pertinent to the times we’re living in. Also, we’re interested in the role of photography in people’s lives: how that operates in the gallery world, in the media, on people’s mobile phones as a tool and as a creative opportunity. Of course it includes professional photographers, photojournalists and artists, but it also includes grassroots activity. Being able to see all those different types of photography alongside one another, within the festival, is a great opportunity to get a sense of how we understand photography now.

Aside from the IdeasTap and Magnum Professional Practice weekend, what is there for emerging photographers at the Biennial?
The Biennial is not just exhibitions. There is a whole public programme running alongside: talks with speakers, such as Julian Germain, and opportunities to meet like-minded people. The Crit is a free alternative portfolio review where people can come along and get feedback on their work. It’s less hierarchical than a one-to-one session with someone high profile in the photography world. There will be high profile people there, but it’s also about everyone pooling ideas. It’s more democratic, an opportunity to network but also to get some honest feedback and develop your project further.

Read the full article on IdeasTap.


Friday, 21 September 2012

While documenting the Cultural Revolution, photojournalist Li Zhensheng took photos of atrocities being carried out at the time, which he hid under the floorboards of his home. As his work goes on display at the Barbican in London, Li tells me how he got started and why history makes images important…

How did you get into photography?
When I was in secondary school I wanted to be a film director. I enrolled at the Changchun film school, majoring in cinematography, but my dream was crushed in the early 60s as a result of the great famine after the Great Leap Forward movement. None of my classmates could become cinematographers so we all went into news photography. That was in 1963, when I was 22.

How has your film training influenced your approach to photography?
Some of my pictures use cinematography techniques. When shooting a film you can roll your camera to take a panoramic view but in photography you can’t. So I used the camera to shoot individual photos, but in sequence.

If you could start your career again, what would you do differently? 
If I were starting my career now, I would probably choose to be a director, because you can do lots of things with it. But during the Cultural Revolution it was impossible to be a film director or cinematographer because what you produced was just political rubbish. My work is an unintended result of my using cinematographic skills to take photos. I don’t feel any regret about my work [as a photographer]. The films made during the Cultural Revolution were just products, not works of art.

Read the full article on IdeasTap.


Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Kristjana S Williams, whose clients include Chanel and the V&A, founded fashion label Beyond the Valley with two fellow Central Saint Martins graduates. Now focusing on her solo illustration and design, she tells us about the creative process behind her London Design Week show and how she broke into the industry…

Did you always want to be an illustrator?
If I asked my six-year-old self, I would probably have said yes because I was constantly drawing and painting, but when I became a teenager I thought, “God, surely nobody can make a living out of this”. I studied electronics at university in Iceland. I was slightly obsessed by designing and building logic circuits but my maths wasn’t quite as strong as it should have been. I went back to study graphic design at Central Saint Martins, majoring in Illustration. From there I ended up in fashion. I would create these huge digitally printed fabrics that became more and more like a story until I got to a point where each piece was more like an illustration in its own right. That’s when Outline Editions gallery picked up on my work and it went from there.

Why did you decide to set up Beyond the Valley when you left Saint Martins? 
It was about supporting up-and-coming designers and promoting the idea that you could do your fine art pieces and do commercial stuff as well. Now there are so many graphic designers and illustrators creating art work in its own right. All these boundaries are falling down and people are respected for what they do regardless of the name of their individual profession.

Read the full article on IdeasTap.


Thursday, 13 September 2012

Acclaimed South African photographer David Goldblatt has devoted his career to documenting his country of birth, during and since the fall of apartheid. As a new show featuring his work opens at Barbican Art Gallery, David talks about the role of captions and why a degree in economics is great training for a photographer…

How did your career as a photographer begin? 
I became interested in photography when I was in high school in the late ’40s. By the time I matriculated I wanted to be a magazine photographer. I tried for about a year to learn something about it but at the time there were no avenues in South Africa. I wrote to a well-known photographer on Picture Post. He was encouraging and told me to get on a ship and come to London, work as a tea boy in the magazine office, and that I would gradually progress. But I didn’t have the courage. I went into my father’s business and while I was there I maintained my interest in photography. When he died I sold his shop and became a full-time photographer.

What compelled you to stay in your home country of South Africa and document life under apartheid?
It was quite a slow process of self-examination and understanding. At first my wife and I felt that we had to get out of South Africa, that there was no possibility of bringing up children in a country like that, but then I realised I was far too involved in South Africa. And probably from about 1968 I had no wish to leave.

How do you approach your subjects? 
I very seldom talk. I don’t aim to make my subjects comfortable. I want some tension. I want to make the subject understand that for me, and possibly for them, this is a serious occasion. When I’m taking a portrait, I prefer to set up the camera and then not shelter behind it, but rather to engage directly with eye contact. That’s sometimes quite painful.

Read the full article on IdeasTap.


Francesca Gavin juggles multiple editorial roles, including Visual Arts Editor for Dazed & Confused, Art Editor for Twin and Contributing Editor at AnOther, while writing on art for a range of publications and curating shows. Francesca tells me why a career is what you make of it and how she picks artists to write about…

Did you always want to be an art journalist? 
I did History of Art at university but never thought I’d do anything with it because I didn’t think there was any way to make a living out of it – I just loved the subject. I used to say the one thing I didn’t want to be was a journalist. I knew lots of music journalists when I was a teenager because I grew up near Camden. It all seemed a bit awful but I had bought five magazines a week from the age of 12, so it was a world I knew.

I actually began at Dazed. I called them up and said, “I want your job, how do I get it?” I’d left university at this point and had been working for a year and a half in a picture research department at a book publisher. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a journalist until I was at Dazed. Then it started making sense. I loved being in that environment. I remember sweeping floors with eagerness! And I loved opening post – it felt like Christmas looking at everyone’s invites and press releases.

So did you start out as an intern?
I interned part-time and worked part-time for a year. I started doing bits of writing while I was there and it all felt natural. I don’t think anyone can teach you to write. You have to learn from doing it. I never understood people doing journalism postgrads. If I started again, I definitely wouldn’t do one.  I’ve always believed you need to create your own life. If you want to learn about magazine structure, just look at magazines. Cultural journalism is about coming up with ideas you find yourself.

Read the full article on IdeasTap.


Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Dewi Lewis Publishing has a reputation for high quality contemporary photography books by the likes of William Klein, Martin Parr, Simon Norfolk, Anders Petersen, and Bruce Gilden, as well as lesser-known photographers. Here Dewi Lewis shares some advice for photographers…

What are you looking for when you decide whether to take on a new project? 
It’s hard to say. It has to work internationally. For whatever reason we [have to] believe it will be of interest to someone in the US, in France, and in the UK. That can simply be that it’s about a human issue that everyone in the world would respond to. It’s almost easier to say what you can’t do.

What can’t you do?
If it’s very personal, unless there’s funding you can’t take it on. One of the things a lot of photographers seemed to do as college projects at one point was revisiting a house that had personal meaning for them – their grandparents’ house or the house they were brought up in. To be honest, however good it is, the interest level [for that] is family and friends. Also a lot of young photographers do projects about their friends lying round drinking or whatever. Occasionally that works but it’s pretty rare.

What does it take for a great photography project to become a great photography book?
It’s essentially: is there enough in it to sustain a book? There are often things you see, particularly documentary work, that would make a really good extended magazine feature but there’s not enough for a book. And it’s not simply about the number of images. There’s a longevity to a book: you’re trying to create something that someone would be interested in looking at it several times over several years.

Read the full article on IdeasTap.


Thursday, 23 August 2012

Your script is written and edited to perfection. Now you need to find some talented actors to cast in your low-budget film or theatre production. Where should you start? I ask a casting director and two filmmakers for their advice… 

Beginning your search
“Free talent websites such as Starnow and Casting Call Pro are essential for finding that much-needed talent to make your film more real,” says filmmaker Rob McLellan, who made the short film RAHAB starring David Oyelowo after winning The Pitch in 2010, and is now developing it as a feature. “You often find actors who are willing to work on a collaborator basis so they can beef up their showreel. The downside is there are no qualifications or references needed for these sites. Anyone could turn up at your door, so safety should be a consideration.”

“Going to lots of theatre and seeing independent films is helpful,” says director and screenwriter Aimee Powell. “Especially as in most theatres the cast are in the bar afterwards.” Another great place to spot up-and-coming actors is in third-year drama school shows. “Guildhall, RADA, Central and LAMDA are really good,” says Aimee. And tickets are generally under a tenner so won’t break the bank.

Tracking talent
Read the trade press to find out who is on the cusp of getting big. “Screen International has a feature called ‘stars of tomorrow’ – they have a knack for identifying actors who are very good but not as recognised as they will be shortly,” says Aimee, who also recommends following the nominees for the Ian Charleson Awards, a prize for actors below 30 who have delivered an outstanding stage performance.

Read the full article on IdeasTap.


Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The digital revolution has made publishers of us all and yet one big fat question lingers – how can you make a profit online? Sian Meades of lifestyle website Domestic Sluttery and Duncan Hammond of Guardian Select hosted an IdeasTap Spa event addressing just this. Here's what they had to say…

Am I a sell out?
There are all sorts of reasons why people blog. For many it is a purely non-profit pursuit, done to boost exposure for a project, practice writing skills or share expertise in a niche interest with likeminded online chums. Sian Meades’s intention was always for her lifestyle website Domestic Sluttery to be a commercial venture and within six of months launching, it was. However, she warns, “It’s a massive leap from having a blog to turning that into a career.”

First of all, Sian believes, you need to get over the idea that making money blogging automatically equates to selling out. “The term ‘sell out’ is massively overused by people who have sour grapes about other people being successful,” she argues. “If you think you’re a sell out and that there’s no value in what you’re doing, then you probably are.” But, she adds: “You are not a sell out if you can pay your rent and live, if you are creating something you’re proud of and like the brands you’re working with.”

Build a community 
It’s not enough to produce lively, original and well-crafted content. To make your blog an attractive proposition for advertisers, you also need a community of potential consumers. Numbers matter but so too does engagement. “Be open, searchable and talk to people,” Sian advises. “Treat the internet like a conversation.”  Think about where your fans are. Twitter? Facebook? Both? “Know the difference between the two and don’t upload the same stuff,” says Sian. “Facebook is primarily image-based, relies on personal sharing and allows for long threads of community discussion that everyone can get involved in. It’s very obvious when you just are posting tweets to Facebook.”

Read the full article on IdeasTap.


Monday, 20 August 2012

WaterAid is an NGO working to improve access to clean water and sanitation. Photography plays an instrumental role in achieving this. Picture Editor Emily Graham shares advice for photographers keen to use their talent for social good… 

How does WaterAid work with photographers? 
We use photography for a wide variety of purposes, from fundraising to advocacy, awareness raising and media work. At the moment we are running a fundraising campaign called The Big Dig. I commissioned a photographer called Kate Holt to interview and photograph people in rural Malawi. We chose her because she had a journalistic approach. She produces strong images that engage audiences but in a natural way. We used these images throughout the organisation for fundraising campaigns and since then we’ve spent a week in Malawi training our partner staff in using simple image capturing technologies so we can show a story of change through a blog where the initial professional images are displayed with images gathered by staff.

What’s the best way for a photographer who wants to work for WaterAid to get in touch with you?
Send an email with an introduction to yourself and your main interests as a photographer, and a link to your website. Don’t send attachments because they crash my inbox! Let us know your travel plans. If there’s a photographer planning a visit to one of our country programmes, we may be able to commission them for a few days. The most important thing is that you have strong personal work on [your website] as well as commissioned work. Get in touch if you’re working on an issue relevant to our work and maybe we can partner up. Come to us with a story idea or visual approach – we’re always looking for new and original ways to communicate the issues that we work with.

Read the full article on IdeasTap.


Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Working in advertising photography can be an excellent way to financially sustain your documentary or fine art practice. James Gerrard-Jones, of commercial photography agency Wyatt-Clarke & Jones, explains why… 

What are the benefits of joining an agency?
Promotion can be time-consuming. Being signed to an agency will ensure your work is reaching the right people so you can concentrate on your practice, leaving the promotion to someone else. A decent agency will be keen to support your ambitions as an artist  – that's the biggest kick for us at Wyatt-Clarke & Jones. We work with photographers from all different backgrounds – reportage, fine art, fashion – and the commissions we find for them help fund personal work that might otherwise never get made. Projects such as Adam Hinton's book Shibuya, published with This is Real Art, or the recent work for which Nadège Mériau received a Discovery Award nomination at the Rencontres d’Arles.

What does an advertising commissioner want from a photographer? 
We're surrounded by images everywhere we look so commissioners are looking for photographers with a distinct visual identity – something that's going to engage the viewer and communicate with them successfully. As well as unique talent, commissioners are looking for reliability and someone who understands the industry.

Read the full article on IdeasTap.


Friday, 3 August 2012

Not only does the British Library contain every publication ever produced in the UK and Ireland, it also houses many intriguing items and handy business resources. Frances Taylor, the British Library’s Marketing Manager for the Creative Industries, tells me more about what the library has to offer creatives…

The British Library is traditionally associated with academic research. How can creative practitioners use the library for their work?
We have amazing collections of things lots of people don’t know we have: a copy of every magazine in the UK, everything from Vogue to zines, a huge sound archive, prints, drawings, photographs and knitting patterns. There’s printed content, video and sound recordings creative practitioners could use for both research and inspiration. One of the things that make the library unique in comparison with other museums and galleries is our Business and IP Centre, which is a small business centre for anyone who has an idea and needs help commercialising it. Around a quarter of the users are from the creative industries. [You] can get help with marketing, business planning, copyright and intellectual property. It’s very about meeting people, getting face-to-face support and networking with your peers.

What are the most unusual items you have in the collection?
We’re doing an event in September to show off our artists’ books collection and although I haven’t seen it yet, I think we have an artist’s book made out of sardine tins! We also have some Victorian hair jewellry.

Visit the British Library website for more information about creative research and forthcoming events.

Read the full article on IdeasTap.


Monday, 30 July 2012

His darkly political illustrations have accompanied columns for David Mitchell and Charlie Brooker in the Observer and the Guardian, and his client list includes Nike, the New York Times, Greenpeace and Penguin Books. I asked David Foldvari how he got started… 

After graduating from Brighton I spent a while trying to get a job doing anything because I was broke and hated being on the dole.

This was around ’96. Back then you needed about £3-4,000 to have your own little Mac with a scanner and printer. I didn’t have that kind of money and my parents didn’t either. I was DJing at the time and had friends who were involved in the whole club music thing. Eventually I got a bank loan, bought a knackered old Mac Performa and started designing flyers and record covers for them.

I was doing what I considered to be fairly shit work. The money was good so I could have stuck with it but the illustration student in me said, “Hang on you’ve got to do something about this because the work you’re doing is diabolical”. I applied to do a master’s at the Royal College of Art, in the process pulled together a portfolio I was happier with, and went round London showing it to everyone.

David Foldvari was talking to Rachel Segal Hamilton.

Read the full article on IdeasTap.


Monday, 9 July 2012

Sophie Chapman-Andrews is Head of Art Buying at advertising agency McCann Erickson. She books photographers to work on advertising campaigns for high-profile clients such as L’Oréal, Toshiba and Nestlé, among others. Here she shares her advice for anyone hoping to make it in advertising photography…  

When you invite a new photographer in to have a meeting with you, what can they do to make the best possible impression? 
I’ll send them the layout so they’ve got something to look at, to have some thoughts ready for when they come to the meeting. The meeting will be me and the creative team with the photographer talking through the idea. We’ll tell them about what the brief is, what the product is, a little bit of background so they can understand where we’re coming from and the things we need to consider. It’s their opportunity then to say, “Well, this is how I’d do it and here are examples of how I’d light it, using this sort of colour, and maybe this composition…” On that basis they’ll go away and do an estimate.

Those meetings are so important because they will affirm who we want to use. Come into the meeting with some clear ideas about how you want to do it. We need that reassurance because the pressure’s on. We’re sometimes asking people to do things with a short time frame. It could be a couple of weeks from start to finish for all the production, shooting, editing, which – depending on what else they’ve got going on in their life – could be quite demanding, so it’s also about how they’re going to cope with that.

In your talk at the Magnum Professional Practice seminar in London you said that advertising is all about relationships – what did you mean by that? 
The creative team is working on lots of other stuff so there is no room for making a mistake, which is why we’ve got to be so communicative. A name might come up and the creative director might say, “What about so and so – do you know him?” and I’ll say, “Yeah met him, worked with him, great guy, fantastic”. It’s [important] having that assurance that we can rely on this person. Or you might have a job that comes up and the money’s not great and the timing’s not great but the idea’s fantastic and the person might say, “I’ll do it for you”. That can only come from trusting someone and having a good relationship with them.

Read the full article on IdeasTap.


Friday, 6 July 2012

Award-winning Brazilian filmmaker Julia Bacha is the Media Director at Just Vision, an organisation that raises awareness of nonviolent activism in the Israel-Palestine conflict through films and outreach campaigns. Julia tells us why she got into film and shares her advice for would-be social issue documentary makers…

When did you decide you wanted to be a filmmaker? 
I never expected to have a career in film. At first I was going to be a lawyer but ended up studying Middle Eastern history at Columbia University in New York and then thought I would go down an academic path. I got accepted to do a master’s at Tehran University in Iran, but when I graduated in 2003 the US had just invaded Iraq so I couldn’t get my visa. I got invited by a filmmaker to come to Egypt to intern on a project. My hope was that from Egypt I would be able to get my visa to Iran.

When I arrived and started looking through footage she had captured from the Iraq war, that was a turning point for me. I had been engaged politically against the war and saw a chance to channel my frustration. I taught myself Final Cut Pro and became the editor and writer of the film. Control Room premiered at Sundance. It was one of the highest grossing political documentaries of all times in the States and the first film with a more critical view of how American journalists had covered Iraq, so it really had an impact. I realised that documentary offered an opportunity to do a lot of the same work I wanted to do in academia, but to have a wider public.

Read the full article on IdeasTap.


Wednesday, 4 July 2012

In his 20-year design career, Anthony Burrill (pictured below with Francesca Wade and Barbara Soalheiro from Mesa & Cadeira and Iki the dog) has worked for Wallpaper*, London Underground and Collette in Paris, exhibited everywhere from Tokyo to Milan and earned cult status for his upbeat slogan prints, such as “Work Hard  &  Be Nice to People”. As his new show opens at Kemistry Gallery, we ask Anthony how he started out…

When did you decide you wanted to be a graphic designer? 
I was always interested in visual culture when I was growing up. This was quite a while ago – in the late ’70s, early ’80s – and there wasn’t the amount of stuff that there is now. Music – and record covers – was the thing that got me into it first but I didn’t realise you could have a job doing that. I did a foundation and then did a degree in graphic design. I graduated form the Royal College in ’91. That was before the internet and all that stuff.

Was it tough to break into the industry at that time? 
Yes, really hard, because you didn’t have the networks that are around now. I was shy and I didn’t like ringing people up on the phone, so it was hard for me to get my work out there. I started off by making little photocopied books and postcards and sending those out, and that developed into making posters and the kind of work that I do now. My first big project was for Hans Brinker Budget Hotel. I got that through my girlfriend. She was working on a campaign with Erik Kessels [of communications agency KesselsKramer]. He said he needed somebody to do some typography and she said, “I know somebody who could do some type for you”.

Read the full article on IdeasTap.


Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Indian photographer Rohit Chawla's fashion-inspired fine art images have appeared in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Marie Claire – but for his Wanderlust project, which goes on show next week at The Strand Gallery in London, he shot nomadic people in Gujurat. Rohit talks about his creative process and how photography has changed since he started…

Many years ago I went to a place called Kutch in Gujurat and saw this Rabari tribe.

I took a long time to go back with the right set up. I wanted to shoot them in isolation, almost like fashion portraits, not like the conventional way that had been shot over the years. So we created a makeshift studio in the desert by hanging fabric on a tripod and on stands. We used to go wherever we could find them. They were constantly on the move because they’re nomads. We would carry a Polaroid camera and whatever we shot we would give them the images. At first they were not really willing to be photographed. We gained their trust by being patient and by hanging around them. Slowly they agreed to pose and then we got the lighting and created the backdrop.

Read the full article on IdeasMag.


Monday, 2 July 2012

The 27-year-old’s directorial debut, Electrick Children, starring Billy Zane, Julia Garner and Rory Culkin, is now showing at Picturehouse Cinemas across the UK. Rebecca talks about how she funded the movie, getting the best from actors and why it’s important to keep an eye on what your peers are up to…

When did you decide you wanted to be a filmmaker? 
In high school I did a radio broadcasting class. They had integrated some video stuff into it so I started playing with the medium and learning how to use Final Cut Pro. Me and my friends would make silly music videos and news shows. I started studying English Literature but got bored by it and switched to screenwriting for my undergrad, and then I went to graduate school at Columbia and did directing. In undergrad I had written, acted in and produced a project that my friend directed. I wrote a short script of 10 pages and we made it for $200 – and it ended up going to the Sundance Film Festival.

How did you get the funding to make Electrick Children?
I was originally going to make Electrick Children as a micro–budget film. I started trying to raise $10,000 on Kickstarter and we were going to take out another $10,000 in loans. Then my producer found this amazing investor who gave us $5,000. At Columbia one of our acting professors had invited me and my producer to audition for a movie he was making. Neither of us got the role but my producer had kept in touch with his producer so [when we were working on Electrick Children] she wrote him a quick email saying, “Hi Richard do you want to donate to this?” And he did. It shows it’s worth being personable and asking people very directly for money – even if it’s $5.

I followed up, asking if he wanted to read the script. A few days later I get a phone call from an unknown number. It was someone saying, “You’re going to need lights and you’re going to need talent. I’m so excited about the script.” I was like: “Is this Richard?” He said to me, “I can give you the $20, 000 and you can make this into a micro-budget project or I can come on as a producer and we can make the whole thing”. He independently financed the whole project.

Read the full article on IdeasMag.


Thursday, 28 June 2012

Observing people's reactions to the riots last summer was a frustrating experience. In its immediate aftermath any attempt to understand the situation was shouted down with cries of 'feral youth' and 'criminal underclass', as previously liberal minded people started calling for martial law and extolling the merits of the water canon.

Thankfully, as the dust has settled the debate has moved on. There was the Guardian / LSE study, the verbatim theatre production at the Tricycle, the book by Tottenham MP David Lammy. And now this: a feature length documentary called Riot from Wrong. Made by young people, the film promises to bring their unique perspective to the mix - something which has been largely overlooked in discussions surrounding what was after all a youth-led phenomenon. Can't wait to see it.  


Despite our notoriously rubbish weather, summer in the UK is synonymous with music festivals. If you’ve ever found yourself in a muddy field amid a crowd of sweaty revellers thinking, “Wouldn’t it be cool to start my own festie?” read this sage advice from three people who did…

Planning it takes ages
So you’ve got a 10k sound system and more mates in bands than you can shake a welly at? Good for you – but to organise a festival properly you also need time. “Start way in advance before the date,” recommends Zaran Vachha, founder of Rivington Street Festival, which took place in venues across Shoreditch for the first time this June. “I started probably a year in advance. I run events all the time but [was surprised at] the volume of people I had to speak to.”

You won’t just be chatting up potential venues, sponsors, bands and stallholders, you also need to get the police and local council onside. And forget creative vision and charisma – this lot want to see your licenses and safety plan. “The most boring safety regulations are what councils and police care about most,” Zaran points out. “You can have the best idea in the world, but if you don’t jump through their hoops the festival’s not going to happen.” Jumping through hoops isn’t as speedy an endeavor as it sounds. Zaran again: “Dealing with councils is a slow process. You have to wait for them to get back to you and can’t really push them to do anything because once you start getting pushy, they’ll just tell you to f**k off.”

Read the full article on IdeasMag.


Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Stuart Smith has designed photobooks for Elliott Erwitt, Martin Parr and Mark Power, among others. He spills the beans on the photobook design process – and shares some advice for photographers thinking of having a go themselves…

When photographers approach you to design a book, do they usually have a clear idea of what they want? 
It depends. They sort of do but often the goal posts change. They think they know and then we talk about it and find it’s roughly where they want to go but we end up going a different way about it.

What’s the most difficult part of the process? 
Convincing them that I know better.

And how do you do that? 
It just takes time and trust. We’ll have two or three meetings until they get it. And if they don’t get it, we don’t do the book because we don’t get on.

What are the most common mistakes you encounter from photographers?
First of all, it’s too big in size: they think it’s got to be big because their ego’s big. The second problem is it’s too big in content: they don’t edit or they can’t help but put more pictures in. The third problem is probably the order of the pictures, the fourth would be the actual pictures, the fifth would be the title, the sixth would be the positioning of the pictures on the page – they try to do something a bit special or a bit different.

Read the full article on IdeasMag.


Monday, 18 June 2012

Mosaic Films’ Managing Director Andy Glynne has pioneered the use of animation in documentary, winning a BAFTA, among other awards, for his short film series on mental health, Animated Minds. For his latest offering, Seeking Refuge, Andy uses animation to tell the stories of young refugees. Here he tells us why…

I first thought of using animation when I was making documentaries about mental health.

Mental health is very much a subjective experience. To try and convey that through talking heads gives no sense whatsoever what it’s like. My background is as a psychologist; I used to sit with patients who were talking about their difficulties and there’s a struggle to convey what it’s like, but with symbols or metaphors, you can give them another way to express themselves.

As I started getting into animated docs, I came up with a manifesto of when you should [use animation] and when you shouldn’t. Absolutely [you should] when you’re protecting anonymity, when you’re trying to convey internal experiences and when metaphor is better than literal interpretation: if someone’s being tortured and they’re describing what the feeling’s like, for example. There’s a big trend for people to just use animation because they like the idea of having animation in films and I think it’s a waste of money when that happens.

Read the full article on IdeasMag.


Thursday, 14 June 2012

Oxfam’s cutting-edge campaigns with Martin Parr, Rankin and Alejandro Chaskielberg prove charity photography has left the clichéd, sensationalist images of the past far behind. We ask Oxfam’s Head of Stories, Film and Photography, Kate Pattison, how emerging photographers can use their talent to help others…

What is Oxfam’s policy on how you represent people photographically? 
We believe people should be represented as human beings with dignity. The way you judge whether or not a picture should be used is by thinking: if that was someone in your family, would you want it to be shown? Anything that takes away their humanity, we would never use. It’s also about breaking the stereotype about Africa being this place where people are victims. It’s [about] presenting people in their true light as agents of their own destiny.

There will always be times when it’s important to show the situation as it is – if you’re documenting a humanitarian emergency and people are hungry, ill or injured, we do need to show that. But there are ways of doing it that move away from shocking sensationalism and show people’s humanity and strength – little things like [showing people] holding someone’s hand or cradling a baby.

What’s the best way for a photographer to approach you with their work? 
Do something proactive. We’ve got 800 shops on the high street – go and do some photography in a shop. That’s going to make us think, “Wow you’ve actually done something that shows you’re keen to work for Oxfam”. If you don’t want to do that, just send off your most amazing brilliant picture. Embed it in an email and ask when’s a good time to call.

Read the full article on IdeasMag.


Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Filmmaking is a collaborative business – and this can be a challenge. We asked professional editors to share advice for directors and producers on what they can do during and after production to make sure the edit goes as smoothly as possible…

Don’t be lazy
First thing’s first. There’s no excuse for slacking off during production because you are assuming that the copious imperfections in your footage will be corrected in the edit. Your editor will hate you for it. And rightly so. Editor Andrij Evans’ list of personal gripes includes: “Filming in near darkness because it can be all done in the grade,” and, “Not using a tripod, steadycam or join for a shot because stabilising software is so good these days.” Equally, it sounds obvious but record decent quality sound. As documentary editor Gordon Hayden says, “The sound is as important as the pictures.”

Get plenty of cutaway shots
Particularly with documentary, where you are likely to have long interviews with people, you need to make sure you get a wide variety of shots for the editor to work with. Otherwise your film risks being visually boring. “Do good covering shots, like cutaways, exteriors of buildings, rather than just the meat of the story,” says Gordon Hayden, adding: “You can never get too many.”

Read the full article on IdeasMag.


Monday, 21 May 2012

As picture editor at the Independent on Sunday, Sophie Batterbury sees thousands of images every day. Here she tells us how she chooses photographers for commissions and why she is wary of citizen journalism…

How did you get into photo editing? 
I wanted to be a photographer. I got a job in the Independent darkroom. I gradually realised that everybody else was a much better photographer than I was and that standing around in the rain was not as glamorous as you might have thought. So I stuck with the darkroom and then was night picture editor and it developed from there. I didn’t study photography at university – I’d done an A level but that was it. I don’t look at whether a photographer’s got a degree or not – I don’t care. I either like the work or I don’t. It doesn’t matter if they’ve been doing it for forty years or six months.

What do you look for when deciding whether to commission a photographer? 
I look for a strong, concise book to start with, but also for someone who comes across as fairly together because they are my eyes. I can’t hold their hand; I can’t expect the reporter to hold their hand. It’s more a type of personality. [You need to be able to] get on well with people but not be afraid of them, to be easy going but confident, ready to adapt to the situation. You need to be able to charm people as well and to seem like you know what you’re doing. Finally, someone who’s organised: it doesn’t matter how fantastic the pictures are if I don’t get them in time because the computer’s run out of battery or something.

Read the full article on IdeasMag.


Friday, 18 May 2012

Last night IdeasTap, in association with Blurb and PhotoShelter, hosted a panel discussion on what photo buyers want from photographers. Photography commissioners from GQ, Q Magazine and STERN shared some of their top tips…

Get in touch with photo editors 
The best way to contact James Mullinger, Photographic Director at GQ Magazine, is by post: “The old school way is the best. Inboxes are full because there’s always stuff coming in, so send a nicely printed 10x8 shot that you think reflects the magazine you’re sending it to.” If you’re lucky it will get stuck up on the wall and next time the photography team is looking for a photographer to use for a shoot, it could be you. Dagmar Seeland, UK Picture Editor at STERN, prefers to be reached by telephone. “I get 50, 60, 70 emails a day so a lot end up in the bin. Give me a call – I won’t bite!” Remember photo editors are a varied bunch, so it’s good idea to give them a quick call and ask how they prefer to receive images.

Be prepared to do your own production – and post-production 
These days, as magazines are trying not to spend too much, they often look for photographers who can do production in-house. James: “Because of staff cuts, workloads, we need someone who can do all the production and already has their team in place.” The same goes for post-production. “There is more demand for photographers to do their own retouching," says Russell O’Connell, Picture Director at Q Magazine.

Read the full article on IdeasMag.


Thursday, 17 May 2012

Panos Pictures is an internationally renowned photo agency specialising in global social issues. Archive Sales Manager Paula James tells us how Panos takes on new photographers and why you always deserve to get a fee for your work…

What exactly does a picture agency do? 
A picture agency holds photographers’ work in a photo library. This frees up their time to continue with their photography, being as creative as they can, allowing them not to have to deal with the in and outs of negotiating fees, administration, all the dull stuff. The agency actively sells their work, whereas they might be too busy to do that. We contact the right people who might buy the work, [ensuring it] gets into the correct markets.

How do you find new photographers to represent? 
Last year was the first time we did a call out for submissions. We advertised on various photography websites, such as BJP, that we were looking for new photographers to join Panos. We ended up with about 450 applicants and we whittled it down to six photographers. We haven’t done it this year; I think we might do it every two years but we’re such a small team that we just don’t have the manpower to take on more and more photographers.

Read the full article on IdeasMag.


Wednesday, 16 May 2012

With no women directors in the main competition at Cannes this year, the festival has been the focus for an outcry about sexism in the film industry. As the debate rages on, we speak to three women working in the business to get their views…

This week, as the great and good of the film world descend on Cannes, there’s a stink in the air – and it’s not just the Roquefort.

On Saturday French newspaper Le Monde published a comment piece accusing the festival of sexism. Although seven films directed by women will be screened, not one of the 22 directors competing for the prestigious Palme d’Or is female. For the article’s authors, two prominent female directors and an actress, the absence of women in the main competition is Cannes’ way of saying that when it comes to celluloid, “men like depth in women, but only in their cleavage.”

Festival director Thierry Frémaux has hit back, saying that the films have been chosen on merit alone and stressing, “We would never agree to select a film that doesn’t deserve it on the basis it was made by a woman.” His view is shared by Rebecca O’Brien, producer of The Angel’s Share, the only film in the shortlist with a British director – Ken Loach. “Cannes’ job is to present what they believe are the best films that year. It’s not like they’ve got a female phobia. If Cannes aren’t choosing women filmmakers, it’s that there aren’t that many to choose from,” she says.

Read the full article on IdeasMag.


Wednesday, 9 May 2012

A stint assisting an established photographer is a brilliant introduction to the day-to-day reality of working in the image business. Three photographers who have assisted in the past share their advice on making the most of the experience…

Be proactive
Assisting jobs are rarely advertised, so building a good network of industry contacts is vital. “All my assisting roles have been made possible through my contacts,” says Nik Adam, who has assisted Jason Evans, Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs, and Nadav Kander. “My advice would be to chat to your tutors while you’re at uni, build a network and use Twitter – it's an incredible tool to find opportunities!” A similarly proactive approach worked for Mark Cocksedge, who assisted John Angerson and Daniel Kennedy when he was starting out. “John Angerson did a talk at my university and I managed to talk to him after. Six months later I got a text saying, ‘Free tomorrow 6pm?’ I was like, ‘Yes!’”

Research photographers whose work you admire and call them up directly to see if they need any help. Phone is always better than email in the first instance because it won’t get lost in an inbox. Stick to your chosen area – there’s not much point assisting a fashion photographer if what you want to do is documentary.

Prove you’re committed
“You need to be dedicated,” says Mark, stressing that when a photographer calls you up with a job, “You can’t say, ‘Oh I’m shooting my own stuff so I can’t assist you today’ – you need to dedicate time to them.” Obviously there are going to be occasions when you have obligations that can’t be missed but try to make yourself as available as possible. If you say no, the photographer will simply call up the next person on their list. And if their second choice does a decent enough job, that might be the last you ever hear from them.

Read the full article on IdeasMag.


Thursday, 3 May 2012

Whether you’re gearing up to finals, A-levels or GCSEs, check out our quick guide to revision, with tips from people who have been through it. You’ll survive with your sanity intact, ready to bag yourself the best grades you can come exam day…

Everyone has a different revision strategy. Mine consisted of frantically writing out French grammar rules on Post-it notes and covering every available surface of my room with them. At the very least this made for a satisfying post-exam recycling session! But whatever your preferred method, it might help to keep the following in mind.

Plan ahead
“Make yourself a sexy revision timetable with different colour highlighter pens,” says journalist Ellen E Jones. Life coach Pip Ravn agrees. She advises that you, “Keep working through the topics even if you don’t finish move onto the next, so you don’t front-end your learning – this is when you learn the first part and know nothing of the end parts”. Also stop trying to convince yourself that you’re at your most productive at 10pm – treat revision like a 9 to 5 job, rather than a last minute essay crisis. Choose a quiet spot to revise in and avoid listening to music. Not only is it distracting at the time, you might find yourself three weeks later, sitting in an exam hall, desperately try to remember a mathematical equation, with Rihanna playing on a loop in your head.

Read the full article on IdeasMag.


Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Lisa Bryer produced the BAFTA-winning film The Last King of Scotland and founded independent production company Cowboy Films. We ask her what the secret is to becoming a successful producer…

When you were first starting out, did you know you wanted to be a producer specifically? 
I had no idea about anything but after working on Wagner, filming for nine months around Europe, I quickly realised that the area that I enjoyed and was good at was production: putting people together, organising, thinking ahead. And I loved the fact that each different area of making a film was incorporated in the production side.

What makes a great producer? 
You’ve got to have the courage of your convictions but at the same time you’ve got to be able to leave your ego at home and be able to listen. [You have to] listen to everyone’s point of view and then be able to step back, have your own point of view, and steer the ship in the right direction. It’s very much about the bigger picture and not getting bogged down in each individual area. And [you need] passion – it’s so hard making a film, whether it’s a music video or a documentary or a feature film; you’ve got to really believe in what you’re doing.

Read the full article on IdeasMag.


Wednesday, 25 April 2012

He’s the story expert behind The Wrestler, The Lion King, Fight Club and The Thin Red Line, and author of cult screenwriting guide The Writer’s Journey. Here Christopher Vogler explains how his theory of a “mythic structure” can help you become a better screenwriter…

How does the mythic structure work?
The essence of the idea is that everybody at some stage in their lives has to leave what they’re comfortable with. You have to get out of your comfort zone and go into unknown territory that is psychologically and maybe physically scary to you, but the promise of the story is that if you take the risk you will be rewarded – you’ll grow, change or learn something.

Can you apply the structure to all films?
It’s easiest to see in adventure movies, but I don’t have trouble finding it in any kind of drama. I just saw Terrence Malik’s wonderful film The Tree of Life. You could say that has no story, that it’s just a bunch of images and dreams strung together, but I think it still has that mythological feeling to it, of someone in life setting out and being challenged and then learning their lessons and changing.

Do you think it also works for documentary film?
I’ve done a lot of work with documentary filmmakers on this very question and my feeling about is that the audience is programmed to interpret everything as a story, no matter what you do. So I say, why not give them the stories they want – give them a character they can relate to who has a problem and who’s going to be transformed by confronting it. The good documentary filmmakers know that even if we just try to present things objectively, the audience still jumps in and makes a story out of it.

Read the full article on IdeasMag.


Thursday, 19 April 2012

So your illustration, script or story has been returned with a curt, “No, thanks”? Don’t ditch it! Rejection first time round doesn’t mean your work is irredeemably crap. There are many reasons why it may not get picked up initially. Here are a few…

You weren’t sufficiently professional 
Perhaps you’re an artistic genius, but you need to show you’re also someone who can deliver. “The promotional material that an illustrator sends into a company for their consideration represents them as a professional,” says Paul Ryding from The Association of Illustrators, a not-for-profit membership organisation that supports professional illustrators. “It may be a beautiful piece of artwork, with multiple uses, but if it’s printed on flimsy card or is too small, or if the colours are saturated or it’s pixelated, all these things will reflect badly on the illustrator, not as an artist but as someone to work with professionally,” he says, adding: “They may just disregard it straight away.”

The question of presentation is equally important when submitting a script, short story or journalistic article. “Take care,” says Farhana Gani, Editor of online literary magazine Untitled Books. “Bad grammar and misspelt words are off-putting to an editor, or anyone else assessing your work.”

Your timing was off
The arts are as fickle as Twitter when it comes to trends. One year, visual culture, literature and film take their cue from wartime nostalgia, the next it’s all about futuristic robot dystopias. “Some things take a long time, and a lot of blood sweat and tears, to come to fruition,” says Paul Ashton, Development Producer at BBC Writersroom. “Life on Mars took eight years and 37 pilot episode drafts before they got a green light… sometimes great ideas need to just await their time.”

Read the full article on IdeasMag.


Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Set up in 1854, the British Journal of Photography is the world’s longest–running photography magazine. Deputy Editor Diane Smyth tells us how she started out in journalism and where she looks for photographers to feature in the magazine…

I didn’t set out to be a journalist.

I always enjoyed reading and writing, so I studied English at university. I worked on a magazine in Birmingham while I was still as university and the summer after graduating. Then I spent a year in Athens teaching English. I deliberately chose a big language school that had a textbook department - it was good experience in publishing. Back in London I interned at Bloomsbury Books, then I got a job at Marshall Cavendish, a company that publishes part works – magazines you collect over years and put together in binders. After about a year I got a job on a website. Then the internet boom busted and I was made redundant, which was a tough experience.

Following that, I worked on a financial magazine for three and a half years. I didn’t find the subject matter that interesting but it was well paid. BJP was part of the same company. I’ve always been interested in art and photography, so I became friendly with the girl who was Features Editor. One day she told me, “I’m leaving – why don’t you apply for my job?” So I did and got it.

Read the full article on IdeasMag.


Friday, 13 April 2012

From their studio in a Hackney cafe, London Fields Radio serves up an eclectic mix of arty podcasts made by and for the local creative community. We asked station manager Kate Hutchinson what LFR is all about and how she picks new shows…

What’s your role at London Fields Radio?
I run all aspects of the radio station – I’m in charge of programming and the website. I’m the clubbing editor at Time Out magazine and freelance for various other publications, so this is something that I do in my spare time and weekends. It’s completely voluntary, something we do purely because we’re passionate about the idea of hyperlocal radio.

How does your approach differ from mainstream radio stations? 
With mainstream radio, you have a playlist; therefore it’s sort of dictated to you what you’re going to be listening to by an unseen board of music directors. We don’t have a playlist and we’re internet only. There’s a little booth in the window of [Wilton Way] Cafe and the majority of shows are recorded from there within cafe hours, so you’ve got the noise in the background – the coffee machine whirring and chitter chatter. Then we upload the shows onto Mixcloud and that feeds back into our website.

How did LFR start? 
They opened the cafe about two years ago. Someone suggested to David McHugh, the co-owner, that having a radio station in the corner might be a nice idea, so it’s something they built into it. Although it doesn’t dominate Wilton Way, the cafe is the cultural creative hub of the street and the radio station is the mouthpiece. 90% of the people who present [shows] live in the surrounding streets and they’re talking about the sorts of things that happen to them in the area, the characters they meet and how things are changing.

What do you look for when you're commissioning new shows?
We’re not interested in people who want to be the next Zane Lowe or Annie Mac. It’s very much an arts and talk-based station. While we pride ourselves on having great musical selection, it’s more likely to be someone who’s rifled through their grandad’s ’70s punk collection than [someone playing] new fresh dubstep.

There’s a great new show we’ve just got called Page One. This fantastic guy called Adrian just sent me a couple of paragraphs, and it stood out so much. He reads the first page of a book and that’s what his spoken word, books and poetry show is built around – it’s just a really interesting idea, rather than having a bog standard poetry show where you introduce someone and they read a bit.

What advice do you have for someone thinking of setting up their own hyperlocal station?
The idea with London Fields Radio is that it becomes a London-wide thing so eventually we’re going to have a Peckham radio, a Brixton radio and a Notting Hill radio so if people are interested in franchising our idea then they should come and speak to us! But if you’re thinking of setting up a hyperlocal station [elsewhere] I’d suggest you start small and focus on the quality of podcasts. Don’t try and do everything immediately – it’s not about becoming the next 6 Music. With London Fields Radio, we’re not branded, we’re completely independent and DIY. We have no budget – that’s what happens – however it means we are completely grassroots. If you have that mentality, only good things can come of it.

To pitch a show for LFR or to discuss setting up your own hyperlocal London radio station email Londonfieldsradiokate@gmail.com.

This article originally appeared on IdeasMag.


Thursday, 12 April 2012

Music videos have made household names of many a director – from Spike Jonze to Hype Williams – while established film auteurs, such as David Lynch, have also dabbled. We asked some music video makers for tips…

Be original
Let’s face it: watching a clichéd music video is pretty soul destroying. Worse still, a rubbish video detracts from the song, and this is the number one thing you want to avoid. “It’s all about innovation,” says Ben Strebel, who has made music videos for Clock Opera, Crystal Fighters and Phoenix. However, Ben argues, this doesn’t have to mean coming up with an over-complicated and expensive concept. Find your inspiration in the everyday. “Do what you know best,” advises Ben. “If you can project something that you know about, you’re going to be telling a story effectively. The best stories that you tell are either stories you’ve experienced yourself or that surround you,” he says.

Working with musicians
“Accept jobs from bands that you like or can relate to in some way,” says Sing J Lee, one of the winners of IdeasTap's 2012 Future Film music video brief. “Otherwise there will come a point where you'll just hate the song or can't quite connect your ideas to them and both you and the band will suffer.” Craig Heathcote, who has just directed his first music video, Dusk till Dawn, for pop artist Jason James, agrees: “Have a strong song – the song’s got to be worth the video and the effort.”

The degree of input the band will give you varies dramatically – some get very involved, while others will give you a brief that is wide open. “It’s really exciting when the band knows what they want. Then it’s about offering up different layers or different ways of interpreting what they’ve said,” says Ben. “[Sometimes] it can be literally, ‘We don’t want performance, we don’t want a narrative – we’d like a concept.’ That’s it.”

The band as a brand
Making a music video is a highly creative process, but it’s also a commercial one, so remember that you are marketing a band or artist as much as you are making a short film. “You’re trying to find a language that will give them an identity,” says Ben. To this end, Sing recommends good old fashioned research: “Know their appeal, attend their shows, know what their vision is and [get to know] them as individuals – that way you will produce something strong and in keeping with what they're all about.”

Keeping track
One criticism that has been levelled at David Lynch’s recent music video for his track Crazy Clown Time is that it interprets the song’s lyrics too literally. Ultimately though, how the content of your video should relate to the song’s lyrics comes down to preference. As Ben says, “It depends on the artist – some people don’t like you to respond to their lyrics.” In these cases, adopt a more intuitive approach. “Take the sentiment or your emotional response to it, or whatever inspires you about the energy of the melody or the rhythm or the way it’s put together,” says Ben. After all, however abstract or literal your vision, the feel of the video has to reflect that of the track. Craig again: “Really respond to the music – the sounds and the pace; your video’s not going to look right if the music’s fast and the visuals are slow.”

This article originally appeared on IdeasMag.


Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Magnum member and University of Brighton professor Mark Power on how knowing the history of the medium and embracing your influences will help you to become a better photographer...

I did a fine art degree and when I left in 1981 I went travelling for two years.

I worked my way around south-east Asia, India and China, ending up in Australia and New Zealand. I took a sketchbook with me, and a cheap £50 camera, and started taking pictures. When I came back, they were exhibited. It gave me that boost in my confidence to think, “Maybe I can do this”. I was a real rookie – and in those days I thought this was an advantage. I thought because I didn’t know what had happened in the past, photographically speaking, then I wouldn’t be influenced and could make my own work. Nowadays I see how nonsensical that is.

Don’t be afraid of being deeply influenced by others whose work you like because ultimately your own voice will come out. I often find myself trying to be Walker Evans, but it's impossible because I'm not Walker Evans, and I’m not working in ’30s America. I suppose I have a certain style, for want of a better word, but I’ve had to work to get there by borrowing from other people, understanding the history and not reinventing the wheel.

From that point of view, formal education is good because if you go to a good college then you’ll be introduced to all of this and you’ll be able to have a sense of where you fit into that continuum. If you don’t go to college, somehow or other you’ve got to do that for yourself – you’ve got to read books, go to exhibitions, you’ve got to have some grasp of some of the theory behind the practice. You should revel in the idea that you know where you fit.

When I started there were very few photography courses and galleries. There was a problem trying to exhibit your work if you were also having your pictures published in the newspaper – you were seen as commercial. It was a big moment when Wolfgang Tillmans won the Turner Prize and the next day went and shot an advert for Nike, because it made it possible that photography could be commercial and also deeply philosophical and personal.

Patience is important. The history of photography is littered with people who were successful after one project and couldn‘t deal with the pressures that came with that. I’m a photographer because first and foremost I love what I do. Any success that might come along with that is wonderful, but it’s incidental.

It took me a long time to get to this point. I still don’t have any money because I plough it into new projects, but that’s what I want to spend my money on. That’s the attitude you need to have. You either do it properly or not at all, because if you do it half-heartedly you won’t have success or at least it won’t last – you’ve got to want it right to the core of your bones.

Mark Power was talking to Rachel Segal Hamilton.

This article originally appeared on IdeasMag.


Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Shy, elusive and nifty on their paws – animals can be tricky to photograph. But there are steps you can take to better your chances of capturing a great wildlife image. Two award-winning photographers and BBC Wildlife Magazine’s picture researcher share their tips…

First off, you have to love it 
“You’ve got to be passionate because it’s frustrating," says Steve Mills, winner of the Birds: Behavior category in the 2011 Veolia Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards. “There isn’t an album in the world big enough for all the photos I’ve missed through not quite being in the right place or not having the right setting.”

Fancy kit is less important than dedication
“Having a long lens can help, but obviously not everyone can afford long lenses,” says Richard Shucksmith, overall winner of the British Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards 2011. “If you’ve got good field skills or you’ve got good composition, you can take decent pictures regardless of what gear you have.” This is a view shared by Steve Mills: “There are plenty of people out there with loads of gear but no idea.” Whatever camera you’re using, Steve recommends you make sure you’re completely comfortable with its settings. “Understanding your camera is vital in wildlife photography because, unlike in for example landscape photography, you don’t get a second chance,” says Steve Mills. “I can’t come back in 10 minutes and take the picture because the creature’s gone.”

Start local
“Photograph your local patch, rather than taking expensive trips to Africa or the USA – or to the zoo,” says Wanda Sowry, Picture Researcher at BBC Wildlife Magazine. “There’s not much need for captive zoo animals or captive birds of prey. Concentrate on British wildlife, bugs, plants and landscapes and get to know your local wildlife groups or projects.”

Research your beasts
“If you’ve chosen a species of bird [to photograph], the more you understand that bird, the more likely you are to get success,” stresses Steve Mills. “For example, birds always take off into the wind so by positioning yourself you’ve got more chance of a bird flying towards you initially.” Richard Shucksmith agrees: “You’ve got to know your animal inside out. You need to know its behaviour and what you need to do to get close to it – obvious things like being down wind of the animal so the wind’s always blowing your scent away or, if you’re stalking deer, using all the trees around you as natural screen. You just have to be quiet, be careful, patient and persistent – you don’t want to spook the animal.”

Think about what you are capturing 
“Portraits are nice, but they can be a bit dull if you’re not careful,” says Richard, who advises keeping your eyes peeled for, “Interaction between individuals of the same animal or with other different animals, feeding behavior, grooming, fighting.” And remember to pay attention to lighting. “Get up early in the morning, just before sunrise, so you get the sun coming up and the lovely orange light and the nice glow on animals' faces,” he says. “Light’s really important – it can make or break a shot.”

Take LOTS of photos - and then edit 
“Don’t expect to go out and shoot the best photo in a couple of hours,” says Richard. “Sometimes, if I’ve been out all morning with a family of otters and I’ve got 2,000 images, I flick through them very quickly and every now and then you hit one and it just catches you. Once you’ve picked them, you can go through and edit the others.” Richard has another tip for selecting your best pictures: “Get several images together and send them to 10 friends and get them to rank them one to 10. Sometimes what you find is that they’re all picking the same image as the top two or three – then you know you’ve got something with a more general appeal.”

This article originally appeared on IdeasMag.


Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Instead of waiting to be told they’re the next big thing, artists are increasingly taking matters into their own hands by setting up DIY galleries and project spaces, often in unusual settings. Here’s how to do the same…

Think outside the block
“If you see a space, knock on the door find out who the commercial landlord is. Don’t devalue what you have to offer,” says Afshin Dehkordi who, together with Natasha Caruana, founded StudioSTRIKE creative space in July 2010. “We came across this ad for the top floor of an 18th-century pub in Clapham run by a trade union,” says Afshin. “The agreement we struck with the landlord was that we would refurbish the space and run art events, talks, exhibitions, screenings and community cinema in return for low rent.”

Renovation takes imagination
“[Eastside] was just an empty warehouse so everything in it has been generated by projects,” says Ruth Claxton, Associate Director of Eastside Projects in Birmingham. “Our office is an artwork by Heather and Ivan Morrison called Pleasure Island. It was made for the Venice Biennale [but] we were able to use as an office afterwards.”

“We were on a low budget so we had a massive call out,” says Afshin. “We had mums and dads and partners coming in, we made food – it was a bit of a festival day out – and we painted and put in new desks.”

Choose members who share your vision
“Be clear about what you want to use the space for,” says Sita Calvert-Ennals, member and current leader of Residence, a community of theatre-makers based in a former record shop in Bristol. “We had rules about the kind of artists we wanted to work with. If they wanted to be a member, they needed to offer something to the organisation as well.”

“Natasha and I come from photography and film disciplines but we were careful that we didn’t make this a homogenous group of people all from the same field [so] people aren’t competing for the same clients or curators,” says Afshin. “One person we knew and the rest we found by putting ads out and interviewing. It wasn’t so much about the pedigree of their career or what awards they’d won; it was more about fitting in with the other community members.”

Designate organisers 
“Without one person or a few people taking charge, it’s loads harder,” says Sita. “With 10, 15, 20 artists it’s difficult to get everyone in a room together to make a decision – everyone’s here, there and everywhere making work. We have a leader [who changes] every three months. They're responsible for communicating decisions to be made among the group – it’s democratic but things get done.”

StudioSTRIKE faced similar issues: “There was such a diversity of ages – from recent graduates to established artists – it was difficult to find a common ground,” Afshin says. “Natasha and I now run studioSTRIKE as an opt-in process. We come up with ideas and proposals and ask the artists who wants to get involved.”

Aim big
“If you have an idea, just go and do it. Once you establish it, the funding and the profile and everything else will follow,” says Afshin.

Sita agrees: “You suddenly have clout in a way that we, as young theatre makers, didn’t have at all. As an organisation we’re now taken seriously as a voice, which is a useful thing to know when you’re starting out – basically, it’s worth it.”

And, as Ruth points out: “Artist-led spaces don’t have to be this first thing that you do. Actually they can be really ambitious but still remain artist-led, [with] that idea of practice at their core.”

Some useful resources

Capacity Bristol 
Project aimed at opening up empty spaces for use by Bristol’s creative community.

The Empty Space Network 
Website with free downloadable resources for anyone planning on setting up a creative space in a disused shop.

ICA list of artist-run spaces
Check out these artist-run spaces for some inspiration.

This article originally appeared on IdeasMag.


Friday, 30 March 2012

He’s the man François Truffaut called “the most important filmmaker alive”, the director of Grizzly Man, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Aguirre, the Wrath of God and Fitzcarraldo, among others. As his death row documentary, Into the Abyss, is released, the multi-award winning filmmaker speaks to IdeasMag…

Why do you make films about people in extreme circumstances?
It’s better than making films about a dishwasher. We go to the movies to see an extraordinary story. Human beings that move us, terrify us, exhilarate us, where you can look deep into the human heart, including our own soul or heart – I don’t see this as extremes. I’m a filmmaker and I wouldn’t be interested in making a film about you having a sandwich for lunch.

Describe your relationship with the prisoners in Into the Abyss.
In normal cases it is an exchange of services; you hire an actor, you pay him money and he delivers some other goods – a performance on screen. In this case it’s not really an exchange of services, with the only exception that they have a voice they haven’t had in 10 years in solitary confinement. I allow them to be human when everyone else would tell you they are monsters, that they shouldn’t even have a trial, that they should be hung. “Hang them high” or “Just shoot them” – that’s what you would hear, and I treat them with dignity and respect. My attitude is clear: the crimes are monstrous but the perpetrators are not monsters – they are always human.

What was your approach when interviewing them?
[Michael Perry – one of the death row inmates who features in Into the Abyss] believed I was a reporter doing an interview. I said, “No I have no questions, it’s not an interview”. I said, “I’m a poet – let’s talk, let’s see where it takes us.” Of course it’s very intense; you have a limited amount of time that the prison has dictated [and a] limited amount of technical crew allowed inside.
Like in a feature film, I am good in casting. I see, “Oh that’s a person with whom I must speak,” although I know literally nothing about them. [With Into the Abyss] every single person I filmed is in the movie – with one exception, a former girlfriend of Michael Perry. She was very dull so I didn’t even look at the footage in editing.

How did you build an emotional connection with your interviewees when your access was so limited – often to less than one hour in total?
You have no time. You have to find the right voice instantly and with everyone differently. Every single [interview] has a different voice from behind the camera from my side. You have to have a way to get the best out of them – you have to know the heart of men. In a way I think I always had it, but it’s also experience, life itself, an intense life that I have had that gives you other insights.

You run a programme for young filmmakers called the Rogue Film School – what sort of things do you teach there?
Let me say something about the Rogue Film School: it’s quite wild, guerilla style. It’s an organised answer to a huge avalanche of young people who come and want to learn from me, to be my assistant. I try to pass on certain things but I don’t teach anything specific, with the exception of how to forge documents – a permit for example. But I encourage them to be self-reliant. Don’t wait for financiers to step in. Don’t waste your life. Go out and work as a bouncer in a sex club for six months and you’ll have enough money to make a feature film – you can make a feature film for $10,000 these days. And I encourage them to travel on foot, [and to] read read read read because no one is reading any more.

Do you think reading is more important than watching films?
I do not watch films on a regular basis, but I do read. Many of these young people who do not read are incapable of developing or understanding the cohesion of a big story, of something epic. They have no sense for it when you are only twittering. Conceptual thinking, the great fantasies, the separate realities, the parallel universes – they come to you in reading. I have a mandatory reading list for those who attend [the Rogue Film School]. It has nothing to do with books about films: it’s partially poetry, Roman antiquity – Virgil’s Georgics, old Nordic poetry from Iceland 1,000 years back and, for example, the Warren Commission report on the assassination of Kennedy. It’s kind of a wide list and it could be any 500 or 5,000 other books.

This interview originally appeared in IdeasMag.


Thursday, 29 March 2012

When the night has come and the land is dark, wrap up warm, grab your camera and head out – the witching hour is the perfect time to experiment. Professional photographers share their tips for shooting in low light…

Get steady 
Remember that the light changes throughout the night, so you can decide when to go out according to the effect you’re after. “Get a bit of colour, contrast and mood in your images by shooting just after sunset or around that time,” says Andrew Gilpin, who teaches night photography with The Culture Club Photography Workshops. But whether you’re out at dusk, dawn or anything in between, you must ensure your camera is steady. “In a lower light the camera uses a slower shutter speed, which increases the chance of shake,” says Andrew. “To get a sharp image you have to support the camera, but,” he adds, “it doesn’t have to be a big expensive tripod [that you use], it can be a GorillaPod or just leaning your camera on something.”

Hang out with the stars 
Babak Tafreshi, award-winning photographer and founder of The World at Night, an organisation dedicated to astrophotography, recommends you swot up on astronomy and stargazing beforehand. Ultimately though, “You need to be out for starry adventures,” says Babak. “The secret in nightscape photography is being in the right place, at the right time.” While he encourages experimentation, Babak advises against making composite images of the night sky. “The challenge of nightscape photography is to capture the beauty of the earth and sky, avoiding montage or altering the natural view and colors,” he says.

Shooting in the moonlight
“Go out shooting under a full moon and you’ll see the world in a totally new light,” writes photographer Alex Bamford in the book 52 Photographic Projects, edited by Kevin Meredith. “You can shoot two to three days either side of the full moon, depending on the amount of cloud. As a rule of thumb, if you can see the shadow cast by the moon, it's bright enough to take a picture.” According to Alex, the finest moonlit images can be found in a rural setting. “For the moonlight to really have an effect on the scene, you'll need to be away from the urban sprawl,” he writes. But try to bring a friend along: “As much fun as it is to sit by yourself in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night, it’s safer not to be alone.”

Learn to paint with light
You can create cool effects by using a flash with another light source, such as a torch or LED bike lights. This technique is known as light painting. Kit Oates and Mike Massaro of photography company Double Negative, run light painting workshops from their studio. “Use a low ISO – 100 or 200 is good – so you get a better quality image and can make a longer exposure more easily,” says Mike. “The exposure can be over a number of seconds, so you can draw something with the light sources and then use the flash right at the end to freeze the image.” For added impact, cover your light source with different coloured gels.

Kit recommends using an exposure of around 10 seconds. “It’s a good amount of time to be able to play and draw something without feeling like you’re rushing.” But this can be even longer, if you’re keen to highlight an interesting background. Mike again: “People like to do light painting in nature spots so you can see the sky or stars, in which case you might have an exposure of 10 minutes.”

This article originally appeared on IdeasMag.


Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Paul Laverty is best known for collaborations with Ken Loach, such as Looking for Eric, My Name is Joe and the Palme d’Or winning The Wind That Shakes the Barley. We caught up with Paul at the screening of his latest film, Even the Rain, starring Gael García Bernal, at Human Rights Watch Film Festival in London…

You’re a qualified lawyer – how did you end up becoming a screenwriter?
I used to work as a lawyer in Glasgow but in the 80s, fascinated by what was going on with the Sandinista revolution, I went to work in Nicaragua for a human rights organisation and was there for three years. I was sick of writing human rights reports and wanted to see if I could write something inspired by what I’d seen, but fictional, so I made contact with Ken Loach and we made Carla’s Song.

You’ve since worked extensively with Ken Loach – what’s the key to a collaborative relationship between screenwriter and director?
I consider myself a filmmaker. I’m a filmmaker and I write and Ken’s a filmmaker and he directs, and we meet in the middle, with different skills but united by the one project. He’s a wonderful collaborator. You never see “a Ken Loach film” – you always see, “directed by”, “written by”, “produced by”, “sound by”. A lot of directors will say, “film by” and that’s all right if you’ve made the whole film yourself, but they haven’t.

Where do you find ideas for new projects?
You have to keep your eyes open. You’ll maybe see something or hear something and imagine a character. Each film has had a different moment of inspiration. [With] the one in Nicaragua, I was an eyewitness to the very vicious war conducted there by the United States – that was the starting point. But if you’re working so closely with someone you have to find ideas that are inspirational to both of you, otherwise they won’t work.

Your films are often inspired by real situations – how do you go about researching them?
When we made The Wind That Shakes the Barley [which is set in early-20th-century Ireland], it was talking to the children of people [who were there], [reading] newspaper reports, books, visiting the place, going and seeing the country, trying to understand it, listening to the songs, seeing the uniforms they wore, all of those things.

And then with [Even the Rain], the film’s set 500 years ago so I had to spend a lot of time studying in the library and then I had to find out what’s going on in Bolivia so I went there and spoke to people. Listening to people is very underestimated.

What should you bear in mind when writing a politically engaged film?
The choice of material and character and the story you tell give it the politics. In the majority of Hollywood films, most of the people are very individualist and usually rich – there’s a celebration of wealth. The films we do celebrate the possibility of people coming together. They’re people with less power in their lives who use their imagination to overcome corporate power, as in Bread and Roses; sometimes they’re isolated because they can’t get a job like in Sweet Sixteen or My Name is Joe. Route Irish is about soldiers coming back from Iraq or It’s a Free World… is about immigrant workers. So we try to find out what their experience is like. I spend time with ex-soldiers or immigrants or kids in children’s homes – not to copy their life but to be informed by it.

What’s your advice for young screenwriters?
Watch great films, like The Apartment by Billy Wilder, and see how they’re structured – but I think the most original writers listen to their own voice, use their own experience and imagination. Be rigorous in making sure you avoid cliché. In a strange way you’re looking for a conflict. You’re looking for the premise for a story, which has got contradictions and is complex.

This article originally appeared on IdeasMag.

RACHEL SEGAL HAMILTON All rights reserved © Blog Milk Powered by Blogger