Tag Archives: photography

Liverpool Chinatown Photographic Society

It’s an electric lapis lazuli sky, sitting in The Bluecoat gardens. A classical music score floats out of a window, splattering its notes onto the pavement floor. The sun blushes, batting her eyelashes, flirting with the people sitting in her rays. How many beautiful compositions do we take in on a daily basis? The eye is the ultimate camera, to snap pictures, to capture the moment.

When a collective of creatives come together with a shared interest in a particular discipline; like writing groups, photography clubs and arts associations, the results can be remarkable. A snapshot of a community and an important way to archive, celebrate and document an ever-evolving culture. One such organisation is the Liverpool Chinatown Photographic Society.

In the autumn of 2011, a few friends who share an interest in photography agreed that they could develop their photographic interests and skills by exchanging knowledge and ideas. The first meeting was held on 8th November after Nick Liu, Tommy Wong and Wing W Wong invited their friends to Chilli Chilli Restaurant in Liverpool Chinatown. As a result of that initial gathering, Liverpool Chinatown Photographic Society was born.

Stranded by Wing W Wong

Stranded by Wing W Wong

ten minutes hate caught up with Pak H Chan and Nick Liu to discuss their work and that of the group.

10mh: What inspires you?

Pak H Chan: Many things inspire me: the weather, nature, architecture, Liverpool’s waterfront, people on the streets, light and shadow.

Nick Lau: Capturing the moment of memory and appreciation.

10mh: Which artists have influenced you?

PHC: The photographers who have influenced me are Henri Cartier-Bresson, Bert Hardy and Don McCullin. I also admire the work of the Impressionist painter Renoir, though not sure if he has influenced me in any way.

NL: Bruce Lee (martial art/body movement).

10mh: Describe the work of the group in five words?

NL: Sharing interest, skills and views
PHC: Unique, diverse, personal, eye-catching, passion.

Ribbon Dancer by Nick Liu

Ribbon Dancer by Nick Liu

10mh: What plans do you have for the future?

NL: The Society is to be open to all with interests in: Chinatowns, photography, Chinese-ness as a feature…

PHC: I just hope to continue to take good photos, perhaps travelling more outside of Merseyside. I plan to photograph York as it has been recommended to me by a few people.

10mh: What advice would you give to people who want to take up photography?

NL: Have a passion for photography.

PHC: Learn the basics, like aperture, shutter speed and just go out there and enjoy photographing anything that looks interesting.

10mh: What most recently impressed you?

NL: Smartphone photography – user friendly, versatile and quality. A lot to be learned by users and more to be developed by the designers. Photography is getting more and more popular and diverse.

PHC: I took some photographs of stick-insects last week which impressed me. I learnt that nature has a lot to offer and maybe I will shoot more subjects from the natural world in future.

Anyone interested in photography is welcome to join the Society, whether amateur or professional, young or old, regardless of experience, knowledge or background. All that is needed is a passion for photography.

Chinese New Year by Pak Hung Chan

Chinese New Year by Pak Hung Chan

The LCPS meets once a month in Liverpool Chinatown, with various activities hosted in-between meetings. For more information, please see their ‘contact us’ page.

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Shakeshaft

City living has its risks, seven seagulls fly by pooping on my suits in the last year. Concrete paving slabs splashing up rainwater underneath.

shakeshaft_nun_prison

But one of the advantages has to be the cast of characters you can encounter simply walking down the streets. Who needs to pay for a TV licence? Real life is far more entertaining. This ensemble of characters is captured in the work of Liverpool photographer, Stephen Shakeshaft.

Wash house. Photo by Stephen Shakeshaft. First use DP w/c 14/9/09

The photography of Shakeshaft first flashed onto my retinas in Liverpool’s now closed National Conservation Centre. I used to visit this exhibition space and sit with a double espresso underneath the Eros statue in the café. I was stunned by the image-maker’s work and have been a fervent admirer of his art since. He does something which I think is unique in his compositions. Anyone can simply take a picture, point and click and now with the invasion of apps, airbrush, tint to vintage, fade away and radiate.

children_sweep_shakeshaft

This artist captures the resilience of Liverpudlians. The Scouse stoic sense of surety, with a cut to the bone sarcastic humour.

MARGI CLARKE PREPARING TO GO ON STAGE IN PANTO

MARGI CLARKE PREPARING TO GO ON STAGE IN PANTO

With just one look of the eye, his sitters tell their story. Take Lizzie, for example, selling fruit from her market stall, whatever the weather. She glares at the camera with a hard affection and knowingness.

lizzie

It was a treat for the eye to view his collection of images of the Liverpudlian icon Ken Dodd recently at the Liverpool Life Museum.

ken dodd

I absolutely love Ken Dodd, I find he is like a Scouse Surrealist, a genius of madcap humour. Try and explain the Diddy men to anyone, bizarre with a capital B,

Did someone spike that man’s tea?

And what about his tickling stick? Like Magritte’s pipe, it has become a signature. As the joker Dodd puts it,

A lot of people say it’s a sex symbol, but I think that’s a fallacy.

The candid snaps displayed the man on stage and backstage drinking a pint, a cup of tea, lounging on a couch. With close-up images to reveal the attention to detail that is applied to his act. For example, a worn battered make-up kit and arsenal of tricks, to help him on his missive to give the world, ‘a little drop of tickle tonic’.

If Ken Dodd was around in William Shakespeare’s day, he would have been a fool in one of his plays, all, ‘Nuncle’ and mirth-laced, with a subtle dosage of truth. Kenneth Branagh recognised this quality and cast him in his screen version of HAMLET. This celebration of the official lunatic from Knotty Ash, Mr. Ken Dodd, did leave me feeling

full of plumtiousness and gratitude.

 

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Words to live by

I don’t often post funny signs from Japan, as it seems a bit cheeky when I speak about 20 words of the language, but the juxtaposition of this set made me smile. Vital advice, I hope you will agree.

The rules are: try not to make a noise, stop playing with fireworks and  do not climb over the fence.

Thank you for your consideration!

Photo by me, taken in Yokohama

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Challenging preconceptions and prejudices

Ever since I arrived in Japan I have held a – some would say irrational – prejudice against Roppongi. Admittedly based on little more than an after-work trawl through the area’s multiple British pubs and a few horror stories heard about the clientele of the ‘all you can drink’ nightclubs, I was content to describe it to a visiting friend as something she could comfortably miss off her itinerary. ‘Like drinking in Leicester Square in London’, I said, ‘fine for idiots who don’t know better and tourists’.

But, as with holders of all other prejudices, close examination proves me to be the idiot for damning the whole neighbourhood based on a couple of dodgy nightspots. Today I was lucky enough to be invited to Roppongi’s Mori Art Museum for the ‘Arab Express: The Latest Art from the Arab World’ exhibition, which runs until 28 October. You would be daft to let a similarly irrational aversion prevent you from seeing it.

The exhibition, the first of its kind to be held in Japan, opens by noting a significant parallel in the way both the Arab and Asian nations are viewed by outsiders. The diverse natures of both regions are often dismissed as offering little more than their stereotypes, be that veiled women for one or geisha for the other. The artists in the Mori’s exhibition play with these stereotypes in various ways, from Halim Al-Karim’s ‘Untitled 1′, with its indistinct red-clad figure to Maha Mustafa’s ‘Black Fountain’. The latter splashing oily droplets all over a white room whose windows look out over the Tokyo landscape, reminding the viewer that while one country’s problems are caused by a lack of natural resources, another’s spring from an abundance of them.

The Arab Express curators are aware that for many people, the first thing they think of when considering the region will be its conflicts. The artist always has a choice about how much reality to include or ignore and many of those represented here wrestle with these concerns. In ‘To Be Continued’, Palestinian artist Sharif Waked confronts our fears with his depiction of a typical suicide bomber’s video which, on closer inspection of its subtitles, has the protagonist reading from One Thousand and One Nights. ‘The Story of a Pyromaniac Photographer’, included in Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige’s ‘Wonder Beirut’, features depictions of the once-popular tourist attractions of the ‘Paris of the East’, the negatives burnt by the photographer after the outbreak of the civil war in an attempt to make the pictures resemble the city he found himself living in.

It is a powerful and thought-provoking collection, yet not without moments of humour, even including a series of works which reference the Japanese trend for purikura. Capturing the diverse cultures which make up the Arab World is no small challenge, yet the range of works on display will ensure you leave feeling at once informed, wrongfooted and entertained.

Confront your own preconceptions at the Mori Art Museum before 28 October.

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Eight methods to beat the blues

My pal the Japan Camera Hunter has written this great post, all about escaping a photography rut and beating the blues. While it is no doubt useful to those with a camera permanently affixed to their hands, I was struck by how much of his advice – read a book, change of scenery, look at your old work – could also apply to writers and, I am guessing, to other creative types too.

I have been feeling like I have been in a rut lately, probably something to do with the summer heat encouraging indolence, so will be giving this advice a try – with some luck and hard work you will be seeing the results here soon! In the meantime, take a look at JCH’s excellent post and see what you think.

I hope it helps with whatever you are working on…

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This is where I live

At times you have to escape the city, to see a wider sweep to the horizon, feel fresh air on your face and remember what it is to have elbow room, before returning feeling charged and able to appreciate the urban beauty again.

My home city, looking as beautiful as it gets, courtesy of the very talented Samuel Cockedey.

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That time of year again

It is that time of year again, when every corner of the city looks gorgeous; when the large, famous parks draw the crowds but single trees tucked away down side streets are equally as appreciated and likely to be immortalised by the smartphone cameras of passing commuters.

There is something about the heady mix of sunshine, sakura and a huge pile of food and drink to be shared with friends under the boughs that acts like a shot of something pure delivered right to the brain after the chills of winter. I don’t think I could ever get cynical about this season and all it brings. New term, new jobs, new projects: January may be the start of the year, but April is when everything begins again in Japan.

So hard to believe that by next week it will all be gone. With the sakura, as with all the good things of life, be sure to enjoy it while you can!

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Shivers of fear

Palms feeling clammy and drenched, pulse doing cartwheels, heart close to my teeth, fighting an urge to run back from the edge towards all that is familiar.

That is just from sitting at my desk looking at these photographs of Detroit taken by urban explorer Dennis Maitland, featured on the The Atlantic’s Cities sister-site.  It is an unusual perspective on the city, usually thankfully reserved for steeplejacks and window cleaners, but still a beautiful one – so long as there is a sheet of glass or a computer screen in between me and it.

The photographs are also a timely reminder, as I seek to make my life closer to how I have imagined it – dealing with all the fear and doubt that attends such endeavours – that while the drop may be long, the view is so awe-inspiring that it is all worthwhile.

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Sayonara

The shot pools clouds of confusion behind my eyes.  Somewhere overhead, the pub stereo plays songs by bands from the distant towns I grew up in.  It’s getting closer to the time to say goodbye.  As the alcohol mists over everything, I try to hold onto a stray thought, knowing otherwise it will be lost for good.

There are some people you want to stay friends with forever.

But the expat life is one of hellos and goodbyes, neatly slicing lines between those that are staying and those moving on.  Natural and man-made disasters abruptly speed up the churn until it seems like a constant round of farewells and greetings.  In the midst of this whirl, some you meet will matter more than the length of time spent together would usually warrant, not because you agree with them on everything, but because the manner of the disagreement feels too enjoyable to do without.  Each of you sure of the rightness of the point, yelling across the pub’s background noise, yet hardly able to remember a day later what it was or why it seemed so important.

Then there are the other creatives, so sure of their demands and so uncompromising in their execution that watching them work provides more than the obvious ‘inspiration’.  Instead, it feels closer to having a fire lit under you, being spurred to only produce what will deliver equivalent highs.  Learn as you go, but work without fear and without compromise.  Keep to your own standards and ignore the chatter.  Set out a list of rules then disregard them anyway.  Don’t pick fights with the Metropolitan Police Department.  That’s what I’ve picked up from only one month of knowing probably the mouthiest guy to take on Tokyo with a camera.  It’s been ace and I hope it’s not the last time our paths cross.  Safe travels to him and to the two cute dogs and watch yourself, England – he’ll be landing soon.

Sayonara, Charlie!

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Street Portraitist

Spent an afternoon in the park taking pictures with the Street Portraitist and this was the happy result.  It is always interesting to watch someone learn by doing it, figuring out what works and what they like as they go.  I was also lucky he is really patient as it was one of the first times I have been in front of a camera like this and so it could have been nerve-wracking!  Instead it was a really good day, at least until the chill winter air killed all enthusiasm for standing in a freezing park and we decided to go and occupy the nearest Thai restaurant.  Their bold yellow wall inspired this final shot, which is one of my favourites – after all, if you’re going to take something over, it is vital to make sure there is a good food supply handy:

Check out the Street Portraitist website here.

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