Perhaps it’s just me but isn’t it funny how remote places with wild histories are attractive. Last year after my holiday I left the Shetlands that are a very beautiful collection of Islands with a feeling  of the modesty of the location in a very harsh environment, being at 60degrees latitude brings with it certain unique features.

As I left I had the feeling that I needed  the wildness and uncompromising feeling of the  West Coast next year,  and the most extreme place on the West Coast is St Kilda,  almost 100 miles off the mainland and only just visible from the Outer Hebrides on a bright clear day even so they are obscured by the curvature of the earth.


Taking a 9 day trip we sailed (yes sailed) from Oban over a couple of days to St Kilda,  whilst we struggled with the weather we were on the edges of 2 storms, one as we set out and another mid week there was a 2 day window we could spend on St Kilda.  The wind direction and weather means that getting into Village Bay can be quite restrictive and there are  conditions when you simply should not be there.

I have been to St Kilda before so knew what to expect,  last time once on the Island we walked North towards Mullach avoiding the Bonxies, this time I wanted to head South West arround the other side of the bay to Ruaival.

Of course we spent time in Village Bay and on the evening of the first day it was great, the light was lovely, I was shooting on film mostly in black and white.


Whilst there I also picked up George Seton’s book ‘St Kilda Past and Present’  that is a survey of the island and island life when he went in 1876. This draws on much of the islands history known at the time and goes back way into it’s past. This is a fascinating book that lacks the romance of some of the more narrative publications. It was incredible to sit in bed reading about islands I had just left and see in my minds eye the same landscape he described as good as unchanged.  It describes a way of life and lifestyle and a series of connections that you would not expect.  The one that has made most impact is that of sailors leaving Norway on a journey that took them to the Orkneys and then onto St Kilda well over 130 years ago.






Over the Bank Holiday Weekend I met one of my closest friends at YSP – it’s a regular haunt of ours, we get to see the latest show and with such a good restaurant we spend ages catching up with what’s important in each others worlds.


Rather than tell you family stories let me tell you about the visit to see the new Tony Cragg show, it was one of 2 in the space of a few days. The second was to hear Tony talk about his work, his lecture was mind blowing it was in effect the 40th anniversary lecture of Tony’s departure to live and work in Germany and the 40th anniversary of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Tony did one of those remarkable things and delivered a lecture lasting almost an hour without a power point slide, an illustration, or any other visual material, yet he held the audience in the palm of his hand hanging onto every word for the entire lecture. It was one of the most detailed and complex lectures I’ve ever heard, every line of reason and argument sat tightly against every other.

Fortunately it was videoed and will appear on YSP’s youtube channel so I can see it again and revisit his lines of thinking and fully understand the depth of his lecture. Every aspect of life right down to it’s molecular structure it was argued was sculpture and in such a complete way it got into how metaphysically sculpture exists.


The work is stunning, the thought that has gone in to the outdoor show is incredible, what is so apparent is how the outdoor work relates both to itself and to the landscape as if it was meant to be there.

I need to revisit my notes, see the work again and hopefully see the lecture again, there is still so much there to understand.

This years Dot to Dot in Nottingham was massive, I’ve not counted up  the number of acts, but spread over 40 venues in Notts with some venues opening their doors at 1pm and not closing them until 1am, there was a huge number of artists across many genres.


From many years of going I have learnt a number of things, firstly the headliners may not be the best acts around the festival and secondly interesting things can be found on the smaller stages and many will be just out of the lime light of the big acts. But in 2 or 3 years they will be the ones breaking through,  a few years ago Ragandbone man was on in a basement just after the headliner had finished elsewhere – he was clearly superb then.

Someone in that vein is Ellie Rose, she has a great voice, and on her own with a guitar on a small stage she held the filled room in her hand at 3.30 in the afternoon – little signs, but they are all there. Early in the evening Luis Berry at Rock City made Amber Run and the headliner Sundara Karma look second best,  the two later acts were very competent, and for Amber Run it was a homecoming.  Luis Berry just had that special something, the band came on – and he came on 15 seconds later  to greet his audience,  it was his gig, he had fun, and we had fun with him,  most of the set he had a smile on his face he also had backing singers who lifted the vocal and added that bit of depth and detail to his sound. Whilst it was his show he introduced and valued every member the band.  He’s already had allot of success and I’m sure nobody will be able to keep him down.


Other early acts that looks as if they have something are Shrives and Ashfield, on the unusual end of the scale was Bone Cult,  I’m not sure what they have but live it was good!   The great thing about Dot to Dot is that you are looking for the winners from about 2-3 years out,  and again this year I think I’ve  found a couple!



I have already mentioned my love of film, in my own work I’m shooting on film more and more.

There is something about shooting film you don’t get with digital, with digital you can ‘hose it down’ with images, with film you can’t, you have to know what you want to shoot and get it in the fewest possible number of frames.

It’s a great discipline and unless you have shot film you don’t realise how alive this makes you feel, it sharpens the senses,  it focuses your mind, it gets you to think more tightly about every aspect of what you want to shoot, and with this sharpness as you look you’ll be surprised how much more you see. Keep in mind though there are limits,  every film behaves differently particularly when you ask it to do something it was not designed to do, and if you do when you get it back it will contain all sorts of interesting surprises.

With digital you can ‘machine gun’ every angle of a set and every expression made by your model  in the knowledge that you can find the one that works later when you get everything on screen, after all ‘it has to be in there somewhere’.  With digital you don’t have to commit to anything on set when you shoot, equally nor does your client, but the danger is that this can become a mind set, and for some it is.


It’s very simple with film you have to take almost all your decisions in real time, right in the moment as you shoot, with digital you can take almost all the decisions retrospectively once you get back to the screen, it’s no wonder film is so exciting.

Some years ago I attended Werner Herzog’s Rogues Film School, he recounted the story of shooting Bad Lieutenant with Nicholas Cage (Herzog was the Director).  They started shooting at 10am and Herzog had everything he wanted by mid day,  however the Assistant Directors (AD) wanted allot more incidental footage covering every possible angle and detail they could find so they could add and tweak the film in the cutting room. Herzog said no, he had what he wanted, the AD’s were not happy and they continued to make demands, that was until Cage also said no telling the AD’s they were ‘working with a man who knew what he was doing’.


I enjoy walking when I get chance,  near me there is a circular walk of around 5-6 miles, my walk is on borrowed time due to HS2 and the ambitions of the local authority to cover every bit of Nottingham and the surrounding area with tram lines. What is rural space is soon to be rural no more.

There are the remains of what were railway cuttings and the tell tale signs of random apple trees still growing strongly beside lines that have long since closed.

The walls beside one cutting are reverting back to nature and there is a combination of wall and roots together creating some wonderful shapes and forms, it’s as if the roots are finding weakness in the stone as it degrades and filling those weakness and binding the wall providing both strength and support.

Shot on film these images are a pleasure!img110img114img112



On the first weekend of December there is always a Christmas Fair at Nottingham Contemporary, in my view the gallery  is usually on the obscure end of the scale, much of the work is so highly codified it is almost inaccessible and that of course makes me wonder if  much of it has any merit.

The work by Alfred Kubin in one of their early shows was superb, and at the moment in the work of Marguerite Humeau (a French Artist living in London) they have another stunning show.  The show FOXP2  aims to portray the emergence of sentient life.

It works on the notion that elephants rather than man became the beings that mastered language,  the centre of the show is a matriarch in her death throws, her passage towards death triggers the evolution of others in their various states.

What’s great about this show is the way it works with all the senses, much of the sound is synthesised through a beatbox, in addition there are 2 configurations of room lighting, one being showroom like,  the second following the evolution process from each elephant manifestation.

This is a complex show, the stunning sculpture works on many levels, it is one of those shows that the beauty of the sculptures  initially draws you in, then the other dysfunctional elements start to ask questions so  that you want to find out more about the artist and what they want to say. If you have been looking for a reason to visit Nottingham Contemporary and see something worth seeing now is the time.