Sunday, 29 March 2009

Cafe Oto

Originally uploaded by Luke Y
Friday night saw me travelling up to London and braving the transport system to get to Dalston, where I spent a lovely evening in Cafe Oto - listening to some fantastic musicians, thanks to Bearded Magazine.

I loved all the acts, but the one that really stood out for me was John Fairhurst - an incredible blues guitarist. I have already bought his album on ITunes and it's just brilliant - BUY IT!!!

Exhibition Opens at New Inn

On Thursday I went over to the New Inn, Etchinhill and spent a very pleasant morning chatting to the bar lady, whilst framing my exhibition photos. I have to admit that it was a very intimidating experience taking down the photos of Karin Albinsson who is absolutely amazing and also takes photos of rock stars - and very good ones at that!

But when my pics were framed, I was actually quite pleased with how good they looked. Go and have a look won't you?

Saturday, 14 March 2009

More Water Sculptures For Sale

Originally uploaded by Luke Y
My latest selection of water sculpture photos are now available for sale here: - hope you find something you like!

Thursday, 12 March 2009

College Interview Essay: “Rock Photography: Art's Very Own Antihero”

This short piece of work focuses on rock photography, and the view that it should be considered an
artform for the modern age.

The first rock photograph significant for me was a portrait by Gered Mankowitz of Jimi Hendrix. What fascinated me about this image was that in one photograph,
Mankowitz manages to capture somebody who was both a performer, and also a real person. Mankowitz himself described Hendrix as “a most charming, humble and witty
person with tremendous charisma” - all of which I think is seen in the photograph. This contrast fascinated me, as it challenges the idea of a portrait being all about the “real person”, and suggests that it is possible for a photograph to capture more than one side of a person at the same time.

I consider rock photography to be an art form. Like the music it seeks to portray, it is not often
considered very glamorous. Advocates of other forms of art might look on this genre as being cheap
and meaningless “snaps” - especially regarding the live performance photography which I favour

Other types of art, such as painting or sculpture have enjoyed a more respectable and “artistic”
status. Rock photography, therefore, often finds itself at the very bottom of the pile of respectabilty.

However, rather than this be worthless, it can be argued that in fact, rock photography and its
development since the 1960's, is indicative of the way society has been changing, and how our
perception of what makes a person “significant” or “great” has altered. This is due in a large part,
not just to the styles and techniques used, as these haven't really changed much at all, but because of
the content.

During the 20th century, philosophers challenged the old values of the world, and art reflected this in
challenging the old ways of portraying these values; philosophy such as post-modernism, and art
movements like Dadaism epitomise these changes. Authority was diminished. Gods were reduced
to heroes, then heroes became “anti-heroes”, flawed like their followers, perhaps in order to make
them more acceptable and less threatening. In other words, society brought them down to level the
playing field.

War was no longer glamorous. Ironically photography itself played a large part in this deposition,
whereas its predecessor – painting – tended to glamorise it. To be engaged in war was no longer
considered heroic, and thus society sought out new heroes and gods in the world of “celebrity”

Whilst classic works of art portrayed gods and goddesses, mythological and biblical heroes, and
characters from works of great fiction, photography has immortalised the “here and now” gods and
goddesses; the pop stars, the actors, and these days, even people famous in society, just for being
famous. Daily newspapers are adorned with the images of these heroes, as we seek to raise them up
as gods, or sometimes, to bring them down again!
In this respect, photography of this kind may one day be valuable as a tool for historians, trying to
discover what life was like, and what was important to the people of the time.

Rock photography started to evolve around the time of the Beatles in the 1960's, arguably came of
age during the 1970's, and in a style similar to the music it represented, sought to rebel even against
the society which had created it. It seemed oblivious to whether it was considered “respectable” or

It could be argued that photography and rock music, were a match made in heaven. In the world of
the “rock god” - photography enables the hero, often with a famously short life span due to the
lifestyle they adopt, to “live forever”. Both music and photography create immortality, often with
those who die becoming more famous after they have done so, where they “shall not grow old as we
grow old”

What stands out about rock photography to me, is the paradox it presents. The subject matter is
indicative of society and it's modern obsession with celebrity and associated glamour, yet in rock
music and the photography that captures it, there is often a total lack of “glamour” to the images,
which at times seems almost deliberate; both strive to be a “two fingered salute” to the principalities
and powers of this world, whilst at the same time, a slave to the values that the same world holds

This lack of glamour, at least in the photography, is due in a large part to the technical limitations
placed: Often, especially with live performance photography, there is a very limited amount of time
to take the shots (sometimes no more than 5-10 minutes cramped in a small “press pit” just below a
stage). Into this relatively tiny amount of time, an incredible amount of “moments” take place, both
on the stage and in the audience, of which the rock photographer must first observe, and then decide
whether to capture these, or turn around and capture other moments.

Whilst the intensity of the “moments” available to a photographer is great, the quality and
consistency of any light at these events is often far from great. The contrast of poor ambient lighting
with extremely bright spotlights focussed intermittently on the performers, makes both
underexposed and blown out photographs the norm. Photographers will compensate for these harsh
conditions by using a slow shutter speed, a large aperture, and a high film/sensor sensitivity (usually
referred to as ISO) These camera settings result in the often blurry, grainy images we see depicted
by even the most famous rock photographers, such as Mick Rock or Gered Mankowitz. In any other
arena, these images might be discarded, unable to provide any insight into the subject and
suggesting a lack of basic technical ability in the artist.

But the fascinating thing for me about these images is that rather than detract from the viewer's
experience, the above limitations actually enhance the image, and manage to capture the
atmosphere perfectly; all the sights sounds and smells of a rock concert. Thus rock photography
proves itself to be an “anti-hero” of the arts; its technical flaws actually providing its strengths and
enabling rock photographers to create powerful and provocative imagery.

Perhaps this is because the technical limitations force the photographer to emulate his or her subject
and “break the rules”, challenging the traditional ways and rules for taking good photographs.

The resulting images are loud and dramatic, like the music, and the challenges of poor lighting
result in strong contrasting images bearing moody depictions of the performers, The blurriness
incurred from slow shutter speeds creates the feeling of speed, movement and intensity, which is
exactly what members of the audience can expect at a rock concert. If photography is about the
relationship between the photographer and an object, then rock photography makes it very easy for
people viewing the photos to put themselves in the place of the photographer, as the photos depict
memories and moments that most will share.

There is something genuine about rock music; the triumph of performance over musical perfection,
and the lack of glamour of those artists who just “care about the music”, rebelling against a society
that is all about being somebody famous, gives it an earthy, real appeal, and so do the photos that
depict it. They are raw, punchy, uneditted, uncompromising, and unforgettable.

The right shot, taken at the right moment, can sum up the entire event – which is a desire that is
common to all forms of photography that seek to “tell a story”. It can immortalise the performer,
and reveal characteristics and traits about the real person behind the face paint and leather, whilst
managing to document a great moment from a great performance at the very same time.

This for me is one of the biggest attractions and challenges of rock photography; to be able to do all
that in the most extreme and challenging conditions, whilst getting up-close and personal with some
real-life “gods” of society, without treading on their toes or knocking their microphones over and
earning myself a punch in the face as a result.