Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Cycling & HGVs

This morning I held the hand of a lady that was run over by a HGV. She was cycling on the inside of the vehicle that turned left. I very much doubt she survived.

I don't want to scaremonger and still always encourage people to get on their bikes but PLEASE watch this video to understand how to avoid being the next victim. No matter how much experience you have it's always worth reminding yourself about this problem.

You have just as much right to be on the road as any other vehicle- never be afraid to dominate your lane and make motorists follow behind you.

Cycle safe,


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Do the Green Thing

The Green Thing

I attended a very interesting lecture at the Royal Geographical Society last night. Accompanied by Nikki Linsell of Reset Development. It was part of the RGS' '21st Century Challenges' series and this one was titled: Can the UK ever be Sustainable? Chaired by Jo Confino (executive editor of The Guardian) with three speakers: Sir Stuart Rose (CEO of Marks & Spencer), RT Hon Hillary Benn MP (Spineless politician... more on that later) and Andy Hobsbawm (founder of Do The Green Thing).

Stuart Rose spoke first, he discussed how M&S have managed to change their business model to 'Plan A'. Making matters of sustainable development (Economic, Environmental and Social issues) a priority. He has shown that large corporations can achieve significant triple bottom lines and have a responsibility to play a part in the 'paradigm shift' (his words not mine) that is necessary to achieve a sustainable future.

Next up was Hillary Benn, whose opening line revolved around (and this is somewhat paraphrased) how "humans had achieved wonderful things in the last 4 million years since the world was a burning ball of gas". This left the majority of the audience squirming in their seats, who were quite aware that humans (homo-sapiens) have only been around for between 55,000-200,000 years (depending on your definition) and that our earth, not being a star, did not originate as a burning ball of gas but as molten rock.

After this, he strayed into what I imagine is far more familiar territory, somewhat animated self-congratulatory prose about the few political achievements the UK can be proud of (Climate Change Bill, Feed-in-Tariffs etc.). He was of the opinion that the responsibility to act on Climate Change lay both with the populations and the governments- it was shared. On the surface, this sounds very nice and democratic but it is increasingly apparent that very little is being achieved with this set-up... more on this matter below.

His speech was presented in a manner that reminded me of a preparatory school headmaster whose only remaining pleasure in life is to bask in the attention of his 10 year old pupils because anyone old enough to think for themselves has realised he is full of shit. My prevailing thought for the latter half of his speech was how ironic it was that the two most inappropriate words I would use to describe him was Right and Honourable.

Fortunately, he was followed by Andy Hobsbawm, whose presentation was both relevant, interesting and remarkably inspiring. The audience was captivated. I urge you with whatever limited persuasive power I have to check out the website of the non-for-profit he co-founded: Do The Green Thing. At a very minimum you should meet The Green Thing.

His philosophy is based around the idea that if we are to change people's behaviour to lead a greener lifestyle, we must make them want to change. That the best ideas to address climate change should be actions that people would like to do, rather than ought to do. I completely agree with him.

The Green Thing seems to operate on the principle that the individual have the ability to act on climate change and make a significant difference. That it should be a grass-roots movement that forces politicians to take notice and listen. I would love to believe this and still, albeit rather optimistically, hope we live in a world where one's individual actions can inspire a generation.

So, just a quick round-up: there were three speakers loosely representing business, government and people and three ideas of whose responsibility it was to lead us on a path to sustainability. Who is right? Personally, I believe that at both a national and international level there exists a 'tragedy of the commons', that while looking out for our personal interests (holidays abroad, meat intensive diet, consumerist urges etc) we have failed to address our common interests- the natural environment on which we all depend and on which our individual interests ultimately rely.

This has led to a stalemate, where we all shift blame and responsibility to other parties and nothing is achieved. This is particularly relevant considering the (rather unproductive) Cancun Climate Change Conference is in progress as I type. What we really need (at least on a national level) is for cross-party agreement that Climate Change is an issue of such international significance, with such diabolic consequences, that it warrants the decision to be taken out of the hands of the public and strive for cross-party government consensus that outlines that path the UK will take to a sustainable future. In short, they must lead us.

After all, we as a nation, never had a referendum on capital punishment. The public was never asked of their opinion- instead our politicians, of all parties, showed leadership and agreed that it was in the national interest to abolish it. I can not think of a more suitable issue than climate change that calls for government to act in a similar manner.

It should also be noted that Jo Confino chaired the panel excellently, encouraging interesting debate and not taking any prisoners.

Without wanting to distract from my main point of this post, I always like to finish on a positive note, so check out these wonderful blog posts from Do The Green Thing's blog (there are so many but here's three that caught my eye this morning):

Be inspired folks.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sally Mann: The Family and the Land

Sally Mann is having her first solo retrospective at The Photographers' Gallery.

"Mann is perhaps best known for Immediate Family, her third collection, published in 1992. The book consists of 65 black and white photographs of her three children, all under the age of 10. Many of the pictures were taken at the family's remote summer cabin along the river, where the children played and swam in the nude. Many explore typical childhood themes (skinny dipping, reading the funnies, dressing up, vamping, napping, playing board games) but others touch on darker themes such as insecurity, loneliness, injury, sexuality and death. The controversy on its release was intense, including accusations of child pornography and of contrived fiction with constructed tableaux. Mann herself considered these photographs to be “natural through the eyes of a mother, since she has seen her children in every state: happy, sad, playful, sick, bloodied, angry and even naked.” Critics agreed, saying her “vision in large measure [is] accurate, and a welcome corrective to familiar notions of youth as a time of unalloyed sweetness and innocence,” and that the book “created a place that looked like Eden, then cast upon it the subdued and shifting light of nostalgia, sexuality and death." [Wikipedia]

This is a really enjoyable exhibition. Although the photographs of the decomposing bodies (her most recent photographic indulgence- see photo 5 above) did not move me greatly, I thought that the full face portraits of her children (now adults- see photo 4 above) taken on a plate camera and developed with a wet-plate collodion process was some of her best work since 'immediate family' (photos 1-3 above).
It made me want to explore similar printing techniques and the exhibition in general was quite inspiring.
I learned great deal from the 80 minutes documentary that is shown in a small room off the stairs. I really recommend it to anyone that wants to settle the argument with themselves about whether Mann's photographs of her children are exploitative and offensively provocative. I was relieved to hear her children (now in their 20's) all speak comfortably and intelligently about their mother's work and they showed no signs of retrospectively regretting their involvement in 'immediate family'.
A highly recommended exhibition.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Food for thought folks...

I wanted to share this interesting graphic from 'information is beautiful'.

It beautifully illustrates the extent of european aviation emissions compared to the Icelandic Eyjafjallajokull volcanic eruption.

What will it take to make people realise the impact that aviation is having on the environment? How long will it be considered 'normal' to fly thousands of miles each year for a holiday?

The British Isles has some of the most amazing scenery I have ever witnessed, yet I know more people that have been to South America than I who have visited the wonders of the Scottish Highlands and Islands.

Brits are so fortunate that we have access to an incredibly large rail network- europe is on our doorstep and this is beautifully explained by 'The man in Seat 61'.

I know the volcanic ash is causing unknown amounts of grief for people all over the world (let's ignore the fact that a friend of mine is stuck in St. Lucia with all expenses being paid) and they all have my deepest sympathy. But rather than curse unstoppable natural events, perhaps it is worth appreciating the various advantages of alternative methods of travel.

It is at least some food for thought....

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Terence Coventry

Just a quick post to share a video I rather liked about Terence Coventry, once a Cornish pig farmer, now a sculptor of bronze and steel. I like that his work has been inspired by a lifetime of observation, particularly the part where he is talking about the weightlessness of rooks at the moment of take-off viewed from his tractor while ploughing. That said, perhaps I am just a sucker for the emotional major chord piano soundtrack?

Friday, January 1, 2010

Stephen Wiltshire for Order magazine

Last week I took a portrait of Stephen Wiltshire for an accompanying article in Order Magazine, an Los Angleses based hip-hop magazine. I will post the link to the article (written by good friend Zachary Gottlieb) when it's available.

Stephen is an artist and a Londoner. He is known for his ability to draw incredibly accurate cityscapes. In May 2005, following a short helicopter ride over Tokyo, he drew from memory an incredibly detailed panoramic view of the city on a 10-meter-long canvas. Since then he has drawn Rome, Hong Kong, Frankfurt, Madrid, Dubai, Jerusalem, London and New York on giant canvasses.

Although I must admit his work is not particularly to my taste, he certainly has an incredibly unique talent. I met him in the Stephen Wiltshire Gallery in the Royal Opera Arcade, Pall Mall, London. He struck me as a quiet, gentle but confident man and I hope this comes across in the portrait. Click on the images to enlarge.