Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Bye Bye Keano

As part of my plan to produce my Outsiders book this year I have made the incredibly brave decision - fearless infact - to sell my beloved Keano, otherwise known as my brilliant bright red Nissan X-trail.

I need the dosh, so Keano will shortly be going to a new home to replaced by a Volkswagen Golf, the most reliable hatchback you can buy. Fact.

In my search for a suitable replacement to Keano, I went to the Preston branch of Arnold Clark (Europe's biggest independent car dealer, they claim).

I swore I would never go back there. Eighteen months ago, I told the salesman I wanted ultra reliable hatchback with a high mpg. He immediteley guided me to a bulky Rover which had a price tag about £3,000 more than my budget. 'Don't worry about that,' he said. 'We can do you a deal."

Turns out that Arnold Clark purchased a fleet of Rovers when the company went bust a few years ago. They can't shift them so are trying to force them onto unsuspecting customers. No doubt the salesmen will get an extra bonus for shifting one of these dinosaurs.

Fast forward to the prseent and I was back at AC's knowing that either a VW Golf diesel or a Vauxhall Astra diesel were the best options for me (reliable, high mpg).

I told the salesman I wanted a spacious car with a high mpg. He went through his list. He mentioned four cars. Three of them were fr*gg*ing Rovers. The other was a Citroen Xsara Picasso.

I'll not even comment on the Rovers. As for the Picasso? Well, it was priced £2,500 over my budget. But salesman Paul told me, 'Don't worry about that, we can do you a deal.'

Do car salesmen ever give you what they want, or just what they want to get rid of? I'll leave you with these words from the Consumers' Association Which?:

'Don't Buy: Citroen Xsara. The Xsara can be pretty troublesome, and only 35% of owners would recommend it. Its dated safety and poor ownership score suggest you should give it a miss.'

Sunday, January 27, 2008


Trying to tap into the lucrative grants market is not as easy as your would hope.

I subscribe to various newsletters from organisations like folly, the Arts Council and Voluntary Arts England.

But the complicated criteria you have to meet to justify getting an award or grant to carry out a project is worthy of a degree course itself. Form-filling MA or BA in Jargon.

The process is only surpassed in its abuse of the English language by the stupidity of English language used in actual submission guidelines.

Quite frankly, I'm beginning to think you need to be on drugs to understand the terminology these organisations use.

For example: Proposals are requested that explore mapping as it relates to survival, resistance, and gentrification. How do artists respond to it? How do these issues affect community? How can the internet or web-based technology be used to address these concerns?

And: The purpose of this open participation meeting is *to explore the relationship between digital networks and physical space: how new locative technologies are changing the way citizens perceive the physical and geographic space* (cellphones, Google Earth, GPS...) *and how these media are reorganizing civic communication and interaction* (from "geobrowsers" to the Local Web 2.0 or the "hiperlocal" journalism).

I even complained to Folly, who collate these commissions before sending them out in one big fat email.

So it was nice to read a plain English appeal for artistic work today.

"The Brighton Pebble Museum is curating a CD of pebble related music. For inclusion, please send your track to..."

Rolling Stones anyone?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Inside Outsiders

I have started work on my next two books (mentioned briefly previously).

The first, with a working title Outsiders, will be a series of portraits and text interviews of people who are either outsiders or unusual, unique, excluded, lonely or different. Basically, anyone who stands out or is not understood by other sections of society. (broad brief, ideas welcome)

I have a long list of either specific names or types of people I would like to be included in the book.

First of all I will try to complete a few portraits of subjects here in Britain, then I'll look to capture some of my other targets from around the world.

The book will be full colour and A4-ish portrait shape (it's important to decide that now so I know which way I should hold the camera up) and I'm aiming for a blurbie/luluie book to be done inside 12 months.

The second book is provisionally titled Shop! The planning for this is not as far down the line (though it will be landscape) and it could take a lot longer to produce.

And, as someone who does not like airing their ideas and then failing to see them through, may I be the first to declare that this book may never see the light of day.

This project is reliant and permission to photograph in shops and is unlikely to see the light of day if I fail to get funding. As the saying goes, Men are from Mars, funders are from Uranus.

Pretty Ugly

Last Friday I found myself in a dark back street in a rough part of London. Not a great combination.

The V22 Ashwin Street Gallery in Dalston - Murder Mile I'm told it's known as - was the venue for artist Jasper Joffe's latest exhibition.

A peculiar (and kind of enchanting) venue, Joffe's paintings of women in underwear, some of them absolutely huge (the paintings I mean), were quite interesting.

Part of the fascination was the idea he had of splitting the two rooms into a place for pretty people and ugly people. The choice was yours (although having to walk through the pretty room to get to the ugly room kind of inhibited the concept).

For stunts like this, Joffe has previous. He once asked critics to review his exhibition before they had seen it. Interesting, yes. Publicity stunt, definitely. Still it kind of worked: I was there.

I Had planned to do some three-quarter length portraits of pretty/ugly people. But, because of the sheer scale of Joffe's work, I decided to photograph people standing next to, or in front of, the artworks.

The result? Not the set of specific portraits I intended, but a (fairly) interesting documentary of the kind of people who attend on exhibition opening like this. And it was very kind of Jasper to make me feel so welcome.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Blurb winning after Lulu own goal

Got a very nice email from Jodie at Connected PR who represent the online book publisher Blurb. She said they migh be interested in promoting one of my future book projects, provisionally titled Shop!

I've seen some Blurb books and they are very good. So are Lulu's, which I used for Flashes to Ashes. The only problem with Lulu is tha I ordered two sets of books and, though the print quality is great, both had major faults.

The first order had a 4mm white line across the top of every page where the pages had been sliced at the wrong place.

The second order had a 4mm white line across the bottom of every page where... well, you get the idea.

This problem has been common to several of my fellow student who have used Lulu. Sadly, the proces of complaining and getting it fixed is proving laborious for all of us.

I'd better dig out that email to Connected PR, I think I could be chnaging sides.

Plagne sailing (or skiing)

Had a great weekend in La Plagne on a press trip. Skiing for the first time, bobsleighing for the first time, Raclette for the first (and last)time.

The visit coincided with the Telemark World Cup. Though now an official FIS event, Telemarking is still less professional than, say, downhill skiing. And that was great for me as I could get access to the slopes to take photographs.

My travel article will be in the Daily Star soon.

Plagne sailing (or skiing)

Had a great weekend in La Plagne on a press trip. Skiing for the first time, bobsleighing for the first time, Raclette for the first (and last)time.

The visit coincided with the Telemark World Cup. Though now an official FIS event, Telemarking is still less professional than, say, downhill skiing. And that was great for me as I could get access to the slopes to take photographs.

My travel article will be in the Daily Star soon.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Ugly and Beautiful

Strange one this. I'm off to London on Friday night to photograph the opening of an art exhibition. Not just any art exhibition this though.

Jasper Joffe, the artist, paints nice pictures. He's making a name for himself in London, but he does things differently.

He like to engage his viewers and reviewers in his art. For example, he once invited critics to review his show before they had actually seen it. Bit unusual.

This time he has his pictures in two rooms and is asking those attending the opening night to assess themselves as either pretty or ugly and step into the appropriate pretty or ugly room.

I'll be taking photos of both sets of people and, hopefully, will be able to show you what a pretty person looks like... and what an ugly person looks like.

I'm not sure what Joffe is trying to achieve, but it's an interesting idea. And if you're pretty (or ugly), I'll see you there. It's at the V22 Ashwin Street Gallery, London.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The big smoke, Manchester

The second week of January 2008 was quite an unusual one for me: I had an exhibition of photographs on display at the Richard Goodall Gallery For Contemporary Art in Manchester and I went skiing for the first time.

The exhibition was in fact a graduation show for my Photography MA at Bolton University. Unfortunately I had to miss the 'opening night' (I use the term loosely cos the exhibition had already been running for four days) because I flew out on a press trip to La Plagne in the French Alps.

Skiing was brilliant, thanks for asking. I only had one hour-and-a-half lesson topped off with a fast and furious sling down the Olympic bobsleigh track with three petrified girls. Of course I wasn't scared at all (the cable car going down was worse).

It was worth the trip, even if Sir Ian Beesley was a bit narked I missed the show.

When I got home on Saturday night my inbox was full of the usual strange messages, but one particularly stood. It was from a guy who had been to the exhibition and wanted a copy of my book. What a nice man.

As I believed the subject matter was un-sellable, this request came as a bit of a shock. I don't even think it was a wind-up from Sir Ian.

Last week I also got interviewed about my photos for the Bolton Eveing News. This is what I said (taken from the Preston Citizen website, who belong to the same company):

A student, who is studying for an MA in international photojournalism, documentary and travel photography, thought that the effects of the smoke ban on the social lives of people in the north west were so interesting he decided to photograph them for his degree show.

Preston-based Garry Cook, who completes his University of Bolton course in October, said: "On the first day of the ban I went to a pub in Blackpool where this guy is still defying the ban now, and there were people there who hadn't smoked for 20 years who were having a fag in the pub because they disagreed with this law.

"There is a lot of anger - sometimes pointed at me, and sometimes at my camera and sometimes at the Government.

"But, on the whole, the smokers were very chatty and thought of themselves as being defiant together - and that's not something you get these days in society, people being united over a current affairs issue.

"There was a sense of defiance that they were still doing what they wanted to do, even if they had to go outside to do it."

Garry's photographs will be included at an exhibition at Manchester's new Richard Goodall Gallery For Contemporary Art.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Guide to pdf converting to lulu.com (a bit boring)

Publishing a book through lulu.com is a horrendous process. It’s not designing it which is the problem, it’s the converting to a pdf which kills you.
I’ve done it several times now, have been on the verge of suffering a mental haemorrhage, but I got through the process. This guide is to help me remember so that next time I’ve got a book to do, I don’t cry again.
And the main help I’m offering here are the bits which lulu doesn’t mention in its FAQ guides.

Book or photo book?
Everything I’m doing here is in reference to a book full of photos. So it might come as a surprise to know that you must not select photobook for your photobook. Confused? Well, because it’s best to design the book yourself and upload it as a pdf, you don’t need to use the photobook templates.
Paperback, hardcover, dissertation, comic, product manual, sales proposal, travel guide, textbook...?
It doesn’t really matter which one you click on at the front page, they all lead to the same place. It’s when you start to pick book size and binding that’s important. That’s entirely up to yourself.

Which program do you design your book with?
It doesn’t matter – which ever you are familiar with. I used Microsoft publisher for my first book, then Adobe InDesign for my second.
I contacted lulu’s Live Help when was having problems converting to a pdf with my first book and told them I had used publisher, the man on the other end suggested this was the problem and i should use another piece of software. Publisher wasn’t the problem, and having spent hours designing the bloody book, no, I was not about to start it all over again.

Size of jpegs
Lulu recommends 300dpi (maximum is 600 dpi) but my biggest problem was what size jpegs should be used. My jpegs are converted from NEF RAW files then tiff’s from a Nikon D2xs, so they’re pretty big.
For my first attempt at publishing a book I saved them at Level 6. The A4 print-outs I did at home came out great. The photos in my book were awful, pixelised.
My advice is: Use jpegs as big as you can, and save at level 12. Lulu’s pdf size limit is 700mb. Unless you’re book is 800 pages long with 800 pages, that you’ll be fine.

Converting to pdf.
This is the tough part, so I’ll keep it simple:
To set page size of your document:
Start menu> setting> printers> right click mouse button> preferences> page sizes> add> enter page size of document (full bleed if you’re doing full bleed)
unclick box Do Not Send Fonts To Adobe pdf
save Adobe PDF Page Size as new name (Crown Quarto Full Bleed, for example)

layout> advanced> change True Type font to Download As Softfont
change postscript to Optimise For Portability
And save these settings under a new name, like High Quality Lulu.

Then in the document itself:
File> printer> server options> printer. Right click mouse button> change Adobe pdf size to print size to crown quarto full bleed (or whatever the name of the custom page size you created was).
File> printer> properties> layout> advanced> untick box Do Not Send Fonts To Adobe PDF
And then into: layout> advanced> paper size to Crown Quarto Full Bleed (or whatever), set TrueType Font and Postcript options also (as above).
NOTE: In this bit the dpi print quality is set to 1200. I’m not sure if you should reduce this to 300 or 600 dpi.

Then print the document (as a postscript file):
Select adobe pdf. Tick the Print to file box. Save file as same name with a .ps ending.
The file conversion will take a while and it will be a massive file.

Then convert this file through Adobe Acrobat Distiller:
Open distiller through Adobe Acrobat: Advanced> Acrobat Distiller
Simply drag the new file into Distiller. A new, much smaller pdf, will be produced. When it’s done check the fonts are embedded and that the document size is correct. And you’re done.
Simply upload to lulu with an ftp program. Ftpupload.lulu.com, username is your email, password is your password.

The Cover.
I created my own two-page cover but that kept converting into a pdf with two extra blank pages, so instead I re-saved my cover as two pages, converted to jpeg and converted separately.

Thank you. Have a rest.