Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Travel with Courtesy, if you're female, have taken your clothes off and don't mind being photographed

In order to promote Spencer Tunick's Everyday people exhibition, which marks 10 years of The Lowry in Salford near Manchester, I have uploaded this rare image taken during the making of the project.

As regular readers know Tunick photographed hundreds of naked people in Salford and Manchester over two days in May 2010.

The exhibition is on now and runs until September 26.

This image is entitled Bang Bus for reasons I don't quite understand.

For those of you interested in the technical aspects of photography, it was taken with a Sony Ericsson K810i mobile phone.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Word Soup projection outside the Harris Museum and Library

At 10.45pm on a warm summer evening the people behind Word Soup arrived in Preston and projected text onto buildings and trees.
They were promoting Word Soup, their book of poetry and prose. The book contains some of my images from my Outsiders project. The book is avilable to buy for £3.50 from the New Continental in Preston.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

6x9 cover – version 3

My latest book 6x9 edges ever closer to its meeting with the printer.

This third design is a departure from the initial two versions and is very close to being finalised.

This image was taken at the opening night of Jasper Joffe's Ugly Beautiful exhibition in London.

I need to ask him if he minds me using the image, which features one of his marvelous paintings.

Find me on flickr, twitter or facebook if you want to get in touch and order a copy of this 68-ish page full-colour 9x6 book - perfect for aspirational, on the move people of all sexes and persuasions.

NOTE: Garry Cook - me - is not to be confused with this Garry Cook - not me.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

How do you solve a problem like Palestine?

The short answer is: you can’t.

The long answer involves hugely complicated politics, histories, bitterness and conflict.

It also requires knowledge of the various groups involved and their correct labelling. Is Hamas a group of freedom fighters or terrorists? Do you recognise Palestine as an independent state with a leader (Mahmoud Abbas)?<o:p></o:p>

You also need to know geographical facts such as: the huge West Bank area is entirely inland and separate from the tiny sliver of coastal land that is Gaza (put in focus recently following the flotilla attacks by Israel)<o:p></o:p>

Having been to Israel and the West Bank, having talked to Palestinians and Jews, having interviewed people from both sides, having photographed inside the homes of people from Israel and the West Bank, having walked beneath the fortified concrete towers where the Israel Army (or Israel Defence Forces) watch over the Palestinians, having walked alongside the huge concrete wall which wraps round Bethlehem, having walked the streets of Jerusalem, having heard stories of immense hardship from both sides… having done all this I can’t offer any inspirational insight into the conflict within Israel and what it would take to find peace.<o:p></o:p>

This week on BBC’s Newsnight I watched Mark Urban’s excellent report from the streets of Nablus. It offered a slightly different view of the West Bank – usually the images we see in Britain are of death and destruction, maimed bodies and bombed out buildings.<o:p></o:p>

I have seen with my own eyes streets and houses in the West Bank. While the perception of the Palestinians is of a people ‘living in shit’, as one Israeli said to me, the reality is different. They have a fairly well developed infrastructure.<o:p></o:p>

Shops and businesses thrive in Bethlehem. Homes in Beit Ummar are bigger and more decadent than my own, more like the Spanish villas I stayed in when I was a kid rather than the dirty dusty shacks one might have assumed most Palestinian people live in.<o:p></o:p>

This is not to say the Palestinian people are not oppressed. I have heard horrifying accounts of the impact the Israeli army has had on people’s lives: fatal shootings of loved ones, fathers and sons imprisoned for decades without trial, families petrified with fear during midnight raids on their homes by the Israeli army.<o:p></o:p>

The Palestinians are oppressed. I’d hope even the most dismissive Israeli would admit that. But you then you’ve got factions of Palestinians – Hamas in Gaza – firing potshots into Israeli occupied areas.<o:p></o:p>

And you can’t deny that Palestinian suicide bombers strike fear into the hearts of all Israeli Jews.<o:p></o:p>

I’ve not even touched on the arguments over land, forcible removal of Palestinians for new Israeli settlements and a thousand other flashpoints and clashes.<o:p></o:p>

All I know is that I’d love the hostilities to stop. And I know the people in these photographs would too.

NOTE: Images on the streets of Bethlehem, the road to Beit Ummar and inside homes at Beit Ummar. Taken in 2008.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Preston Caribbean Carnival

The child protection policy of the Preston City Council Carnival Association is comprehensive.

Its eight pages include the rather disturbing statement that ‘there is evidence that some people have used  arts events as an opportunity to take inappropriate photographs or film footage of young and disabled carnival participants in vulnerable positions. All bandleaders should be vigilant and any concerns should to be reported to the Club Child Protection Officer.’

So you can imagine my trepidation when I walked from my house to Moor Park to photograph the event.

The Caribbean Carnival, as it is more commonly known, began more than 30 years ago and is organised by volunteers.

This year around eight trucks blasting out music paraded through the streets of Preston, each one followed by dancing children, ranging in ages from six to fifteen.

They are all fantastically dressed in bright reds and yellows, topped off with gold and feathers. Everyone and everything looking like a great festival should.

I did feel sorry for the youngsters as they stood for over an hour in the cold, windy shade of Moor Park Avenue. Shivering in their costumes as organisers waited for a missing troop to arrive by coach.

Photographing children from close proximity, as my style of imagery demands, I had prepared myself for questions from police or one of the many security staff who marshaled the parade.

But looking around, there were dozens of amateur photographers with far less professional-looking equipment than mine and who looked for more paedophilic. They were snapping away happily.

If anyone was aware of the Carnival’s child protection policy, they didn’t seem to care.

But is this right? Of course, children should be protected from danger. But I am also very aware of the knee-jerk reaction to photography in this country – dare to take a picture of someone not know to you and reactions can range from disapproving looks to shouts of ‘paedo’ (which incidentally is only ever heard from drunk 40-year-old blokes after I’ve just photographed them – work that one out).

Unlike a decade ago, almost everyone now constantly carries a camera on them as part of their mobile phone, yet attitudes have hardly changed.

So, it was with trepidation that I took my first few images of the youngsters waiting patiently on the grass for the carnival to start.

My awkwardness disappeared quickly as all the kids excitedly lined up in little groups eager to be photographed.

The irony is, of course, that my photography is less about the events themselves but more about the people who watch them.

As with Blackpool’s promotion party a week earlier, people attending events are much more comfortable about being photographed. I was able to walk down Deepdale Road taking images of the crowd without any quizzical looks. Or hardly any.

The Carnival was stunning, the costumes and dancing were outrageous, the atmosphere was brilliant. This was an event which does not need photography, it demands it.

NOTE (an extra bit): Three years ago I had contacted several people on the Caribbean Carnival organising committee in order to gain permission to photograph the festival.

Poor communication led to me giving up trying to gain official permission to photograph an event I had a right to take pictures because a) it is held in public and b) it goes past the end of my street. 

All photos taken on June 30, 2010.