Sunday, 21 April 2013

oporto, portugal

i have to say, i've been extremely lucky to visit a few wonderful european cities over the past few months. i feel like i'm getting to the end of my sporadic travel adventures for now (never say never), and although i probably shouldn't pick a 'favourite' trip, maybe this would be it. although that could be seen as an equivalent to picking a favourite child... all my trips have been great.

last weekend i travelled to portugal's 2nd city, porto, for a short stay with my oldest & best friends. my friend A is studying abroad there so we had a lovely place to stay, as long as we were ok with 3 of us sharing a bed. at first, i was overwhelmed by the stunning architecture, which i feel porto's character is built around. every building looked like a work of art. it was sad to see so many vacant structures, and i spent far too much time daydreaming about what i would do if i had access to such amazing spaces. studio space, mainly...

back to the weekend itself --- it was such a treat. trips to the beach, lots of amazing portuguese food, an introduction to caipirinhas and an enormous erasmus party in a 25 person house that was formerly a primary school. all of the people i met were warm, welcoming, gracious, witty and most of all, determined to have a great time. the more i write, the more i am convinced my words won't do my wonderful experience in this city any justice. i'm not sure my photos will be able to do that either.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

jim naughten's costume and conflict

i feel like i've been slacking majorly on going to photography exhibitions recently, which is a shame as they tend to provide me with the most inspiration for my own work. jim naughten's costume and conflict at london's margaret street gallery is one i'm definitely a little upset to be missing. i've noticed nothing but great reviews all over social media sites, and i have to admit, i cursed everything when i realised i probably won't get a chance to see it in person.

costume and conflict is a series of striking portraits based around a tribe called the herero, based in the southern african nation of namibia. think beautiful outfits from the victorian era with the backdrop of the vast and expansive african desert and you're definitely along the right lines. i have to admit, i was surprised that the thing that struck me the most about these portraits were the intense expressions of the subjects. the significance of these outfits harks back to the time of colonization in namibia (around the 1800s), with the herero tribe embracing the clothing and culture of german missionaries who came to settle on their land.
These portraits are not intended to serve as a conventional documentary of Herero culture. They do not capture the subject in a snapshot of everyday life nor with objects typical of routine or social station. Subjects are removed from their home and intentionally suspended in a confrontational posture. As such, their identity as Herero tribe members is reified in their garments and their gaze, a colour and vibrancy brought into acute focus by the contrasting setting. 
the exhibtion sadly ends on the 13th of this month (this saturday!) so i would definitely advise going and checking it out on my behalf (or yours) - my only consolation is that a book on the series has been released which will take pride of place on my bookshelf very soon. jim naughten's interview with image source is also worth a look, if only to get an insight into the painstaking work that can go into commissions such as these.

all images by jim naughten

Sunday, 24 March 2013

A Sunday Smile

I remember how much I used to hate the mere thought of 'Sunday' when I was in primary & secondary school - they came with restrictions and curfews, and there was always the sense of impending doom that I may have forgotten to do a vital piece of homework for the next day. Nowadays, although my days aren't much simpler, I've started to treat my Sundays as a day to relax / catch up on things that may have passed me by during the week. Today, I decided to take some time out to read Kaleidoscope's Summer 2012 'Africa' Issue. It's taken me far too long, and as soon as I started to flick through, I realised why I had gone to the effort of ordering a back copy all the way from Kaleidoscope's offices in Milan.

All images courtesy of RD-OK & Alessio Ascari for the Kaleidoscope "A is for Africa" issue

"In a time when the once-dominant western model is collapsing, the impressive growth of Africa’s economies looks likely to continue and its cultural offer is growing more and more vibrant, exposing the international audience to an incredible offering of art, music, architecture, film, design and fashion."

The issue is, of course, all about Africa and its new 'rising' tag which I feel is still pretty contentious, but exciting to look at all the same. The essays are written by influential artists living on the continent and the diaspora abroad, which made all of the points raised brutally honest. No over-exaggeration, or glossing over the rough bits, which I've noticed can happen when the issue of 'Africa' as a continent is written about. I've definitely been inspired to check out more of Santu Mofokeng's South African photo essays and Ghanaian filmmaker Frances Bodomo's work. I'm a sucker for beautifully printed magazines, and this one doesn't disappoint.

Alongside my bagel and latte, this was the perfect companion to my quiet Sunday. I've also spent the majority of the day playing Laura Welsh's 'Unravel' on loop. Produced by Dev Hynes (who really does seem to be everywhere right now) of Blood Orange/Lightspeed Champion/Test Icicles fame, this really is a great collaboration.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Culture: The Portico Library, Manchester

I have to apologise for lack of blogging. There have been many occasions where I've thought, "I'll have to write about this when I get back", but it's never really happened for some reason. To make up for this, I'm going to post about the various cool places I've had the pleasure of visiting over the past few weeks.

First up is this hidden gem in Manchester city centre, the beautiful Portico Library. When I say hidden gem, I really mean it. Located on Mosley Street, just a few minutes walk away from the hustle and bustle of Piccadilly Gardens, it's the perfect place to take a break and admire the large collection of 19th Century literature. The Grade 2 listed building is striking in its Greek revival style architecture and beautifully designed interior. As I found out after I had visited, the Portico Library has a members only collection, but they also host various cultural events for the general public so it's well worth checking out.

The Portico Library is one of those buildings that needs to be seen in the flesh to be truly appreciated - the sense of history and yesteryear hits you as soon as you walk in. Described as "the most refined little building in Manchester," I'd be hard pressed to find anyone who would disagree.

For more information, check out their websitetwitter and Eventbrite page.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Photo Diary: A short tour of the South of Holland

I'm going to predict that the majority of bloggers have had the pleasure of visiting my favourite European city, Amsterdam. Easy access with flights from all major UK airports and a short flying time makes this the ideal place for a weekend getaway with friends. Despite the reputation Amsterdam seems to have nowadays (you know, the drugs/Red Light District part), I feel it's the perfect city for soaking up a bit of culture and enjoying the wonderful architecture the Netherlands has to offer.

What I didn't know was that a short train ride away (20 minutes from Schiphol Airport/30 minutes from Amsterdam Centraal), the student city of Leiden has everything you need to escape the bustle of the Dutch capital. Located in Zuid-Holland, Leiden is home to the oldest university in the Netherlands AND a windmill museum. It's also the birthplace of Rembrandt, so if you're into your art, you can have a look around Rembrandtplein - a square with dedicated artwork.

Here are a few things I would recommend you do on a day trip to Leiden:

  • Take 30 minutes or so to walk up the staircase at de Burcht, and enjoy the wonderful views of Leiden when you get to the top. An ancient shell used in times of trouble during the 11th/12th century, there are lots of historical notes scattered along the way. Knowledge is power, as they say.
  • Leiden's main shopping street, Haarlemerstraat, is perfect for your tourist/gift needs. Pop into H&M, or buy stroopwafels and clogs. On this 1km stretch, the choices are seemingly endless.
  • Visit the market that takes over the whole city centre all day Saturday. It feels like the whole of Leiden spends its Saturday wandering around the sprawling stalls, and you can get everything from raw herring to fresh fruit and veg. If nothing else, it's a pretty interesting insight into Dutch living.
  • Quell your hungry in Bagel & Beans, a wonderful cafe located in the city centre. There are 2 branches in Leiden so go to whichever is nearest - you won't regret it. I love to spend my afternoons in cafes, and the food here is simple yet delicious. A wide range of bagels (self explanatory?) with coffees and smoothies to go alongside, I would guess this is popular with the student population.
  • Take the time to walk down the banks of the Rhine, and treat yourself to a cold beer in one of the many riverside bars you'll come across on the way. I can only imagine how busy it gets in summer, but it's definitely worth it for soaking up the relaxing vibes.
  • Lastly, visit some of Leiden's museums/libraries/churches. All beautiful to look at, and perfect for discovering more about this great city.
I think that just about covers everything! Of course, if you have a bit more time, take the 10 minute train journey from Leiden Centraal to Zuid-Holland's capital, The Hague or Den Haag. Home of the Dutch Royal Family and the majority of the Netherlands' foreign embassies and major international organisations (The United Nations and the International Court of Justice, for starters), it's a really exciting city with a gentle buzz about it. Think Amsterdam, with fewer tourists and impressive skyscrapers.

Last weekend taught me there's much more to Holland than Amsterdam, and the ever-efficient Dutch rail system makes it easier than ever to get out and explore.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

The Art of Travel

View of the Yorkshire Moors from my plane window.

I wish I could describe the sense of peace travelling solo provides me with nowadays; notebook in hand, maybe a gin & tonic/glass of red wine if I’m feeling fancy. It’s not glamorous by any means as I'm never flying business or first class - my flight back to the UK from Amsterdam on Monday involved a vomiting child and minimal leg room. I was graced with a window seat though which made up for the lingering smell of stale sick and disinfectant. Despite the negatives, there’s something comforting about being alone with just your thoughts for company, flying across the planet at ridiculous speeds. Air travel is a wonderful feat in itself. 

I’ve narrowed down my love of flying to one central point - it’s the anonymity it grants me. I am wearing a camel coloured coat and toting around quite the hazard in the form of a wheeled suitcase, but you, you have no idea who I am. It’s freeing. Airports grant us the opportunity to be surrounded by a large section of the general public going here, there and everywhere. Much like train stations, with the added glamour of clear plastic travel bags and temperamental passport e-checks. The departure and arrival screens show flights to Abuja, Moscow, Manila and Chicago to name but a few far-flung destinations. I’m queueing up at airport security next to a woman who asks if I’m going to Africa, because she is and isn’t it wonderful to finally be going home? Don't get me wrong, I don't want to make my airport experience seem awfully quaint - I ended up running across Schiphol to find out the flight hadn't started to board yet, and the rushed goodbye at the train station 34 minutes earlier (so precise) wasn’t entirely necessary. Goodbyes are never good for me however so maybe it was for the best. 

Maybe this is an ode to new places, as well as the actual notion of travelling. I have seen the Yorkshire Moors look almost post-apocalyptic, the Sahara Desert and its apparent ‘nothingness’ and the somewhat calming vastness of the Atlantic Ocean at night. Views and perspectives I would never get to appreciate on the ground are suddenly right in front of me. It doesn't matter that I'll probably be able to qualify for frequent flier air-miles soon - I still look out of the window with the wonder and amazement of a 7 year old child. For me, the art of travel is pretty addictive. And I quite like it that way.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Playlist #1: Travelling

For me, travelling and music go hand in hand. I'm not sure about anyone else, but I know my iPod will have to be completely up to date before I step out of the house. I start to feel ever-so-slightly apprehensive with fears it will run out of battery or true to form, my headphones will suddenly decide to break halfway through my trip, leaving me unsure of what do to with myself for several hours. The thing I find with travelling is that it gives you the chance to appreciate even the most mundane things with the wonder of a child. Whenever I'm abroad, I find myself taking photos of things I would ordinarily walk past at home, just because it somehow "looks different". I suspect that is the reason so many people end up travelling for years on end, constantly chasing the unknown and unfamiliar.

While looking through my iTunes this evening, I realised there are certain songs that without fail, tend to accompany me on my (often) solo travels. Tomorrow evening, I'll be heading to Leiden in the Netherlands (30 minutes outside of Amsterdam) to visit one of my close friends who's currently studying there on his year abroad. To make it even more long-winded, I have, for reasons unknown, decided to fly from a different city meaning I have a 50 minute coach journey to the airport to contend with first. Fuelled by the excitement of my somewhat spontaneous trip, I made an 8tracks playlist with just a small sample of what I listen while I'm on the move. From the afropop sounds of The Very Best back to Simon & Garfunkel's melancholia, these 8 songs perfectly sum up my travelling experiences so far.

1) The Very Best (feat. Ezra Koenig) - Warm Heart of Africa 
2) Theophilus London (feat. Solange & Dev Hynes) - Flying Overseas 
3) Chromatics - Kill For Love
4) Blonde Redhead - Silently
5) Kurt Vile - Freeway
6) Simon & Garfunkel - The Only Living Boy In New York
7) Frank Ocean - Lost
8) Bill Withers - Lovely Day 

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Jordi Huisman - Rear Window

I stumbled across Dutch photographer Jordi Huisman's work by accident - as much as I often complain about Tumblr, one thing it does do well is provide photographers with the opportunity for their work to be seen by thousands with one simple "reblog". One image in particular caught my eye while browsing my timeline - a photo of what appeared to be the back of an apartment block at night; the main light sources were the lights inside individual flats. Something about its simplicity struck me. A quick google search led me to his website, where it turns out he has an ongoing series of images of a similar theme, entitled "Rear Window".

"The Rear Window series focuses on the back of buildings in European capitals. It shows how someone decided to put a large satellite dish on his balcony, where the next door neighbour uses the balcony as a storage room… The series also has a voyeuristic aspect: through detailed exposures, small details in the houses of the neighbours become visible. Details that aren't meant to be visible."

The medium and large format images somehow struck a chord with me. It's true that the majority of the time, we will never get to see the back of buildings, houses in particular. I know for a fact that at my parents' house, much more TLC is given to the front lawn as "more people will see it". The back garden currently lies in a state of mild disarray (our enthusiasm for sorting out the weeds lasts for half a day at the most) while the front looks immaculate. From a social point, is it a case of keeping up appearances? Either way, it's great to be given a chance to see the "details that aren't meant to be visible".

Photography collective No Culture Icons are teaming up with the independent Village Bookstore in Leeds to host their first photo exhibition on Thursday 7th February (6pm-9pm). Work by Jordi will be exhibited alongside Alex Cretey Systermans, Bryan Schutmaat and Alex Catt, with an evening of music & drink on offer. I haven't had the pleasure of visiting Village yet, but from the comments I've seen on twitter, this will definitely be worth going to if you're a Northerner with a passing interest in contemporary photography. 

For more information, visit No Culture Icons online or Village's Facebook Event.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Warby Parker Glasses

I've been fortunate enough (or unfortunate, you decide!) to wear glasses for the past couple of years now, after the awkward discovery of not being able to see the board in my Chemistry classes at school. The first time I went to the opticians, I took my father along who wasn't the most fashion forward shall we say, and I ended up with the most unflattering pair of glasses known to man. 5 or 6 years later, I think I'm doing much better in the glasses department. Well... I hope.

Step forward Warby Parker, to make me truly envious of spectacle wearers across the pond. They have the most beautiful selection of frames for both men & women, in colours from gold to turquoise back to the safe yet statement-making black. I haven't found a UK equivalent of these guys yet, and they only deliver to the US and Canada at present so it looks like I'll have to make do with lusting after all of their glasses (and prescription sunglasses) online. Or maybe plan a trip over to NYC to pick up a pair, who knows...

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Photo diary: Accra.

For the first time in 7 years, I returned to Ghana's capital, Accra, to spend time with relatives over the festive period. Admittedly, I was initially thrown by the 36 degree heat, the mosquitoes and the weird nausea that comes straight after taking anti-malarial tablets, but my brief stay provided me with many hearty laughs and a new perspective on the rapidly developing nation. It was great not to feel the physical distance that separates me from the rest of my relatives 99% of the time, and it was inspiring to see the changes that are taking place everyday.

I found myself so busy at points that I often forgot to document everything I experienced properly... but the way I see it, it only meant that I was completely immersed in everything. Sometimes I feel a camera can be a barrier between actively participating and being an observer.

Quick portrait of my auntie Frances. 
My cousin, Sena, in Osu. Osu is home to lots of restaurants, shops & tourists.
I saw a lot of 'Remove Now' signs painted onto buildings.
Engagement party before the big wedding the day after. Lots of acclimatising.
I went to a wedding, and it was beautiful!
Grounds of the beautiful Movenpick Hotel
Hair salon in Awudome
Final walk around North Kaneshie. I love the colours here.
A parting view of Accra from the air. Looks beautiful, doesn't it?

Saturday, 19 January 2013

New year, new blog.

Just a few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to spend my new year in the city of Accra, Ghana - the birthplace of both my mother and father. As the clock struck midnight, I promised myself that if I would do anything in 2013, it would be to discover MORE. And so, COASTAL IMAGE was born.

I have long been inspired by the blogs that provide you with new books and magazines to read, fashion designs to lust after, new sounds to give your day a bit of a boost. I spent 2 weeks in a somewhat foreign environment thinking on my feet, and more importantly, learning something new. It's a feeling I don't want to get rid of too quickly.

COASTAL IMAGE will hopefully be a combination of the two cultures I am lucky to surround myself by on a daily basis. The things I would wear if I was brave enough (or had enough money), the people I'll never meet doing new and innovative things. A photo diary.

Fingers crossed this goes to plan!