Ornette Coleman and the art of improvisation


Last week blues guitarist BB King passed away , this week, it is another great –Ornette Coleman, jazz saxophonist.



Having bought his first saxophone with money he had earned from shining shoes, Coleman learned to play it as if it were a toy.

“I didn’t know you had to learn to play,” he told the Guardian.

“I didn’t know music was a style and that it had rules and stuff, I thought it was just sound. I thought you had to play to play, and I still think that.”

This is the approach Coleman had and was a fundamental attitude that led him to be such a great innovator and improvisor.

If there is one joy when you hear jazz,it is through the power of  improvisation.


Ornette Coleman Trio 1966


The free flow of connected and sometimes even unconnected sounds, in response  to one of your fellow musicians.

It is the wonder of creativity that if you are watching live,means that you are witnessing something that has never been heard before, and if not recorded at the time, may never be heard in thesame way again.

Such is the power of improvisation.


one quote tells it all:

In 1986, the guitarist Pat Metheny recounted the experience of playing alongside Coleman in full improvisatory flow:

““The challenge in this situation is that sometimes Ornette plays and stops, then I have to play.

The other night in Washington, we did this tune called Broadway Blues, and he played the most perfect musical statement I’ve ever heard.

I gave it my best, but I have no pretenses of improvising at that level.



……and what influenced him?

“Actually, when I was in elementary school, I saw a saxophone.

A band came to my school, and I saw this guy get up and play this solo.

And I said, ‘Oh man, what is that! That must be fantastic!’




In some ways, as educators, or parents, or friends, we must give as many opportunities to children to listen, to watch musicians and to experience playing an instrument to have the opportunity to be inspired.










A quote from Robert Wyatt:

 “What has always warmed my heart,” he writes, “has little to do with his influence on younger improvisors.

It is the timeless vocal beauty of the actual sequences of notes and phrases he could come up with, and the feeling of pure living joy of playing they can communicate.”


Cyanotypes – how blue can you get?


, , ,

Looking at other posts on my blog you can see I like the Blues! So working on cyanotypes allows me to extend my interpretation of blues 🙂 As it is her birthday this week, let’s remember Anna Atkins, who was born 216 years ago and produced the first book to include ‘photographs’ which were in fact,cyanotypes. annaatkins algae2

Anna Atkins from her book  Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions ( October 1843) 


My first post on cyanotypes explored the range of possibilities for making and using cyanotypes; this post goes into more detail on making cyanotypes at home. fernblue1   The process, in its simplest form, is to mix two chemicals to produce a ‘sensitizer’ solution which is then coated on to paper -such as watercolour or cartridge paper. The image can be produced as a photogram -by putting objects onto the paper which will then mask parts of the paper and remain white while exposed areas will turn blue. The alternative is to make a digital negative (same size as the image that you want e.g. A4. What you need: A ‘sensitiser’ – for cyanotypes this is composed of two chemicals which can easily be bought online  and can be mixed at home. The two chemicals are Ammonium ferric citrate and Potassium ferricyanide ( also called  Potassium hexacyanidoferrate(II) ). Each chemical is mixed in water (ideally filtered ). mixing chemicals

Using a plastic pipette to mix small quantities of ‘sensitizer’. 

Once the sensitizer has been made (see below) paper, cloth and even wood can be coated to make it sensitive to UV light (the sun or other UV source such as UV tubes). What is helpful is that coating materials can be done under a household bulb (not a fluorescent tube) rather than a safe light. Dissolve the chemicals in water to make two separate solutions. Add Ammonium ferric citrate (25 grms) to 100 mls of  water into one container and Potassium ferricyanide (10 grms)  to 100 mls of  water in another. Stir with a plastic spoon until the chemicals dissolve. These two solutions when kept in brown bottles can last a few months. Of course , if you are unlikely to coat many sheets,then just halve the amounts noted above (which I normally do to keep the finished solution, i.e. the sensitiser, fresh.) Mix equal quantities of each solution together in a third container. Unused solutions can be stored separately in brown bottles away from light, but will not last very long once they have been mixed. Dispose of any unused chemicals in an  environmentally friendly way. Once you have coated the paper or other material ,  let it dry for  a few hours (although it is possible to use it straight away). To gain an image, the senistised material is left in the sun (or other UV source) for anything from a few minutes to half an hour depending on your position on the globe, the time of the year and the time of day. For example, in March at around 11.00 am at a latitude of 51 degrees N and 2 degrees W , exposure was between 8 and 12 minutes (see below). leafphotogram1

Photogram with leaves being exposed  in Spring sunshine for 10 minutes

    An image can also be  formed using a digital negative. eleneg1 An image was found,  adjusted in photoshop (can also use another program such as  GIMP  – www.gimp.org0.) ; and then inverted to produce a negative ( invert once you have adjusted contrast etc)  re-sized to fit an A4 sheet and printed on an acetate sheet ( overhead transparency sheet – £10 for 100 sheets approx.). If a digital negative is not used then objects, such as leaves or shells, can be used to  produce a photogram (as above with leaves). test strip ele It is a good idea to make a ‘test strip’ to understand the levels of UV at that particular time. Cover 3/4 of the image on first exposure , then uncover 1/4 every 3 minutes or so. Then you can calculate the best exposure time (12 mins was too much so 9 mins was chosen). ele exposed

Exposed image with digital negative (A4) at top left.

When the print has been exposed, process your print by rinsing it in cold water. The wash  removes any unexposed chemicals. The water will run yellow at first. washing cyan ele still   changeofcolour wash

Washing prints – water runs yellow at first.

Wash for at least 5 minutes, until all chemicals are removed and the water runs clear.   * Cotton cloth can be sensitised and processed in the same way as paper and is very effective.   cloth negexposed

Two negatives are placed on a piece of cotton cloth (A2 size approx.)

washing cyan cloth

After about 10 minutes exposure to Spring sunshine, the cloth is washed. Notice the yellow colour washing out.


    * cloth washing clear

The water is becoming clear after 5 minutes of washing.

The blue colour is accentuated as it is oxidised. The final print/cloth can now be left somewhere to dry (lie flat or hung using pegs). Frame the result or make a cushion cover!

Toning cyanotypes.

When you have explored the miriad of cyanotypes in all their subtle shades of blue, why not tone them brown? The process is another adventure in exploration. Some will say bleach first then tone, others say tone then bleach, others may say bleach, tone and then bleach again. Plenty to experiment with! The easiest and cheapest bleach is sodium carbonate (washing soda -not caustic soda!) – 1 teaspoon in a litre of water will do it. The cheapest toner is tea (black tea ,but can use green -just experiement) – put 5 or 6 teabags in warm water (if you are a tea lover -make your cups of tea and leave the part used bags in a jar for a day).

So, one method -bleach your cyanotype for 15-30 seconds. Now soak your print in the tea (should be dark brown) for about 15 minutes – can be more or less depending on the strength of your toner and the range of shades you want in your finished print. Dry and enjoy the toned print. toning 1 bl and br

The tea toned example (on right) with its blue ‘original’ (on left) before bleaching and toning.

Subtler shades of brown can be achieved with less toning and weaker solutions.

  Keep a notebook handy so that while experimenting you can decide on the optimal conditions for the tones that you desire. More to come on this one. Any questions?

Hubble – the last 25 years


, , , ,

hubble 25


Forget men walking on the moon, the real news has come from Hubble.

If we did not have the cold war ,provoking US man agains Soviet man, we may have been able to focus on unmanned space exploration and spent the funds more effectively, in terms of  creating real and new knowledge.

Anyway lets celebrate 25 years of Hubble and marvel at the images that have taken us to the edge of the universe(s).

Planck_CMBfirst stars

images of the first stars and galaxies


and if you want to understand how they are discovering distant galaxies -watch this:




pillars of creation

Hubble launches its 25th anniversary celebration with new look at iconic “Pillars of Creation” image of the Eagle Nebula. The famous image was first released in 1995. This more-detailed depiction, captured by an instrument installed on the telescope in 2009, includes streamers of gas floating away from the columns and a jet-like feature that may have been ejected from a newborn star.




debris disk around starsHubble

Dust disk around a star.



Jupiter is in the news at present

jupiter jan 2015




jupiter moons

Jupiter’s moons in full view



spiral galaxy


At first glance, galaxy NGC 7714 resembles a partial golden ring. This unusual structure is a river of Sun-like stars that has been pulled deep into space by the gravitational tug of a bypassing galaxy (not visible in this Hubble Space Telescope photo). Though the universe is full of such colliding galaxies that are distorted in a gravitational taffy-pull, NGC 7714 is particularly striking for the seeming fluidity of the stars along a vast arc. The near-collision between the galaxies happened at least 100 million years ago.




orion nebula


A stunning image of the Orion Nebula



And what about this breath taking composite image of the Andromeda Galaxy

andromeda galaxy large



The largest #Hubble image ever assembled, this sweeping view of a portion of the Andromeda galaxy is the sharpest large composite image ever taken of our galactic next-door neighbor. Though the galaxy is over 2 million light-years away, the Hubble telescope is powerful enough to resolve individual stars. And, there are lots of stars in this image — over 100 million, with some of them in thousands of star clusters seen embedded in the disk.




Hubble Mania -a new competition from the Hubble site:

Thirty-two Hubble images. One champion. Who will win it all? Your votes will decide. In celebration of Hubble’s 25th anniversary, we’re pitting some of Hubble’s best images against each other in a single-elimination bracket. Your votes will determine the victors for each round. Download and fill out the bracket to predict which image you think will win each head-to-head matchup, and which will make it all the way through to the championship. Then come back and vote each week, starting on March 4 at 9 a.m. EST.

Some of the ‘competitors’

hubble saturn hubblenebula hubble mars hubble jupiter



1bea5923ca404c6316949113d1b50639 1bf632e9aa26a97f0d0e854ff3cb002a
1fc0e719986c2b1d237931224e7db7ba 3c4089b5151b273ee80a9937ea752110 04a883771af3e473c097b077bc7987f6 5bf311201f34e43a84a9ba84352693e5



Access the Hubble site and drift into space – it will make you feel humble!

The Blues in Britain – the 60’s ‘invasion’


, , , , , ,

The Blues in Britain – the 60’s ‘invasion’




Yes we had blues players move across to the U.S. but the greatest influence on our budding blues artists was from the stars of the  60’s American Blues Festivals (1962-1969).

Just look at the start of this clip with the dramatic entrance from Sonny Boy Williamson – then followed by the great Muddy Waters.



Great photography too!



Lets see some other artists on tours between 1962-1966

Enjoy Sonny Terry ‘hootin’ in this clip



But there are so many gems here:



(note Sony Boy Williamson at around 20 minutes -check the two colour suit and the great improvisation)

Rev.Gary Davis – Harlem Street Singer


, , , ,

I have just been listening to Paul Jones interviewing Woody Mann about his documentary film project on Blues guitarist Reverend Gary Davis.


An often copied song – Samson and Delilah

As stated in the film he was a great influence on a number of musicians such as Pete Seeger, Bob Weir, Jerry Garcia, Jorma Kaukonen, David Bromberg, Bob Dylan and countless others.

This is a take from the Dead:

Others were influenced –  such as Eric Bibb and Ralph McTell

Here’s Gary on I heard the Angels singing:

and Eric Bibb’s version:



Hesitation Blues from The Rev Gary Davis

and a  good rag time version of Hesitation Blues from Ralph McTell

and a version by Janis Joplin –


In another blog I looked at the versions of Candyman


Here is a reminder of Rev Gary’s version…

and if you want to know how to play it -just listen to Stefan Grossman who is a great fan of Gary Davis:


and a rare piece of video footage of The Rev Gary playing the famous “Death have no mercy’

and a less rare clip but soulful acoustic version by  Hot Tuna:


revgary1lp revgary2lp revgary3lp revgary4lp revgary5lp

Memories of Rev Gary Davis by Stefan Grossman


Some nice ragtime on this one:



and finally The Rev Gary Davis performance – June 1967.

St.James Infirmary …. another history of the blues


, , , , , ,

St.James Infirmary   …. another history of the blues

Listen  to this first ….. from Louis Armstrong


St.James Infirmary


and now from Blind Willie McTell

blind willie mctell

Dying crapshooters’ blues


As a quiz question…..could there be any connection with Henry VIII?


Well yes and no….

The links are described in Wikipedia:

“St. James Infirmary Blues” is based on an 18th-century traditional English folk song called “The Unfortunate Rake” (also known as “The Unfortunate Lad” or “The Young Man Cut Down in His Prime”), about a soldier who uses his money on prostitutes, and then dies of a venereal disease.

The title is said to derive from St. James Hospital in London, a religious foundation for treatment of leprosy. There is some difficulty in this, since it closed in 1532 when Henry VIII acquired the land to build St. James Palace.Another possibility is the Infirmary section of the St James Workhouse, which the St James Parish opened in 1725 on Poland Street, Piccadilly, and which continued well into the nineteenth century. This St James Infirmary was contemporaneous with the advent of the song.

As I was a-walking down by St. James Hospital,

I was a-walking down by there one day.

What should I spy but one of my comrades

All wrapped up in a flannel though warm was the day.

—”The Unfortunate Rake” (trad.)

The St James workhouse..


Variations typically feature a narrator telling the story of a young man “cut down in his prime” (occasionally, a young woman “cut down in her prime”) as a result of morally questionable behavior. For example, when the song moved to America, gambling and alcohol became common causes of the youth’s death. There are numerous versions of the song throughout the English-speaking world. It evolved into other American standards such as “The Streets of Laredo”.

The song “Dyin’ Crapshooter’s Blues” has been described as a descendant of “The Unfortunate Rake”, and thus a ‘direct relative’ of “St James Infirmary Blues”. Blind Willie McTell recorded a version for Alan Lomax in 1940, and claimed to have begun writing the song around 1929. However, the song was first recorded as “Gambler’s Blues” in 1927 by Fess Williams and his Royal Flush Orchestra.

The tune of the earlier versions of the song, including the “Bard of Armagh” and the “Unfortunate Rake”, is in a major key and is similar to that of the “Streets of Laredo”. The jazz version, as played by Louis Armstrong, is in a minor key and appears to have been influenced by the chord structures prevalent in Latin American music, particularly the Tango.

Like most such folksongs, there is much variation in the lyrics from one version to another. This is the first stanza as sung by Louis Armstrong:

I went down to St. James Infirmary,

Saw my baby there,

Stretched out on a long white table,

So cold, so sweet, so fair.

Let her go, let her go, God bless her,

Wherever she may be,

She can look this wide world over,

But she’ll never find a sweet man like me.



Lets listen to another jazz version by Cab Calloway (with a bit of cartoon humour) :



Compare with trombonist Jack Teagarden’s soulful version:



A great ‘traditional’ version from Snooks Eaglin from Folkways records 1959:



Lets listen to a few more versions and see how the song has evolved:

First Bobby Bland:



one of my favourites – from Van the Man -really brings the sense of drama and mix of jazz and blues versions -Live in Montreaux 2003



And getting back to the roots -an acoustic version from  Arlo Guthrie:



A good version from guitar maestro Eric Clapton along with band leader Doctor John



and a gritty version from Joe Cocker and Leon Russell:



and back to the roots with an acoustic version from Dave Van Ronk – remember the other title – ” Gambler’s blues”



a soulful/psychedelic rendition form Eric Burden and the Animals:



I think you realise now how a ‘traditional ‘ song can inspire so many musicians -over centuries!

Some more recent adaptations:

And a great live jazz version from Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue





Vive la France-  Camélia Jordana in 2011



and what about Jools Holland -and guess who ….  Tom Jones!



and the White stripes



2013 – from the Hot Sardines….a very jazzy touch again



and a more traditional piano version from Hugh Laurie:

In Paris? Pres de Centre Pompidou? Try Henri Cartier – Bresson!


, ,

In Paris? Pres de Centre Pompidou? Try Henri Cartier – Bresson!





For the first time in Europe, the Centre Pompidou is devoting a completely new retrospective to the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson, through more than five hundred photographs, drawings, paintings, films and documents.


This exhibition, both chronological and thematic, proposes a genuine reinterpretation of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work, by Clément Chéroux, curator at the photography department of the Centre Pompidou. The public are invited to journey through over seventy years of work of the man known as “the eye of the century”.




To complete this retrospective on one of the key figure in modernity, a major book showing the totality of the exhibition, has been published by the Centre Pompidou (€49,90).




From February 9th 2014, the Centre Pompidou proposes a rich artistic and documentary application for tablets, produced in partnership with the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Magnum Photos and Le Monde.fr.

An application for tablet, available under iOS and Android
French and English
Price: €4,49


 A video =the decisive moment

Bill Brandt – shadow, light and modernism.


, ,

Having blogged about Willy Ronis, Robert Doisneau,Bert Hardy and Roger Mayne, you may have noticed I like street photography, realism, photo journalism, documentary and a modernistic approach to photography ( with a hint of surrealism) . Fifth in  line, for my blogs  comes Bill Brandt, whose images  I have been fond of, for many years.

His story is told in his own words.


Bill Brandt, self portrait with mirror.     1966 East Sussex Coast

What does Brandt say about his art…

“It is part of the photographer’s job to see more intensely than most people do. He must have and keep in him something of the receptiveness of the child who looks at the world for the first time or of the traveler who enters a strange country. Most photographers would feel a certain embarrassment in admitting publicly that they carried within them a sense of wonder, yet without it they would not produce the work they do, whatever their particular field. It is the gift of seeing the life around them clearly and vividly, as something that is exciting in its own right. It is an innate gift, varying in intensity with the individual’s temperament and environment.”

‘I had the good fortune to start my career in Paris in 1929,working in the studio of Man Ray.’


   Man Ray

For any young photographer at that time, Paris was the centre of the world. Those were the exciting early days when the French poets and surrealists recognised the possibilities of photography.

racegoers paris 1931

Racegoers Paris 1931

There were the surrealist publications, Bifui, Varietes Minotaure and others, the first magazines to choose photographs for their poetic quality. There were the surrealist films such as Bunuel’s notorious Le Chien Andalou and L’Age d’ Or, which had a strong effect on photography. One could say that it was now that modern photography was born.

Atget’s work was at last being published. He had died almost unrecognised, two years before. Brassai, Kertesz and Cartier-Bresson were all working in Paris, as well as Man Ray. Man Ray, the most original photographer of them all, had just invented the new techniques of rayographs and solarisation. I was a pupil in his studio, and leamed much from his experiments.

paris la nuit 1932 brandt

Paris -la nuit -1932

paris br



“The extreme social contrast during those years before the war was, visually, very inspiring for me.”



“I started by photographing in London, the West End, the suburbs, the slums”.


Doing the Lambeth Walk-East End, 1939


“Looking back now, one can see that already two trends were emerging: the poetic school, of which Man Ray and Edward Weston were the leaders, and the documentary moment-of-truth school. I was attracted by both, but when I returned to England in 1931, and for over ten years thereafter, I concentrated entirely on documentary work.”


Parlour Maids

“I photographed everything that went on inside the large houses of wealthy families, the servants in the kitchen, formidable parlourmaids laying elaborate dinner tables, and preparing baths for the family; cocktail-parties in the garden and guests talking and playing bridge in the drawing rooms: a working-class family’s home, with several children asleep in one bed, and the mother knitting in a comer of the room. I photographed pubs, common lodging-houses at night, theatres, Turkish baths, prisons and people in their bedrooms.”


“London has changed so much that some of these pictures have now the period charm almost of another century. After several years of working in London, I went to the north of England and photographed the coal-miners during the industrial depression.”




miners returning to sunlightMiners returning to sunlight


“My most successful picture of the series, probably because it was symbolic of this time of mass unemployment, was a loose-coal searcher in East Durham, going home in the evening. He was pushing his bicycle along a footpath through a desolate waste-land between Hebburn and Jarrow. Loaded on the crossbar was a sack of small coal, all that he had found after a day’s search on the slag-heaps. I also photographed the Northern towns and interiors of miners’ cottages, with families having their evening meal, or the miners washing themselves in tin-baths, in front of their kitchen fires.”

jarrow 1937

Jarrow 1937



Chester le street


A photographer must be prepared to catch and hold on to those elements which give distinction to the subject or lend it atmosphere. They are often momentary, chance-sent things: a gleam of light on water, a trail of smoke from a passing train, a cat crossing a threshold, the shadows cast by a setting sun. Sometimes they are a matter of luck; the photographer could not expect or hope for them. Sometimes they are a matter of patience, waiting for an effect to be repeated that he has seen and lost or for one that he anticipates. Leaving out of question the deliberately posed or arranged photograph, it is usually some incidental detail that heightens the effect of a picture – stressing a pattern, deepening the sense of atmosphere. But the photographer must be able to recognize instantly such effects. – Bill Brandt –“Camera in London”, The Focal Press, London 1948, p. 16
But I did not always know just what it was I wanted to photograph. I believe it is important for a photographer to discover this, for unless he finds what it is that excites him, what it is that calls forth at once an emotional response, he is unlikely to achieve his best work. – Bill Brandt – “Camera in London”, The Focal Press, London 1948, p. 10
If there is any method in the way I take pictures, I believe it lies in this. See the subject first. Do not try to force it to be a picture of this, that or the other thing. Stand apart from it. Then something will happen. The subject will reveal itself. – Bill Brandt – “Camera in London”, The Focal Press, London 1948, p. 17]

Most frequently reproduced of all my photographs, is the Portrait of a Young Girl resting on the floor of her London room. Perhaps it is not really a portrait. Her face fills the foreground and beyond the profile stands a chair and a chest of drawers; seen through two windows are houses on the other side of the street. This picture may have been subconsciously inspired by Orson Welles’ film Citizen Kane.


“The technique of this film had a definite influence on my work at the time when I was starting to photograph nudes.”

camden hill 1949









“I am not interested in rules and conventions … photography is not a sport. If I think a picture will look better brilliantly lit, I use lights, or even flash. It is the result that counts, no matter how it was achieved. I find the darkroom work most important, as I can finish the composition of a picture only under the enlarger. I do not understand why this is supposed to interfere with the truth. Photographers should follow their own judgment, and not the fads and dictates of others.”




In 1926, Edward Weston wrote in his diary, ” The camera sees more than the eye, so why not make use of it ? ” My new camera saw more and it saw differently. It created a great illusion of space, an unrealistically steep perspective, and it distorted.



“Photography is still a very new medium and everything is allowed and everything should be tried. And there are certainly no rules about the printing of a picture. Before 1951, I liked my prints dark and muddy. Now I prefer the very contrasting black-and-white effect. It looks crisper, more dramatic and very different from colour photographs.”


When I began to photograph nudes, I let myself be guided by this camera, and instead of photographing what I saw, I photographed what the camera was seeing. I interfered very little, and the lens produced anatomical images and shapes which my eyes had never observed.




“These last pictures are close-ups of parts of the body, photographed in the open air, I saw knees and elbows, legs and fists as rocks and pebbles which blended with cliffs and became an imaginary landscape.”





“Feeling frustrated by modern cameras and lenses which seemed designed to imitate human vision and conventional sight, I was looking everywhere for a camera with a very wide angle. One day in a secondhand shop, near Covent Garden, I found a 70-year-old wooden Kodak. I was delighted. Like nineteenth-century cameras it had no shutter, and the wide-angle lens, with an aperture as minute as a pinhole, was focused on infinity.”

barndt ear

“I felt that I understood what Orson Welles meant when he said ‘the camera is much more than a recording apparatus. It is a medium via which messages reach us from another world’. For over fifteen years I was now preoccupied with photographing nudes. I learned very much from my old Kodak. It taught me how to use acute distortion to convey the weight of a body or the lightness of a movement. In the end, it had also taught me how to use modem cameras in an unorthodox way, and for the last chapter of my book Perspective of Nudes which was published in 1961, I discarded the Kodak altogether.”

I am not very interested in extraordinary angles. They can be effective on certain occasions, but I do not feel the necessity for them in my own work. Indeed, I feel the simplest approach can often be most effective. A subject placed squarely in the centre of the frame, if attention is not distracted from it by fussy surroundings, has a simple dignity which makes it all the more impressive. – Bill Brandt – “Camera in London”, The Focal Press, London 1948, p. 13

A video summary of one of Brandt’s books -Shadow of Light



I always take portraits in my sitter’s own surroundings. I concentrate very much on the picture as a whole and leave the sitter rather to himself. I hardly talk and barely look at him. This often seems to make people forget what is going on and any affected or self-conscious expression usually disappears. I try to avoid the fleeting expression and vivacity of a snapshot. A composed expression seems to have a more profound likeness. I think a good portrait ought to tell something of the subject’s past and suggest something of his future.

Bill-Brandt-61dylan 61

Dylan Thomas 1941


robert graves 1941

Robert Graves 1941


moore 1945

Henry Moore 1945



Pablo Picasso 1957


sellers large1963

Peter Selllers 1963


magritte 1966

Magritte 1966


“One of my favourite pictures of this time is Top Withens on the Yorkshire moors. I was then trying to photograph the country which had inspired Emily Bronte. I went to the West Riding in summer, but there were tourists and it seemed quite the wrong time of the year. I liked it better, misty, rainy and lonely in November. But I was not satisfied until I saw it again in February. I took the picture just after a hailstorm when a high wind was blowing over the moors.”

topwithens 1945

Top Withens,  1945 – Bill Brandt

skyebull 1947skye 1947




Stonehenge-Under-SnowStonehenge under snow


A video summary  from the BBC Master photographers series:

David Hockney – Photography is dead…long live painting!



This is the third of three blog posts on Hockney’s approaches to photography and painting.



David Hockney by John Minihan 1975





David Hockney’s Self-Portrait with Red Braces (2003). © David Hockney



David Hockney has used photography brilliantly to explore concepts of space and time, but still comes back to his core idea that photography is quite limited by the ‘tyranny of the rectangle’ , the ‘single viewpoint’ and the ‘one moment in time’ .

Let’s explore a little on the ‘one moment in time ‘ idea. He worked on this using his ‘joiners’,once again.

Consider this image of Bill and Noya Brandt (1982) :

david-hockney-noya and bill brandt

Hockney has been able to challenge the ‘one moment’ by piecing together several moments -we know Bill has only two hands yet we we see several hands in different positions and the two subjects  are watching how this series of images is being put together. It even shows a polaroid image mid way through processing.

Through Hockney’s study of the Grand Canyon, both through photography and painting he tried to challenge our view on space and perspective.


The Grand Canyon South Rim with Rail, Arizona, Oct 1982, © David Hockney

Hockney wanted  to photograph the unphotographable. Which is to say, space … There is no question … that the thrill of standing on that rim of the Grand Canyon is spatial. It is the biggest space you can look out over, that has an edge’.



The Grand Canyon looking North, September 1982 

‘when you put one piece of paper on top of another… you put two pieces of time together, [and] therefore make a space. I thought I was making time, then you realise you’re making space… Then you realise time and space are the same thing.’



The Grand Canyon with my Shadow


Through painting, much later (1998)

CANVAS~grand canyon 1998

Canvas study of the Grand Canyon 1998

‘You can peer into it for an awful long time. And you look all over. I mean, it is the one place …
…….where you become very aware of how you move your head, your eyes, everything.



A bigger Grand Canyon

And the colours ?-

If you want very strong colour, first of all you have to put it on reasonably thin … and build it up in layers. But I wanted the colour to stay there so you have to put it on in a certain way to build it up rather slowly … let the white of the canvas into it to get the glow. You don’t put white paint in colour that would make it somewhat chalky”

It is interesting to note that not only the idea of overlapping images and building up layers of colour makes links to both his photography and painting – it is in the range of vibrant and imaginative colours that starts to separate the process of photography and painting -although these days  use of ‘photoshop’ morphs the two once more.

The link with his ‘joiners’ is through the putting together of 60 smaller canvasses to make up the big painting.


What is Hockney’s views on the relationship between photography and painting?


Is photography dead?

Hockney is challenging the ‘tyranny of the rectangle‘ as well as perspective, space and time.

He tries to provide different perspectives and time on the same surface -is he more successful using paint?

Has photography given him new insights into his painting – such as his studies on the Grand Canyon?

Can you ‘move around a scene‘ in photography?

Has photography huge limitations by often being ‘one point in time?

“There is only now”