London Art Spot: Fabienne Henry

 

Tunisia, Ivory Coast, Ireland, Canada and the UK. Sounds like a holiday wish list, but it’s actually all of the countries where this week’s featured artist Fabienne Henry has lived. Originally from Paris, she’s lived outside of France for most of her life.

After studying Law in Paris, Fabienne practised only for a few months. Law doesn’t travel very well. She lectured in Law for a while, spent some time as a French teacher and then a magazine editor (why not?) before settling into her current career as a freelance writer. As you can see from her creative images below, she is also a keen, self-taught photographer.

Living in London since last summer, Fabienne finds every stroll she takes and every event she attends a true delight. (It is London, after all.) However, she’s also very nostalgic of her time in Vancouver.  Ideally, the two cities would bump heads and Fabienne would live in Vancouver with the cultural aspect and the eccentricity of London.

For this week’s London Art Spot, she tells us about her blog “Lost & Found in London”, about the popularity of a certain piece of flour-less chocolate cake and shares photos of a woman eating ice cream in a burqa.

“Primrose Hill”  

LLO: Where are you from originally and how and when did you end up in London?
FH:
I’m originally from France but I grew up in Africa. I went to university in Paris and then went to Dublin to improve my English. I ended up staying there for eight years since I met a lovely Irish man who became my husband. We moved to Vancouver in 2003 and came back to Europe after three great years in BBC (Beautiful British Columbia). We landed in Yorkshire first, which was a culture shock for a city slicker. Thankfully, a work opportunity came up in London and we moved to the city in the summer 2009. 

“Brompton Cemetery”  

LLO: How does living in London influence your creativity?
FH:
There is always something happening in London. I think that Londoners are very creative in many aspects of their lives: in the way they dress, in their food, in their hobbies… Plus London is so cosmopolitan; there are many different influences everywhere you look. How can you not feel inspired or creative when you live in London? 

“Garlic”

LLO: Do you remember when you first fell in love with photography and how has your style evolved since then?
FH:
I think I became obsessed with photography in my early teens. I was taking pictures mostly of family events and friends. I used to love that moment when I went to collect my film rolls at the photo shop. A moment of expectations that’s lost to digital nowadays. When I was 16 I bought a SLR Canon EOS with 2 different lenses and I started to take shots of almost everything. It was a costly hobby back then. Now I still photograph about everything and I mostly enjoy shooting unusual places or situations in London, Paris, Brittany, my daughter and food. 


“Field Game in Yorkshire Lavender, Terrington, North Yorkshire” 

LLO: Tell us about your blog, Lost & Found in London, and how you came up about the idea.
FH:
 I started blogging in 2004 when I was living in Canada. It was the beginning of the blog phenomenon back then and I loved this idea of endless possibilities. Plus there was so much to tell about life in Vancouver. Then I moved to Yorkshire and the blog became “Lost in Yorkshire”. I took a different angle: as you can imagine it wasn’t as fun or exotic to live in the middle of Yorkshire. For me anyway. My posts turned towards the cultural differences between France and England. A little bit like Stephen Clarke’s A year in the Merde reversed! Thankfully, Yorkshire is a beautiful place (no cynicism here) and I was able to illustrate my posts with nice shots of the Dales and the numerous National Trust Gardens (the English really love their gardens). When I moved to London, I needed a celebrating change so the blog became known as “Lost & Found in London” and I now enjoy writing and posting photos about my adventures in this great city. 

“Palisades, Brittany, France” 

LLO: What is your most popular “find” according to your blog or Flickr stats?
FH:
 My most popular picture on Flickr at the moment is a close-up on a flour less chocolate cake. Probably tagging with “chocolate” helped!

On my blog, the most popular posts are the ones where I speak about British clichés and also my twice monthly guessing game – “la devinette du mercredi”. I post a photo where one has to guess what it is or where it was taken.

LLO: With all of your travel, living in so many different countries and having multiple talents from photography to writing to teaching, what do you ultimately see yourself doing?
FH:
Moving around makes it difficult to adapt to a steady professional life. Hopefully this time we’ll stay a bit longer in London so I would be able to develop my taste for freelance journalism. I would love to write regular articles for papers or internet sites as I’m doing right now, but not as frequently as I wish to.

“Amazing Light in Vancouver” 

LLO: Share a photo with a great story behind it and tell us about it?
FH:
 Last August, I was wandering in the Southbank when I captured this scene:


I found these shots amusing and interesting because in France at the time was the heated public debate about the possibility of the burqa ban. It was a way of speaking about it on a lighter note. When you think about it, eating ice cream with a burqa on is not the simplest task!

“Molly on the Beach” 

LLO: Where is your favourite place in London to take your camera?
FH:
 I always have my DSLR with me at the weekend, and a smaller camera anytime in my bag. Basically all of London is a playground paradise for photographers. If I had to choose a place I’d say may be the South Bank.

“Ballerina” 

LLO: Is there somewhere in London that you go to get a taste of Paris?
FH:
 Paris and London are really two different cities in many ways, especially from the architectural point of view. From that perspective it’s difficult to compare the two. Although sometimes when I take a walk on the riverbank or when I cross a bridge I can catch some kind of Paris feeling. If you refer to the French atmosphere, then head straight to South Ken: you’ll feel that sometimes that French is the primary language over there. This is definitely the French quarter with the Embassy, the lycée, the shops and the French Cultural Centre.

“Prison Break @ Borough Market” 

LLO: Show us you favourite London image you’ve captured so far.
FH:
I like the colours and the few iconic London items on it.

Thanks Fabienne! 

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here. 

London Events: See You Next Tuesday Festival

Today is International Women’s Day, recognising the fabulousness of females around the globe and raising awareness of the plight of some who live their lives in fear and without a voice to stand up for their rights.

Today is also the first day of the See You Next Tuesday Festival, giving women in London a platform for creativity, comedy, theatre, burlesque and cabaret. (Men are, of course, welcome to join in on the fun.)

Running until the 20th of March, there is plenty to see at the New Players Theatre where all of the events are taking place. You can find a calendar of events here.  

If you were looking for the ever-popular Vagina Monologues in February, you’ll be happy to know they are running as part of the festival this month, proceeds as always going to Eve Ensler’s V-Day movement.

The brilliant minds behind See You Next Tuesday are Emma Jane Richards and Annie Saunders, who have run V-Day London since 2008. They describe this new celebration as “cutting-edge theatre, thigh-slapping comedy, film screenings, a variety of workshops, and the best of circus, burlesque and cabaret. Showcasing fantastic feminine and feminist talent for an action-packed two weeks, raising discussion (and eyebrows) in a lavish and experimental playground of fancy, See You Next Tuesday is like nothing you’ve seen before.”

Book tickets for events here.  
Website is here.

(PS – “See You Next Tuesday” = CUNT, if you didn’t know…)

London Art Spot: Annie Bootiman

Annie Bootiman, 36

This is Annie. She lives, works and plays in the city – a creative Londoner who has a talent for finding and capturing beauty in the little things. She has studied languages, has a passion for all things Italian, and has lived here and there. Well-travelled, she has breathed the air on four continents (but has never been to the moon – maybe one day?). Annie collects bits of art and things that are pretty.

For this week’s London Art Spot, Annie tells us about finding inspiration in the energy of London, the lyrics of a certain Coldplay song and describes her opportunistic her approach to photography.

"This was taken at the G20 demo in April 2009. Jesus was carrying a placard with 'Money Lenders Out' written on it, but it's chopped off in this photo and i like the ambiguity of the shot - he could be carrying a cross."

Jesus 
 
LLO: How does living in London influence your creativity?
AB:
 It’s other people in London who bring out creativity in me – the artists, musicians, actors and so on who do things a bit differently and aren’t afraid to try new things. I love the urban and graffiti artists; I love small theatre groups like The Factory who are really refreshing. And I love live music and discovering amazing bands just on the off-chance. There’s an energy in all of that, and there’s a part of me that wants to capture that somehow. That’s also one of the challenges of photography, capturing a moment, a vibe, and holding onto it, or making it last forever in some way. London feels like a place that doesn’t judge you if you’re original or a bit different and I think people tune into that.
 

"This was taken the day after the G20 demo in April 2009, at Bank. I expect a lot of people have photos like this one. I like the three policemen huddled by the column. I also like the graffiti 'My banker went on holiday and all I got was this stupid economy'."

Banker Holiday
 
LLO: How long have you lived in London?
AB:
Since 2001, so 9 years. It’s gotten a bit fuller, but has lost none of its charm.
 
LLO: Where do you see photography in your future – hobby or career?
AB:
 Probably just a hobby, which is enough. I relax when I’m taking pictures, because there’s no pressure to do anything other than just be in the moment. I’m not sure I’d want to lose that.

"I like the soft, gentle movement of the smoke in this. It's quite a relaxing shot."

Smokey
 
LLO: Do you remember the first moment that made you approach a camera with creativity in mind?
AB: 
Looking back, I often approached photography that way, but wasn’t aware of it until I first looked through the lens of an SLR and realised it could reach those magical places a little happy-snappy camera simply can’t. I was probably 16. Bizarrely though, I only got my first manual SLR in 2003, and it’s like I’d found something that had been missing all my life. I only went digital a year ago, slow starter! Or just a bit of a purist.

"Vibrant greens always work great in photos."

Summer Leaves
 
LLO: What type of camera do you use and do you have a favourite lens?
AB:
 My manual film SLR is a Canon EOS 300 and I love it. We have a special relationship! The digital camera is a Nikon D70 and is slightly too big to hold comfortably. Anyway, it’s about the lens… my zoom lens is great for unobtrusive close-ups! Next on my shopping list is a good wide-angle lens, because it adds another dimension to what you’re photographing and is quite versatile in that respect. On my Canon I mostly use a standard 28-80mm lens, but like it nevertheless. Nothing should restrict you, and there’s always a way of making the most of what you have.

Green
 
LLO: Where in London is your favourite place to take your camera and why?
AB: 
The parks for flowers, lush colours and light. Open spaces that have a feeling of expansiveness and a big sky. At the other extreme, anywhere that feels real, undiluted, authentic – derelict and deserted places. A photo can capture beauty in almost anything.

"A pink tulip! Flowers are so beautiful."

Tulip Pink

LLO: Is there a place in London you would love to take photos but haven’t yet?
AB:
Yes, cemeteries. I wanted to do a kind of visual portrait of Coldplay’s ‘Cemeteries of London’ … find ghost towns in the ocean, and go walking at night until the breaking of the day, taking photos along the way. I’d happily find ghost towns on dry land, I’m not really into underwater photography at the moment! Although maybe that should be my answer: the Thames.

"I sort of prefer this one to the shot of the pink tulips, as I like the angle. However, an esteemed person who knows a lot about photography, reckons the pink tulip is a better shot, photographically speaking!! I suppose it has detail, whereas the red tulip photo is more about the whole composition. I kind of like both."

Tulip Red
LLO: Your Flickr collection “flowers, flames and sand” contains a lot of macro nature shots and vibrant colours. I’m also seeing a lot of music, travel and events photographed. How would you characterise your style?
AB:
Opportunistic! You grab your camera and head out. Sometimes with something in mind, more often not. It’s slightly different if you’re travelling and in a new place. In that case it’s one of the first things I do – head out on a kind of recon mission. It’s important to do this before anything else, as you get used to how new things look very quickly. If you wait a day, you will already miss small details. We’re surprisingly adaptive to new surroundings.

"My favourite shot!"

Windy Wellington
LLO: Which image are you most proud of and why?
AB: 
‘Windy Wellington’ (New Zealand). It took ages as it was so windy and I kept getting swept away! In the end I crouched down, sort of shielded. From that angle, it suddenly came together. From standing it wasn’t obvious. But then that’s the point: taking the time to find those things, like the lines that follow from the swaying wheat to the skyline in the distance. Things you probably wouldn’t pick up on if you were just walking by. A camera can be like a third eye, sort of spiritual and all-seeing, often finding something extraordinary or exquisite in what seems ordinary on the surface.

"Vibrant colours in a simple composition, and again the gentleness of the smoke. Taken in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, pre-digital! (2005)"

Incense
LLO: Favourite London-based artists?
AB: I’m not going to sound very original with this, but graffiti artists like Banksy, who can combine something edgy with a message, and make it beautiful. Who touch on issues we should be much less complacent about, but can bring a smile out at the same time. We should embrace our differences and be much less belligerent and not try and solve so much that is wrong in the world with violence.Grab your camera instead, and go find all the beautiful things that are out there.

"Taken on a beach in Cornwall, sitting on a sand dune while watching the sun set."

Thanks Annie!
 

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

London Art Spot: Christina Owen

  

This is Christina Owen: 26-year-old photographer and lover of Polaroids, her iPhone, taking pictures of herself in the mirror and interesting wallpaper, as you can see in her self-portrait down there. Self-taught, you’ll often see Christina breaking the “rules” of photography to come up with some unique shots and funky ideas for creative images. Her first experimental photos were taken in her own kitchen at the age of 21. Since then, she has worked all over the UK and travelled across America with an assortment of different cameras and an eye for colour and art found inside the mundane. She currently lives and works in good old London. 

Christina’s given up a bit of her time for this week’s London Art Spot to chat about the beauty of capturing simple moments before they are lost, exploring London with her camera and taking photos of strangers.  

Self Portrait, 2009   

LLO: How does living in London influence your creativity?
CO:
Living in Penge (London outskirts) doesn’t really influence my creativity at all, but when I get the train or bus into the centre I can’t stop the ideas flowing. It’s mostly the stuff I see on the streets – graffiti and signposts and shop fronts and architecture. And interesting looking people. Those are the things that make me want to pick up my camera.   

LLO: What type of camera do you use?
CO:
I’ll use anything that happens to be in my hand. At the moment I’m using a Nikon D40 with a standard kit lens, which is all I can afford (anyone who wants to buy me a Canon EOS 50D feel free!) but I use my iPhone a lot – I’ve got about a million photography apps. My favourite turns phone cam photos into Polaroids. I used to be surgically attached to my Polaroid cameras before they became obsolete. My favourite that I’ve used was a Canon EOS 5D with 25-70mm L lens but it was so very very heavy. 

"Taken in San Diego - after driving past it three days in a row I made my friend drive me back there specially and wait round the corner for half an hour while I shot this gigantic wall from different angles. I wish I'd found out who the artist was. It bothers me that I don't know."

 Lennon, 2007 

LLO: Favourite place in London to take photos and why?
CO:
Along the south bank, I go there with my camera all the time. The graffiti and skaters underneath the Royal Festival Hall, and the skyline along the river, and the London Eye, and the street performers outside the National Theatre. And then you go along a bit further east to Butler’s Wharf and there’s some lovely architecture. Then a quick detour to take photographs of the food stalls in Borough Market, and finish it off with a trip to the Tate Modern or the Design Museum.

"Taken on the South Bank in London - Moments like these I'm proud of because they were split-seconds that would have been lost forever had I not pointed my camera at them at the right moment. "

Sarah Looks Up, 2008   

LLO: Describe your style.
CO:
Colourful, unconventional, odd. I’m drawn to colour like a moth to a flame. And I don’t really stick to the rules. I’m the one shooting straight into the sun, or waiting until my subject looks away before I take their picture. And I’d much rather take photographs of whats going on out on the street than inside the studio. 
 
LLO: Somewhere in London you’d love to take a camera but never have?
CO: The Square Mile. There’s so much history there, I’d love to take my camera round all the hidden little parks and churches and old streetsigns and brickwork. I just haven’t got round to it yet. 
 
 

"Myself and some friends were walking through the underpass that goes under the road at Baker St Tube station. One of them joked that it was the perfect setting for some sort of gritty urban photograph, so I took a picture of my friend attempting to somersault off one of the walls. It was never going to work but it was made all the funnier by him crashing headfirst into it, everyone else watching, and the fact that the resulting photograph does look quite gritty and 'street'. From now on I will always pretend this photo wasn't set up."

Ouch, 2010

LLO: You’ve started working on a project to capture 100 strangers. Tell us a bit about that.
CO:
 Someone who’d posed for the 100 Strangers project for somebody else told me about it. I’d never heard of it. There’s a group on Flickr you join and you photograph 100 people you’ve never previously met and post the photos there along with their story and any details about the person you/they want to include. The idea is that it gets you used to approaching people you don’t know as a photographer. It builds confidence. I’ve only done it twice so far and both times I was terrified. Although the first one was an old man in a suit sitting on a park bench, and he pretty much volunteered himself. He saw me with my camera and shouted ‘over here! Point that camera this way!’ Up until that point I hadn’t been sure how to start the project so it was perfect really.
 
 

"A comedian about to go on stage in front of a large audience."

Mental Preparation, 2007 

LLO: How did you first become interested in photography?
CO:
After I left University, I was at a loose end and started taking still life photographs around the house with my mum’s ancient Kodak camera. Noone told me I was any good at it, I just thought one day ‘yeah, that’s not bad if I do say so myself’ and gradually people started agreeing with me. I bought some books and taught myself how to do it. 
  
 

"I put a whole bunch of photos of my feet in different places around the world on display at an exhibition in Spitalfields, London, and people were walking up to them and staring for ages and then saying 'can you explain the significance of these?' I was like 'No. I would have thought it was obvious'. And they'd walk off shaking their head and saying it wasn't art. So I guess it wasn't obvious."

Exhibition Feet, 2008

LLO: Favourite London-based artists?
CO:
All my favourite London based artists are my friends. Very few of them have web sites of their own though which is infuriating – I can’t show you what they’ve done. I know photographs and fine artists and illustrators and digital animators and they’re all extremely talented. And of course, your photographs – can I include you? Is that allowed?
* Christopher Miller, Designer & Illustrator: http://www.kirkicdesign.com/index.htm
* David Stevenson, Illustrator and Animator: http://www.david-stevenson.com/
* Sheldon K. Goodman, Designer & Illustrator – http://www.sheldonkgoodman.daportfolio.com/
* Giada Garofalo, Photographer – http://www.flickr.com/photos/giadagarofalo/

LLO: Which image are you most proud of and why?
CO:
I can’t pick just one! I’m proud of so many of my photos for so many different reasons, but I’m always scared other people will look at them and go ‘why? Its a photo of your feet?’ I’m proud of some of the portraits I’ve taken because if I hadn’t pointed my camera at someone at exactly the right time, those moments would have been lost forever. I’m proud of the first ‘creative’ photograph I ever took, which was of some Ikea bottle stoppers in front of a skyline.

“The first photograph I took that I actually thought about first. It doesn’t look like much but to this day I still love it.”

Bottle Stoppers, 2005  
 

Thanks Christina!
 For more of Christina’s work, have a look at her Flickr page.

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

 

London Art Spot: Kathy Archbold

Self-Portrait

Photographer Kathy Archbold was born in Essex, but has spent most of her life in London. After a foundation art course at Harlow she attended Newport Art School in South Wales, which, she said, was only really notable by the attendance of a student dropout called ‘Woody’ – who later became Joe Strummer.

After her fair share of bartending during college, she found a job painting faces at a mannequin company. A few years later, she left to run a stall in Kensington Market, but because the skill she picked up painting mannequins is so peculiar, she continues to take on freelance work today. In 1983, Kathy relocated to New York to train mannequin artists. She returned to London in 1987 and has remained, in various parts of the city, ever since.

Derelict House
 
LLO: Tell us a bit about your background as a photographer.
KA:
Although I’ve done quite a lot of illustration work, I always thought of myself as a pretty rubbish photographer. I knew how I wanted my pictures to look, but never got to grips with the technical aspects of [photography] or owned a decent camera and getting a film back was always a real disappointment. I only actually joined Flickr as a good way of keeping in touch with a pal who moved to Australia. But in doing so, I discovered that with digital and Photoshop, I could maybe alter my images to look the way I intended. I know a lot of people are opposed to any form of photo editing, and I’m not always a fan of what I call ‘The Science Fiction Look’, but I can say quite honestly that no one would even notice my pictures, especially when I started, if I hadn’t or didn’t edit them. Through Flickr, I discovered a lot of photographers whose work I really admired, and have been trying to emulate ever since, with varied results! I know Photoshop is open to much misuse and abuse, and neither is it quick or easy to learn. There’s a temptation to do something just because you can, and if I look at my earlier images, they often look overdone to me now. But four years on, I’m still learning, and although I am now experimenting with toy and vintage film cameras to get the look I want, My digital point and shoot remains constantly with me at all times, and has still produced most of my favourite photos. 
 

Roupell Street, SE1

LLO: How does London influence your creativity?
KA:
I think I’m definitely a city person, and what I miss about London if I leave is a certain diversity you don’t really get anywhere else. On the tube the other day, I sat opposite a Japanese girl wearing a flat cap, Jimi Hendrix T shirt, and talking to a friend about an Indian meal in a Manchester accent.

The John Snow, Broadwick Street W1
 
LLO:  This set of photos is called Scuzzy London. What criteria do you consider to decide if a photo falls into this category?
KA: Definitely things that fall outside the tourist category, off the beaten track that maybe not everyone would notice, although its actually not about ugliness. I just find them more interesting, beautiful, or even humorous. A lot of the things I include are no longer there when I go back, so its also a bit of an affectionate document of my personal history with the place. I think cities suffer sometimes from being too gentrified and expensive, and all need a bit of sleaze and danger. When things get too expensive, and creative people can’t afford to live or work there, it all becomes very boring. Look at New York now – safer, but no one could say its anywhere near as exciting as it once was.
 
Salvador Dali’s Bike
 
LLO: How long have you lived in London?
KA
: I first moved here in 1972. Although I left in ’83, so it hasn’t been consistent. But I’ve remained here now since 1987.
 
Covent Garden WC1
  
LLO: What type of camera do you use?
KA:
 A Panasonic Lumix TZ2 – a point & shoot. I’ve had it about 3 years, and although there are times now when I’d like a big serious ‘proper’ camera, its just so damn handy to carry around, has a great 10x zoom and people don’t notice it. As I quite like a ‘vintage’ look, I’ve also got some toy/old film cameras like a Diana Mini, Holga, Viv, etc. I just got a seconhand Lomo lca which I’m really looking forward to using, but the Panasonic is still the one I use most. 

Strand Station: closed in 1994, now a photobooth

LLO: Which image in the Scuzzy London set are you most proud of and why?
KA: That changes, but I think maybe this one. I was scared the cat would run of before I took it, but it has a lot of elements I like, and the the little Winston Churchill in the shop window just makes it for me somehow.
Model
 
LLO: Which area of London is your favourite for taking photos?
KA: I live very near the Southbank, so do take a lot of pictures there, although its one of the most over photographed areas I still seem to find something. But what’s so great about london is that no matter how well you think you know it, you can always find some area or something you’ve never seen, and when this happens, that’s my favourite! I just set off somewhere and walk, and have the whole of London at my disposal!
 
Kilburn High Road
 
Thanks Kathy!
 
Check out Kathy’s work on Flickr, Etsy or Red Bubble.
 
NOTE: All images are copyright Kathy Archbold. Please do not use without strict written permission.
 

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.