Six Days Away

I’m off to Dublin for a week, partly for work, partly for fun and partly for TBEX, but I will update when I return.

Since it’s payday for most of us in London, if you’re feeling generous please do sponsor my first solo photography exhibition. There’s some cool rewards for backers as you’ll see here, and you can give as little or as much as you like as a pledge. If you enjoy LLO and can spare $5 to help me out, you rock and I’ll owe you a glass of champagne on opening night. Seriously, even $5 will make a difference. It can be your good deed for the day! And thank you to those of you who already have.

Here is the kickstarter page link. You just have to click the green “back this project” button on the right and put in a few details. Donations won’t come out of your account till October 24 and and only if I reach my goal… Help a London blogger out?

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/140183162/little-city-observations-photography-exhibition-in

Here’s a photo of The Chance Gallery in Chelsea where my exhibition, Little City Observations, will be held November 11-17. Mark your calendars.

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There will be an opening night on the 11th, but I’m also thinking about organising an LLO meet up the night of the 12th so you can all come by and keep me company. I’d love to meet all of you if I could! Let me know if you’d be interested in a comment and I’ll see about organising it.

Here’s one more photo before I go. This is street artist Paul “DON” Smith with one of my prints that features a piece of his street art in East London. He’s painting a mural on the wall of a new cafe we’re opening at work today and was proud to pose next to this print for me. It will feature in my exhibition and hopefully “DON” will pop in and say hello on opening night too.

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Have a great week everyone! I’ll update mid-next week. In the meantime, keep an eye on Little Observationist. There still some posts lined up on my new blog through this week.

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My First Solo Photography Exhibition

I have some really cool news to share with you guys today – I have been offered space at The Chance Gallery in Chelsea to hold my first solo photography exhibition this November! So excited!

Little City Observations^ ^ ^ PIN ME, PLEASE! ^ ^ ^

There will be lots of London images, printed on canvas, as well as a few from my travels to other cities. The exhibition will be called Little City Observations.

To raise the cost of printing and the gallery fee, I’ve created a little Kickstarter page and it would be really really wonderful if any of you are able to sponsor me, or even just share the link on Facebook, Twitter, or in a blog post!

There’s some fun rewards (coasters, postcards, prints, notebooks) for anyone who can toss a few pounds my way. It would really mean a lot if you could support me in some way.

Here’s a little video, and there’s plenty more about the rewards and other fun details on the Kickstarter page.

If you haven’t used Kickstarter before, know that if you do donate to my creative cause, it wouldn’t come off of your card until October 24 and only if I am fully funded by then.

So, what do you say? Make my day, support LLO and sponsor my first exhibition? I’ll owe you a drink or two at the opening night event and a huge THANK YOU!!

London Art Spot: John Dolan

John and George

If you’re a Shoreditch regular, you’ll recognise John Dolan and his dog George. They’re out on the streets of London every day, John drawing, George keeping him company and watching the world go by. John’s been chronicling the changing cityscape of this area in his sketchpad for three years now and is a Londoner through and through.

As the Hackney Citizen points out, John’s had a bit of a rough past, in and out of Pentonville Prison over the years for petty crime and often homeless. His drawings have since been sold for as much as £15,000. He has recently collaborated with some of the biggest names in street art to produce a series of work for an exhibition at the Howard Griffin Gallery next month.

Below he tells us a bit about some of the artists he’s been working with, shares a story about George the dog and leaves us with a thought to carry through the rest of the day.

Shoreditch High Street (photo - Rob Weir)

LLO: Start by telling us a bit about yourself, your background and your interests.
JD: My name is John Dolan. I was born in Hackney Hospital on June 8th 1971. I grew up in Islington. I love art. I’m a big fan of Gilbert and George, Jackson Pollock, Robert Crumb, and I love Stik’s work. I’m a big music fan; I love Springsteen. I’m a big boxing fan. I’m a Gemini and I’m 42 years of age.

Thierry Noir & ROA collaboration with John Dolan

LLO: For the past few years, you’ve been hanging out around Shoreditch drawing this area of London. What do you hope to communicate through your work?
JD: Basically what I want to communicate through my work is London. I like the grimy look of London (in parts) and especially the street art you have in London, which is on the grimy parts.

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LLO: You’ve collaborated with some of the best street artists around for your exhibition at the Howard Griffin Gallery. Who are they? Who have you most enjoyed working with on this project? Why?
JD: For the collaborations I’ve done I’ve worked with more than 30 artists. ROA was the first one. Thierry Noir, RUN, Stik, Zomby, MadC (the best lady graffiti artist), BRK, Dscreet, Malarky; there’s loads to name. The best one for me, the most technical artist out of the lot of them is probably ROA, who I admire and respect hugely.

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LLO: Why should we stop in to check out your exhibition?
JD: Well some of the best street artists in the world have checked me out and got on board with this project. Surely that answers your question! The theme is Shoreditch, the regeneration of the city and the incredible street art that’s going on around here. There’s around 50 of my street pieces, of George and the buildings on Shoreditch High Street, and about 25 of the big pieces with collaborations by the street artists. Then there’s about 4 or 5 big originals of different buildings on the street and around the area.

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LLO: Tell us a bit about your drawing technique.
JD: I use pilot pen, blind drawing. I take the pen straight to the paper; I rarely use pencil. I like the grimy looking and old buildings. I spend up to six weeks drawing the big pieces, and the small building drawings that I sell on the High Street take up to two hours.

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LLO: We want to know more about George. How long have you had him? What’s his personality like? Tell us a little story about something he did that was memorable.
JD: I was living in temporary accommodation in the Tower Hill area, and at Christmas I always put homeless people up because of the cold weather conditions and because Christmas is a really depressing time of the year for them guys. I was putting up a couple one particular year and they already had a dog. These two guys were beggars, and whilst they were out on the street some mad Scotsman sold them George for the price of a strong can of lager. They then came to my house with George.  In the meantime they were offered a place in a hostel. They couldn’t take two dogs, so they offered me George, who I took on.

I’ve had George for six years. I’ve trained him to the max. I have arthritis in my ankle and in the winter I’m on crutches and I can’t walk. George is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, he’s got that fighting instinct and he can be a bit of a little git at times. So I’ve trained him to the extent that he listens to every command and obeys every word. I sit on Shoreditch High Street Friday and Saturday nights when people have got drink inside them. They can be quite abusive, and when people that are quite abusive come walking towards me I’ve only got to raise my hand and point towards them and George will start to bark at them. I don’t even have to give him a command, I just point in their direction and he’ll start to bark. That generally keeps the nutters away from me and the people that have had too much to drink.

George’s personality, well he’s a very wise dog; he’s got great wisdom in his eyes. He looks like he’s been around for longer than he actually has. Me and George are meant to be together, I can’t explain it but its kind of destiny that has brought us together. The dog has brought me incredibly good luck. He’s become a part of Shoreditch, everyone knows him. They know his name before they know my name. George is engrained on Shoreditch just as much as I am. George has become a legend in the past few years since I’ve been around Shoreditch. I love him to bits, and he’s my universe. What more can I say? 

ROA detail

LLO: As a born and bred Londoner, what changes have you seen in the city in general over the years?
JD: I’ve lived in London all my life. I grew up in Islington and saw the changes there. Years ago, Shoreditch used to have a very big Bangladeshi community. They’re moving out now as the area regenerates itself and becomes very middle class. I’m very working class, but the middle classes are bringing a great vibe to the area. It’s great round Shoreditch now, as opposed to twenty years ago.

John Dolan x Malarky

LLO: When you think of Shoreditch, what’s the first thing that comes to mind in each of the following categories:
JD:
Sight:
The beauty of the people, the fashion, the street art and the street life.
Smell: The different restaurants with their excellent smells of food beaming out of them.
Taste: I like Dishoom and the Argentinian steak sandwiches across the road.
Texture: The texture for me is my big fat arse sat up on the hard concrete pavement of Shoreditch High Street.
Sound: The music wafting out of the clubs and the laughter and happiness of people enjoying their nights out.

Noir, Zomby, BRK, RUN

LLO: Tell us about one or two random but memorable interactions you’ve had while working on your drawings.
JD: There are two amazing things that happened to me on the street. One was being published in Shoreditch Unbound alongside Tracy Emin and Gilbert and George, the first two months of me sitting on Shoreditch High Street. I was sat there drawing one Saturday afternoon when two guys approached me and commissioned me for the book.

The other is when the rock band Heavens Basement bought a piece and took it onto Lauren Laverne’s Radio 1 show. I got a big shout out.

John Dolan with Stik

LLO: If you could leave Londoners with one thought to carry through the rest of the day, what would it be?
JD: Treat others how you expect to be treated yourselves, bastards!

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You can see John’s work at the Howard Griffin Gallery from 19-26 September (10am-6pm), 189-190 Shoreditch High Street E1 6HU.

Photography Exhibition Launch Event at The Society Club

Yelp put on a lovely event last night to launch the group exhibition of 24 Soho photos that will be featured at The Society Club until the 10th of June. It’s an interesting venue and made CNN Travel’s list of 10 most interesting shops in London.

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Four of my photos (below) are in the exhibition. Two (the green wall in Chinatown and the black and white alleyway shot) are blown up quite big – one upstairs, one downstairs. The other two are smaller, back to back in the front window – one facing in and one facing out.

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The Society Club will be selling 25 prints of each (not sure about prices), the proceeds of which will go to the Soho School in London, so a great cause! If they run out, you can also find the black and white alleyway shot and the green Chinatown photo in my Etsy shop, Photo Larks.

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There were some 250 people on the guest list, so it’s a good thing they decided to set up tents in the space next to The Society Club as well.

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It filled up and spilled out on to the street.

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I brought along some of my closest friends to help me celebrate.

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There was a bit of guitar playing and a guy in a bright red cape who I didn’t manage to photograph.

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There were free burritos and cupcakes.

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There were free drinks of many types, including a beer tasting table downstairs.

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And bubble tea, which I remember fondly from my teenage years but was not quite appealing anymore. We each had one and it was fun for a while, but they were admittedly abandoned.

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When it got a bit chilly outside we went back indoors for a while. Yelp balloons everywhere. Free promo stuff. Lots of people. That’s my black and white print at the top right.

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They even had strawberries and cream smelling balloons…

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The books usually sold by The Society Club were still around the edges.

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All in all, a bit over the top with all the promotional stuff going on, but it was a fun time! If you’re in Soho between now and June 10, pop in to The Society Club, browse their book selection and check out the exhibition. A few shops down on the same street is Ginger & White, a fabulous little place for tea and cake!

A Stroll Through Soho and an Exhibition at The Society Club

The news came through the other day that four of my Soho photo will be featured on the walls of The Society Club from this Friday, May 10, for about a month. Very exciting!

The images were chosen from some submissions to Yelp’s contest to capture this area of London. Any sales go to The Soho School. Stop by if you can. The Society Club made it onto CNN Travel’s list of 10 of the most interesting shops in London. We popped in there a few weeks ago when we were to Ginger & White and it’s definitely eccentric with a quirky mix of books on the shelves lining the walls, a long table in the middle and a small gallery space downstairs. There is also a resident dog that hangs out inside. Stop down and check it out if you get a chance. There should be 24 photos of the area in the exhibition, I believe.
One for the diary! (The Society Club, 12 Ingestre Place Soho, W1F 0JF). 

And now for some photos from the walk Jorge and I took around the once-much-seedier streets of Soho. These aren’t the photos in the exhibition (except one and I’m not going to tell you which…). I loved that this fish & chips joint is called the Dining Plaice. A little creativity in a shop name goes a long way! Reminds me of The Codfather.

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We walked through Berwick Street Market, which is small but still vibrant with the few stalls that are left and the creative shops on their side of the street. In the 60s, this street was the place to buy records from independent shops.

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The music scene has been replaced by fruits, vegetables and vintage clothes now and there were a few street photographers scattered around against the walls waiting for a good shot.

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I took photos of a few colourful shop fronts because I liked the names or the colours. Soho is still one of London’s eccentric areas and it attracts a creative and trendy crowd as well as a steady stream of tourists.

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Flowers were for sale in quite a few places as well, outside shops like the one above, or from vendors working a market stall like the one below. Some of these stalls have likely been passed through families as the market has established in the 18th century.

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A little taste of Soho fashion in that one up there as well. And looking up can be key, as my dad says to do in this city. You never know what you might see, like this here roof garden and funky green tiles.

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The Market leads into Walkers Court, a little alleyway.

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There’s not so much left of London’s sex industry for which this area was the main hub. It still is, but there’s no obvious prostitution on the streets as there was once upon a time. It’s mainly closed up in flats now, indicated by signs that say “model” on street level doorways.

Walkers Court has a few sex shops selling vibrators, whips and DVDs, private dance clubs for a good old striptease and plenty of Viagara advertisements.

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From there, we made out way to Soho Square, with its French church, nearby Hare Krishna temple, the British Board of Film Classification and Paul McCartney’s MLP Communications company.  In the 1700’s it was home to The White House which was called a “high class magical brothel”…

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There’s a small cottage at the center of the square which was an air raid shelter during the Blitz.

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Not sure if they are still there, but there was a series of sculptures by Bruce Denny in one corner of the square.

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We sat on a bench in the park people watching for a while, enjoying the nice weather.

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We had a little wander through Chinatown, where you can get a massage and dinner in the same building…

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I found a splash of colour and made Jorge do a bit of modelling for me.

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And then we had a tea and cake in Ginger & White, which I loved and wrote about already so I won’t bore you with any more photos. At the end of that same street is The Society Club which the photo exhibition I wrote about above will be held. We couldn’t help but scope it out. If there’s poetry on a board outdoors, that’s always a good start.

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We ended up exploring the little basement gallery.

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On our way back home, we wandered through the back alleyways.

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Sometimes my favourite photographs to take are the simplest ones – little splashes of colour and textures that are tempting to touch.

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And, of course, street art, like this Invader piece that’s been in Soho for what seems like forever.

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We walked back through the throngs of tourists on Carnaby Street.

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And I played a bit of the tourism game outside of Liberty just for fun. When in Rome, right?

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Speaking of Liberty, it’s a bit of an institution around here and well worth a visit, particularly the first floor which sells expensive but nice things (and they’re one of only a few shops that stock French brand Sessun, which I love) and the top floor which often gets skipped over but they have some amazing furniture and home decor as well as the brand RE, in a little room of its own, where they sell “raRE, REmarkable, REcycled, REscued and REstored homewares and accessories”.

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The old building itself is stunning with its natural light, beautiful wood floors and high ceilings.

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Love their creative plant displays!

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And the spray-painted shopping baskets in RE are pretty fabulous too.

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Do you spend much time in Soho? If so, where’s your favourite place to hang out?