Black and Whites from Alejandro Ilukewitsch

I’m so excited about all the new Flickr pool contributors lately. Here’s a warm welcome to and a few photos added by Alejandro Ilukewitsch. Loving the black and white street photography, the element of everyday life. Alejandro is from Sao Paolo, Brazil.

Whole-Frame-(33)

Whole-Frame-(30)

Whole-Frame-(27)

Whole-Frame-(26)

These were shot on film on a Leica M6 plus Voigtlander 28mm 2.0, film Ilford HP5 ASA400.

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Listen to a Londoner: Kirsty Allison

Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview with a Londoner – someone who lives in this city, born here or elsewhere. If you’re up for being interviewed, email littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk.

Kirsty Allison
Image by Kelli Ali

Novelist, film producer, fashionista, rock n’ roll queen, journalist, Ibiza party girl, teacher, DJ, editor, stylist, poet, traveller and, most importantly, born and bred Londoner, this is Kirsty Allison…

LLO: As a born and bred Londoner, what are the biggest changes you’ve seen over the years? Anything in particular you miss?
KA: I used to frequent a goth club called the William Morris in Wimbledon, I drank snakebite and black, and pretended to be an art student before I became one.  I was thirteen or fourteen.  I’d like to take a time machine back to those times, and have a talk with myself.  London will always have speakeasys and people trying to fight the powers that they think restrict them, it’s the nature of British culture, thankfully, like the city itself, it’s all about contrasts.  The best advice I got at primary school was being told to look up – at buildings…there’s more sky around London than there used to be – rooftop bars, penthouses, I like feeling elevated, rather than suppressed by the towering infernos of our city, although they inspire me.

Image by Kelli Ali

LLO: Which area of London are you most familiar with? Write us a mini-poem about why it rocks.
KA: Shoreditch, is my bitch, She’s the devil to my itch, Roaming there, my artistic lair, Makes my teenage dreams fall fair.  The seen it all before they were twelve year olds, or the enthusiastic old boys and girls, We’re hunting for where we lost our souls, and this is where I like to roll.

LLO: You’ve challenged yourself to wear a different outfit every day for a year. If you were to do it again next year, which five London shops would you hit first to build up your wardrobe?
KA: I’d drop by Fiona Doran’s (aka Mrs Jones) Emporium on St John’s Street. She’s an alma mater who’s guided me like a lady with a lamp in her dress for years.  Beatrix Ong has recently opened a shop in Sloane Street, she knocks class and sex into heels.  I collect Alexander McQueen, so it’s hard to think of a wardrobe without some of his original pieces.  The Vivienne Westwood shop at World’s End features clothes she’s sewn herself.  The Shop below Maison Bertaux in Soho is great, and I love Kokon Tozai.  Off Broadway rocks, set up by the divine Donna Kernan.  Concept stores like http://www.ln-cc.com and Dover Street Market…I could go on…Liberty’s is a pleasure to shop in…whoops, how many was that?!

Image by Gaynor Perry

LLO: Ambit just featured an excerpt from your first novel Medicine and you made the cover! You’ve got three sentences to sell your book. Ready, go…
KA: So tough to compress a work into a small space, but, it’s set in 90’s Shoreditch in an exclusive scene where fashion and music industry myths are accepted as truth.  It’s rock n roll to the max, following the downward social adventures of a fashion designer who starts managing a band, Chernobyl, fronted by a male model.  As their fate becomes stardom, she travels from Ibiza to Paris and a world tour, letting her fashion designs become increasingly bonkers.  It’s a funny tale which makes people cry.  I’ve been working on it for 15 years…

LLO: You’ve been a celebrity stylist and a model, coming across some influential names in the fashion industry. Which up-and-coming London-based designers should we keep an eye on?
KA: Louise Amstrup. Holly Fulton. Elliot Atkinson. James Long. SD Yohans.

LO: Best London discovery?
KA: Churches and graveyards are always good value.

LLO: I’m in London for one night and want to veer off the tourist trail for some food and drink. Any fabulous recommendations?
KA: I like La Trompette in Chiswick, I’ve taken my mum there.  The Seven Stars, off Fleet Street behind the law courts is entertaining, it’s proper characterful landlady stuff.  If you want to keep it cheap, C&R on Rupert Court does a good Singapore Laksa, and follow it with a few drinks at The Coach & Horses in Soho, where every table has served me as an office.  Cay Tre on Old Street is always busy, but if you like Vietnamese it never disappoints.  Lemonia on Regents Park Road.  Wholefoods Market is a palace.  Cecconi’s is proper Jackie Collins territory.  A curry in Southall. There are always new places everywhere.

Image by Kelli Ali

LLO: In the late 90s, you were DJ-ing internationally with the likes of Kris Needs, Irvine Welsh and Howard Marks including a residency at Manumission Motel in Ibiza. Where’s your favourite place in London to party the weekend away?
KA: The party is where you’re at.  Aside from that, The Sanctum Hotel in Soho is cool.  Quintessentially is fun.  The lure of a private member’s bar is something I fall victim to but I love a decent bass, and there are so many warehouse parties going on again, it’s easy to get lost partying.

LLO: Tantric Tourists is one of your latest creative projects. Tell is a bit about what inspired it. Any London screenings or events scheduled?
KA: Tantric Tourists follows a self-proclaimed guru as she escorts 10 American students on a quest for enlightenment across India.  It’s a comedy road movie.  The director, Alexander Snelling, and I first met the guru, Laurie Handlers, in India where she was “whirling on the beach”.  We did a test shoot at a workshop she was hosting in Primrose Hill and cracked up at the rushes.  It was too good a story to turn down.

It goes on limited release from Valentine’s Day.  The DVD is available with a discount by becoming a fan on Facebook.  More info: www.tantrictourists.com

LLO: Do you have a favourite London-based book or a great bookshop to recommend – one of those cosy ones with the slightly musty basement smell or great in-house coffee shop?
KA: This is mainstream but I used to like Borders, they had chairs, it was an easy place to get lost in. Waterstones in Piccadilly does a good job, as does Foyles (if only the Westfield rates weren’t so high they’d still have a second floor).  There are many indie shops doing a great job. Broadway Books is hitting the mark. And my local library has a cafe in it, long may it last.  The Daunts in Marylebone is great because it has all these wonderful wooden bannisters, and they are so excellent at travel books.  Judd Street Books is lovely for art books and oddities, towards Bloomsbury from Kings Cross.  The Oxfam bookshops are always great.  The customer service in Hatchards is good. I love a good bookshop, I clear my head by walking through them, flicking through those who manage to hold their fort on the shelves.  The Espresso Machine is a concept I’m excited about – it’s so called because in the time of a coffee you can order whatever book you desire in whatever paper you choose – so if I wanted Lolita in baby pink, Bob the Paedo is my uncle…(almost) any bookshop or library is serving the future of England a favour.

Image by Laurence Tarquin Von Thomas

Thanks Kirsty!

For more on Kirsty’s fascinating life, lookie here: www.kirstyallison.com

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.

London Art Spot: Cordelia Donohoe

 

Meet Cordelia: Filmmaker, photographer, feminist. A woman with a most interesting background who has lived with the titles of hippy runaway, punk rocker and rude girl before a stint as a camerawoman on BBC News and some time spent making films and documentaries in between.  

Her work as a portrait photographer – particularly a project focussing on London’s many escorts and prostitutes – has influenced her latest artistic study of an “inner distortion that a woman goes through in order to commodify herself.”  

She’s taken a bit of time out to answer some questions for this week’s London Art Spot. Read on to hear about Cordelia’s experience of being photographed nude for the sake of her art, the way she uses photography to help her deal with her mother’s failing health and how her latest exhibition “Peeping Tom” explores the topic of voyeurism. She’s also shared her short film, “The Occupants”.     

Distortions Through a Pimp's Lens 1

 

LLO: How does living in London influence your creativity?
CD:
 I’ve lived in London all my life and since I was a small child I have been affected by the diverse influences – cultural, social, etc –  that I have seen around me. My parents were antique dealers and they started out in Portobello Market. As a child and teenager I spent every single weekend there. It was a place of hippies, punks, indie bands, carnival as well as antiques, wealth and consoisseurship. It was an extraordinary and exciting place and I remember walking down the road at say 12 or 13 years and just staring at everyone and everything, taking it all in. That is what London is for me  – a melting pot of everything. One’s senses and preconceptions are assailed every day. There are always new ideas to be had. Sometimes it gets too much and you have to hide away to develop those ideas. I have lived in almost every part of London and now since I concentrate on making art, I’m poorer than when I worked in broadcasting and I live in Tottenham right on the River Lee. I’m between rural beauty and intense poverty with a city regeneration programme going on. It is a time of big changes and it is exciting. There is a sense of community here unlike other affluent or inner city areas. I would much rather be living here than in some established suburban area. I feel as if I’m part of something. And the river and reservoirs are just so beautiful.  

Distortions Through a Pimp's Lens 2

 

LLO: Tell us about your project put together especially for the See You Next Tuesday festival.
CD:
 The photographs on show at the New Players Theatre are part of a larger project I did about escorts in London, of which there are thousands. London has been described as saturated in prostitution by the Poppy Project, who undertake research in that industry. Escorting is basically prostitution with a ‘nice’ name and like lap or pole dancing has almost become normalised. As a portrait photographer, girls started coming to me for lingerie type shots to advertise themselves on the internet. I felt very weird about it and used these shoots and my interactions with the girls to question several things. In the process of constructing glamour photographs, you make a woman a “sight” and a commodity. This took me on a journey of looking at the history of the female nude and the pin-up photograph and from that I made a body of work using some of those portrait sessions with text asking questions about what the viewer is seeing. In the V-Day exhibition, I used photographs which came from me going myself to a pimp with a photo studio. She took nude photographs of me which I distorted and reworked to express something of the inner distortion that a woman goes through in order to commodify herself. There are also some other photographs in the show which came from my befriending one particular girl who retreated into some sort of fantasy world about being an angel or a fairy; I think in order to cope psychologically with what I believe can be a very traumatic experience. To be an other-worldly creature is to be able to transform things, to have a certain magical power. To be a prostitute is to somehow be transformed into a person outside the normal body of society, to be an outcast of sorts. I thought there was an interesting connection and dialogue between those ideas.   

Distortions Through a Pimp's Lens 3

 

 LLO: Your biography on the website starts like this:
“Born in 1965
Hippy runaway in the early 70s
Punk rocker in the mid 70s
Rude girl by the early 80s”
How does this background shape your film and photography today?
  
CD: Gosh, that is a big question. I think being some sort of rebel has made me ask questions and doubt official answers. I have always wanted to go deeper and look at the underside of things. But I am always amazed that actually there are no answers, it’s the process that is everything. Every project I undertake has no real end point; it is always the beginning of a long process of thought and questioning that then mutates into new questions. I do not really consider myself to be a photographer in the classic sense, I would rather call myself an artist who uses photography. I do strange things to conventional photographs, sometimes using found photographs, or I bring in disparate objects to make sculpture with them. All this goes beyond producing that ‘perfect shot’.     

In My Father's House, Girl in the Wallpaper 

LLO: Your current show, Peeping Tom, at Vegas Gallery in Bethnal Green is “exploring the notion of voyeurism and what art has to do with prying.” How does your art explore these ideas? 
CD:
 I am looking at the notion of looking from a woman’s point of view. I do not use photographs in the conventional sense. I want to get beyond what we might understand as prurient voyeurism to look at subjectivity and identity.   

The photograph I used for that show came from a shot of an escort in my father’s house. My father was very ill and I was looking after him. I was thinking deeply about my relationship to him and my status as a daughter and a woman when I took that photograph. In the picture I merged her into the wallpaper and wrote all over her. I was thinking of the quote from the bible. “My father’s house has many rooms, and I will take you to be with me, so that you can be where I am”. Here, I’m turning the father-son thing upside-down in looking at how a prostitute is actually the same as me or as any woman. She can never be a ‘prostitute’ to me, but only a reflection of my own womanliness.    

LLO: What piece of photography are you most proud of and why?
CD:
 I don’t really feel proud of photographs in that sense because as soon as you achieve one thing it’s onto the next challenge. But the photograph I most love is a recent photograph of my mother that came out as a double exposure by mistake, when I used an old-fashioned plate camera.  I put the plate in twice. When the image slowly formed on the paper in the chemical bath in the darkroom, I felt such massive emotion. My mother has Alzheimer’s and she is slowly forgetting everything. To me that photograph says something very poignant about that. Something about the dream of life, about letting go, about finding peace.     

 
LLO: Which short film are you most proud of and why?
CD:
Im most proud of the short film The Occupants, which is a portrait of the people I lived with in a squat in the 90s. I was quite judgmental of some of those eccentric types, but making the film made me appreciate and like them and find us all very funny.   

    

LLO: There’s a lot of talk these days about film and other digital work eventually replacing photography. Other people argue that photography will always have a place. Where do you stand in that conversation, being someone who is involved in both mediums?
CD:
I don’t think the moving image will replace the still image. They are different beings. The moving image involves time and sound, which are other dimensions. Old fashioned emulsion film has a wonderful feel to it and a nostalgia that will always have a place in my heart, but perhaps this is because I was born in the film age. I don’t know if younger more digital generations will have this attachment to it.  If you are talking about still photographs, well photographs are not truth; they are a reflection whether on emulsion or in digital signals of something that may have once existed and they often rely on context or need other information for their power. Chemical photographs have always been manipulated and changed, just think of the fashion in fake séance photographs in the 19th Century, or the Loch Ness Monster sightings. What has really changed is the ease of using and manipulating digital photographs. Anyone with a computer can do it, and the general public trust less and less the truth status of the photograph. I think it is a good thing, I like the democratization of the image, particularly via the internet and we should always take images with a pinch of salt. As for the look of them, digital images can have a more bright and contrasty aesthetic. But technology means that you can make digital look like film. Printing technology is so advanced, most people can’t tell the difference nor do they really care.   

Nadja - First Portrait Session

 

LLO: A lot of your work centres around certain projects, theories, stories, fictions, etc. It seems very driven by exploration of specific ideas. Can you talk about where your inspiration comes from?
CD:
I think at heart it comes from my burning questions about who we are and why we live the lives we live, what is important to us and what we love. We make up stories to make this time we have on the earth understandable, workable and bearable. Sometimes those stories work and sometimes they don’t. I’m talking about gender identity, society, religion, love and work – the biggies. Film and photography have a place in these constructs, we’ve been brought up with them, and that is why I use them to question these things.  

Both my parents were outsiders; we were a very small nuclear family. I did not grow up with certainty about who we were, with a large network of family or relations to bolster that so I guess my sense of family history and identity was limited and has caused me to be so inquisitive   

Nadja as Fairy

 

LLO: Where is your favourite place in London to take your camera?
CD:
At my parents house, I love taking photographs of my mother. Perhaps it’s because I’m trying to keep hold of her. I don’t know. Of course they won’t do this, but photographs of her affect me so deeply and I know that I will cherish them for the rest of my life.  I don’t think I would use them for an art project as I don’t have enough distance on them and perhaps never will.      

Thanks Cordelia!  

For more of Cordelia’s work, check out her website: http://www.lifelikepictures.co.uk/  

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.     

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Postman’s Park

Films based in London always capture my interest, especially when they are set in locations I haven’t seen yet. That’s how I discovered the small Postman’s Park near St. Paul’s station. The park contains Watt’s Memorial, the place where the characters played by Jude Law and Natalie Portman begin to fall in love in the movie Closer. The memorial commemorates selfless acts of fatal heroism with a series of plaques detailing the situation in which the death occurred. One of these people is Alice Ayres – immortalised both in the park in as the name of Portman’s character.

When I saw the park in the film, I thought it looked serene and a bit secret – set in the middle of the city. A few days after seeing the film, I found it and was right. Here’s a few photos I took while I was there:

Film Screening: Mrs. Goundo’s Daughter

FORWARD will be screening the film Mrs. Goundo’s Daughter next Monday as part of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence campaign.

The film tells the story of a African mother in the US who tries to save her daughter from the tradition of female genital mutilation (FGM) – something that happened to her as a child and would surely happen to her daughter if they were sent home. She is from Mali where up to 85% of females suffer through clitoral excision.

I wrote an article back in March for Seven Magazine which goes into more detail about the practice of FGM.

Date: 7 December 2009
Time: 6:30 – 9:30
Cost: Free, but reserve a ticket.
Place: Amnesty International UK, The Human Rights Action Centre, 17-25 New Inn Yard, London EC2A 3EA

LINKS

Mrs. Goundo’s Daughter

FORWARD

Female genital cutting

Amnesty International UK