Monday 29 May 2023


If you're not already aware of Taschen books then I can't recommend their Icons series highly enough. Fascinating collections that curate art, architecture, pop culture, music, photography, literature - essentially, all the touchstones I've been exploring in this blog during the last thirteen years. And then some.

A couple of weeks ago the perennial hot potato regarding the is it porn/is it burlesque? question came up. Now I don't really know where glamour ends and pornography begins, all I do know is that there are some classic saucy forays into the world of pin-ups covered in the book I'm holding above. I've captured a couple of snapshots from it below; obviously they come from a far more innocent time i.e. the 1950s - the end of World War 2 was closer than it was to the start of feminism and magazine publishers could see there was mileage in young women shedding some of their outer garments and asking them to pose suggestively. I'll leave it at that. (I wouldn't want Mary Whitehouse types pillorying either me or the blog and I certainly don't want to mansplain any of my editorial choices!) However, I think it was Adam who wanted me to run with a regular burlesque feature, so you can blame him for this!

Saturday 27 May 2023

I'd be quite prepared for that eventuality

How many people can say they saw George Harrison play live last Saturday night? Yep, I dusted down the DeLorean and got her up to 88mph & was transported back to a time and a place where the Dark Horse played a rather fab greatest hits set - everything from Taxman to When We Was Fab via My Sweet Lord, All Things Must Pass and Something; to mention but a handful.(Though I was miffed Piggies didn't get an outing.)

However, he did play this - and he got his drummer to sing it; naturally. I'd forgotten completely that George had written it - despite the credit on the sleeve. 

George Harrison - It Don't Come Easy (1970)

Wednesday 17 May 2023

Playmate of the month (and beyond)

I'm delighted to announce we have a new playmate for George: Luna was only hours away from being dispatched to a Cat Rescue when we scooped her up on Sunday afternoon, put her in the back of the car and brought her home with us. A little over 48 hours later and it's like she's always been here. We love her; George loves her; Luna loves us. So it's a win win, as they say. Updates to follow, I'm sure.

Claire Martin - Some Cats (1992)

Monday 15 May 2023

Up above the streets and houses

You don't need to be Columbo, nor indeed Sherlock Holmes, to deduce that my favourite building in Nottingham (and the one I have photographed literally hundreds of times) is the former Home Ales Building in Daybrook; last year I curated a limited edition photobook comprising nearly forty images (choosing the final cut was a nightmare, I can tell you). However, for some reason there are a couple of glaring (to me, anyway) omissions from Vol. 1 (that's right, I'm working on the next collection as we speak) - namely any photos of it in the snow or with a rainbow in the background.

However, this evening in the midst of a tremendous downpour the sun came out in force and swathed Nottingham in a spectacular light and provided a rather splendid arched spectrum. Quick as a flash (see what I did there?) I hotfooted it from one end of NG5 to the other and fired off a few shots; some of them may go in the next book, some of them may not. The one above certainly will.

Don't suppose there's any snow forecast tomorrow?

Matt Berry - Rainbow (2018)

Saturday 13 May 2023

Alpha Bravo Charlie

I love ABC; I won't hear a bad word said against them. Martin Fry, their gold lame suited frontman, has always been able to pluck just the right word, find just the right turn of phrase from his musical lexicon to give a song, any song, the gravitas needed to pull it out of a sea of lyrical mediocrity and turn it into a guaranteed floor filler. Tears Are Not Enough from 1981 gave notice that the prevailing pop landscape of the day was about to change. The band's (i.e. Fry's) debut album released the following year spawned several monster singles; each in turn given Fry's lyrical finessing and augmented by the lush production values of Trevor Horn (whose knob twiddling on Lexicon of Love ensured he'd never be out of work again); for several years afterwards if you ever went into a Hi-Fi shop to purchase 'a system' then Lexicon was the album they played to put any turntable/amp/speakers combo thru its paces. That or Thriller.

During the following 35 years after its release Fry had just about done that sound to death. Whilst all his follow up albums tried so hard to reach the dizzy heights of that first collection (some might say opus), he never scaled the mountain again. Though in 2016 Fry did what anyone other fading Smash Hits cover star would do when he was given the chance of recording with Anne Dudley (she of Art of Noise and a brilliant orchestral arranger to boot) - he wrote a dozen songs in the style of LoL and marketed it as a follow up. Thus Lexicon of Love II was born.

Of course it could never fill its big brother's shoes. How could it? But (on a couple of occasions) it came pretty close. Here's one of them...

ABC - Brighter Than the Sun (2016)

Tuesday 9 May 2023

Miss November

Back in 1972 Swedish model Lena Forsén couldn't possibly have foreseen that when she got the gig to pose topless for Playboy magazine in 1972 (she was their Miss November centrespread) her, cropped, image (above) would be used worldwide for decades as industry standard for most photo image processing algorithms - what we know today as jpegs; many years later she was credited with being the first Lady of the Internet.

I heard the fascinating story this afternoon on 99% Invisible the wonderful radio show/podcast hosted by Roman Mars - now in its 14th year and with well over 500 episodes in the can. Lena's story, as with most features on the show, is fascinating. Click on the above link to find out more and here the episode in full (it's on the 'Shirley Cards' ep. - another fascinating photographic story I wasn't previously aware of). In the meantime, here's the uncropped photograph taken by Dwight Hooker as it would have appeared at the time (minus the staples).

Tuesday 2 May 2023

He who would valiant be

We read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry when I ran a book club in North Yorksire over ten years ago (where it was really well received.) It was Rachel Joyce's debut novel based on a radio play she'd written for the BBC in 2007 starring Anton Lesser and Anna Massey. Her book would go on to become a Sunday Times Bestseller and on 28 April of this year (i.e. last week) her screenplay of the novel of the play got its first cinematic release. And yesterday I went to see it.

Like the book, I can't recommend this film highly enough. Despite its underlying darkness there's enough light creeping in to this most unlikely of road movies to enrich the soul. Jim Broadbent and Penelope Wilton are so believable as the elderly yet loveless couple who for 25 years have skirted round an elephant so big they've forgotten how to be civil to one another. Then one day a letter drops on the doormat of their Devon home and before you can say A to Z our protagonist is yomping by the side of the thundering M5 motorway bound for a hospice in Berwick on Tweed; in his gardening shoes. It made me cry in places, tho’ that's not unusual these days (the book did too, I seem to remember) and the accompanying soundtrack is like a good waiter - brilliant yet invisible at the same time. As I say, it's only just come out so do try and catch it - it really does work on the big screen. 

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry - Trailer (2023)

Monday 1 May 2023

The Monochrome Set

This was the gauntlet I threw down to you last month: Not everything in life is black and white. Tho' I am rather hoping you'll join me in May's themed collection and show me monochrome images (not just colour snaps converted to B&W*) in your neck of the woods. Magpies, zebras, magpies on zebras; you get the gist.

And get the gist you did. 

First up was Rol: 'Another old photo, I'm afraid. One of my dad's cows. Bearing in mind he gave up farming about 15 years ago, this must be older than that...and the cow will be long gone. A lot of people would be wary of getting so close to a cow, but I grew up around them so would happily go and tap her on the nose to get her to pose for this picture. Most of my dad's cows didn't have names, except for Dinah, who was a legend. This isn't Dinah though, so he probably called her "that white faced one". She didn't seem to mind.'

C from Sun Dried Sparrows was next - 'Hi John, here's my photo. No explanation necessary, except to say I couldn't find a magpie on a zebra, sadly. C x.' Thank you, C; as I said to you, I've got several Dickys that wouldn't look out of place on that rail.

Adam's played a blinder this month - These are three dazzle ship inspired patterns (to my eyes) and I do like the
dazzle ship pattern, in the incongruous surroundings of the new 5-a-side football centre near the Trafford Centre.

The lovely Alyson never disappoints - 'Here's my picture. It's a signal box at the swing bridge where the railway line crosses the Caledonian Canal at Clachnaharry. Quite a feat to get the line to then marry up I would have thought (think of your Scalextric track) but has been running for well over a century now, so it's done well.'

Next up is a good friend of mine, Whitty. I met Whitty, a Liverpudlian, in Totnes last year at an Ian Prowse gig and have stayed in contact with him ever since. Whitty has lived down in the South West for more years than he cares to remember but is still proud of his home city and football club & often writes for Red All Over the Land.
His text to me last week simply read - 'She's called Roly Poly. Debs named her.' Thank you, Whitty and see you soon, hopefully.

Charity Chic, ever succinct, dropped me a line - 'A rainy day in Glasgow and a Mini with Aspirations.'

When I came up with this month's photo teaser I had absolutely no idea where I'd go with it. In the end I narrowed it down to the following trio. A gable end painted white with the sun picking out a solitary airbrick. And a rather tasty VW van parked under a solitary streetlamp.

My friend Riggsby has really gone to town this month. I'm sure he won't mind me sharing the email he sent to me over the weekend: 'The black and white theme has resonated with me because I am drawn to black and white things, particularly my bass guitars. I bought black instruments for years, but I've been buying white more recently. Your theme has made me more observant and also I've realised how many things I think of as black and white that aren't quite. I'm sending some of the images I captured and am looking forward to seeing the other entries.
Richard then proceeded to send me dozens of photos (guitars, food, bikes) so, with his permission, I'm only going to show one or two today. However, later in the month I'm going to reproduce the remainder - including the literal B&W images* he sent me. His bass guitars really are something, so here are a couple including my favourite Rickenbacker.    

* The Swede has produced a beautiful photo this month despite falling into the literal black and white photo trap. But that's OK. 'Looking back up the lane I was struck by the signs and the trees and the shadows they cast across the tarmac. That'd look good in black and white I thought.' Indeed it does; thank you, TS. 

And finally, a huge welcome to Khayem who I know has been reading my blog for a while now and this month has produced something of a masterpiece. Although he's 'done a Swede' he's managed to come up with something I can only describe as other worldly. Here's K in his own words - 'Hello John. This is my offering for your May photo blog post. A very grainy amateurish effort taken on my phone - no filters, no cropping. Reminded me somehow of the grainy photocopied images that adorned DIY single sleeves in the late 70s/early 80s.'

Once again, thank you so much to everyone who sent me pictures this month. I really appreciate you all playing along with me. J x


P.S. 11 May 2023

I'm mixing it up for June's photo challenge. Literally. I'm looking for mosaic patterns, patchworks, montages, get the picture(s). So if you've just glued your priceless Ming vase back together again or you see somebody wearing Elmer the Elephant socks. Or you can paint in the Mondrian style - you know what to do. Snaps by 1st June please.