Friday, 29 May 2009

The Suffolk County Show.

Lots of terrific flower shows get going around the country at his time of year. This is the flower show at the Suffolk County Show which finished today. There's tons of enthusiasm joy and effort on display. Even Jeff Koons gets a look in. No? One could be forgiven....

This "Capture The Moment" is a classic, with vintage cameras making up part of the display. It got first prize for Sheila Gales.

Sarah Swallow's effort is fab. The judges comments for this display read:
"Great fun with well presented plant material. The Aspidestra leaves at the top are a little heavy and dominant."

Diane Healey was awarded a Very Highly Commended for this effort. The judge commented:
"This well presented exhibit tells the story of a stag party. A larger base placement and incorporation of the beer mats would integrate the whole design."

And Linda Clayton's display drew these comments from the judge:
"A most interesting and original approach. Some of the plant material  had wilted at the time of judging." 

Chelsea Flower Show 2009.

Once upon a time, a great many folk had a love affair with the Chelsea Flower Show. It really was the highlight in many peoples horticultural (if not social) calendar. But 2009 may be the year where cracks are beginning to show in that relationship.

Through no fault of the RHS, a credit crunch has swept the land, and the sort of money that was normally forthcoming, to sponsor many of the show gardens just wasn't visible this year. Even some of the parties were under attended:

This meant that the show felt a little empty or sparse.
Still we all duly rallied forth to take the photographs needed for the coverage of the show.
Lots of people have cameras these days.

Behind the scenes before the show opens an army of health & safety police are deployed. They mean well, but it often doesn't feel like it. We all have to wear High Visibility vests, not good for photography.

Sometimes one has nothing better to do than watch how others cope with getting ready for the big opening, or with the English summer.

Due to bad weather much time was spent in the Grand Pavilion, a place where I seem to gravitate towards after the jading experience of traipsing up and down the main show gardens.
There is much to admire under the canvas (plastic I expect) and it's nice to see family outfits like Lockyears. Simon on the left is the son, William the father. I love seeing small glimpses in the background of photographs, and proud Mrs Lockyear is just visible to the right. 

I did fall in love with one garden The Fenland Alchemist Garden which was immaculate:

Chelsea is obviously deemed to showcase the excellent in the horticultural world. the RHS make sure that is absolutely clear. It says so on the tin!

So why is the plastercine garden of James May given space at the show?
One Chelsea Pensioner is not amused. He may not be alone.

The fact is, there are very very few places here in Britain that are not exempt from celebrity culture. I think it's a great shame, and a too easy trap to fall into. Celebrities are seen as cheaper and more effective than PR companies. Invite a few well know 'stars' then invite Fleet Street and the telly people, and you have all the publicity you want.  This process now seems to permeate every walk of public life. It's so tacky, and I wish that flower shows could be brave and exempt themselves from it. (PS, well done on the Gurkha front Purdey).

You can't have one without the other, so a scrum ensues wherever a celebrity person stops to catch their breath.

Chelsea Flower show now ends on a Saturday, where the "sell off" begins at 4 pm. Coach loads of plant lovers descend and carry off what isn't nailed down. The whole jamboree is over for this year, though preparations have already begun for the next year.

Dear RHS Santa, Can we please have a decent press room so we don't have to squat on the floor, fewer celebrities (preferably none), polite health and safety guards, no silly hi vis vests; and then concentrate on gardens, plants, vegetables and flowers?

Friday, 22 May 2009

Shops N Flox

I know, ghastly title, but better than "Mustafa Bargain" recently spotted in New Cross.
After my quibble with the lack lustre efforts of shops to jolly up their windows (especially Hackett) this summer,  along comes Sloane Square to the rescue.
As Sir Ran Fiennes reached the summit of Everest, the flowers were positively bursting out of the windows of Cartier, Tiffany and Basia Zarzycka. Even the GTC had made an effort with some lovely arrangements in their windows. So it can be done. Some wag even suggested that it was a better effort than a lot of displays inside Chelsea Flower Show, but they can't have seen the brilliant efforts on show in the Grand Pavillion.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Off to the Races

When was the last time you went to the races? As kids, my sister and I would be carted off to a point to point most winter/spring weekends in a convoy of about five cars. Sister would remain in the car, with a transistor radio rigged up to an ariel that rested on the top of a car window. The rest of us would get wet in the rain, and accumulate mud wherever possible.
There was always a picnic, unfailingly with cold bangers, hard boiled eggs and G&Ts. On the way home we would stop off for supper at a chinese restaurant. Looking back, it seems to be a perfect day out, though I expect there was a fair amount of grumbling at the time. It's great to meet fellow race goers, one no more keen than Mark Wallinger. You may remember that his Turner Prize nomination in 1995 was a (real) racehorse called "A Real Work of Art". One of his most recent pieces is another horse, one that will loom large over the Kent countryside; you can read about it here
He's below, Racing Post in hand, enjoying the delights of Epsom.
"The Sport of Kings" is attended by both ends of the social spectrum, providing a fascinating day out. You don't have to spend a fortune, though many seem to lose one at some stage or another. The minimum bet at many point to points is £ 1 so many can indulge in a flutter. Others use the excursion as an excuse to enjoy a picnic in the fresh air, where food always seems to taste that much better than indoors.
Flowers get a look in, and since I want to stay with the floral theme, here's the evidence. What a blooming lovely bouquet.

Photographic Assistants.

Few will disagree that a good assistant is worth their weight in film, or at least in some modern equivalent.
And few assistants leave an impression as great as that left by the inexhaustable one and only Linda Kohl, aka Lupi. Lupi worked here in london for a too brief few months during 2007.
Linda, we miss you even though you  now work for the German industrial giant Krones as a fully paid up top industrial photographer.
Does seem a bit quiet though...

Friday, 8 May 2009

True or False?

An unlikely winner in the present economic climate is the rag trade. Apparently, executives who feel vulnerable have been rushing out to buy new suits, in order to impress the boss, and thus make their position more secure.
Not being a dedicated follower of fashion, I couldn't say if this is true or false, but it has a certain logic attached to it.

Man in Street.

There's a bendy bus in the background. I can't wait to see the back of them.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Flowers abound

Flowers now appear in shop window displays throughout the capital.
Westminster Abbey's Festival of Flowers is on now,  7-9 May 2009.
And the Photographers Gallery in Ramilles Street (just off Oxford St in London) has flowers in their men's loo. They're not real, but they've put them in water which is a nice if not bizarre touch.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009


I haven't been to Berlin since before the wall came down, when the world, or at least Europe changed forever. The cold war seems a long time ago now thank heavens.
 I used to live in Bergen-Belsen; the site of the infamous concentration camp, immortalised by the British photographer George Rodger, who was the first photographer to arrive and document the camp after it was liberated in 1945. Little remained when I lived there, as the original camp had been destroyed.
I was lucky enough to spend many fantastic weekends in Berlin, in both the East and West, though the East was a dire place to be, and it was always a relief to pass back into the West through Checkpoint Charlie.

Back to the present day, we visited The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It is a sobering site, vast in scale, and very impressively constructed. It was finished in 2004, and there are a total of 2711 concrete slabs, which you can walk amongst and at places, disappear from sight. Even when photographed in colour, the images look black and white, which seems appropriate. Words are inadequate to describe this place.

The trip to Berlin was to photograph the American born choreographer William Forsythe of Ballet Frankfurt. If 'Dance' isn't your thing, catch up with his work (here now in the UK) and have your mind changed for you. The lighting on the show I saw was the best I've ever seen on stage anywhere, ever, and I came away wiser for the experience. Forsythe was also a dream to photograph, helpful, enthusiastic, inventive, engaged and fun too. If only......

And whilst in Berlin, I photographed the artist Thomas Demand, who uses, amongst other media, photography to create his work. We spent a fascinating morning in his studio, learning about how he constructs his images. Commenting on his pristine 10x8 camera he shrugged and said no wonder it's clean; it only takes about 4 photographs a year.