Category: Photographers

Lives of Artists: The Photographer



Helen McCabe


It’s that time of year again, I remember it well – spring sort of breaks out of winter and all that you have been working towards suddenly hits like a bolt out of the blue – your show is upon you, imminent, no time left whichever way you look at it; the last minute detail rears its fickle head again.


This year I literally stumbled upon a series of pop-ups scattered around Nottingham’s city centre, they have been showing degree shows like this for a while now, but it always fascinates me to find art tucked away in spaces on the restaurant and shopping routes, like a treasure hunt in waiting.

It was just such a space that I found off Bridle Smith Gate. The space under the NTU umbrella degree show name of Raw-photo 2010.


Quite simply I wandered in and glanced around four walls of what seemed like very different works. Usually I will start looking at the first to hand, but found I had a momentary-without-thinking not sure I want to look at these just yet. I don’t know why I changed my mind but on looking closer a lot became clearer.


There, without embellishments were a series of 7 photographic portraits of unadorned and simply positioned, male soldiers faces.


The photographs didn’t scream out at you they were subtly lit and exuded a sense of calm.


My subconscious I believe, had initially took in the uniform, an image especially of late that has reverberated through the media in the UK and indeed around the globe. But the images I, and we all see in the press usually come with a traumatic message, a thing maybe we don’t readily succumb to – and there has been so much.

Hence my hesitation.

I continued to look and noticed a small amount of explanatory text at the beginning of the line of photographs. My knee jerk reaction is usually don’t tell me! I want to receive my own impression. But the information was simple and subtle; these men were on their way to Afghanistan.


The thing that struck me most about the work was it was all about the faces, whatever lay behind the process it was the compelling nature of the expressions that quietly reflected their momentary pause in front of camera.

I will stop there as the images should speak for themselves, here are two of the seven:

Helen McCabe Soldier

Helen McCabe Soldier

Soldier  :   by Helen McCabe

One very astounding thing for me was the difference but similarity of their collective gaze.

Underneath the images were a few randomly placed quotes from the soldiers echoing a resolve and recognition of imminent dispatch.


I really recommend looking at the images on her website to see how Helen intended to portray them.




Helen’s show and the Raw exhibitions are now coming to a close. With the inevitable packing and clearing of the space I asked her what she saw ahead of her…

Part of raw-photo 2010
RAW2010 space in Bridle Smith Gate


“My future, is quite unknown at the moment.  I want to stay within the industry of Photography, be it in a Photographic gallery or an archive.  But I also hope to bring what I love about Photography to others by way of photographic workshops, that suit beginners or people with experience.  Hopefully visiting places like photography clubs, schools or colleges”.

And the immediate future?  ….

“As for my work…I hope that by carrying this on alongside a job Photography will continue to be something I do because I enjoy it and not just something to keep me living.  But we shall see in the coming months”.

I also asked her about the inevitable student loans, and, on leaving the University space; how she was planning to afford her own studio, equipment and the like….


“At the moment the only ‘debt’ per se is my student loan (and an overdraft). But thankfully I’m not too worried about this because of the leniency of the repaying. Knowing that until I’m earning I do not have to pay it back, and then its rather small increments which are automatically deducted so no worrying about forgetting to pay it!”.


“So it’s not going to hinder me I hope or at least I don’t plan to let it”.


“As for things such as equipment and studio space. At the moment I am lucky enough to have parents with a garage not in use. So with some persuading and hard work I want to turn this into a studio for myself, at least for now (everyone’s got to start somewhere!).


Equipment wise, when I land a job after graduation I will be saving money as much as possible to buy the equipment I need, and I plan to get it second hand.


Thankfully there are a fair amount of photographers with a lot more money than me, who like to upgrade their kit, often leaving me with their cheaper (but usually in perfect condition) older equipment. This is how I afforded my camera; a hobbyist who’s upgraded leaving me with a barely used, new looking camera”.


I did initially return to the space and was really pleased to see the quality of all the work involved. And wondered what if this had been shown in a different city?. Not to say that Nottingham hasn’t always had some sort of connection to London based Art through local galleries. But It is still a provincial city.

Helen had been keen to stress that although she is from London she liked the idea of branching out of art centric cities.


And with the thought of location very much on my mind. I was extremely pleased to come across a Degree/MA pool of images, info and events now available via web ushered in by the combined Universities of Leicester De Montfort, Nottingham Trent, Loughborough and Derby along with the Arts Council called UK Young Artists; for all who are interested, be they artists, curators, buyers, collectors or whatever.


Which is kind of blowing away the usual suspect’s habit of hovering around the same Universities like Goldsmiths, St Martin’s and the like; creating the safe bets of recent times.

It’s a start!

Having said that! Helen is also excited to be included in Free Range 2010. A big independently sponsored graduate show based at the Truman Brewery Building in London which shows Art and Design practices from all over the UK.

With the obvious quality of work emanating from this show, the signs are it’s looking very good!.


And as Helen and her contemporaries prepare to embark on a new phase in their creative lives, where time, money and studio space all come into play big time. Events like this by both the Arts Council and Free Range can really, only be a good thing.

I will be including another Photographer in the next series with works by Zoe Boundry


And will be back this Wednesday with New York Artist Man Bartlett

Lives Of Artists



With another #class event emerging any time soon, I have decided to take a look at the lives of a group of artists and people involved with them from very different styles and stages of their *careers*.


This will be a series of images and discussions with artists from different areas and countries as they find and negotiate their way through the art world. Some fresh from degree shows, others still navigating them.

Whether established or aspiring to be established, this series of posts will endeavour to take a look at the very different and sometimes novel approaches on how they continue with their work. Addressing compromise, locations, and *the day job*.

But no less important, also a look at individual pieces of work and the artists behind.


The group include:


The Curator

Louise Starkey,who curated Cruel Britannia at the T & P Fine Art Gallery in Philadelphia last year.


Sadly the gallery itself had to close, even with the enthusiastic team that ran and supported it:


“After thirteen openings and showcasing 100+ international artists, T & P Fine Art will be closing their doors at the end of November, 2009. It may not have been ideal to open an art gallery at the beginning of the worst recession since the depression, but we found a cool spot, in an incredible city, showed some superb art, and had blast the entire time. Thank you to all who have supported us, patrons and artists alike. We hope to see you one last time between now and the end of November.”


T & P Gallery

T & P Fine Art Gallery


Cruel Brittania Poster

And back from Cruel she decided to recycle it, mash it up, and add to it. Her most recent exhibition also includes up and coming if not already established  contemporary urban artists from the UK with Stop Robbing The Rich in Nottingham.


Stop Robbing The Rich Poster

Stop Robbing The Rich, group exhibition

Castle Bar
The Castle Bar, opposite Nottingham Castle




The Photographer

Helen McCabe from London who has just finished her degree in Nottingham. “I hope that by carrying this on alongside a job, Photography will continue to be something I do, because I enjoy it and not just something to keep me in a living”.


 One of Helen McCabe's Soldier Portraits

One of Helen McCabe’s seven portraits



The Artist

Man Bartlett, who as son of US artist Bo Bartlett, is finding his feet as an artist in New York:

Echo 24
Man Bartlett’s recent #24Echo held at P.P.O.W Gallery

in his words : ) By Man Bartlett and The Internet.

He pledged to repeat anything and everything that was tagged with #24echo via twitter feed and relayed over Ustream for 24 hours

“Labelling is a tricky thing as I also create drawings and installations. So usually I just say I’m an artist with practices in performance art, drawing, and installation.”

“While there is sometimes an element of endurance in my performance practice, I prefer the term “duration.” This distinction draws attention to the fact that the performances are simply happening in an extended amount of time, not specifically that pain or suffering is an integral part of that time”.


Systema Mundi Installation
Systema Mundi Drawing
Systema Mundi exhibition at Flux Gallery earlier this year:


“Flux Factory presents Systema Mundi, an exhibition of drawings, installation and pyrography by artist-in-residence Man Bartlett.

The works in this show include a “circle drawing” in which thousands of small circles are tightly clustered, and form a rectangle. From a distance it appears as a solid mass, but closer inspection reveals a chaotic yet ordered composition. A pyrography piece consists of small burned dots that appear to create or mimic the pattern of the grain of the wood beneath them. In opposition to these maximalist tendencies lies a minimalist earth and water installation, sourced from in and around the Flux Factory building.

This juxtaposition of means is of critical interest to the artist, whose work often deals with the union of paradoxes from within a wide spectrum of art history and human experience”.

Both images and above text sourced from Flux Gallery.




The Fine Art Student

Tim……who half-way through his degree is embarking on a stint at a Cork Street Gallery in London for 2 months – despite his reservations about working in the midst of all things The-City-And-Art stand for.

NTU Fine Art Bonington Building
From NTU bonington Fine Art Campus

Cork Street,London

To Cork Street’s short but wealthy 1/4 mile


Stop Press! slight alteration….Tim has been called away to help in a performance, hence I will be coming back to him later in the next series.

So the fourth in this series is someone who I was completely blown away by. Her sheer enthusiasm and energy – for someone so young (in my terms!) – at 22 and a Graduate BA/MA fine artist Sarah Smizz

Sarah Smizz
I know this is Sarahs web-page and is not strictly art but …..: )


The hashtag project first rolled out in February at the Winkleman Gallery for a successful month of discussions and with it delving into the ins, outs and polarities of the art market in the midst of that very art-centred city of NY.

The illuminating and upfront discussions took place with artists of all types and cultures – some relatively well known others from over the other side of the world.  Gallerists, Dealers, Critics, and Collectors also being invited to be in on the call. Enabling face to face and honest discussions about location, class, education, money, who exactly pulls the strings-who are the gatekeepers, those with specific agendas and the minefield of art protocol that tempts or repels artists and can exclude them from engaging on those basis.

With that very much in mind my first stop in this series is to address amongst other elements a local exhibition held over three days in a non gallery setting curated by Louise Starkey.


Starting this Wednesday!………

O Lucky Man Part Two

Brian Duffy, belligerence and how not to take things lying down


I have had this film kicking around in my memory for a week or two now, in one of those I don’t know why but I suddenly feel inspired by the soundtrack moments, the film being O Lucky Man an early 70’s culty comedy/drama with Malcolm McDowell – sort of Clockwork Orange meets Abigail’s Party – a surreal endeavour to understand a young man’s ideals being swayed or engineered by cultural messages of capitalist behaviour. Out of the blue I found myself humming parts of the songs and unless I had been receiving subliminal brain messages and the film is on tv next week.  I can offer no explanation even on the general daily level of subconscious stuff absorption, as to why I would think of it.


After too much time spent  Youtube-ing the film and all its songs. I dragged myself over to the tv (yes it still seems like I am in Christmas festivities couch mode – but reality is I trapped a nerve in my shoulder so any exaggerated movements other than remote controls etc., are not a place I want to go). So I was very pleased to see something on my radar of tv likes and switched to a beeb preview of the London photographer Brain Duffy ( he of the David Bailey, Donovan triangle) talking about his recent show of surviving photos spanning his career in the 60’s and 70’s.


I noticed something about his on screen personality that I have certainly seen before in friends and the like –not very often, but when you do you certainly notice; he came across as one of those belligerent, defiant types the ones who are sometimes difficult to be around especially if you are on the receiving end of their usually very dry wit! But boy do we need people like that.

So with a few decades distance between us, together with the tv screen, I voyeuristically took in the programme. One thing surprised me even for someone who it seemed would play devil’s advocate just for the hell of it, was his reference  to “some sort of social engineering” on talking about his wayward adolescent behaviour, being taken in hand by a special college of education  who introduced him and various other difficult lads to the Opera, Ballet and the arts in general, with them subsequently becoming full of enthusiasm for it, enough for the lads to consider art school – and for those familiar with Brian’s impact on photography the rest is history.


But what went through my mind on hearing the words social engineering, I thought, yeah right come on! even though this is the sixties and you are/were one of those defiant maverick types to describe your introduction to the arts as social engineering is a bit rich. Dostoevsky life, Kafka’s works and whole swathes of society’s past could have the term social engineering attributed them – but not a sixties east end photographer on the cusp of going to art school.


I thought it had always been a given that art students rebel against the thinking of their lecturers as a sort of rite of passage, a necessary act in order to establish your own agenda and not follow the sheep, either that or proving you are a petulant ego-centric primmer donna. So I understood the lean toward the shock factor in his attitude but I guess at the time he went to college things were still steeped in old etiquette on recovery from the Second World War and he would have been at just the right time and place to become one of the new vanguards of the new.


Later on it clicked, on someone suggesting that the song Poor People from O Lucky Man was a suitable song for credit crunch times; It’s the timing, we are one- two- three years in? depending on your in depth knowledge, of all things financial and meltdown, that, the story of O Lucky Man, Brian’s belligerence, my general preoccupation with fairness and ethics buzzing in my bonnet at the moment, and the random way these things came together.


Poor People for me is sort of a sad/pathetic angry lament; Malcolm McDowell’s realisation that there was only one way for him to go, I say angry because the whole premise of the film was about lack of choice but at the same time offering untold freedoms and wealth if the status quo were adhered to, so, angry as in no choice and the resignation to that. This is where Brian Duffy’s belligerent attitude strikes me as being even more relevant today, the song Poor People is wider than credit crunch music, as is Duffy’s war baby, east ender art school lad defiance, in the face of old ideals.


How much of what happened recently has been addressed as being unfair? apologies and real gestures have been attempted but to any measurable benefit of fairness? time to move on indeed. However much Duffy’s belligerent attitude was seen as being defiantly obnoxious he was also defending his sense of self. Today that has become almost politically incorrect de facto, we can take up causes and fight other people’s battles at the drop of a pc key but when it comes to our own lives and livelihoods we manage a moan and then carry on with our lot. Admittedly some people’s lot has been so fraught and time scarce that anything more than managing a moan would have been physically impossible, but surely there are still a lot of people of Duffy’s ilk able to offer some sort of irreverent insights and foresights. I just hope that Duffys attitude, is not totally lost and relegated to the pc bin marked bully  – if put under a microscope most of his attention and bite was just what was needed in response to working in a sometimes privileged and exclusive environment of advertising, fashion, music and art.


Bullies want control – he didn’t and it seems he couldn’t give a damn – a typical slice of his attitude  posted by The Guardian this month “By the 1970s, he was doing most of his work in advertising – with people he didn’t like, on briefs that bored him. “The more I got into it, the more I ­realised I was hanging out with things I was diametrically opposed to. And they wanted me to keep a civil tongue up their rectum.” Resigned he was not and subsequently successful he was, on his own terms. O Lucky Man indeed – or maybe the luck was more of his making.