26 November 2011

A visit to El Ingenio

This piece was published on shopikon.com.

El Ingenio

Tucked away in the heart of the gothic quarter just a stone’s throw from La Rambla, El Ingenio has been trading festival-related goods for the people of Catalunya since 1838. Beyond the cacophony of puppets, poi, gargantuan festival heads, Carnaval masks and joke-shop paraphernalia lies a family-business spanning generations, with a passion for tradition and the timeless art of entertainment. 

Rosa Cardona is part of this lineage and the driving force behind the wall-to-wall artisan products that continue to be crafted by hand in a hidden workshop at the back of the premises. “We have seen generations pass through these doors: children come for toys and years later return with their own children. There is a lovely atmosphere in the shop because people come to enjoy themselves, to find a piece of nostalgia... it’s as simple as that.” Over the years, the family has counted the likes of Salvador Dalí and the Cirque du Soleil as clients and the Catalan artist Joan Brossa found inspiration in El Ingenio, famously calling it “poesía visual,” visual poetry. It is easy to see why. There is an undeniably magical presence about El Ingenio that even the most hardened adult would find difficult not to feel.

C/Rauric 6, Barcelona

02 November 2011

Happy Day of the Dead

El día de los muertos with live Mexicans at Cosmo galería

“For an inhabitant of New York, Paris or London, death is a word that is never spoken, because it burns the lips. The Mexican however is on good terms with her, sleeps with her, courts her; she is one of his favourite playthings and his most lasting love.” 

Octavio Paz. The solitary labyrinth, 1961

The Mexican pursuit of death in all its cadaverous glory makes El Día de los muertos a colourful occasion and something that Barcelona (with its large Mexican and Latin American population) has been keen to get involved with in recent years.

Opening on 28th October, the cryptically titled exhibition, Día de Muertos will showcase the finest new artistic discoveries in the way of skulls, bones, flesh and flouro-folk art. As a testament to the nation’s obsession with death, this collective exhibition of live Mexicans will be looking death squarely in the eye, and (hopefully) surviving until 27th November.

The inauguration begins at 20:00, with complementary Mexican beer on tap. See you at the bar. C/Enric Granados 3

Brangulí was here - CCCB

This exhibition has already passed now, but I thought I'd add it anyway. It was really beautiful.

Brangulí. Barcelona 1909-1945 
7th June – 23rd October

Josep Brangulí (1879 – 1945) accompanied Catalunya throughout monumental socio-political changes during the first half of the twentieth century. During his impressive career as a documentary photographer, Brangulí gave equal weight to the ordinary and everyday as he did to significant historical events.

To photography buffs, he is comparable to the likes of Robert Doisneau and Henri-Cartier Bresson, French humanist photographers who enchanted us with their candid, inky black and white images of street-life. They brought us the decisive moment, the notion of capturing a split second in time through the lens – immortalising that moment forever, as if by an act of alchemy. 

Brangulí’s sensitivity towards his subjects bring us official portraits in formal environments; factory workers pause to stare into the lens, seamstresses work alongside their newborn babies and endless rows of school children study obediently at their desks. 

The timeless black and white images also offer us a powerful insight into an altogether mysterious Barcelona that would otherwise be unknown to us; of now-extinct Gitano neighbourhoods and celebrations-no-more, of lantern-lit watering holes staffed by elegant, be-suited waters; of primitive fire-engines, mummified nuns perched upright outside churches, Fascist marches and Nazi propaganda, of thick, black pools of blood in dark alleys and faded smudges of figures that almost eluded the camera’s immortal gaze completely.

The curators selected a mere three hundred photos from the archive of over a million images for the exhibition and created thematic blocks to make better sense of the broad areas of society, industry and politics that Brangulí covered. The exhibition runs until 23rd October and is a testament to the critical changes of Barcelona not to be missed.

- CCCB Contemporary Art Museum website

08001 Barcelona

30 October 2011

Halloween: the Antic Horror Picture Show

This Halloween prepare yourselves for short, sharp bursts of gore, blood and guts in the shape of a locally-produced, low budget cortometraje (short film) festival at the Antic Teatre. Straddling the Gotic/Borne district, the Antic Teatre is a hidden gem of cultured performance-art shows, and is one of the few real “creation” hubs in the centre of the city with an in-house theatre.

Whilst a bohemian/student crowd tends to frequent the beautiful hidden courtyard (graced by an ancient fig tree in its centre), the theatre itself is a space appreciated by a much wider demographic.

Expect all the trappings of your average B-rated horror movie: ridiculous titles, the eternal battle of good and evil, an overzealous use of ketchup and blood curdling shrieks of terror.

The show begins on 30th and 31st at 17:00-19:00, with an in-house band playing at 21:00 on 30th. Tickets are available on the door (price information unavailable, but expect them to be around 5€). Arrive early to secure seats.

- Visit Antic Teatre here

Beefeater in-Edit 2011

The Beefeater In-Edit festival returns to Barcelona this November with a varied selection of musical heavyweights in the arena for its ninth edition. Setting the tone for the opening ceremony will be no less than the creator of the Music Documentary genre himself - Michael Nyman.

Showcasing his most recent, unfinished work, Michael Nyman In Progress, the attention of the camera is refreshingly reversed for a study of filmmaker as artist behind the show-reel, encouraging the audience to consider the exceptional skill required by directors to create films for this genre. Showing an unfinished piece on the silver screen also highlights the nature of film as a tangible, progressive work and an art-form that takes considerable time to master.

Among Nyman will be other documentaries exploring the accomplished lives of world-famous musicians from David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Bob Dylan and Kings of Leon to Toots and the Maytals, Queen and Leonard Cohen.

"First and foremost,” comments the Artistic Director of the festival, Luis Hidalgo, “we give importance to the way the stories are interpreted as opposed to star value of the artist.” Perhaps that is why one film by musician-turned-director Ray Davies failed to meet the rigorous quality requirements this year, in spite of the fact that it would have easily filled cinema seats.

There is undoubtedly something for everyone here, with this year’s festival also boasting 45 talented newcomers into the realm of the music documentary genre. There is certainly an impressive roster of fresh perspectives at our disposition, including other highly original and off-the-wall films with the exploration of music at their core. 

The full programme is available to view online. Tickets must be reserved in advance and are only available to buy from the website or at the ticket office on C/ Muntaner 24. Check website for details.

27 October 2011

good times

I can't believe it's been so long since my last post. things have been a bit busy over here....have been attempting to read and write alot more (fruits of those labours to be posted imminently), have newly discovered the joys and woes of working as an autonoma, and after recently spending the last 30€ of my september wage on notebooks alone, have decided it's in my best interest to self-impose a ban on the local stationer's. I am also now thee wisdom teeth lighter.

good times.

21 July 2011

don't rain on my parade

lomo vs iphone

So I'm back in the UK again for a little while and over the last couple of weeks I've been hammering away at my old holga (holgywolgy, to be precise) and used about 10 rolls of film in Brighton and Cornwall. During this time his flash packed in and he almost fell apart, the poor thing......hadn't seen so much action for almost a year before this! I'm so excited to see the results.

The photos below aren't holga, however. I've gone over to the dark side and got an iphone. these are all digitally produced hipstamatic and/or instagram produced photos. 

i've been really enjoying getting to know my new baby but to be fair, feel a little bit guilty when i go out and leave poor little old beaten-up wolgy in the corner like an unwanted elderly relative. the holgy delights will obviously take a little while to develop and scan and all the rest of it.....which is why, i suppose, these photos are so satisfying to see NOW. I'm just another shameless product of GIMME NOW society. yip.

These were taken at Trebah gardens in Mawnan Smith, Cornwall. That's right, England really is this lush.



I'm back in England for a little while. I've fallen in love with the British countryside all over again.

07 June 2011


some very old photos i took...........
portraits of people doing what they do, much more my thing. I think it's pretty obvious.

06 June 2011

Extreme sports festival - BCN

I went to the Extreme sports festival in Barcelona yesterday.
Taking photos with my D700 I learnt two things:
1. That f/5 is too high for sports photography....the background needs to be totally blurred when there is so much going on in the shot.
2. I definitely needed a speedlite flash (which was unfortunately stolen at a music festival last year).

not exactly my favourite type of photography, but loads of fun.

Here are a few of the shots. More on flickr too.

30 May 2011

sweaty city/cold county

So every year at about this time (usually in May, June) I always feel a strong yearning for cold winter days: snow, wide-open spaces, gloves, vodka, solitude. I think it's my final clutching for calm when I'm already unable to sleep because the humidity is closing in and Barcelona is fast becoming a loud, sweaty, seething mass of bodies. So i'm just enjoying it for now......then when the heat becomes unbearable i'll spend most of the summer splishing about in the water with all the other sardines :D

I'm reading the most beautiful book about ordinary people in a stunningly beautiful, cold place. The language they use is just perfect.....it's the essence of everything I'm craving. I'm going to finish it tonight, so i wanted to write this now while there are still some words left for me to enjoy that I haven't read yet.

David Vann - Caribou Island (Penguin Books)

"Early winter, the temperature minus fifteen. The mountains would be white, the lake and glacier. Only the sky a new colour, rare winter sun, rare midwinter blue. The sun above the peaks moving sideways, unable to rise any higher."
"...She walked towards the glacier, towards the mountains, away from the island. Walked slowly. Then stopped and looked around. Without her footsteps, no sound. No wind, no moving water, no bird, no other human. This bright world. The sound of her heart, the sound of her own breath, the sound of her own blood in her temples, those were all she would hear. If she could make those stop, she could hear the world".

12 April 2011

foliage joy with a HOLGA

I went back to the UK for a few days last weekend and re-discovered some medium format negatives that I developed years ago but had never even looked at...i scanned them in and found some really beautiful images. 

taken with an old plastic holga, some of the frames are layered atop each other. am so excited about them, wish i could have stayed longer to scan every single one - there were HUNDREDS!