Archive for Paul Williams

The Wisdom of David Hurn

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 30, 2014 by yammerman

 

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Having been to a lecture by Magnum photographer David Hurn this week and inspired by his story and wise words, it was only natural that I was eager to put this new found knowledge into practice.  It was fortunate then that my good friend and fellow photo enthusiast Paul Williams was due a visit this weekend.  On Saturday morning, I suggested we head down the coast to the wetlands near the Aberthaw power station and mine its rich seam of photo opportunity.

To David Hurn it is all about subject matter and it is this that great photographers talk of when they chew the fat.  It is not about the gear or highfalutin artistic concepts, but what would make a good subject.  For him it was the Hungarian Revolution in 1956 when he found himself one of the few photographers who made it on to the streets of Budapest.  He learnt to follow the journalists and photograph what they found – thus his name was made.

He talks as you would expect from a man who has survived and prospered in the tough world of commercial photography.  His passion is clear, as at eighty he was still able to hold forth and enthrall for over two hours.  He put up a list of the friends who had slept on his floor in the sixties and it read like a list of photographic icons.

He recalled  how he found his ‘tinsel town’ niche in 60’s magazines and the importance that networking and luck had played in his life.  And how he was asked to do the stills for a small film which happened to be Dr No, the beginning of the James Bond franchise.  He realised that success came from hard work and the instinct to come up with a subject that might excite a Picture Editor.  He had a brief period taking fashion shots while also working for magazines like Nova and Holiday.  He reminded the many students in the audience that WH Smith still has over 3000 magazines on sale.  He also suggested thinking globally about where your work might sell; his own work with the Nursing Times has been used in over nine countries.

He spoke of those photographers now regarded as artists who were just trying to make a living when they did their great work.  His best advice though was that photography was simply made up of two things – first where you stand and second when you push the shutter; get those right and the rest will follow.

He believes that the greats in any field need not fear the constriction of a brief but be able to satisfy its demand while maintaining their own unique authorship.  His advice was not to copy anyone but find your own vision and learn from the great, especially their contact sheets.  It is from them you will learn how they came to capture that great image.  It is rarely with one shot, but with a chosen background worked at over several frames until by luck or judgement the elements come right in the frame.  It was a marvelous talk, possibly his last in the UK, and I feel privileged to have been in the audience.

The wetlands proved not to be the rich seam I had hoped, but Paul and I spent a pleasant couple of hours clicking away.  We then returned for lunch on Penarth Pier and a visit to the rather wonderful Ragnar Kjartansson  ‘The Visitors’ installation at the Turner House Galley.  I highly recommend the installation though my photographs might suggest it’s not for everybody.  My own ‘something and nothing style/organising the chaos’ should, I feel, keep me safe from the pressures of commercial photography for a while yet and I’m ever hopeful that one day I’ll figure out where to stand and when to push the shutter.

Fuji XPro-1 with 35mm F1.4 and tweaked in Lightroom

 

Some Thoughts on The Airtight Garage at Punk Brighton 10th Anniversary All Dayer

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 19, 2010 by yammerman

 

Some pictures taken with a Panasonic GF1 and 20mm Pancake, taken by Gillian while I was on stage, plus my rambling thoughts on the Airtight Garage reunion after 30 years.  Converted to B&W in Lightroom.

So what has been keeping me up at night finally came to pass at the weekend when the Airtight Garage hit the stage for the first time in 30 years as part of the Punk Brighton 10th Anniversary All Dayer at the Prince Albert.  Punk Brighton being a website maintained by the dedicated Phil to remember those far off days when bands rose from the streets barely able to play, rather than  X Factored into existence by a  twat with a high waist band and an ability to polish turds for money.  The website lists well over 50 bands in Brighton who were no doubt inspired by another arch manipulator and his Sex Pistols. It was in a way a kind of folk music compared to the hideous cynicism of today’s wannabees.

The Airtight Garage played in Brighton but its roots go back to Lampeter. There, where its members had just arrived to be educated, the most important cultural tidal wave since the 60’s crashed on the beach. I was but a naïve country boy but I fell in with a motley crew obsessed with music, the counter culture, art and anything that your 21st century university would consider inappropriate. So, when the Pistols swore at Mr Grundy and the moral panic of the nation began, we followed from afar with utter glee. We were more than ready to help bury the bloated corpse of the sixties and pogo on its grave.

I imagine punk was different depending on where ever you were standing but the main thing was to form a band. The first incarnation caused a shock at the  Eisteddfod but later evolved into the Repeaters, a pop oriented punk band along the lines of the Rezillos.  I was only writing words at this stage and could barely play but felt armed with my “gentleman’s degree”  enough part of the gang to follow the band to Brighton, the singer Ian Marchant’s home town.

So it was in the summer of 79 we turned up in Brighton and with the aid of the dole set about obtaining world domination on a shoestring. The Repeaters broke up almost immediately but from its ashes the Airtight Garage was born. I was no Dylan but Costello seemed something to aim for (truly).  I did seem to have a knack for lyrics having realised that some poetry and emotion was highly attractive to musicians not that bothered about the words. Plus fifteen minutes of inspiration and the job was done which really is my kind of work.

The band started then with Ian Marchant (vocals), Paul Williams (bass) and in a very punk move my good self on guitar.  Ian obtained for us a gig supporting Peter and the Test Tube Babies (I represented them once but that’s a whole other blog) and with a borrowed drummer we did a show at the Richmond. We dressed I remember in lime green shirts with purple potato prints on them and must have made a right racket. I have to take most of the credit for that and both cringe and admire my bravery at inflicting my musicality on the good people of Brighton.

Later Bob Machin returned, as it seemed sensible to have one guitarist who could play, and Paul Hazel, the original drummer from 1976, climbed aboard. We recorded a demo of Sinking in the Sands and Hardly a Heartache but the world proved indifferent. We made a pretty frightening racket which could occasionally be sublime but nonetheless, in a breath taking act of ruthlessness, the bastards threw me out.  In part it came as a relief as being the slowest ship in the convoy was at time not much fun.  I had of course written almost all the words and some of the music and, in an act of generosity that I don’t think I would now repeat, I continued to allow them to rifle through my lyric draw.  They continued to perform and were much tighter but from my point of view, and I am of course biassed, they had lost their soul.  It staggered on for a further 6 months with one further demo featuring Time and Time Again and The Deadly Rythmn of Private Thoughts.  These were also met with a resounding silence and, in the end, the Airtight Garage imploded and I was relieved to discover I was not going to be the Pete Best in this story.

I’ve always loved the songs we did back then and naturally, like your first love,  you never forget your first band.  So I’ve always played these songs and been incorporating them into my fantasy solo set for many years.  I had honestly thought the others had moved on with nary a backward glance, so it was quite a surprise when Bob suggested the possibility that we could play at the Punk Brighton Anniversary.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to play at first as I’d become somewhat less sanguine about my ejection as the years have past. Still I’m not one to turn down maybe a last chance to get up on stage, so all systems were go.

We rehearsed a few times with me singing which was great fun, and then Ian rejoined and that wonderful group dynamic had returned.  A band is a very strange beast; in this case a four way marriage and the passing years don’t make it any easier when you have become ever more set in your ways and opinions. But we have also mellowed and improved musically and the noise we make now isn’t half bad when we get in a groove.  Let me also say: man those guys have big egos, where as I’m of course utterly reasonable.

The day of the gig was a marvellous with people coming from a long way off to renew old friendships – well done to Facebook for making that possible.  What ever doubts I’d had, melted away in both a glow of nostalgia and the sheer enjoyment of thrashing a guitar on stage again.  The day felt very surreal at times, but in a good way, and this is maybe how you get high on life.   My guitar sounded loud and jangly and I could barely hear the drums.  We moved it and grooved it, and it went by in a flash.  Don’t Look Back by The Remains was our cover, then Sinking in the Sands, Hardly a Heartache, City’s Heart and Sparking in the Dark.  I counted the songs off as Ian discarded the sheets of lyrics at my feet and it was  over all too quickly.  A lot of trouble for seventeen minutes thirty you might think but, no, it was well worth all the effort and that band, you know,  are not such a bad lot after all or at least until the next time we have to rehearse.

If a process could ever be considered cathartic then this, maybe, was it.

More pictures at  http://www.flickr.com/photos/40297516@N06/sets/72157625066542891/comments/#comment72157625193593386 taken by Mr Machin’s sister and very good they are too.