Band of the Week: Oh Wonder

British duo Oh Wonder

Who: Oh Wonder

One of the pleasures of going to a festival is the opportunity to see so many different bands in the same place at the same time. In the non-festival world, unless you live in the middle of a big city, going to a gig involves quite a commitment and no little expense. Yes, you’ve laid out quite a bit to get to the festival, but if you’re lucky, by the time it rolls around that pain has receded a little and you can convince yourself this music is basically free!

Latitude 2016 was just getting started, we walked on to the site on that Friday afternoon and ended up at the 6music stage / bloody great circus big top. Oh Wonder hadn’t been on stage long but the crowd had already warmed up and were loving it.

‘Some bloke thrashing away on a guitar in brilliant sunshine doesn’t seem right’.

Scheduling bands on the first day of a festival must be a bit of a tricky proposition. The crowd is a mix of some early arrivers who have spent the night, they’re in the mood and ready to party. But you’ve also got the folk who’ve just arrived after spending a few hours in a traffic jam.

I struggle to get into anything too heavy until the sun is heading towards the horizon. Some bloke thrashing away on a guitar in brilliant sunshine doesn’t seem right. So for me Oh Wonder were ideal. I’m sure their brand of electro-pop is a little lightweight for some. There’s something fresh about the Oh Wonder sound that perfectly suited that Friday afternoon, opening our festival if not ‘the’ festival.

Josephine Vander Gucht of Oh Wonder on stage

When: As I said, Oh Wonder were the first set of this year’s Latitude Festival and for my partner one of her standout moments of the weekend.

What: Oh Wonder, formed in 2014, are duo Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West. The couple are based in south London.

As more and more bands clamour for the attention of the internet getting noticed becomes increasingly difficult. Oh Wonder’s solution was to record, edit and release a track each month from the studio at the end of their garden. Starting in September 2014 with Body Gold (below) they were released onto Soundcloud. By the end of those twelve months, their debut self-titled album was written and had garnered them a huge online following.

As you would expect of a self-promoted product of the internet they are everywhere online. In addition to their Soundcloud, you can find Oh Wonder on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Spotify.

This is that first track uploaded to Spotify back in 2014.

 

And their latest album sampler. You can listen to the whole album on Soundcloud.

 

Why: Maybe it’s the full-of-expectation warm memory of that first sunny day at Latitude influencing me, but I don’t think so. There is definitely something in their songwriting to be nurtured. They have an uncanny knack of nailing the musical hook, it draws you in and before you know where you are you’re half way through the album.

Some reviews have commented that the harmonies tend to be a little monotonous. That seems a little harsh, however, I would be interested in hearing them mix it a little.

Where: As I write Oh Wonder are in the midst of a European tour. There are some more UK dates coming up with Festival No.6 in Portmeirion on 3 September, Bestival on Isle of Wight on the 9th and London’s Roundhouse on the 13th. They’re then of on a huge US tour until November. All the dates are here.

Have a great week. Have any new music you’d like to recommend? Hit me up at @nigelrumsey

Multi-Story Orchestra Rehearsal

Multi-Story Orchestra in their Peckham home

About this time last year I attended a concert by the Multi-Story Orchestra who perform, you guessed it, in a multi-storey car park. The orchestra is part of a wider arts project, Bold Tendencies, who have taken over the car park in the centre of Peckham, south London.

During the summer each year Bold Tendencies host a series of talks, concerts and art events. The roof of the car park is turned over to a great café and bar – Frank’s Cafe. As part of all this, the Multi-Story Orchestra play a series of classical concerts in their ’auditorium’ on the 8th floor.

Bassoonist with the Multi-Story Orchestra

…  several hundred Londoners joining in on the chorus of Wonderwall.

It’s quite a surreal experience. Imagine the typical multi-storey car park, low ceilings, harsh lighting. It is open on all sides, there’s concrete, lots of concrete and an orchestra! The day of the concert is one of those wonderful all too rare London days when the air is warm, there is barely a breeze and somehow all feels right with the world.

Mult-Story orchestra in their Peckham home

I’m guessing much of the audience aren’t familiar with Gérard Grisey’s Les Espaces Acousitiques, as I’m not. Never-the-less we sit entranced. My enduring memory comes in one of those unscripted moments. The other side of the railway is another building with its own roof top bar and their own performance – an Oasis cover band. As there is a lull in the music, across the tracks comes the unmistakable sound of several hundred Londoners joining in on the chorus of Wonderwall. Smiles spread across the faces of the audience. For a few seconds, two slices of London life are merged. Then as the orchestra continues those countless Noel’s and Liam’s gradually fade away.

Young musician working with the Multi-Story Orchestra

This year I’ve been lucky to work with the orchestra in shooting their rehearsals. The day of the rehearsal pictured here is very different from that day last year, thunderstorms were spreading across London, the rain hammered down. However, all that concrete isn’t easily intimidated. In that way the car park makes the ideal concert hall. It’s as though there’s no rain falling on the roof two floors above us.

Multi-Story Orchestra working with young musicians

For the second half of the rehearsal, the orchestra is joined by young musicians from local schools. It was great to see the musicians working with the next generation. From what I saw this year’s performances should be a treat.

Tuba player with Multi-Story Orchestra

Lists, changes and optimism

a seascape from the island St. Ives

I intended writing a post about the rather unremarkable subject of Camera Manuals, and that is coming. However I started wondering whether the location in which I write effects what and how I write. Generally I don’t think is does, however in this instance, as I’ve abandoned the intended subject to talk only about this location and the emotions it stirs, I can only conclude the answer has to be a resounding yes.

I’m writing perched on a rock off of ‘The Island’ in St Ives, on England’s south-west coast. Because of that I’m writing, for the first time in a very long while, with a pen on actual paper. It seemed vaguely ridiculous to drag my laptop along the coastal path, past the assembled tourists, surfers and the odd distressed artist, as though I was heading for a day in the office. My rock, as I now think of it, is below the footpath by some 20 feet, so I’m hidden from passersby. I can occasionally see the shadow of a head on the rocks in front of me, but that’s the limit of the intrusion.

Every year about this time I sit on this very rock and write, in a notebook remarkably similar to this one, a list. I’m very much a list enthusiast, I write lists for every activity and every possible occasion. There are the usual work related to-do lists, lists for the supermarket and the DIY store, lists of things I need to do around the house and in the garden. This particular list though is not one of those, mundane workaday lists. This list is the big one. ‘The List’ with capital letters. It’s the list I suspect we all draw up whether we actually commit it to paper or not. It’s the list of changes I’m going to make to my life once I return home from holiday; the list of things that are going to be different; this list is a statement, it says “I’m no longer the old me I’m going to return home a new man and start afresh”.

The disheartening thing about my list is that it has been virtually the same for as long as I can remember, yes, the details change but fundamentally it’s the same.

There may be a contingent amongst you, dear readers, who at this point is thinking “here’s a man who’s recently passed his half-century, although he doesn’t look it”. Nice of you to say. “Surely if you’ve not done it, whatever it is, by now then maybe you’re not going to?” A part of my brain accepts that, you may right but I just can’t allow that thought to linger. This year’s list may not be written yet, but it will be, you can be sure of that.

Brain space, rainy bank holidays & the answer to eternal happiness*

A view of the horizon over Dungenesss, Kent

Dungeness sky – as open as the Bank Holiday mind

The rainy bank holiday, in the British psyche, is the epitome of British pessimism. The average Brit expects it to rain on a bank holiday because ‘it’s miserable here that’s the worst thing that can happen’, right? Well, as it transpires, no. I like everyone else had been watching the weather forecasts and had bemoaned the approaching weather. So perfectly timed that the worst of it arrives over the 24 hour period that is the August bank holiday, the most prized of the British workers 24 hour passes from the daily drudgery.

As expected I got up this morning to see grey skies and a steady drizzle. To give the weather gods their due it hasn’t drizzled all day. There have been fairly long periods of heavier rain and just after lunch we had what one might call a downpour, but otherwise drizzle pretty much sums it up.

However far from the weather casting a grey shadow over my day I’ve had a really pleasant time. The drizzle, rain and downpours have given me permission – as it were – to hang out, take it easy, to kick back. Don’t get me wrong I’ve not sat on the sofa all day eating crisps and dribbling on to my vest – I’m still too tightly wound to allow myself to do that. I done a few chores, but at my own pace, there’s been no pressure to get something finished by a certain time so that I can immediately move on to the next job on my mental task list.

Just as I was relishing these, post lunch, moments of mental relaxation I realised that, yes, it’s a Monday so I would normally be working but in every other way today is no different from the average Saturday or Sunday. Why did it take a little rain (ok, a lot of rain) for me to give myself permission to relax? Why can’t I occasionally do that on a Sunday, or even god forbid a Saturday. Are we all so wound up with productivity, task lists and targets that we’ve forgotten how to take it easy?

In my idealised version of this post I’d now reel off my three point plan to guarantee a lifetime’s happiness and satisfaction. You’ll be disappointed, but maybe not surprised, to hear that isn’t going to happen – I suppose we all keep striving to reach that higher plane, though I fear that most of us may be moving in the opposite direction.

If you have the answer to eternal satisfaction and are looking for someone to share it with I’d appreciate a call – I’ll be very grateful. Is time for tea yet?

*disclaimer – part of this title may be slightly misleading.

Photo Books, Zines and Newspapers

Previews from my New York photobook.

Do you ever think that you’ve remembered something but can find absolutely no record of said memory. Such is the case with my visit earlier this year to the Tate’s William Klein + Daido Moriyama exhibition. I’m sure I remember seeing a copy of a newspaper style zine William Klein printed and sold featuring shots from New York. No matter how much I search I can’t find any mention of it anywhere on-line. Such is the authority of the internet that if I can’t find it on Google it probably doesn’t exist, right? It bothers me so much because it was the original inspiration behind my New York photo book. If you have a link, to afore mentioned zine, I’d really appreciate you sending it over. I’m slowly beginning to think I imagined the whole thing – in which case ‘great idea Nigel’.

Previews from my New York photobook.

The photozine idea was further jolted into life by the ‘books & zines’ feature on the Japan Camera Hunter site. The original plan was to produce a low quality b&w photocopied zine. If you’re from the USA you’ll be very familiar with the Kinko’s type copy shop where you, the punter, can get hands-on with the copy machine to lovingly produce your work yourself in-store. I had a rather romantic vision of doing this late into the night only fuelled by strong coffee and the idle chatter of my fellow photographers. A small thing called the Atlantic ocean put the brakes on that plan, it seems we’re far too distrusting in the UK to allow customers anywhere near the green button on the copy machine.

Previews from my New York photobook.

When I worked out the cost of photocopying all the pages, for me to then assemble the booklets at home it worked out a very similar cost to having a A5 booklet printed and finished. Printers seem to refer to a ‘book’ with a perfect bound spine (think expensive fashion magazine) as a ‘book’ and a folded spine (think Sunday supplement) as a booklet. The lure of professional printing, full-bleed (which you can’t achieve on a photocopier) and trimmed pages drew me away from the down-and-dirty world of the copy shop.

I came across Inky Little Fingers, who have a very useful on-line configurator which allows the novice publisher to modify numbers of pages, paper finishes, paper weights etc. to their hearts content without bothering some poor soul with far better things to do than keep revising their quote. The convenience of the configurator and the clear instructions on their web site was one of the main reasons for going with Inky Little Fingers (ILF) – surely an important lesson to all businesses, make your web site easy to use the customer will hang around. We all like a keen price but we still want good service to go with it.

Previews from my New York photobook.

So after teaching myself the basics of Indesign, I uploaded my PDF to the ILF web site and waited nervously for the results. One point to note ILF suggest you can upload your PDF either in CMYK or RGB (and they’ll convert to CMYK). I don’t know if it’s because of the way I have Lightroom configured but my images looked a very strange colour when I exported a CMYK file from Indesign. I got a much better result by uploading an RGB and letting ILF do the conversion.

Previews from my New York photobook.

I ordered 25 A5 size books which arrived, as promised, in about five days. Generally I’m very happy with them. I like some of the page layouts more than others but that’s more to with my lack of graphic design experience than anything done by the printers. I’m selling my books using an Etsy store, which works very well as far as removing the hassle of administering the store and taking the payments, but I haven’t actually had any sales generated Etsy searches. I’m not sure if that’s because customers searching Etsy aren’t looking for photo books or they just don’t like the look of my book!

Previews from my New York photobook.

I still have a hankering to produce the photo-newspaper, that either William Klein (or I) came up with. I’ve found a printer who will produce very short runs, so that may be my next project. Either way I’ve been bitten by the publishing bug, my New York book certainly won’t be my last.

You can see a preview of the complete book here, and buy a copy for £3 – yes, three pounds, what do I know about pricing! here.

You’re going to publish what!

Like any of us the prospect of a lovely new Leica appeals so when I saw this competition publicised by the good folks at Daylight Books I thought I might give it ago. I generally click through the ‘so you agree to our terms section’, not reading a damn thing. But in this instance the the T&Cs were placed in a scroll box just where you click ‘I do’, so I scrolled.

What I expect in a competition such as this is to give away the right for the competition holder to use the image and my name alongside it for their publicity, on their web site etc. What I don’t expect is to give them the absolute and irrevocable right to publish my name, email address, home address in perpetuity “in conjunction with other material” (which to take to a ridiculous degree could be porn) on media which may not have even been invented yet! The following T&Cs allow Luxottica Group S.p.a. to do pretty much anything with the data I give them. To credit them they have advised me that in a fairly prominent way, however they know as well as you do that the majority of competition entrants won’t read through what is contained in a fairly small scroll box, so here it is.

“For valuable consideration, receipt and sufficiency of which is hereby acknowledged, I hereby grant Luxottica Group S.p.a. its parents, subsidiaries, affiliates, agents, and assigns (collectively “Luxottica”) the absolute and irrevocable right and permission to use, re-use, publish, re-publish, publicly display, perform, transmit, exhibit, and reproduce my name, address, e-mail address, statements, video, voice, photograph, or other likeness, in whole or in part, individually or in conjunction with other material, including without limitation, text, photographs, video, or images, in any medium (whether now known or hereafter invented) and for any and all purposes, including but not limited to advertising, publicity, promotion, contests, packaging, and trade, throughout the world without restriction as to manner, frequency, or duration of usage. I agree that my name, address, e-mail address, statements, video, voice, photograph, or other likeness may be used with whatever visuals, copy, or other elements Luxottica may determine, in its sole discretion, for all media usage (including, but not limited to, usage on the Internet), and that nothing herein shall obligate Luxottica to use my name, address, e-mail address, statements, video, voice, photograph, or other likeness. I further agree that all materials produced pursuant to this Authorization and Release are and shall remain the sole and exclusive property of Luxottica, and that I will not receive any kind of payment, remuneration, compensation or consideration of any kind. I represent and warrant that I have the right to grant Luxottica the above-mentioned rights without obtaining the permission of, or making any payments to, any third party or entity. I hereby waive any right I may have to inspect and approve the finished product and the advertising/publicity copy that may be used, and hereby release and discharge, indemnify and hold harmless Luxottica and its officers, directors, employees, contractors, agents, and any designees, including without limitation, Luxottica’s licensees, successors, and assigns, from and against any and all liabilities, losses, claims, demands, costs (including without limitation attorneys fees) and expenses arising out of or in connection with any use granted hereunder, including but not limited to any claims for defamation, invasion of privacy, right of publicity or copyright infringement. Regarding statements or representations attributable to me and provided by me, I hereby warrant and represent that such statements or representations accurately reflect my true and honest experience and/or belief. I agree to execute such additional documents confirming this as Luxottica may reasonably require. I represent that I am over the age required by law to enter into binding agreements, that all the people shot in the video/photographs are over the age required by law and that I have no conflicting contractual obligations that would interfere with my granting the rights herein granted. If I am under age, the signature of my legal guardian below shall constitute such guardian’s consent on my behalf to the terms and conditions of this Authorization and Release.”

Following that not inconsiderable intrusion you are then expected to agree to the following ‘Authorization to Control Data’.

“The company Luxottica Group S.p.A., with registered office at Via Cantù 2, 20123 Milano, Italy controller of the data that you intend to give us, hereby informs you that we and/or our subsidiaries, affiliates, agents, and assigns will use the data we collect for marketing and promotional purposes, including but not limited to the following purposes: Sales campaigns, competitions for prizes, customer loyalty programs, distribution of gifts and prizes, sending of (informational) advertising material about our products, services and campaigns, sales offers and co-marketing campaigns, invitations to shows and events, market surveys. Your personal data may be sent to other third parties with whom our company and our affiliates may wish to collaborate in pursuit of the objectives set out above, or who provide central or support services in pursuit of the same objectives (for example: market research institutes, marketing companies, advertising agencies, companies that provide IT, delivery or planning services), or to fulfill legal obligations, or to respect the stipulations set forth by public authorities, or to assert a right before a court of law. The list of said third parties is available from the data controller. In assuring you that your data will be handled appropriately to ensure your privacy, in accordance with all applicable laws, including Legislative Decree 196/2003 of Italian law, whether via paper or electronic means, and on the basis of the objectives set out above, we wish to inform you that at any time you may exercise your rights in accordance with article 7 of Legislative Decree 196/2003, which allows you free access to your data, to have your data updated or cancelled without delay, and to oppose the use of your data for sales or advertising purposes, by writing to Luxottica Group S.p.A.”

It’s quite incredible that a company thinks that this level of personal intrusion is acceptable. I’m sure many of those who have already entered this data mining sham of a competition have just clicked though as I normally would. I urge you not to enter, I for one don’t want a Leica at that price.

Gregory Heisler: A Master of his Art

gregory_heisler_the_two_bushes
If you have an interest in photographic portraiture, whether you’ve known it or not, you will probably be familiar with the work of Gregory Heisler. Among other achievements he has 69 Time Magazine covers to his name. He became renown in 1991 for the stunning in-camera double exposure of George HW Bush (above) for the cover of Time Magazine, a shot which caused him to loose his White House photographer privileges, in my opinion it was probably worth it.

I’ve recently stumbled across a series of YouTube videos produced by Profoto USA where Heiser explains the methodology behind some of his most iconic shots. From the videos Heisler appears to be incredibly relaxed even laid-back. But that obviously doesn’t mean he’s relaxed about his work, in his preparation he’s incredibly meticulous. It’s fascinating to see the level of planning and experimentation that goes into each of these shots.

Whatever your level of experience you’re going to gain something from watching these videos even if it’s just respect for this master of his art.

#picbod self-portrait

I entered my, very unflattering portrait (I feel I need to say that so as you don’t think I’m quite as unattractive as I’ve made myself appear), shot for my #picbod submission into thePrintSpace self-portrait competition. Sadly I didn’t win, however I did get shortlisted and one of the judges, Ben Evans said  ‘Personally felt self-portrait and well executed. This was my favourite.’.

What this has reminded me, and I shouldn’t be surprised, is that getting off your backside and making the effort to get out and shoot, or taking part in a workshop, can open up new opportunities. OK so I was only shortlisted on this occasion, but it put my photography in front of people who hadn’t seen it before and next time you never know!