Airelle Besson + Metronomy

One of the most charming records of 2014 so far is Metromony's 4th album - Love Letters - which, in my opinion, is the band's most 'complete' album to date.

During a recent email conversation with a great French trumpeter & composer Airelle Besson, I discovered that she arranged the horns section and played trumpet solo on Love Letters. A lovely early spring connection don't you think...

Above is one of the images I captured of her during a portrait session we made together last year. Airelle was transfixed with the sound of my Profoto light's hum through the large beauty dish (the cooling fan had kicked in). She was impressed that the hum registered a perfect D-flat major! Coupled with her slender body and her relatively unique method of holding a trumpet, I asked her to continue looking up into the light as it produced a rather super 'ethereal' feel to her pose. 

Below is Airelle Besson performing with Metromony on a recent live appearance on Canal +

Ghostbuster

Snowfall was heavy and constant throughout 2014's Ice Music Festival. In fact, the snow did not slow up during any 24 hour period across the 10 days that the Ice Music Festival team were in Geilo, Norway. Crazy.

Ice instrument carving & construction is a precise skill and with snow falling so strongly, Bill Covitz had to remove the snow off the incomplete instruments a few times each day to ensure he and his team could access the ice successfully.

Looking like an eager member of a 'fraternity' Ghostbuster tribute act, one can see Bill lovin' the snow blower action whilst clearing Sidsel Walstad's massive ice harp!

Tove Sletto Medhus captured me right in the snow's path looking for a fun frame...result below :-)

Learning Away

I'm proud to be involved with another fantastic Paul Hamlyn Foundation Education & Learning Special Initiative - Learning Away.

Learning Away is a £2.25m Special Initiative that aims to support schools in significantly enhancing young people's learning, achievement and well-being by using innovative residential experiences as an integral part of the curriculum.

During the last 3 years, I have been commissioned to photograph the key stages of the initiative's early growth and now rapidly maturing network of participating schools. Working with pupils from both primary & secondary education from a range of largely urban based schools, the huge variety of residential locations has had a profound effect on individual pupils' outlook and understanding of environments outside of their own, familiar neighborhoods.

In collaboration with the talented new media, web design & marketing team at Public Life, Learning Away has launched a new content rich website. Featuring my photography and stills photography combined with video production by Neil Bakar Patterson at Fig Tree Film, the new website features a wealth of valuable resource for the education community and policy leaders alike.

One of 2013's week long residentials was based within the formal grounds of the world famous Hampton Court Palace during one the UK's warmest heatwaves in 100 years. Brief highlights of the drama, history and sports lessons are featured here. A maths lesson within Hampton Court Palace's Clock Court under the gaze of its beautiful Astronomical Clock - what's not to like?

Click any of the 4 screen grabs below and you're through to the Learning Away website. Click each individual Vimeo links that and you'll view first person feedback with a dynamic range of teachers.

Follow Learning Away, Pubic Life & Paul Hamlyn Foundation on Twitter.

Professor David Abulafia / DIE ZEIT Literatur Magazin

Before Christmas, I received an interesting portrait assignment from DIE ZEIT picture editor Navina Reus in Germany.

I joined DIE ZEIT journalist Maximilian Probst, who had flown in from Hamburg to interview & profile esteemed historian and author Professor David Abulafia of Gonville & Caius College / University of Cambridge for DIE ZEIT's Literatur Magazin.

As Professor of Mediterranean history at Cambridge University since 2000 and a Fellow of the British Academy, David has built a influential international career as historian of Italy, Spain and the greater Mediterranean coastline during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. 

David's latest publication - The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean - has been critically applauded internationally both in and out of academia, as the book chronologically divides the Mediterranean's history into 5 sections from 22,000BC to the present day in meticulous detail, whilst still being an accessible read.

The brief from Germany was deceptively simple: 3 final portraits covering both a close up of David and a couple that offered a sense of his college environment. I arrived early for a scout around...

...preparation always pays off and I found a perfect spot to illustrate the age and majestic 'gothic' of Gonville & Caius College, which was founded in the year 1348 (original name - Gonville Hall before changing to Gonville & Caius College in 1557).

My plan was to 'mirror' position David with the statue of Dr Stephen Perse (1548 - 1615) who was an English academic and philanthropist who left his considerable fortune of £10,000 to the history library of the day - and as long as the rain stopped for a couple of minutes, I knew that the north-east location of the Waterhouse Building would look great. The rain stopped for 5 minutes and the subtle glow brought out the green flora superbly.

I then looked around for an indoor location but even standing in the oldest part of the college (the college Chapel) I couldn't find a suitable backdrop or contextually inspiring spot to shoot in. Upon meeting David, I outlined my idea to frame him in a more studious environment and he thought that the college's prestigious library, where he has spent a lot of time researching, would be ideal. 

Gonville & Caius College library has served scholars and students alike since 1441 and in 1996, the library's contents were rehoused in the glorious 19th Century, Grade 1 listed Cockerell Building. Split across 2 levels, the library's upper level contains a working collection of some 90,000 volumes, books and journals. This level is open to undergraduates and scholars.

The lower level contains the College's special collection of manuscripts, incunabula and other rare printed material. Access to the lower library is restricted to all and only accessible, under supervision and by appointment with library staff or a College Fellow. Luckily for Maximilian and I, we cleared security easily with a Fellow of Gonville & Caius - aka Professor David Abulafia.

In short, Maximilian and I were left speechless by both the library's selection and the building's extraordinary detail and timely presence. Originally designed by Charles Robert Cockerell in 1834 and extensively renovated (with refocus on C.R. Cockerell's details and space) to include modern computer and security systems by Donald Insall Associates in the mid 1990s, the library was a photographer's dream.

Whilst walking around and observing the shelves weighed down with ancient and significant manuscripts and sheepskin bound books, it became clear that David favored various sections of the library. Still seeking out the right spot to photograph David, I found a bright red step ladder for gaining access to higher shelves. Bam! - this 'prop' would serve as a perfect graphic counterpoint to anchor David within his scholarly surroundings.

So out came my trusty Profoto generator and D4 lights + gridded beauty dish and zoom reflector + 10º grid to ensure just the right amount of light fell on David without a) creating shadow on the column behind him or b) to give the 'illusion' that he was naturally lit from the window area. By the time we set-up, the light was falling outside, so I chose to really open the shutter up to 0.3 second to balance out the ambient light (awful mixture of window light and tungsten lamps) with the flash output. I also decided to add a little shadow to the lower part of the ladder to ensure it visually separated from the carpet and wooden floor.

As ever, I seemed to find my camera jammed into the tightest area within such a big building. I really wanted to show off the signature details of the building along with David and his ladder through a 50mm prime lens, as those light fittings and ceiling freeze really added drama.

I packed away while Maximilian continued with his interview. 

A truly memorable 'hands-on' introduction into the collegiate milieu of ancient history. Thank you David.

#mufu2014 / 93 Feet East

Which location should one of the UK's leading music education initiatives - Musical Futures - pick to host their annual #mufu2014: Work Hard, Play Hard? Some function suite of a West London Hilton, a large Premier Inn seamlessly integrated into the M1 / A14 Services near Rugby or an off-shoot of Glasgow's SEC...

...nah, none of above - too easy. The ever-progressive MF team choose 93 Feet East, the notorious East End London club located along Brick Lane. Infamous for its larger than life parties during the unrelenting rise of hipsterdom and closed after a massive Operation Condor drugs raid in 2012.

Now reopened with a clean bill of health and re-inventing itself as a day and night location, 93 Feet East offered a perfect venue for 60 music teachers from across the UK to collaborate, run workshops and listen to keynote speakers over a 2 day period. With so many rooms acting as break out spaces and Brick Lane supplying tasty catering, much work and fun was had by all. 

Witnessing the club with its lights up and sunlit windows shining on was novel and it was refreshing to juxtapose the conference's attendees with the regular club backdrop. I've chosen a few frames to peek through.

Christmas decorations in late January. We were bemused too :-)

mufu2014_93FeetEast_EmileHolba-6.jpg
mufu2014_93FeetEast_EmileHolba-4.jpg

We Teach Music

January 23rd 2014 is a very exciting day, as I have my first book published and officially launched at 93 Feet East in London's infamous Brick Lane.

A beautifully printed document, 'We Teach Music' is the result of a photographic odyssey across the length and breadth of the United Kingdom, capturing secondary education music teachers who have really driven the success of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation's special initiative - Musical Futures

This epic, 20 location, 20 portrait project involved driving 2,156 miles across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Island and was completed in just 15 back-to-back days during September 2013. The accompanying #whereisemile blog and Twitter posts took on a life of its own within the music educating community and by the 3rd week, the guessing game of who I would be visiting next became obsessive for some :-)

My wish for this series was to pictorially integrate several narratives to create a snapshot of some of the UK’s music departments in 2013. Such a far reaching photographic journey is increasingly rare, so Musical Futures’ brave and bold decision to allow a photographer to climb into a car full of equipment should be congratulated.

The portraits were framed in an ‘environmental’ manner, meaning that the music teacher and their personality would feature heavily but with contextual reference to their workplace surroundings. This style of framing ensured that the schools’ age, construction type and condition would be highlighted, along with personal objects many teachers add to their classrooms.

Choice of camera and lens was critical – I chose my trusty Mamiya RZ67 Pro ii & 110mm 2.8 Sekor lens
as well as a Profoto generator, lamps and modifiers to ensure optimum aperture and to allow for creative sculpting of light throughout the portraits to guide the viewer’s eye. All frames were shot on Kodak Portra 120 negative film.

My warmest gratitude is extended to the whole Musical Futures' team ( + David Price & Anna Gower) Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Ocky & Michael at COG Design, who designed this book and transposed my images so beautifully into print. 

I would like to shout out special 'big-up' to Abigail D'Amore, who I first worked with documenting Musical Futures during its infant years way back in 2006. Abi - your unwavering support for my visual narrative and inclusion into the Musical Futures' family since day one has been brilliant. Thank you.

5 of the 52 pages follow...

Stan Tracey (1926 - 2013)

Last Friday - December 6th - the UK and the jazz world lost one of its most innovative pianist's & composers, Stan Tracey.

Along with Stan Tracey's Quintet, he and John Surman were scheduled to play together as part of the very recent EFG London Jazz Festival. The opportunity to witness them play together in recent years was rare indeed, so it was with sad news that Stan's health had deteriorated enough for him not to play that day.

John had the unenviable task of announcing that Stan's health was very poor but spoke beautifully of Stan's contribution to jazz and produced some very sweet anecdotes of their time playing in the London scene over 4 decades ago.

The show on Sunday 24th Nov continued with John playing solo and then introducing Andy Cleyndert on bass, Stan's son Clark on drums and Stan's chosen pianist for the afternoon, Steve Melling. They played a sublime rendition of Stan's seminal composition 'Jazz Suite inspired by Dylan Thomas' "Under Milk Wood" first released in 1965. Two photographs from that show are featured below.

There are - quite rightly - a myriad of obituaries however I feel that Serious' Director John Cummings (Serious also produce the EFG LJF) and The Guardian's John Fordham offer particularly wonderful insights into Stan's legacy.

Read John Cummings & John Fordham

RIP Stan Tracey.

FT Life & Arts Photoshoot

I received a phone call from Alice Mansbridge - Senior Photo Editor at the FT in London - asking whether I would be interested in photographing some of the latest designs in snow sport clothing for the FT's Weekend Life & Arts section.

Working with Alice is always splendid and the snow & cold I love, so it had to be 'yes'. However, how does one create an Alpine feel in the Home Counties of England?

Two leading travel writers, Tom Robbins / FT's Travel Editor and Nicola Iseard / Fall Line Magazine's Editor, received clothing from Arc’teryx and Norrøna to try out and review.

The first shoot was with Nicola and we based it at a well equipped artificial ski slope centre in Dorset called Snowtrax.

The day turned out to be the wettest this autumn with constant torrential rain, so any ideas of action shots were completely soaked out! Thinking out of the box, I asked Nicola if the centre had a service workshop, as I felt that the Norrøna gear she was wearing was rather technical and an active area where skis are waxed & tuned would compliment well.

The bad weather gods were beaten - upon entering the workshop, I was in colour contrast heaven - a serious green wall picked out the outfit's zips, whilst perfectly off-setting the deep bright purple of the Gore-Tex Pro face fabric! I proceeded to shoot a combination of Nicola in different poses - with and without technician working away in the background.

Throw in a few detail shots and another location centered in the Snowtrax shop and we completed a successful morning's work.

For fellow photo nerds - I used the simple addition of one Profoto Acute D4 light with a Profoto Softlight Reflector & 25º grid to add some contrast, 'lift' Nicola from the background and throw some better colour balance for her skin tone under some terrible over head flouro tubes.

The following week found myself and Tom at The Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead. Housed in one huge refrigerated warehouse and sporting a 160 meter slope deep in real snow, The Snow Centre offered a little more realistic Alpine back drop.

However the slope also presented its own visual distractions - firstly, the lighting was surprisingly low (even with all the snow reflected light) and with giant non-article-appropriate sponsors plastered all over the walls, it proved tricky to place Tom and Arc’teryx in a neutral and focused pose.

Our saviour was one of their snow parks, complete with slide rails. The backdrop was 'clean' and I was able to compose a frame that injected some additional (but non distracting colour) along with texture and interest either side of Tom's focal plane.

Additional lighting is strictly prohibited on slope, so I placed a Canon 580 EX2 on top of the camera just to off-set the overhead sodium light colour cast and add just enough 'shape' to the contrast so Tom's gear came alive.

Tom and I then retired to the bar for some well earned fries and espressos before heading back into London.

Steep descents in La Grave anyone?

EFG London Jazz Festival 2013 In Colour!

Each November, the EFG London Jazz Festival takes over the city’s boroughs and major art venues, and – for the sixth year running – I’m capturing the headliners and highlights, as well as the lower-key, but nevertheless extremely noteworthy masterclasses and workshops.

Jazz photography has a long and respected history and has always kept abreast of changing photographic fashions, cameras and lens development. Understandably, many people associate classic jazz shots with the era spanning the 1940s to the 1960s (think William Claxton and DownBeat photographer William P. Gottlieb), when a fast lens and black-and-white film came of age and into the hands of many more people. This access meant that many giants of 20th century jazz – among them Monk, Parker, Hawkins, Ellington, Mingus, Davis and Hines – were captured in their prime, ensuring a strong archive was stored for prosperity.

Now, in the second decade of the 21st century, recorded jazz sales are nowhere near what they were in the heyday of labels like Verve and Blue Note and Teo Macero's intense production schedule at Columbia, but the UK's live jazz scene is in good health, and the EFG London Jazz Festival reflects the contemporary, thriving scene by way of a bucketload of diverse events. Luckily, these live performances are also presented in glorious colour!

Often a jazz musician's on-stage presence is captured as a solitary 3/4-length portrait or headshot; however, this document often belies either the dynamic range of colour or variety of venue backdrop, or it excludes other members of the group. Regular viewers of my work will know that I like to pull back a little and hook in some contextual reference to the artist's performing environment. A little patience observing the act’s interplay and close observation of background detail pays dividends and can offer a more sympathetic, but graphic representation of the skill and passion on display.

So, with a nod of admiration to those pioneers of black-and-white jazz photography, here’s a brief selection of the 2013 edition of EFG London Jazz Festival so far – with a strong injection and juxtaposition of colour...

 Alfredo Rodríguez / Queen Elizabeth Hall / Southbank Centre

Alfredo Rodríguez / Queen Elizabeth Hall / Southbank Centre

 Splice / Kings Place St Pancras Room

Splice / Kings Place St Pancras Room

 Geri Allen / Esperanza Spalding / Terri Lyne Carrington aka ACS / Barbican 

Geri Allen / Esperanza Spalding / Terri Lyne Carrington aka ACS / Barbican 

 Next Generation Takes Over / Clore Ballroom Southbank Centre

Next Generation Takes Over / Clore Ballroom Southbank Centre

 Peter Ind / Masterclass / Southbank Centre

Peter Ind / Masterclass / Southbank Centre

 Clare Teal / Barbican 

Clare Teal / Barbican 

 Scott Colley / Barbican

Scott Colley / Barbican

 Splice / Kings Place St Pancras Room

Splice / Kings Place St Pancras Room

 Wayne Shorter Quartet & BBC Concert Orchestra / Barbican 

Wayne Shorter Quartet & BBC Concert Orchestra / Barbican 

 Hilde Marie Kjersem / Kings Place Hall One

Hilde Marie Kjersem / Kings Place Hall One

 Ramon Valle / Queen Elizabeth Hall / Southbank Centre

Ramon Valle / Queen Elizabeth Hall / Southbank Centre

 Omar & Guy Barker's Jazz Voice Orchestra / Barbican 

Omar & Guy Barker's Jazz Voice Orchestra / Barbican 

Awards for Artists 2013 Group Portrait

Last Thursday I had the pleasure to photograph the recipients of the highly prestigious Awards for Artists prize for a 5th year.

Awarded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, the prize is one of the art world’s most generous (£50k each) and greatly assists composers and artists extend their reach and further develop their craft.

Congratulations! 

Recipients from left to right: Torsten Lauschmann, Chris Watson, Cally Spooner, Margaret Harrison, Emily Hall, Stewart Home and Bryn Harrison.

Sadly, the 8th recipient Ian White passed away on 26th October 2013. 

#whereisemile / Week 3 / Finish

Start to finish: 2,156 miles driven and 218 by air. Yep, my 20 location, 20 portrait tour of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland came to a close late last week.  

I've been lucky to travel the UK pretty comprehensively over the years but to focus on a different region day to day is something special. Cliched for sure, but the variety this Isle offers really is truly world class.

In keeping with my Week 1 & Week 2 shout outs, I'm shouting out to the last 6 teachers in this series. In chronological order of visit: 

1) Nathalie van der Weide / @nathalieweide at Harris Academy in Purley. A teacher who has struck fame before whilst growing up in her native Netherlands. Yep, often the face of Nederlandse Spoorwegen the Dutch State railway, her father was their chief photographer! Up to date; we struck the right pose within the Harris Federation...

2) Jason Kubilius / @jksfhs at Forest Hill School. A long term supporter of Musical Futures, Jason and his team preside over a vibrant music department in South London. A music department where students simply want to hang out in :-) 

3) Kitt Garner / @Kitt1066  at Saffron Walden County High School. Fresh into SWCHS this autumn term, Kitt is very lucky to have probably the most enviable school performance space at his disposal. Nothing short of grand, opulent and designed to make most London orchestras go green with envy, the hall will be formally opened in November. Another ballsy set-up like Emily's grand escapade, the range and reliability of Profoto & Pocket Wizard never cease to amaze me. 

4) Steve Jackman / @sjeeves at William Ellis School in Camden. Aside from trying to recreate a scene from Breaking Bad (lamely, I hasten to add) the vibe Steve generates within a Victorian rabbit's warren of multi level classrooms is very cool indeed. Trivia alert - #whereisemile pic of the day was shot by Steve's work colleague Horace, who used to tour manage Soul II Soul; a proper London comprehensive! 

5) Dominique Jones / Senior Lecturer in PGCE Secondary Music at Middlesex University in Hendon. Beautifully tying in all aspects of Musical Futures' continued success, my trip back onto a university campus to photograph Dom, presented a delightful sun drenched restored 1930s courtyard. However, I still think we two should have jumped the security fence to shoot at Dom's previous office location in a Victorian orangery in Trent Park :-)

6) Danny Fisher / Simon Balle School in Hertford. Once Danny and I had worked the ridiculously über teutonic portrait session, we decided to star in an episode of Miami Vice to celebrate my car's Road Trip! Road Trip! journey end. Basked in late afternoon sundown - be it without pink flamingos, art deco bars or semi naked Latino women...

End Credits:

I couldn't have put together this portrait series without generous assistance and input from the following people and organisations:

Abigail D’Amore / @abigaildamore / Musical Futures Project Leader. Working with Abi is an absolute pleasure. Insanely well organised and working at the helm of Musical Futures for nearly a decade, Abi's attention to detail is legendary. 

Anna Gower / @tallgirlwgc / Musical Futures National Coordinator (South) and, for those in the know, the doyen of Musical Futures' ever expanding social media outlets. I can officially confirm that Anna's Twitter response time is a whisker faster than Twitter's own servers, FACT. 

Paul Hamlyn Foundation / for 25 years, one of the UK's largest grant making foundations, PHF have passionately supported Musical Futures' development. A special thank you to Denise Barrows / PHF Head of Learning and Education.

All Photos / a true independent photographic suppliers in Worthing. A fresh 120 Portra film pit stop. Extraordinary amount of photographic & darkroom curiosities jammed into the premises and full of all film formats nicely cold stored! 

Hertford Cameras / another independent photography shop. Just before leaving to photograph Dom Jones, my trusty mechanical cable release broke. I dived into Hertford Cameras and out came a Quality Street tin rammed full of used cable releases. £3 later, I was on the road again!

The pupils in each one of the schools I visited who captured all the #whereisemile Tweet pics of the day! 

Radio 4 / as ever, top quality programming for long days on the road.  

The numerous, unprocessed, pirate radio stations I tuned into around Greater Manchester, Glasgow, London, West Midlands and Merseyside. A true representation & barometer of our nation's diversity!

Finally, please follow @emileholba and @musicalfutures to ensure you're the first to learn about this series' progress and planned publication.

#whereisemile / Week 2 / Midway

The miles are seriously racking up! Week 2 of the Musical Futures' portrait assignment went just as smoothly as Week 1, with another 7 teachers captured in all their work glory.

Driving faster than Richard Farnsworth in The Straight Story but just a tad more lawful than Barry Newman's Kowalski in Vanishing Point, my Road Trip! Road Trip! around the United Kingdom is producing a wonderful series of vignettes showing it's rich regional variation. From provincial dialects and local employer through to land & urban scapes viewed through my windscreen, the breadth of diversity presented day to day is amazing.

Here's another set of shout-outs before driving into Week 3. In chronological order of visit:

1) Beverley Harrison / @bkmizon at Holy Cross Catholic High School in Chorley, Lancashire. A serious force for Musical Futures west of the Pennines and I can confirm, in reply to her Tweet, that her classroom was indeed presented beautifully...until some bloke in a yellow jacket arrived and littered the space with lighting gear!

2) Anne Rushforth / @annerushforth at St David's High School in Saltney. In the shadow of Airbus's prodigious A380 aircraft wing manufacturing facility, Anne has created an oasis of music learning which has her obsessive detail written all over it. Beverley, you have stiff competition in 'the UK's neatest classroom' competition :-) Throw in an orchestra of inflatable instruments and my first day of Week 2 finished perfectly.

3) Omar Khoker at Severn Vale School in Gloucester. Impeccably dressed and clean shaven, Omar's presence within an enviably equipped music department forms an erudite figure not to be questioned...until, that is, his phone rings. Yep, mid-shoot, Disclosure's smash 'Latch' blasts through the room. You couldn't script it! We both agree that the 2013 Mercury Music Prize shortlist is safe, commercial but pretty balanced, especially within the electronic genre :-)

4) Sarah Pappin at Torquay Academy. Surrounded by new, academy status architectural steel walkways and business like corridors, Sarah and her team are transforming the music and drama department. Thank you Sarah for going along with my risky stage direction. Oh, and maybe reevaluate that back to back weekend exercise lol!

5) Alex Jennings / @alexjbass at Ivybridge Community College. A school so damn big, it has it's own weather system. The town of Ivybridge, on the edge of Dartmoor, consists of a BP station, a Tesco Express and the school, that's it. 2,600 pupils, 57 feeder primary schools, and it's own coach park - Alex requires a sat nav to find his own staff toilet. Still gigging with his band The Breaks, the South West has a new head of music ready to pose for an Esquire fashion advertorial.  

6) Jon Reeves at Steyning Grammar School. Greeted by Jon and one of the country's finest (and very ornate) Gamelans, capturing a portrait should have been a breeze. However with the school being established in 1614, I wanted to dig a little deeper into the school's vibe and Jon came up trumps! A little class shifting and chair rearrangement later and we created some magic. 

7) Emily Armstrong, Hayley Fox & Amelia Jimmison at Oak Grove College. Working in one of the UK's largest special education needs schools, this dedicated trio work wonders with Oak Grove's students. Appropriately adapting Musical Futures through to year 11, Emily's team work with a focused teacher / student ration of 1 to 6. I learnt more about Slayer, drank strong tea and made sure that a mysterious class mascot received due attention in the final frame...

Week 2 logistics: 1,087 miles driven along the yellow line above, with a average of 50.4 MPG and 46.9 MPH and the newly opened Premier Inn at Burgess Hill is the UK's greenest hotel, apparently. Also the countryside around Church Stretton is so ridiculously beautiful, that I am sure that Visit England designed the area within a Waitrose lambing advert iPad app presented by Nicholas Crane, ready to be sold to the Chinese middle class looking to travel aboard. 

Where in the UK will I be driving to tomorrow? Check out #whereisemile & @musicalfutures tomorrow evening to find out...roll on Week 3.





#whereisemile / Week 1 / Start

Wow! Week 1 of the Musical Futures' teacher portrait assignment went very smoothly indeed. The warm reception and hands-on approach from all the teachers so far has been supa-damn-dupa. 

I refuse to start Week 2 without some big shout-outs to the first 7 teachers. In chronological order of visit:

1) Ian Dickinson / @Ianfatbudgie at Holly Lodge Science College in Smethwick, West Midlands. With the snarl of John Lydon and awesome purple hair to match, Ian's 'Pan Alley' and passion for Ska is something to behold.

2) Sharon Jagdev Powell / @SJagdevPowell at Nottingham Girls Academy. You want to know about how to play a Taiko Drum, then look no further than Sharon's secret weapons in the music classroom. An original Musical Futures pathfinder too!

3) Emily Segal at Harrogate Grammar School. A ballsy set-up involving the world's tallest decorating ladders, 4 pupils mad bent on stage lighting and Emily's patience of a saint. With piano in position, Emily's previous career came to light.

4) Ally Brown / @allybrown1 and Ursula Massingham / aka Sister Act at Sunnydale School. What an infectiously happy pair! Think a modern take on a 'O Brother Where Art Though' recording session with a heap of serious audio tech and Wednesday afternoon's resulting portrait session proved very fruitful. Queens of banter. 

5) Jenny Black / @yojpro at Boclair Academy. Seriously, how many pupils in the UK can boost that their Head of Music moonlighting as a club DJ and producer? not many I bet. A cool, glamorous customer. 

6) Mairéad Duffy / @mduffymus at St Patrick's Academy. Ulster's most passionate singing teacher, this is a FACT. A heavenly time had with Mairéad, kicking off a brilliant day near the shore of Lough Neagh. A Spinal Tap fan.

7) Plunkett McGartland / @pm_gartland at Holy Trinity College. Come on, Plunkett's first name alone qualifies a place in this portrait series. Along with his Head of Music, Roisin McCurry / @roisinrenshaw (my adhoc assistant for the afternoon) my whistle stop visit to Cookstown was filled with laughter. This lethal duo would laugh if there arse's were on fire!

Week 1 logistics: 659 miles driven along the yellow line above, with a average of 49.8 MPG and 48.5 MPH and 218 miles in the air. Fayre & Square pub meals (found next to any Premier Inn) are not nice in any way.

Where in the UK will I be driving to tomorrow? Check out #whereisemile & @musicalfutures tomorrow evening to find out...


#whereisemile

Elwood: It's a hundred and six miles to Chicago, we've got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark, and we're wearing sunglasses.

Jake: Hit it.

Nope, I'm not on a mission from god but last Monday I began a Road Trip! Road Trip! to cover the length and breadth of the United Kingdom for Musical Futures. My car boot is packed full with lighting gear and camera equipment, ready to capture a portrait of a range of teachers that Musical Futures has had an impact on their work.

The series of photographs will depict a working snapshot of the United Kingdom's music teachers, who they are and what their personal story is. Shot on location at their respective schools, I'm looking to surround them with signature themes that are important to them. The series will feature in an exciting new App that the Musical Futures' team is currently developing.

Since Monday, I've set-up the hot lights in Smethwick in the West Midlands, constructed columns of drums in Nottingham, 'gone damn grand' in Harrogate and created a modern take on a recording session from 'O Brother Where Art Thou' in County Durham...

 ...I do have dark sunglasses, I do have a tank full of gas but not keen on cigarettes. Where will I be shooting later today?

 @musicalfutures  #whereisemile

 

3 Seasons

So far 2013’s work got damn cold in Hol / Norway, it then travelled to a mind numbingly cold & wintery Baffin Island / Nunavut, gradually warmed up during a late spring in Germany and is now back basking in a ‘normal’ British summer. 

Yep, it has been a busy few months meeting and photographing some amazing people and places; from one of the world’s finest living mime artists, Switzerland’s Clown Dimitri through to Jim Wilson, the Canadian Arctic’s snowmobile repair wizard / aficionado / outright maverick.

Stellar musicians & composers have also sat for me under the hot lights and I’ve documented some of the UK’s most progressive educational initiatives. I also co-created a triumphant 5 week art installation programmed as part of this year's prestigious City of London Festival called the Forest of London

It is about time to climb back into the blogging seat and share some of my stories and observations. In the meantime, you can take a look through some fresh galleries I’ve created, displaying new stories and recent commissions.

Oh and I’ve finally joined Twitter...finally.

Elizabeth Price Wins 2012 Turner Prize

Last night Elizabeth Price won the prestigious Turner Prize for 2012, presented at Tate Britain in London. Congratulations!

I had the pleasure of meeting and photographing Elizabeth last month. I was working with the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and taking the formal photographs of each recipient of PHF's equally prestigious Awards For Artists prize. The prize has been presented since 1994 and is given to 8 individuals (a mixture of composers and artists). The award is very substantial, with each recipient receiving £50,000 to develop their skill and vision.

Although Awards For Artists receives considerably less media hype and attention than the Turner, it's influence is as strong within the dedicated artsworld. An interesting 'award' comparison can be found over at Culture Critic

Below is my group photograph of all 8 of this year's Awards For Artists prize: from left - composer Lis Rhodes, artist Andy Holden, composer Eliza Carthy, composer Steve Beresford, artist Pavel Büchler, artist Ed Atkins, composer Edmund Finnis and artist Elizabeth Price.