Friday, 19 April 2013

I write about myself some more (a.k.a the Bob Poster saga)

I'm well aware this image isn't of something on a computer

This is how this normally goes.
  1. Make a big cup of coffee
  2. Sit down to write blog post
  3. Drink coffee
  4. Get distracted by MANY things.
Oh Bob, you've done it again.

So let's try again.

I don't know if anyone remembers summer from last year, but I remember it being pretty nice. I remember wearing shorts, I remember lots of greens and blues. I also remember being at work and having to be inside all day. Working at a university during the summer is an interesting experience, mainly as the number of students drops by about 90%. In between my summer tasks and on my lunch breaks, I would find myself browsing tumblr, youtube, fffound and various other websites, trying to suck in and surround myself with as much creative material as possible to inspire me. Amidst all the images I was normally interested in, these websites properly introduced me to the work of an amazing wave of illustrators and graphic designers that were all outputting these fucking fantastic, powerful, creative images from popular culture, brought into a graphic poster form, be it classic films or anime or work based on albums. I'd been saving images like this onto my computer for years, images such as minimalist posters for my favourite movies, so I could use them as wallpapers for my shiny screen, but it was only now that I kind of realised all these artists had websites that were pretty easy to find and look at their portfolios. Sounds stupid when you write it down like that.

I was sort of at a stage where I felt I'd spent my gap year, three years of university and a year and a half of work experience after that trying to improve my photography, and not feeling like I'd got that far with it. I wanted to try something new. Something that was new to me. And designing posters for my favourite movies seemed like a fun way to start.

But people study graphic design and illustration. People do entire degrees in it. I had not. I was just a 'photographer' with access to photoshop, illustrator and a keen interest in creative design who just wanted to join in with all the fun. It was around the time The Dark Knight Rises was coming out so there was an influx of awesome imagery coming from artists like (dare I say it as it is so painfully obvious to mention his name) Olly Moss, and even the IMAX midnight release poster was friggin' amazing.

'nuff said (I'm afraid I don't know the artist for this)
So after doodling a million ideas down, I set to work to teach myself the more graphical side of Photoshop, built upon what I had already learned after years of using Photoshop just for photo editing. Using the text tool and all its character functions, layering textures and the pen tool, these were all things I had a vague idea of how to use but had never needed to use for my photography. And here were the results.

Princess Mononoke
This was my first attempt, and for some reason,  it was one of the longest things I have ever deliberated over. Which is strange, after now realising how relatively simple it is in comparison to some of the others I have attempted. It started off just as having a wolf's outline on a black background. So I hand drew the wolf, scanned it into photoshop and it somehow morphed into more of a 'wanted' style poster, which I kind of imagined might be up around 'Iron Town' in the actual film. This was more of an experiment in textured backgrounds and also the actual blending of the text into the image. 

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
Here was the first design where I actively tried to incorporate all of the thoughts and feelings I had about the film into it, which were clouds, blue skies, and some sort of graph to represent the high-school themes of the film. This was my first attempt at creating my own brush also, which I used to create the disintegrate/jumping through time effect on the graph. And also first proper use of the pen tool for the actual graph. MEMORIES.

A thief of biblical proportions
I was also watching the first season of American Horror Story at the time. Just had this idea one afternoon after watching an episode, as the character of Moira O'Hara in her maid outfit seemed to be pretty iconic. And taking something iconic and breaking it down into a much more simplified but still just as bold version is something really fun.

It has nothing to do with the fact that the actress is beautiful...

I wanted to try out something that didn't have quite so much visual background to go on, so I attempted to create a poster for the greek myth Theseus and The Minotaur.

It makes my eyes hurt looking at it for too long.

After I'd done these, I sort of lost steam a little bit, term was due to start up again with the students coming back and everything. I think I was applying for another part time job and everything was a bit up in the air. I felt I had learnt a minor skill that might come in handy one day, and I was relatively satisfied.

Soon enough, I saw a post on facebook from the Duke of York's Picturehouse in Brighton, saying that they were looking for someone to design a poster for the Jim Henson film Labyrinth, for a late night screening they were putting on under the Duke's After Dark header, organised and programmed by Toby King, one of the loveliest chaps I have met around Brighton. What with Labyrinth being hands-down one of my favourite films ever, I jumped at the opportunity to have a go at designing something. For some reason or whatever, I think I had been missed out of the initial e-mail brief, so only had a week to come up with an idea. So I chose what I thought, to me, was the most iconic thing about Labyrinth, which was the range of amazingly well thought out characters and their designs.

So after a million different attempts, much input from my housemates, and having to learn on the job the technical issues one can have with the pen tool, I had created this.

You remind me of the buuuuuuuuuuh
But that was not before this was in first place for a while -

I definitely thought this would look great on the outside of a cinema.

Long story short, my design got picked out of a group of about 4 or 5 other entries, and I was ecstatic. Just seeing something I had created being put on display and being used to advertise one of my favourite films was such a buzz.

Yup, there it is. Just like I said it was.
So this was kind of the start of a genuinely fun and great few months, which is still continuing now, of being asked to come up with designs for some of my favourite films. As of yet, all of the posters I have created bar one have been used to advertise the special screenings that are put on by Toby and the lovely people at the Duke of York's. And to be honest, I'm really pleased with how much better I think I've got with each one. But I'll let you decide that for yourself. Here they are in chronological order of creation.

A special Christmas screening of Die Hard. Probably my least favourite out of the bunch because I feel I messed the text up.
Gremlins - this one wasn't used. Sad face.
I was incredibly pleased to get a chance to make a poster for this film. Though I only had about three days to make it before I went to Japan for Christmas, I was still happy with the result.
Probably my favourite so far.
The most recent. Also, the first where I made the majority of graphics in Adobe Illustrator - I do not know how I managed before.

I feel really lucky to have had these opportunities to create this artwork for these films. I know it probably sounds horribly lame, but the whole process is so so so much fun to me - sitting down and thinking of ideas, maybe watching key scenes with iconic imagery in, doing research to find any reference images I might need, choosing the colours, perfecting the shapes, seeing the posters up and then getting to keep a copy for myself. It's bloody brilliant. It's just something that I want to keep doing because I know I can get better at it, and I want to get better at it.

An in-depth look at my creative process

Here are a couple of images I just made for fun.

Daddy, look! There's a woman outside the window. And she's not touching the floor.
Mama was not a particularly amazing film, but it made me and my friends jump and had some cool imagery in it and we had a lot of fun watching it. I think I also got popcorn stuck in my beard, which I will never live down. I just had this kind of cool idea for an image stuck in my head when leaving the cinema, mainly because of Mama's creepy ass huge fingers. I feel I managed to sort of include my own drawing style in this poster a bit more than the other posters I had made, which I like that i'm able to do.

Chalk and Cheese
I made this for a competition on the Studio Ghibli fan page on facebook to mark the 25th anniversary of the release of Grave of the Fireflies and My Neighbour Totoro, two of the most iconic Ghibli films. At the time of me writing this, it has had 2,148 likes on facebook, which is MIND BLOWINGLY cool. Like, beyond words. That many people looked at it and pressed a button to show their appreciation. It doesn't sound like much, but to me it means a whole lot.

So that's what I've been doing a lot of recently. I currently have three more posters lined up, which is very exciting as they're all for awesome films.

To round off, here's a picture of me drinking my cup of coffee I mentioned at the start of this post. What goes around, comes around.

What mug is it? AAAADVENTURE MUG!


(also, I should point that I have used a couple of fonts and textures/brushes that I haven't had time to go through and credit, if anyone is curious what they are or annoyed that I haven't put it in, please e-mail me and I will rectify it as soon as I can)

(I feel I should also mention my sorrow at the incredibly sad news that one of my favourite graphic designers/artists/photographers, Storm Thorgerson, has passed away. His work was such a massive influence on pretty much every single photography project I did at university or outside of university for the last five years. Truly a creative genius.)


Sunday, 14 April 2013

I liked it there

It has been a relatively draining week on all aspects of my brain and body. I have been in annoying physical pain for about three days due to the mother of all toothaches (a small part of me wanted to write teethaches there). Whatever reasons there are anyway, I have been sleeping badly and have had no chance to write this post. Or even have any thoughts about what to write about. So I'm going to post some photos of my trip to Japan that I took in December 2012. If you're friends with me on facebook, you probably will have seen a lot of these before, but that's kind of your fault.

On a side note, I have, however, this week, produced some work that is going to be potentially going to be used as a piece of album artwork (for one of the songs on an iTunes released album and in the booklet of the physical copy) and also a portrait piece that should be being shown at an exhibition evening in May. More on those in a future post maybe.

Anyway. Here are a handful of photos which I took that I like that remind me of things I did there that make me think of how much fun it was and how much of a massive experience it was for me. The images fall somewhere between pure holiday photos for my own memory and something a bit more special that I would be proud to show people. As a photographer, you're always looking for the best image of anything you're shooting, even if you're just taking an image purely for recollective purposes.

Bright, shiny, beautiful Tokyo
Streets like this (not this exact one) are pretty much what I saw as soon as I got off of my subway train  in Tokyo to meet my sister. It might have been the 11 hour flight and the lack of sleep and the absurd amount of films I watched on the way over, and I know this sounds stupid, but I was completely bowled over with joy at just how much Tokyo looked like I had imagined ("We're not even in central Tokyo. It gets better than this.") The signs were neon, the whole area we were in was weirdly empty for that time of night, the smell of delicious food coming from each side street we passed. There was something about those thin, tall side streets that just did it for me, with their hanging lanterns and occasional foliage. I can't really explain it, but I was incredibly excited and jet lagged at the same time. Kind of like if you have a big coffee when you're tired and hungover, your body and brain is trying to deal with all these different things at once.

I guess I had some thoughts on the flight that I would be really disappointed for one reason or another after wanting to visit for so long. Hyping something up too much in your head and all.

Fran, probably lit by the light of a convenience store
The other thing that was exciting, apart from actually being in Japan and seeing my sister for the first time in a year, was that my amazingly good friend Fran, who I also hadn't seen in a very long time, was going to be in Tokyo also. Obviously, much fun was had, and it was great to have another friendly face to ease me into the culture and teach me basic Japanese phrases on long subway rides.

Shinjuku Station. Fuckin' huge
I loved the Tokyo Underground system. It might have just been that the trains are about three times as big as the underground trains in London, or it might have been that their version of London's 'Oyster' card had a penguin on it, but I thought it was great. And just after two days of being in Japan, I was navigating it on my own like a pro. This photo is of Shjnjuku station, apparently the busiest train station in the world, clocking in with 36 platforms and over 200 exits (according to wikipedia).

I also loved how mental the Tokyo underground map was.

Seeing that I mentioned a penguin in my last paragraph, here's a penguin from Toyko Aquarium.

I like to imagine this penguin is not actually in water, but flying through the air towards me
Yup, that's a penguin. For some reason I have an obscene amount of photos of penguins from Tokyo Aquarium. I don't even know why.

Moving on...
Winds over Neo-Tokyo
This is one of my favourite images from my trip, and it also happens to be one of my most viewed and favourited photos on my flickr account ever. It was featured on's daily feature "Today's Japan Photo" a few months ago. So yay. It was taken up the top of the Tokyo Skytree, which is just a bloody huge observation tower. On a clear day, which sadly it was not, you can see Mt. Fuji. So many of the buildings are tall in Toyko that there's not many places where you can really just take in the mind blowing vastness of the entire city. It just stretches off in every direction.

Waiting for Cat Bus
A trip to the Studio Ghibli museum was probably one the most magical experiences of my life. Apart from the museum shop, that was definitely one of the more terrifying experiences. The whole museum is not only a tribute to the creative work of Miyazaki and all those involved in the studio, but also a huge homage to the art of animation and film itself. There is a room that includes a little study of three or four animation styles, including some crazy live-stop motion animation achieved with strobe lighting, culminating in a short piece of work from the early days of the studio about the evolution of man, shown from a 35 film projector that has had it's insides put on show, and the mechanisms moved around to create an amazing roller coaster tangle of film. You also get a ticket to one of three short films shown in their cinema, again, projected in a traditional fashion. If anyone reading this ever goes to Tokyo, I INSIST that you go to this museum.

Seeing that I mentioned the evolution of man in my last paragraph, and therefore, by proxy, monkeys, here are a few monkeys from the monkey mountain in Oita, the second stop of my trip.
Staring into your soul
This monkey did not appreciate me getting this close
I have never seen so many monkeys in one place. So. Many. Monkeys.

These are a few images taken from different areas around Oita, where my sister lives. The top image was taken at the Usuki Stone Buddhas. We went quite late in the day before going for a delicious meal. It was raining, we were surrounded by bamboo forests and huge statues. It was very quiet, apart from the occasional bird call and the snapping of sticks as animals moved around in the foliage.

The second two images were taken atop a mountain near Beppu, which you get to by going up a cable car type thing. There was a lot of snow up there.

So there we have a small collection of photos from that time I went to Japan. Here is a video I made from some of the footage I also shot while over there (got a bit over excited that I had my new Canon which could shoot video also.) S'also got some stuff from our hop over to South Korea also.


Saturday, 6 April 2013

Patient People

I have been blessed over the years with an extraordinarily large amount of patient people who I have somehow convinced to help me out in some form or another with my photography. Be it getting them to dress up in ridiculous outfits for test shots, physically assisting me on a shoot or just asking them to sit patiently while I tried to figure out what the fuck I was aiming to achieve when it came to lighting, angles or facial expression, I have had amazing groups of people around me since I first attempted photography about seven years ago.

I can already tell I'm going to get immensely lost in my own thoughts when trying to write this. I'm suddenly remembering things that I had kind of forgotten had even happened. Buying creepy plastic animal masks and being in the woods around Maidstone in Kent with my first girlfriend and my best friend, making the most of the tall, bare trees to create some Wicker Man/Lullabies to Paralyse-esque imagery

Even now I've just spent about three quarters of an hour looking through photos from 2005/2006 instead of continuing to write this. Such big ideas we had.


And there goes another hour of looking through folders of images I'd locked away in my memory banks. It's a strange thought to think I've been capturing moments of my life for such a long time...

I mentioned this idea for a post to Karli Dendy ( - now all professional looking with my images on there being put to good use!) and told her I had one of her to use. She objected. So I'm not using that one and I've found a better one, because she's not the boss of me (apart from when she pays me for photography, then she is).

Ok, well, here goes. Get ready for an image overload of wonderful people.

Jack helping out on the first ever Designosaur shoot
An alternate photo from this pretty little shoot with Elisha
Katie helping with a lighting test and assisting on my shoot with the projectionists of the Odeon Cinema, Brighton
She didn't want her photo taken, but I insisted. Trafalgar Square.

All round good egg, Fran Wrigley

Karli's a little tied up at the moment, can I take a message?

Some outakes from my university portrait project

Back in the day, these ladies were a fearsome force to be reckoned with

A day where I insisted on going to a number of coffee shops with Helen to improve my casual portrait skills

What do shadows do?

Adam Woodfield - best and safest studio assistant around
Ceci n'est pas une Jack
"No, it's too heavy, it definitely won't go out to sea..." he said.
The Hanover Cougars
Take a well earned break at the Duke of York's cinema
Sometimes confused, sometimes happy, always Barnes

And those are just but a few of the kind souls that have helped me over the course of my time as a 'photographer'. Beautiful beautiful people, all of them. Honourable mentions to Katy L, Jon O'L, Tom O and Lauren K, who, at some point in my life, I have had standing around waiting for me to make them do silly things.

I'm glad I have this chance to either glance or bury myself in my memories. It's a great opportunity to be as self reflective as you feel. On my life, on my photography. Though getting lost in all your photos is a potential danger, as I have proven to myself this evening.