Booze Britain

Controlled Drinking ZoneNo Street DrinkingIt’s a quiet Sunday afternoon just off Piccadilly Circus. We’d just been on a family trip to the National Portrait Gallery – quite civilised really. Plenty of families and tourists happily milling about on a nice spring day – not exactly a scene of Hogarthian depravity.

So it’s hard to explain to your seven-year-old daughter why there are massive LED signs clumsily declaring Westminster council’s ban on street drinking. So where exactly are the debauched hoards chugging on Frosty Jack’s or face down in the gutter in a pool of blood and vomit?

Sure, Britiain has a booze and binge-drinking problem, but it isn’t going to fixed by making people drink out of a paper bag or just paying more for the privilege. Or by shoving a crass sign down its throat.


Thought for the day…

A single act of carelessness leads to the eternal loss of beautyA bit of a heavy one today, and suitably obtuse…

I was trawling through my archive yesterday and happened on this snap taken in The Forbidden City the last time I was in Beijing.

Rather than being a Confucian edit for life, it’s actually a much more prosaic warning not to damage the marble carvings. It’s poetic all the same.

Happy Valentine’s

‘To eat out or dine in?’, that’s the question posed every year on Valentine’s Day. Opinions are divided. Call me an un-romantic old cynic, but I’ve done it a couple of times but never again. I’m much happier dining in the comfort of my own home, although with a seven-year-old daughter on school half-term, the romance is pretty limited…

And in this current climate of austerity, budget’s also got a big part to play. All the big supermarkets have jumped in with their popular ‘dine-in for two’ promos. So popular in fact that M&S caught the brunt of a Twitterstorm today when stores started running out of their promo items by lunchtime.

In Japan, there’s an unusual local twist to the imported Valentine’s tradition which revolves around chocolate. On Valentine’s Day, it’s only the women who give gifts of chocolate to men as an expression of love, courtesy or social obligation. This takes the form of giri choco (courtesy chocolate) or honmei choco (chocolate of love). Then, in order to balance things out, the Japanese invented White Day, a month later on 14 March when men have the chance to return the favour in kind.

I first came across this the last time I was working in Tokyo with all the department store food halls awash with chocolate of one form or another for the entire three weeks I was there.

Oyasumi nasai!   おやすみなさい。

The ongoing moment

Something for the weekend…. A meaty topic to get you thinking about the nature of photography and the value attributed to both the subject matter and the manner in which it is created – found vs constructed.

Sometimes I don’t quite know where photography is going at the moment. On the one hand Gursky’s ‘Rhein II’ sold for over USD $4.3m, while on the other, everyone and his dog with an iPhone/instagram now thinks that they’re a photographer.

There are those far more eloquent than me, so check these out for starters and see what you think…

Matt Henry, Paul Graham, Geoff Dyer

BTW – I’m currently trawling my archive to update my website, so here’s my version of the empty car park shot.

I wrote these words to fill this space…

Filthy peopleI’ve had this David Shrigley clipping hanging around for about six years now – I knew that I’d find a use for it eventually. You know the oeuvre he’s referring to – it’s strange remembering how shocking Richard Billingham’s Ray’s A Laugh seemed when it was published in 2000.

Shrigley’s first major show in London opened last week at the Hayward Gallery, covering his diverse output which includes photography, books, sculpture, animation, painting and music, as well as his signature cartoon-style drawings.

I haven’t managed to get there yet, and I’m kind of undecided about his work. For sure it’s witty, sometimes very funny, but is it ‘art’? I guess that’s the question we ask ourselves every day…

I find the strangest aspect of his work is how many people have appropriated his naive doodles and scratchy text into their tattoos.

It’s a family affair


Last week I was shooting bedroom interiors and portraits at The Capital Hotel in Knightsbridge.

It’s a charming classic hotel in miniature on Basil Street with Harvey Nichols and Harrods both just a few minutes walk away.

The Capital prides itself on it’s warm service coupled with personal attention to detail. This is spearheaded by the concierge services led by Clive Smith, pictured. For all his five star charm, I would never have him down as an inveterate gigger. He’s off to see Florence and the Machine at Ally Pally next month, and is still raving about the one-off reunion of punk veterans X-Ray Spex at the Roundhouse a couple of years ago.

The hotel was opened in 1971 by the owner, David Levin whose youngest daughter, Kate is now General Manager. In the rear lobby there’s a fascinating gallery of photos dating back to the Seventies which depict the heady times of its early days.