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Posted on 21st November, 2011

A beggars banquet?

For the Rolling Stones perhaps, but not some in India.


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I had a full day on Saturday. Firstly, at the Stratford ViewTube, which is in effect the Olympic Park visitor centre. This yellow structure, which looks like a collection of ship containers, is right in amongst the massive construction works, and gives great views of the main stadium etc. I was there to attend a workshop organised by the National Portrait Gallery, presented by photographer Katherine Green. Katherine is involved in a project related to the Olympics called 'Road to 2012: A Local Story', a photographic record of East London sporting activity. Apart from the fact that Katherine is highly-respected for work close to her Walthamstow home, she did a great piece on the 1948 British Olympians that was featured in The Guardian. So, she's a natural choice for the job.


Great legs at Proud Gallery, Chelsea.


After Katherine had showed us her work, supported by valuable insights and experiences, we were set the task of capturing a portrait (or two, three, ...) of anyone we could grab who was at the visitor centre at that moment. But that wasn't the end of it: after all, that would be too easy(!!!!), wouldn't it? So, don't just get their pic: also get a bit of their background, and why they were there. Finally, get them to sign a quite demanding model release form! Now I don't mind stopping people in the street and asking if I can snap them. However, the other things needed real guts and confidence, especially as we were required not just to snap them, but to direct them re posing etc as well. I felt nervous.


As it turned out, although others managed to waylay as many as four 'volunteers', I was pleased with the pic I took of the only 'yes' I got from the eight I asked. Do I have something to learn in that respect I wonder? Perhaps so, but the main lesson I did take away was that the fear of rejection, the need to keep calm and confident etc, are also felt by most other togs early on. No less than Katherine Green herself for instance: just asking someone if she could take their pic in the first place filled her with dread. But Katherine has fought and overcome those hurdles since starting out in the mid 90's, and is now reaping great rewards. A lesson indeed.


From ViewTube, to the Steve McCurry exhibition at Chris Beetles. I will be posting a review of this exhib as a separate blog, so I will say no more here than it gave me a warm feeling. Not only from the beautiful pics themselves, but also from the cost of buying just one of them. Specifically, of what I think is called 'Mother and Child at Car Window, Bombay, India, 1993', which is the very moving image of the mother and baby girl begging through a car window. A signed image (a photographic print I trust), was £2300 at Chris Beetles. I bought a signed print at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery last September for £25. But will any of the extra £2275 go to help people like those beggars, I ask? If someone tells me 'yes', I'll probably feel guilty, but at the moment I feel quite chuffed.


On then to the Saatchi Gallery, to see the 'Women Changing India' exhibition. Again, I will be posting a review of this exhib as a separate blog, so I won't dwell on it here other than to say that just a single image excited me. And although it's similar, please don't think I chose this one simply to contrive a link with the Steve McCurry pic I mention above: it really was the only one that moved me. It was of a little girl, begging through the window of a taxi driven by Nazleen Babusheikh, on Marine Drive, Mumbai. Anyway, not surprisingly, it was all in the girl's eyes: haunting eyes that convey the despair and hopelessness so often seen amongst the poor and sick in India. (And yes, I have been to India, and I think it's an amazing, mind-blowing country).


A short walk along the King's Road, and I was at the 'The Decca Years - The Rolling Stones 1962 - 1971' exhibition at Proud Chelsea. No separate review blog for this exhib mind you: not that it wasn't worth it, but simply that I can't do it justice. It was a relatively quick visit you see, as I was running late, I was tired, I was still soaked-through after a big downpour earlier, and my leg was aching. Suffice to say then, that great Stones music blares out, and the attitude you expect to see is visible in part. However, there are just too few examples that convey the 'wildness' of this bunch of rockers. More surprising though was one early image of Mick Jagger, where he looked distinctly shy! What came over you, Mick? But it wasn't just energy and rawness that was in short supply: it was pictures as well, although they did find room for three (I think) Beggars Banquet images. So it's not just myself who can't do justice to this massive band: considering the significance and length of this period in their history, there's just too much Rolling Stones to fit the teeny-bit-small Proud Chelsea gallery space.


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