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Side step: visit the Travel Photographer of the Year exhibition

5 Aug

mongolian girl

Summer’s here, school’s out and day-dreaming about travelling has started. But for those of us who aren’t jetting off to exotic lands, the annual Travel Photographer of the Year exhibition is the next best thing to a long-haul trip.

It’s never as satisfying being an armchair traveller, but the hypnotic photographs on display  at this outdoor exhibition have the power to temporarily transport you out of London.

Amateur and professional photographers have journeyed around the world to capture that perfect shot, and the winning images are now on display for the public to be inspired and enlightened by.

masai boys

The categories photographers could enter ranged from wildlife and the natural world, to vanishing and emerging cultures, to the wider-known rituals and celebrations.

Some personal favourites that caught my eye were the images of Masai boys climbing to the top of a boulder, fishermen “stilt fishing” in Sri Lanka, which causes the death of some of these men, and the more light-hearted shots of the Burning Man festivities.

Head down to the newly-opened exhibition and see for yourself the awe-striking talent of these photographers.

natives by tree

The details:

Location: 1 Kensington Gore, Royal Geographical Society, South Kensington tube.

Opening times: Mon-Thurs, 10am-5pm,  Fri-Sat, 10am-7pm, Sun 10am-5-pm.

Special evening views on 13th-15th August.

Closed bank holidays.

Free admission.

Here until 18th August.

stilt fishing



Step Eighteen: pose like Spiderman at the Dalston House exhibition

17 Jul


The latest exhibition at Dalston House is probably the most genius installation I’ve come across in a while.

Argentinian artist Leandro Erlich has created the illusion that normal people have developed superhuman powers, to scale walls like Spiderman or fly past buildings like Superman.

He has recreated a facade of a Victorian house and laid it down on the ground, then positioned mirrors overhead to reflect the wall.

The result: visitors are invited to jump on the installation and lie on the facade, giving the impression they are hanging from window frames, chilling on ledges or dangling from the roof.


Leandro challenges our everyday perception and encourages us to get involved, by striking funny poses or pulling terrified faces.

Only a few people, around ten maximum, are allowed on the installation at a time, meaning you’ll have lots of space to spread yourselves out. Each group has about five minutes, which isn’t very long so you’ll have to pose quickly.

We queued for 40 minutes in the baking sun (bring water!), but it’s not too bad – you get to see which poses work and which don’t, and take inspiration from previous groups. Follow @dalstonhouse for live updates on the queue length.

This was my first trip into “edgy” Dalston and definitely worth the trek, just to feel like Spiderman for those treasured minutes, and watch an unexpected performance by a band of drummers slickly chilling on the facade.


The details:

Location: 1-7 Ashwin Street, Dalston Junction overground or Dalston Kingsland overground.

Opening times: Mon-Wed 11am-6pm, Thurs-Fri 11am-8pm, Sat-Sun 10am-8pm.

Free admission.

Open now until 4th August so arrange a date soon.

For more details, click here.

chan hanging down


Step Sixteen: the American years of Erwin Blumenfeld

30 May

Erwin ballet

Fashion photographer Erwin Blumenfeld is remembered for opposing convention, and refusing to conform to what was expected of him in his field.

He was a Berlin-born Jew that was interned in French war camps during World War Two, but managed to escape to the US with his family.

Before the war, he had dabbled with photography, and when he reached New York, landed freelance work with Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue US.

It was during these years that, arguably, his creativity really flourished, and within a few years he had established himself as a leading fashion photographer.

erwin vogue ball

The latest exhibition to showcase his American work is “Blumenfeld Studio: New York, 1941-1960” at Somerset House, which just opened last week.

The post-war boom years are clearly celebrated in his photos that depict models on magazine covers; retro advertising campaigns for Dior, L’Oréal and the like; portraits of immaculate high-society women; and humorous photos that play on famous art such as Vermeer’s The Girl with a Pearl Earring, or Manet’s Bar des Folies Bergères.

The exhibition holds around 100 of his colourful prints and spans a few rooms.

Best for: getting a glimpse of New York’s buzz in the post-war era.

erwin green dress

The details:

Location: East Wing Galleries, Somerset House. Tube: Temple.

Opening hours: 10am-6pm daily, until 10pm Thursdays. Last admission 5:45pm.

Free admission.

On display until 1st September.

Side step: see the father of modern fashion photography

3 Mar


London Fashion Week may be over, but you can still appreciate the beauty of chic design and posey-posey models at Southbank’s latest photography exhibition, Lifework: Norman Parkinson’s Century of Style.

Parkinson was clearly a man ahead of his times. In this exhibition of photographs and portraits that span his long career, you’ll understand why many say he was a pioneer in his field.

He introduced elements that are so common to us nowadays, but were ground-breaking for his time. On Facebook and Instagram we can’t just post a normal photograph. No, that’s too boring. Parkinson would have thought so too, and used exotic locations, bizarre props and unusual juxtapositions in his work.


The majority of photos are of female models back in the day, but you’ll also recognise celebrities such as Audrey Hepburn, Maggie Smith, Mick Jagger and David Bowie. Parkinson has included a few of himself, either solo or mingling with models not just standing normally as you’d expect, but hanging upside down.

He would have been 100 years old this year, and quite the over-achiever (it’s Sir Norman Parkinson, CBE) with his work appearing in magazines such as Vogue and Town and Country. So pay him some respect and see how his eccentricity reflected into his photography.

NPG x30113; The Young Look in the Theatre by Norman Parkinson

The details:

Location: National Theatre, Southbank, Waterloo tube.

Opening times: Mon – Sat: 9.30am – 11pm, some Sundays: 12 noon – 6pm.

Free admission.

1st March-12th May.


Step Twelve: a museum that keeps foetuses in jars

3 Mar


Word to the wise: don’t visit this museum if you’ve just eaten. Or if you’re particularly squeamish. Or if you don’t want to see animal AND human foetuses in jars.

I completely understand if you’re put off by the latter, but in some sick, twisted way I was actually quite intrigued by the chance to see organs in jars or put more eloquently, understand the purpose of science.

Surgeon and anatomist John Hunter did exactly this. He was fascinated by dissection and literally getting under the skin to find out how specimens function. So it’s only appropriate that his findings have been amassed into an extensive collection now called the Hunterian Museum.

From the start of the exhibition, you’re thrown in the deep end with a display of a human penis and various uteruses. Walking in a clockwise direction you’ll move onto other mammals, and peer into jars that hold, for example, the tongue of a young lion, scarily about the size of my hand, and the more precise, the dissected genitalia of a pregnant hedgehog.

You can’t miss the jars of human fetuses, arranged in order of development, which some people might find a bit distasteful, but all in the name of science.


It’s hard to escape the jars, but if you go round the back you’ll find less overwhelming but equally interesting exhibits, such as the skeleton of the “Irish giant”, the 7ft 7 Charles Byrne, or Winston Churchill’s dentures or a tonsil guillotine upstairs.

Even if you’re not interested in science, it’s worth a visit just to be amazed by the displays and like me, appreciate you’re not the one carrying out the dissections.


The details:

Location: Royal College of Surgeons, 35-43 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Holborn tube.

Opening times: Tues-Sat, 10am-5pm.

Free admission.

They have various events, which you can check out by clicking here.

Step Ten: I want to live in this museum

19 Feb


I will try to be as brief as possible…because from my experience when I’ve said “I’ve just found a really cool museum,” I often don’t get a positive response/any response. But I will do my best to convince you why the Wallace Collection is worth a visit.

And perhaps even enlighten you to its existence.

(Please don’t click the back button now).

  1. The museum itself is absolutely gorgeous. None of that modern/contemporary art clinical whiteness. It’s a historic London town house that belonged to Sir Richard and Lady Wallace, and each room is a different colour and pure luxury – chandeliers, high ceilings, winding staircases, big windows, curtains that match the wallpaper but not in a distasteful way. Rooms called The Landing and The Oval Room etc. etc.  The works.
  2. All the art was collected from the 18th and 19th centuries, from four different Marquesses. So it’s a pretty big family collection and they didn’t really discriminate when choosing. In their 25 galleries, you can see the most random things, from tankards to table clocks to rifles to canons, and the most respected, from Rubens to Rembrandt.
  3. The modern crypt holds temporary exhibitions and Murillo’s paintings are currently on display until 12th May.
  4. There is a wicked painting of a TRUE LAD that made my day. And one of a creepy strawberry girl. (See below)
  5. It’s free entry! So if you really hate it, you can leave and go shopping on Oxford Street instead which is just down the road. But if you loved it, you can go back for the free, drop-in talks or sign up to their work shops and art classes.
  6. After the museum, you can act all civilised in their Courtyard Restaurant where culture-vulture Caz and I enjoyed a cheese platter served by an actual French lady who played the part of pushy French waitress very well. It is the perfect escape from the outside hustle and bustle and has an a la carte menu, afternoon tea, wine list and other drinks. Three cheeses for £10 to share and we were stuffed.


My conclusion: I could happily spend another three hours wandering around the museum. And I was born in the wrong time.

To check out their website for more details, click here.

The details:

Location: Hertford House, Manchester Square (just behind Selfridges). Bond Street tube.

Opening times: daily from 10am-5pm

Free admission.

TWC62579strawberry girl

Side step: an impressive café in the V&A

19 Nov

The Victoria and Albert museum hails itself as the world’s greatest museum of art and design. That may be true. But last Sunday, I didn’t go to admire the permanent collections or the exhibition on Hollywood costumes that’s been the talk of the town.

No. As a foodie, I skipped the museum queues and went straight for the glorious café round the back, naturally.

In terms of food and drink, it is just an ordinary café with the usual croissants, hot chocolates, paninis and fresh sandwiches etc. But the setting is absolutely stunning and could compete for the world’s greatest café of art and design, or at least in London.

The menu isn’t outrageously priced considering the backdrop, with a hot drink costing around £3. Check out the glory for yourself.

Opening times: daily 10am-5:15pm, Fridays until 9:30pm.

To see current and future exhibitions at the V&A, click here.

Side step: ‘and did those feet in ancient time, walk upon England’s mountains green…’

16 Nov

When I first heard of the Landscape Photographer of the Year exhibition, I immediately visualised the Grand Canyon, the rice terraces in China, the sand dunes in Peru…and got a little carried away.

I read the first line of the blurb and realised it was an exhibition solely on landscapes in the UK. A little disappointing, was my initial reaction, but still worth a visit as my geographical knowledge of the region, particularly oop narth, is poor.

The recently-opened exhibition features over 100 photographs divided into four different categories such as ‘urban landscape’ and ‘my landscape’. They were taken by photographers hoping to win the overall title of Landscape Photographer of the Year 2012.

Some of the photos did look a tad like generic screen savers, or stereotypical shots of the UK (the Shard, a London bus etc.), but the majority were remarkable and showed off the beauty of the UK. They definitely made me realise you don’t have to travel far to stumble across stunning views.

To read more about the exhibition, click here.

The details:

Location: Lyttelton Exhibition, National Theatre, Southbank

Opening times: Mon – Sat: 9.30am – 11pm, some Sundays: 12 noon – 6pm

Here until 12th January 2013.

Free admission.

Side step: fifty shades of…colour?

13 Nov

Henri Cartier-Bresson sticks to black and white.

There’s a new photography exhibition in town that asks: colour photography or black and white shots, which is the ideal medium? 

Nowadays we take most of our photos in colour, and with the magic of Instagram can turn them into faded retro snaps or bright pop art pictures. But during the 1950s when colour photography was just entering the scene, French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson was sceptical towards the medium.

However he never discouraged others to experiment with it. What mattered to him more was the ability to capture the moment with a photograph, that fleeting, decisive moment, and if his contemporaries used colour, then so be it.

The result is an exhibition at Somerset House called Cartier-Bresson: A Question of Colour. The protagonist’s black and white portraits are interspersed with colour photographs by international artists from the US, Canada, Mexico and beyond.

It’s laid out in a challenge and response manner. Cartier-Bresson challenges the concept of colour photography and his contemporaries respond by using it. The exhibition has a diplomatic end and concludes that both mediums are beautiful, as the photos show.

What’s more important is the skill to capture the moment.

Just as cool in colour.

The details:

Location: Somerset House, Strand.

Opening times: daily from 10am to 6pm. Just launched and will stay until 27th January 2013.

Free admission.

Side step: view the best photojournalism of the year

10 Nov

Rebels battle for Ras Lanuf in Libya. Credit: Yuri Kozyrev.

It’s that time of year again. No, not Christmas (not quite anyway). But the time to put everything into perspective.

Two years ago I was on my year abroad in Paris and stumbled across the annual World Press Photo Exhibition. It was a harrowing collection of photos taken from around the world that documented the year’s landmarks, be it disasters, scandals and contemporary issues that were captured by award-winning photojournalists.

The experience was so moving I went back twice. It shakes you out of your routine and puts everything into perspective.

This year’s collection focused on those hard-to-forget moments of 2011, with disturbing images that included demonstrators in Tahrir Square, Colonel Gaddafi’s corpse on a mattress, the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, and butchered victims of Mexico’s drug cartels, abandoned on the side of the road.

Not all photos are ‘doom and gloom’. There are some light-hearted ones, but the majority tell a depressing story and fall into the category, ‘see it to believe it’.

The exhibition just opened at Southbank Centre in London yesterday, and will stay until 27th November before touring other countries. It may not be the cheeriest of visits, but definitely worth going to, to admire the work of courageous photojournalists (some of whom died doing their work), and to remember and reflect.

As expected it wasn’t appropriate to take photos, so I don’t have any of my own to post, but click here to view more.


Location: Royal Festival Hall, Southbank.

Price: free admission.

Opening times: daily from 10am-10pm.