Happy Lunar New Year! I thought I’d post some photos from the last Pig cycle (12 years!) These were taken in Liverpool, U.K. and shown as part of a Lunar New Year exhibition at the Chinese Museum of Melbourne Australia, now residing in their permanent collection.
As Liverpool has one of Europe’s oldest Chinese populations, the lunar new year celebration each year is always a colourful, noisy and fun affair. It is also really crowded, but as a photographer you have to try and find your angle somehow, which is an interesting challenge. The event is held underneath the gorgeous arch made to mark the millennium by expert artisans from Shanghai, Liverpool’s twin city in China.
Exhibition photos courtesy of curator Lorinda Cramer.
I have always been fascinated by medieval illuminated manuscripts not just for the amazing painted miniatures and flourishes but also for the typographic inspiration. The Getty has such a wonderful collection, a rotating selection of which are always on display, and I find myself drawn to them quite often during my research for docent tours. This time however, the inspiration fed into my day job as a designer, a book layout for a client on the subject of Saint Patrick, and as its nearly St Paddy’s day, I thought I’d write a little about the process.
My client, a theology professor, had written a book about the saint’s teenage years as an inspirational story for young adults – the most unlikely character turns his life around to become a role model for later generations. It was certainly news to me that St Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, started his early life in my home town of Liverpool and was captured, bound for Ireland as a slave.
Studying some of the visual cues used in medieval manuscripts from the 13th century onwards, and early printed editions of medieval inspired works such as those by the Arts and Crafts movement, I was inspired by the notion of ‘rubric’. Rubric is a device used in medieval typography for a variety of reasons such as a chapter heading, title or instruction, the word originating from the latin ‘rubrica’ the red ochre pigment used to create it.
When text is ‘rubricated’ it is highlighted in red and in a liturgical context may signify something akin to stage directions for the priest – the text left in black being the actual words to be read aloud. Other uses include red being used for the congregation’s responses, a little like subtitles on a film employing different colours to distinguish various characters’ voices. Red, and occasionally other colours such as blue or gold were used to highlight important names, first lines of psalms or section headings and for large ornamental or historiated (illustrated) drop capitals.
I decided to use medieval typography cues to draw on tradition and reference the origin of the story but also to break up the text into bite-sized pieces in an attractive and useful way, encouraging reluctant readers to not be daunted by the sight of a great deal of text. For the purposes of a book aimed at children and young adults, variation in typography adds interest but I was concerned that the text remain accessible and legible so I avoided an overly fancy script style and chose clean, sans-serif body typefaces. Also in this spirit I split the text up into sections and gave these headings to hint at what that section contained, in order to encourage further reading. The first paragraphs of the following text were set in red rubric style to further lead the reader into the chapter.
Another way I was influenced by the styling of manuscripts was to use the rubric idea to distinguish between different voices within the text. In the Patrick of Liverpool story the author has included passages of rhyme or ‘rapping’ to connect with the young audience, and I set this type as centred, in a different colour and typeface. Maewyn, the main character has his own typography style as do some other characters he encounters, this is a lively break in the narrative and attention is drawn to it visually.
The book’s illustrator is an inspirational story himself – a former prison inmate who was commissioned to create the drawings. I requested a hand rendered celtic style border from him to add to the illuminated feel, and varied the illustration layout as full page bleed or with a miniature style border to accompany the text.
As the book’s story is based on theological research it was important to include notes on this, however, I ensured information not aimed at the book’s main target audience ( such as difficult wording in the preface and reference notes section) was positioned outside of the main flow of text and set in smaller type so it is visually glossed over as ‘small print’ by the target audience in favour of the main story, yet is available for teachers or other interested parties to access.
Patrick of Ireland is available to buy on Blurb or though the publisher Liverpool Community Spirit and all proceeds go to charity.
An exhibition of a series of mine and my husband Chris’ photography is currently on show in Maya Liverpool, UK.
Fifteen A3 and three A0 sized archival prints are exhibited in an atmospheric Mexican inspired environment. The opening night of the show was a great success (although I was on the other side of the Atlantic at the time) and included Mexican street food and libations, general revelry and calaca-style face painting in a Dia de los Muertos spirit!
Experimenting with faking a tilt shift lens effect for that peculiar toytown aesthetic. Fun with Photoshop, or you can use the little online app at TiltShift Maker and see all the other fun fakery over there.
These images are of some murals I did for a ‘multicultural centre’ during a residency in a school in the UK. On the staircase you would encounter sculpture from Ghana and Nigeria, and as you climbed you were introduced to Wayang Kulit shadow puppets and various other cultural ambassadors in silhouette. These were punctuated by full colour acrylic pieces such as this one based on a sculpture from the ‘Africa Explores’ exhibition at Tate Gallery Liverpool.
During the residency I also created a site-specific sculpture for the school library. Working with books destined for the skip, I photocopied and enlarged pertinent passages from literary sources and pasted them inside the books, their jackets painted bright colours. I fixed the pages open at various states and attached tiger-tail nylon thread. I then hung a shelf and arranged the books so the ideas therein would ‘take flight’ from the shelves to inspire young minds. Voila! a little installation hanging above the heads of readers hopefully too engrossed in a book to notice…
‘Shoot Liverpool’ photography scavenger hunt project at Tate Gallery Liverpool – four hours, nine themes. The cryptic questions were responded to in the form of photographic images by teams of artists. These were judged by a panel and presented to our peers at the end of the day.
The day was hectic and fun as we ran around the city spotting locations, coming up with concepts, gathering props and shooting our images.
Our group ‘Trashbat’ (in an homage to Nathan Barley) won ‘Best Image’ for ‘This street tastes citric.’ This dada-inspired series depicts one of our group flinging himself into a ‘Happening’ in the street. His face contorted, dressed in a locally sourced, delightfully acid green dancer’s apparel/chav-wear velour ensemble. The image we chose to display included the bemused car park attendant from across the road, who ambled over to us to investigate the strange activity occurring. Little did he know that he would end up being exhibited at the Tate Gallery, as I persuaded him to join in by throwing limes at the performer, his citrus-hued jacket adding to the urban spectacle.
The resulting group exhibition private view was held at Tate Liverpool, with the exhibition of images running in the Gallery for five days.
Clues were as follows:
Q1. This tower presides over the city in both sound and sight.
Q2. The big birds on this building have beady eyes, be it to see the sailors coming in from sea or glimpse the glint of the pint glass.
Q3. This street tastes citric.
Q4. Keep your eyes open for this gallery.
Q5. This street is music to the ears of Beatles fans.
Q6. Taste minus ‘s’ gives us a feast for all the senses this weekend.
A. Tate (not pictured)
Q7. See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil
Q8. Out of sight, out of mind.
A. (not pictured)
Q9. What’s your sixth sense?
A. Ladbrokes bookmakers (not pictured)
Below is a gallery of images from the day, the private view and exhibition.
My apartment in Liverpool has an interesting claim to fame – as recording studio! The peculiar acoustics of the high ceilings and large windows of the old converted brick structure added a unique quality to the sound, as a specially commissioned new soundtrack was recorded in my living room.
Stan Ambrose is a lovely gentleman and accomplished musician, also known for playing harp in local bohemian cafés in Liverpool such as the Green Fish and Egg Café & Gallery. Quite the cinephile, he was delighted when approached to create a new interpretation of the 1926 silent classic ‘Faust’ from F.W. Murnau. The beautiful improvised soundtrack he created in response to the film was featured in Masters of Cinema’s DVD release as a special feature.
Watching him play reminded me that the concept of ‘Silent movies’ really is interesting, as the films in their day were always shown with evocative live music – and were anything but silent!
The photos I took of Stan during his performance were published in the booklet inside the DVD packaging.