Sculpture Culture

Hatfield House has seen its fair share of celebrity over the years; Sean Connery, Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie and a couple of Batmen.  It all began centuries ago however when a Tudor king decided to raise his children in the adjacent Old Palace.  For one of them, the beautiful location became a prison where she was kept under house arrest.  The event which saw the end of this confinement has been played out here more than once; originally when the news of her succession to the throne was first communicated to Elizabeth I, and the second when Cate Blanchett came to play Elizabeth on film.APW_6578

The grounds and the Jacobean House at their centre have featured in numerous film and TV productions over the years, as well as in a video game, for after doubling for Croft Manor in the Tomb Raider films, the property was also used a template for Lara’s home in Tomb Raider: Underworld.

Home to the Marquess of Salisbury and his family, this is a stunning property  when viewed from the south, though less so (particular whilst the central tower is scaffolded as it is now) from other directions.  You can imagine how frustrated I was to find this vista out of reach, routes to the south being denied by barbed wire fencing.

Still there is much to enjoy in the grounds here.  The gardens themselves have a number of beautiful features, but these are currently augmented by  The Great British Sculpture Show 2014, with dozens of artworks scattered around the grounds.  There’s probably something for everyone with subjects that include beautiful human and animal imagery, to more surreal, macabre and whimsical works.  Take your credit card too if you’re planning to visit as the works are for sale;  don’t expect much change from £250,000 if you fancy the large Egyptian style falcon though!

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Feline The Cold

The women of Tyneside are notorious for their determination to persevere in wearing of high heels and tiny dresses whatever the weather conditions may be. Come rain or shine, and even snow, the NCB (no coat brigade) can be seen around the Bigg Market and the bars of Collingwood Street. They seem impervious to discomfort.

Last night I returned to the world of photographing models, courtesy of a workshop provided by Eric Murphy of the world-famous Bananastudio and his team. When it comes to posing models, I lack any real degree of competence, and after a long lay off this was already exacerbated before you add in the factor that we were shooting on location in temperatures close to zero.

With a couple of layers on legs and twice that number on my upper body, I thought I’d be fine, which was true, though I was never comfortable. My fellow photographers were similarly attired, yet we grouped together penguin-like in the chill air (which was ironically appropriate to the night’s theme).

The metal of lights, stands, lenses and camera bodies leached the heat from fingers, and though I have some neatly designed photography gloves these were soon augmented by a second pair beneath. It was bitter._MG_0762

The performance of the models therefore was nothing short of remarkable. The theme for the evening was Batman; and here we had the two femmes fatale of the Dark Knight’s story. Selina Kyle aka Catwoman is the great unconsummated love, Pamela Isley (Poison Ivy) leaves him vulnerable to her charms through her expert use of toxins.  Neither is known for their heavily insulated fashion-sense; in fact later depictions of Ivy have her sporting little more than strategically placed vines.

The welfare of the models was more in mind therefore than improving my limited skills, because I didn’t want exposure to take on a new meaning in my life as a photographer.  In Ivy’s case the difficulties were increased by the limited vision she had as a result of wearing special effect contact lenses and perilous platform boots which were completely unstable on the cobbles where we were working.

All in all it’s a miracle that I got anything worthwhile, but thanks to the determination of Belle and Alexandra I did.

It wasn’t a lot, but enough for a Knight’s work.

Catwoman hits the High Level
Catwoman hits the High Level

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Grandy Jim

Sunderland football club have achieved FA Cup glory twice in their history.  Once in 1973, when Ian Porterfield scored the only goal in a victory over Leeds United, though long ago is still a vivid memory.

Their previous victory came on May 1st, 1937, when legends Raich Carter and Bobby Gurney joined Eddie Burbanks on the score sheet in a 3-1 triumph over Preston North End.   Though long dead now, I remember Bobby Gurney as an occasional customer of my father’s business.

This was the year when, Wallis Simpson married the Duke of Windsor (formerly King Edward VIII), and the Spanish Civil War was still raging.  Japan invaded Beijing, an act which still has consequences to this day.

On a lighter note Detective Comics (now better known as DC) published the first issue of Batman.  Christian Bale looks good for a 75-year-old doesn’t he?  Less significantly in terms of its impact on global culture the Dandy was also published for the first time in Scotland.  Walt Disney premièred Snow White.

In September the gigantic head of Abraham Lincoln was dedicated at Mount Rushmore, and in a nice piece of symmetry J.R.R. Tolkien‘s The Hobbit was published.  This was also the month when James Allen was born in Luton.

Jim, James, Jimmy Allen is my father in law who celebrates his 75th birthday today.  Spitting image of Christian Bale don’t you think?