Don McCullin Retrospective

I recently spent a morning at Tate Britain viewing the Don McCullin retrospective.

Don McCullin is one of my favourite photographers; I forget how I discovered him, I think I originally stumbled across his autobiography Unreasonable Behaviour in a book shop and was fascinated by his life and images.

McCullin is perhaps best known as a war photographer, something he’s uneasy about, feeling that his images haven’t done enough to change peoples view of war.

As you walk through the exhibition its hard to understand how anybody that sees these images cannot be affected and not understand the insanity and futility of war.

McCullin’s photographs reinforce a long held belief of mine that a single still image capturing the defining moment can convey more emotion and reality than moving images can.

Digital photography is fantastic, but seeing photographs printed large brings them to life in a way no screen can. Don McCullin printed the photographs on display himself. McCullin has always favoured a dark and high contrast finish that I adore, these prints bring a depth and tactility to the images that is hard to describe. You want to touch them as well as look at them.

McCullin’s war photography is extraordinary but it’s his photography of England I love the most.

From his early street photography in London’s East End to his social reportage of the North in the 70s and 80s and latterly his incredible landscape photography Don McCullin has a unique style that captures the gritty beauty of England and its people perfectly.

Looking for England

To coincide with the Tate retrospective the BBC has made a wonderful documentary following Don McCullin as he revisits the places and scenes of some of his iconic photographs of England.

It was particularly interesting for me to watch him work. I love street photography and having shot a little myself it was fascinating to watch his approach; often he will directly engage with the subject, asking permission to take their photograph, which enables eye contact in the photographs, something I have always felt was a defining feature of his photographs of people.

I was fortunate to see him at The Goodwood Festival of Speed as featured in the documentary and to speak to him briefly.

Equus Leather – Beautiful & Bespoke

Whilst talking about creating enduring beauty I wanted to share these fabulous videos from Equus Leather with you.

Equus Leather create bespoke, hand crafted leather items, and this video showing the creation of a handmade watch strap is absolutely captivating:

The Equus straps start at £160, but when you see the amount of handwork, care and attention that goes into their creation they begin to feel like good value. Especially when compared to £50 for a piece of mass-produced rubber from Apple.

Equus recently worked with other craftsmen to create a classic attache case:

I’ve always joked about taking up woodworking as a retirement hobby, but now I think leather working might be even more satisfying.

DO Design by Alan Moore

Do Design book

Last month I had the pleasure of seeing Alan Moore, author of DO Design, give a talk on Creating Enduring Beauty.

Ahead of seeing Alan talk I re-read DO Design and was struck by this passage:

The purpose of the work for the Shakers was as much to benefit the spirit as it was to produce the goods.

The universe had clearly decided it was time for me to think about the Shakers and their design philosophy as earlier in the week I had saved this quote defining it thus:

Don’t make something unless it is both necessary and useful; but if it is both necessary and useful, don’t hesitate to make it beautiful.

Isn’t that the most perfect philosophy for designers, creators, makers, craftsmen and us all?

In DO Design Alan proposes 14 principles for creating enduring beauty:

  • Be curious about the world
  • Increase your depth of field
  • Develop an ability to adapt
  • Observe
  • Go see
  • Understand language
  • Be open
  • Work better together
  • Start with optimism
  • Recognise no boundaries
  • Surrender
  • Only work with good people
  • Let go of fear
  • Seek to create enduring beauty

These principles are described in more depth in DO Design and are worth the price of admission alone.

Read, absorb and re-visit regularly.

New Adventures In 2019

After a six year hiatus the fabulous New Adventures conference made a welcome return to Nottingham’s beautiful Albert Hall.

Six years, felt so much longer whilst we waited for a new adventure, but melted away as we arrived in Nottingham to meet with friends and faces from adventures past.

New Adventures has always been more about concepts than code, and 2019 was another perfectly curated collection of thought provoking talks.

Highlights for me were Jeremy Keith’s opening talk which called on us to examine the building blocks and layers within the experiences we create.

Helen Joy brought to life the importance of user and customer research, and I hope encouraged the audience to seriously and deeply consider and understand the end-users of their products and services. Ethan Marcotte closed the event with a rousing call to arms for web workers.

New Adventures 2019 felt like conferences used to feel – significant.

An occasion, a gathering, a happening where new ideas, big ideas and important ideas are shared. Ideas that invigorate, enthuse and inspire us to new adventures – wherever they may take us.

Tom Bihn Western Flyer – Some Years Later

When I wrote my original review of the Tom Bihn Western Flyer I had just returned from, what was then, the final New Adventures conference.

So I’m delighted to be writing this update back in Nottingham for the triumphant return of New Adventures, once again accompanied by my Western Flyer.

Tom Bihn Western Flyer

It’s been almost six years since my original review so I thought an update on my Western Flyer might be useful – how’s it wearing, am I still using it, that sort of thing.

So, how’s it wearing?

I was surprised to see that the original review was six years old not just because it feels like yesterday, but because my Western Flyer still looks like new. I’ve taken this bag all over Europe, from Belfast to Berlin, it’s been in planes, trains and automobiles and is showing no signs of wear. None. Nada. Zip.

I knew Tom Bihn had a great reputation for quality, but this is something else – every stitch, every seam and every zip is still 100%.

Speaking of zips there was one part of the design that bugged me, but I ‘fixed’ it.

There are two of double zips on the bag and I found the zip pulls jangled together when walking . After a few hours sightseeing around Berlin with my Western Flyer on my back they had to go.

So I took a brave pill, grabbed my tin snips, cut off all of the metal tags and replaced them with paracord zip pulls.

Ahhhhh the sound of silence.

Other than that one minor annoyance, the Western Flyer is still one of my favourite pieces of luggage.

I use my Western Flyer whenever I can and it always makes me happy, both for it’s excellent design and because I associate it with travel and adventures large, small and new.

The Creative Process – A Sketch

Process Print From Brendan Dawes

I love this sketch from my friend Brendan Dawes – it conveys the creative process beautifully. I’ve seen Brendan use this in his talks, and as he says, it’s always met with a flurry of smartphone action, I may even have snapped it myself.

Brendan is now releasing it as a robot drawn print in a limited edition of just 100.

Treat yourself for Christmas or better still treat me :)