Archive | November 2012

Chasing Nature

Nobody enjoys the fact that it’s dark by 5pm. At the same time, it’s nice to take solace in the hot baths, the mulled wine, and the (usually) metaphorical hearth that you return home to during Winter. The season is a contradiction. Although bitterly cold to the point of unpleasant, its changes in light and in atmosphere are strangely invigorating. Today, I went happily outside wearing multiple layers to see what I could find in the park, idly supposing that there would be nothing interesting enough to warrant photography. As soon as I stepped through the gate I was faced with an amazingly sweet little squirrel, calmly gnawing its way through a decent-sized nut at the bottom of a beech tree. Fantastic!

My new friend seemed fearful of the press

As soon as I reached into my bag he turned, horrified, and tore up said tree at the speed of light. I danced around underneath, trigger finger poised, catching sight of him fleetingly in first one branch then another. A worthy adversary, he spotted me always at roughly the same moment, eventually melting away like a phantom. I scrolled through numerous blurry shots and – even worse! – shots of nothing but leaves. Yes, he was there in a couple. But nothing resembled a close-up. I looked back as I left. There he sat, high up in his beech, with a look at once cold and triumphant. You’ll have to get up earlier in the day, sunshine.

He seemed to be mocking me from on high

So dies the dream of Winter Wildlife Photographer of the Year. Maybe I should stick to things that are easier to capture?

An inanimate object, patiently posing for me

Sapphormation

Even the shortest of amateur films can be more enjoyable than many a mainstream release, and that was certainly the case with the ultra-short shorts shown at last night’s “Sapphic screening”, an hour long event organised by Tanya Smith and Amelia Lee as part of Manchester’s newest lesbian festival, Sapphormation. As their promotional material states, Sapphormation is intended for “women who love women, who also like to think, discuss, debate, try new activities, experience culture and basically do a lot more than the usual things found on the gay scene”. It aims to present a less stereotypical, more inclusive, and culturally richer alternative to the glittery Village-centred events that many people say they find far too predictable, commercial and unchallenging. Chorlton’s Irish Club was an excellent and unusual choice of venue that suited the laid back and clearly enthusiastic audience.

The common link between the films is that they celebrate and foreground multiple and complex issues of identity, self, society, and both lesbian and bisexual experience. But while all of them were engaging, warm, and very well made, they were an otherwise eclectic collection. Two of the most memorable were Love Skate Relationship, by Georgia Rooney and Rachel Tavernor, a straightforward documentary/interview style piece about the women who compete in the Brighton Rockers roller derby, and the darkly tragic Paris/Sexy by Edinburgh-based Ruth Paxton, about a girl and her father dealing with isolation and mental illness. That one had a little more budget behind it, being funded by Scottish Screen and BBC Scotland among others, with the excellent David Liddell as Director of Photography. Everybody wanted to see Hannah Beadman’s experimental and erotic Homecoming, but sadly some technical issues meant that the visuals were too dark. Luckily her tantalising and colourful “queer re-edit” of David Cronenberg’s Videodrome made up for it.

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Although both of Manchester’s Universities have helped support Sapphormation’s organisation, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) – something of a holy grail for academics seeking funding – have made an interesting and admirable move in looking beyond their usual University projects to help create something valuable for the LGBT community. Sapphormation’s lineup of events (which included political debates, comedy shows, live music and a “Women in Business” Seminar) took place at venues across the city over only two days, meaning that as I write this it’s all just about over. Hopefully the festival’s organisers will find ways to transcend this year’s shoe-string budget and become an even bigger and annual social fixture.

Putting on the Ritz

Last night I took my first trip to the Ritz – a famous city centre club/live music venue – to hear Tame Impala, an Australian “psychedelic hypno-groove melodic rock” band who have a real and genuine buzz around them at the moment. It’s easy to hear why because their short but captivating set was some of the best live music I’ve heard in a long time. The entire audience seemed to have fallen (or be falling) hopelessly in love with the music, a feeling which only intensified when Kevin Parker and co let loose on tracks including Solitude is Bliss, Be Above It and Make Up Your Mind, which worked everyone into a happy frenzy. The Ritz is a great venue, somehow feeling intimate despite its size (capacity = 1500). There weren’t any signs of trouble either, which must have been a relief for the security guys who were more than happy to let me get in their way by leaning over the barrier to take some photographs. Thanks for that! 🙂

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I’ve said before I don’t like to try and write about music and I’m really not that good at it anyway. So if you haven’t heard the young, beautiful and unique Tame Impala yet then please, check them out straight away. You’ll probably hear the influence of early Pink Floyd, the Beatles and Supertramp, but apparently not anything drug-induced. Next time they play the UK, I’m definitely going to go see them again! You should too.