The Moulin Rouge and Fin de siècle Paris has always been a fascination of me. Probably brought around by the 2001 film which, I am not going to lie, has remained one of my favourite films for most of my teenage years. My general love for art, theatre, dance and fashion has all come together quite nicely with this obsession.

I recently attended the exhibition, Toulouse-Lautrec and Jane Avril: Beyond the Moulin Rouge, at the Courtauld Gallery at Somerset House, London. We attended a special ‘Moulin Rouge Late’ starting at 6pm with food, drink, exhibition talks and even a can can dance performance! It was truly a fantastic exhibition in its own right but the added layers of entertainment funded by the Art Fund, of which I am a proud member.

The exhibition is the first time the relationship between Toulouse-Lautrec and Jane Avril (her psuedonym, real name being Jeanne Richepin) had been explored through art, and it proved to be a really interesting collection. The exhibits not only included art my Toulouse-Lautrec himself, although of course this was the mainstay of the exhibition, but also photographs and memorabilia from the Moulin Rouge, medical documents and sketches of the ‘hysteria’ which was believed to be what have Jane Avril her eclectic and ‘almost epileptic’ dance style.

Some beautiful prints and sketches of Jane Avril by Toulouse-Lautrec were exhibited, including the famous 1983 Jane Avril poster plus the original sketch on which it was based. I found some of the original photographs of Jane, possible keepsakes and memorabilia to give out to clients of the Moulin Rouge, incredibly interesting. Too often we see these images and paintings and forget that these are real people.

We had a talk on several of the images from a student at the Courtauld Institute, a very insightful talk about a particular painting Toulouse Lautrec au Moulin Rouge, his only work to include himself and Jane Avril in the same image. This image was a favourite of mine as it included so many characters I had heard about, such as May Milton and La Goulue, other dancers famous around the time of the cafe concerts.

One great thing about this exhibition had to be the entertainment. After the talk we were invited down to another room which contained some interesting images of the same themes, by different artists, for a performance from a dancer named Ruby Blues, a really fun can can dance performance!

Overall I’d have to say this is one of the best exhibitions I’ve ever visited, it was insightful and full of fantastic stories and history behind each piece. Having read so much around the ‘character’ of Jane Avril I know feel I know her so much better.

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I’ve always wanted to do some form of studio work, and luckily as part of my course we had to create a studio shot using all the photography equipment.

I’m pretty pleased with the result, created using softboxes which were on constant (not flash units).

The mood of the picture was largely acheived during the studio shoot and not in post-pro, though the B&W has brought out the contrast much better than in colour.

I haven’t posted in a while so I thought I’d spend some time to introduce you to my small but rather growing camera collection.

My Grandad gave me most of these as he is an antique camera dealer (and general oddity dealer; cameras, binoculars, pens, guns, militaria and god knows what else). There is a collection of box cameras ranging from 1926-1950s and also a few sixties and seventies creations.

All the box cameras take 120 film (or 620, which is no longer around). I’m currently perfecting my 35mm B&W developing so I can start testing out the box cameras and develop them cheaply. Sadly the only one I have been able to test so far cost me a fortune to develop (there are only 8 exposures per roll of 120 as well!) and only 3 photos came out! Very irritating. So far I’ve tried twice to develop, with thanks to the university Photographic Society (of which I am a member) and the President Alison who has helped me process πŸ™‚ The first two films didn’t come out as expected, but I think I’ve ironed out the issues some third time lucky πŸ™‚ Hopefully I’l have some pictures to share by next week.

'How to Hold Your Camera' from Pentax Asahi S1a Manual

'How to Hold Your Camera' from Pentax Asahi S1a Manual

The first camera is the one I am currently using to take shots for 35mm, its not actually mine, it is on loan for the photographic society which is great. Its a lovely camera, feels really robust and mechanical which is just the kind of thing I like! It seems to be in working order bar the exposure counter which curiously starts at 26 rather than zero :P, so I just have to count how many photos I have taken πŸ™‚

The camera is a Pentax Asahi S1a, I believe this model is from 1960. I was lucky enough to find the manual online courtesy of PentaxManuals.com, you can download it here if you’re after it (Hint: password is Pentax).

The next camera I have to show is my oldest. This is a 1926 Kodak Brownie No.2 Hawkeye Model C. One of the proper old Brownie cameras. I managed to locate a manual for a similar model (there are so many types of Brownies!) here if you are interested. Its in pretty good working order and I have managed to get several photographs from it, although the rest lightleaked, which I guess is just what you get from such an old camera. The thing about cameras like this is that there is no focus or aperture, its all about having a go and seeing what you get back. You can see some examples of the photographs I have managed to get from it here. I am currently in the process of learning ore about developing my own film so I can get some more pictures out of this, its really expensive to send film away just to find out that nothing came out!

The third (and final – for today at least) camera I will share with you is one i have not yet used, but it will be my next. Its probably my favourite of the bunch just for its cuteness. Its a 1950 Coronet Twelve-20. A really lovely little retro camera. The parts all seem in working order so lets hope we get something from it! Its quite interesting too as it has a colour filter so can take black and white and colour too, and it also has a time lever for long exposures. You can flick the switch on the front for ‘distant’ or ‘near’ – I guess you could say that means you can focus too? πŸ˜› I’ll be working on this one in a few weeks and trying to get some pictures from it so watch out πŸ™‚

I’ve been working on a small, personal photographic project recently, essentially just a collection of similar images to show how they can vary in style or shape etc. This is the first from a small series I am planning.

The pictures are taken from three villages near me, Penshurst, Southborough and Leigh. I think its interesting to see the different architecture styles all in a localised area.

As always, you can find more of my snaps on my Flick account at http://www.flickr.com/photos/shewouldneversaywhereshecamefrom/4742703662/

Today I went to a fantastic exhibition at the V&A about digital design and interactive art.

Decode: Digital Design Sensations showcases the latest developments in digital and interactive design, from small, screen-based, graphics to large-scale interactive installations. The exhibition includes works by established international artists and designers such as Daniel Brown, Golan Levin, Daniel Rozin, Troika and Karsten Schmidt. The exhibition features both existing works and new commissions created especially for the exhibition.

DECODE runs in the Porter Gallery from 8th December 2009 until 11th April 2010.

The exhibition was separated into three distinctive sections. The first; Code; explored the ways in which computer code could be used to create new visually exciting work. This included specially designed computer programs which were capable of creating visually aesthetic images which can constantly change. All of these different visual outcomes are created using nothing but the very basics of computer programming, binary.

The second section looked at networks and the way that information and communication technology has allowed us to create new works based on real people being connected via the world wide web. Such websites as We Feel Fine allow you to search for tweets and to divide them between age, gender and even the ‘feelings’ they contain, all through a visually exciting medium.

The final, and probably most fun section concerned itself with interactivity. In this section all the exhibits contained some sort of user interactivity which meant you could control the way the art looked. There were many things such as a table full of sand which could be ‘parted’ to created small pools of ‘liquid’ where strange computerised lifeforms would gather and grow, great fun for feeling like playing God! There were also motion sensitive canvases where you could throw paint splashes at a wall, or use a real hairdryer to blow imaginary fluff off a giant computerised dandelion clock, plus an amazing laser scanner that would scan a rough outline of your own face and display it on the wall in front of you!

My face, on exhibition in the V&A! You'd never believe it
My face, on exhibition in the V&A! You’d never believe it

All in all this was a really great exhibition for showing us what modern technology can actually do to create visually exciting art. While some might see technology as something that is blocking the traditional art methods, others take it on in an attempt to manipulate and take advantage of this new technology in a fun and interesting way, with sometimes unlikely outcomes!

Having created my portfolio online recently, I decided I wished to have a place to show work currently in progress. Here I’ll be posting about projects I’m working on, including the techniques, thought process and research behind them.