Pictures and Picasso by Shaun Armstrong

“Essentially there is only love. Whatever it may be” Pablo Picasso

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Every artist or creative should make time to view the work of others, especially those who are successful in their chosen field and better still if not of the same genre. It stimulates new ideas and routes to more unique experimentation within your own skill-set. And for me, no visit to London is complete without a visit to Tate Modern where there is usually something interesting or challenging to see.

This visit gave an opportunity to see the “1932” exhibition of works by Pablo Picasso during this key year of creativity and output but also “SHAPE OF LIGHT : 100 Years of photography & abstract art” exploring the evolution of creative approaches to image creation.

Here are a few quotes I liked from Shape of Light :

“Why should the inspiration that comes from an artist’s manipulation of the hairs fo a brush be any different from that of the artist who bends at will the rays of light?”

Pierre Dubreuil

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My only aim was to express reality, for there is nothing more surreal than reality itself. If reality fails to fill us with wonder, it is because we have fallen into the habit of seeing it as ordinary”

Brassaï

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Whilst I enjoyed the Picasso retrospective , I found myself more intrigued by those viewing than the work itself. The photographer’s curse I guess; not really be able to be somewhere interesting without seeing images you want to capture…

People are just fascinating, so here are some moments of (indoor) street iphonography…

Welcome to my new website! by Shaun Armstrong

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I've been looking at a change for a while and the design and functionality of Squarespace was what I needed for my personal work and plans. It's still a work in progress in parts, especially around the blog, which my old set-up didn't do as well as I wanted, but more to come here.

You will find examples of this personal work, commercial projects I'm involved with and on the blog views and opinions across a range of topics, but likely to feature photography (art and technical), music, culture, heritage and technology.

I'm currently working on artwork for sale, images for licensing and books. If you'd like to work with me in any way please do let in touch and tell me more!

I hope you like the new site as much as I do. All feedback welcome!

Shaun

Oct 2018

Iain Carstairs - a reflection. by Shaun Armstrong

The passing of a gifted and visionary man I was pleased to have known.

As I walked back to the car-park through Bedford today, having been discussing art and documenting an installation at The Higgins museum, I happened to walk past Frescoes cafe in Mill Street.

The thing that makes this building special, if you're not local, is it sits at the end of a terrace of old shops and upon that end wall is the most marvellous painted fresco and a plaque dedicated to the artist, Iain Carstairs, which I stopped and looked at more than usual, as I'd heard Iain had been ill.

I learnt some two hours later that Iain died overnight peacefully in his sleep. His battle, both physical and intellectual, with cancer had ended.

Iain Carstairs - www.scienceandreligion.com
Iain Carstairs - www.scienceandreligion.com

This fresco was the first one of three he did in Bedford, using traditional but challenging techniques; the others decorate the end of his home in Gladstone Street and which featured in the news a couple of years ago, and the last at Beauchamp School completed last month, with his daughters help I believe.

ITV News item...

"Meet the man from Bedford who's painted a fresco on the side of his house"

I am proud to say I knew the man, but also saddened that we had lost touch these last years as our paths took different directions.

I first met him when I worked at Bedford i-Lab from 2005-2009 where he based his successful travel software business. He was at once someone who had clearly had an exciting and rich life, but who embraced new ideas and pleasures. He kindly took part in a video we made about the place and talked about how he enjoyed the companionship offered by the community of small businesses and the friendships it spawned.

He was also a generous man. After a great driving day, organised for the local Mayor's charity in 2008, at Palmersport (Iain being the only person to turn up with a full race-suit for go-karting!) he invited me and James Hart back to a private driving experience. The three of us enjoyed hospitality, a tour of the garages and had the track and some single-seat racers to ourselves that glorious evening.

And I still have a Caterham T-shirt that he casually gave me as he was just passing my office one day.

A while later, after I had left the i-Lab, I went to a bar in Hitchin to meet him and some friends to see and photograph some of his early artwork, based on Jimi Hendrix, that he had on display there.

Whenever he talked of art, music, science or religion or, as was his won't, conspiracy theories, or indeed anything, I recall it was with an innate sense of awe, detail, passion and tenacity to get under the surface of whatever it was and then master it, however complicated. The research, care and dedication he put into both the science and art of the frescoes for instance, was mind-boggling.

His blog (formerly www.scienceandreligion.com, now sold on I think) which I followed with interest if not always comprehension, documented his views on many things, including his renewed battle with cancer and his global search to find a cure. I hope it is kept up for others to read.

His last post, from January 2016, was typically "Iain" and talked not only of the science of coffee (!) but his plans for the Beauchamp School fresco.

A fitting extract from another of Iain's blogs in October 2015...

It’s natural to hope your work has some influence for the good, but you also suspect it’s a very diffused thing, almost subliminal – a drop in the bucket for those drenched by TV and big budget films vying for attention.  So to find what you did with a paintbrush on a rickety scaffold has really influenced someone can be daunting, especially when you remember any shortcuts you took.  Say, during a freezing Christmas Eve snowstorm with water running down your neck and lime water eating your skin, panicking over no time to buy gifts and cards now long forgotten, as the shops began to close and the light grew dim – now you understand those hours saved hurrying up cheated someone, somewhere, out of something.

Inevitably, there are two morals coming our way.  One – if you believe in something, you must give it everything you’ve got, because someone, somewhere is going to appreciate it – and those people are precisely the ones you’re working for.  And the other – if the school wall I’m hoping for is made available, it must become the best thing I’ve ever done!

My thoughts and condolences to all who knew him and like me will remember him fondly.

RIP Iain Carstairs 2016

Shuttleworth Collection Engineering Day = Grown Up Sheds by Shaun Armstrong

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There's something alluring about sheds. Havens with tools and tins and the gathered detritus of many hours tinkering and whittling. Attempts to fix or create, successfully or otherwise - in relatively undisturbed tranquility, save perhaps an old paint-spattered radio. And mugs of tea. And if you breath deeply, the smell of oil and wood-shavings. We're not talking Shoffices here - wooden garden workplaces with desks, books and wifi - but the sort of place where organisation means over-use of a Dymo label printer on old tubs and tins to reveal their assorted contents - nails, tapes and bits of electrical items that are sure to "come in handy" one day.

My Dad had such a shed-cum-workshop which as his gathered spoils and projects increased, he made it larger - cutting it in half down the middle and inserting a higher, pitched perspex roof to let more light in. As you do.

Sheds come in all shapes and sizes and whilst the ones at the Shuttleworth Collection of aircraft and classic cars at Old Warden, Bedfordshire are more "hangars", the principle is pretty much the same.

Every year they open up the engineering shed hangar to show their works-in-progress and for the engineers (the stars of the show along with the airplanes) to share their enthusiasm and chat to the visitors young and old.

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This was my first visit to Shuttleworth, so camera-wise I only had my little Fuji 100s and my phone, but was amazed how many people were gunned up with all sorts of kit - tripods, off-camera flash and more DSLR's with the brand and model stitched into the strap than you could shake a selfie-stick at. But when you think of how close to classic warbirds (especially the last flying Hurricane that saw action in WWII) you could get, plus see the innards of a Spitfire in bottom-up rebuild, you could see why there was such enthusiasm.

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Aside from the main focus (and smell) of the planes, I was more fascinated by the people - visitors and team, and the details of not only the machinery but life in the workplace not normally set for public "display". The quizzical technical interest of the more mature gentleman down to the families and children marvelling in the unusual sights of design, materials and finish, was fascinating.

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Here are some of my images from the Shuttleworth visit, spanning visitors, engineers and details of classic craftsmanship.

Air Space, IWM Duxford - Official Pre-Build Footage. by Shaun Armstrong

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Rare footage from AirSpace, Imperial War Museum, Duxford with Spitfire test pilot Alex Henshaw.

The following video was shot by me in March 2005 at the start of the building of "Air Space", then a new indoor space for Imperial War Museum, Duxford in Cambridgeshire, UK, to house and showcase many iconic British planes, including Lancaster, Spitfire, Vulcan and Concorde and also tell the story of aviation for future generations.

Whilst there were some press photographers there, I don't think it was formally filmed (I may be wrong - no doubt someone will tell me) nor was there the legion of mobile documenting tech there is today, feeding into social media! So having dug out (no pun intended) the footage, thought it worthwhile to edit it a little bit and share; if my video and audio friends in particular could please excuse 2005 production quality.

A time capsule containing a selection of local and aviation artefacts was buried under the new location, before the build commenced, and as a supporter of the project (my late father had worked on many of the iconic aircraft during WWII in RAF Bomber Command and later at RAE Thurleigh in Research & Development) I went along to see the ceremony.

The event included a short but poignant talk by VIP guest Alex Henshaw, MBE, the original Spitfire test pilot and a short display by the iconic WWII fighter, despite the drizzle

Sadly, Alex Henshaw died in 2007, aged 94 and never saw Air Space open to the public.

Alex Henshaw on Wikipedia

Imperial War Museum, Duxford

Book photography : “PROF – Alan Turing Decoded” by Shaun Armstrong

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Shared from my business photography work at mubsta.com, this tells the story behind my photography in the new book on Alan Turing by his nephew Dermot Turing. Dermot explores the human side of the iconic British genius and WWII Bletchley Park codebreaker from his family's perspective. It was an honour to work with Dermot on new photography in and around King's College, Cambridge, restore some old original Turing family photos plus create a new portrait of Dermot.

Read about PROF Photography.

Goodwood Festival of Speed - driving up "the Hill". by Shaun Armstrong

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Driving up the Festival of Speed, Goodwood Hill Climb - one off the bucket list.

I first went to Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2002 and on the few occasions I've not been in the flesh since, I've watched the highlights on the TV.

So, I've seen many cars drive the famous 1.16 mile hill-climb, many times : the "brickyard" start, through the trees, double apex right, past the house with its latest sculpture, fast under the bridge, tricky Molecomb left, hill, Flint wall, right, left and blast up through the finish. Iconic stuff.

For the last few years I've been on the quieter Thursday slot or "Moving Motorshow" as I like to get close and photograph the cars, for my artwork, more than fighting through the crowds. But I've also watched the lucky few get to drive up the Hill in a latest production model although for some reason had not made the effort to try and bag one of the rare slots. 2015 was different.

As usual, I'd left at 4.30am to get to Petersfield by 6.00am to pop the roof down and run the ridges, climbs and fast sections on the back-roads to Goodwood. On a good day the light cuts through the tree-tunnels and mist sits in the valleys...and there is precious little other traffic to spoil my "enthusiasm". One of my favourite drives. This also bags a good parking space and place in the queue for opening at 7.00am.

So wandering through the Moving Motorshow stand/garage I was drawn to the Citroen area and the relatively small queue that had formed. I guess with planning I'd have gone for something more "exotic" but what the hey. To my surprise I bagged a slot in a DS3 Sport which if I had to describe it I couldn't, but it was a drive.

The allotted time came and I got in the car with Lucy from Citroen as they have to drive you to the start. So down at the turn by the Goodwood Hotel we swapped places and for the first time sat in a DS3; no fussy helmet and no "do this, don't do that nannying" - just go for it, she said. Good girl.

We crept up in the queue, or rather hopped, as the the DS3 had quite a high clutch bite point and I feared this may have been the start of the end with visions of start-line stalls in front of the spectators or a pedestrian kangaroo up the hill. Luckily we were also behind a keen guy in a Lexus IS-F. I had seen some people granny-crawl up the hill only to be caught by the next car and now I was actually going up didn't want that to happen.

With adrenaline pumping moving to the famous start line with the chequered-sign "Startline" bales and white overalled marshall my thoughts went to going as quick as I dared in a strange car without binning it in public....and with Lucy coerced into video duties, off we went...

Not too shabby I think. 1m 25 secs so an average of 50mph - 1.16 miles, 9 bends and an extra chicane to stops the noobs straight-lining Molecomb, 93m elevation change over average 5% incline. I'll take that for a one-off. What an experience.

I'd love to have another go as there were some places I know I could attack more and others where I know I was tight (hello, Flint Wall!) so, looking ahead to 2016! The Citroen DS3 was quite quick, if a little light on steering and soft of ride compared to my 350Z but a good car - the hay bales along the route are surprisingly high and a number of bends are unsighted until you get to know them I guess.

It's a great experience, do try and bag a ride if you go to FOS.

My car photo-artwork

 

WEC Racing Spa Francorchamps, Belgium Photos by Shaun Armstrong

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Photos from WEC Endurance Racing - Spa Francorchamps 2015

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I always enjoy really good live motor racing, the sights, sounds and smells of high performance machinery being driven in anger. So the opportunity to visit the hallowed ground of Spa to watch the second round of the World Endurance Championship 6 Hours was a real experience and the last "shakedown" racing opportunity ahead of the Le Mans 24 hours. It was a pity the radical Nissan was not on show, but a real spectacle in LMP1 between Toyota, Porsche and Audi with some great racing too in the GTE series.

After a close finish, Audi took first place with Porsche 2nd and 3rd and the Aston Martin #99 victorious in GTE.

The overall access to cars, drivers and pits and a variety of exciting vantage points around the beautiful Ardennes forest, including the famous and even more vertical in real-life Eau Rouge/Raidillon complex, offered so much more than other, flat or manufactured circuits. A real classic.

The trip with a good friend and long-time motorsport fan was not planned as a photography project but I think I managed to capture a sense of the event from pit-walk to start, during and finish and the star cars and drivers despite being "punter-side" of the action.

my WEC Spa 2015 photos

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