culture

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.

Barbados Photography - a view of Caribbean life by Shaun Armstrong

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Barbados is a fascinating, beautiful and colourful part of the Caribbean. I wanted to photograph it for those who live, visit and enjoy the locations and culture. Ranging from windswept sandy beaches, interesting buildings, boats and back-waters to flora and general life, my images seek to capture topics in an interesting and artistic way. There are many images out there normally associated with this mainly holiday destination - posh hotels, sunsets, palm-trees, swimming pools and the like - but I prefer observing the elements of normal life, an unusual building a stranded item in a strange location or just business as usual. These are the real parts of a place and a test of its unique character which makes it different and individual. That said, there are my observations on the usual suspects too!

My book of Barbados photography on Blurb.

All images are shot "as they were found" and in natural light; the decision to shoot being based on the content, context, shape and colour or combinations thereof, leading the viewer to think a little more about what they are seeing and how it fits into the local day to day life. Street photography with a positive edge - in addition to the images the book has a story section at the back where I share my thoughts behind each image. No image was harmed by Photoshop digital compositing!

You can have a preview of selected pages below and buy it in hardback or e-book form. Individual Barbados images can also be licensed for use. Prints and products in development but if interested please do contact me.

 

 

POP! - a pop art exhibition at Christies, London by Shaun Armstrong

Catalogue - When Britain Went PopAlways been drawn to Pop Art in one form or another, I guess as it's a visual touchpoint for the 1960's - a period of challenge, experimentation and free thinking after the austere, post-war 50's. Whether that's bold and iconic British music and fashion via Liverpool and Carnaby Street, cool machines like the Jaguar E-Type, Ford Mustang and GT-40, Saturn V rocket or SR-71 Lockheed Blackbird; icons like JFK and the Rat Pack or Sean Connery as James Bond…the sixties rocked, or rather, swung. What a treat then to stumble, quite literally, across an exciting exhibition of iconic artworks on display at the swanky Christie's in Upper Bond Street entitled "When Britain Went Pop". For the first time in a long tome pieces by 18 artists including Peter Blake (of Sgt Pepper cover fame), Derek Boshier, David Hockney, Eduardo Paolozzi (not Enrico Palazzo from Naked Gun ;) and the quite achingly beautiful Pauline Boty, la belle de pop-art who died tragically at the age of 28 in 1966, had been brought together.

After just checking this wasn't some private sale-viewing space where they expected me to pony up a large amount of cash, I wandered around the three expansive floors, by myself mainly (aside from a good number of stern looking security guards, suitably juxtaposed in suits, ties and starch against the wild, colourful abandon of the works they were minding) drinking in the vibrant works.

An added bonus was a side room showing the 1962 film by Ken Russell "Monitor - Pop Goes The Easel" a very artistically shot and slightly trippy documentary about four of the artists, their work and the "swinging scene" which I enjoyed as it featured many of the artworks on show as they were being made in the studio and/or in their 60's context with the artists which really added impact and connection when looking at them again close up and personal. Worth a watch when you have 45 mins to spare - link below.

Fearful of being ejected onto the street should I try to photograph the works, as is the threat with most (usually photographic, ironically) exhibitions I've been to, I took none until on the way out I asked to use my phone to photograph a statement on the wall about the pop art genre and to my surprise was told I could take photos, as long as I didn't use flash. Thanks to Christies for supporting the spirit of creating art from art, I went back around with my Fuji. I've a few personal projects on the boil artistically and this was a great inspiration.

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www.christies.com

Film Pop Goes The Easel - Ken Russell 1962 

IF Milton Keynes International Festival - Official Photographer by Shaun Armstrong

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It is my pleasure to be Official Photographer for the biennial IF Milton Keynes International Festival. For 2012 I covered 39 events over 11 days from the 5:30am craning in of the Boat Project to the embers of the final evening and pretty much everything in between.

Here are some highlights from 2012...

View full and extended Galleries of all artists and performances at IF 2012

 www.ifmiltonkeynes.org

Empty Shops Project - We Are Bedford - Reportage by Shaun Armstrong

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We Are Bedford was a community of local volunteers working together to make a difference to physical spaces. Hustled along by founders Kayte Judge and Erica Roffe, two people passionate about making the most of their home town of Bedford, this was to be done by transforming unused buildings into vibrant hubs of artistic activity by thinking creatively and being proactive; values I was delighted to support through artistic, documenting photography. Their first event, The Castle Quay Weekender, was held on 19-20 March 2011 and saw a fairly recently redeveloped, but under-occupied, area in the heart of the proposed cultural area of the town, transformed by artists, musicians and performers. It attracted over 2000 visitors! A real success and a demonstration to many people of what could be achieved “in the public domain” if you put your mind and a lot of hard work in.

That We Are Bedford event and its outcomes helped the founders generate funding from the RSA that led to further events and activities during 2011, spin-off groups and critical acclaim…plus through no coincidence all the units being let 1 year later.

See what is was all about below. This was quite an early bit of street /performance for me and there's post production elements I would be better now, with  a little more experience under my belt, but you get the vibe :)

Tate Modern - feeling arty on the South Bank with an iPhone by Shaun Armstrong

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In having to travel to London for a Full House Theatre meeting I found myself with an opportunity to have a wander around Tate Modern. I have a couple of abstract photo-art installations to deliver over the next month or so, so thought this would be "inspiring". Leaving the chunky kit at home I found myself more stimulated by the opportunities for some abstract reportage and the stealthy nature of my iPhone. A truly battery-draining experience so avoided trying to tweet these all out as I went. Do have a nosey at the full Gallery on Flickr and tweet or share if you like...

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Full Gallery here

Behind the Scenes Museum Photography at Bedford Gallery by Shaun Armstrong

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Recently, as part of the national Britain loves Wikipedia event, I had the rare opportunity of being allowed into the fascinating store-rooms of the Cecil Higgins and Bedford  Museum and to see their new "Clocking In" exhibition being assembled in the adjacent, new Bedford Gallery space, all with the view of taking behind the scenes photos! I think the idea was to take formal museum pics but that's not my preferred style so here's my take on what I saw....

I first popped into the new Bedford Gallery in 2009 when they had an exhibition of Abram Games posters (a number of which I saw on display at my time at Bletchley Park) mixed up with memorabilia from the Festival of Britain, which helped explain the logo I'd seen on the village sign outside my home for many years! The whole building and mix of projects is a mish-mash of spaces that, with ongoing rounds of funding are being regenerated as part of the Cultural Quarter (a long job I suspect) but the Gallery is airy and modern as I saw with friends at a Creative Bedfordshire networking event in January displaying the work of Edward Bawden.

Anyhoo, in following their news via Twitter they shared details of the Wikipedia competition and so off I went. They had two sessions allocated but it was only me and one other guy (who was much more in tune with the basis of the competition I think - I just wanted to be nosy, explore and get creative!) so, always under the guidance and approval of the curators, we were led through doors and up stairs into various rooms packed with all sorts of objet in cabinets that were as much artefacts as the contents - all variety of small and ancient items tagged and arranged in order amongst various bits of wrapping and packing materials. Not quite the Area 51 storage warehouse in Indiana Jones but plenty of dark and long unexplored corners and spaces, including a section of cabinets full of birds and other unfortunate creatures who had gone the way of the stuffer! Ended up in what I think was the ancient, old world collections and here time was spent and ran out so no stuffed weasel pics! :(

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After this we were whisked away to the Gallery to see the new Clocking In exhibition being put together and I did my best not to get in the way...wanted interesting angles and studies rather than the usual records and well, you can see all the images on my Flickr site.

"Clocking In" tells the story of working lives in and around Bedfordshire and opens on 27 February 2010 running until 23 May 2010.