Archive for the ‘Aesthetic Archive’ Category

Olympic Site April 2012

April 12, 2012

Almost two years ago, I uploaded a few photographs of the Olympic [building] site in the post here. Yesterday, I cycled back along the Greenway to see how things have changed – it is only around two months until the Olympics actually begin. Thankfully, things seem to have moved on a huge amount – the area around the stadium is starting to get ‘cleaned up’ with real roads and openings around it. The athletics tracks are now laid, marked and turfed which is quite amazing to see as last time I came here this was just a wasteland. The Ron Arad sculpture looks like it is near completion and looks to have a viewing tower at the top which will I imagine would give an unrivalled view of the stadium interior and the surrounding area.

The Greenway was full of various groups of people from various countries taking guided tours of the area, along with numerous tour buses circling around. I take this as a taster of how London will be with the imminent descent of thousands of extra people to the area.

I have posted the photographs I took below – if you click on the panoramic images, they should open into a larger view.


On Eagle’s Wings: British Adventure Comics 1950 – 1969

March 4, 2012

Currently tucked away in a small corner room at the V&A Museum [Room 74, Level 3 to be exact] is a modest exhibition showing how the adventure comic grew in popularity in post-war Britain. The “baby boom” following the end of the war coupled with a relax in conditions of rationing meant that by the 1950s a new generation of children emerged eager for entertainment, with pocket money to spend.

Although old favourites such as The Beano and The Dandy first appeared in the 1930s, it seemed that it took a little while for the idea that comics didn’t have to be “comic” to grow. The adventure comic probably came to fruition post-war as children became more interested in the stories of their soldier fathers and also as they genuinely became more educated about the war itself.

Eagle was the first true adventure comic publication and featured new hero Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future [founded by John Marcus Harston Morris]. Morris had noticed a trend of British youngsters buying American ‘horror’ comics intended for reading by GIs. Impressed by the high standard of artwork in the US magazines, but disgusted by their content, he realised that a market existed for a children’s comic which featured action stories in cartoon form, but which also would convey to children the standards and morals he advocated. Running from 1950 to 1969 the publication was hugely popular [900,000 copies of Issue One were sold]. The comic was heavily publicised before its release; copies were mailed direct to several hundred thousand people who worked with children, and a “Hunt the Eagle” scheme was launched, whereby large papier-mâché golden eagles were set on top of several Humber Hawk cars, and toured across the UK. Those who spotted an eagle were offered tokens worth 3d, which could be exchanged at newsagents for a free copy of Eagle.

Eagle spawned many imitators and also gave rise for the first time of magazines for younger people to be marketed by gender with publications like Girl and Marilyn aimed towards young girls. These publications soon began to introduce readers’ issues sections creating the first ‘problem pages’ and laying the foundation for this section typical in so many of today’s magazines.

Stratford Then & Now

January 10, 2012

When I left Stratford a little under a year ago, I took a few photographs of the area for posterity, with the hope of seeing how it might change with the imminent arrival of the Olympics in June of this year. This Saturday, I finally got my bicycle back on the road and went for an early morning cycle to have a look around those areas I explored previously.

I came away with the feeling that Stratford is very different to the place I remember, but then equally it is very much the same. It’s a hard feeling to describe…aesthetically, on the surface, it is a very different place. A multitude of new residential buildings seem to have sprung up in every available space, radically altering Stratford’s horizon. and general appearance as you enter the area. However, turn down any corner or back street, and the Stratford of ‘old’ is never far away. The new tower blocks surround the old council estates, almost swamping them with their slick modernist facades…but nothing can hide the fact that they are still there. I am not saying by any means that those estates should be removed, but Stratford almost seems to be trying to paper over its own cracks rather short sightedly instead of thinking about long-term planning for the future.

It will be interesting to see how the area changes again, as July creeps ever closer – it seems that there is still a large amount to do to make Stratford into the ‘Olympic City’ it is being touted to be.









New footbridge spans the road into Stratford. I think that this is part of the redevelopment of the ‘Greenway’ walkway which allows people to walk directly alongside the Olympic stadium.

This is the corner of the road I used to reside on, and both of these buildings were not there one year ago.

The derelict building opposite my old apartment is STILL there, but now surrounded entirely by new builds. The Anish Kapoor Olympic sculpture can also now be seen in the distance.

Anish Kapoor sculpture [The “ArcelorMittal Orbit”]

The last time I saw this site, it was a garage.

Demolition of the canal side factory buildings in progress.

The Patek Phillipe Museum

October 7, 2011

On Wednesday I visited Switzerland to go to the office of Antima, who manufacture watches for Burberry. On the first day of the trip, I had some spare time in Geneva so decided to visit the Museum of Patek Phillipe watches. A brief history [from the official website]:

“On May 1st, 1839 two Polish immigrants, Antoni Patek (Businessman) and Franciszek Czapek (Watchmaker) joined forces to found « Patek, Czapek & Cie » in Geneva. In 1844, Mr. Patek met the French watchmaker, Mr. Adrien Philippe in Paris where the latter presented his pioneering  stem winding and setting system by the crown. In 1845 when Czapek decided to leave the company and to continue his activity on his own, the company name changed for « Patek & Cie ». Later on, in 1851 when Mr. Philippe officially associated with the company, it  was rebaptised « Patek Philippe & Cie », before changing once more in 1901 for « Ancienne Manufacture d’Horlogerie Patek Philippe & Cie, S.A. ». In 1932, the company was purchased by Charles and Jean Stern, two brothers owners of a fine dial manufacture in Geneva. Since then, « Patek Philippe S.A. » remains a family owned firm. In 2009 the company presidency was officially transmitted from the 3rd to the 4th generation : Mr. Thierry Stern became president and his father Mr. Philippe Stern, Honorary president.”

The collection at the museum contains not only Patek Phillipe watches, but also a good range of general historical watches. It is interesting to see how watches moved from being pieces that denoted only the hours, to the chronographs and extended editions that are available today. Patek Phillipe themselves invented the self winding system for watches – prior to this, all timepieces required a separate key to be carried in order to wind them up daily to keep them going. This is why when people are seen to be wearing pocket watches in historical imagery, the chain usually has two sections – one for the watch and one for the key. In the late 1800s, the enamel painting technique became very much in Vogue, as watches became more a symbol of status and wealth than actual items for telling the time.

Wrist watches only became popular in the early 1900s, but were mainly the preserve of women, and not seen as manly at all. However, during the First World War there was a move towards wrist watches for men, as soliders’ found a pocket watch to cumbersome and impractical to use during battle. In the present day of course, men are rarely seen to be wearing pocket watches. It will be interesting to see what happens to the humble watch as mobile phones, iPads and other electronic equipment all become the first port of call for obtaining the time. I have seen an ‘app’ that actually gives your iPod/iPhone etc a clock face, removing the need to carry a separate watch at all.

The Patek Phillipe Museum is in Geneva, Rue des Vieux-Grenadiers 7, Switzerland.

The Elephant Will Never Forget

September 4, 2011

I have recently started learning a little bit more about the BFI, and the staggering range of  film and television heritage that they have preserved.  For those not familiar with the BFI, here is their own description of what they do:

“The BFI  promotes understanding and appreciation of film and television heritage and culture. Established in 1933, the BFI cares for the world’s richest and most significant collection of film and television, preserving almost one million titles.”

Along with film and television DVDs, they also publish books, show films at their own sites, and run the annual London Film Festival. One particular area of interest to me is their archive of ‘public information films’ which are basically collections of short films that were shown across Britain offering information on a wide range of topics as far-reaching as public health, safety and making journeys. I find it such a good insight into ‘how we were’ so to speak.

I picked up a collection of four films by John Krish titled ‘A Day in the Life: Four Portraits of Post-War Britain’. Krish has worked as both a director and a writer of films, and is mostly known for his documentary film making, but has also written and directed a number of feature-length films. The first film is ‘The Elephant Will Never Forget’ and revolves around the removal of the tram system from service in London in 1952. The name is taken from the Elephant & Castle former depot.

The story goes that Krish was asked by British Transport Films to attend the closing ceremony to shoot a short piece of film showing the final tram pulling into the depot and capture the moment the Chairman of London Transport shaking hands with the driver. However, Krish felt that there was an opportunity for something a little more celebratory given the event, so ‘borrowed’ multiple reels of stock film depicting trams in operation, and shot 8 more reels of film 5 days prior to the last tram ceremony showing the contribution that the trams made to London life. Seeing the result, Edgar Anstey [Chairman of British Transport Films] actually sacked John Krish! In the years that have followed though, the film has come to be known as something of a cult film, and much more than a simple information film. Some of the shots are brilliant, and the narration is perfect. Krish has managed to make me somehow sort of miss the London Tram, even though I have never had the opportunity [nor will I] to use them. It’s actually quite incredible to see the journey of the last tram – 20,000 Londoners came out on the streets to see and salute it. I find it difficult to imagine that sort of community spirit would occur in today’s world..

Here are some stills from the film, but I would try to view it [I’m sure it’s online somewhere] if you ever find yourself with a spare 20 minutes or so.

It seems to be a little bit of a grey area as to why the trams were actually put out of service, but there are some interesting points here.

Homepage for the BFI is here.

The Titanic at the O2

August 19, 2011

This afternoon, I took advantage of ‘Summer Hours’ and went to visit the long-running exhibition at the O2 all about the Titanic, and artefacts found within it. As far as I know, it is the only place in the world that you can actually see genuine artefacts found within the sunken ship. I learnt today that it wasn’t until an unbelievable 72 years after it sank that they were able to utilise the technology and get deep enough down to explore it.

The exhibition itself is actually worth the entry fee, spread throughout many rooms, and containing a large variety of interesting items to read and look over. Photography is not permitted anywhere within the exhibition [I got scolded by the ‘security’ guards a few times just for having my mobile phone out let alone for taking photographs]. However, that said I did manage to get a few photographs in. It’s quite amazing what they have actually managed to rescue from down there. There are linen handkerchiefs that have been on the sea bed for over 80 years, that still look somehow in pretty good condition. Probably still blow my nose on it today if I am honest. Along with this, there are so many personal possessions that have somehow been tracked back to their owners, creating small case studies of the passengers that travelled on the one and only voyage.

Below is what I managed to take photographs of, but there is so much more and I highly recommend paying it a visit if you have time between now and August 29th.

These are the floor plans of the various levels that made up the Titanic. Apparently it was the first vessel of its kind to feature a revolutionary three propeller system.

Draughtsmen working on the layout of the Titanic

This is a recreation of how a room would have looked on the First Class deck

This is a tap from the First Class bathroom suite, set into marble. Apparently all the taps had a spring back mechanism to ensure that water wasn’t wasted on board.

Fixtures and fittings used for handrails etc

Wine and Champagne bottles. This bottle here still contains Champagne, and hasn’t been uncorked since it was recovered.

This is the actual signal wheel used to send messages down to the engine room, and popularised by the film ‘Titanic’ etc. Think ‘FULL SPEED AHEAD’ and other commands.

Adolphe Saalfeld carried perfume vials on board as he hoped to take them to America in order to sell the scents. Amazingly, the vials survived and the scents can still be smelled today. The box that these were in had holes cut into it so that you could ‘sample’ them.

Car Boot Success [2]

August 14, 2011

I visited the Midlands again this weekend as it was my Birthday and it has been a while since I have seen my family etc. In keeping with tradition, The Duchess and I took a trip to the local Car Boot Sale to see what we could get our hands on. As always, it turned out to be quite a fruitful trip, as we returned with books, accessories and general clutter. The images below show what we found.

John Player Cigarette Cards: Film Stars Series One & Three [undated]

When I was a little younger, my Granddad gave me a collection of Cigar cards he had collected whilst Landlord of a pub. I swiftly got my Crayola crayons out and set about defacing them, much to everyone’s dismay [including my own many years later]. These complete collections below will be taken much better care of.

Check out Ralph Lynn – what a gent!

Swimming: Short & Long Distance by Jabez Wolffe [undated]

I used to be a keen swimmer as an adolescent, but one day gave it all up [I am still unsure as to why…]. This book is absolute genius, or rather Jabez Wolffe is; sample quote, “I have often been asked if it is possible to learn to swim on dry land. Certainly it is, though there are many drawbacks not encountered in the water. For instance, if you lie full length on the carpet you cannot get quite the proper kick for the legs, which (in the water) must be somewhat downwards. I have known people lie across a chair or a hassock, but I cannot believe that this can be good for the digestive organs.” Amazing.

Bowling by M S Nichols [Blackie’s Sports Series, 1937]

Continuing the sporting theme, I also picked up this highly informative book on bowling (in the Cricket sense of the word). I do not have a particular interest in Cricket, but I was drawn to the aesthetics and layout of this book. In each of the four corners, there is a small thumbnail photograph of a man bowling. When the book is flicked through quickly (in flick-book manner) the images become a film illustrating the bowls described in the text. Clever.

Vintage Spectacles [undated]

I purchased these purely out of interest of the materials and the shape of them. I have a feeling that they are late 1950s / early 1960s [but don’t quote me on that] – they look like a series of NHS type spectacles known as ‘Panto’ style frames. Panto comes from the term Pantoscopic which means seeing everything, or wide view. The hinges look like they are hand made to me, which is quite interesting to see on a pair of frames like this. The base [curve of the frame] it also pretty amazing – completely the opposite way to how most conventional frames curve today.

Keep an eye out for something similar in next years Burberry Optical range [maybe..!]

Stationary Tidy [undated]

If this were made in the UK, it would be sheer perfection in my opinion. However, it is still pretty fantastic! A series of small matchbox-like structures containing all those essential elements needed for the successful running of a day-to-day office space. And better still, all the original elements are still in the boxes. I have no idea how they have not disappeared with time, but this will certainly be a useful addition to my desk.

Tie pins / Brooches

My collection of tie pins has rapidly diminished recently as I seem to keep losing them somehow…but I found a few today which will do nicely for the time being. The slimmer piece also has a chain detail which is something I have never had before, so pretty exciting eh!? I chose the brooches as I am always drawn to umbrellas in any form, and I am hoping to marry someone called Priscilla.

Car Boot Success

May 30, 2011

As I have been at home this weekend, I decided to take advantage of the fact that there are many cheap car boot sales around the area. It feels like I haven’t been to a car boot sale in years, whereas when I lived back here it was generally a weekly occurrence.

I managed to pick up some old photograph albums for £3 a piece (in London I have looked at similar items and they prefer to charge ‘by the photograph’), a small notebook from the early 1900s which has many blank pages in (definitely going to use this) and some “sleeve braces” unworn in the original box. I also snapped up the hilarious ‘penny farthing’ wall hanging which features both an old penny and a farthing mounted in it, for the princely sum of 50p.

The albums are pretty amazing – I am really intrigued as to who the people in them are, and what they are doing (particularly in the first album – so many white, casual suits).

Snibston County Primary School: Revisited

May 29, 2011

When I first began writing this blog, I posted some photographs of the primary school that a lot of friends and I went to as it had closed down and fallen into a large state of disrepair. My original post can be seen here.

Recently, I had contact with local journalist Marc Johnson who wanted to write a short piece on the state of the school. His initial comments are below:

“My names Marc I’m a reporter at the Coalville Times newspaper. I’m not sure whether or not the subject of the email has given you any ideas what this is about, but I’ll try and explain.

There is a planning application to turn Snibston County Primary School into offices and given the state of the school at the minute I decided to contact the council to ask why it was allowed to become so run down. I googled the schools name just to see what popped up, and your blog entry from last year appeared.
You said you were a former pupil and I was just wondering if I could ask for a comment from yourself about what you thought when you saw it like that?”

I have posted a photograph of the resulting article below. I didn’t really make any sort of official ‘comment’ regarding the school, but Marc paraphrased some of what I said in my e-mails to him to create the article.
This weekend I returned home to visit the family and decided to stop by and take a few more photographs of the school to see what sort of state it is now in. Outside, there is a notice explaining that a Planning Application has indeed been placed to make the school into an office block, and that the actual details and application could be viewed online. Of course I did this, and the latest is that the application has been granted, so the school will become offices. However, looking over the plans, it appears that the outside / structure of the building will remain unchanged which I personally feel is excellent news as it hopefully means that the building will to an extent be saved and given a new lease of life. This is a much happier ending than the building simply being demolished which would have been very sad indeed.
It is easy to see just how much nature has reclaimed the building between the first set of photographs and the new ones below. For anyone who is interested, the Facebook Group can be joined here.

Existing Floor Plan

Proposed Floor Plan

London Street Photography

March 21, 2011

This weekend I visited the new exhibition at the Museum of London, entitled ‘London Street Photography’. Covering imagery from as early as 1860 to the present day, the exhibition aims to document “street” photography in London, and the ways in which it has changed. The earliest photographs feature only actual streets with little or no movement due to the absence of technology to capture images of this kind. From this it moves through pioneering images that were able to capture motion, documentary style photography, press related photography and finally the so-called  ‘decline’ of street photography.

In my opinion, street photography has surely snowballed in recent years, through the advent of camera phones, smaller cameras, the Internet etc? Anyway, this exhibition is free and features some interesting video interviews with photographers who have literally take photographs of the same areas on a daily basis in order to document change and preserve memories of times gone by.

Definitely worth a visit, and good to see an exhibition featuring the history of London so busy. Below is a selection of images I favoured.