Nicole Atkins Gig at The Slaughtered Lamb, Clerkenwell


Nicole Atkins at The Slaughtered Lamb, Clerkenwell, London

I came to Nicole Atkins late, via David Byrne Radio in 2008, and she’s been on my playlist ever since. Born Neptune, New Jersey, did the usual elliptical, formative stuff, formed Nicole Atkins & The Sea, released a terrific debut album, Neptune City, produced by Tore Johansson, in late 2007, subsequent parting of the ways with Columbia and others, another album, Mondo Amore, and this unplugged gig in rainy Clerkenwell.

Downstairs at The Slaughtered Lamb is a dark, airless place and I didn’t see her appear out of the gloom until she plugged her acoustic guitar into the PA on the small patch of leopard-patterned carpet that was the performance area. After the overflowing orchestration of Neptune City and the raw, swampy Mondo Amore, could just a girl with a guitar still slay us?

Read the review and view the gallery at sprks.com

Nicole Atkins live at The Slaughtered Lamb, 34-35 Great Sutton Street EC1V 0DX
9th May 2012. Photos and Words: © Ken Sparkes. All Rights Reserved

Graham Ford’s B&H Goldfish photoshoot


‘It was one of those great advertising briefs where all the elements are there, but nothing was set in stone. I don’t have the original layout from Nigel Rose, art director at CDP, but I think it showed a shadow of a cat, a bowl and maybe the suggestion of a window.’

B&H Goldfish ad by Graham Ford

You were working on several campaigns at the same time: did you and Nigel discuss the look of the shot in detail? Or were you both pretty much on the same wavelength?

Graham Ford: ‘That summer of ’85 I was also working on Benson & Hedges with Graham Fink, Silk Cut for Paul Arden, Volvo for John Horton, Atora and Clarkes for Nigel, Hennessy for Guy Moore, BMW for Kathy Heng and Citroen for Dennis Lewis. I was very busy!

Nigel would have drawn a loose layout which the agency and client would have approved in principle – art directors could actually draw in those days – and we’d discuss the detail with the stylist and modelmaker. When we had everything ready on the set we would progress together, a process of discovery using lots of Polaroid.

Art directors like Nigel knew what they wanted, and they understood photography. There is a long journey from sketch to billboard, as everything had to be made by hand, assembled, lit, brought into focus, and distilled onto one sheet of film. Nigel knew my style, we trusted each other and knew we could make this work.’

Are you the kind of photographer who works everything out on paper, or do you prefer to evolve the shot until you’re happy enough to go ahead?

Graham Ford: ‘Both. I would calculate distances, sizes and lens angles, and I would set up a test and plan as much as I could beforehand. Don’t forget, the models were real and couldn’t be changed after they were made, and that sometimes took weeks…

Read the rest of Graham Ford’s B&H Goldfish at sprks.com

Photo: Graham Ford, Art Director: Nigel Rose, Model-maker: Terry Kemble. Shot in Graham Ford’s studio in wonderful Westbourne Grove, London, 1985.
This feature © Ken Sparkes. All Rights Reserved.

Bennison Calendar 2012


November - Bennsion 2012 calendar by Ken Sparkes

The Bennison Fabrics 2012 calendar just has been released and it looks terrific. Like the previous calendar we wanted to showcase the fabrics in an eye-catching way and create images that would be remembered. So, we thought a childhood theme would do the trick, nostalgic but with a twist. Jude Massie-Taylor suggested Fairy Stories, I liked the idea of Nursery Crimes. We combined the two themes, went to our desks and began to sketch.

Our Mary Poppins sketch left quite a lot to the imagination, which is fortunate because our original intention to find a suitable rooftop location was doomed. With time running out, I had to think of something else.

We photographed Kim standing on a tall chair while she tried to hold the umbrella and look as though she was airborne at the same time. I had snapped the Battersea Power Station photo just a week or two before, having been soaked by the storm that you see in the final image.

Bennison 2012 Calendar by Ken Sparkes - March

Read the rest of the feature: New Year Resolution: Bennison Calendar 2012

Photos © Ken Sparkes. Art Director/Stylist: Jude Massie-Taylor, Costume Design: Sophia Lovell Smith, Hair and Makeup: Elaine Smith, Shot at Bennison Fabrics, near Sloane Square, and other miscellaneous locations around London. All Rights Reserved.

Atelier sul Mare art hotel, Sicily


Atelier sul Mare art hotel - sprks.com

About half way along the Sicily’s North Coast is Cefalu, and just a little further is the tiny village of Castel di Tusa which at first glance has little to offer; a bar emitting pop music and the whiff of a typical café kitchen, a few fishing boats pulled up on the harbour front, a coach of schoolchildren. Except it happens to be home to one of the most extraordinary hotels you are ever likely to check into. Atelier sul Mare is the brainchild of Antonio Presti, who had the insane idea that guests would travel miles off the beaten track to a hotel that allowed you to stay and sleep inside a piece of art.

Atelier sul Mare art hotel - sprks.com

Sixteen or so of its 40 rooms have been created by an international collection of artists who have been given the freedom to push the boundaries of what constitutes a hotel room to the very limit. We chose the Pasolini Room (also called the Prophet Room) by Dario Bellezza, Adele Camria and Antonio himself. The black metal door is covered with Pier Paolo Pasolini’s poetry, cantilevered so we can knock it down should we want to, and opens into an impossibly narrow, pitch-dark corridor which requires us to turn our wheelie suitcases sideways. The room is large and all walls and ceilings are plastered with straw and mud. It shouldn’t work, but it does! The effect is at first perplexing, then strangely comforting

Read more about Atelier sul Mare on sprks.com

Atelier sul Mare, via Cesare Battisti 4, 98079 Castel di Tusa, Sicily.
T: +39 0921 334 295 W: ateliersulmare.it

Words & Photos: © Ken Sparkes All Rights Reserved.

Tim Pyne’s m-house: A tale of two halves [prefab]


This is m-house in it’s natural habitat; a bit of useless waste ground which costs virtually nothing to rent. If planners could get their heads round the idea that you don’t have to wreck the environment to provide housing, there are thousands of sites in the UK like this which could be made into homes.

Tim Pyne's m-house

We’re not sure what to call it: is it a classy caravan or an ultra-chic pad with wheels? The distinction is the m-house’s raison d’etre and it’s greatest obstacle. Tim Pyne wanted a house on a bit of Essex estuary but was told he could only have a mobile home. Something on wheels, below a certain size, which arrives on site in no more than two big pieces. The planning laws do not, however, say that it had to be flimsy or look tacky so, together with Michael Howe of mae architects, he has produced a 2-bedroom, 900 sq foot designer home that is totally complete and can be assembled in a day with minimal planning permission.

m-house living area

‘This gives a good idea of the space in the living area. A lot of people try to plan homes into shells which are 3 meters wide, and frankly, it doesn’t work – it feels miserable. Someone needs to tell our housebuilders that. Do you know they actually make special 90% scale furniture for show homes to make them look bigger? Incredible.’

Read the rest of the m-house feature on sprks.com

Words & Photos: © 2011 Ken Sparkes. First published June 2006. All Rights Reserved

Londoners have only 39 weeks to learn French. Jusqu’aux Jeux Olympiques!


The official language of the Olympic Games is French, so ceremonies, advertisements and announcements will all be made first in French with EASL (English As a Second Language), but we’re so accustomed to living with our refined cousins that our media haven’t really made much of a fuss about it.

Londoners embrace all things French fo the 2012 Olympics

Anyone who has lived or stayed in South Kensington knows that you don’t have to hop on the Eurostar to get un petit peu de Paris. For years we have read articles about how proliferously French cafés, restaurants and boutiques have been popping up on the local high streets of South Kensington, Chelsea, North East Hackney and Islington. Well, they could hardly resist De Beauvoir town. We’ve all become quite accustomed to walking into nice restaurants and being greeted with “Bonjour, Monsieur/Madame…” or listening to the conversation next to us on the tube trying our best to remember the little French we learned in school. Le Monde sits happily next to The Times on the top rack at the local store in the tube station. It is far easier and more common to get coffee and croissants than an English fry-up on your way to work. And let’s not forget our undying love of Marion Cotillard.

But there it is: you will soon see signs around London carrying the Olympic Logo and French writing. With English subtitles. Don’t worry, you haven’t been beamed to Paris; France has come to you.

The Olympic Games were revived by Monsieur Baron Pierre de Coubertin in the late 19th century and thus the IOC, was based in Lausanne, a primarily French speaking town in Switzerland so French became the official language. We must point out at this stage that his inspiration came from an annual Games tradition originally held in the Shropshire town of Much Wenlock, Shropshire. Seriously! Us Brits do really start the ball rolling with most things.

Check out our Francophile Favourite South Kensington properties.

Words: © 2011 Victoria Bond Elliot. All Rights Reserved. Via Accommodate London

A Flickr Alternative? 500px Review


Bennison Fabrics calendar by Ken Sparkes on 500px.com

It never rains but it pours, or so it seems. I have used Flickr as an online scrapbook for many years but Yahoo, who own and run Flickr, seem to be have left their prime photo site out in the rain recently and it can’t communicate with PayPal for Pro account renewals. That means all but the most recent photos have disappeared, including photos linked to Bennison email campaigns and any links to sets or collections I’ve emailed to friends, colleagues or clients. Apparently they are still there, but we can only find them by searching for the right keywords. ‘Oh well, plenty more fish in the sea’, I hissed, and went in search of an alternative.

500px was founded by photography fanatics Ian Sobolev, Oleg Gutsol and Evgeny Tchebotarev and looks very much like a site for people who take photography seriously. The site is attractive, is easy to use. It lacks many of Flickr’s bells and whistles and currently has only a few integrations, so probably kinder to people with time-management failings. I uploaded a few photos to see how the portfolio section worked, linked my profile, tinkered with the settings, logged out and went to do some proper work.

My GMail notifier started flashing. I had mail. Lots of it. This rain-swept umbrella picture had 11,500 views, 42 pages of votes and comments, and became Editor’s Choice soon after. The 500px community is enthusiastic, engaged, active and there are some very good photographers on there…

Read the rest of the 500px mini-review on sprks.com

Words & Photo: © 2011 Ken Sparkes. All Rights Reserved.