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A Rankin photoshoot? Yours for £20

Renowned photographer Rankin, who has taken the portraits of celebrities from Kylie Minogue to the Queen, today offered his photographic skills to the public – for just £20 a time.

Isobel Smith gets the Rankin treatment

Rankin fans queued outside the National Theatre on London’s South Bank to have their portrait taken against his trademark white background.

Isobel Smith, 26, from London was one of those to get the photoshoot experience.

She said:

“It was pretty amazing. I was a bit nervous but excited at the same time”

Another person waiting her turn was Jessica from Canada. She told Don’t Know? that she was excited about getting her picture taken by the celebrated photographer.

“I mean, how often do you get that chance?” she added.

Congo Crisis

The event is being held on behalf of Oxfam, with all proceeds going to the charity.

Rankin explained:

“I’m down on the South Bank today because we’re seeing a catastrophe unfolding in Congo. I visited before the current crisis and even then the level of suffering there was horrendous. I hate to think what it’s like now”

Earlier this year, Rankin travelled to the Democratic Republic of Congo to photograph refugees in the country’s Mugunga camp.

'Jasmine, Photographer' by Rankin (courtesy of Oxfam)The resulting photographs are currently being shown in an exhibition called “Cheka kidogo” outside the National Theatre.

Cheka kidogo means ‘laugh a little’ in Swahili.

Rankin shot his subjects in his traditional celebrity style. He says:

“I think we have become anaesthetised to traditional photographs of conflict victims. By taking my celebrity portraiture style of photography and applying it to the survivors in the camps in Congo I have tried to get beyond the statistics and show the human side of the conflict”

Celebrity Conflict?

But is there a risk that the involvement of a fashion photographer could trivialise the conflict?

Sean Kenny, a Press Officer for the charity, doesn’t think so. He defended the partnership with Rankin:

“He can talk to people who we wouldn’t usually hear from”

This could prove crucial as Oxfam plans to expand its presence in Congo from helping 85,000 people to 200,000. Kenny says that this will cost an extra £1 million.

The Rankin event won’t have raised quite that much this time around; only about 35 people had signed up to have their photos taken by 12.30.

The principle behind it is sound though, thought one woman waiting to have her picture taken:

“If you appeal to people’s vanity,you’ll do well” she said.

For background information on Rankin, click here.

By Helen Catt


November 7, 2008 Posted by | Helen-Culture | , | 2 Comments

Background: Rankin, fashion and portrait photographer

Rankin photographs Jasmine in Mugungu refugee camp

Rankin photographs Jasmine in Mugungu refugee camp

Rankin, the photographer best-known for his portraits of stars such as Kate Moss, has been taking photographs of the general public today.

He is donating the proceeds to Oxfam as part of his recent work in the Democratic Republic of Congo for the charity.

Earlier this year, he travelled to the Mugungu Refugee Camp and photographed its inhabitants in his trademark celebrity style.

Who is Rankin?

Rankin was born John Rankin Waddell in Paisley, Glasgow in 1966.

He is a leading fashion and portrait photographer and has taken pictures of people from the Gallagher brothers to Tony Blair.

His most famous portraits include a naked, prostrate Kylie Minogue and a shot of the Queen in front of an upturned Union Jack.

Dazed and Confused

In 1991, Rankin founded youth culture magazine Dazed and Confused with fellow London College of Printing student, Jefferson Hack.

The magazine swiftly became an established part of the nineties’ British culture explosion, along with Britpop and Britart.

Since then, Rankin has founded his own quarterly fashion magazine RANK as well as Another Man and Another Magazine.


This year Rankin has also published a book featuring his favourite model and Muse, Tuuli.

The book was accompanied by an exhibition entitled ‘Tuulitastic’.

The phrase was coined following a 40 page spread featuring the model in a German magazine.

Tuuli is the model featured on the cover of Sebastian Faulks’s James Bond novel, Devil May Care.

Britain’s Missing Top Model

Rankin was also involved with controversial reality show ‘Britain’s Missing Top Model’.

The show featured aspiring models with a physical disability competing for a shoot with Rankin to feature in Marie Claire.

Despite being impressed with the winner, Kelly Knox, he was concerned that she would find it difficult to progress in the modelling industry with a disability.

He told the show’s website:

“If I’m honest with you, I don’t think the fashion industry will accept her disability. I think she’ll find it really hard, and an uphill struggle. However, what she should do is use everything she’s got going for her – including her disability – to make it work for her.”


Rankin has also tried his hand at film-making.

He directed the short film “Perfect” for FilmFour, which was shown at the Edinburgh, Raindance and Los Angeles film festivals.

He also co-produced the 2006  film “The Lives of the Saints”, a modern-day fable set in North London.

Related links on this blog: A Rankin photoshoot? Yours for £20

By Helen Catt

November 7, 2008 Posted by | Helen-Culture | , , , | 2 Comments

Background: The Curse of Quantum of Solace

Quantum of Solace, the 22nd film in the James Bond series, will have its world premiere in London’s Leicester Square tonight.

Organisers will surely be hoping that the evening passes without being struck by the so called ‘Curse of Bond’.

A series of accidents beset the filming of the latest 007 adventure, including fire, injuries and crashes.

Car crashes

In April, engineer Fraser Dunn, 29, was injured when he accidentally drove a car being used for filming into Lake Garda in Italy.

He was delivering the Aston Martin DBS, which was worth £134,000, when he lost control on a bend and careered into the lake.

A few weeks later, Greek stuntman, Aris Comninos, suffered serious head injuries in a second crash.

He had been driving an Alfa Romeo 159 for a chase sequence which opens the film, when it was hit by a lorry.


In an even more bizarre incident, a technician working on the film was stabbed with a steak knife in a domestic dispute.

The 58 year old British man was apparently attacked by a woman whom he had met in a bar.

She had allegedly invited him back to her home in Donbirn, Austria, where the incident took place.


It wasn’t just the people who suffered mishaps.

An outdoor set being used for filming at Pinewood Studios caught fire.

This was just two years after the James Bond sound stage at Pinewood was totally engulfed by flames.

Daniel Craig

Even 007 star Daniel Craig didn’t escape unscathed.

The actor, who is playing Bond for the second time, sliced off the tip of his finger whilst filming a fight scene in June.

He also had to have minor plastic surgery and eight stitches to his face when a co-star misjudged a kick in a different combat sequence.

According to BBC online, Craig is also now sporting a sling after a shoulder operation.

Craig, though, rejects the idea of a curse. He told GQ’s John Naughton:

“The thing about the Curse of Bond is that it’s offensive, really…There’s a risk to everything we do and we have literally the best people in the world who do this and every precaution is taken to minimise the risk, but there is a risk.”

Related links on this blog: Quantum of Solace Premiere hits London

By Helen Catt

October 29, 2008 Posted by | Helen-Culture | , , , | 1 Comment

Quantum of Solace Premiere hits London

Tonight sees the world premiere of Quantum of Solace, the latest film in the highly successful James Bond franchise, at the Odeon Leicester Square.

Quantum of Solace Trailer

Daniel Craig, who currently plays the super-spy, will be attending the event.

He will be joined on the red carpet by Princes William and Harry, as well as cast members Judi Dench, Gemma Arterton and Olga Kurylenko.

The Royal pair have asked that all proceeds be donated to the Royal British Legion’s Help for Heroes campaign, which helps servicemen who have been wounded.

Got Talent

Providing some musical relief at the premiere, will be electric string quartet ‘Escala’, who shot to fame earlier this year when they reached the finals of Simon Cowell’s talent show  ‘Britain’s Got Talent’.

The four girls are famed for their dramatic style of playing and sexy image.

Jack White, who sang the theme song to the film with Alicia Keys, will also be making an appearance.

Bond’s Aston Martin DBS is expected to be at Leicester Square too.

One version of the car was infamously crashed into Lake Garda earlier this year in the first of a spate of incidents which led to claims that the film had been hit by ‘the curse of bond’.

People’s Premiere

The official premiere will be followed directly by a ‘public premiere’ at the Odeon West End on the other side of Leicester Square.

Lucky Bond fans who have bought tickets will be able to see the film two days before it goes on general release in the UK.

The event is being run as part of The Times 52nd London Film Festival.

It is the first time a Bond movie has featured in the line-up.


Critics have so far given Quantum of Solace mixed reviews.

Cosmo Landesman, writing for The Sunday Times, dismissed the film as “$200m worth of bland crash-bang-wallop.”

Mark Kermode has also savaged it in his review on Radio 5 Live

Mark Kermode reviews Quantum of Solace

Others have praised it highly though.

Kermode’s sucessor at Radio 1, James King, described it as “A slam dunk…making a case for the the super spy’s best movie ever.”

Related links on this blog: Background: The Curse of Bond

By Helen Catt

October 29, 2008 Posted by | Helen-Culture | , , | 1 Comment

Tate Modern’s (net)work of art

Tate Modern

Tate Modern

Thousands of Londoners have been invited to help construct a “social sculpture” at Tate Modern this weekend.

People across the capital have been sent parcels containing three plastic, orange sticks, together with an instruction card.

They are being asked to take these to the Turbine Hall Bridge in the gallery on Saturday.

Once there, each person will connect their rods to those of other people, forming a number of medium to giant-sized grids.

At the same time, Tate Modern hopes, they will be creating social links.

‘Meshes of Freedom’

The resulting sculpture will be the largest version yet created of a work called ‘Malhas de Liberdade’ by Brazilian artist, Cildo Meireles.

The title, when translated into English, means ‘Meshes of Freedom’.

He conceived the idea in 1976 and commissioned a fisherman to make the first mesh out of cotton threads.

A second version followed, this time made from paper, and a third constructed from metal.

This last was shown at the 1977 Paris Biennial.

The idea behind the sculpture, Tate Modern explains, is that “a module or unit when connected to others by the middle creates an open grid, a mesh…of freedom”.

It was inspired by mathematical and literary patterns.


The gallery is holding the event to coincide with its current exhibition of Meireles’s work.

This is the first time that a major retrospective of Meireles, who is one of Brazil’s leading conceptual artists, has been staged in the UK.

Both the original cotton thread mesh and subsequent metal version of ‘Malhas de Liberdade’ are on display.

Other exhibits include a darkened room covered in a layer of talc which visitors wade through wearing wellies and a face mask.

Very cool

London-based blog ‘The Londonist’ was one of the recipients of a parcel containing the rods. You can see it here.

Arts contributor Hazel described the creation of the new ‘Malhas de Liberdade’ as “a very cool social art project”.

Although she did admit that the contents of the package initially sparked a “Blair-Witchish tremor” when they first arrived.

The event runs from 10am til 6pm Saturday 25th October and is open for anybody to watch.

Related links on this blog: Background: Works of Cildo Meireles

By Helen Catt

October 23, 2008 Posted by | Helen-Culture | , , , , | 1 Comment

Background: Works of Cildo Meireles

Cildo Meireles is one of Brazil’s foremost conceptual artists.

Born in 1948, in Rio de Janeiro, he came to prominence in the 1960s and 70s.

Tate Modern is hosting a major retropective exhibition of his work, which opened last week.

Here’s a brief look at some of his best-known works:

Southern Cross is a tiny cube. Half of it is made of pine wood and half of oak. It measures a miniscule 9mm.

It was first shown at The Museum of Modern Art in New York and is supposed to be exhibited on the floor of a large room.

According to James Hall writing in The Guardian, it is an example of what Meireles terms “humiliminimalism” or ‘humble minimalism’.

This series of works involved writing political slogans, such as ‘Yankees Go Home’ on returnable Coca Cola bottles.

The slogans were imperceptible until the bottle was refilled at the plant and sent back out into general circulation.

Meireles also wrote similar slogans on bank notes and placed adverts in newspapers.

As he explains to the Tate, he believed they were some of the circulation mechanisms within society which could be used by artists as counter-information”.

An installation consisting of a pile of 126,000 ‘Fiat Lux’ matchboxes ‘guarded’ by five actors.

The pile was exhibited in a mirrored room with black sandpaper on the floor.

The brand name ‘Fiat Lux’ means ‘let there be light’ in Latin.

This installation features a long jetty made from wood which stretches out over a blue ‘sea’ made of books.

As the visitor sits on the pier, a soundtrack plays composed of the word water spoken in different languages.

This 5 foot high circular tower, made from piled-up radio sets, was first shown in Finland.

The 900 sets used span decades, ranging from very early machines to modern speakers.

Each set is tuned to a different radio station.

  • Liverbeatlespool, (2004)

Liverbeatlespool is a sound sculpture which was created for the Liverpool Biennial in 2004.

In it, 27 Beatles tracks are gradually layered one on top of the other to create a cacophony of sound.

By Helen Catt

October 23, 2008 Posted by | Helen-Culture | , , | 2 Comments

It’s far from plain sailing as Blue Peter turns 50

Today marks the 50th birthday of the longest-running children’s programme in the world.

Konnie Huq, one of the presenters who made it Buckhingham Palace

Konnie Huq, one of the presenters who made it to Buckingham Palace

But as Blue Peter prepares to celebrate half a century of sky-diving presenters, bring-and-buy sales and metres of sticky-backed plastic, it looks to be making waves.

Yesterday the Queen held a tea party at Buckingham Palace, to which just ten of the 31 presenters who had previously fronted the show, plus the current trio, were invited.

Those who made it to sup tea with Her Majesty included: Valerie Singleton, John Noakes, Yvette Fielding, Konnie Huq and Diane Louise Jordan.

However, the decision not to invite Janet Ellis, who presented the show in the 1980s, has created some controversy.

Ellis left the programme ‘by mutual agreement’ in 1987 after it turned out that she was expecting a baby while unmarried.

Speculation in papers such as the Daily Mail, is that this could be the reason for her absence from the list.

Gloria Hunniford, the mother of Caron Keating, one of Ellis’s co-presenters who died from breast cancer in 2004, told the Mail: ‘I cannot believe the Queen would be that far behind the times.’


Others not making the cut were Richard Bacon and John Leslie.

Bacon was infamously sacked from the programme in 1998 when he was exposed for taking cocaine by the News of the World.

So great was the furore that Lorrraine Heggessey, then Head of children’s programming, took the unusual step of appearing on camera herself to apologise to viewers.

John Leslie, who presented the show during the 1990s, faced a series of rape allegations in 2003. Despite being acquitted of all charges, his TV career has never recovered.

Fresh charges for indecent assault were also made against him in June of this year.

A Palace spokesperson told Metro that these presenters had not been invited due to ‘limited space’.

Phone-in scandals

The last eighteen months have not been good for Blue Peter.

 The BBC was fined £5000 in 2007 when it emerged that production staff had faked a phone call from a competition winner.

Later in the same year editor Richard Marson was fired when the show hit the headlines again over an online vote to name the new Blue Peter cat. The viewers chose the name Cookie, but production staff over-ruled it, calling the pet ‘Socks’ instead.

Blue Peter to be taken off air?

Most recently, an article in the Express suggested that the show itself might be under threat of closure.

It claimed that a “well-placed source” at the BBC had blown the whistle on plans to axe the show, urging the journalist: “You must run this story. We have to save it.”

Blue Peter might be 50 years young, but will it make 51?

Related links on this blog: Background:Blue Peter

By Helen Catt

October 16, 2008 Posted by | Helen-Culture | , , , | 2 Comments

Background: Blue Peter

Blue Peter was first broadcast on 16th October 1958. It originally aired as part of a 7 week experiment and was just 15 minutes in length.

It is a magazine show aimed at children and currently airs twice a week.

Theme tune and logo

The distinctive theme tune is called Barnacle Bill and has been recorded 11 times in total. It has been used since the very first episode.

The ship logo was designed by artist Tony Hart, who used to make appearances on the show.

The programme was called Blue Peter as it aimed to take its viewers ‘on a voyage of discovery’.


There have been 34 Blue Peter presenters so far. The show was originally fronted by Christopher Trace and former beauty queen Leila Williams.

The current presenters are Helen Skelton, Joel Defries and Andy Akinwolere.

Arguably the most famous trio to host the show are John Noakes, Valerie Singleton and Peter Purves, who occupied the Blue Peter sofa during the 1960s and 70s.


Another important feature of the show is the Blue Peter pet.

The idea behind it was to show children how to care for their own animals and to provide children who didn’t have one with a surrogate pet.

The first was a dog called Petra. She appeared on the show from 1962.

Since then Blue Peter has had a succession of dogs, cats, tortoises and even a parrot called Joey.

One of the current pets, Socks the cat, cost the editor his job when it turned out that an online poll to name it had actually chosen the name ‘Cookie’.

‘Here’s one I made earlier’

Blue Peter is also famous for teaching kids how to make everything from wardrobes for Barbies to Tracy Island out of old washing up bottles and cardboard boxes.

Presenters demonstrated how to make these creations in stages, giving rise to the show’s famous catchphrase ‘Here’s one I made earlier’ and the term ‘sticky-backed plastic’ (to avoid saying the brand name ‘Sellotape’).

The models were actually made by a lady on the South Coast called Margaret Purnell, who sent in her creations to the show for over 40 years.

The Times has step by step instructions on how to make some of the best here.


The most desired award on the show is a Blue Peter badge which can be earned for things ranging from winning a competition to environmental achievement.

There are in fact 6 types of badge, according to what you win it for.

The highest accolade is a Gold Blue Peter badge. These are traditionally given to children who show outstanding bravery or achievement and to presenters when they leave the show.

The Queen and JK Rowling both have one.

Related links on this blog: It’s far from plain sailing as Blue Peter turns 50

By Helen Catt

October 16, 2008 Posted by | Helen-Culture | , , , | 1 Comment

Background: Charles Saatchi

Who is Charles Saatchi?

Charles Saatchi is the co-founder of major advertising agencies Saatchi & Saatchi and M&C Saatchi.

Saatchi enjoyed great success in the 1970s, with Saatchi & Saatchi running high-profile campaigns, such as the Conservative party’s ‘Labour’s not working’ campaign.

He is also a renowned art collector, particularly of modern art, and has run ‘The Saatchi Gallery’ for over twenty years at locations around London.

What’s he up to now?

This week he opened the newest incarnation of ‘The Saatchi Gallery’ at the Duke of York’s HQ in Chelsea.

The building is a former barracks and provides 70,000 sq ft of gallery space.

The opening exhibition is called ‘The Revolution Continues: New Chinese Art’ and displays works from some of China’s leading modern artists.

He previously rented gallery space at County Hall on London’s Southbank, but left the premises in 2004 amid disputes with the landlords.

Why’s he doing it?

In an interview with Saatchi on his gallery’s website, he says that he simply ‘like(s) to show off art (he) likes.’

Why should we care?

Charles Saatchi is widely recognised as one of the foremost collectors of  modern art. His patronage can make an artist into a household name.

In 1997, the Royal Academy put on an exhibition of works from Saatchi’s personal collection.

It was called Sensation and the artists whose work it displayed shot to fame.

They became known as the Young British Artists and included Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Marcus Harvey and Mark Quinn.

Saatchi’s acquisitions can also have an important effect on the art market. As Professor Maurice Cockrill, Keeper of the Royal Academy, explained to The Times:
“His buying immediately puts values up. If it’s just a sale to Joe Bloggs, saying you have got a work in Joe Bloggs’s collection, it doesn’t carry much weight,” he said.

Why wasn’t he at the opening?

Charles Saatchi never attends his own openings, preferring to leave the hostessing duties to his wife, celebrity cook Nigella Lawson.

When asked why, he told The Art Newspaper:

“I don’t go to other people’s openings, so I extend the same courtesy to my own.”

By Helen Catt

October 14, 2008 Posted by | Helen-Culture | , , | Leave a comment

Saatchi’s Sensation is still causing a bloody stir

As Charles Saatchi opens his new gallery in the Duke of York’s headquarters in Chelsea, a work that helped make his name as a leading collector of modern art is again grabbing the headlines.

Self by Marc Quinn, a cast of the artist’s head made with ten pints of his own frozen blood, is the subject of a controversial bid by the National Portrait Gallery.

It’s the latest Blood Head in a series of four; the artist has made one every five years since 1991.

Now the National Portrait Gallery has drawn fierce criticism for attempting to acquire the piece.

It is launching an appeal to raise the £350,000 required to buy it.

Some critics say that, since Quinn is not a well-known public figure, the Gallery is blurring its remit to collect portraits of people of status with a wish to collect art.

But the Gallery has defended its planned acquisition, telling The Times that it: “is a work of international significance — a brilliant and poignant extension to the genre of self-portraiture.”

Young British Artists

The first Self cast shot to fame when Charles Saatchi lent it to the Royal Academy for its Sensation show in 1997.

He also lent controversial works by others from the group known as the Young British Artists. These included:

•    Damien Hirst’s shark suspended in formaldehyde
•    Tracey Emin’s tent covered with the names of all the people Emin had slept with

The show earned Saatchi a place as one of the foremost collector’s of modern art and both Hirst and Emin have since gone on to become household names.

Fourth Plinth Controversy

Quinn himself has gone on to create a number of attention-grabbing works.

The most recent is a 50kg gold statue of model Kate Moss, currently on display in the British Museum.

He drew a mixed public reaction with his commission for Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth in 2005.

Alison Lapper, Pregnant  was a 13ft marble statue of heavily pregnant artist Alison Lapper, who was born with no arms and shortened legs.

Myra mistake

However, his is not the only work from the Sensation show to make waves this year.

Marcus Harvey’s Myra – an 11ft high picture of Moors murderer Myra Hindley made from copies of a child’s handprint – caused a furore in August, when it was included in a promotional video for Visit London.

Related links on this blog: Background: Charles Saatchi

By Helen Catt

October 14, 2008 Posted by | Helen-Culture | , , , , | 1 Comment