Tag Archives: photography

Rock of Legend, Legend of Rock: Bob Gruen in Vancouver


I was lucky that Sharon Steele, a photographer friend of mine, invited to me a show in Vancouver by the legendary rock photographer Bob Gruen. She’s a music photographer herself so she had the insider knowledge about the show.

Bob Gruen is very important to me. I grew up in a very boring suburb. And when I say boring I really mean it. It was surrounded on one side by farms, on 2 sides by a big thick forest with bears, and on the 4th side by a canyon known for cougars and other wildlife. It was great in many ways but for obvious reasons parents didn’t really want us to play in the forest on our own. And there wasn’t anything else around!  Not even a movie theatre. Absolutely zip. We had to “make our own fun” which for me meant getting up in the night doing downstairs and secretly watching late night movies. I saw all the Cormans, all the Hammer Horrors, all the groovy biker movies, all the hardboiled film noir…

I guess I got used to hanging out with my imagination, which was pretty good.

Anyway, one time I was heading out on vacation with my parents and I went into a store to buy a comic book. It was a long car journey so I needed something meaty to kill the time in between fighting with my brother. But the selection was lame. Suddenly my eyes slid past Archie and Jughead, and Spiderman (yawn) to something that wasn’t exactly a comic book. It was called Creem; I picked it up. It had a lot of photos in it of people who looked frankly – by the standards of the time and place I was in – outrageous. There were other magazines on the stand – Hit Parader, and one or two others. Yes,  I blew ALL the  allowance I’d saved up for the trip and bought 3 magazines. I read and reread those zines  all the way from suburban Vancouver to Peachland to Lake Shushwap to Merritt and all the campsites in between. When I got home I took the photos I liked best and put them on my bedroom wall (mother = horrified).  Did I actually understand those articles by Lester Bangs or Robert Christgau? No, not at all. I was in elementary school! But I read a lot in general and it wasn’t any more bizarre than Brave New World, or Treasure Island which was my favourite book (and still is!).

But it wasn’t the words that made an impression. It was the photos. They showed me hard evidence of a world where you didn’t have to be lame and boring. You could in fact be edgy and fabulous. And wear whatever you liked even if it was a gender-bending freakshow. And you could have your hair any-which-way. And you could be in places like New York or London or Hollywood, and not the suburbs! And you could go there and not have to visit relatives!

And the name that appeared beside the best of the photos, the ones I was so impressed by, was almost always the name “Bob Gruen.” How could I ever forget that name? He did the mindblowing (at the time! my brother and I bowed down before it!) cover of Kiss Dressed to Kill! His pics of the Clash are the greatest ever taken of that magnificent band.

So, back to the show; I had a little chat with Gruen, who is lovely, a perfect gent (which is obvs why so many artists gave him the time to do his great shots!) , and bought myself a copy of his superb book New York Dolls. Now that’s another thing. By the time I found out about the New York Dolls they’d long been split up, but oh my god their music! And their style! I just fell for them, and am still totally fallen. I listen to them all the time (and saw them finally, many years later when they reformed, in London).  What a great, GREAT band. Glam fashion style and proper Chuck Berry rock music. Smart lyrics, killer licks.  And Gruen, again, took the best photos of the Dolls that exist.

And I still just love rock photography. Influenced by these mags, which I read right through my teens, I also took quite a lot of music photos, never as good as Bob’s or Sharon’s but good enough for my portfolio to get me into film school.

So thank you again Bob, for all the great pictures! Long make you snap that shutter!



  1. according to Wikipedia there’s going to be documentary about the history of Creem. Hope this happens.



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Vilmos Zsigmond and Haskell Wexler, Masters of Light

It’s sad that my first post of the year is a reflection on the passing of two of the most important artists of their generation: the cinematographers Haskell Wexler who  passed on December 27, 2015 and Vilmos Zsigmond who passed on New Year’s Day.

The annals of art history will not mention these men , because cinematography is not considered an art form, and even cinema is omitted from due consideration of 20th century art. However if you look at their work, it soon becomes obvious that their mastery of storytelling through light shade and tone is as powerful as anything mastered by Rubens or Vermeer.

I was at Camerimage (in Łódź, Poland) in 2008 when Vilmos Zsigmond was an honoured guest, attending the screening of the fine film No Subtitles Necessary: Laszlo & Vilmos (2008) by James Chressanthis. The film tells the story of  Zsigmond and his friend Laszlo Kovacs, the two Hungarian film students who fled the  1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary, ending up in the USA where they began their careers and changed film history. Their contribution of the look of cinema is immeasurable.

I had the honour to briefly meet Vilmos Zsigmond at the festival and I can say that he was absolutely lovely.

Film’s achievement is normally credited to the director, but it is a mistake to disregard the camera, since it  is the camera alone which makes it a movie. How the camera reveals the image is key to what creates a powerful and memorable film moment.

bruisecoloured sky

‘bruise coloured sky’ Łódź, Poland   digital photograph, ©Gillian McIver2008




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TAKING OVER THE KING’S LAND is now Officially Released

The street art documentary I made is now available to view online.


TAKING OVER THE KING’S LAND is now Officially Released online for free viewing. Go to http://film.kingslandmural.co.uk
Please share freely.


 “In a forgotten corner of East London, in the shadow of the Olympic site,  artist Nazir Tanbouli is battling weather, vandalism and lack of funds, to create a massive mural installation throughout a condemned housing estate.”

After doing the rounds of the festival circuit including Sheffield Docfest and Portobello Festival in London, as well as screenings all over the place as far afield as Hungary and Egypt, it’s time to make the film more widely available since the fact is not that many people actually go to film festivals 🙂

More info, including full crew list and lots of material about the film as well as my still photography,  is at http://kingslandmural.co.uk/

chld-02 estate-01

dual-wall rain2 wetwall

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Stigmart 10 – videofocus: features an article about my work

the 2014 edition of the online journal Stigmart10 has an article about my work. The other articles are good too – have a look!



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slices of life

It is easy to get upset about everything I see around me. From the vampirism of people, sucking what they can with no care or respect for others,  to the corruption of the system. Frankly, it gets me down.

So instead of ranting about that – at least today – I present instead some more poetic slices of life, taken randomly over the last few months.

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Kronstadt gateKronstadt windowKronstadt white nightsKronstadtKronstadtKronstadt

Kronstadt, a set on Flickr.

Kronstadt, sometimes spelled kronshtad, is an island in the gulf of finland off the russian coast near to st petersburg.
Since the time of peter the great it has been a military island, with a massive naval base. There is amazing architecture and a complex system of forts, locks and canals.
When i was there in 2004-4 it was in severe decay… Here is the first of several series I shot there. These are just the digital photos.

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Another way of looking at landscape

Working with analogue photographs

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Analogue is different to digital. You don’t get to see the photos till they are printed. You have to physically touch them and move them around with your hands to think them over.

I was thinking about landscape and found that I have taken a lot of photos of the standard “Canadian landscape” of mountains + sky.  Very pretty but very standard. Overly familiar. But what happens when you arrange them differently? Here they become a picture of a blue river, or a zigzag celestial stairway, or a ….  Or just an arrangement of green and blue.

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Here on the top line we see two views of a town, reinterpreted as a Constructivist arrangement of lines and blocks. Interestingly this thing that came out so Constructivist are 4 photos taken in Russia. Left, Kronstadt; right, the Volga.

Below that, Canadian forest-scapes. These are less successful as compositions but they do erupt into an explosion of green life, which is interesting in its own way.

I did these in the studio, using old prints (ie. not ones I made specially for this exercise) and am pretty pleased with the results. It’s given me more incentive to keep working with analogue and to reconfigure the photos in this way. I quite happy with the top one and the Constructivist one on the left.

Some people really reject Conceptual photography, but I think that,  in a world that’s simply drowning in images, we can afford to find new ways to see them rather than just keeping making them.

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Your feedback owould be welcomed.

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New Orleans in Black and White

the NatchezNatchez in the mistshopfront2013NOLA-47.jpg2013NOLA-46.jpg2013NOLA-44.jpg
lampsome signslittle street of housesso don'tshutters and a doorshutters
Burgundy + St Louisironwork detailgrille doorhousebourbon stbeat up phone box

New Orleans Black and White, a set on Flickr.

And here is the black and white set from the New Orleans trip.
I shot these B & W I didn’t just edit them as B&W.

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New Orleans


I visited New Orleans in March 2013 and while I was there I had a chance to take some photos. Not nearly enough time and I did not manage to even scratch the surface of this fascinating city. I sure hope to go back.


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photography in London in 2012

Photography is somewhat unevenly catered for in London’s art scene. Ages can go by without a single decent show then suddenly there’s an explosion of activity. I decided to only write about what I really liked very much, and so here are my highlights of the year’s photography shows.


My highlights for 2012 included summer’s London Festival of Photography; in particular the wonderful International Street Photography show held in the odd yet atmospheric space at 29 – 31 Oxford Street – a bird’s eye view of Oxford street as well as a terrific show of diverse and captivating street photos from around the world. I was particularly taken by the work of Mexican Alejandro Cartagena, the festival’s street photography prizewinner – you can see more of him on http://alejandrocartagena.com


The London Festival of Photography also showcased the wonderful Minnie Weisz, a London based photographer who has been based in King’s Cross for some time now, photographing the area and its buildings, But her work is not the social realism you might expect: rather Weisz photographs textures, shadows,memories and fleeting moments through the use of artful and creative photographic techniques, including the camera obscura. Photographic places and places that are changing or about to change, she documents their transformation as a process that is almost liquid in its intangibility. One day it’s there, solid as a fortress, the next day it’s different: uprooted, smashed down, built up, covered, renovated. Weisz has a studio gallery right next to St Pancras station, and I have to admit that, on the strength of the show she put of for the festival, it eludes me why the likes of the Deutsches Bourse and similar honours have not yet come her way. At the very least, treat yourself to the website: http://minnieweisz.co.uk/


With autumn came two shows in my own neighbourhood of East London which I feel are worth writing about. The first is the show The Roxanne Series by Julia Riddiough at A Brooks Art in Hoxton. The Roxanne Series is a densely packed, rich series of photos that raises a volume’s wroth of questions and ponderings. The photos in question are said tbe found images that have been reworked. As an educated guess I’d imagine they are screen grabs but Riddiough has worked them so that they are printed as lush, velvety-textured ink-blue-and-midnight coloured large prints. The images are ghostly, as if photographed by one of those 19th century “spiritualist photographers” who sought to capture the world of the undead among the living. The subject matter is almost timeless in art history: a brothel scene. Half dressed ladies displaying themselves to the male client. Riddiough specifically refers to the painting by Jean-Léon Gérôme Phryne revealed before the Areopagus (1861), but Picasso’s Demoiselles is here, as is Titian’s Diana and Actaeon, Manet’s Le déjeuner sur l’herbe, and so on. The prostitute or courtesan displaying herself to the male is a staple of Western art. The painters were normally addressing the picture from the point of view of the male fully implicated in the transaction, since frequenting brothels was until recently quite socially acceptable for artists. (it’s interesting that in the less worldly van Gogh’s attempt at a brothel painting, everyone is fully clothed). Riddiough’s Roxanne photographs are equally voyeuristic however, the viewer is emphatically not identified wit the male client, who is a shadowy figure on the edge of the picture. Instead, ours is the voyeurism of the screen, the image-hungry media culture that voraciously and greedily dense what it consumes then self righteously condemns. The exhibition made me think much about our appetite for images, about the artist’s role in aestheticizing the images, the fact that the images may have come from pictures of trafficked or otherwise exploited women, that the photographer may have just staged the whole thing. It made me think about voyeurism, about feminism, about the female appropriation of such images and what it means when a female artist creates and presents them. I haven’t found any answers but I’m still thinking about these pictures. I’m uncomfortable that I found them so compellingly beautiful. Well, any exhibition that keeps my attention almost two months since I saw it, has got to be one my shows of the year! http://abrooksart.com/portfolio/julia-riddiough/



The last show I want to mention I found totally by accident. I was walking though Ridley Road market in Dalston, going to buy fruit. Usually I walk through the centre of the market, but it was so busy I went along on the pavement at the side, past the arcane little food shops and rather smelly butchers. The last thing I was expecting to find was an art gallery, yet suddenly I spotted a sign announcing an exhibition. Intrigued, I went down the rather spooky staircase and found myself in the Doomed Gallery. I’m not sure what is the significance of the name, but the place has bags of atmosphere and I was immediately glad I had found it. The group show I saw, Art Of Imperfection, was absolutely stunning, featuring work by Pascal Ancel Bartholdi, Ryuji Araki and Bernhard Deckert. Deckert presented huge abstract prints made in the darkroom; relationships of light, chemical, paper. Araki went in the other direction with highly complex, immersive and fine photomontages inspired by and making a journey from, traditional mandala painting. The works combine the meditative quality of traditional “eastern” philosophy and the lush, glossy glamorous images associated with modern consumerism. Araki somehow brings them together and lets the glossy images melt into a purer, spiritual form. Bartholdi’s work probably resonated with me the most, but that is subjective. I loved his monochrome, highly textured images of places, bleak and deserted places that his use of light and shade made simultaneously enticing, compelling and forbidding. Bartholdi’s work is photography, but there is a painter in there somewhere; his vision is deep and rich, and aware of the art-historical weight that an image is capable of holding, yet is never weighed down by it. Wonderful. http://doomedgallery.wordpress.com/


So that was photography for me in 2012, so far. There are two months left, let’s see what they hold.

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