Portrait of Helen at the beach in winter. Posted for this week’s WordPress photo challenge – Fun!
Portrait of Helen at the beach in winter. Posted for this week’s WordPress photo challenge – Fun!
Entrance to Ramillies Street from Oxford Street. Taken in response to the Narrow WordPress weekly photo challenge. Narrow
The sign for the Photographers Gallery is just visible, reflected in the glass front of the building on the left.
There’s an exhibition of Vogue covers along Burlington Arcade in Piccadilly at the moment that’s worth catching if you are in the area.
My favourite (of course) is the black and white Irving Penn cover for June 1950. Look at those eyes. Fantastic.
By chance on Bond Street because I needed to take a photo of the Atkinsons building for my nearly finished book on Mrs Dalloway and caught the last day of the exhibition of ceramics by Picasso at Sotheby’s.
The extraordinary vigour and certainty of his line, his playfulness and use of colour never fail to enthral. And always that feeling of excitement being in the presence of work imagined, moulded, touched by that ferociously creative genius.
With ceramics and prints there is also the temptation towards recklessness that you could actually buy one; take away a work bearing that iconic signature.
Being sensible was helped by the fact the ones I really liked (inevitably) still retained a hefty guide price. In any case, ownership is not the key issue; it’s the capacity to enjoy the work that really matters. (Nonetheless …).
The work dates largely from the 1950s when, aged 65, Picasso moved back to the south of France after the war –
While staying with the printer Louis Fort in Golfe-Juan, the two came across Madoura and this led quite simply to the artist’s engagement with the pottery traditions of the area. There was also an influence on a personal level as the artist met his second wife, Jacqueline, when she was working in the Madoura pottery studio in Vallauris. She began to live with Picasso in Paris in late 1954 and they together moved to the villa La Californie in 1955. (Lucy Rosenburgh)
And of course it was one of the ‘Jacqueline’ earthenware dishes I wanted most.
Jacqueline’s strong features, her prominent profile, and her dark hair and eyes are readily found in much of the art Picasso made during these joyful years. Earlier portrayals often depict Jacqueline with her abundant hair covered by a headscarf, as seen in these two red and white earthenware empreinte. In the empreinte, the artist’s carved and modelled plaster mould would be pressed into the clay, leaving the unpainted impression as the only decoration. Picasso developed the method at the Madoura studio, inspired by the process of print making. (Lucy Rosenburgh)
And more, just because…
Very glad to have caught the Irving Penn Flowers exhibition at Hamiltons Gallery yesterday. This is, apparently, the first time all the pictures in Penn’s flower series have been shown together and it makes for a brilliant exhibition.
The fabulously rich colours blaze off the walls of the gallery space, each flower revealed in exquisite detail against a plain white backdrop.
The images capture the sensual beauty of the form, pattern and colour of each flower and, by choosing to photograph specimens that “have passed the point of perfection, when they have already begun spotting and browning and twisting on their way back to the earth” Penn also imbues each image with a sense of time passing – Life, sex and death; it’s all here.
There is an intense physicality about some of the flowers, with their petals spread wide to expose the stamens and ovaries – pollination as aching desire. Nevertheless the photographs I would really love to hang on my wall are the almost monochrome Dandelion and Single Oriental Poppy, the taut delicacy of each tiny filament caught in thrilling detail.
From the catalogue:
Penn’s Flowers series was initiated from an assignment by American Vogue for the 1967 Christmas edition. This became the first of seven annual assignments that Penn would photograph flowers for Vogue, each year devoting himself to one class of flower. The photographs were collectively published as a book Flowers in 1980: 1967, Tulips; 1968, Poppies; 1968, Peonies; 1969, Orchids; 1970, Roses; 1971, Lilies; 1973, Begonias (Penn also photographed wildflowers in 1973 which appeared in Vogue’s 1974 Christmas edition but were excluded from the Flowers book). Thereafter, Penn returned to the subject right up until his death in 2009.
The circle of the last year is complete; the new one just beginning. The party’s over, or it’s just beginning. Let’s face the music, and dance. Wishing you, dear Reader, a happy New Year.
[Image/post in response to this week’s WordPress photo challenge theme of Circle]
Bond Street Christmas lights, for this week’s WordPress photo challenge.
Also gives me the opportunity to let you know about my Mrs Dalloway and Virginia Woolf guided walk, 26 November, 6-8pm. More details and booking here.
‘Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.’ But even as she steps out into the clamour and commotion of the street, the squeak of the hinges casts her mind back to her youth and the fateful summer at Bourton when she stood ‘on the theshold of her adult life.’ Just as the past is always present in the fabric of the city, so our own past reverberates throughout our lives as individuals.
Westminster, St James’s, Piccadilly, Bond Street, Oxford Street, Harley Street, Fitzrovia and then across to the famous squares of Bloomsbury. This walk takes us through the historic centre of the dynamic metropolis, brought to life on the page so vividly in Virginia Woolf’s masterpiece.
Few books convey the sheer wonder, the miracle of being alive, here, now and in the city as vividly as Mrs Dalloway. This walk, in the footsteps of Mrs Dalloway and Virginia Woolf, provides the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the city and the novel. To immerse ourselves in a London busy, crowded and lit up for Christmas; a London, in other words, getting ready for a party.
As Virginia Woolf wrote in her essay Oxford Street Tide – ‘The charm of modern London is that it is not built to last; it is built to pass.’ Book here
Just discovered this stunning performance (and piece of music) via Max Richter’s classical-for-beginners playlist on the Guardian website – that’s beginners in the sense of listening not playing.
Bach’s Chaconne, Partita No 2 BWV 1004 (1720), for solo violin, performed by Hilary Hahn. Extraordinarily powerful and beautiful.
TESM exhibited at the ServiceNow NowForum at Excel in London docklands recently.
Having worked on the promotional material I was invited to the after-show drinks at Canary Wharf. These are a couple of snaps taken on my way there.
(Wouldn’t have been a good idea to look up this precipitously on the way home)
Just came across this great presentation by Google tech writer Riona MacNamara at WriteTheDocs recent Portland conference (May 19, 2015).
The subject area is technical documentation, and is very interesting on that score. But it’s about so much more – most importantly, what you can achieve by being audacious (but not reckless), focused (but open and generous), and unafraid.
I love the subtle qualifications that make all the difference – audacious, but not reckless, for example. Though note that there is no qualification for unafraid: you’ve just got to be unafraid (or, maybe as likely, feel the fear – and do it anyway. There’s also a lot of good stuff on happiness, work and making a difference.
Now looking at ways to get to the WriteTheDocs conference in Prague.
Anyway, enjoy – and one thought to take away:
“Authority and influence don’t derive from your resumé, but from action and impact.” Riona MacNamara
Whilst on the subject (of handshakes), remarks by Professor Peter Piot on Desert Island Discs this morning made fascinating – and poignant – listening.
He is Director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and an expert on HIV and Ebola.
On a recent trip to Sierra Leone he noticed that the local people have developed new conventions for greeting – the ‘Ebola shake’ – in order to avoid the touching of hands which, in the presence of Ebola, can be deadly.
Men are greeting each other by touching elbows; Women, a touch on the dress.
He emphasised what a significant change this was in a culture where “touch is huge” and making a physical connection when you greet someone is deeply rooted.
It will be interesting to see if this marks a permanent change or whether, after the epidemic, people return to shaking hands.
And incidentally (I’m just discovering this subject is huge!), listen to how campaigner and supreme networker Julia Cleverdon’s “fingers itch every time I arrive at a gathering” here.
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Getting out and about in the New Year has got me thinking about handshakes. We all know how important first impressions are – so how can you make the best first impression with your handshake?
It’s seems the subject is fraught with insecurity – according to a survey for Chevrolet (quoted by The Daily Mail) some 70% of people said they lacked confidence about their ability to give a good handshake.
So, gathering together some advice (including from etiquette international) – How to shake hands with aplomb:
First things first
How long should a handshake last?
Whilst you are shaking hands
To prevent clammy hands:
If you are at an event with drinks, hold the drink in the left hand to avoid giving a cold, wet handshake
“You can tell the character of a person by their handshake.” Kathy Magliato. But beware: giving a proper handshake can also be learned and deployed by the bounder — “I have twice met Jeffrey Archer, and on both occasions was struck by the firmness of his handshake – and the way he looked me straight in the eye, too.” Craig Brown
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The notebook and accompanying app enable you to turn hand-drawn sketches directly into fully workable digital files.
You draw in the notebook, take a photo using the cloud-connected Moleskine app on your iPhone, and a vector version (SVG file) of your sketch is automatically transferred to your Adobe Creative Cloud account, where it can be edited in Photoshop or Illustrator.
Whilst the app can be used on any paper, the dot markings on the pages of the Moleskine notebook provide a frame of reference to help remove distortion (from paper or lens) and optimise the image.
This partnership is the latest step in Moleskine’s digital journey, and perhaps the most significant yet to seek to bridge the gap between paper and screen.
As a quintessentially analogue product, Moleskine’s investment in developing products to link real to virtual is obviously a strategic move to remain relevant in an increasingly digital world. It promises to offer the tactile, satisfying feel of sketching with pen or pencil on paper with the convenience and versatility (in terms of sharing and editing) of digital.
In short, enabling us to have our cake and eat it.
Earlier Moleskine efforts to link analogue to digital are nowhere near as flexible or neat. For example, The Moleskine Livescribe Notebook enables editable digital text, but you have to use the Livescribe ‘Smartpen’ which does not really offer the same feel as writing with a pen or pencil (leaving aside the cost of the pens and decidedly mixed reviews regarding how well they work).
The Evernote Business notebook enables easy incorporation of hand-written notes into Evernote (and has some nifty features so that you can separate parts of the page and add tags) but the text is not editable.
Does the Creative Cloud Moleskine work? – I haven’t had a chance to try it out, but it is available in Europe from December 15.
Customer Experience (CX) is now widely discussed and duly name-checked in any web marketing context – but all too often this is as far as it gets. There is no follow through or readiness to invest in improvements.
However, as this 2014 study by Watermark Consulting vividly demonstrates, the top 10 leaders in Forrester Research’s annual Customer Experience Index Rankings not only outperformed the market over the last 7 years, generating a total return that was 26 points higher than the S&P 500 Index, but also enjoyed
By contrast, the CX laggards (the bottom 10 in the Index) not only posted a negative stock return of -2.5% during a period (2007-13) when the broader market rose, but also suffered in terms of lower revenues and higher operating costs.
The Watermark report offers some valuable insights from the leaders of the top performing companies as to how to create a compelling and memorable customer experience:
The opportunities offered by delivering exceptional customer experience are significant, as the Watermark report suggests:
The competitive opportunity implied by this study is compelling, because the reality today is that many sources of competitive differentiation can be fleeting. Product innovations can be mimicked, technology advances can be copied, and cost leadership is difficult to achieve let alone sustain.
But a great customer experience, and the internal ecosystem supporting it, can deliver tremendous strategic and economic value to a business, in a way that’s difficult for competitors to replicate.
The above offers a quick digest of Watermark’s short but powerful report. You can download the full report from this page.
The good thing about magazines – I mean the actual, real, glossy paper ones (glossy not mandatory) is that you can sometimes find them, years, long after you’ve forgotten you ever had them, in the back of the desk drawer, under the sofa or wherever. Like this issue of The Word magazine. And that wonderfully tactile act of flicking through the pages brings the past back to life with the intensity of Proust’s madeleine.
Here’s Kate Bush back in December 2011 saying “I’ve got no plans to tour again, but never say never.” And possibly in the very act of saying these words, repeating them probably for interviewer after interviewer asking the same question (she’d just released her album 50 Words for Snow), the germ of an idea begins to form in her mind – ‘what about, instead of touring, I stay put and get the audience to come to me?’ And hey! three years later…
Also, this being December 2011, there is an obituary of Steve Jobs. Actually a very good one by David Hepworth. It includes this brilliant quote which identifies the understanding of design which propelled Apple’s success:
“Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it’s the veneer – that the designers are handed this box and told, ‘Make it look good!’ That’s not we think design is. It’s not just what it looks and feels like. Design is how it works.”
The Word did not itself survive to review the Kate Bush ‘tour’, but I’ve just discovered that the best bit of the magazine – the podcast – is back. I’m not sure if it’s in any way a regular thing, but anyway it’s a hugely enjoyable 40 minutes or so of chat, and somehow works in the way the magazine didn’t. The lead for Word podcast 223 (just released) will give you an idea of the kind of thing you can expect:
In which Mark Ellen, Fraser Lewry and David Hepworth consider U2’s album, the rum work done in the name of the “rock doc” and the proper duties of a household cat
Talking about Steve Jobs and lost things, I’ve also recently discovered his ‘lost’ interview, which also contains a lot of good stuff on product design and development, and the importance of making great products. It dates from 1995, when he was still running NeXT Computers. Six months later he rejoined Apple and the rest, as they say …
Do posts or ads on social media sites like Facebook, Pinterest and twitter actually generate sales? According to a new report from Business Insider the answer is emphatically Yes. And growing.
For while direct referrals from a social network may account for only a fraction of sales today, the volume of social commerce is growing quickly – in many cases in triple digits. Overall, last year social commerce sales grew at three times the rate of overall e-commerce.
Some key points from the report:
According to the Internet Retailer’s Social Media 500, the top 500 retailers earned $2.69 billion from social shopping in 2013, up more than 60% over 2012. By contrast, the e-commerce market as a whole grew by only 17%.
Social commerce is even larger in terms of revenue generation when you look at where consumers begin their purchase process, i.e. first click, (as opposed to using traditional methods such as last click before purchase)
Growth is very likely to accelerate and conversion rates improve as Twitter and Facebook roll out ‘Buy’ buttons; this will allow social-network audiences to initiate an e-commerce purchase by clicking on a retailer’s post or tweet. Facebook’s tests began in July, Twitter’s in September.
Facebook is the clear leader for social-commerce referrals and sales: This is due in large part to the sheer size of its audience — 71% of US adult internet users are on Facebook. A Facebook share of an e-commerce post translates to an average $3.58 in revenue from sales, according to AddShoppers. On Twitter, a share or retweet is worth only 85 cents.
But other sites are gaining, and even leading on, specific metrics, such as average order value (AOV): Polyvore, for example, sees $66.75 in AOV from social referrals, according to Shopify. Pinterest sees $65, compared to Facebook which sees $55 AOV. Pinterest also drives more social sharing of retail content than any other network including Facebook.
Read more here.
Image courtesy of jscreationsz at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Back in the day, at the agency where I was working, we were pleased with this mailer to the customers of a flooring manufacturer announcing their new website.
Those were the days – when you sent out a mailer to tell people you had a website. In a world of contradictions, perhaps not a huge one. (And maybe, as the virtual world becomes ever more omnipresent, a return to actual letters and real mail may re-emerge as a useful way of differentiation).
But, in our increasingly digital-first world, it’s not only the paranoid who are questioning whether the future may be threatening to walk all over us – rather than the other way around.
In Dave Eggers recent novel, The Circle, he presents a dystopian view of the future in which social participation and connectedness allows for the individual’s entire day to be totally monitored. No choice or action goes unrecorded, as ‘Circlers’ joyfully embrace their social media duties – or opportunities:
“See, you’re getting all last week’s stuff, too. That’s why there’s so many. Wow, you really missed a lot.”
Mae followed the counter to the bottom of the screen, calculating all the messages sent to her from everyone else at the Circle. The counter paused at 1,200, Then 4,400. The numbers scrambled higher, stopping periodically but finally settling at 8,276.
“That was last week’s messages? Eight thousand?”
“You can catch up,” Gina said brightly. Maybe even tonight. Now, let’s open your regular social account. […]”
Whilst it is explicitly NOT about Google, the recent claim by (Google CEO) Larry Page that fear of data-mining of healthcare may be costing as many as 100,000 lives a year could be straight out of the pages of The Circle.
Managing to be both hilarious and chilling, The Circle is essentially a 1984 for the digital age. With the twist that this time it’s not a political regime but a commercial enterprise that is making the bid for total control. And making headway fast in that direction.
[You could describe it as the author looking at the world around him and asking not ‘What would Google do?‘ but ‘What would George Orwell think?’]
Once you ‘go clear’ (Eggers appropriates a term from Scientology), the only escape from the all-seeing eyes of your ‘watchers’ is the bathroom, and then only for 3 minutes or your watchers will begin to bombard you with their concerns for your health. And of course you can’t visit the bathroom too often or you will provoke a similar torrent of concern.
But nothing is ever enough for The Circle in its voracious desire to be your friend, and every shard of privacy and autonomy is under threat in its bid to get inside your head and make you a passenger in your own life – for which the perfect metaphor, and the perfect vehicle, is the driverless car.
You can’t drive over a cliff if you’re not at the wheel. “If my thought dreams could be seen…” as Dylan sang all those years ago.
In a recent profile in The Observer, hung on the launch of the Fire phone, I discovered the ‘Day 1’ obsession of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and his view – expressed in a recent letter to shareholders – ‘that we haven’t even reached Day 1 of the internet yet. That the “alarm clock hasn’t even gone off yet” and that the world is “still asleep” to what the rest of Day 1 will bring.’
Founded 20 years ago (5 July 1994) as an online bookstore, Amazon clearly intends to become (if at all possible and as soon as possible) the shop for everything.
The recently launched Fire Phone is, as The Observer reports, ‘the latest salvo in the great three-way tech battle between Amazon, Apple and Google. They want each other’s business and are, as wired.com suggested, “all turning into each other”.’
At the launch Bezos is reported to have spent as much time talking about Amazon Prime as he did talking about the phone – which is expected to lose £176m this year and up to £330m next year, according to analysts. To make up for this loss, each phone owner would have to spend £207 more on Amazon products than the average customer.
Someone has clearly done the math:
The average Prime member spends £719 a year on Amazon, £411 more than a regular user. Prime members’ purchases and membership fees make up more than a third of Amazon’s US profits. And membership is projected to rise 150%, to 25 million, by 2017.
The in-built network connectivity of the Kindle makes it easy to purchase books, and also means Amazon can ‘see’ not only what you are reading but where you have got to in the book. And now comes… Kindle unlimited – the equivalent of a streaming service for books and audiobooks.
Between us, ideas become reality indeed.