Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Prideful week-end

The magic hour
I managed to get a press pass for Pride London again this year. This gave me access to a loo in a nearby hotel at the end of the parade(!) but more importantly to the pit at the front of the main stage where my arms got thoroughly burned by an unusual appearance from the sun. The dwindling number of fundamentalists protesting the parade (there weren't even 20 of them this year!) would probably remind me that that's one gets from pride: the burns of hellfire...

I'm glad to report that no debacle like that of last year with Boy George took place this year and that the artistes with whom I shared my images on Twitter have been very gracious about it. Some have even asked for permission to use the images.

On Sunday, to finish a gay old week-end in style, I was at Tate Britain for Queer Britannia, a mellow and relaxing tour of the newly hung galleries, highlighting some of the gay-friendly pieces on display. Again pictures were taken... (full flickr set)

Full Pride set available on flickr here.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Beyond Words

Saturday marks the opening of an exhibition organised by Foyles and the Gay Photographers Network. It will showcase the works of some of the GPN's members around the themes of Literary London, Travel, Love and Marriage and Mind, Body and Soul. I'm very proud to be among those whose images will be featured.

As I also have an image in a show celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Pink Singers, this marks the fourth exhibition in which my work has been displayed. And I have more plans for later in the year...

So if you find yourselves in Charing Cross Road in the next five weeks, drag yourselves to the gallery on the 3rd floor and (hopefully) enjoy our works. On your way down, you can stop at the cafe for a nice sit down and a cuppa and enjoy a few more works from some of our members.

Beyond Words
Gallery at Foyles,
Charing Cross Road
29 June to 03 August
Admission free
more info: here and here.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Kew Gardens

strata The latest photowalk organised by the Gay Photographers Network was at Kew Gardens. I had been some years ago but the location (not really close from my patch) and the entrance fee had prevented me from returning. I must also confess to not being that excited by plants and trees... I had my fill as a kid, I suppose.

As we got there it was raining which didn't bode too well for the next few hours. We took shelter in the sweltering atmosphere of the Palm House and thankfully the weather soon started to clear to finally offer a glorious afternoon. The rest of the day, punctuated by a well deserved and most welcome cup of tea with cake, went on without problem, taking us from the waterlily house to the treetops walk and the formal gardens of Kew Palace.

My images can be viewed on flickr here.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

London from Centre Point

London from Centre Point
You know how Facebook has decided to include "sponsored posts" to your timeline, advertising things you don't need or already have?

Well, recently one of those adverts (let's call a spade a spade), actually turned out to be of interest. Sony is launching a new compact camera and to mark the occasion were inviting people to sign up to attend an event on the 31st floor of Centre Point. The highest building in the West End.

Called the Viewing Tower, this was an opportunity to test the ultra powerful zoom of the new camera. And of course an great opportunity to whip out our own cameras. The weather was good for most of the time, though sadly it all clouded over later in the evening, anihilating any chance of a sunset and we got busy.

My images can be viewed on flickr here.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Sunset from the rooftops

London Eye and sunset
It's been a couple of weeks now. Almost every day I see people on the roof of a building I know to be broaded up. And of course, I want to get on that roof too.

I made a first attempt on Sunday but unfortunately couldn't find access. In desperation, I decided to email JB, who specialises in shooting London from the rooftops. Perhaps he would have an idea on how to get there.

I met JB at the meeting of my photo group where he persented his work. I chatted to him afterwards and offered a couple of leads of possible places I could use for future shoots. JB kindly offered to meet up to try and find out a way.

First we went to a nearby building and took a few shots from there before having a walk around the Heygate estate. Finally we managed to find hidden access and found ourselves on the roof just in time for sunset. We weren't alone there. Street artists were at work already and other visitors joined us later. It is clearly a popular spot.

That's how I spent an evening on a rooftop with a (straight) guy admiring the views. Romance... (almost)

The images can be viewed on flickr here, while all my heygate images are gathered here.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Another visit to the Heygate

Heygate Estate
The demolition of the Heygate Estate is apparently soon to begin. Technically it already has, with phase 1 of the project, at the far south east of the site, already flattened for some months. I'm talking about the main building, those big looming slabs of concrete that delimit the site. First they will start by the buildings south of Heygate Street. That should happen by the end of this year. Within 3 years, it should all have gone.

In the meantime, street artists are taking over the place with Southwark Council desparately and ineffectively wasting paint and money to try and keep everything a uniform grey. Urban gardeners, photographers and parkour adepts are also at it and the place though decrepit still welcomes a surprising amount of activity.

Goaded by the sight of people on one of the rooftop, I made my third proper visit to the site yesterday. Sadly, I couldn't figure out how to access that rooftop but I got a few nice shots.

Yesterday's images can be viewed on flickr here, while all my heygate images are gathered here.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Going mobile to find him

Gaydar's new Find Him feature
Apps for smart phones have become all the rage, we all know that. You can get one for just about anything. And while they are an effective tool to reach customers for any brand wanting to appear modern, they do present a big problem for developers and to a point for users: The need to comply with whatever rules the owner of the shop/OS carrying your app decides to impose on content and format.

There are also fears that apps could lead to a ghettoisation of the Web, where it is no longer possible to move easily from one platform to another.

From a gay user's perspective, perhaps the most obvious manifestation of those restrictions on content, are the policies on levels of nudity allowed in geolocated "dating" apps; policies, the implementation of which has been known to be patchy and inconsistant, not to mention, for the developer, (no doubt) costly to enforce and police.

It is therefore interesting and perhaps not altogether surprising that Gaydar, the enduring gay dating website, have decided to complement their current offer with a new mobile version of their website. They launched an app a few years ago, no doubt spurred to do so by the inexorable rise of that other big boy of the gay meet with whom they share more than a few letters in their name: Grindr.

Founded in 1999, Gaydar had for years been cruising (pardon the pun) on its position as leader of the market. Having had a (fallow) profile since 2000 when I moved to London, I can recall very little changing in the look of the site for close to a decade, but eventually, it was time to do something and in recent years some visual changes, perhaps not always altogether successful, have been implemented.

This need for change has been made all the more pressing by the popularisation of smart phones, and eventually a more thorough redesign, an app and now a rebrand (away from their original orangey yellow) and this new mobile site were born unto us.

The mobile site comes with a more user-friendly version of the advanced search of the main website, allowing you to refine your geolocated shopping list for Mr Right, Mr Rightnow or Mr Letsbefriends, down to their age, height or even hair colour. This is a level of selectivity that other players on that scene probably don't offer.

I suspect such level of pickiness will however only be effectively possible in Soho Square on a sunny summer day, Vauxhall around midnight on a Saturday or at a concert of the London Gay Men's Chorus, when your phone is at risk of exploding under the pressure of all the possibilities. Forget it though, if you live in the middle of Shropshire, unless you have a touch of the old wanderlust.

For some unknown reason, Gaydar decided to get in touch with me with a bunch of nice goodies prior to launching the site. In my exchange with them, they seemed very confident that this new "Find Him" feature would allow me to meet my Prince Charming in no time. They would say that, I suppose, and I am sure that many of their users will love twiddling those extra new knobs on their screen, but I am personally not holding my breath. I am as bad at online encounters as offline and I am resigned to the fact that for little old me, as Quentin Crisp used to say, there is no great dark man. Don't let that stop you, though.

Gays are often vaunted as trend-setters. We certainly were the first to get on the smart phone "dating" act. Could this move from Gaydar be the first frisson of some online rebellion against the hegemony of the likes of Apple and Google, and a return towards a more open and free mobile web? It would be nice to think so.

As for Gaydar itself, the fact that it recently passed into new hands may herald even further changes.

Disclaimer: I received a 30-day unlimited membership and several goodies from Gaydar.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Very Personally Trained

VPT. Very Personal Trainer. That's how they call personal trainers at Gymbox, a slightly pretentious chain gyms, a branch of which I joined in October after an office move.

They are not cheap and boast inspiration from the club culture for the decoration (they even have resident DJs) but they were the closest to the new office and the equipments are quite good, I have to admit.

I must have been going to gyms for close to 20 years now (with mixed results, as we know) but I've never had a PT, let alone a VPT. I had never really felt the need. Recently however, with my body apparently finally willing to show signs of reacting to what I was doing to it in the weight room, I started to feel the need for some help to get better results faster.

As luck would have it, two weeks ago, a new contingent of VPTs was unleashed on the unsuspecting members of my gym, all smiles and bulging pecs, hungry to build a client list. Within a week, I attracted the attentions of not one but two personable young men, eager to make my acquaintance, it seemed. Not a situation I am familiar with, by a long stretch.

The first one offered a few bits of advice on shoulder exercises and suggested I request his card at reception and contact him. A couple of days later, a colleague of his approached me and offered to take me through a set of arm exercises, after which he offered a free training session for the following week.

Let's hope I am not again the cause of some resentment like I was for another hitherto friendly VPT who decided to blank me after he saw me taking two free sessions with one of his colleagues.

In any case, the free session with my second suitor came and soon we were discussing, programme, diet and fees...

I am now furnished with a PT, sorry, a VPT, for the next four weeks at least.

And while the exercising shouldn't be a problem, I must confess to some difficulties with the diet I have been given to follow. I am apparently required at eat a kilo of meat everyday, spread over 7 meals. This in addition to multiple eggs and protein shakes. Even when disregarding the cost and practicality of such diet, I don't think I will be able to stuff so much food down my gullet.

I am however being guaranteed results. On Friday, I was even measured and photographed topless for a "before" picture... Watch this space...

Monday, 28 January 2013

The rooftop of the EU: At the top of the Shard

A window cleaner and south London

At the beginning of December, I learned via Twitter that the owners of the Shard, the EU's tallest building which has recently being completed, had donated 4000 tickets to access The View from the Shard, the viewing galleries on the 68th and 72nd floors of the giant to Southwark residents. All we had to do was go to our local library with proof of residence and collect our tickets.

I did and this Saturday, a week before the viewing galleries open to the public, I got to admire the views over London. Luckily, after a week of snow, the weather had turn to a more sunny disposition and we were treated to the extra spectacle of window cleaners abseiling the southern side of the building and playing to the gallery.

As can be expected the views over London are unparalleled and my worry, based on the pictures I had seen so far, that we may end up being too high and therefore at the wrong angle were unfounded.

From the entrance on Joiner Street, we queued to have our bags scanned and our picture taken in front of a green screen before taking a lift to the 32nd floor where we got on a second lift to the 67th floor. The lifts, travelling at 6m per second, are very fast and very smooth.

From the 67th floor, we are free to wander to the floors above; the windows directly opposite the lift doors are partially blocked with images of clouds to avoid a bottle neck effect.

An hour and half and several dozen pictures later we made our way back to the ground where we were offered the possility to purchase the picture taken on the way in superimposed on a view of the city from the top. Prices seem to vary according to the options available by £20 seems to be what people are being asked for this.

There is a small souvenir shop on the 67th floor and a bigger one on the ground floor. It's quite clear that the owners are gearing up to milk the opportunity as much as possible. Tickets are £25 if you book online, £30 if you book in person and £100 if you book on the day!

For those not willing to pay so much another option may soon become available on the 31st floor, where the lobby of a posh restaurant will offer viewing opportunities. They plan on enforcing a cover charge to deter tourists but it may still be cheaper.

Otherwise the staff were very friendly (though they may get tired very quickly in repeating the same things all the time) and it's good that the visit does not seem to be time limited.

Of course I brought my camera with me. My images can be viewed on flickr here.