Tom Johnson: Merthyr Rising

23.06.2016 | Art | BY:

Tired of the small town he grew up in, Tom Johnson purchased a battered motorhome, picked up his camera, and travelled across the UK with a singular aim: to find and capture an off-kilter beauty in the downright banal.

His latest project, Merthyr Rising, took the London-based photographer to the ex-mining town in south Wales—a place that was once at the very forefront of the industrial revolution. Today tells a somewhat different story. The coal mines have been closed and a deep-rooted sense of heritage stripped away as the proudly working class town felt the fog of Tory austerity descend. As the hangover of Merthyr Tydfil’s past lingers Tom Johnson believes that it’s identity is immovable.


Part fashion shoot, part social study, the series thoughtfully brings together the two sides of Tom’s work which have increasingly begun to align with each other. Shot in collaboration with stylist Charlotte James, Johnson marries Merthyr’s industrial backdrop and working class heritage with high fashion. The series is a study of contrasts, that work together to debunk stereotypes associated with small towns. We find out more.

Tell us a bit about yourself and where you grew up? 
I’m a photographer, my work sits somewhere between documentary, portraiture and fashion. I just love to photograph people. I grew up in the countryside outside of Oxford, in a village that no-one has heard of.


At what point did you become interested in photography? 
When I was younger I realised I was really, really rubbish at drawing, painting and especially writing! However, I desperately wanted to find a way that I could visually express myself, so I bought a little digital camera and would photograph everything. I fell in love with the process and the immediacy, of being able to create something new  almost instantaneously.

What’s the story behind Merthyr Rising? 
Charlotte James, friend and fashion stylist, came to me with the idea of challenging the misconceptions of her hometown, Merthyr Tydfil. It’s a small town in South-West Wales which became subject to great economic struggles when the mining industry closed in the ’80s. We’d travel to Merthyr every week and stay at her grandparents house. Many of the people we photographed are Charlottes family and friends, others are people we cast in and around the town.


How would you describe Merthyr Tydfil? 
It’s a really beautiful place in many ways. The people are really friendly, kind and generous. Often neighbours would come out of their house and offer us pots of tea or a sandwich. I hope my photographs convey this warmth, because I certainly felt it.

This project marries a working class community and high fashion, what were you trying say?
The message was less about creating a dramatic contrast between the community and fashion, it was more about us both connecting with the subjects in our chosen medium. I want the different genres I work with to blur into one, so the viewer has to question what it is they are looking at.


Out of the twenty portraits, is there an image that stands out for you?
Yes. We were waiting around in the bus station and brothers Terry (an ex-miner) and Lee (a construction worker) had just got off a bus, we approached them and talked to them about the project. They were very keen to be involved and just whipped their tops off. Charlotte styled them in the middle of the station, as they started to show me their tattoos (whilst flexing their muscles). I loved the moment – I think this shot really captures a second of calm and intimacy.

Who are your inspirations?
I find a lot of inspiration from painters, cinema AND other photographers. I love Alec Soth’s approach and sensitivity to his subjects. I’m also big fan of British realist cinema.

Are you working on any projects currently?
I’m currently working on some of my own documentary projects, so I’m all over the place – this coming weekend I’m going to North Yorkshire. I’m also working constantly with Charlotte on projects in and around Wales.

TheEvansGirls Merthyr_Rising

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Into The Cat’s Eyes

05.06.2016 | Music | BY:

Faris Badwan and Rachel Zeffira – AKA Cat’s Eyes – are offering up an antithesis to the homogenous, often fame-hungry, landscape of pop music right now. Over the last decade, the two artists have left an indelible mark on music in their own very different ways; Faris as frontman of British indie-rock band The Horrors, while Rachel was breaking down the often rigid barriers that stand between the dance floor and the operatic concert hall with her orchestral collaborations. It’s a creative bond that has so far culminated in their critically acclaimed, self-titled 2011 debut, as well as the lauded soundtrack for Peter Strickland’s film The Duke of Burgundy; both steeped in sophisticated orchestrations.

If there is a shared bond between the two artists, it’s their fascination with composition and belief that music has the capacity to evolve organically with time—time being something that is particularly thematic to the duo’s new album Treasure House. When asked about the band’s evolution, Rachel marks the contrasts: “Sound evolves—it has to! We take a futuristic turn in Treasure House. The lyrics seem to bridge a gap between the past, present and future, but this wasn’t intentional, you know. Faris and I didn’t, and don’t ever, sit down and deliberately create abstract, artistic subtexts – our collaboration is very organic, it’s very impulsive.”

Rachel, you and Faris approach music from two very different worlds, yet it seems like you have an easy time communicating. Has that always been the case? 
Yes. None of this was planned. There wasn’t ever a moment when Faris and I decided to “form a band”—in fact the whole thing was nothing more than an accident. We met through a neighbour years ago and started to write music together for fun. At the time Faris was heavily involved with The Horrors. I had no affiliation with pop music—and I liked it that way. I remember writing some stuff for Faris to use without me, you know I was telling him “try this with someone else it could be really good”. Then someone picked up a demo and passed it around and that was the first time we were heard outside of our sitting room in collaboration. Our creative partnership has always been a fluid one. In the early days we were actually ‘pen friends’ (pen-friends via email, of course). When Faris was touring with The Horrors, we would send ideas, lyrics, songs back and forth to each other which gives you a good idea of just how natural our relationship is and was. I think we have always had an easy time communicating.

Tell me about the song writing and recording process…
When we write a song we usually start with a simple melody or a word and it just grows from there. Faris has an extensive vinyl collection and that comes in handy. When we first started out, we’d listen to 1960s girlbands (like The Ronettes) in rotation. This would always be our starting point, then we’d move on to manipulate a given song, so much so that what by the time we had finished up our creation was no longer an imitation but a full circle evolution. Faris might digitise an entire piece or I may overlay orchestral sounds—all that mattered that by the end nothing is recognisable, everything is changed.

Was this a process you stuck to when creating your new album Treasure Island
Actually some of the songs on this album we’re written when we were producing our first album—making elements of this album over five years old! Every song went through a very different production process. Sometimes I will write a song alone and then Faris will come in and manipulate the sound. Other times we will come up with everything together, the chords, the melody, the lyrics—a linear musical process doesn’t really exist in this partnership.

The exploration of time seems to be integral in this album, was that intentional? 
We didn’t plan for it to be. We didn’t set out to make a lasting comment, impression or clear takeaway. When I was writing Everything Moves Towards The Sun I happened to be thinking about the past, present and future. It has a distinct mark of time around which the other songs rotate. The album trips towards the future, but recognises the past and how it has impacts both the present and future.

Which track from the new album are you most likely to listen to on rotation? 
No, no, no—I don’t listen to the album once it has been done! I can’t listen to my own music. If I was to recommend a song to you it would be Chameleon Queen. I think the track is an absolute balance between our DNAs and between our worlds.

What’s the best thing about being in a band? 
In this case it helps that we both have very different strengths. The things I care about, Faris doesn’t. I  might be more obsessed with…say a chord change, whilst Faris would be completely preoccupied by the voiceover. Musically we are totally different, but as cliched as it sounds, it just works.

Treasure House is out now on RAF via Kobalt.

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‘Nobody Believes That I Am Alive’

19.05.2016 | Art | BY:

Growing up in Minsk, now Belarus, before moving to the United States and later France, Alexandra Catiere learned early on to immerse herself in a universe of her own. This is a skill Catiere has taken with her into her photography, where she documents intimate moments that all make a passing comment on the transient nature of time and the ephemerality of life.

Through her distinct visual language and exploration of both sensation and atmosphere, she manages to avoid the cliches of naked young people shot with flash on a 35mm point and shoot camera. Instead, her inspiration and style aligns itself more closely to that of the legendary Irving Penn, who she worked alongside in 2005 shortly after graduating from the International Centre of Photography (ICP). Her works are in the same nature of Penn’s—classical black and white images, begging the audience to study the world in which they are taken without a preconceived notion of context.


A new exhibition – Photo London – which has just opened in London at Somerset House, explores Catiere’s work in the form of a three-part series: ‘Here, Beyond the Mists’, ‘Land without Shadows’, and ‘Nobody Believes That I Am Alive’. The exhibition deals with themes such as time, realisation, life and death in a way that underscores Catiere’s own belief system “that death does not and can not truly exist, while memory still remains”.

When asked to describe the photographers work Nathalie Herschdorfer, the curator of this exhibition says: “Catiere’s photography is of an intimate and independent nature. It deals with the passing of time, outside of the narrative realisation. Time stands still. The beings and places that she depicts seem to come from a distant past but nonetheless seem to be anchored in the present. Catiere’s photographs enthral us, they seduce us and call us into question.”

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The exhibition is on now, and runs until 22nd May 2016 at Somerset House, London, Booth F7. //

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Alice Waese: A Fine Idea

06.05.2016 | Fashion | BY:

Alice Waese is not your typical fine jewellery designer. Despite founding an eponymous cult jewellery line that ranges in price from £1,900 to £6,500 – she has received critical acclaim from numerous fashion magazines including Vogue and Interview and exhibited her work at Frieze London 2015 – Alice’s propulsion of fine jewellery leaves it’s mark by revelling in the subversion and whim of all-that-glitters-isn’t gold cocktail sparkle. Her unisex gold and silver pieces, which are hand crafted in limited editions of 90, are subjects of her diverse research stimuli: birds, trees, roots, skulls, rock formations and limbs.

“The glowing and vivid palette os my Spring Summer 2016 collection is based on a series of paintings I created, they explore the visual intensity and subsequent symbolism of various stones. Alchemists consider the emerald as a symbol of hope, wisdom and as a preservation of love. The ruby is believed to be the most powerful jewel, and is associated with passion, vitality and courage—I incorporate them all in this collection,” she said.

Alice Waese

At 20, Alice Waese moved to New York, her current base, to intern for the jeweller Maria Cornejo and was later hired as a design assistant there. She then moved to London where she studied Fine Art at Goldsmith’s College before turning to jewellery full time. Alice describes her interest in fine jewellery as in fact a fascination with “artifacts and heirlooms, the weight of an object with intrinsic value. I consider what happens to an item that is loved, given away, passed on and worn daily. I am inspired also by the materials themselves, the transformation from wax to gold is something really satisfying both on an aesthetic level and a tactile, physical level. I also work from my drawings, an internal world of fantasy and narrative”.


Drawing from life is the basis of Alice’s work, as she truly believes that knowing the dimensions and details of objects and space are key to later constructing something fine and precious out of that which was once mundane. In conjunction with research of the fine jewellery field, Alice eagerly sketches and has published her surrealist watercolour drawings in a series of hand printed hardbound books, each containing a single piece of jewellery hidden in the cutout.

For Spring Summer 2016, Alice Waese’s launches a fine jewellery and ready-to-wear collection that is available exclusively at Hostem. //

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Why footwear giant Dr. Martens teamed up with Norse Projects

05.05.2016 | Fashion | BY:

While in the first instance the idea of a non-conformist British punk institution aligning forces with a Scandi-infused, purist brand may seem a jarring fit, the new collaboration between Dr. Martens and Norse Projects actually makes total sense. Together, their designs participate  as part of a wider conversation, one that draws without end, on the study of contemporary culture and shows an avid interest that often oscillates between both modern and sub-cultural references.

The re-worked version of the Dr. Martens 3-Eye Steed is no exception. The mens shoes has been crafted for the first time in a rich suede texture, that comes in three colour ways (black, white and oxblood). It is also detailed with quiet sportswear technicalities—the added insole, the padded tongue and elasticated nylon straps, are all quite clearly traits of practicality brought forward by Dr. Martens Copenhagen-based counterpart, Norse Projects.

Staying true to heritage is a mantra that remains close to everything Dr. Martens does and this collaboration does not waver from that. Like the rest of the Steed collection, the 3-Eyed Steed has been manufactured using the original process of industrial manufacture, a technique that has been in practice from 1st April, 1960—when the first pair of Dr. Martens rolled off the production line in Wollaston, England.

The Dr. Martens x Norse Projects Steed collaboration (from £200) is available online now and in-store at END, Newcastle from May 7th.

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Dakota Ditcheva by Tom Sloan

02.04.2016 | Art , Culture | BY:

Northern Soul, The Smiths, Joy Division, acid house…Manchester’s cultural (and subcultural) legacy is legendary. Today tells a somewhat different story. The Hacienda’s been bulldozed and turned into flats, and the proudly-Labour city has felt the fog of Tory austerity descend. As the hangover of Manchester’s past lingers, London-based photographer Tom Sloan believes that it’s youth culture is deep rooted and immovable.

In his second online story for Twin, Sloan meets and photographs Dakota Ditcheva—a 17-year old World Champion Thai Boxer from Sale, Manchester. In line with the rest of his work Sloan hopes to shed light on the importance of youth:

“One of the great things about boxing is how it works – perhaps more so than other sports does – as a platform (quite literally) for these kids to perform, and that’s what I try to do, to give British youth an opportunity to showcase what they do best at a stage in life when they are often wrestling with burgeoning notions of selfhood.”

What are the ideas or questions that ignited this project?
So much of my work examines those few years that sit between late adolescence and adulthood. For most, this is a time when the novelty of independence first comes in to play. It’s a universal feeling, but the way young people choose to use it is not. I had a pretty eventful teenage period in Southhampton, hung out with the type of kids I photograph, took drugs, went to parties – the usual stuff. But for Dakota these years were spent in the gyms and boxing rings of Manchester. At 17 she’s at the cusp of ‘adulthood’ and the forefront of women’s boxing – which was included in the Olympic Games for the first time in 2012. In line with the rest of my photography I wanted to show Dakota at home in Manchester, doing what she does best – boxing.


Much of your work depicts youth, and young people—is there a reason for that?
When you are younger you haven’t picked up as much baggage—as tired  and overused as that phrase is. You are easily excited, open to opportunity and less conscious. In a round-about way, this brings about two things, first a more honest connection and second a sense of confidence which I look for in youth. That confidence might manifest itself in one kid as he skins up a fat joint on the local rec, or like Dakota through an activity or sport. I ask questions in an attempt to connect with the young people I photograph: what do they like? What don’t like like? Who are they listening to? It’s easy with Dakota she has an clear interest – and I was interested in that.

You shot this story in Manchester. Was it important to give the city a sense of place?
Absolutely. I shot Dakota in her house and around her estate in Sale, often against the backdrop of those brown-brick terrace houses that are so synonymous with the North West. I wanted to evoke a strong sense of identity and give insight into where Dakota and her family are from.


Boxing is a recurring theme in your work. What is it about boxing that inspires you?
The energy, that sense and feel of the unexpected – that’s why I’m drawn to it. I don’t box – I like it – but I don’t box, it’s an observational relationship but immersive in so far as pulling out Dakota’s clear interest in it. But, it’s not just boxing. I have shot motocross riders, gravel pit shooters, activities or interests that toy with a sense of danger. As much as I am on the look out for new faces, I’m as much on the look-out for new activities – different ways to showcase the diversity that is so relatable to British youth culture.

What is it that you’re trying to do with your work?
My future work – I guess – will be an extension of what I am doing now. I try to make sure there is a level of linearity running throughout my work, each project tells a different story but the aesthetic joins them. I shoot ‘real’ people, people not models. I like to work with people who haven’t been shot and that is a practice I want to continue.

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Stylist: Ianthe Wright
Hair: Lewis Pallett

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