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Jane Bown – photographer heroine 13 March 1925 – 21 December 2014

Jane Bown has died. She was 89 years old and one of the most accomplished and prolific female photographers of her generation. She photographed mainly in black and white and often on an old 40 year old camera. Her subjects ranged from writers to rock stars to political activists – and she captured them all in the most extraordinary way as if you were seeing something new in each person for the first time no matter how well-known they may be.

So many times as a child growing up I remember being drawn to Jane Bown’s photo’s. I was quite literally made to read the Sunday newspapers as a child which mainly comprised of reading the Observer magazine (because that had pictures) and pretending to skim-read the broadsheet. It was here I started to notice oh there is another photo from that woman Jane Bown. I was always drawn to her work and wondered what she was like. The 9yr old me imagined that poor Jane Bown might be quite lonely and quiet as it seemed she was always by herself – sometimes in socially explosive situations like the removal of the women protesters from Greenham Common. I also thought she was really brave and I guess had a sort of over-imaginitive child would-be-photographer crush on her.

I thought she was so lucky to be able to take photo’s in all these situations – what a great job I mused. Once you know Jane Bown’s work it is impossible not to spot it and It is similarly impossible to choose a favourite from an incredible archive of 6 decades of striking and brilliant work – much of which you can see here.

And here is the great woman herself. A true mistress of the shutter – check her out!


We Are Family

Two years ago today I won an Award of Merit for a tiny black and white film I directed and shot with Super Producer and all round music genius Nile Rodgers. The film was made before Nile went triple stratospheric with Get Lucky and the rest, and then some! It’s a long story but I had the idea to make it on a Tuesday, Nile said ‘just do it!’ on a Wednesday, I flew on Friday, I shot it Saturday and was back home by Sunday.

Next month I am flying to NYC courtesy of a big new to be launched tv channel to shoot with Nile again as well as some other huge, established artists. It’s a total dream project for me. A documentary series about music and the nitty gritty creative process of music making, who people are and what makes them. Total heaven. I pinch myself and am keeping my head down. But actually I am so excited and chomping at the bit to shoot this and eventually share it with everyone. But for now you will just have to make do with this!

Only One Road To Paradise, To Paradise, To Paradise……

It’s difficult to know where to start with this post as there is so much to say about Wilko Johnson and everyone is in a frenzy of talking about him at the moment, mainly for the tragic fact he has recently announced that he is dying. I was a bit of a late adopter of Dr Feelgood which is where Wilko started out if you like. Dr Feelgood – a crazy, bluesy, tough band from a place sort of near Essex although I wasn’t really quite sure exactly where, that played in pubs and were a bit punk, a bit rock, a bit blues and a bit loud. This was my basic perception of Dr Feelgood age 9 or 10. I thought they were people like my Dad – rebellious men that liked Chuck Berry, drinking, taking drugs and were a bit rock and roll. In hindsight I think the ten year old me got the immediate measure of them rather well.  I remember seeing them on the Old Grey Whistle Test and thinking they were very exciting but I noticed they didn’t wear punk clothes and Lee Brilleaux suddenly played a very un-punk harmonica so I stopped paying attention after a while in a rather shallow fit of 11 year old would-be punk pique.

Fast forward to the premiere of Oil City Confidential in 2010 where I was completely blown away – not just by the film which filled in and made sense of all my Feelgood intervening gaps but also by the gig after the fllm. Wilko Johnson played live – it was an amazing gig with his bass cohort in crime Norman Watt-Roy playing his instrument like a musical corkscrew, Alison Moyet filling in for Lee Brilleaux with a voice of gob-smacking heavy blues perfection and Charles Shaar Murray on harmonica – wow – who knew?!

Fast forward to last Sunday night standing behind a lot of men of a certain age in jeans and fleeces drinking beer. Basically this…


Yes. Finally it was here. The thing we had all been dreading. This was Wilko’s last and final gig. I was in two minds earlier in the year whether to get tickets as I was worried that I would end up watching a favourite legend surrounded by grown men (in jeans and fleeces!) crying their eyes out and swigging beer which they would eventually spill over me because they were so upset. And I didn’t really fancy being a part of what could have become a maudlin gawpfest. Needless to say, I overcame my unfounded paranoia and shut up and got tickets. So there I was at Koko on a Sunday night waiting for one of the world’s most lovely, talented and interesting men Wilko Johnson to come on stage. I did actually move because I genuinely was behind the tallest man ever to be seen at a gig. He was also standing next to his friend – the broadest man ever to venture to a gig so I somehow sidled through them and ended up in a lung-squashing position further forward but at least I could see.

The support band were amazing. Eight Rounds Rapid are officially my new favourite new band. A razor sharp four piece from Southend. They usually play to small crowds of 200 and here they were killing it in front of 3000. They were raw and strong and all I could think of was ‘oh hurray and thank you, punk does live!’ Sharp boys in sharp suits playing proper music with so much talent, attitude and spark. It was all there. The lead singer reminded me of a reincarnated Brilleaux with an added touch of bitter spikiness. Totally refreshing and fresh in every way.


© Ian Pile

Bang! A final little crackle in the air, the air that was heavy and almost chewy with electric anticipation. And whoosh – here he was:


© Dave Coombes

It was a stomper of a set – a pumping Roxette, a loud Back In the Night and a great big belter of Woolly Bully where you could really sing along like a rowdy hooligan. The place was packed to the gills. I’m so glad I was squished in the pits, I kept looking up at the balconies and boxes and thinking some people looked a bit inanimate. I found it a bit odd. How could they? But perhaps we were the lucky ones downstairs? We had Wilko staring at us down the barrel of his giant sound, whipping us into a frenzy with his choppy Telecaster gun. Norman Watt-Roy was in there, right in there with his bass, in the very bottom of that bass pit where some musicians would never dare to go. He is the keeper of that place and was astonishingly good. The fact that three guys could make this belting volcano train of a sound running over our heads was quite something.


Wilko seemed more and more energised the longer he played. The great thing about the whole gig was the over-riding feeling of happiness and positivity that literally burst out with pounding resonance from the PA. There were no prolonged thank you’s, no speeches about illness and no talk of it being the last gig. Just more and more great music, more and more darting left and right and lots of rather showy brilliant playing from all three musicians on stage. Rather like the extraordinary dignity with which Wilko has openly discussed his recent diagnosis – it was all left unsaid and celebrated to the max which was truly energising, warm and lovely. I did detect a thread of unspoken poignance that kind of started with Paradise. I thought of Irene, and Wilko, and of proper true love, and only then suddenly got a bit of a passing lump in the throat.


I looked around and I saw a man wipe his eye. This gave way to an incredible, cyclic version of When I’m Gone to the point it almost became a mantra which then turned into Wilko’s favourite guitarist Chuck Berry’s Bye Bye Johnny. I suddenly realised Wilko had hopped on to that dark, black train that had ‘taken his love away’ and we hadn’t noticed. There he was, it was now taking him away down the track and he wasn’t coming back. And we were waving back, waving goodbye with such happiness. Wilko waved back ‘god bless you all’ he shouted so happily and that was it. Perfect. What a night and what a man. And if that isn’t enough – you can listen to him here on Front Row – it says it all.  I wish Mr Johnson had been my English teacher but I am also very glad he took up guitar and that I have now seen him play twice. We are all very lucky and he is right – the time most definitely is now.

Something To Read

Yes I know, I haven’t blogged for a long time. About six months. Mainly because I’ve been really busy and had slight (well quite major actually it seems) blogfright. So picking up where we left off – here is the photojournal of how I made Milkin’ It for Cornershop. It was quite an adventure. If you liked the film, hopefully you will like this.


Things have gone from strength to strength with the film – it featured alongside some extra documentary interviews I shot in an exhibition We Love You Oakland, at Filmbase in Dublin in June.  We Love You Oakland was an exhibition of my films alongside Annie Atkins’ stills that she took for Milkin’ It.  It was really very exciting to be able to exhibit. It was also extremely daunting not so for the fact that the weather was bloody atrocious so the flight over was a little bumpy to say the least and my father-in-law had died two days before so my head was in a kind of wide eyed stary freefall. 

The night itself was a raging success.  I remember being totally overcome with the fact that the private view was at one point absolutely rammed. I felt a bit overwhelmed with the crush, the sea of heads and the fact that the many crates of sponsor beer had run out after only 90 minutes. All these guests and nothing to drink! So I thought I would go and spend a quiet 5 minutes and gather myself
in the bathroom downstairs.  As I sidled down the stairs I could hear the echo of my own voice booming up from the screening room as one of the interviews played.  I imagined it was playing to an empty room. As I swung past I had to rock back on my heels to peek into the darkness.  It was full to capacity, uniform rows of very still heads taking it all in. My film. People listening intently and concentrating. This sent my overwhelmometer into overdrive and I re-headed for the Ladies for that five minute respite from all the noise and crush. Of course I went straight on twitter and tweeted something inane like “I am in the Ladies at the private view. All of the beers have gone and it’s rammed!” But I was and it was.

I’m hoping we can bring the exhibtion to London soon and I hope to see some of you there.  I also hope the beers won’t run out so fast this time. If they do, you will probably find me in the Ladies tweeting and having a moment.

Milkin’ It – it’s been a long time coming


So a few weeks ago I tantalised you all with shots of the music video I shot in East Oakland, California for the legendary and prolific Cornershop. Now you can see the video in all it’s digi-colour glory.  I was going to write technicolor but I always feel that should be reserved to describe proper 35mm film and not digital format. 

Anyway….here is the vid.  It got a world premiere exclusive on Spin Magazine which is very exciting. Odd these days that you have virtually virtual world exclusives. Without risk of sounding like old befuddled old fogey, it is all about hits and downloads these days which is kind of odd and kind of different. I miss the excitement and anticipation of LP’s and 12″ and 7″ singles. I used to love popping the shrinkwrap, pulling out the sleeve – it was always tight with static the first time you pulled the record from the inner sleeve wasn’t it?

I hope you like it. I was so committed to making it – it was fuelled with a combination of fate, karma, brute focus and a clutch of lucky airmiles that finally got me there. It was hard work and different. I made a photojournal documenting the precarious way I came to make it.  And here is tantalising post take two! The photojournal has another exclusive release this coming Monday so you are all going to have to keep your eyes peeled for it  – either on here or via other social media platforms. Goodness – the world, the machines, the links! All I can say is that it will take you from the roots of hip hop to a corner of the 4th most dangerous city in the US where hand on heart I never felt more safe in my life. People looked out for me and the sense of community was immense. I miss it and want to go back to make a bigger film. It will be a film about hope, dreams and real people.





Sure Shot. Sure Is.

I have been very blogremiss of late but to kick start the return to my blog we need to have a bit of a party. Hold your hands in the air and party like you just don’t care. Say whoooo!

Ok now you have had your fun you can read all about my new UK feature film Greengrass here:

It’s a drama with some dark comedy set in Deal on the Kent coast. It’s about Maggie McDuff – a young girl who goes to extraordinary lengths to make her life better – with some consequences.

We are currently at the funding stage. It is tremedously exciting and a lot of hard work – which is why I have had my head down un-blogging.

In addition to that I’ve also directed a documentary-based music video for Cornershop. It was quite a journey – it took me from London to East Oakland, Ca. and back. All will be revealed on Thursday 22 March when you can see the world premiere exclusive online on a well-known music site – watch this space! Here are some stills from the vid:


Thanks for watching and toodlepip dearies..

Big Hair


6.82 squared years ago today my Mum had me, got dressed, did her hair and my Dad took a photo.

I can’t believe how high my Mum’s hair was!

And the best thing about this morning was opening this envelope.


I love the care and concentration in the letters.

The happiness of being young.

And when I am grown up and 64 I hope to be dancing around my kitchen like this:


Two Very Different Lives

Right. Nothing like a bit of selfish, shameless self promotion to revive my ailing blog blight.

This is an interview I shot back in May in East Oakland, California. I drove by a tenant eviction protest and stopped to talk to the protesters – of which Gordon was one. It is a one take, spontaneous interview. Gordon is a homeless diabetic. He was on his way to hospital having recently lost his right leg he was now worried that he was about to lose the other to infection. The interview has heightened poignancy as on several occasions we were interrupted by 7 yr old Kavere who wanted to tell us all about dinosaurs. The connection between man and boy is galling in parts – the harsh reality of Gordon’s situation versus the magic of Kavere’s world.  As I left I felt compelled to give Gordon a hug. I knew when he said “I’ll be around somewhere” he had unspoken concern that he may not make it. Me too. I appreciated his warmth and honesty and will never forget him.   I was actually there to shoot something else at the time – a music video for Cornershop featuring Turf Feinz. You can’t see that film yet as it won’t be released until 2012 but you can see this:


Take Me To The Go Go

I am breaking a bit of a terribly remiss and lacklustre blogsilence to self promote. Shock! Horror! Gasp! Yawn!

Do you like punk music? Do you like silliness? Do you remember seeing this and liking it?

Fancy donating to help get a documentary series made?
Then click here:

We need more money to continue and expand the taster film in order to pitch to US broadcasters.

Thank you – and if you really love it that much you can also become a fan here:

Ta ra for now and thank you for coming by.

And if you are really really bored you can go here: Listen With Rockmother podcasts

Oh yes!

Real Stories From The Underground

I do bad things on the tube.


I take pictures of people when they aren’t looking and sometimes write about them – bullet notes in the back of my notebook like this:

Sitting next to a boy desperately coating himself in Allure Pour Homme as if his life depended on it. Mad US tourists with bottoms like wobbly half-filled water bags cramming in and shouting “one stop” to their party. Walk you fools!


Exasperated camp man in a bright green polo shirt has flumped next to me in a huff. I can see his tummy. His shirt doesn’t fit which mirrors his manner in a funny but awkward way. He is reading the list of ingredients on a jar of marmalade.


Today is an odd day on the tube.

Anyway this is all by way of saying that my dedicated Tube Tales site now has a new home HERE.



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