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Interview with photographer Carol Burri

How did you get into photography initially?

During my first study in post-industrial design, I did a lot of computer graphics, particularly in 3D applications. I played with virtual physical light and for this, I did tests with cameras and lighting. Through this process over a year I mixed computer graphics and photography but ended up being more interested in natural photography.

What do you generally look for when you choose a subject?

I like subjects that look like they come from another planet. For that I often have to create my subject with a lot of organization. Another important fact is that the image tells you a story or makes the audience think, how the hell did he do this. Of course I’m always looking for strange faces for portraits. They’re hard to find but they have always a place in my photography.

What is the most important aspect of photography to you?

One of the most important things for me is that I can convert an idea in my head as close as possible into an image through photography. Most of the time I’m not able to do that but I’m happy when it works. The second important aspect for me when I shoot people is that they feel comfortable in front of the camera. This is not always easy but most of the time they’re still talking with me after the shoot. And of course having fun in what I’m doing.

How do you build a relationship with the subjects you are photographing?

Often I have to go to the place I would like to shoot two or three times before I feel comfortable shooting it. With people it’s quite the same. You meet them by chance and then you have to tell them you would like to shoot them within your own idea. You show them your work and hope that they say ok and feel comfortable with it. Most of the time I have to wait two or three months for the images I really want. Because you have to find the right location and sometimes you need also the permission. The people don’t always have time or the weather is not good. But in fact I like the process of building a relationship with the subject.

Commercial VS Artistic photography?

I’m not a big fan of commercial photography. I don’t really know everything about it but I find that sometimes it’s really not that creative. On the other hand it’s hard to live from personal projects alone. So you have to mix it up. Nonetheless I’ve had lots of fun with some commercial projects and often you can work in a team with cool people. But I’m definitely trying to do as much of my own work as possible.

Digital / Manual ?

It’s similar to commercial and artistic photography. If you shoot analog you need time and you don’t see the result immediately after you shoot. For me, I enjoy the process of shooting analog.  But I wouldn’t say that analog photography is better than digital. It depends on what you do with your images and what you use them for. It might be that the best way of shooting something is with a mobile phone or the cheapest camera on the market. And sometimes the best way of shooting something is just not to shoot it.


Personally some of my favorite cameras. Can be pretty big monsters, and sharp as hell. The good thing about them right now is that they’re much less expensive than they were ten years ago.

What role does digital retouching play in your work?

At the moment it’s really common to retouch images. I’m not a big fan of it. I try to shoot an image in its entirety, to be honest retouching isn’t what makes a good image, and hours of retouching isn’t what makes the difference between a good photo and a bad one. If you have a good source and you have to do some minor retouch, it’s definitely a good thing.

Where do you see in the future of photography?

I’m trying to work hard on my photography series and hope I love what I do for as long as possible.

Words: Frederic Bourgoin

Images: Carol Burri



The Surreal House - Barbican Gallery

The Surreal House is a labyrinth of bizarre rooms, each one stranger than the one that preceded it. Designed by the young architects, Carmody Groarke, The Surreal House is intended to ‘examine the relationship between surrealism and architecture” and this peculiar exhibition does exactly that. The rooms in The Surreal House bear very little resemblance to those of a ‘typical’ home. Instead, they are filled with odd sculptures, like the ‘Femme Maison’ by Louise Bourgeois, artwork by the godfather of surrealism, Salvador Dali, and photography by Paul Nouge, Claude Cahun and Francesca Woodman.

Louise Bourgeois - Femme maison

Paul Nougé -Le bras révélateur

Claude Cahun - Self portrait (in cupboard)

Francesca Woodman - House #4

One of the most striking things housed in this exhibition is the piece ‘Concert for Anarchy’ by Rebecca Horn. It comprises of a mechanised piano, suspended upside-down from the ceiling, seemingly innocent enough, but every three minutes, the piano spontaneously explodes, throwing the keys out of place and letting the lid hang loose, displaying the instruments interior. The piano stays this way for a few minutes, before retracting all its parts back to ‘normal’, ready for its next impulsive outburst.

Rebecca Horn - Concert for Anarchy

During the 3 month long exhibition, The Surreal House will also hold artists and writers talks and lectures about surrealism, as well as showing a variety of old and contemporary ‘surreal’ and fantasy films, including ‘L’age d’or’, the 1930s surrealist classic directed by Luis Bunuel and Guillermo Del Toro’s critically acclaimed 2006 feature, ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’.

Hauntingly beautiful, The Surreal House is a must-see for anybody interested in surrealism and fantasy art, literature and films. The Surreal House is both enchanting and intriguing, but with a disturbingly strange twist.

The Surreal House
10 June 2010 - 12 September 2010
Barbican Art Gallery

More information is available at:





Arty Business

The Londoner crème de la crème was at its foaming best, bursting with contained laughter and proper introductions the day The 25th London Original Print Fair opened its doors at the Royal Academy of Arts.

“Darling, the collectors are the happy people” reads the presentation book, and that was the spirit floating in the air. It is not unthinkable to achieve absolute bliss in the potential ownership of an original print by Rembrandt or a wall size poster by Toulouse Lautrec. Whereas for the daily delight of your pupils when entering your living room, or to turn it into more practical and –heaven forbid-needed cash; happiness would, most certainly, be a tangible horizon.

But it was in the quest of art not business, that Sketchbook attended this prestigious event. And well paid our presence was. It is not often that one can contemplate such wide range of artists, styles, techniques and trends all in one place. Frederick Mulder, for example, presented rare linocuts by Pablo Picasso on a stand right next to The Paragon Press’s impressive set of etchings by Indian artist Anish Kapoor.


The fair has been running annually since 1985, and its intention is to bring unique and more affordable works to the public, in comparison with an original oil or watercolour by any artist, but its most appealing trait is the incredible variety of works under the same roof.  Etchings by Sir Peter Blake, Damien Hirst, Francisco de Goya and William Hogarth converged with screen-prints by Banksy and Chris Levine featuring the Amazonian beauty of Grace Jones at the Vinyl Factory Gallery.

There were also a few pieces that caught our attention, not so much based on its price, but on its originality, rarity and beauty. The Long & Ryle Gallery for example, presented saucy etchings by Spanish artist Ramiro Fernandez Saus and the German Burkhard Eikelmann had a whimsical piece inspired in Andy Warhol by Alexander and Marina Royzman.


A very interesting object was “The Soup Dress” at the Hilary & Georgie Gerrish Gallery, consisting on a paper dress issued by Campbell’s Soup in 1966. The dress, a symbol of the fusion between art, fashion and commerce, was originally valued at USD1 and two empty cans of soup. Today it is worth £6500.


Since the fair only ran for a few days, we picked some of our favourite works to post on Sketchbook’s blog.


For more information about  The 25th London Original Print Fair and its exhibitors, visit

For more information on exhibitions at The Royal Academy of Arts visit





‘NOW’S THE TIME’ Street Art in Shoreditch

East London’s Black Rat Projects is currently hosting ‘Now’s the Time’ – an exciting celebration of contemporary street art. Featuring works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Shepard Fairey, Swoon, Banksy, Barry McGee, Faile and Os Gemeos, 'Now's the Time' will bring together some of the most influential international street artists of the modern era. It will run at the Black Rat Gallery, Shoreditch until 20th May 2010.

Named after Jean Michel Basquiat’s seminal 1985 painting, ‘Now’s The Time’ celebrates the legacy and future of modern street art, showcasing the subversive innovation of some of street art’s greatest masters and capture the dynamic spirit of its trajectory. This is certainly a compelling and inspiring exhibition for artists, illustrators and contemporary art fans alike.

The gallery space at 'Now's the Time'.

Captivated by the lawless energy and public accessibility of the graffiti underground, many emerging young artists in 1980s New York were inspired to work alongside the graffitists on subway station platforms and city walls. Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring were at the forefront of the street art movement, making the transition from underdog to art icons. In their wake, they have inspired a new wave of urban visual artists; artists to whom the street is their canvas and every passerby their audience.

Street art is unequivocally subversive. Street artists are united by a mutual rejection of the establishment, accompanied by a thirst for aesthetic innovation and democratic expression. The urban environment is the ultimate emancipator of accessible art forms. The freedom to communicate directly with the viewer outside of a traditional gallery environment has not only allowed art to be seen much more as an integrated part of everyday life, but has also introduced the dialogue between artist and audience to a far greater extent than ever before. A work by NYC artist Swoon featured in the 'Now's the Time' exhibition.

 Whilst often appearing irreverent, contemporary street artists such as Banksy have pioneered the street art aesthetic as an accessible communicator of socio-political commentary. Similarly Basquiat’s cultivation of a neo-expressionist graffiti aesthetic to critique racial inequality was unprecedented in its innovation. This free exhibition presents a great opportunity to enjoy the works of some true pioneers.


Photography: Courtesy of Black Rat Projects




At the UK’s first graphic and contemporary art fair held at Somerset House, SKETCHBOOK were invited to go down and showcase what the magazine is all about. Among the fair were 20 other stalls displaying journals, magazines and fanzines, amongst other things. The fair was an opportunity for us to showcase our most prominent artworks and display our latest magazine, The London Designer’s issue. 






Bunny Hazel Clarke is a freelance hair and make-up artist who has been learning a lot on the job assisting make-up artists. She is currently dating Gabriel Gettman and is studying fine art painting at Central St. Martin’s.

Make-up and fine art painting are very similar but she loves makeup because of the instant impact it has and the reflective way in which she can use it. Her work is varied as she works on high fashion shoots yet also does normal, simplistic makeup too. She works with a lot of Chantecaille, Mac Cosmetics and She Uemera.

She is working with new music artists and would love to see them develop and grow. She also works with a lot of fashion buyers, on shoots and fashion films.

In terms of hair styling, the products she mainly works with is Philip B and Bumble and Bumble; her most interesting fashion experience was on shoot for PPQ, where they had angora bunnies on set. She finds that with makeup whatever you learn is interchangeable, from high fashion to celebrity to normal people on the street.

If she had to give up make-up artistry and hair styling she would go back to her second love of painting. All in all, she chooses professions where you can learn on the job! 






The Print Club London

Set up by FRED HIGGINSON, ROSE STALLARD and KATE NEWBOLD in 2007, THE PRINT CLUB LONDON aims to revive the art of screen-printing in a laid back yet productive, affordable environment. They intend to enable illustrators and graphic designers to have a more hand-on “from laptop to inky hands” approach.

Open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, PRINT CLUB LONDON are also exhibiting are the Pick Me Up event at Somerset House, where you can see their products ranging from art prints, t-shirts, record covers and just about anything that can be printed onto card, paper or fabric.




A Tailored Trailer

JORDAN MATTOS is a New York based artists who hand draws scenes from movies such as A Woman Under the Influence, The Vagabond and The Marriage of Maria Braun onto t-shirts making his shirts carefully crafted masterpieces much like the movies they depict. Each t-shirt shows a scene from a different movie so in a way you a wearing a tailored trailor of your favourite movie.

Sketchbook talked to him about his work and what it means to be an artist in New York City.

So, tell me a bit about yourself…where are you from, what do you do?

I’m from NYC. I grew up in Sunnyside, which was one of the USA’s first planned communities, waay back in 1924. It’s famous ‘cus the Ramones played their first gigs at the Irish pubs around here.

I was born in 1981, so that makes me 29 years old. I make hand-drawn t-shirts based on my favorite films. They’re very DIY, but I’m shifting to a more mass produced style so I can lower the price point.

How did you start making t-shirts?

I started making them for myself because I could never find cool merchandise (such as tees) from my favorite films! The indie and foreign/arthouse indie movie market is too small to merit merchandise for its films, so that’s where I come in.

What else do you do?

I’m a filmmaker, and am currently writing a script, but i studied illustration and design as well, so this is a way to marry both of my big loves.

You live in New York…what’s it like being an artist there? How does it influence your work?

Being an artist in NYC is very unique and for each upside, there is a downside. America is the only country in the world that doesn’t value its own culture. It’s not like in France let’s say, where the cinema is valued for example, and governmental programs are in place to protect and finance the arts because they see it as a continuation of a national heritage. Moreover, it’s important to remember that in the US, programs such as health care, social security and unemployment insurance aren’t seen as rights, but commodities! This environment is pretty bad for the every day artist, but it’s even worse for the struggling (not middle class, not rich) artist.

Because art is not seen as a cultural legacy that should be nurtured and supported, it’s a rich dog eat poor dog world out here. Because of that, the art scene tends to be self-referential, repetitive, one-sided and self-absorbed. 

Yet, at the same time, NYC is one of the most unique places in the entire world. It is full of contradictions, and there is a certain sense of neglect in the air. Anything can happen at any moment if you let yourself go with the flow. Truly, the frenetic, restless flow of the city makes you feel like you’re being pulled  down a quickly moving stream. Sometimes here the best thing to do is  let that energy take you to wherever it may.

So being an artist in NYC is extremely important to me, because it’s a city that has very particular forces at work. 

Tell us a bit about the process that goes into making your tees…

The process that goes into the shirts. Usually, I’ll watch a film that I love, and be touched by a particular scene or character. I’ll then come up with a sketch, usually done in pencil or pen, inspired by the film. If i have a customer who already wants a specific movie or scene, I’ll work within that framework, but usually I just do something from the scene that really stands out to me.

What other projects are you working on at the moment?

Other projects - right now i’m writing a feature script for a movie about an immigrant that moves to the USA in search of the american dream. He achieves his dream, but then finds out that it’s not all that he thought it’d be - he realizes that under the current economic system (capitalism), there’s no way to succeed without taking advantage of someone else. 

Check out Jordan’s work at 





Chris Ofili at Tate Britain

Think CHRIS OFILI, think elephant shit. Or at least, that’s how it used to be. As the 1998 Turner Prize winner, and the 2003 British representative at the Venice Biennale, Ofili clearly has much more than shit to offer, but still the association remains.

Shit was the first thing that greeted me at Ofili’s latest retrospective at Tate Britain. 1993’s subtly-titled ‘Painting with Shit on It’ welcomes visitors with its intricate and bright colouring adorned with lumps of dung. More dung acts as a pedestal, as it does for most of the early works, elevating the painting above the ground.

Blossom, 1997

The sacred and the profane feature heavily in his painting, and Ofili makes this most apparent in ‘The Upper Room’, which took three years to complete in the late 90s. No shit here though: designed by the architect David Adjaye, the room resembles a dark wooden church punctuated with spotlights. Paintings of rhesus macaque monkeys line the room towards a large ‘altarpiece’ at the end, like a simian Sistine chapel. It’s an oddly holy space, and the crowds seem even quieter than usual.

The exhibition features some of the paintings that Ofili is famed for. ‘No Woman, No Cry’, his heartbreaking depiction of a weeping mother. It was created in the immediate aftermath of the racially aggravated murder of Stephen Lawrence, and the appalling police enquiry that followed.

Another of Ofili’s mother figures also makes an appearance at the Tate; his black Madonna, in 1996’s ‘The Holy Virgin Mary’. Considering this once led to total outrage with that old spoilsport Mayor Giuliani of New York, it now seems rather tame. Ofili’s work of the 90s is very much a product of its time, and in a post-YBA world a bit of poo on a painting actually becomes quite pleasing to the eye. Even when its surrounding cherubs are made from blaxploitation-arses.

Raising of Lazerus, 2007

Like Picasso, Ofili also had a blue period, and like Picasso’s, they’re sombre and haunting. To look at the work properly we needed to twist and turn to catch the shapes in the light and make out its subject; the title rarely alluded to the horror contained in the canvas. Ofili’s Catholic upbringing is evident in the themes he explores, and 2006’s Iscariot Blues is another instance where Ofili explores betrayal and injustice.

After doing some work in Trinidad, in 2005 Ofili made the decision to move permanently, and the change is hugely visible in his more recent work. It uses simpler shapes and block colours, and not a lump of dung in sight. I found this work harder to decipher, and it’s evident that Ofili has changed his philosophical outlook since moving to sunnier climes. His work may be more sophisticated than ever to some, but I couldn’t shake the idea that at times one or two of the works looked a bit like a teenage art project.



© Chris Ofili 



Meet Rana Salam

Middle Eastern graphic designer/artist RANA SALAM is just about as vibrant and colourful as the work she does. RANA has lent her Middle Eastern pop art style to clients in retail, fashion, design and press along with publishing her own book on Middle Eastern lingerie, launching her own product line and using her studio as a gallery space. We met in her studio to talk about her work.


I was born and raised in Beirut until the age of 16. Then I came to London to start my design education 15 years ago. Applied to foundation course, built up a portfolio and applied to London College of printing, CSM and Royal College. When I came all the way to study in the UK I thought I would be a Western designer all cool and trendy and they actually said to me: “No, go back and discover the Middle East.” And I thought what is in the Middle East? There is nothing. No design really existed, there wasn’t a design movement like here in the West. So, when I went to do my thesis the only design I could use was what I found on the streets. I was fascinated by that.


I thought it was something where I could be creative and make money. Combination of commercial and art. So that is why I call myself a graphic artist rather than a designer. I love things like labels, I already collected things when I was younger, I used to put it up on my wall. Like my wall of inspiration here in my studio…it all goes back to my childhood. Finding random things but not knowing what to do with them but eventually with graphic design I learnt how to manipulate things and how to use them.


Yeah, for sure, that is what I did for my thesis at the Royal College..the concept of Pop Art. The concept of Pop Art and the philosophy behind it, understanding all the pop artists, how they work. I started to apply that to my own work to justify it. It is not just grabbing a pretty image.


My work is going to get better. I need to discover new things, learn new things. There is a lot of homework to do and you can’t do it when you are here. What I have been doing for the last 15 years is collecting, collecting, collecting and I am going to continue to do that there.


My god, very good question. How do I keep it fresh? Well…a lot of my archives have actually been with me for 15 years….I’m stocking and stocking and stocking. And suddenly I can revive it through a project and it is about how I apply it 15 years later. The mood has changed, the graphics, the fashion has changed. When I design it today I hope it will still look cool in 20 years. I want it to be timeless. Like the cups for LA COMPTOIR will still be cool in 20 years but you do get graphics which you feel are part of trends.


For LA COMPTOIR we worked with an architect. The brief was obvious…it had to be a Lebanese style restaurant/cafe. We brainstormed with the architects how we were going to create visual imagery of Lebanese culture so that was the main thing….understanding what makes something look Lebanese. So, naturally we looked at the history and the architecture. Of course they came to me because I have a huge archive of Middle Eastern imagery. We went through my archives, selected images and cropped them. It was the art of cropping and editing images. It can just make it or break it…how you crop, where you crop it. The client, of course, was perfect for expressing all of this pop culture and it became really successful which none of us expected.


They approached me having seen my image of a woman with butterflies. We made a collage out of that injecting some Itsu style butterflies to make the wallpaper that is part of the Itsu brand now.

So it does not look Middle Eastern necessarily, it is just my style. This is an interesting point…am I packed as a Middle Eastern popular artists/designer? Or am I packaged as a designer who can manipulate all different languages…Japanese, Middle Eastern…I trained as a designer but I am also an artist. I feel it is my duty to embrace the Middle East through design. It is kind of my mission.


With a bit of a shock! The reaction to my HARVEY NICHOL’S window display, one of my first projects, was that I collect the rubbish off the street and put them in glamorous retail stores. But now it is very much celebrated. When I go to Beirut I’m like a little pop star but not here. Here when you walk down the street nobody knows you but in Beirut it is fantastic. After 20 years of doing this it’s nice and rewarding! I’v done something worthwhile.


No, but we are developing our own product line for our shop MISH MAOUL. We are trying to develop our own products with our own vision, carpets, cushions and jewellery. There will be an exhibition in my studio in two weeks time on the theme of love and in a couple of months there will be another exhibition on theme of belly dancers.


A book on Egyptian posters from the 40s, 50s and 60s. Other projects…I don’t know. I don’t look that far ahead.


Photography NATHAN PASK