A good day to die happy

Today is the day I got published in an anthology alongside Anaïs Nin, Alice Munro, Roald Dahl, D. H. Lawrence, John Fowles, Angela Carter, James Joyce, Alan Hollinghurst (I’m halfway through his Booker-winning novel The Line of Beauty). 

My humble short story printed in the same book that is home to such great authors, whose works I have admired and adored and taken inspiration from. 

When I was asked for my story to be included, I was delighted, but completely unaware of who else would be there, in an anthology that is entitled Desire: 100 of Literature’s Sexiest Stories. Ouch! I just pinched myself to make sure I am awake. 

I am very grateful for Erotic Review team and all their encouragement. After all, they were the ones who first published my erotic work and asked me for more. As ER is turning 21 this month, a rather fitting coming of age since it is embarking on new, exciting projects, I wish it all the best.

The gorgeous anthology is available on Amazon.


Helmut Newton - A Retrospective

How do you tell a story in just one frame? Do it the way Helmut Newton did. 

I saw his big retrospective in Rome in 2013 and again last weekend in Amsterdam’s Foam. The major exhibition features more than 200 photographs, ranging from the monumental, life-size nudes to some of his early prints that are rarely shown.

I love his work for several reasons. The most important is the way he captures a moment, each element so masterfully organised in order to propel the story, that you immediately connect with the photograph and become a part of the journey that Newton began on his set.

Self Portrait with Wife and Models, Vogue Studio, Paris 1981 © Helmut Newton Estate / Maconochie Photography

Self Portrait with Wife and Models, Vogue Studio, Paris 1981 © Helmut Newton Estate / Maconochie Photography

Maybe this particular focus on the story is what revolutionised fashion photography: a departure from the boring to the magnificent.

There is also the way Helmut Newton depicts women. Most of his iconic work is of powerful, confident women. Their clothing or nudity becomes a secondary element. Some of his photographs are over-staged, and it is a good thing. The effect is dramatic, almost theatrical. 

For me, Helmut Newton is one of the most important, eloquent story-tellers of modern times and I would hate to see his work pigeonholed, the complexity and multi-layered nature of them cast to one side.

There was a time that having a portrait taken by Helmut Newton was the ultimate seal of success. You will see examples in this exhibition, ranging from Salvador Dali to Margaret Thatcher. 

You have until September 4 to enjoy this incredible collection. It is well worth a trip to Amsterdam. Watch a video tour below:

Foam Fotografiemuseum, Keizersgracht 609, Amsterdam

Cool Pickings: rare books

I will admit it: I have been unfaithful. That is, in this case, to printed books. I have been taking a Kindle to bed for the past year. Not always, of course. When it comes to reading, I am pretty playful: hardbacks, paperbacks, old books, new books, those that smell of decrepit bookshops.   

But there is no doubting my fervent, undying, constant love for a good, old printed book. More than anything, it is one of the most satisfying feelings when you run your fingers on the embossed leather patterns on the spine of a book, get acquainted with the paper inside in a hundred shades of cream, bring it close to your nostrils and let the smell of literature dazzle you with possibility.

One of my fantasies is to have a super-modern library room: one wall filled with rows and rows of debut fiction, the wall opposite with old, rare books. A fireplace in the middle of them, and I will let you use your imagination about all the possibilities of sheep skin on the floor, a chaise long, a corner table decorated with a delicious bottle of single malt. Let’s say a perfect reading (wink wink) setting for two. Or more.

If I had the setting for my dream library, I would give the good folk at Peter Harrington a call to help me source the goodies. Their new catalogue is stunning and if you have some spare cash, say between £350 to £25,000, you can get your hands on some of their beautiful books. 

Have a look at their website and indulge your senses: www.peterharrington.co.uk. They have kindly provided me with the photos. 

Happy reading!

Free opera in King's Cross!

Photo credit: Margaux Kolly

Photo credit: Margaux Kolly

It’s a rather lovely idea to think that you’re walking up the road one fine summer’s evening and of all the possibilities life can throw at you opera presents itself. For free. I kid you not. In King’s Cross. Yesssss!

Lewis Cubitt Square will play host to Cubitt Sessions, an electrifying live music programme. I'm so glad the neighbourhood's fountains are no longer the only attraction. It is actually a wonderful setting for live performances. 

The spectacular custom built structure will create a theatre for those in Lewis Cubitt Square to enjoy a host of classical, opera and contemporary musicians from the London Sinfonietta to Bombay Rickey Opera Cabaret, Mozart’s Flute concertos and improvised opera by Tête à Tête, and Opera Cabaret and experimental jazz (full programme details below). 

Trailblazers in contemporary opera, Tête à Tête have been invited to curate six of these evening performances in order to showcase new opera and to offer the opportunity to anyone to enjoy this diverse range of productions for free.

Bill Bankes-Jones, Artistic Director of Tête à Tête, commented: 

"The brief, to put together six evenings of top-quality work which both pushes the boundaries of 'opera' and will appeal to a very broad audience, is a perfect development from our previous work with King's Cross, where we partnered up to perform our Pop-Up operas for all passersby throughout the King's Cross public realm.  I'm delighted to have had the chance to bring this selection of international and UK companies together with the King's Cross locals for six evenings of very varied entertainment."

King's Cross is far from what one might remember, in my case through the medium of the beautiful 1986 film Mona Lisa and the magic performance of Bob Hoskins. I'm partial, I live in King's Cross, but I genuinely believe it is one of London's greatest success stories. 

Cubitt Sessions 2016 runs from 6pm Saturday 30 July – 13 August. Performances will begin at 7pm.

  • Sat 30 July – London Sinfionetta in Concert 
  • Sun 31 July – Impropera Opera Company: The Next Frontier 
  • Wed 3 Aug – Bombay Rickey Opera Cabaret 
  • Thurs 4 Aug – CRXSS_PLATFXRM// LIVE from Central Saint Martins 
  • Fri 5 Aug – Secrets by Muziektheater Transparant 
  • Sat 6 Aug – English National Opera performs Tell Me the Truth about Love 
  • Sun 7 Aug – Divertimento for Rope & Strings 
  • Tues 9 Aug – CRXSS_PLATFXRM// The Traplord Experience from Central Saint Martins 
  • Wed 10 Aug – Waste Paper Opera Company presents The Remarkable Rocket 
  • Thurs 11 Aug – CRXSS_PLATFXRM// LIVE from Central Saint Martins 
  • Fri 12 Aug – Sholololo! A chamber opera of terrace songs 
  • Sat 13 Aug – Classical Piano Recital by Alexandra Dariescu




The Hot Spot we live in

© Mona Hatoum, Hot Spot III 2009. Photo by Ali May.

© Mona Hatoum, Hot Spot III 2009. Photo by Ali May.

Mona Hatoum’s exhibition in Tate Modern is noisy. Electricity runs through the elements of a perfectly normal, yet totally horror-filled, domestic setting. Children’s toys crackle and tremble with the electric force, so do the pots and pan.

In another room, Grater Divide sits silently, yet the visual noise eats into your soul. You may think of it as bullet holes getting in line, or as a life-sized grater that can turn you in mince. You can take your pick.

Then comes Hot Spot, a work from 2009. The vision of a world consumed by fire, true then, and sadly true now. In Hatoum’s work, conflict zone is not confined to one region or another. On the surface, you can think of the prevalence of violence, terrorism, and war. But I think it goes deeper than that. This is a world burning from dogma, from prejudice and from lack of compassion. 

Hatoum might have made that work in 2009, but take a look around you and hail Prophet Mona! From Promenade des Anglais in Nice to Taksim Square in Istanbul, Nigeria, Syria, Iraq, and the list goes on. 

Maybe, just maybe, she is trying to remind us it’s time for us to evolve a bit.

Go see the exhibition at Tate Modern before it closes on August 21.

View from the new Tate.

View from the new Tate.

From the bridge that connects the old & the new buildings.

From the bridge that connects the old & the new buildings.

Born in Beirut to a Palestinian family, Mona Hatoum settled in England in 1975. Her work creates a challenging vision of our world, exposing its contradictions and complexities, often making the familiar uncanny. Through the juxtaposition of opposites such as beauty and horror, she engages us in conflicting emotions of desire and revulsion, fear and fascination.
— Tate

Until August 21 at Tate Modern.

Many faces of a black square

Maidan - Portraits from the Black Square

Maidan - Portraits from the Black Square

It was in April 2014, in London Coffee Festival of all places, that I first heard about Anastasia Taylor-Lind's book project. We met to discuss a London-based photography festival, but soon diverted our attention eastward all the way to Ukraine. I wanted to hear about her stay and her photography during the protests.

The Euromaidan protests began on 21 November 2013 in Kiev's Independence Square to push for greater integration with the European Union, but soon tuned into anti-government rallies, focused on the pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych. Anastasia arrived in Kiev on February 1, and witnessed the bloody clashes that took place from 18-20 of that month. That chapter left 120 Ukrainians dead and led to the collapse of the government and fleeing of the president.

The book reproduces Anastasia's record of men and women involved in the protest, both before and after that bloody period. All portraits are taken against a black backdrop. Some of the protestors are armed with batons and others with colourful flowers. Some wear the "one thousand yard stare" in their faces and others are not ashamed of pouring out their grief.

A friend, who attended the book launch with me on 24 July 2014 at the Frontline Club, commented that looking at the photos, he is very reminded of the Berlin Wall. He was there in 1989.

GOST Books have done a brilliant job of producing a high-quality publication. Very fitting for a collection of excellent photojournalism.

Please support great journalism by buying this book.

Maidan - Portraits from the Black Square

Anastasia Taylor-Lind

Buy directly from this link: GOST Books

My signed copy

My signed copy