Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Is Instagram filtering out the art of photography?

by Alastair Pusinelli.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Instagram. The social media outlet pushed its older cousins Twitter and Facebook aside in 2015, with no sign of letting up so far in 2016. That being said, is it not upsetting that a 12-year-old girl doing a 'duckface', for instance, is able to upload pictures online straight from her iPhone, whilst a professional photographer with a £1000 Nikon camera struggles to make a break in the industry?

Instagram, with its countless filters and settings enables the user to create superb images and receive an infinite number of 'likes' for viewers to show their approval. The art of Instagram is not only taking great pictures but also using tags and geotags to make sure your snaps are seen by a wide audience.


My issue with Instagram is this. I will be more than happy if I upload a picture and I receive the ‘magic 11 likes’, this is because I’ve grown up with Facebook and double figures reflects a strong post. I then cast an eye onto a relative’s Instagram profile. She’s 15 going on 16, has over 1000 followers and her posts are receiving well over 100 likes a piece. Now my initial response is this is fucking creepy. Ignoring my jealousy, her ‘success’ may be a sign of the times and in being five years younger than me, she has been more engaged with Instagram, like I was with Facebook, and those before me with MySpace, Bebo and the glories of MSN Messenger.

So where does our little photographer friend come into this insta-centric world. I believe that as time goes on, with phones getting bigger and display quality improving, there will more room for pro photographers to receive the adulation they deserve. But who can predict which way social media will turn in the coming years?

Some are already ahead of the times. Patrick Janelle (@AGuyNamedPatrick) uses just his iPhone and clocks up the likes. The 33-year-old from Colorado posts very simple pictures of his daily life, featuring landscapes, cities, food and lots of coffee. He partners up with brands but he doesn’t savagely plug them like the C-list celebs do of the UK. He does so with subtlety, with well-crafted images and without the bombardment of hashtags.

A picture paints a thousand words, but the language is changing. For photographers, just like many others in different professions, it’s evolve or die in the modern world. If you don’t change with the times, you’ll be left behind.     

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

The Shoreditch Conundrum: a history lesson

by Alastair Pusinelli.

The pop-ups, the hipsters, the micro-brewed ales; an image that has been sprouting in areas of London over the past decade. It all started with Notting Hill back in the late 1960s and early ‘70s, which was often referred to as the British answer to Greenwich Village. W11 was riled with artists, musicians and community activists. But come the ‘80s, gentrification was in full effect and Notting Hill, with its stylish architecture and open setting, was a hotspot for upper middle class families.

So where did these free-spirited arty types turn to next? In the mid ‘90s the hipsters travelled six miles east to the ‘faceless’ Shoreditch, an area for light industrial firms which was suffering from a lack of identity. However, artists such as Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst moved to the area just before the turn of the century, and a wave of creative types soon followed. Since then Shoreditch has been transformed into the trendy, arty hipster capital of London. Over the years the area became more and more popular, with several technology companies basing their offices around Old Street during the second ‘dot-com’ boom at the start of the current decade.

Well it seems that Shoreditch has now had its day and our beloved hipsters are on the move again. The current crop of bearded, beanie wearing folk now believe it is uncool to live in such a popular area, with house prices on the rise and cereal cafés round every corner.

So where have they taken their ale stained vintage sweaters to? Well it appears now that the hipster population of London is now splitting up. The buzz of the Olympics saw many migrate to Hackney and nearby Dalston, but you will also find ironic cigarette rolling south of the river. Hipster sightings have been reported in Peckham, Crystal Palace and Streatham, with others heading to the northern reaches of Walthamstow and Tottenham.

So why these areas? As much I’d like to suggest that these places have a draw because of a thriving community or effervescent nightlife, the simple fact is that these places are cheap. If we look at Hackney, between the consensuses of 2001 and 2011, there was a 65% change in workers to the sector of culture, media and sport, a notoriously underpaid field for under 40s.

It’s so easy for these media types to commute into the City for work and there is no doubt that these areas will grow like Shoreditch did, and at a faster rate. It took over ten years for Shoreditch to emerge from the shadow of Notting Hill, and it has only taken a couple years for Dalston to come to the fore, and the hipsters are already on the move again.

So it seems that ‘uncoolness’ is the key to make a place popular, so the only question that remains is will the hipsters get fed up of the capital? I hear Devon is lovely at this time of year…

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Lord Of The Dance: Dangerous Games, Brighton Centre, 2–5 April

by Gemma Hicks-Logan.

This ambitious Irish dance spectacle featured a 40 strong cast, directed by Michael Flatley, who made a guest appearance; amongst his last in the UK and Ireland.
A hybrid of traditional and contemporary dance, the power, precision and collective talent of the ensemble was remarkable as they made fast, complicated footwork look easy.
The simplistic plot followed Little Spirit’s travels to help the Lord of the Dance battle the Dark Lord. This battle of good versus evil played out like Riverdance’s greatest hits.
Odd projections of unicorns, rainbows and flames were at times more amusing than creatively intended, but the talented dancers quickly regained the focus.
Singers and fiddlers provided musical interlude during costume changes. They were charmingly performed but felt superfluous to the main event.
Flatley performed with the cast for the dazzling finale and was met with rapturous applause. At the age of 56, he still had electrifying stage presence and never missed a beat in a complex blur of hypnotic steps.

A routine by three dancing holograms of Flatley followed, which was innovative but disconnecting. It would have been better to see him dance alongside and interact with them.

Nevertheless, this high-octane show took Irish dancing to another level.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Is it time to bow down to Roman’s Empire?

by Alastair Pusinelli.

Chelsea. One loss all season, top of the Premier League and have one of the best managers in football of the last decade. All matters on the pitch are going swimmingly, and it would be a surprise if Chelsea didn’t lift the Premier League trophy come May. The Blues still seem to be the only British club who currently challenge in European competitions, lifting the Champions League in 2012 and Europa League in 2013. However, Chelsea as a brand and a business is on a par with their footballing prowess with almost all areas of the club looking positive.

The Ladies

Chelsea Ladies were narrowly pipped to the Women’s Super League title in October after heading into the final day top of the championship. This may sound disappointing, but when you look at the fact that they finished second bottom in 2013, only picking up 10 points, it is safe to say that the ladies’ side are on the up. What’s more, January signing and South Korean international Ji So-Yun was awarded Super League Players’ Player of the Year, which could be a sign that Chelsea are looking to raise their profile in the East.

The Academy

The Chelsea U21 and U18 sides did the league and cup double last season lifting the U21 Premier League and FA Youth Cup littered with young English talent. Izzy Brown and Dominic Solanke were instrumental in those successes and both were on hand to help England win the U17 European Championships in Malta last summer. Chelsea currently have nine youngsters involved in the England age group sides (U18s: Jake Clarke-Salter, Dominic Solanke; U19s: Ola Aina, Izzy Brown, Charlie Colkett, Alex Kiwomya, Ruben Loftus-Cheek; U20s: Lewis Baker, John Swift). It is clear to see that Chelsea have a lot of promise coming through their books and it is refreshing for a big English club to produce so much home-grown talent. Jose Mourinho has given academy graduates Loftus-Cheek and Solanke first team action this season as well as Dutchman Nathan Aké and Andreas Christensen from Denmark.

The loan network

This is one area of business which many football fans and experts have qualms with. Chelsea currently have 25 players out on loan which has raised a number of concerns in the industry. Over the past few seasons Chelsea have sent more and more players out on loan and to one club in particular, Vitesse Arnhem. Last season seven Chelsea players were on loan at the Dutch club owned by an associate of Roman Abramovich. But after complaints over a ‘co-operation agreement’ and questions of ownership over both clubs Chelsea have only sent three players to Vitesse this term. This issue now seems to have been put to bed but it is difficult to say whether this policy is good or bad business for The Pensioners.

Yes they are getting young players minutes on the pitch in the Premier League, Championship and top European leagues but when players are out on loan for the third or fourth season in a row is it not time to pull the plug? Take Gael Kakuta for example. He was signed illegally back in 2009 after Chelsea encouraged the French youngster to terminate his contract with Marseille. Since then he has represented Chelsea 16 times, but has not featured since the 2010/11 season. He has had seven loan spells since joining Chelsea and there seems to be no benefit for club or player. However, the loan system has worked well for Chelsea in the past, but perhaps sometimes too well. Thibaut Courtois was signed from Belgian side Genk in 2009 and subsequently spent three seasons on loan at Atletico Madrid and ended up defeating Chelsea in the Champions League semi-finals last season.

The finances

It’s no secret that Chelsea and Roman Abramovich have a wealth of finances but unlike Premier League rivals Manchester City they have stayed in line with Financial Fair Play laws. In addition, Chelsea reported a record profit of £18.4m for the year to June 2014 despite lifting no silverware. This was thanks to the new Premier League broadcasting deals and the sale of Juan Mata to Manchester United for £37.1m. It shall be seen if Chelsea can balance the books again this year with the big money signings of Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa, but remember they offloaded the erratic defender David Luiz for a staggering £50m. In the summer of 2013, Chelsea agreed a 10-year contract worth a whopping £300m with sports merchandise giants Adidas to manufacture their kit. This is the third largest kit deal in football, behind Adidas’s partnerships with Real Madrid and Manchester United (starting next season).

Where next?

So, the pressure is now on the first team to lift trophies and give the club that footballing ‘superpower’ label that Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United have (or used to have). But everything is set for the Roman Empire to conquer the Premier League, Europe and target world domination. But is there any department at the club in which Chelsea need to seriously consider improving? Apart from the very hit-and-miss loan system I have already mentioned, Chelsea do lack the grand support around the globe. For instance Manchester United have a huge following in the Far East and Manchester City have launched sister clubs in Australia and the US. However, I believe Chelsea need to concentrate on their footballing matters for this to happen. United have 13 Premier League titles to Chelsea’s three, so it is clear that global fandom is a long process.

Chelsea’s ground Stamford Bridge has always provided a conundrum for the powers that be at the club. It is an iconic ground but for its support as opposed to architecture. Chelsea’s hierarchy bid to convert Battersea Power Station into a 60,000 seater stadium in 2012 but were unsuccessful. It is clear that Chairman Bruce Buck wants the club to move elsewhere with Stamford Bridge still under custody of Chelsea Pitch Owners plc. The CPO bought the land and naming rights of both the ground and ‘Chelsea Football Club’ during financial difficulties in the 70s and 80s. Abramovich and Buck have given up hope of moving stadium for now and are looking at increasing The Bridge to the desired 60,000 capacity. But with the location of the ground with train lines and a hotel next door, this will not be easy and the club will need to play its home matches elsewhere for a season.

So, it is clear that the club is heading firmly in the right direction. But for now, the future of the Roman Empire is in the hands of General Mourinho.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Women’s football: still on the bench?

by Alastair Pusinelli.

This past Sunday marked a very historic day for women’s football in Britain. Is was the final day of the Women’s Super League. Three teams were all vying for the title on the final day, and as Chelsea Ladies were favourites, I thought I’d tune in. All The Blues needed to do was better the results of Birmingham and Liverpool and the title would be theirs. But of course Chelsea, who were away at Manchester City, went two goals down in the first half, and could only grab one back in the second period, despite a City red card. However, second placed Birmingham City could only manage a draw at home to Notts County, which wasn’t enough to overhaul Chelsea. So, Liverpool Ladies’ 3-0 victory over Bristol Academy saw them leapfrog both Birmingham and Chelsea to retain the Women’s Super League Title. A truly spectacular advert for the women’s game in the country.

I’m no expert on women’s football, but I’ve seen enough games to have an understanding on the sport, and how it compares to the men’s game. First of all, the game pace is much slower and players are allowed a lot more time on the ball. Of course I am used to watching either Premier League matches in which the ball is zipped around quickly, or watching Portsmouth go down the Football League and now have to deal with the muscle of League 2.

So I was quite surprised that Chelsea Ladies, the league leaders going in to the final game, were trying to launch long balls up to their lone striker, who is five foot six. But, when Chelsea got in-and-around the penalty area and played a lot of short, sharp passes with quick feet they looked dangerous but ultimately couldn’t create that golden opportunity. Play like this is not too dissimilar to what we see every weekend in the Premier League, especially when one team is dominating the possession stats. To follow, I also saw a resemblance to Spanish football, in particular the Barcelona ‘tica-taca’ style with neat passes around the edge of the box, eventually breaking down the opposition.

This leads quite nicely on to my next point. Next year’s Women’s World Cup is to be hosted in Canada, but there have been severe complaints as all of the venues are set to use artificial turf. Almost 50 top female professionals have signed a petition and threatened legal action if the tournament is not played on grass, citing gender discrimination. They feel that the male version of the tournament would never be played on artificial turf, but I think there is a hidden reason for this. Other than being cost-effective, artificial surfaces change how the game is played. If, as I expect at a World Cup, the pitches are of the highest order, this can actually benefit the women’s game. Having trained at Ciudad Deportiva de Paterna, Valencia’s training ground, I know that about 80% of the pitches there are artificial. This is to encourage the kids coming through the ranks to pass the ball along the ground as the turf is much truer than grass.

So reverting back to when I saw Chelsea Ladies intricately move the ball around; playing on an artificial surface will help the sides who play in this manner. So, with few players over six feet tall and no ‘Drogba-esque’ powerhouses up-front, I honestly think the future of women’s football should be on artificial surfaces. Instead of always being compared to the men’s game, the women could have their own, unique style which could, in time, attract the masses.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Seeking skippers for sinking ships

by Alastair Pusinelli.

With Steven Gerrard retiring from international football and Alastair Cook’s continuous poor run of form, England's football and cricket sides both need fresh starts.

Both sides have been embarrassed on the biggest stage of all in recent months. The cricket team had the public humiliation in The Ashes last winter, and despite a mini re-vamp are still struggling.

The footballers obviously just had a World Cup to forget in Brazil, coming home with just one point from their three group games.

For the England football team, all the signs suggest Wayne Rooney will be the man to lead the side until at least the next World Cup in Russia in 2018. He has the experience, he’s won countless trophies at Manchester United and scored goals for club and country.

However, there were questions of whether Rooney should have even been in the side for the Brazil World Cup after the emergence of Ross Barkley, Adam Lallana and Raheem Sterling.

Wayne has captained England before on two occasions, against Brazil in 2009 and San Marino in 2012, but he has rarely led out club side Manchester United.

Ex-England captain Bryan Robson feels Rooney, Joe Hart and Gary Cahill are the contenders for the captaincy.

Robson told the BBC: “As a captain I don't think we have a standout candidate. Wayne has captained Manchester United and England. He knows what it’s about.”

He added: “You have to go to the experienced ones who will play each game, especially with the European Championship coming up. Joe Hart, Gary Cahill and Wayne Rooney look like the contenders."

England could look to the Argentina-theorem when looking for a solution to their captaincy dilemma. Lionel Messi continuously delivered in his Barcelona shirt but never transferred his club form onto the International field.

Coach Alejandro Sabella decided to make Messi captain and build the team around him, much like Carlos Bilardo did for Diego Maradona.

Messi has gone from strength-to-strength for La Albiceleste, culminating in the Golden Ball award at the World Cup. England could do the same and make their supposed star-man Rooney captain and hope the leadership will up his performances.

Zoom in to view table

The cricket side have a more difficult decision to make. A new coach has come in and the ‘untrustworthy’ Kevin Pietersen was dropped, so the ECB feel the side needs to rebuild before making any more big decisions.

But time is beginning to run out for skipper Alastair Cook. He oversaw the humiliation Down Under, and there has been little to shout about since.

To make matters worse, Cook’s form with the bat has deserted him, having not hit a Test century in over 14 months. Matt Prior’s withdrawal from the squad adds even more pressure on Cook as he is now the only man in the side to be consistently struggling.

However, if the ECB were to make a decision and drop Cook, who would be the man to take his place? Stuart Broad is perhaps the most likely man to take over as he is the vice-captain and T20 captain, but could he still make the right decisions after bowling twenty overs? Only time will tell.

Other than Broad there are few contenders. Ian Bell is the most experienced man in the side, and the only player remaining from the iconic 2005 Ashes series. But he is someone who is very keen to stay out of the headlines and get on with his business quietly, and the ECB would have already handed him some responsibility if they thought he was captaincy material.

Ex-Captain Michael Vaughan has called for the ECB to ‘roll the dice’ and pick Eoin Morgan as captain. He said in his Telegraph column that Morgan ‘has a nice manner, a lot of tactical awareness and a strong personality.’

Vaughan suggests that Morgan should be handed the captaincy for the rest of the series against India to prove his credentials for the one-day captaincy in Australia and New Zealand.

For me this raises countless issues. Firstly, many fans would question an Irishman leading out the England side.

Secondly, bringing in Morgan would lead to a substantial re-jig in the batting order. Morgan has only batted at six in Test Cricket, which would mean the in-form Joe Root would have to go back up the order and open, where he was criticised last summer.

Thirdly, the ECB have usually used the one-day formats to blood players and captains into the test side. This would be hugely counter-intuitive and show a complete lack of trust in Stuart Broad, the current vice-captain.

And, most importantly, Eoin Morgan had his chance in an England Test shirt, averaging 30 in 16 matches, so to bring him back as captain seems laughable.
Other options would be James Anderson, who has been around the side for a decade. But this would be asking a lot from our star-bowler.

Some say Joe Root as he is one of the few playing with confidence but handing him the captaincy too soon could ruin him.

Or, England could choose to take a massive U-turn and bring back Kevin Pietersen, but this seems far-fetched.

My opinion would be to give Alastair Cook the rest of the series to save his England future. He then needs to carry on this work in county cricket to prove his ability.

Stuart Broad (far left) already has the Cook pose nailed

If Cook fails to deliver, then the winter series in the West Indies is Stuart Broad’s chance to take the captaincy. Hopefully by then, the cloud hanging over English cricket will have disappeared.