Ice Cube Celebrates The Eames House

22 Jan , 2012  

O’Shea Jackson, better known as rapper Ice Cube, who started his career with gangsta rap group NWA and collaborated with Dr Dre and Public Enemy, takes a quick tour around the architectural whimseys of South LA and an insightful look at the Eames House in the Pacific Palisades. I liked what Mr Cube has to say and I would love to see him do more of these. The video was made for Pacific Standard Time.

Ice Cube in The New York Times


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New Year Resolution: Bennison Calendar 2012 [printed matter]

10 Jan , 2012   Gallery

November - Bennsion 2012 calendar by Ken Sparkes

The Bennison Fabrics 2012 calendar has just been released and it looks terrific. Like the previous calendar we wanted to showcase the fabrics in an eye-catching way and create images that would be remembered. So, we thought a childhood theme would do the trick, nostalgic but with a twist. Jude Massie-Taylor suggested Fairy Stories, I liked the idea of Nursery Crimes. We combined the two themes, went to our desks and began to sketch.

Skip down the page to the calendar photos where you can also view slideshows and download a PDF.

Bo Peep sketch
It started innocently enough with Bo Peep wearing a weird bonnet and a voluminous skirt shaped like a bulb of garlic. No idea why a shepherdess would wear a skirt like that, but it all seemed to make sense at the time. Our finished BoPeep, modeled by Holly, with a linen background and a very nice suntan. Here’s what Jude says: ‘Holly was fantastic and a dream in front of the cameras. She was our Showgirl, our Dancer and our Clown in the previous calendar and she’s been a star in this one.’

April - Bennsion 2012 Calendar by Ken Sparkes
‘This year she is our Queen of Hearts, Little Bo Peep, and Princess; she’s been painted white, pulled and tweaked, back-combed and wigged up and still she did it (Thank you Holly).’ More…

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Graham Ford’s B&H Goldfish [advertising]

21 Dec , 2011   Gallery

Benson & Hedges 'Goldfish' advert

‘It was one of those great advertising briefs where all the elements are there, but nothing was set in stone. I don’t have the original layout from Nigel Rose, art director at CDP, but I think it showed a shadow of a cat, a bowl and maybe the suggestion of a window.’

SPRKS: You were working on several campaigns at the same time: did you and Nigel discuss the look of the shot in detail? Or were you both pretty much on the same wavelength?

Graham Ford: ‘That summer of ’85 I was also working on Benson & Hedges with Graham Fink, Silk Cut for Paul Arden, Volvo for John Horton, Atora and Clarkes for Nigel, Hennessy for Guy Moore, BMW for Kathy Heng and Citroen for Dennis Lewis. I was very busy!

Nigel would have drawn a loose layout which the agency and client would have approved in principle – art directors could actually draw in those days – and we’d discuss the detail with the stylist and modelmaker. When we had everything ready on the set we would progress together, a process of discovery using lots of Polaroid.

One of the best art directors of his era, Nigel knew what he wanted, and he understood photography. There is a long journey from sketch to billboard, as everything had to be made by hand, assembled, lit, brought into focus, and distilled onto one sheet of film. Nigel knew my style, we trusted each other and knew we could make this work.’


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Atelier sul Mare art hotel: Obsessive But Compulsive [travel]

13 Dec , 2011  

Atelier sul Mare art hotel -

Atelier sul Mare art hotel -

About half way along the Sicily’s North Coast is Cefalu, and just a little further is the tiny village of Castel di Tusa which at first glance has little to offer; a bar emitting pop music and the whiff of a typical café kitchen, a few fishing boats pulled up on the harbour front, a coach of schoolchildren. Except it happens to be home to one of the most extraordinary hotels you are ever likely to check into. Atelier sul Mare is the brainchild of Antonio Presti, who had the insane idea that guests would travel miles off the beaten track to a hotel that allowed you to stay and sleep inside a piece of art.

Atelier sul Mare art hotel -

Sixteen or so of its 40 rooms have been created by an international collection of artists who have been given the freedom to push the boundaries of what constitutes a hotel room to the very limit. We chose the Pasolini Room (also called the Prophet Room) by Dario Bellezza, Adele Camria and Antonio himself. The black metal door is covered with Pier Paolo Pasolini’s poetry, cantilevered so we can knock it down should we want to, and opens into an impossibly narrow, pitch-dark corridor which requires us to turn our wheelie suitcases sideways. The room is large and all walls and ceilings are plastered with straw and mud. It shouldn’t work, but it does! The effect is at first perplexing, then strangely comforting.

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Bennison Calendar 2009: Behind the Scenes [interview]

10 Nov , 2011   Gallery

Bennison Calendar 2009 - Jude Massie-Taylor interview

When Bennison Fabrics decided to produce a follow-up to their successful 2008 calendar, we had to come up with something special. A great deal of considered thought goes into these things: demographics, focus groups & branding just for starters. Luckily, art director Jude Massie-Taylor saw a circus photo and also bumped into a very nice circus performer, so we skipped all of that stuff and got straight on with dreaming up the images. (You can view all the photos at the bottom of the page)

Jude Massie Taylor, Bennison Fabrics, interviewed by Ken Sparkes.

Jude Massie-Taylor with umbrellas

(Jude Massie-Taylor fills Holbein Place with umbrellas)

Ken: How did it all start?

Jude: ‘The first Bennison calendar had no real theme; I just used some of our favourite images that had already been photographed. I wanted the new one to be quirky and have a sense of humour; our clients are designers and I wanted give them a creative landscape, not just swatches. It began with an image of circus tents I saw online and I thought if I could do a mock-up using one of our brightly coloured stripes and then get a dramatic sky superimposed in the background, it would be a great shot; that’s when I thought we could do ‘Circus’. And just another 11 ideas to go!’



Desiree Kongerod - Stiltwalker on the Bennison 2009 calendar

(Desiree Kongerod shows Jude & Jules how to stiltwalk)

Ken: The tent shot doesn’t appear in the final calendar. What happened?

Jude:  ‘A series of accidents. One of my friends mentioned that she knew a stilt-walker and then I spotted Kim Butteriss, always immaculately dressed in the most beautiful couture clothes wearing large wonderful hats, beautiful tiny shoes and wonderful accessories. I couldn’t miss the opportunity and managed to persuade them all to participate. So the performers became our focus, rather than the tent. I met Sophia Lovell Smith who lives right above our London shop and discovered that she was a designer for the theatre – she also made the stunning costumes for our new 2012 calendar.

Ken: So, you recruited the right people to realise the images in your head?

Jude:  ‘Yes! The juggler and the stilt walker were from Missing Links Productions. Lizzie B Houston was originally there to do the hair with Terry Wilson, but she ended up doing the make-up on some of the shots. She was great, I loved her makeup, she made the shoot look more edgy, more special. The umbrellas in our fabrics were made up by James Ince who I found on the internet. I used our Director’s daughter, Holly, for the showgirl, dancer and clown. Underneath the umbrellas are Jules and myself trying to keep everything from falling over.’

Ken: Lessons learned?

‘Without a supportive and enthusiastic team, your ideas are nothing. Everyone really worked hard, they were all generous, they all went the extra mile, they all wanted it to work.’

Ken Sparkes, photographer, interviewed by Zilin Lee at Interphoto magazine.

Bennison Calendar 2009 interview with Ken Sparkes More…

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While London Sleeps: How some magazine photoshoots actually happen

30 Oct , 2011  

While London Sleeps

'London Lights' photoshoot, Borough Market, London by Ken Sparkes

22:39 Rohini: hello! hellO!
22:42 me: hi
22:43 Rohini: I am thinking about our future big photoshoots on Spaces and i don’t think we will get to do anything amazing with the budget but i really want to do a big lighting shoot…

That’s how Rohini and I ended up photographing in the debris of deepest Camberwell in the middle of the night waiting for the breakdown service to come and rescue us. Our IM transcripts and the finished images provide some revealing insights into the creative process. More…

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Flickr is Fading: 500px Mini Review

17 Oct , 2011  

Bennison Fabrics calendar by Ken Sparkes on

(Things have changed since I wrote this, so I’ve added updates at the bottom of the page…)

It never rains but it pours, or so it seems. I have used Flickr as an online scrapbook for many years but Yahoo, who own and run Flickr, seem to be have left their prime photo site out in the rain recently and recently refuses communicate with PayPal for Pro account renewals. That means all but the most recent photos have disappeared, including photos linked to Bennison email campaigns and any links to sets or collections I’ve emailed to friends, colleagues or clients. Apparently they are still there, but we can only find them by searching for the right keywords. ‘Oh well, plenty more fish in the sea’, I hissed, and went in search of an alternative.


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Pecha Kucha at designjunction [LDF2011]

5 Oct , 2011   Gallery

Marcus Fairs at Pecha Kucha

Somewhere in the middle of 22,000 sq ft of designjunction splendour we sat down and listened to the 11 brave souls who stood between us and the free bar at Pecha Kucha. Actually, they did pretty well and we had our beers stashed away under a robust Vitra EA 105 chair anyhow. A big audience in a big space (lots more than can squeeze into Modus!) James Dyson watching from son Jake’s stand near the front, dodgy acoustics, video cameras all over the place. Enough to make even a polished speaker nervous.

Pecha Kucha at LDF2011 poster
The format allows the speakers to use 20 slides for 20 seconds each played mecilessly on a laptop and projected on a large screen. Devised by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham to stop designers and architects from droning on for too long in front of their beautiful presentations. The first one was in 2003 and if you haven’t been to one yet, you should go. Pecha Kucha is Japanese for chit-chat.

We were entertained and educated in equal measure, from rioting prostitutes to overspilled sand-casting. Helen Parton kicked off with a whizzy tour of office interiors but I didn’t get to shoot her due to chat involvements. Sorry Helen. Here are the others:

:: Sam Johnson ::
Sam Johnson at Pecha Kucha
“From a speakers perspective it was a tough audience! PK was designed to stop creatives talking for hours on end and to keep the audience engaged: it’s a resounding success. Next step – politicians?”


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Laura & Ben get married at Hever Castle

29 Aug , 2011  

Laura and Ben get married

It was a fab weekend, starting with a bbq the night before and ending with fireworks over the lake. I’m putting together an album and will post more photos and details soon.
Via Flickr: Laura and Ben’s wedding at Hever Castle, Kent