Do it better (and other sound advice)

October’s easyJet Traveller is a ‘bright ideas’ issue. The cover story features words of wisdom from seven entrepreneurs, innovators and idea generators. They all talk great sense; the portfolio of smart portraits is by photographer Tim E White. (Posted by AndrewH)

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The write stuff

Interviews done over email rarely yield good results. The act of putting things down in writing makes interviewees hesitant and cautious. There’s no spontaneity. Plus, most people find writing a chore, so answers are brief and not very illuminating. But that’s not always the case. Recently, for PrivatAir magazine, we wanted to do a story on the dwindling number of people who describe themselves as explorers. We wondered, in this age of Google Earth what is there left to explore?

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We met up with Robert Twigger, who once spent six months in northern Borneo and New Guinea in search of the world’s longest python, crossed Canada in a birchbark canoe and was the first man to cross Egypt’s Grand Sand Sea on foot. Although we did hike together in over 30˚ heat this was along the south coast of England and it only took us an hour to reach the pub. For our other interviewees, including Jason Lewis, who circumnavigated the world using only human-power, urban explorer Bradley Garrett and polar trekker Liv Arnesen, meeting up was not practical, so we had to shoot them our questions in an email.

To say we were pleasantly surprised by the results is an understatement. All five interviewees sent back responses that were more thoughtful and beautifully articulated than we ever could have hoped for. They required no editing and cleaning up on our part. Jason Lewis for example, explaining why he does what he does: “Google Earth may whet your appetite, but nothing beats stepping out of your front door and asking yourself: where will I sleep tonight? Who will I meet? The potential for adventure, like beauty, is around us at all times. We just need to break our routine, take that leap into the abyss of not knowing, and see the world with fresh eyes.”

We loved the admission of John Hare, now 70 and a veteran of several scientific expeditions into the deserts of Mongolia, that his greatest professional regret was not to have found the yeti. “We searched for the wild man and heard many stories of his existence but, alas, did not find him.” He was also sorry he wasn’t born around 1870. “The period between 1870 and 1914 was a wonderful time to be an explorer.”

Click on the spreads below to read the rest of the texts or visit the Privatair website. (Posted by AndrewH)

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Masters of the impossible

Posted by Sarah Warwickphoto

Watching a man set his hand on fire isn’t an everyday activity for people in most jobs, but working at Ink sometimes gets you into some quirky situations.

Even for Ink, this is pretty weird, I remember thinking, as the fire billowed from his palm and from his fire sticks – waving like two giant, flaming Q-Tips. And yet, the heavily-tattooed dancer wore an air of unfeasible nonchalance the whole time. Even as the tips of his long, dark hair skimmed the tips of the flames, which roared as he spun them.

Getting the chance to go behind the scenes with Cirque du Soliel, during the London leg of the world Alegria tour, might not be a normal occurrence for me, but Micah Naruo – the show’s star fire and knife dancer – does this every day. Along with the other six artistes who agreed to be shot for a piece ‘Running Away with the Circus’ for easyJet Traveller’s November issue, he’s comfortable with the uncomfortable; master of the impossible.

They’re also well used to attention, performing to thousands eight times a week, so this is nothing, but as shoots go, it’s the busiest I’ve been on. Apart from the performers and me, we’ve got an art director; photographer Phil Fisk (and his assistant); cameraman and soundman, for the behind the scenes video (watch this space); two Cirque PRs, in-house and agency; and the company’s creative director, all pointing, staring and discussing. The latter in particular interjects frequently to get the most out of his stars, stretching every last drop of amazing out of them.

It works. The contortionists, two 20-something Mongolian girls who could pass for tweens in tight jeans, twist into shapes so strange they look like sci-fi. A Russian girl who looks about 12 does awe-inspiring, impossible things with hoops, rotating her leg heavenward like a Barbie manipulated by a bored child. And the Ukranian hand-balancer is as natural as a flamingo as he rests on one hand patiently between set ups. All of them jaw-droppingly flexible; great ambassadors for a company who have become synonymous with the art of circus over the last 30 years.

For me, however, Micah’s fire dancing is the best; the danger adding a certain thrill. When I get the chance to interview him after the shoot, backstage in the gym, I just have to ask: does he ever burn himself?

“Not as much as when I was younger, but accidents do happen. I’m human,” he admits, shaking his head. Then he brightens: “It does save on haircuts though, as my hair just gradually burns away with my act. I never have to worry about going to the salon.”

‘Running away with the Circus’ will be in the November issue of easyJet Traveller.

A trip to the flat-pack town

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Another great piece this month comes from n by Norwegian, which sent writer Hans Seeberg out to Älmhult, a town of 15,000 souls 140km north of Malmö in Sweden. There’s not a lot there – as Hans writes, do a Google search of ‘Things to do in Älmhult’ and you’ll get a result of precisely nothing. But what it does have is an awful lot of Ikea. That’s because this is the hometown of the company’s founder, Ingvar Kamprad, who set up his first business here some 70 years ago selling pencils, postcards and other small inessentials. The global behemoth this small trade evolved into has since taken over the town. There’s the Ikea Together corporate culture centre, the Ikea bank, the Ikea TestLab and the Ikea Aktivitetshuset, where you can unwind at the Ikea bar or the Ikea spa. Europe’s largest photo studio is here, where the products are shot that fill the Ikea catalogue, of which approximately 208 million copies were printed in 2013 – more than double the number of Bibles expected to be printed in the same period. (In the hotel at which Hans stayed – the Ikea Hotel, of course – the rooms contained both a Bible and an Ikea catalogue.)

Best of all is Hans’s trip to the Ikea Museum:

The museum’s displays also hint at Ikea’s all-consuming philosophy, which began long before most companies started filling their offices with inspirational corporate slogans. On the walls there are extracts from Kamprad’s 1976 book, A Testament of a Furniture Dealer, a book that underpins Ikea’s nine core principles, and which at certain points reads as if L Ron Hubbard and Confucius had co-written a bible for selling furniture. Its missionary zeal can be intense: of Ikea’s “sacred concept”, Kamprad wrote, “[It is] our duty to expand… Those who cannot or will not join us are to be pitied… What we want to do, we can do and will do, together. A glorious future!” The book is filled with little aphorisms, like “The word impossible has been deleted from our dictionary and must remain so!”

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You can read the rest of the story here. The story was shot for n by Norwegian by Swedish photographer Per Karehed. (Posted by AndrewH)

On the nuclear trail

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As the bus takes us to the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, which holds some of the most powerful weaponry in human history, we are required to show identification and to sign a form acknowledging that we may undergo additional security screening. I’m standing behind a beefy, heavily belt-buckled man in his 60s from Buffalo, New York. He was a US Air Force pilot stationed in West Berlin from 1969 to ’71. As he leans on his cane, he reminisces about his tour of duty with our guide, Bob Ratledge, himself a 74-year-old former Air Force pilot.

“They fired at us just to let us know they were there, and we shot back for the same reason,” says the guy from Buffalo, recalling his time spent flying American spies over the Berlin Wall. “Of course, we always had the nuclear stuff in the back of our minds,” he adds with a chuckle.

Pick up the September issue of Hemispheres for a superb story on the newest boom in the US travel industry – tours of the atomic weapons sites of the American Southwest, written by Salon columnist and author David Sirota with spooky photography by Bryon Darby. Alternatively, read it online here. (Posted by AndrewH)

The cableway connecting the missile complex to the launch duct.

The modest crew quarters on level 1 of the control center.

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Cities of carrots and card

To illustrate a cover feature on how the East End has become London’s hottest dining spot, the easyJet team commissioned Kyle Bean to fashion a map of the area out of foodstuffs: carrot and celery skyscrapers, broccoli forests, the Dome as a half-orange and, as the skyscraper known as the Gherkin, a gherkin.

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Not to be outdone, over at Let’sGo with Ryanair for their cover this month they tackled not just one, but three cities – Marrakesh, Paris and Venice – modelled in card. In addition to creating the cityscape on the cover, paper artist Helen Friel also constructed a series of individual elements to illustrate the feature inside, from a compass to shop fronts. The results are gorgeous, as you can see for yourself below; you can check out some behind-the-scenes shots at Helen’s blog, as well as further examples of her work. (Posted by AndrewH)

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