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December 2012

Christmas gifts

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Charlie and Jag

The combination of my perpetual singleness, my mum living in Canada and my Dad discovering the retreat (this will be his fourth this year, and there’s more to come) Christmas was always going to be tricky. I’m very lucky that I have some good friends who have offered me sanctuary – and not just because they feel awkward about me being alone over a family holiday, but because they want to spend time with me. Three people offered me a place over the season, including my stepmum Janet – even though she’s not married to my Dad anymore. I am blessed, and while I appreciate some people have a more stable family base, a lot of people have less of one too. I give thanks to my friends.

Charlie, who I spent Christmas with near Bognor Regis, is someone I have known for a very long time. We worked together in 1995, hung out for a while while doing a truly awful job, It’s funny how these jobs often help bind people together. We sold jewellery on train stations in  London. We had fun. She moved to the south coast and I took up her room in her London flat for a while, with her cat Jag who is pictured above. He used to walk up my legs and back while I slept. I was also dating one of her friends, which went very wrong – We lost touch, for ten years, TEN!! How stupid is that?! Luckily enough I bumped into her again a couple of years ago, and she has a forgiving disposition I give thanks for that. BIG thanks.

So for what is essentially my Christmas post I would like to give a shout out to my friends and let them know how valuable they are – In particular: Charlie Morgan, Chris Lambeth and Grant Burnside, Dan Phillips and family, and Cosmo Valseca.

Bognor Pier
The Bognor Regis Pier

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Caught by windowlight, which on a grey day often has a beautiful quality. Happy Birthday Grant – and respectably he’s not hungover – it’s just early.

The Last Resort

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Chris and Grant leaving the Turner Gallery 14 Dec 2012

It rained as if to punish us in Margate last Friday. My friends and I went to one of the oddest seaside towns to visit the relatively new Turner Gallery and a vintage clothes shop owned by Paul Brewer, a friend of Damon Albarn.

My friends (you can see them in this picture), told me Margate was listed by the Rough Guide as a must-see destination for 2013. Its the only British destination mentioned, the skyline is dominated by a unsympathetic tower block (Although i haven’t seen it the setting for this), and the art-deco cinema style front modified for a now abandoned amusement park named ‘Dreamland’. Nearby, the Cliftonville area is derided along the Kent Coast as an economically deprived, high unemployment area. In the BBC article linked above claims one third of shops remain vacant. In contrast he new Turner Gallery must have helped raise the profile of the town and drawn visitors in. Of the shops that are open many possess an independent and very english identity; tea shops, restaurants, and the vintage clothes shops such as that owned by Paul Brewer, these have a quality you’d expect to find in a major city but much friendlier.

I have to say I like Margate. It confounds me how a place that was once so popular feels so abandoned. But I wonder what effect the Rough Guide recommendation will have?

Photostory – Guardian Masterclass

Anastasia Taylor Lind and Sebastian Meyer held a ‘Photographic Storytelling Masterclass’ at The Guardian Building last Friday.

Keen to improve my practice I attended, despite the particularly high price tag of £39. However the Q&A aspect of it did provide value as it was entirely open. There were a whole lot of photographers there keen to ask questions about everything, from the Kit these photographers used to questions about travelling abroad for projects such as using fixers, networking and access.

For my benefit, as much as that of my subscribers, my notes are attached here, they would otherwise become more rubbish in my room. Before reading them its important to highlight that loads of the questions asked – and some of the responses i have heard from amny sources – so i’m not going to write everything! Anyway here goes:

Sebastian Meyer:

Background: American. Self taught – interned at Magnum. NY based. Worked on a paper in Manchester – did his first project in his spare time on Manchester canals.

He uses the journalist ‘standard’:  “Who, what (subject), Where (location), When (time), Why (the hard part). Says to “Ask yourself ‘why am I doing this?’ and affirm the answer to yourself all the time”. SM also states that the devil (or God if you prefer) IS indeed in the detail. Using small elements to suggest whats going on is often as or more effective than being explicit. (see the condoms in Manchester Canals Series).

On access to street (relating to questions to all projects – Manchester Canal. Addiction in London, Libya):

  • GIVE your subjects prints if they want them, encourage people to BE subjects in your photos
  • Be direct – “Can i take your photo” “I want to take your picture”
  • Take your time with people, get to know the moment  you want, invest in people – let your subject(s) relax.
  • “Remember what I said about details”
  • Dont hide your camera – show people why you’re there.
  • Be patient
  • Mix people, architecture and objects for a rounded story
  • Don’t be po faced – keep your sense of humour (‘soapy tit wank’ graffiti picture)
  • Relating to above: Show the breadth of emotion: Humour / Sadness / Violence / horror / relationships etc
  • A benefit of using a film camera is that people can’t see the image held in a camera on a screen. Including police if you’re photographing drug users.

SM was asked about taking beautiful pictures of terrible things. He responds instantly “Would you have me take a terrible picture?”.

Anastasia Taylor Lind:

Background: BA & Later an MA – won Guardian Award for this image. Starting her career – uses funding awards to start projects. Mostly Med format Bronica and now Hassleblad. Represented by VII after entering a mentoring program with them. Says only other mentoring program like this she knows of is with Getty.

ATL says she never uses release froms ever. (Does not do commercial?). Paraphrasing ATL: “The subjects verbal release is enough and obvious because of the type of portraits i do”.

  • Use a shooting list: Her recent marriage project needed: Marriage, Maternity, Birth Children growing up all represented
  • Research extensively (the larger part of her work) – refer to SM “what am i trying to say?
  • Says she can now recognise her style when shooting instead of just when editing.
  • Like the very still effect Med Format has. Also used 5D (I?)

Recently Seen Exhibitions:

Photographers Galley: Tom Wood – Men and Women
G
ood collection of reportage / street / street portrait – Seperated by gender. Watch how he handles men and women differently in his images – I wonder if he realised at the time or after. I loved this – and its free

National Portrait Gallery: Taylor Wessing Prize
Great to see ex-classmate Clare Smarts picture from her Bosnian Series exhibited! 🙂 Worth the £2 entry

Roxy – Borough High street – Portrait Salon
As organised by the very informed Carole Evans – one night event, of unseen Taylor Wessing entries.

Natural History Museum – Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Things like this are subject to some snobbery by some sections of the photographic community. But as ever the quality of images is amazing – expensive though!

The duet

The resin from the cellists bow rises in the sunlight. He plays a duet to an awards ceremony near the Tate Gallery.

London Winter Light

Sunbeam shafts enter a tunnel, spotlighting a commuter as he passes on his way.

This is part of my London series. There are a few more in a previous post.

I am looking at people on their way to work in their own little world. Often in beautiful light or surroundings, oblivious to this as they pass absorbed in their own thoughts.

I find it particularly fascinating as I used to be one of these people. Passing through a wondrous City I was full of anxieties about everything from my home and mortgage, to my partner and working at a job I found unrewarding. All these aspects of my life have changed and it now seems silly to me that these thoughts preoccupied me so much.

Novembers end, Whitstable

Whitstable November Sunset

I’ve decided to change the format of my posts to a picture a week. Laura Pannack at a talk I went to on Saturday said she did a minimum of a picture a week for her blog. And now that’s what I’m going to do.

Here’s Chris and Grant, two of my closest friends at the coast where they now live. I amazed by the wonderful way the have engaged with life there since moving from London a little over two years ago.

These two have become involved, immersed, in the towns community – which have welcomed them in turn. It’s a story and, well, I suppose a personal project. I have known Chris since secondary school and Grant since the early 90’s.

***

Last Saturday I was at Photofusion for a talk about photography competitions hosted by WPO / Magenta – Flash Forward. Some excellent speakers spoke of how to use competitions to further their career, the included; Maja Daniels, Laura Pannack and VII photographer Donald Weber.

Enlightening – all their work was great but not my style.

Continuing my city project has been hard this week, yet I managed to get on it yesterday morning. I’m sure one may appear in a post soon.

Worked at a tricky photo-job in Cornwall, applied for a mentoring program – as a mentee. For improving my photography business – I really hope I get this. I find out in January.

More soon.

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