South London Photographer: Last minute shopping

I don’t really get the thing where people manage to start buying Christmas presents six months in advance. Thankfully I only have a few people to buy for as I’ve yet to do my Christmas shopping, and looking at my diary I’m not entirely sure when that is going to happen. Let’s hope I can avoid a frenzied assault in a state of angry panic in the local toyshop sometime after lunch on the 24th. I have friends who have dozens of cousins and nieces and nephews, all of whom need something. Surely a Secret Santa is preferable in that case! If you’re like me and have left it until the very last minute, and have no idea what to get, how about a voucher for a family shoot?  You can choose between a relaxed session where we aim to capture some images of everyone in a favourite place or at home, or something more planned where a family and I will work together to create an image over a period of time that is deliberately made to say something about you and your loved ones. Visit my site for more information or get in touch via email or phone.

Here are a few images from a recent shoot I did where we took a few photographs in the family home and then headed to Merton Hall in Wimbledon.

Happy shopping or whatever else you do at this time of the year.

(c)SJField 2016

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South London Photographer: Working in Kent

About a week ago I swapped my three boys for three little girls when I headed down to Kent to capture some of the lovely expressions in these images. I had such a laugh with everyone and could have spent a whole weekend with them. I was also treated to a lovely Sunday roast with friends who live in the area, and so by the time I returned home the next day I was really quite eager to see my own three children. “I miss you, mummy!” was the very warm welcome I received from my youngest child. I’m really not sure the others noticed I was gone. Although when they did finally put their heads up and see there was a different adult at the table with them, they told me that my mother respects them more than I do.  “Really? Really?” I said sceptically. It struck me they might have been doing the same sort of thing Daisy does in a children’s series of the same name, where she and a babysitter collude with each other over what sort of mischief Daisy manages to get up to while her mother is away. Suits me, though. As long as I don’t know what is actually going on here between the four of them and I do manage to escape occasionally …

Here are just a handful of shots from my afternoon in Kent.

Enjoy, SJ

Images (c)SJField 2016

 

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South London Photographer: Chicken!

This week I’m posting a portrait of my son and one of his greatest, most special friends. It’s a little opaque, I know, as portraits go. But then so is he sometimes. Not long ago my son decided to only use the word ‘chicken’ in place of all nouns. Now that really was opaque; “What would you like for supper?” I’d ask.  He’d reply, “Chicken please!” Followed by, “Or shall we have chicken instead? I don’t know. I kind of feel like chicken.” And later, “Chicken! Chicken’s hurting me!!” Or, “I really hate chicken, it’s so chicken.” Even so, I marvelled at his timing because his overwhelming commitment to one single noun came along just as I started the semiotic section of my course. My son, lover of the word ‘chicken’ had managed to illustrate the arbitrary nature of words in one morning whereas the complex and difficult book I was struggling with remained almost entirely out of my intellectual reach. I’m happy to say I’m getting there with it, slowly it’s true, but I thank my 8 year old for his help. I don’t know how old the author of the book is but I wonder if he’d like some advice from my son, about the way in which chickens can be so very strange. For such a cavalier disregarder of so many words in favour of one, it might surprise you to hear that he later wrote a poem at school which was so good no one believed it had sprung from his own pen. How frustrating that must have been for him. He declared sadly that no-one trusted him, except for me (and I had my doubts, I have to admit). The thing is, children and young people, when we give them the space, can do amazing things.  Let’s listen to our young people more and stop underestimating them. They’re pretty wonderful when we let them be.

Have a great chicken everyone. x

Image (c)SJField 2016

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South London Photographer: Celebrating Mothers Day with a Special Offer!

I wasn’t quite woken up with a cup of tea in bed, since the oldest child who is capable of making such a thing happen has reached that teenaged habit of wanting to sleep in for as long as he can at the weekends.  Instead, my 4 year old ended my night’s sleep with a beautiful rendition of a song about a spring chicken and some chicks hatching – “heh! let me out!” the little chicks yelled at the end of each numbered verse.  It was a beautiful, stirring, passionate and loud performance sung right into my ear as he lay on top of me, trying to get his hands up my top.  There are worse ways to be woken, of course.

Yes – Mothers day may be a commercial celebration driven by conglomerates in order to commercialise yet another part of our lives.  But…ignore that aspect of it. Instead lets celebrate mothers, young and old; those still with us and all the many that no longer are.  We all begin our lives inside the belly of of our mum.  It’s a profound relationship.

Motherhood is at the same time both wonderful and challenging, life affirming and desperately difficult, exciting and then tedious as hell, extraordinary and dreadfully normal too.  And what other relationship entails so much bottom-wiping?

No, it’s not all an idealised fantasy by any means! And we in the West have gravitated away from communal living and instead exist in small units that support our economic social structure. Where once we had aunties, grannies, cousins and other community members all working together to bring up the children, now mothers are more isolated.  The saying ‘it takes a village to bring up a child’ really resonates with me.  Us mums need to remember this when we’re desperately furious with our little ones, and subsequently disappointed in our own failings.  It isn’t easy.  Luckily, neither is it always trying – there are times when it’s absolutely wonderful being a mum.  Sometimes I just love the simple sound of “Mum!”

And it doesn’t matter whether you’re a working or stay at home mum, old or young, have single or many children; from the moment we become mothers, our lives are no longer our own.  But they are enriched and we are given the opportunity to love in a unique and important way; a love like no other.  And that is a very precious.

So mark Mothers Day in which ever way works best for you.  But make sure you do!

Yay – lucky me! I’ve just received vouchers for a massage – one of the best presents I could hope for.  I really could do with a bit of pampering.  I hope you get what you want. And a message for any husbands or people out there who haven’t bothered…. What are you thinking? It’s not too late!  Do something small or big.  But make sure you do something.  It matters and will be so appreciated.

Gotta run – been called to wipe someone’s bottom!

SPECIAL OFFER:  Mini shoot – £145 for a 1 hour session at your home or in a park local.  8 prints and edited jpgs which you can print and share online as often as you like.  Call or message me on FB/Twitter/Instagram/LinkedIn for more details. Terms&Conditions apply.  Vouchers available. http://www.sarahjanefield.co.uk SHARE THIS POST FOR A CHANCE TO WIN A MINI SHOOT – WINNER ANNOUNCED 3RD APRIL 2016.  (Please let me know if you’ve shared this post by emailing/messaging as not all FB shares are registering). Offer ends 3 April 2016.

Below are a collection of images of mothers with their children or grandchildren, including one of my own mum and there’s even a sneaky picture of me and my son in hidden there!  (c)SJField 2014/15/16 (and one that’s very old – see if you can spot it!)

 

South London Photographer: Shopping or not as the case may be

Christmas, commercialism, and consumerism.  They’re all tied up together and I can’t help feeling disappointed that Christmas is more about shopping than anything else nowadays.  Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE the mid-winter festivities, feasting, imbibing, socialising and gift-giving.  Not to mention the sense of bittersweet nostalgia that these weeks bring with them.  It’s lots of fun.  Or it ought to be.  But I’m really not keen on the intense shopping aspect to it all.   So I tend to ignore it for as long as possible.  However, I wouldn’t advise anyone else to follow my lead.  Since I leave everything until the last minute, I quite often can’t get hold of the gifts I know people in my family would like.  A few years ago my mother had to do with a promise of a Kindle on Christmas morning which wasn’t due back in stock until mid January.

This year I have told the boys I am not able to spend lots of money on presents although I’m pretty sure I say that every year and then a sense of guilt sets in and somehow I forget my intentions and still manage to get out in time and buy a whole load of ‘stuff’.  But I’m going to be strong this year and try to stick to my guns.  Perhaps it can be a sort of old year’s resolution and unlike a new year’s resolution, where you have a full 365 days ahead of you in which to fail, there are only a few weeks left, so surely I can do it.  Not only do I want to avoid buying lots of junk, I’d really much rather give experiential presents.

Even before I mentioned this Son No 1, he totally surprised me when said for Christmas he would like a photography shoot of us all in Richmond park.  He has decided he’d like a framed print to put on the wall of his room when we move.  Obviously he’d also like a TV, sofa, sound system and coffee table, because at the tender age of 11 he is fantasising about turning his room into some sort of bachelor pad.  But thankfully he knows there isn’t a chance in hell of getting any of that stuff from me for Christmas, so not only is he being delightfully unmaterialistic by asking for something so personal, he’s also being a realist, which is an impressive development, I must say. I was, nevertheless, quite gobsmacked.

“What?” I said, “You want a picture of your family?  And you want me to take it?” Wow  – all those anger-fuelled insults during the last couple of years about my photography being rubbish and how much he hates his brothers and me suddenly dissolved in a moment on uncharacteristic familial appreciation.  I’m not sure it will last and I suspect he’d be rather disappointed on the morning of the 25th December if there wasn’t any junk at all to unwrap.  Oh, no!  I suddenly feel so full of love, awe and motherly pride, prompted by his wanting one my photographs on his wall that I’m starting to feel compelled to go out and buy him lots of expensive stuff which I can’t afford, such as a special fruitily named watch I know he’d be extraordinarily pleased with …. goodness, what a slippery slope that could so easily be.  And how short my old year’s resolution nearly lasted.  Yikes, it’s hard to resist the pull of commercialism.

Son No 2 has not yet learned the art of subtle manipulation so there are plenty of straightforward “I wants” coming from his direction.  To be fair to him he has said he is perfectly prepared to pay for the plastic arsenal he is so keen on acquiring with his pocket money savings. Sadly for him his concept of what £20 can buy has yet to reach anything approaching reality so it’s a constant circular discussion right now.  Thankfully, the youngest still doesn’t really know what any of it’s about so his needs and wants are more immediate and often easier to satisfy.  I want a funny yogurt he’ll wail from time to time.  By that he means the ones that are half pink and half yellow for anyone wondering how yoghurts ever get to be humorous.  Easily sorted though!  Although it does require actually remembering to order a shop from the supermarket occasionally.  My poor kids – in fact it seems, all they might really want is a mother who can get it together to make sure there is milk for breakfast in the morning! (I’m not that bad really – all in the name of hyperbole, honest!)

I know this whole present buying conundrum is felt by most parents nowadays.  Kids have so much stuff it’s often quite difficult to work out what to buy them; how much to spend; what if anything do any of them even need.  I’m not sure how everyone else goes about solving it. If you have any ideas, do let me know!

This week I’m posting some images from a family shoot that was given as a Christmas gift last year.  If that’s the sort of thing you might be interested in then do get in touch and I can arrange a voucher.  Alternatively, there is still a little time left to organise a shoot and print photographs before Christmas.  I also have framed prints of images ready to go or which can ordered in the next couple of weeks.  Check out my website for details.

Have a  good weekend all.  I’m looking forward to a PTA organised quiz at the kids’ school!

SJ x

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South London Photographer: At a North London Wedding

Things that do it for me: Originality, authenticity, intelligence and sheds loads of good-natured humour.  Kate and Neil’s wedding, which took place at Islington Town Hall and then The Draper’s Arms, contained all those elements. And to top it off there were lots and lots of kids running around too, which I always love at a wedding.  Kate and Neil stamped their personalities all over every aspect of the wedding from the moment the day started.  Kate sang beautifully at the beginning of the ceremony, and Neil had written a script which friends of theirs performed.  One of the absolute best moments was the wonderfully idiosyncratic and highly original way in which the speeches were made.  Instead of simply standing up and talking as we might have expected they did it in the style of Just a Minute, which was hosted by the fantastically funny Bernard in Nicholas Parson’s role (seriously funny actually, a mutual composer friend of ours, whom I recently discovered won a Perrier Award at the Edinburgh festival some years ago!) and everyone involved had to say what they wanted without, of course, hesitation, repetition or deviation. As you can imagine there was plenty of buzzing, which led to masses of laughter and fun. It was such a wonderful and clever way to express themselves and I know the guests all really enjoyed it too. Thanks Kate and Neil for inviting me to be part of your day – it was terrific.

 

All images (c)Sarah-Jane Field 2015

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South London Photographer: The start of a new era and another baby!

Last week as I walked away from big boys’ nursery school, having just dropped my youngest son off, No 1 said to me, “So, this is the first time in nearly 12 years you will be free…” I don’t know what to say about the fact that at the tender age of eleven he had decided his presence no longer counts in the mix of small boys I am responsible for, but anyway, I did try to answer at the time without twitching and also maintaining a clear and reasonably calm modulated voice, “YES!!!”   Not that I was excited by the prospect of a few hours of daily uninterrupted work time available to me from now on, or anything. Oh no, I’m lying. I was!!

Later that day Son No 3 who had waved me away so cheerily that morning, and with so much confidence and a genuine sense of happy independence, put his head in his hands over supper and moaned, “I haven’t got a life!”

Oh, my god, I thought. One day at school and he has obviously realised that this is it for him; the start of a life long journey, which for many of us is made up of going to school, then possibly university, then work, then retirement followed only by the inevitable end.

I was just about to quote Woody Allen, who’s alter ego Alvy Singer, says in the opening gambit of Annie Hall, “Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering – and it’s all over much too soon” followed by “so stop your wailing small boy and make the most of it!” when I noticed the plastic cutlery he had thrown on the floor ….

…Aaaah, yes, he wasn’t actually having an existential crisis. He simply can’t pronounce the word ‘knife’ properly and was merely expressing his sadness about the fact that he (and no one else, take note) threw his knife on the floor and was really quite annoyed that it hadn’t magically jumped back up on table ready for his grubby little paw to grab hold of.

Phew! I mean I do like a thinker and all, but there is a limit and succumbing to the futility of a modern, Western, materialist-driven existence when you’ve not reached your 4th birthday is under-stepping the mark, surely. I don’t think he can have overstepped it at this stage, but of course I may be wrong. And actually, even if I do say so myself, he looks to have a fantastic life from where I’m sitting, which at that time was not as near as he was to the knife/life he’d discarded, and so I said to him, “Well, pick up the knife you’ve belligerently and churlishly chucked on the floor then.  And your problem will be marvellously solved!” He did.

This morning Son No 1 started secondary school and so now I truly do have a great deal more time than I’ve had before to get on with work and studies, and, oh yes, that other murky thing I don’t quite get…domesticity. Yes, time for that too. I have a million things to do though before I begin balling socks and folding clothes; such as editing clients’ baby and wedding photos as well as setting up a blog for my new course, which all come at the top of the list.

Last week I photographed a little boy who was just 5 weeks old. His mummy and daddy look like they’re doing amazingly – They won’t believe how fast it all goes. I remember so very clearly, like most parents, bringing home Son No 1 for the first time and wondering what on god’s earth I was meant to do next.  Thankfully, almost twelve years later the two of us are able to muddle through together, which sometimes results in minor scrapes and mishaps, like this morning when he left his brand new school bag on the doorstep at home, as we drove off to the start of his first day. “Oh, crap!” he announced when he realised and we were already half way there.

Here are some of the images from the baby shoot. I love these jobs and I do absolutely adore babies. But having tasted what is now nearly 4 hours of my newfound freedom I am certain that photographing other people’s tiny people is the way forward. My latest baby is my photography and that is just perfect for me.

SJ x

(c)Sarah-Jane Field 2015

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South London Photographer: A metaphorical lesson from my kids

“Can you literally open the door, Mum?” said my three old child to me the other day.“What do you mean, can I literally open the door? How else I am meant to open it for you, small person? Metaphorically?”

“MUM!!” he wailed, “Literally open the door!”

Wow, I think perhaps I should stop reading to them. They’re all getting much smarter than me and quickly too. Why am I embarking on a metaphysical/philosophical conversation with Son No. 3 at 8am in the morning?

Son No 1 is no better. As we left a friend’s recently, he discussed various parenting styles and compared mine to my friend’s.

“Oh, you use to be just as overly patient and understanding with me. Then No 2 arrived and you grew up.”

“Did I? How so?”

He was fairly sanguine when he answered, “Now you just scream that you’re going to castrate us all and throw us out the window.

“Oops!” I said.

A few days later I tried to excuse my insane and ludicrous threats made in rage and said that at least I don’t literally castrate them. Son No 1 looked at me and smiled,

“No, but you’ve definitely metaphorically castrated us…”

Oh my god, have I? Really? What if he’s right? I’m going to console myself with the fact that Son No 1 wouldn’t even remotely be able to have such a conversation with me if he were indeed castrated in any metaphorical sense and in actual fact, despite a traumatic and horrible family break-up, he’s doing pretty well indeed. And why do I say such ludicrous things – because I kind of feel that by making truly and utterly ridiculous threats I send them all a very clear message that even though I’m furious, I’m also minded to turn myself into a cartoon, therefore making myself less threatening to them while there are metaphorical flames flying out of my ears.  Well, that’s the theory anyway.

There is so much parenting advice out there. Basically, if you breathe the wrong way you are potentially damaging your child forever, so don’t, whatever you do, breathe the wrong way. That kind of atmosphere makes us all terrified. And so we compensate by over-parenting, which is probably what I was doing with Son No 1 before any more children came along.  Many of us do it at some point in one way or another.  It’s difficult to avoid nowadays.  But what over-parenting does to children is make them totally unprepared for real, robust and three-dimensional relationships. Relationships where people are able to express their themselves and know that it is OK, that an angry person has not stopped loving them, but is simply angry. I’m not saying it’s easy. And there is no failsafe ‘recipe’.

Paranoid Parenting by Frank Ferudi is one of the best books I’ve read on the subject of over-parenting. In it he says, “Parenting is not a complex science. It is not even as a science at all. Sometimes boring, ordinary, and even banal, bringing up children is always demanding. Parents can afford to make mistakes but they would do well to learn from them”.

I know the quote I’ve used invites plenty of “but what if” questions and sure, the subject is probably a little more complex than can be summed in that paragraph – which is why I absolutely recommend reading the whole book.  Whether or not I’m doing my best by threatening castration as a behavioural solution (mind you, you never know…) is of course debatable. It is also subject to personal opinion, cultural outlook, and the sort of relationship you might have with children in general.

I do know, however, that my children are more or less doing pretty well with life. We have been on quite a bumpy journey over the last few years and it continues to be less than smooth at times. But we’re all doing OK.  Literally and metaphorically.  It’s a hard slog getting over a divorce, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, and it takes a long time. (I was going to write about the reality of that in response to a post on a forum I saw the other day which had some ignorant and flippant comments in it but I think I’ll wait and let those thoughts formulate for a little longer). Weeks go by and I think, yes, we (I’m) are getting through this.  And then something happens and I feel like I’m back in the early traumatising moments all over again – and on those days, Son No 3, I am barely able to open any doors literally or metaphorically.  But when Son No 1 laughs and teases me about my slightly wonky parenting style by making a pretend quiz-show buzzer sound followed by “Parenting fail, Mum!” I am filled with the knowledge that for now the 4 of us are just fine.

I’ve managed to do some work over the summer but I’m posting some recent family shots this week. Mainly because they tie in with the text, and because I feel that if I posted a client’s family to illustrate this week’s blog they might take offence at being associated with my brand of parenting. But also because these photographs were taken at the same place as some photographs I posted last year – West Wittering Beach. And I am quite heartened by the steps we’ve all taken over the last 12 months. They may be small steps in some instances but things have certainly moved and all for the better. For me, at any rate, that positive journey is evident in the difference between the photographs I took last year and the ones I took the other day.

Hope everyone’s bearing up with the long summer hols. I have to say there are days when I’m not sure I am, but thankfully they are countered by some really great days such as the one recorded in these images. SJ x

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South London Photographer: Summer holidays….Really? Yikes! Whoo Hoo! Yay! Oh, god…..

I am filled with joyful excitement and nervous horror all at once about the impending summer hols.  The smallest one finished nursery two weeks ago and asks me daily when he can start big boys’ nursery school.  In six weeks, I say.  Who knows if that means anything to him whatsoever?  If it did it would seem like an age, I’m sure.  I know it will fly by but even to me it’s a little daunting.  Six weeks of waking every morning and wondering what I can do that day to get them away from screens for a few hours.

But before it begins Son No. I will come to the end of his time at primary school. How did that happen?  When did it happen?  It has just sped by so fast.

I remember him starting nursery at the same big boys’ school No 3 can’t wait to get into when he was 4.  They are very different boys.  No 1 was born pretty much attached to my breasts.  “That will hurt if you let him keep doing it,” I was told by the midwife in hospital.  I didn’t care.  He seemed to need it.  And when he started nursery he was attached to my legs. Tearing us apart in nursery seemed like the cruelest thing in the world and he would wail and flail about as the very patient teacher prised him off me.  As I walked away there would be tears streaming down my face.  Apparently on his second day there, he just stood at the gate the whole time waiting for me.  First children are so different to third, that’s for sure.  Son No 3 adjusted straight away when he started at the little kindergarden round the corner in preparation for big boys’ nursery and is more than ready to get on with it.

No 1 though took forever to adjust.  But of course, he did and although he remembers very clearly standing at that gate all day he now barely says goodbye when we part at the gate.  And heaven forbid I should try to hug or kiss him.  I wasn’t even allowed to greet him properly when he came back from the week long school trip he recently went on.  Par for the course, I guess.

I think I need to really appreciate this summer with Son No 1 though because once he starts secondary school, I am told it will race by even more quickly. I’m glad I ignored that midwife – it did hurt but he’s Mister Independent now and it was such a short time, in the grand scheme of things, when he really needed that connection.

So, anyway my blogs might be a little haphazard and irregular over the next six weeks is what I think I’m saying.  You never know, there may be another tomorrow… who knows how it will all pan out.  I’ve got some exciting work things coming up and there will be plenty of kiddie photographing opportunities.  I might even manage a joint selfie with Son No 1 hugging me at some point.  Overly hopeful?  You just never know…

Let’s hope the sun does it’s thing as often as possible – by that I mean shines through because this grey week has been most disappointing!

Happy summer hols everyone!

Image (c)sarahjanefield 2015

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South London Photographer: Editing photographs I took nearly a year ago!

I have just edited a bunch of photographs I took last year. I remember doing them. It was the second job in a single day and I’d just finished shooting my first christening. I’d been pretty nervous at the time and was tired. I went along to the subsequent job, got a little lost on the way and arrived feeling stressed. I managed to get through the job and got home later to edit two sets of photos.

I can be quite hard on myself and I was a bit worried about the photos I’d taken for job no 2, as I was in the very early days of all this photography stuff at the time. Well, I still am but not quite so very early now… The family were just about to move back to the States at the time and it has taken them quite a few months to come back to me with an order. Which, of course added to my concerns. However, not only have the family got back in touch and ordered their images but they have also ordered many more than were originally offered in the package, which is pleasing.

What’s interesting for me after all this time is to see that I had actually taken some photographs that were OK, despite my reservations. Yes, there are some that I’m not at all happy with but then there always are and I suspect there always will be. I hope however that by now, after 18 months or so of slowly building up my little business, I would have found different ways to solve some of the conundrums that come up when doing family portraiture. The images that work, work well (enough) and I needn’t have been quite so tough on myself at the time. Nevertheless, opening yourself up to the world with work that will be liked and disliked by people depending on their tastes is part of the job.

I recently read a very helpful blog by a successful and thriving photographer/blogging person, in which he wrote that he is sometimes told he takes horrible photographs, writes awful blogs and a whole bunch of other such negative stuff – all of which he helpfully advised to ignore if you were to find yourself in that situation.  Good advice!  And goodness knows, there is enough truly ridiculous crap in life to be getting on with without piling any more crap on myself by being overly harsh and negative about my own work! (I do wonder as I write this if I’ll ever take any real notice of my helpful realisations…)

So, that’s it for now – just some photographs I took nearly a year ago which have been helpful for me to revisit.  Interesting to see where I am now in relation to nearly a year ago, and I think was more than heading in the right direction. Anyway, I will have to write another blog pretty soon to chat about my very first foray into exhibiting my work to the general public, well, I say general public, I mean mostly my very supportive and lovely community… but it was a good start.  Does that mean I am going to step up to 2 blogs a week yet… it’s something I’ve been contemplating for a while… we’ll see. Certainly, I might make it to two posts this week.

Right, that’s it for now… off to get those kids to bed.  Have a great couple of days – back soon. All images (c)SarahJaneField 2014 untitled- untitled-9318 untitled-9320 untitled-9324 untitled-9359 untitled-9371 untitled-9390 untitled-9464 untitled-9520 untitled-9619