South London Photographer: Stress, being a ‘working’ mum at home during half term and learning “Art”

So, here I am feeling panicked.  I am waiting on one final image choice to come through from a recent corporate client so I can edit and order it by midday, ensuring they have it in time for a launch.  If it doesn’t happen in time they won’t have their products and I’ll feel like I’ve failed!  My children are only semi-dressed and I am feeling guilty that they are not outside enjoying the sunshine I know will probably be gone by the time we leave the house once the deadline for the corporate job has passed and I get on with the job of being a mummy on half-term.  The stress the children induce is nothing compared to this…. Oh, I must sound like an idiot.  None of this stuff is really stressful compared to being a doctor or a fireman or something like that.  Calm, Sarah-Jane!  For goodness, sake.  So what if things beyond my control go awry?  I’m certainly doing my best surrounded by screaming children who are trying to kill each-other because they need to be outside rather than indoors,  have had too much screen time and somehow found sweets squirrelled away somewhere so are all filled up with sugar to boot!   The last two years have seen me gradually go from a full-time mum, to a mum studying and eventually to a mum working and also trying to fit in some study time too.  The kids are patient with me sometimes.  Other times they are quite understandably furious and accuse me of loving photography more than them, which makes me feel horrible but when they are yelling at me and not being 100% appreciative of all that I do for them I find it hard to disagree.  At least photography doesn’t yell at me, tell me I’m awful, a rubbish mum and forget that I spend a good deal of my time picking up after it, washing its clothes and cooking food I’d rather not be eating for it.  But only sometimes… most of the time I know they are the best things in my life and I’m extremely lucky to have them.  Life is them and often, let’s face it, my photography is all about them in one way or another, whether it’s taking photos of them or trying to build a small business so that I can support them as I’d like (with the help of Mr. X of course!)

One of the most important aspects of photography is the art side of it.  I want my commercial photography to be influenced in a huge way by the art side of things, much of which I’ve picked up through the studying I’ve been doing.  But online college isn’t the only place I learn.  I am connected to a bunch of really interesting people on Flickr too and one of them, Michael Szpakowski, is involved in art education himself. However, he has some concerns about ‘teaching art’ and the subjective nature of it. He has instigated an online discussion and I think some of the statements he posits are really worth thinking about and I know he will welcome any points of view from other people – so if you have something to say or feel strongly about anything he says, do join in the conversation.  You can find the document here.   To be honest, I think much of what he suggests is worth considering whatever you’re teaching.

For me, art education is really working for now – but I tend to do my own little thing and use the structure of the course as a guide.  Learning about art is tricky and filled with all sorts of ups and downs but I wouldn’t be without it, although I’m sure the children would love it if I gave up any work, study, anything that wasn’t to do with them in their eyes and just ran around wiping up after them forever.  Maybe I’m being unfair -perhaps they just want to me speak to them now and again…

So, the midday mark has arrived and guess what?  I got the images in just in time – with 3 minutes to spare. My computer stopped working and my wifi crashed.  But somehow I sorted it out in time although of course we’ll have to wait and see it everything arrives on time… Eeeeek!! Work, art, family – it’s a nightmare sometimes.  But of course, that’s all to do with me not being a little more Zen… Ah well, that’s me!  It all works itself out in the end. I’m certainly not the only mum with young children trying to do several things at once.  We all are one way or another.

Enjoy the rest of half term.  I’m off to have lunch with my boys and grab a large glass of white wine with it too.

Image (c)sarahjanefield 2015

Image used in an assignment for my studies where I’ am learning about the ‘art’ of photography. Can you learn ‘art’? People often question my desire to study and my children may be happier if I weren’t studying as well as trying to build a little business. Is what I’m doing a waste of time or is it worth delving into photography and my own abilities to explore, develop and grow into an artist? Get involved with the discussion by visiting the link in the body of this blog post.



South London Photographer: Family albums and Son No 1 being mean…or just being a normal child… or something

Son No 1 left the house this morning telling me I was a disgusting mother who didn’t love him and only cared about myself. This as I was trying desperately to get him and Son No 2 out the house on time so they were not late for school, despite their best efforts to sabotage me, because I think it’s really important to be on time and want them to grow up knowing that. And all because I said for the about the 10 0000th time (and I’m sure I’m not exaggerating!) “Put your shoes on now and brush your teeth” – I mean come on; It’s not like I was asking them to amputate their left arms, or worse, do my domestic chores, or even go to work down a mine or up a chimney. Apparently, however, I’m being a truly unreasonable harridan from hell, because I beg each morning and then when I sense I’m not being heard at all resort to yelling abrasively and far too loudly (ask Ms. B about my loudness…), “make sure you’re ready before you go on the computer in the morning as per the well established house rule which you insist on ignoring”. More fool me, of course, for allowing the same argument to happen each and every day and for being such a bloody ineffectual mother who apparently has a real problem keeping firm boundaries in place.

So, not sure this Monday morning was the best start to a week.  It would have been quite tempting to make myself a cup of tea and crawl back under the duvet, put Son No 3 in front of his favourite film and pretend I didn’t have, as usual, an incredibly long list of things to be getting on with, not to mention putting our home back together post weekend chaos.

One of those things is finishing off the last of my assignments for the course I’ve been doing which in retrospect has been an incredibly useful and important journey all about exploring how I might use photography. I’m always surprised when people question my motivation for doing the course in the first place. I think some of it is because people don’t quite understand the course is not about learning how to use a camera; I did such a course a while ago and very useful it was too. The point of this course for me has been about broadening my expectations and certainly by the end of it I can look back and see that the projects I did would never have entered my mind had I not had the support of structured, organised learning.

For the final project we had to create a series of photographs that together form a clear narrative. I thought this was a great opportunity to connect some of the commercial and artistic ideas I’ve been having. So, this week I am posting some of the photographs I will be using in the final project, which record my own family on holiday in Italy. I am putting together an album and when it’s ready I will be posting that here too. These images here are a little ‘trailer’.   And in time I will offer something similar to clients. In the meantime I am looking for two families who would be interested in having me tag along with them for a weekend or two and recording day to day life, maybe including an event or trip out as well as just existing at home. I’m happy to negotiate the charge for these first two experimental projects so if this is something that interests you please get in touch, and we’ll take it from there.

Perhaps your children will scream and shout like mine did this morning, and perhaps you will too, just like I did this morning. I’d like to record these moments as well as the less stressful, happier moments we traditionally like to photograph. I’d like to record your family as it is. When I look at the photos I took of my own family I can imagine how grateful I will be to have them later when we’ve changed and grown and life has taken us on journeys that will have transformed us all one way or another.

A photographer I follow on Twitter recently said one the most profound things you can do is pass your photos on to your family for future generations and I think there is something very important there.  Photography is an amazing language and one which we all speak nowadays; it’s capacity for storytelling is immense so creating an album that captures your family as it is now might be a wonderful way to give your children and future generations something truly precious and important.

I end this week thinking about my delightful son telling me I was so awful as he left the house this morning. Regular readers will know Son No 1 can also be clever, mature, understanding and incredibly wonderful too. For me the biggest conundrum and challenge of being a mum is accepting our children as real human beings and ourselves too; all the good stuff but also all the less than good stuff that we humans all have.  I’d like to develop a photography package that aims to capture all of those aspects of ourselves in images and then put them together in an album really worth keeping.

There…Monday morning is already better because I’ve achieved the first few things on my list including writing this blog, and I’m sure Son No 1 will be in better mood too when he gets home later. Either way, I’ll love him and accept him because he’s my little boy and that’s what it’s all about.  Although I will of course have strong words that are indicative of clearly defined boundaries as I do my best to do an impression of an effective and in control mother who knows exactly what she’s doing.  Have a great week!

If you are interested in having a photography album made of your family please get in touch with me at or call me on 07581694934

untitled-4101untitled-4091untitled-3749untitled-4447untitled-3249All images ©Sarah-Jane Field 2015

South London Photographer: iPhone images and colouring in

I love writing this blog but have been so busy the last two weeks that I’ve not really had time to think about it, never mind write it. That’s a great feeling to be honest as it’s always nice to be working, but I look forward to the time when I can manage my time a little more easily – and am able to make sure the blog doesn’t get pushed aside.

The other thing I love doing is taking pictures on my phone and messing around with them in an app called Snapseed.

I’ve also had less time to do that the last couple of weeks but, perhaps because it takes less active thought than writing, I’ve managed to maintain my iPhone habit a little.  I really enjoy doing this and in fact the image below of a building reflected on the road in the rain is a photograph I have decided to use for some college work, and I’ve not used a phone image for that before.

I have read about quite a few photographers using their phone and the work that’s out there can be really inspiring.  I also have a great book called The Instagram Book, (inside the online photography revolution) published by Ammo which has a collection of some truly incredible photography, all of which originated on a phone and was then shared on the social networking site.

I’m not an Instagram addict; I am actually on Flickr and pretty addicted to that to be honest, but only because that’s where I started and I simply don’t have the time or appetite for yet another social networking site.  But I do spend some time flicking through both Flickr and Instagram looking for inspiration and ideas. I love this aspect of my photography.  It’s so much fun and I often compare playing with the images in Snapseed to colouring in, which I always loved as a child.  It’s nice to be able to revisit some of that even though I’m now, of course, very grown up indeed!

Here is a small selection of some phone images I’ve recently taken.  Next week I might get round to discussing a personal photography project I hope to develop which aims to look at some of the more difficult aspects of motherhood in our culture and a call for mums who might like to be involved.  But I will need a little more time to think about that.  I also can’t wait to show you some photos from the film shoot I did this weekend and there’s some christening photography I’d like to blog about too.  Until then, have a great week!

All images (c)sarahjanefield 2015

London Underground, Baker Street
A plant in the evening sunshine
Clouds above Swaffield School
Reflection of flats off Allfarthing Lane in the rain
Dead daffodils on my kitchen table

South London Photographer: A birthday boy but don’t read if you’re offended by words (bad language alert!)

My blog is a little late for my personal schedule this week. I’ve been thinking about what to write as have a long term project in mind which I want to chat about but I’m still working it out so have been thinking about whether or not to mention it here, and if so, how to go about it.  I think you may have to wait for that one…watch this space.

Instead I am going to chat about my amazing Son No. 1 who turned 11 yesterday and the discussion we had this evening. Son No 1 can sometimes be a tricky character. He’s fairly intolerant, hates having his photo taken as you can see, and sometimes as many of us do, loses his temper for reasons that are hard to understand. He’s very bright indeed, loving but not so keen on showing it and has been through some pretty difficult stuff throughout his life. He’s amazingly perceptive. I mean really, really. And always has been. Even when he was two he would say things about the world, about me, about other people that astounded me. Things that even so-called grown ups wouldn’t always see.

We don’t always get on though. A few years ago I accepted that that was just how it is between us. He gets very angry with me: wants my attention NOW; is sometimes extremely jealous of the other children; is extraordinarily messy, stubborn and belligerent. And refuses point blank to do his homework often coming up with all sorts of reasons that I find difficult to argue with because a) I believe his nonsense, b) I agree with him c) he simply lies and tells me he has done it. Sneaky!

But tonight as we sat eating supper he just blew my mind away. He started talking about the child I lost before I got pregnant with him, and which sadly miscarried at 16 weeks. He said he often thinks about this older sibling he might have had, the one that never materialized. I started to explain that had that child been born I would never had had him, as I would have been too busy to create any more children just at that point. Oh, he replied, and asked me to tell him more.

I started to tell him about the baby, a little girl, and the strange thing is I started to cry. I say strange because I thought about that miscarriage only recently and thought at the time, “I think I’m over that now”, and yet here I was crying again about something that happened over 12 years ago. He asked me if I had to give birth to the baby and I explained how I’d had an operation to remove the baby because it was still early and small enough. I was also lucky enough to have had private insurance at the time, which meant that all sorts of test were done. And the results had shown that the little girl had twice as many chromosomes as she should have had, which means that had the pregnancy progressed to full term, the little child would have died within days.   And that would have been a great deal more traumatic than the miscarriage, which was painful enough as it was.

Son No 1 asked me why I was crying and I said because no matter how much time passes sometimes things still get to you. I reiterated that things had worked out OK in the end because I love having him as a son.

Shortly afterwards he noticed me weeping again, and asked why. Poor guy – what happened to his mother tonight? I told him that talking about the miscarriage had reminded me of a lady called Michelle who had been a wonderful Shiatsu therapist. She treated me on and off for 10 years and the first time I saw her was when I was just pregnant with that failed first baby. She knew just by looking at my tongue I was pregnant, I told Son No 1. I didn’t even know! Really, he said, you mean like a clairvoyant but one that actually tells the truth? Yes, I said, something like that. She had also explained to me, after I lost the baby, that in Chinese medicine they believe a miscarriage is the body’s way of preparing itself for a pregnancy that will stick. I don’t know if that is true but it helped me at the time.

I’m really sad to say that Michele, the lady who treated me, died of cancer after a very short illness three years ago. She had recently moved to Hastings when she contracted her illness and it’s dreadful to think about how she had been really enjoying her new life by the seaside. I explained to Son No 1 that I was crying again because I missed Michelle who, even though she wasn’t a friend as such, rather someone whom I had consulted periodically over a decade, had been a person who nevertheless meant something to me.

Son No 1 listened to all of this with such maturity, and the reason he blew my mind away was because he didn’t shy away from any of it, was interested, asked the right questions, let me be sad and then found a way to make me laugh – I don’t remember how, to be honest, but I do remember the feeling of happiness I felt with him and the other children as we laughed out loud about something or other.

I don’t think you should spend all your time crying in front of your children but I also think it doesn’t hurt for them to see real stuff now and again. And Son No 1 is growing up into a pretty decent person, so I guess he’s coping with his slightly neurotic, flakey but reasonably good-enough mother.

Shortly after this moment, he was, though, a little embarrassed but terribly understanding when I swore at the very top of my absolutely furious voice, “Fuck off, bitch!!” at this horribly aggressive and impatient male driver in a red Jaguar who kept beeping at me when he could see damn well I was dealing with a bit of a child related emergency in the car. “Mum, that poor man, does he really need to be sworn at like that!!” “Too fucking right, I said.” “Oh, OK, then” he said as he tried to hide in the foot well.

Have a great week!

(c)Sarah-Jane Field 2015

I can’t believe I have an 11 year old! This is Son No 1 – He’s not that keen on having his photograph taken as you can see, but I love a moody portrait so we’re a perfect team.






South London Photographer: Childcare advice, lies and Piglets

Lordy, bringing up children is fraught with responsibility.   Constant worrying, questioning and self-doubt could be crippling if one allowed it to be. There is so much advice out there. Some of it horribly conflicting.

One of my favourite books is called What are children for? by Laurie Taylor and Matthew Taylor, a father and son pair who explore why people are choosing not to have children in our society, and what people who do often expect from ‘family’. I read it when Son No 1 was still just a baby, perhaps hoping it might tell me what I was meant to be doing with my small person in a simple and easy to understand way.

In fact What are children for? questions the value of child-care advice. They point out that the ubiquitous pontificating we parents are faced with is often not worth listening to. “Much of this output takes the form of experts advising parents on what they should or should not do to bring up their children safely, responsibly, and successfully. A large proportion of these pronouncements is pious in tone and based on dubious scientific findings, but nothing, it seems, can stem the tide.”

I’m not entirely sure how saying, “That’s it! I’m going castrate you all!” would go down with the experts but Son No 1 said, “I don’t think you’re meant to use that as threat, Mum, you know for the sake of our future well-being…”

Actually last night I tried hard to be a very stern and strict parent who demanded a kind of dictatorial sense of order. Well, they looked at me with utter shock for about 30 seconds before all four of us burst out laughing, a little hysterically it must be said, and then carried on as usual.

Whatever the truth about parenting, I think my over-riding ambition is to instill a sense of honesty in them. I hate lies. I can’t bear the stupidity of lying. My dream partner would be someone who understood just how utterly ridiculous lies can be, which of course may just be a fantastical dream but one lives in hope…(It has to be said, if someone asks you “Do I look fat in this?” there is a certain amount of diplomacy required.)  Blatant, stupid, nonsensical lies really get my goat.

They know how I feel about lying, and although like all children they continue to tell utterly pathetic lies from time to time, they always do it half-heartedly now and then retract it pretty soon afterwards.   If I instill nothing else other than an abhorrence of lying, then I’d feel like I’d have done one small thing for the good of society.

Maybe that’s a failing in me. My dearest oldest friend tells me I have some sort of honesty Tourette’s and perhaps she’s right. I tend to disagree though as I have prevented myself from being honest in the past for fear of looking stupid. And have always regretted it. In any case looking stupid is not so bad. You pick yourself up and move on, don’t you?   Better to stick to your guns and be honest, I’ve come to realise and hope the kids will realise that too.

So, as far as parenting advice goes, I think I’ll end this week’s post with a quote from Frank Ferudi’s Paranoid Parenting, which I found thoroughly sensible, intelligent, the opposite of pious and extremely well researched:

“Parenting is not a complex science. It is not even a science at all. It is actually just a natural undertaking.   Sometimes ordinary, sometimes boring and even banal, bringing up children is always demanding. Parents can afford to make mistakes, although they would do well to learn from them… Be prepared to call the expert’s bluff.”

I think that means… Chill!

Here are some photos of some kiddies from a recent session of Mini-Shoots I did at Piglets Play Centre in Hersham, Surrey. I’ll do another at some point soon so if you’re after some professional portraits and a day out watch this space!

Paranoid Parenting by Frank Ferudi published by Continuum 2008

What Are Children For? by Laurie Taylor and Matthew Taylor Short Books 2003

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South London Photographer: Portrait shoot and the joys of Internet dating

I had so much fun yesterday doing a portrait shoot with a very old friend of mine from university days. Actor and director James Nickerson has always made me laugh and yesterday was no different.

Our shoot started in a local, proper old-fashioned pub that has yet to be homegenised and plasticised. I think our starting venue came as bit of a surprise to James, but I really like the lighting as well as the vibe in there and I’m sure James was rather pleased to start the afternoon off with a pint. The landlord was welcoming and jolly accommodating too – thank you!

I’m sure our location is not the only reason James relaxed into it so quickly — something to do with being professional, experienced and the fact that we know each other might also have played a part, but it was just such a joy to work with someone who wasn’t prone to tantrums, demanding of regular bribes of chocolate and who didn’t have eager parents standing around saying, “If you don’t smile, Father Christmas won’t come!” (Never that helpful, by the way…) Having concentrated on children and families for a bit, that is the sort of thing I have become used to.

Just before Christmas James and I had met and we hadn’t seen each other for years and years so had lots of catching up to do. We had a good laugh about all sorts and I brought him up to date on the tale of woe of my somewhat disastrous marriage/divorce. Which took us onto the subject of Internet dating.

A good friend who shoots weddings had suggested I sign up to an online dating site as a large proportion of her clients meet that way. Since I am no mood to get married again this century, I think I might be avoiding the site she suggested. And I know I’m too old and somewhat disinterested for another site that I’ve heard is really all about instant gratification. I asked James’ advice and he said, don’t bother; you meet too many weirdos on the Internet. Then he told me about some of his friends’ dates, which all sounded very unappealing, I must say.

I remember reading an article in the Guardian suggesting that you should try to avoid being too honest about yourself when you sign up. This particular article was written by a women whose male friend told her she came across as too successful, too intelligent and basically rather daunting for any potential male suitors.   So, this is where I have a big problem with the idea of Internet dating, even though I know so many people do meet that way nowadays. (In fact, a potential client of mine told me he and his future wife met via the Guardian. He went that route, he said, because at least he could more or less guarantee anyone he met would have similar political ideas to him.)

My problem really lies with the ‘not really being yourself’ aspect to it all – oh, and the meeting weirdos bit too. Given that I have spent my entire adult life trying to find out who ‘myself’ is and then trying be that person, I think I’d find it all a bit bothersome and annoying. And I’m really not sure it would do to start my little online dating career with the following:

“Woman: slightly moody, often neurotic and definitely needy, but also bizarrely distant and fiercely protective of time alone; occasionally rather slovenly but highly censorious about anyone else’s mess; probably quite intelligent and not really up to pretending otherwise in order to flatter any fragile male egos; no money to speak of; three brats in tow; rather cross and peculiar ex-husband lurking in the background.

Seeks man: Well, maybe she does and maybe she doesn’t;

who isn’t a sociopath and washes properly.”

Yeah… I’m not sure my Internet dating life has any legs…

James did come up with another idea though. Do a long-term project where I go on Internet dates and do a portrait of each one, then write about them on a special blog. “So,” James advised, “You’d tell them, no ongoing dating or sex or anything like that – ‘I just want to take your photograph’’. You see, James is just funny! He did make me laugh – thank you, James, and thanks for being such a brilliant person to work with.

So here they are. I’ve popped little notes about lighting etc. underneath for anyone who is interested.

All photographs (c)Sarah-Jane Field 2015

Thanks to the Grosvenor Arms on Garrett Lane in Wandsworth for being so welcoming.

Lit from a skylight window to the left where the sun was coming in, and to the right, a balcony window in shade. A reflector, expertly, if not a little inconsistently, held by Son No 3 in front to the left.  All of these images are edited in Lightroom and have had very minor adjustments in Photoshop, removing marks from the wall behind and some under-eye lightening (but really very little).  I’ve kept an eye on the blacks (as I do tend to overdo them) but I made sure, using the blue highlight in Lightroom, they were not too heavy.  All shot using a Fuji X100s.
Natural light coming through an old translucent window (by that I mean some light can get through but it’s diffused) and reflector held by me as I put the camera on a tripod and set to timer.
Natural light, in the shade towards the end of the afternoon. Some bright sunshine was shining on the buildings behind and it tended to be a bit overexposed up there in the top right hand corner, but I can live with that, I think.
Same as the first image but I was lying down on the floor and I’m not sure Son No 3 was really that up for his role as reflector holder here so it was balanced against a stool. Son No 3 was a bit jealous by now and a little worried…
Same as above for lighting
Here the sun was shining quite a lot through the skylight and bouncing off the white-painted wooden floorboards giving this glow. I dispensed with the reflector (or rather Son No 3 had given up by now and I thought there was enough light bouncing about the place anyway). Edited:  Looking at this a bit more, maybe I should have used the reflector to even out the light at the top of of his face…. I was a bit undecided about this one to begin with, but I think James’ expression is great and the light actually suits the purpose – and builds on my portfolio.
Light the same as before in the pub, coming through the old fashioned window in front of James.

South London Photographer: Finding my orbit, gig photography and a broken television

I sometimes wish I’d cottoned on to photography a bit earlier, although I do believe it’s best to avoid spending too much time regretting things that never were. However, there is something about photography that helps to keep me in the here and now which I really like. You spend your time nearly always open to seeing little things that might make an interesting photograph. I think this attitude would have helped me in years gone by when I’ll admit to you now I might have been a little bit of a flake occasionally, sometimes letting the world go by without really noticing it or even finding ways to deliberately miss out altogether.

A long time ago I was lucky enough to live with an old friend who worked for a music agency which meant going to lots of concerts, after-show parties (nearly always boring because we weren’t actually part of it), hospitality bars (nearly always brilliant because I was a very poor actor/waiting-on-tables person at the time) and sometimes festivals too. Had I been into photography at the time I might have refrained from spending the entire time at a Massive Attack concert rolling around on the floor of a private bar laughing at nothing with said friend’s future husband. And actually seen one of my favourite-bands-ever perform live, for free. As it is, I have no idea what they were like at all.

If you can imagine a little collection of orbit-less space dust floating about the universe, that is probably what I resembled. Having children put a stop to that immediately. Perhaps I should have had them younger too, although then I might have ended up with even more that I have now! (OK, maybe a good thing I waited.) As soon as Son No. 1 came into the world, I went “Oh!!! I see what it’s all about now…” I think what I meant was – how nice to have some purpose on this little blue sphere of ours at very long last. Which meant collecting all my disparate space dust together and trying hard to swing into some sort of regular routine down here on the ground. And that has been fantastic for me.

Thanks, kiddie widdies! You may take ages to get your shoes on in the morning, yell at me, poke me in the eyes and throw peas all over the floor, stay on the computer for much longer than I’d like, tell me you hate me almost daily, trash my house constantly, break televisions (seriously – one of them punched it whilst in a temper this weekend) and generally make such huge demands of me that often I feel a little like I’m being stretched from here to another place I don’t know the name of very, very far away. But you, all three, have given me a whole lot of purpose which has meant that in amongst the snotty tissues and burnt baked beans (how, Sarah-Jane?!!) I also manage to have purpose elsewhere in my life – such as photography.

This weekend I went along to see a distant cousin play in his band and took a bunch of photos that were really fun to take. I can’t say that it was more or less fun than rolling around in helpless laughter for two hours whilst I missed out on Massive Attack, but it was certainly more productive, and far less destructive – I drove so had to refrain from having more than one beer. And you never know, it might even lead to more gig photography because I loved it!  The bands were really great too.  And I promise, Mrs. P, I will tell you next time I go and see live music!

Next week I might have a copy of an article about some alternative therapists I took some portraits for, but if not I’ll tell you about my actor’s head shots promotion.  It’s all go here!

Here’s a handful of images from this weekend with captions of who and where underneath.

All images ©Sarah-Jane Field 2015

The Charlie Tipper Experiment, Bristol based band, The Sebright Arms, Bethnal Green
English Electric, The Sebright Arms, Bethnal Green
English Electric, The Sebright Arms, Bethnal Green
English Electric, The Sebright Arms, Bethnal Green

South London Photographer: Dede’s 70th Celebration and Fundraiser

When I was living out my extended adolescence during the 90s and ‘noughties’ I had what you might call an absurd yearning to have been born during a different era. I say absurd because there really is no point yearning for something quite so impossible; surely it would be better/less crazy to utilize one’s time dreaming about something more plausible, like flying to another planet for instance.

I wished with quite a lot of energy that I had been about when it was all flower power, peace, love and being infatuated with Jim Morrison. I had this (thinking about it now) really quite embarrassing Janice Joplin affectation going on. Ridiculous, if only because, even if I had been about then, chances are I would have been working in Boots or something and not sitting about in a field at Woodstock staring at the pretty colours in the sky. Not that there is anything wrong with working at Boots – in fact, I’m sure I went for an interview when I was 17 to do just that (I ended up at Pizza Hut instead though). Nevertheless I have always been somewhat envious of people who lived (and loved) through that time and actually experienced it. But the point is, my fantasy was all about a fairly hedonistic, self-absorbed paradigm which would probably have landed me in a rehabilitating or psychiatric institution at some point.  If indeed it had been at all possible to get in a time machine and find myself living during another decade. And also ridiculous, as the reality is that the 70s hippie ideal was a lot more altruistic than my fantasies were.

Dede, whose 70th birthday celebration I photographed last week, told us in a very informal and lovely speech all about how she arrived in London aged 22 from North America with not much more than her guitar, which of course was covered in flowers. Before long she had hooked up with an amazing bunch of people who hailed from all over the world, including South Africa (where I grew up), and formed a band called the Solid British Hat Band. The songs they sung were absolutely NOT about lying around selfishly in a muddy field pretending to be a pixie (I’ve abandoned such notions, now, honest… not to have done so would be quite ludicrous, wouldn’t it?). Instead they were about protecting the world in which we live. In fact Dede and her band mates, one of whom has been her husband for a pretty amazingly long time, sang songs from their albums Mister Monday and Goodbye Rainbow at the party and it was so interesting to hear the very contemporary themes, warning of the damage we humans do to the world and reminding people to take care.

Today Dede continues to care passionately about her world and is standing as a candidate representing the National Health Action Party in her home borough of Fulham, a group which is currently fighting the proposed selling off of Charing Cross Hospital. Fulhamites can vote for Dede on the 22nd March and help send a strong message to the powers that be.

Dede used her 70th to publicise this cause and others and I can only say that she seems like a pretty wonderful woman. I really enjoyed listening to the Solid British Hat Band doing their thing in central London last week and chatting with some of Dede’s friends afterwards.

So, of course, I didn’t grow up in the 60s and certainly wasn’t part of any hippie revolution, and never arrived anywhere with not much more than a guitar covered in flowers. Instead my extended adolescence took place later, but even so I spent my time listening to Bob Dylan and Janice Ian pretending otherwise. For some reason, and always a bit behind the times, I have recently been catching up with my own generation and listening to Radiohead a lot, which is from my era. Son No 1 told me off for having it on too loudly in the car and Son No 2 was appalled by the expletives on the Pablo Honey album.

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t listen to this when you’re in the car,” I said.

He greeted my mother with “You’re so f-word special….”

He said f-word and not the ‘f’ word, I’m relieved to say. The fact that he does know it’s out of bounds and stays within that boundary despite my lax attitude with my in-car musical choices is a great source of pride for me with my impressive parenting skills!

“Pardon?” said my mother.

“Mum’s been listening to songs with swear words in!!”

Sometimes you just want loud guitars and mournful Radiohead songs in the car though, don’t you?

At least I’ve long given up my nonsensical, slightly delusional dreams of having been born during a completely different decade, which is undoubtedly a good thing.  But if I’m honest, I am still rather struggling to be a proper grown-up even though I very much have my feet on the ground in this era. Of course, I still sometimes hanker after a life as an eternal pixie with flowers in my hair dancing in some muddy field somewhere (Mrs. G, I’m kinda desperate to get in that fantasy camper van with you) – but I’m also aware the reality of that might send me a little bit loopy! You see, not so delusional after all.

Here are some images from Dede’s fantastic wonderful fundraising 70th.

Have a great week! SJ

All images (c)Sarah-Jane Field


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South London Photographer: taking photographs outside London

I like leaving London sometimes.  Gives me a chance to take photographs of different places and I take my camera everywhere with me.  Getting out of London can be tricky of course, but on my most recent journey getting back in was the problem.

Rather unhelpfully, there is something not quite right with my SATNAV. I say not quite right. What I mean is, I think my SATNAV is a psychopathic monster sent from Hades to confuse, torment and wreck my mind. Which is odd when you consider that a SATNAV is meant to guide you from A to B, prevent you from getting lost and save you the hassle of looking at maps while you’re driving, so in essence, keep you safe.

For a while, I thought it was just me being daft but I had a witness to the SATNAV’s murderous tendencies when it told me repeatedly to turn right as I drove up a dual carriageway. Had I listened to the digital voice in my car that time I would have driven through a crash barrier, across a stream of traffic coming the other way, over some pedestrianised paving – mowing down several innocent bystanders in the process – several times, and still not arrived at the place I was aiming for.

So, you may well ask why during half term I chose to rely on the faulty software once more (my own fault, I know – I need to do something about this). Heading out of London with too many Wotsits, digestive biscuits, bottles of Lucozade and some cursory apples to make us feel better about our less healthy travelling snacks was fine. There were really only a few moments where it told me to turn left or right in 100 meters only to say immediately afterwards, “turn left NOW”. So, I’m a lot of things but a fast and dangerous driver I am not, and there is no way I could have driven 100 meters within a second. Whether I turn or not the SATNAV frequently says “recalculating route” in as monotone and dispassionate a voice as you can imagine, and I can’t help but begin to hear the unspoken ‘Turn left now, NOW, NOW, like I told you, you stupid cow!’ or “Oh, OK, dumbass, I’ll recalculate once again, shall I?” Good grief, I wonder as I obediently swerve just in time or incorrectly as it turns out, twitching only ever so slightly, what on earth have I done to warrant this? (Not updated the software, indeedy, you may well say.)

On the way back from our little half-term break, the SATNAV took a pun-worthy turn for the worse. Sometimes it suggests an alternative route due to a ‘traffic event’. I’ve learnt to ignore these moments as it either doesn’t take us anywhere different even if I’ve said, OK, reroute us, or it guides us straight into an actual traffic event that we can’t escape from. So I’m not sure why the machine suggested we come off the road we were on and head into London along one of the most circuitous routes you can possibly imagine (little fingers perhaps) but it was during this most bizarre detour that I begun to believe that my SATNAV wasn’t just a little out of date but actually demented and that it may even hate me with all its little mechanical heart. Yes, you’re right, I hear you – it has no heart, of course.  “Turn left now, recalculating route, turn left now, recalculating route” – oh my god, we’ve just been here, haven’t we, again and again and again at one point….

As we went round and round and in and out of roads I have never been on nor hope to ever visit again I began to unravel. Our journey which should have taken 3 hours was getting longer and longer. My oldest passenger, just 10, fed up plus feeling slightly guilty perhaps for accepting the SATNAV’s alternative route suggestion began to hate me almost as much as the SATNAV does. I can’t quite remember why he yelled he never ever wanted to speak to me again, ever, and that he wished I were dead, but driving alongside him in the dark and in the pouring rain I began to see that I really, really, really need to do something about that SATNAV before we head out on our next journey. Otherwise I might be driven to a place of complete insanity. I mean, I just don’t want to share my travels with something that seems so determined to send me running down the motorway being chased by men or women (of course) in white coats, crushed Wotsits in my hair, gibbering about the SATNAV that my delusional mind has turned to Beelzebub.  Why does it hate me so much, I’d ask them plaintively. Why???

Anyway, we had a nice time away and I am sort of refreshed for the next half of the Spring term, I think, and I’m sure I’ll get over the sense of feeling utterly frazzled by our journey home. I will get that SATNAV sorted, because of course, it’s just madness not too, isn’t it? And I love to take photographs of places other than London so it would be a shame not to venture out of the city again soon.  Perhaps I should listen to Son No 1s pleas and just get the train next time.  Hope everyone else had a good half term and is raring and ready to go now that the kids are firmly ensconced back at school.  I’ll tell you all about the amazing Dede next week, whose 70th birthday party I photographed this weekend – she’s incredible!

Images (c)Sarah-Jane Field 2015

I love taking photographs in the rain. Don’t let anyone tell you you shouldn’t or can’t – rain offers all sorts of possibilities like this shiny road and the pretty reflections. (c)Sarah-Jane Field 2015

South London Photographer: Something a bit different

So after nearly 11 years of being woken before dawn most mornings my body is now trained to wake at 5.30 or thereabouts.  Often I go back to sleep but there are days when that just doesn’t seem possible.  So last week I actually got up, dragged on several layers of clothes, picked up a couple of cameras and a tripod and set out to the local common to take photographs at dawn.  I’d always said I’d do that when I wasn’t so tired from baby-dom anymore and perhaps I’ve reached that stage.  They do say the first two years are the most exhausting and Son No 3 is very nearly at his third birthday; by which time, usually the world opens again and space for stuff other than your fast-growing infant begins to materialise – woohoo!

Photographing landscapes at dawn is a new experience for me and there is a lot to learn but I was really lucky to have ice on the pond last week which made for some really interesting patterns and textures – something I like, although I’m not sure if such things will sell.  We’ll have to see.  Some of the photographs I took are a little too ‘Disneyfied’ for my tastes but there are two or three that I’m thinking about printing, framing and selling.  I think I have to wait and see how I feel about them in a while – seems that’s the best way to edit this sort of thing.

In fact, I enjoyed myself so much last week I went again this morning.  No ice this time but some fabulous Canada Geese having an argument and leaving some great waves of water behind them as they landed on the pond, which was great to see regardless of anything else.  Sadly, I didn’t end up with photographs I’m that happy with this week but as I say it’s a learning experience and I will certainly be out again at that time of day before long. Turns out I love early mornings; who knew?  Off I trot whilst the kids are still sleeping, spend a couple of hours on my own listening to the birds singing at dawn, doing what I love doing, and back home via the shop to buy bacon by 8.30 having done a load of work before the day has even begun.  What more can you ask for?

To be able to climb back into bed without being mauled by a small person would be nice, but admittedly he told me he loved me and that I have hot boobies as he lay on my chest stroking my face  – so perhaps it’s not so bad after all.  (Incidentally, just in case there is any confusion, he means hot as in very warm because a) he’s my son, b) he’s two, and c) he’s not yet been indoctrinated by our society’s fetishism for female mammary glands and has never heard of page 3!  And I think it’s fair to say I have never had hot boobies in the alternative sense.)

Enjoy half-term.  We’re off to visit friends where my feral brood get to be free-range too and run around in the one of the biggest gardens I’ve ever seen until way after dark screaming and laughing and occasionally beating each-other up, and I get to sit down and drink glasses of wine with my friends while the boys are thoroughly occupied. Bliss!

Before I go, thanks for all the lovely feedback on last week’s post about old family photographs.  Always gratifying to hear.

Have fun and remember I am offering a 5% discount off the full price of a family shoot at the moment to anyone who shares this or any other of my posts via social networking sites.  (Terms & Conditions apply – see prices page of my website)

A reflection in a semi-frozen pond on Wandsworth Common, London. I like the abstract painterly aspect of this image – many of the images I took last week and this morning don’t really do it for me taste-wise. I’m still learning to express myself my way but I think I might quite like this one… perhaps slightly lighter, but I do like a  bit of darkness.  We’ll see!


Image (c)Sarah-Jane Field 2015