Whatever you feel about the current political state of collapse it would be difficult to deny how historically important it all is. I won’t say much in words. Everybody has their view and I know from past experience that asking people on either side of an argument to shift or broaden there positions can be hugely challenging. But obviously I took some photographs while out and about today and I’m sharing some of those here.
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.
During the last week I have facilitated a couple of workshops, sharing some of the lessons I have learned when using my phone to take and edit pictures. At each session I have started by urging people to stop thinking of their phones as poor relations to their cameras and start appreciating the possibilities phones offer. “The best camera is the one you have with you” is quoted by various people all over the internet, and is the title of a book by photographer, Chase Jarvis. Regardless of where the quote comes from, it’s very true – you can only take pictures with the camera you have on you at the time. And most of us nowadays do have our phones with us pretty much all the time. I’ve read recently that point and shoot cameras may well disappear from the market altogether as phones have replaced the need for their existence. But I was also recently sent some information about a new powerful, wifi enabled camera, which I noted has been designed in the shape of a phone. I can’t help wondering if the makers will ultimately be forced to shoe-horn an actual phone into their camera to make it sellable. Who knows what the future holds? We’ll see!
Here are some of the comments that were sent to me or posted on Facebook after Friday evening and an earlier worksop in the week where I taught teachers, which I have to say was a little bit nerve wracking.
“Just had the most brilliant evening playing around with phone photography under the inspiring tutelage of Sarah-Jane Field.”
“Worth every penny. Thank you so much for a fab evening and brilliant photo experience!”
“Thank you for the workshop yesterday evening – all of us very much enjoyed it and felt that we have learnt something that we can use personally as well as here at work.”
“I loved it – definitely recommend it!”
And here are a couple of lovely pictures taken by the people who attended:
The positive reaction has generated further interest and so I’m sure I’ll be doing another local session soon. Look out for details.
Here are some pictures from Friday evening’s workshop, which I must admit I didn’t take on my phone due to the fact that it, along with the camera inside it, is pretty smashed up and broken, and has been for a while now. I really must get it together to call the insurance company and sort that out and I very much hope to have a new phone by my next outing with phone photography enthusiasts. I’m beginning to get quite frustrated by my compromised phone camera!
This week I am attending a workshop myself rather than taking it and I’m incredibly excited. Having spent the last few days sharing my love for the most up to date technology in phones to take photographs, I shall be travelling back through history and learning to make ambrotypes, one of the earliest forms of photography there is. Aren’t I lucky? I’m sure I’ll be posting lots of pictures afterwards about my time there so look out for those.
I remember much of what I have written about in this post because of the photo albums which I avidly used to keep up to date, meticulously recording and documenting our lives. Two children and one early pregnancy later, everything got far too busy and crazy. My photo albums stop at that point and it’s harder to piece things together without the visual reminders. I’m pretty sure the last time I went to Brighton I was heavily pregnant with No 3. Hang on a minute, I can’t have been heavily pregnant because he was born in March and we went in the summer. Oh yes, I remember, I looked heavily pregnant from about day 2 of that pregnancy, so that by the time I was just 3 months gone, I looked like I was about to pop. I do know for sure I ate a family pack of Wotsits and felt sick in the car going down – aaah, you might think, therein lies a possible reason for having been so incredibly big. In fact, it’s impossible to forget just how very sick I felt for most of those 9 months, and I suspect the salt in the Wotsits probably helped keep the nausea at bay. I also recall flooding my bag with a broken bottle of water and destroying my phone on the way home. But I wouldn’t have taken any photographs during that visit because just holding my phone, or a camera, significantly and palpably added to the feeling of nausea. Most people reminisce about how they couldn’t drink tea, alcohol or orange juice when pregnant. I remember I simply couldn’t take a photograph. It just made me want to hurl. Which, as you might image, is a truly depressing way to spend your time when you once loved taking pictures of your kids.
It was a weird aversion and I never experienced it during my other pregnancies. But thanks to the albums, I know for certain that we had a lovely day out in Brighton during my pregnancy with No 2 too. I like looking at those pictures. No 1 is still very young. I have a short gamine hair style, which suits me and my large belly well, and we all look really happy sitting in a fish restaurant, and then later on the beach, throwing stones into the sea. (Here’s an image from that visit. I photographed a picture from the album, using my phone, and uploaded it to Instagram a while ago – so a great combination of old and new technology.)
Thankfully, the pregnancy hormones have long gone, No 3 is running around outside my belly causing chaos, and the aversion to technology has dissipated. I started thinking about lenses again when No 3 was roughly 4 months old, so I knew then that me and my photography would be OK. When we recently visited Brighton again (sans any pregnancy) during half term to see old friends whom we’d not seen in years and years, I was able to really enjoy my love of photography and record our day out with my usual enthusiasm. No 1 was very keen to recreate the image I’d posted to Instagram, which I’d taken when he was 3 years old. We had a play and eventually he told me he’d rather wait until he was 18 to do that but he did very patiently let me continue trying out new scenarios.
Here’s a selection from our day. I used my Fuji X100s which is the camera I tend to carry around because it’s light and easy. I really must get back to albums of one sort or another because they’re great for holding and looking through when you have a spare moment, and terrific for future generations to have.
Get in touch for family photography sessions, mentioning this post and I’ll include 5 A4 prints to your booking for free*. That way you can also think about creating old fashioned albums for you and your children to look at in years to come.
Incidentally, I was recently introduced to Light, a camera company that is aiming to change the way photographs are taken with a new compact camera that has DSLR quality in a lighter and more convenient form! One of my photos will be submitted as part of their Vantage Point project.
Back to school tomorrow. And onwards with work in a slightly less disruptive manner (and breath….)! SJ x
Images (c)SJField 2016, *T&C apply – see website for details
Last night I met up with a group of 10-12 year olds to share some fun tips about using their phones or tablets to take and edit photographs. It was a bit of a windy, grey evening weather-wise, but even though we all had horribly cold hands by the end of it, I definitely enjoyed myself and hope the others did too. I’ve alway liked that age group. Years ago when I used to teach drama to children and young people (adults too, in fact) I remember acknowledging that I really enjoyed spending time with preteens. They’re not quite grown up yet, so mostly are still imbued with a happy childishness, however, they are without any doubt fully fledged human-beings by then. Because in actual fact, the very young ones just aren’t. Nope, not at all. I realised this fact about some four and five year olds when I offered to do an after school drama club with my oldest son’s class when he was in reception. It was then that my respect and admiration for anyone working with that particular age group soared. I tried desperately to keep those rowdy miniature hooligans in control, failed utterly, and eventually gave up, blaming my son’s obvious jealousy and discomfort over sharing his mum with 18 other children. (I’ll always be grateful to the mums who stayed behind and helped with toilet breaks and upsets). But I realised too that the uncontrollable chimp-like lunacy of those small people was not for me. Teachers who can manage it, for there are those that are brilliant at it, deserve our utmost admiration and thanks.
Last night’s workshop made me aware of some important facts as far as sharing information and knowledge goes. Perhaps a really important point was made when a lovely girl I’ve known since she was born told me she couldn’t work out whether she wanted to make her photographs look very natural and realistic, or ‘weird’. Heh, I said, join the club! I still can’t work that one out myself and keep playing with a variety choices, and maybe will forever. Just play, I advised, and maybe you’ll reach a decision or maybe you won’t. Don’t worry about it for now, though. One day, if you’re photographing for a specific reason then you can make choices based on what is required, for instance it might not be appropriate to have a ‘weird’ image illustrating something in a text book. Saying that, I recently read that if you want to make lots of money then settle on a style but if you want to explore and discover, don’t limit yourself. I think it was a great photographer called Alec Soth who said that. Do look him up if you don’t know him and are interested in photography – he’s terrific.
I’m sharing a picture here which I’ve already shared on Instagram, one which has had lots of positive feedback, although I’m torn about it. I love the mood but in the same vein as my friend’s daughter who questioned her aesthetic choices last night, I never know whether I’m entirely happy using affects and apps, or if I’ve gone too far, or if I should simply accept that those choices faithfully express something I’m playing with right now. I think I should take my own advice and stop worrying about it – although I think I am probably expected to have more than an inkling about why I make certain decisions, especially in my studies. Whatever else is true, and perhaps down to being little bit ‘naughty’, for now I think I’ll continue to approach my own work by just playing and discovering for as long as I can, and trying not to worry too much.
As we had so much fun last night, I am going to offer an ongoing phone photography club aimed at kids aged 10-13 years old. We’ll meet once a month and just hang out taking pictures and sharing them like we did last night, and generally talk about how we think we can improve our skills. Please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or message me via social media with your email address and I’ll keep you informed with updates. I may well offer a different club to a slightly younger group, 8-9 years olds, because in the end a few little monkeys can be fun and they’re certainly very close to being human beings by then, but that group will be limited to a relatively small number. Again, let me know if this interests you. Keep a look out on Twitter and FB for dates regarding both. And I’ve got a couple of places left on the adult workshop/photo walk in the 17th, so get in touch about that if you fancy it.
Enjoy the rest of half term for those of you still on it. My font room seems to have been turned permanently into a den made out of blankets and duvets. And I’m fine with that, really. Honest. No,no, no… I am!
I’m very lucky to have such nice neighbours. They’re very understanding. I should think it’s like living next door to a group of howling monkeys for them. Mornings can be fairly frantic in this house, as they are all around the world where young children are concerned. But on Saturday mornings my lot really do take the almighty piss. We have a club to get to by 11am so not too onerous time-wise, you would think. Only, No 2 likes to languish in bed for as long as possible, by default refusing to get dressed. He favours reading, which is hard to be discouraging about, or watching someone with an incredibly loud and annoying voice play games on YouTube, which is best to stay as far away as possible from; and No 3 is just ornery about getting dressed whatever the day, time, or mood he is in.
Son no 1 does not have the patience of a saint. In fact, he might have the exact opposite amount of patience. So he can be more than a little disgruntled when 10 O Clock passes and the small ones still haven’t bothered to put any clothes on, despite having been asked several times by then. If we don’t leave by 10.15 then we can’t walk and No 1 likes to walk. At which point he goes, well, I think the phrase might be ‘ape-shit’. I do tell him his tempestuous encouragement towards the small people is not actually terribly helpful, but he’s usually too far-gone to hear me, bearing his teeth aggressively and howling like a proper monstrous primate from the deepest unconscious depths of our collective evolutionary past. And that obviously sets the small ones off. From the safety of my own screen, where I might be trying to get some work finished, I try in my ineffectual way (‘come on, boys!’) to calm it all down but I seem only to make things worse. (Yes, I do hear the voices out there suggesting that perhaps I shouldn’t be trying to get some work done at that particular moment and therein lies the problem… but … a woman’s gotta do what a … and all that….)
After some grunting and pushing and shoving, whilst attempting to drag his brothers to the pile of clothes I’ve left out for them, No 1 eventually recovers access to language and I get told, “It’s all your fault! You don’t bring us up to be normal! Why can’t you parent like other people? They’re psychotic and it’s because of you!” It’s quite hard to hear though because of the crying and yelling behind him.
Mmmm… Is now the right time, I wonder, to discuss the word ‘normal’ – what is normal anyway? Do you really think your friend’s parents are normal? Ha! You just wait….I decide now is probably not the best moment but mentally log the philosophical debate for later.
“They need more rules! I had more rules when I was their age…” he continues to rant at me while his younger brothers run round howling and beating each-other up in a confused and pointless act of retribution aimed in entirely the wrong direction, although for them it would seem, any direction will do. But they don’t get dressed.
“We discussed rules last week,” I tell him, “but you said the rule about no food outside the kitchen was a dumb one. And have you bought that collection of cups and bowls down from your room, while we’re about it?” I ask.
“That is a dumb rule. And I don’t mean those sorts of rules…”
“Oh… how about a rule saying you must help me with the dishwasher every day instead of randomly every few weeks or so. Or you must bring your own washing pile down and put it in the washing machine, and change your own sheets? They sound like good rules to implement.”
He grunts. But by now we are far too late to walk and must drive to the activity, which annoys me too. So it becomes hard not to sympathise with No 1 even though he’s clearly being selective about what sort of rules we should have and who should be required to follow them.
I manage to get all of my various sized simians into the car; more yelling, more howling, more gnashing of teeth from all of us. And on our journey No 1 declares we should have a chart that clearly identifies the rules he thinks we should start following. I dreamily imagine what I would write:
‘No fucker will grow up in this house to become an imbecile who can’t take care of themselves as an adult….’
No, that ‘s not right… I know exactly what the oh, so sensible No 1 will say…
“Mum, children whose parent’s swear at them are more likely to grow up depressed!” He keeps telling me.
“No, no – that, my love, is likely to be down to a genetic predisposition… sorry.” But he’d be quite right to chastise me, not because I shouldn’t swear at them, which of course I shouldn’t. But because we’re meant to be thinking about a set of rules, not a manifesto. And in any case a manifesto is a pointless thing because one of us is bound to creep in during the night, alla Napolean the Dictator Pig along with his helpers, and cross out bits or add words to suit whatever changing relationship we have with the rules anyway. In the end I don’t think a set of rules up on the wall will suit us.
And anyway, it’s not all bad because No 2 isn’t always howling like a deranged primate. Sometimes he’s wandering around with a pigeon-feather tucked behind his ear like Haiwatha and laughing hysterically at the thought of ‘mature’ cheddar. “Is it really called mature cheddar? Oh, I’m such a mature cheese, I’m so very, very, very mature! Hahahahahah!” I loved that moment. And when No 3 isn’t screeching like an absolutely maniacal and outraged mini-ape, he’s hugging me and telling me I’m the best mummy in the world. And as for No 1, he’s really being amazingly mature most of the time right now, although not in the same way as the cheese thankfully. I do just feel for the neighbours though. Because really, all they get to hear are the howling animals we’re all so good at impersonating.
On the work front, my iPhone photography session for children is full but I’ve been asked to do one for adults too. I will probably hold one on the 10th of June from 6pm for 1.5 to 2 hours. More details to follow this week.
Last night I photographed an event at the Grosvenor Arms, where I’ve been documenting some changes since Brendan Conway and his partners took it over. The group are studying ways to create ventures that encourage genuine human connection within communities, and looking at ways of providing spaces where positive interaction between businesses, families and individuals can occur. It’s really great to know these concerns are bing addressed by society.
I was lucky with the light and some great moments. I left the group having a brilliant time and I hope they enjoyed themselves.
A couple of weeks ago I dropped the kids off at school and sauntered down the road to Wandsworth Registry Office to photograph one of the loveliest weddings. Maybe most weddings are lovely but I particularly liked being witness to the genuine and extremely evident feelings of joy I hope I was able to capture in this one. And what a cute baby to make my day too. I’m so pleased Hannah & Andy got in touch with me so I could photograph their day. All in all, everything about my morning at work that day made me think, this job’s pretty good indeed. As always in blog posts about weddings, I think I’ll let the photographs do the talking. Have a great week, SJ
I feel really lucky to have been asked to document the restoration of a Victorian pub in Wandsworth, and to be involved in some small way in the project. As I have alluded to on social media, Brendan Conway, the new joint owner of the Grosvenor Arms has plans that go far beyond merely updating a building, albeit one that has already benefitted from an injection of cash thanks to him and his team. It is not merely a superficial project. Brendan and his wife, Rowan, along with his brother Fintan, have committed to ensuring the pub is part of the community, a place where people can meet, get to know each other, hold events and share ideas. I really admire the project as it is rooted in ethics and motivations that are quite different to what we have come to expect from large corporations that often take over old pubs, either homogenising or plasticising them. And even removing crisps from the menu! I mean it – I once tried to get a packet of crisps in one such homogenised pub and was told they only do home-made ones, but since the chef was off they couldn’t supply me with any, and had no alternative snacks either…. true story, in a pub! Gentrification with its head right up its wots it in that particular case…. Worse still, large organisations have often knocked these old buildings down, buildings that were once the centre of communities, and replaced them with flats no one can afford, designed for singletons and couples rather than familes, making it harder for people to live. Brendan is keen to prevent Garratt Lane from turning into a place that has few places for locals to meet up, and his biggest wish, from what I can make out, is to regenerate not wealth, but instead a healthy sense of community and solid relationships within it. I also like that Brendan has so much time and respect for the previous landlady and the customers who frequented the pub before he took it over. All in all, I think he’s on to a winner. And I think the world and businesses need more people with ideas like Brendan’s and less of the homogenising building types along with the community demolishers out there.
This week I am posting a handful of photographs that give you an indication of the enormous amount of work that has gone into the refurbishment. Plus a couple of others from the opening party. See the Grosvenor Arm’s social media and website for more.
All images (c)SJField 2016 – please get in touch if you wish to use any of these images.
The images below start with shots from the pub before it was closed for refurbishment, and show some during the process. The last four are from just before opening on Saturday evening at 8pm.
Just some of the images from Saturday night’s opening. A really busy successful evening and the first of many to come. Good luck, Grosvenor Arms and the Conways!
Phone photography sessions for children aged 8-12, £8 per child, Tuesday 31st May, 2016, 5.30pm. Get in touch for more details on 07581 694 934 or via email@example.com
Advertising over…. I have been a bit quieter than usual on social networking the last couple of weeks or so. Several reasons and actually, a good thing for my relationship with the non-digital world, but maybe not ideal for my business. It’s tricky to get the balance right. You read all this stuff saying you must be Tweeting/Instagramming/Facebooking constantly to get your social media marketing statistics up, aiming always, of course, to result in bookings, and you should be regularly engaging with others too otherwise it doesn’t work – obviously, and don’t what ever you do, disappear from the digital airwaves. Geez… so many rules! When’s a person meant to do some actual work? And when did all those terms become verbs, anyway? Language, heh…. fluid, in flux and developing always; so interesting.
Anyway the reason I am quieter than usual is because a couple of projects I am working on are taking up a great deal of my time, energy and internal resources. So much so, that I am often surprised by how quickly time passes; especially when I turn around and notice that it’s 6pm instead of 3pm, which is what I assumed it must be on Sunday evening, having finally remembered I needed to tell a friend I wouldn’t in fact be turning up … admittedly that was quite a large amount of time to be wrong by, and thankfully it’s not always so dramatic. Sunday, however, utterly disappeared and before I knew it the kids hadn’t been fed properly or even put to bed, and I had a meeting online with fellow students, which to be honest proved slightly tricky, but all we got there in the end, wherever there might have been. Bed and asleep for those small people, thankfully.
The whole creative process is incredibly fulfilling, even though it means being on a bit of an emotional roller coaster…”that’s what I mean… shit, no it isn’t,… yes, this works,…oh, my god, I’m awful, I can’t do anything right!… yes! No! Maybe! Try that … help! try this… back that way, where did I put the thing that I need now?..Aaaaargh!!!” It’s quite tiring too, actually, but most of the time I love it a lot. And, despite the current political debate within the education sector, where it appears that some quarters are attempting to limit and thwart creativity in our schools nowadays, children are thankfully still very much up for exploring the world in a creative and artistic way. Which is a good thing.
And is probably why I’ve been asked to do some photography sessions aimed at kids. I’ve had a think about the best way to go about this, and decided to initially offer an hour in a local park and to concentrate on using a phone/tablet or iPod, and see how that goes. All participants will need an electronic device like a phone that has a camera on it. We’ll have a chat about taking images, how to edit, the merits of apps, whether or not to use effects, and where to share them. Get in touch and I’ll give you further details as there are a couple of apps that your child will benefit from having access to.
Right, that’s it – must get on with some admin whilst I’m taking a quick break from one of the projects that’s absorbing so much of my being. Here are some pictures I have taken on my phone recently, which are the sort of thing we’ll be aiming to do in the kid’s session. (Mmmm… wonder if the social media gurus will be satisfied with today’s efforts…)