South London Photographer: End of half-term and a busy few days ahead

I am getting my blog for this week done sooner than usual as I am working tomorrow afternoon – a shoot with a family who have a young baby, yay!  And then I know I will have quite a lot to do for the following few days.  It’s called forward planning, I think. Always worth aiming for but not actually possible in every instance when you’re juggling lots of stuff at once.  No doubt I shall be quite pleased with myself if I manage to get everything done that needs doing over the next 48 hours or so, and that’s even without having made my bed this morning.  I mention this as I read some peculiar article on Twitter that said making your bed in the morning makes you a better version of yourself… really?  I guess I should give it a try and see how I go – If I manage it I’ll report back and let you know if I think I’ve become an improved model of SJF.

I am posting a photograph of Son No 2 today as it’s one of my favourites.  And I know some people might look at it and go, really? What?  But for me this photograph works. The light, the subject, the reality of it. It doesn’t look posed but I have to admit it actually is.  I saw him sitting there drinking his drink, well actually my drink and I said, hang on – let me grab my camera.  At which point he got out and ran around the house covered in bubbles laughing at me. He only got back in and let me take the photograph when I had promised to Photoshop something unspeakable on the can. Where this seven year old gets his humour… it’s a worry.  I took a few shots but the first one was the best in my view and then he jumped out and I told him I was going to break my promise and not Photoshop anything into it, so he now thinks it’s a rubbish photograph.  I don’t mind.  I love it.

I think I might have to do a series of photographs of the boys in the bathroom mainly because the light in there is simply beautiful. Is that a good enough reason?  Who knows?  My studies with art and photography have left me wondering what on earth art is and if there is indeed any reason behind any of it at all.  I chat about the teaching of art here in Michael Szpakowski’s Art Education discussion which I mentioned in my last post.  Actually, I can’t wait to finish the current module I’m doing at OCA and move on to the next which probably won’t answer the question but it will give me lots more to think about when considering it.

Some of my photographs will be displayed at Barmouth Kitchen on Barmouth Road in Wandsworth from next weekend over the summer.  Will they be considered art? I don’t know.  You’ll have to pop along and see, and make up your own mind.  Not sure BK will want pictures of my kids in the bath plastered all over their walls next time round… but who knows?  Perhaps they’d love it!  This time though the theme is Wandsworth and colour.  So if you’ve got a spare wall looking for an image, pop along and take a look or get in touch.  Mounted hand printed images will cost £55 or you could just grab yourself a set of postcards if you prefer.  I’ll pop the images online after the launch at BK next Friday. (If you’re local, do pop along – Friday 5th from 7pm)

In the meantime, enjoy what’s left of half term and bring on the last few weeks of the school year!  My little home needs a bit of a rest from the kids being here quite so many hours – they were actually decorating the walls this morning.  And I don’t mean in a helpful way.

Have fun!

Image (c)sarahjanefield 2015

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Son No 2

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 photo@sarahjanefield.co.uk or call me on 07581694934

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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: A New Year and a son who runs an airline

I am aware that publishing my usual Sunday afternoon blog on Monday morning makes it slightly later than usual – but the feral ones were with me yesterday afternoon and I was dragged to the cinema to have my heartstrings pulled my those manipulative people at Disney. I have however been very pleased to hear from readers that they enjoy my blog and look forward to it arriving in their inbox or popping up on their Facebook page so apologies. I have just wrestled the computer off Son No 1 who was most disgruntled as he apparently takes his imaginary online airline, of which he is the CEO he tells me, far more seriously than I think I’ve taken anything in my life.

It’s a very good thing, in my mind at any rate, that the beginning of the school term beckons – although according to Son No 1 he’d be much better off being home-schooled or even unschooled. According to me that would be a disaster and he can carry on dreaming.

So back to normal before long: only a new normal in a new year, which will strangely feel just like the old normal.

This is the time of year I habitually ask myself where we’re going to end up living. I don’t think I’m the only Londoner who teases themselves with the perennial question of whether to leave the city for some countryside idyll where children apparently run around outside all day with the wind blowing in their un-city-sullied locks. But this year I probably need to think about it more seriously about than ever before.

Why Boris, why have you engineered a situation where millions of tiny unaffordable flats are built and then sold off to investors so that the people who actually live here are forced to ask themselves periodically ‘what on earth are we going to do about a home?’ and then have no choice but to leave the city that is their home?

With this in mind I went along with the boys to look at a bigger flat around the corner and I won’t bore you with the grisly details but we left having the familiar conversation about where we might end up going if, or should I say when we have to leave London. And as we do I remind myself of a key chapter from The Narcissism Epidemic by Jean Twenge and W Keith Campbell (published by Atria 2009) which says very clearly – don’t let your children make major family decisions.

So, I mustn’t, mustn’t leave the profound life changing and all-important decision about where we all move to a 10 year old. Even if the 10 year old is under the impression that he’s at least 34 years old and in charge of an airline based round the corner in the playing fields surrounding the local gym.

“Where shall we move to?” I ask the 10 year old. His answer is always the same.

“Brighton!!”

“Why? Why? Why Son No 1?”

“There are two really cool train lines….” which he then goes on to describe to me yet again. I can’t repeat it here as this is about the time I switch off because my brain has been battered enough over the years with tales of trains and train lines, real and imaginary as that form of transport was the obsession before his airline company took over.

“And,” he adds, “Pewdiepie lives there too!”

Pewdiepie for those of you not in the know is a YouTube celebrity whom Son No 1 should, no doubt, not be enamored by as I’m certain much of what he bangs on about on the Internet isn’t age-appropriate but then since I seem to be on the verge of leaving a profound and major, life changing decision to him perhaps it’s all a little academic anyway.

“I’m not moving to Brighton,” I say. Nothing against Brighton as such. Some of my best friends live there. Actually just friends but you get the point.

“Why, mum? Why? Why?”

“Stony beach,” I say. “It’s not for me. I like sand.”

“OK, he says. Yorkshire!” I know this is because another well-known YouTuber, for that is what these YouTube celebrities are called, didn’t you know, lives there and has nothing to do with my brother being there at all. Yorkshire at least would be a good deal cheaper, I think.

After seeing the grisly flat we wander slowly home to my lovely flat that is nevertheless far too small and I remind myself of Affleunza by Oliver James (published Vermillion 2007), a book I read some years ago but which I can’t quote from because all my books are still in storage for various reasons but there’s no-where to put them in my tiny flat so perhaps fortuitously (but still… “You hear that, Mr. X, my books are still in STORAGE!!”): and how the desire to always have bigger and more is ultimately not very healthy at all.

It’s a shame we really don’t fit in the flat we’re currently in though. I’m ever so happy there and those who know me will understand that what I don’t have in space is very much made up for in other priceless ways.

I wonder how Boris Johnson and his family will feel if I knock on his door with my 3 boys in tow (one of whom is a CEO, mind) and let him know that we cannot afford to live anywhere and have so decided that we’re moving into his rather lovely London home. Do you think he’d mind? I expect he’d say “Why, Sarah-Jane? Why? Why?”

“Well… ” I’d answer, and then I’d bang on for some hours about tiny expensive flats being built and then sold off to investors only to sit empty while real Londoners are forced to consider leaving London. “Why, why, why???”

For those of you looking at moving out of London, Life After London’s site is full of useful information.

This week I have posted some photographs from a corporate job I did just before Christmas where Peter Sissons hosted a seminar aimed helping companies who are considering moving offices – it was very interesting listening to all the pros and cons and I was able to apply some of the arguments for and against to my own little life.

All images (c) Sarah-Jane Field 2014

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South London Photographer: Matriphagous spiders and other little monsters

Have you heard of matriphagous spiders? There is an Australian example who gives birth to her babies and then begins to liquefy so that they can feed on her, starting with her legs and working upwards, finishing their meal of Mum with the protein-rich eggs she keeps in her belly especially for their grisly pudding. I think about this spider often as I meander through motherhood trying to partition my time, internal resources and headspace fairly for all of us but also realistically.

Like most mothers and many fathers it’s not always easy getting the balance right and I seem to swing between ignoring the feral ones rather too much whilst getting on with my own stuff or abandoning my studies and neglecting myself periodically to concentrate on them. Christmas, of course is about my boys and that along with my own need to have a bit of a rest means I am consequently rather behind on college work, which needs addressing as soon as the New Year begins. All of this lies heavily on my very poorly head as I lie in bed with the most terrible cold for the second day running.

As colds go it’s a pretty bad one and I’m reminded of the spiders eating away at their maternal parent. Finding time to rest isn’t always easy (as I type a small person is clambering all over my legs telling me all about a book I’ve read to him at least a million times and now he’s hugging or should I say head-butting that poorly head of mine). They certainly are quite demanding little creatures but at least they aren’t literally eating me up alive. However, I do currently feel a little like I might have forgotten to look after myself in some way.

While it may be an economical albeit rather gruesome solution to the spider’s evolutionary needs there would be an awful lot we’d miss out on if we procreated in the same way.

Like how Son No 1 was determined to make sure I received an extremely special present and so badgered his father to fund his extravagant gift. Or the beautiful photography book that he and my mother chose for me which actually bought tears to my eyes when I opened it… (I do wonder if I’m heading for the menopause because I seem to well up at the slightest thing in the same way I did during my pregnancies). Or the wonderful get-well card they decided to make me yesterday (again, I got a little teary)because I was stuck in bed all day drifting in and out of feverish sleep; that is when when Son No 3 would allow me and thank you to my mother for removing him for the afternoon.

I’d hate to miss out on Son No 3’s solution to the fact he’s not allowed to use swear words and so instead yells, “what the thumb!” when something irks him or simply because he can. How awful not to have the hugs that all three boys shower me with, although not so much the eldest now truth be told (weep, weep). On Christmas Day I did a jolly good impression of a post menopausal elderly Aunt by falling asleep on the sofa at about five pm surrounded by chaos and noise, and I was woken with the slobbery kisses from a two year old which if you must be jolted from a post-prandial doze then I’d say it’s one of the best ways to go about it. And the joy in Son No 2s expression when he opened his present – I really got that one right – was definitely something worth not being eaten for.

“Mum, mum! Son No 3’s got no trousers on!” is something that gets yelled at me fairly regularly. He is very good at going to the loo on his own but it’s all too much trouble getting dressed again, which is usually fine at home, although as you can imagine has its occasional perils, but at a Christmas party in someone else’s home it is probably best to retrieve said child from the wriggling mass of small people and replace his underwear at least.

I love those moments. None of these happenings are earth shattering on their own but add them up over time and the whole mothering thing, tiring, tricky and trying as it can sometimes be, amounts to something pretty special and makes our own evolutionary path extremely worthwhile.

Being a human being rather than a self sacrificing spider means being deeply embedded in a sophisticated culture and one of our cultural mores is recognising time passing and marking it in some way. Generally we like to start a new year by giving something up or attempting to better ourselves. I’m not sure what I’m going to give up but if I could convince myself to do without my smart phone I certainly would. It drives me mad. My own madness with it drives me madder.   And there are only so many stories about animals being nice to each-other on Twitter a person needs to read and then weep about.  So I think, my New Year’s resolution is going to be about being more present in the here and now!

As the sun sets on 2014 what are others thinking about giving up or taking up in 2015? Whatever it is, good luck! I hope you all had fabulous Christmases and have the sort of New Year you’re hoping for. I’m going to get over this hideous cold, tidy up my home, which is what I normally do with much gusto during these in-between days and then catch up with my studies. And I shall always try to remember; at least I’m not a matriphagous spider from Australia, even though metaphorically speaking it can sometimes feel that the little monsters are indeed devouring me.

Happy New Year! xx

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A stunning sunset in Wandsworth just before Christmas