South London Photographer: Protests

As another youth-strike took place yesterday across the world, I continued my long-term project of documenting protests, which we have seen more and more of in recent months. Here are a few images from the march in London. Although climate was the focus of Friday’s international gathering, some protesters used the opportunity to express their thoughts about alternative or unrelated issues.

(c)SJField 2019

 

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South London Photographer: In Umbria

This Summer I ran away. I spent as long as was feasibly possible in Europe. Huge thanks to my mother for going to the trouble of breaking her ankle and giving us the excuse to escape the UK, and for facilitating it all too. I can’t begin to say how much I appreciated the time and the rest. Even so, I didn’t sit around doing bugger all. (Mostly…) I took my work with me and did my best to keep up with it. I wrote essays and I read a great deal. I caught up with books I’d been meaning to read and found new ones. And now back to reality.

But before that, here is a visual poem expressing something about my time in Umbria this summer.

Do get in touch for event or portrait photography on 07581694934 – 5% off the advertised price on my website for family shoots and events if booked before 30th September 2019. (Term & Conditions, as ever, apply.)

All images (c)SJField 2019

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South London Photographer: The Digital GP & Strong to the Core

I was really impressed with Dr. Bella Smith, AKA, the Digital GP, and Baz Moffat of Strong to the Core, when I photographed their event in Putney last week. It was conceived to share vital information about the menopause, and both women are incredibly passionate about getting the message out.

Dr. Bella and Baz put on an amazing event while also raising money for the Get Lippy Campaign managed by Eve Appeal which encourages open and frank discussions related to gynaecological health.

We’ve all heard about hot flushes and mood swings but I had no idea forgetfulness could be a sign of the menopause. Attendees were reassured with tales about women visiting the surgery, wondering if they were experiencing early signs of dementia only to discover that they are, in fact, peri-menopausal. I can’t tell you how glad I was to hear that one.  Any confusion or misaprehension related to HRT was also cleared up which could be so useful for some women.

There were some really generous speakers invited to share their stories too. All in all, a fantastic event and it would be well worth looking out for future dates. I only wish a greater number of people could hear talks like this.

Do visit the links below the photographs to find out more.

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Dr. Bella Smith The Digital GP

Eve Appeal 

(c)SJFIeld 2019

 

South London Photographer: Family Photoshoot in Kent

I was thrilled to be invited back to photograph a family I worked with a couple of years ago. We’d all had such a lovely time before and ended up with a great collection of images. It was no different this weekend, and I hope everyone loves these pictures as much as I enjoyed taking them. And what an amazing bunch of stylists everyone in this family seems to be – I might need to borrow their terrific style for all my shoots.

Get in touch for information on family shoots and event photography at photo@sarahjanefield.co.uk or on 07581694934.

All images (c)SJField2019

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South London Photographer: Some shots from Bank Holiday Monday

I took these images on Monday evening at the end of the bank holiday during one of my visits to the Extinction Rebellion protests (see previous blogs). There might have been a further image here; one of a policeman who was sitting, clearly exhausted in the evening sunshine, arms crossed and alone against some hoarding on Park Lane just before Marble Arch. Diane Arbus whose work you can currently see at the Hayward Gallery said taking photographs can feel ‘naughty’ – and yes, it is when we steal pictures of people in the street. The ethics of street photography seem more complex than ever as the structures of our culture emerge, perhaps in part, due to the internet which acts as a mirror and as ubiquitous smartphone-cameras make everyone a potential photographer/voyeur. Although I had asked most (but not all) the people in my images for their permission, I hoped to take an image of this lone policeman who seemed to represent authority,  exhaustion, and isolation so well. Perhaps, in the end, it would have been a clichéd shot that would never have made it passed an initial edit. However, I never got the chance to take my ‘naughty’ picture as he saw me, got up, then walked towards me to call me an idiot. I must stress this was not the behaviour of most police-people I saw, who seemed immensely patient despite what must have been a testing and exhausting week for them.

What are you doing, bloody idiots, costing a fortune, we’ve not seen our families in days, you’re all idiots …. I attempted to explain I was documenting this fantastically interesting period of change in our history … documenting what, there’s nothing to document? You’re all idiots. History is happening in front of us, I said. It’s not history; idiots the lot of you, he’d insisted. I understand he must have had his patience tested. I’d loved to have been able to explain my enthusiasm for witnessing everything I’d been reading about for the last few years emerge so vibrantly, just as the authors had predicted. To see, in front of us, the way we have internalised new ways of understanding and being – in helpful and not so helpful ways – coming to fruition, to see clear evidence of a system changing, to view power evolving. I could have bored the poor exhausted policeman to death with my childlike excitement! Next time, he ranted as he followed me, we won’t …. I never heard what he said about next time as I was too far away from him by then.

I walked on and as I reached the end of the cordoned-off area, another policeman got out of his van. Perhaps his colleague had radioed him about the idiot with the camera coming his way. Nice pictures? he asked. Maybe, I shrugged and smiled at him. It was a beautiful evening. At the bottom of Park Lane tourists stood taking pictures of a golden sun setting over London. Parked outside the Lanesborough Hotel were two super-cars and guests milling about on the steps. And around the corner, yet another sign of homelessness which we see everywhere and far, far too often nowadays.

(c)SJField2019

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South London Photographer: Protests, Easter Friday 2019

Today I wandered through the centre of London and photographed people protesting, but included here are people who are just watching, or taking advantage of the fact there are no cars on the road, and some are simply getting on with life as they explore the city.

The protesters were expressing themselves for a variety of reasons although most of the images below cover the Extinction Rebellion blockades. However, there are other groups too. There are signs in the pictures which may identify movements, but that’s not what I’m most interested in here. What matters to me is the desire to protest – to speak out, to question the status quo – regardless of what the individuals choose to affiliate themselves with. Perhaps I take my lead from Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa who is quoted in Nicholas A Christakis’s latest book Blueprint, “Seeing people only as members of groups is …’ inherently reductionist and dehumanising, a collectivist and ideological abstraction of all that is original and creative in the human being, of all that has not been imposed by inheritance, geography, or social pressure’ Real, personal identity, he argues, ‘springs from the capacity for human beings to resist these influences and counter them with free acts of their own invention.”‘ (2019)

Many people here gave me permission to take their photographs. However, there are some candid, taken in the tradition of street photography.  I am extremely grateful to everyone who acknowledged my camera or spoke to me and told me a little bit about themselves.

The world might seem a lot less stable than it’s been for a while and people are often justifiably angry and frustrated – perhaps for reasons we don’t always understand, but I try to take comfort from scientists/writers Fritjof Capra and Pier Luigi Luis who wrote in A Systems View of Life; “…new structures, technologies, and new forms of social organisation may arise unexpectedly in situations of instability, chaos or crisis.” (2016)

All images (c)SJField2019

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References

F Capra, P Luigi Luisi, 2016, A Systems View of Life, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press

NA Christakis, 2019, Blueprint, New York, Little Brown Spark

 

South London Photographer: With Just Shelter in Dunkirk & Calais

There seems to be so much upheaval and chaos surrounding us all today, it is very difficult to know how to write about Just Shelter’s trips to France. The team continue to gather donations which people kindly deliver when requested. As always Just Shelter takes everything over to Calais, where they transfer carefully packed boxes and bags filled with the simplest and most basic articles to a warehouse populated by volunteers who give up their time, often for weeks and months on end, in an attempt to help a situation which is seemingly helpless.

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Volunteers in the warehouse mending donations which can still be used

Thereafter the London based group travel to a field where people are living in the most appalling conditions, and try in as orderly a fashion as is possible to hand out much needed and appreciated packs of clothing, perhaps some fruit, whatever token of support they can offer.

**

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I thought the wood had been taken for firewood but I was told the police had deliberately destroyed the bridge

Each time, I aim to engage with people and I hear the same story. “The police slash our tents. They treat us like animals. The scream at us, push us, they don’t give us even five minutes to get our stuff. Then they take us somewhere. Do they think we would choose to leave our country, our homes to live like this if there was not a good reason? We don’t come here to live like this because we want to. We come because we cannot be free. But here we are treated worse than animals. If we can stay in the sports hall [an indoor space where limited numbers of people can shelter during the coldest months], we are like prisoners with so many rules, lining up, being told when we can come or go.” Another came up to me as I listened to the man and asked me if I knew who I was talking to. “Gengis Khan!!” he laughed. We all laughed. Even though it was bitterly cold, even though people are clearly bored, frustrated, desperate, there is time for irony and humour.

 

“Take my picture!” some young men invite me towards the fire they are burning. There is little wood and they are using inappropriate donations of women’s nylon underwear from another group visiting which can be worn by no-one here. I take their photos and then get them to message me so I can send them copies. A pair perform and pose with the female undergarments as I photograph them. We all enjoy the playfulness. A guy selling cigarettes stands nearby and asks me if I want to buy any. I don’t smoke, I tell him. We stand quietly and he lets me photograph his bag filled with well-known brands. “A good man. Cheap!” says one of the other guys who had been photographed earlier as he points to the seller. He then indicates to the barber, “A good man also, cheap haircuts.”

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The barber did not want to be photographed but was happy to speak to me. He made a living giving people affordable haircuts, which sometimes means free.

“I was a manager in a hotel back in my country. I had a good job. A car. A good home. But no freedom. You criticise the government. And within 24 hours you’re dead.”

When I first arrived at the car park where Just Shelter began the process of handing out backpacks, I noticed a boy who might have been in his late teens or early twenties. He sat on the wooden pole and listlessly watched people queuing patiently for the nominal packs we had gathered from people in London. “Don’t you want one, I asked?” He shrugged. He looked liked he could have done with something warmer to wear. They all did.

At the end of the day, Just Shelter travelled to a more disparate camp where there are many more groups of people. We visited the same camp during our previous visit. I had taken some photographs of boys and young men there before and they recognised me. We greeted each other warmly. Despite their smiles and friendliness, this camp feels darker, less safe. I try to engage with others but it is clear they are not willing. I don’t blame them. I head to the site where the old Jungle used to be and take some photographs to of it now so I can compare with the images I took before.

Afterwards, the group head back to get our ferry. I know we will see some of the same faces again next time.

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The area that was the Jungle

 

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The same view as an image taken at the bottom of the page in 2016

 

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When I first visited here in 2015 a man had covered the graffiti up and had become its gatekeeper. This was the first place I arrived and it was packed with tents. Two young women immediately offered me hot tea. The camp held 10 000  at its height. Now the smaller camp nearby is populated by about 300 men.  Variously sized groups are scattered all over the region and beyond making it hard for volunteers to distribute tents, sleeping bags, clothes and food.

 

 

**

While our group were there, another team of teachers had been working with children in a local building where families have been able to shelter for the worst of the winter months. The children were grateful for real lessons and their parents equally so. Please follow Just Shelter if you haven’t already so you can read about the work the teachers were able to do while they visited, and to find out how you can get involved.

(c)SJField 2019