South London Photographer: The Minotaur, a giraffe called Donkey and Us

One of the good things about the early mornings we have been getting used to since my eldest started secondary school, is that there is enough time to have a bath rather than a quick shower. Of course, where I go, the two smaller boys tend to follow, so rather than a long relaxing soak, it’s more of squashy, crumpled stew. On Friday just gone, a translucent plastic giraffe called Donkey, which doubles as a swivel stick when not being an animal friend with an identity crisis, joined us too. And that was just for starters.

“So, No 2”, I said, just before he stripped off and climbed in, “if you’re going to ruin my peace, I guess we might as well do your talk homework in here,” since we’d not got round to it. We should have done it the night before, but I had been out for the evening; gosh, it seems there is so little room for slippage in our schedule so every moment must be put to good use – doing it in the bath solves our failure to get Friday’s homework done on time brilliantly.

I had actually chatted briefly with No 2 about it previously, but the subject had quickly turned to computer rights. I have recently banned him from watching YouTube altogether, after hearing one of his heroes going on about masturbation being a really useful arm strengthening exercise! His profile on my desktop computer is monitored and streamed for adult content but clearly I’d not thought about securing my own gadgets, which he had been using at the time.

It’s so bloody difficult to keep all this stuff at bay. No 1 had alerted me to the fact that I had unwittingly allowed his younger brother to download Mortal Combat; thankfully No 1’s fascistic monitoring of No 2’s online activity meant we caught it very soon after my own clumsy mistake.

“Why can’t I watch YouTube???” No 2 had wailed when I’d mentioned homework previously because his conversation is littered with such non-sequiturs and in his mind any question he is asked should rightly be answered with one of his own, about the frustrations of being 7 and having to adhere to at least some basic restrictions online.

“Because, you love the violent stuff and it’s totally inappropriate for your age. I can actually see it making you more violent before my very eyes. Next question!”

He agreed it was a good idea to do the homework in the bath, and picked up the instructions, which I’d placed carefully between the bottles of shampoo and conditioner, to read them.

As No 3, Donkey, the plastic giraffe, No 2 and I all squeezed in, in anticipation of the stories we were about to hear, I said,

“So, tell me, my delicate 7 year old, what are we chatting about today?”

“King Ageaus, Theseus and the Minotaur,” he replied.

“Ok, tell me what happens ”

“Well, there’s this guy called King Minos and he’s really evil and every year gets King Ageaus to give him 7 men and 7 women to feed his Minotaur, a beast that is half bull, half human with huge horns who lives in a labyrinth designed by Daedalus. And Thebes, King Ageaus’ son says he’s going to go and kill the Minotaur, but King Minos’ daughter Ariadne falls in love with him and helps him by giving him a ball of string so he can find his way out of the labyrinth. And Theseus rips the minotaur’s head off because he’s superhuman and escapes using the ball of string, which he nearly loses, so is terrified for a while until he can find it, in case he has to die next to the stinking dead body of the Minotaur in the dark, scary labyrinth. And then he takes Ariadne on a ship but dumps her half way home, on an Island where she’ll probably starve to death, because she’s in love with him and he doesn’t really like her as much, but he forgets to put up some white sails on his ship, which was meant to be a sign to his dad that he was alive, so his dad, King Ageaus, jumps off the cliff and commits suicide in the sea, which is named after him and is still called the Aegean sea today ….”

“Well, remembered…” I tell Son No 2 as he recounts one of the goriest stories I’ve ever heard him tell me with gusto, glee and an impressive attention to detail.

Your boobies are funny!” says No 3 as he tries to poke them with Donkey.

“Stop that!” I shriek.

He eats the piece of paper with the talk homework instead, and then grins.

Thankfully No 2 is so enthralled with his myths he remembers everything he has to chat about, so when I say, “And is there anything else you have to tell me?” he recalls exactly what the next question was, as I swill about in my bath, now not only over populated with people and a giraffe named Donkey, but also seemingly littered with the dead bodies of countless tributes to the Minotaur, the Minotaur himself and Theseus’ dead father.

“Yeah, Daedalus and Icarus were in trouble because they had helped Theseus escape so they were locked in a tower. But they got away. And he had designed some wings for himself and his son, Icarus, but they were held together with wax so he told Icarus that it was really important not to fly too close to the sun. But Icarus didn’t listen and so the wax melted and his wings disintegrated and Daedalus watched as his son fell to his death, yelling at the last moment, ‘help me, father’, which haunted Daedalus for the rest of this days in Sicily.”

Bleedin’ heck, I thought, perhaps I should let him play Mortal Combat after all, just for some light relief.

I pushed the corpses of so many tributes aside, shoved the Minotaur to front of the bath – he’s dead anyway, what does he care if he gets the tap end – , climbed out, stepped over the charred, soggy remains of Icarus, his toasted feathers littering my bathroom floor – scoffed something at him about hubris –  and escaped the gruesome hell to get dressed before dropping off the boys off at school just about on time.

Amazing how all this extra time in the morning somehow means we (I say we, I mean I) are constantly fooled into thinking there is still loads of time left when actually there isn’t.

I hand the boys over and rush home to sit down and read as Friday has been appointed by me in my busy schedule as Study Day (I’m think I’m going to need more than one day a week actually, although where I find extra ones, I’m not sure). Lovely, I think, no more gruesome Greek mythology for now. Instead I shall be looking at Freud and one of his mates, Otto Fenichel.

I begin by reading some text that concludes “(to look) is: to devour the object looked at, to grow like it, or, conversely, to force it to grow like oneself.” I go on to understand that our eyes evolved for the purpose of seeing other organisms that their owners might eat, shag or entrance. And that organisms with good eyes had a greater chance of surviving to go on and eat, shag and entrance for longer thereby producing progeny with bigger, better and stronger eyes used to locate other organisms they could eat, shag or entrance.

I crawl under the desk, my own eyes agog with horror and my hair on end at the viciousness of existence – and log into iTunes looking for Mortal Combat to download. Seems that violence is at the core of us all, and it’s me who needs the light relief.

Tomorrow morning I think I’ll lock the bathroom door and keep the whole ablution time to myself.

Right, off to do some corporate shots this week, which have come about as a direct result of the clients seeing some corporate work I did earlier this summer. Good!  All the seed sewing of the last 18 months or so is really beginning to pay off. But before that a delicious curry lunch since I have twice cocked up social outings this week where I should have been eating curry, and I do feel I owe it myself to have one.

SJ x

(c)Sarah-Jane Field 2015narstutium

South London Photographer: Prison drama, community and obsession

“You’re obsessed!”, Son No. 1 accuses me.  He can talk!  During the last decade I have had to endure his obsessive interests in planes, trains, Dr. Who, Lego, trains again and finally back to planes.  He must be one of very few 11 year olds who knows so much about international airline liveries, who has strong and passionate opinions on the efficacy of airline corporate colours, lettering shapes and flag placement; and who regularly designs, in his opinion, improved versions of well-known airline logos.

“I’m not obsessed”, I reply.  I’m just lost without it.  I’m referring of course to Orange is the New Black, an award-winning American prison based drama produced by Netflix and originated by Piper Kerman who was, like the main character, indicted for money laundering and drug trafficking. I watched all three series in a matter of ten days and now that I’ve finished gorging on it I don’t quite know what to do with the time I’m allowing myself to have for such activities.  I say ‘allowing myself’ because for the last three years or so I’ve watched very little TV and have instead filled my free time with work, study and more work.

“You are, you’re obsessed with prison!” Son No 1 insists.  Aaaah!  He’s not referring to the Netflix programme but to my current interest in all things prison related, including of course, the drama.  Perhaps ignoring them all, and by ‘all’ I mean the feral small ones in my charge, while I watched my new prison friends dressed in beige (yes, beige, not orange at all except for their initial few days in penitentiary – I guess Beige is the New Black is not as catchy…) and then announcing that I would be taking my lovely family to a summer fair at the local prison is what’s informing Son No 1’s diagnosis about my state of mind.

The truth is I have long been fascinated by the idea of prison and Wandsworth Prison, or thoughts of it, in particular have featured on my internal landscape for years.

My first home in London was a rented room in an artist’s flat in Southfields.  I loved my landlady who was the only person advertising ‘no deposit required’ when I was looking for somewhere to live that wasn’t my friend’s floor in Kilburn.  A friend whom at the time was heading for a relationship breakdown, so the floor in her flat was even more uncomfortable than it might have been and I don’t suppose my presence on her carpet was terribly helpful for her either, or the soon-to-be-dumped boyfriend.

In my new flat I had a bed which meant sleeping several inches above the floor for the first time in a while and a lovely landlady whose relationship was stable and blossoming.  I felt I had truly arrived and my adventures in London could begin.  I say adventures but those first couple of months felt anything but adventurous.  Instead bewildering, lonely, or frightening depending on my mood and events or more accurately even, lack of events – at least to start with anyway.  However, intriguingly I had a neighbour whom I was told spent much of his time in Wandsworth Prison whilst his wife and children got on with their own lives.

One day said neighbour came home.  Soon I heard a man’s voice through the thin walls of that ex-council flat from next door, which at first seemed fine.  Until the night I heard him beating up his wife.  The sound of his fists landing on his wife’s body and face was the most sickening thing I had ever heard and I lay awake, feeling petrified and horrified but frozen, not knowing what to do.  My landlady had heard it as well I discovered the next day. She too did nothing.  (Many years later I read a book by an ex-probation officer called Living with the Dominator which looks at domestic abuse.  Craven seems to have been a remarkable woman who worked with offenders caught up in a pattern of abuse towards their partners. She devised the Freedom Programme, a project aimed at educating, recognising and changing abusive behaviours.  I hate that I didn’t do anything that night and have no idea how I’d handle things differently now, but what I  can do is recommend that book to anyone who feels they might be, or know someone who might be, involved with domestic abuse in any way whatsoever.  It’s a very powerful book which looks at overt and covert misogynistic trends in our society and clearly describes the sort of behaviours partners and women in particular should expect from spouses and boyfriends. There are some useful numbers to call on this link if anyone has concerns in this area.)

I didn’t hear the sound again.  Instead a few days later what we heard was the sound of people banging on our door and running down the corridors.  Suddenly one morning before we’d eaten breakfast there were detectives making their way through our flat and on to our balcony.  I looked out the window and a long line of police in riot gear stood quietly in front of our building apparently waiting for my neighbour to appear.

After 20 minutes or so we saw the neighbour being led away to a waiting van, hands cuffed behind his back, his head pushed downwards by a plain clothed detective.  I remember having such strong and palpable sensations as I watched that man who had presumably caused terror and also physical pain in his wife; and sensations such as fear, revulsion and of course shame in me for not intervening when he had hit her.  This man who had warranted what looked like the entire South London police force to turn up on our Wandsworth Council estate now had all his size and force reduced.  The sense of dread had dissipated and been replaced with something entirely different.  He looked tiny, helpless, genuinely pathetic. I can’t find the words to describe how seeing that utter loss of liberty in a human being felt. It was sickening and devastating. Even though I was of course relieved to see him taken away. We heard he had been returned to Wandsworth Prison.

A couple of rented rooms and years later, I ended up living very near to the prison, although I have no idea if my old neighbour was still there.  Actually, I almost left the borough of Wandsworth as a friend and I rented a flat in Peckham, only to be told when we arrived in SE London accompanied by a van stuffed with our belongings that the flat was not habitable. After a week of sleeping on yet another floor, this time in a house ‘lent’ to us by the estate agents which had been bought by a family who were still living abroad and so had not been able to pick up the keys, we landed back in Wandsworth.  That was a stressful few days and there were times, especially when faced with the threat of not having our deposit returned, that I hoped the estate agents would be sent to prison.

Thanks to colleagues and friends we found a clean and light filled flat that was more than habitable in a tower block, overlooking Wandsworth Common and Wandsworth Prison, and where I would spend the next 10 years.  Although, to begin with I have to say, I was horrified by the height – we were 7 floors up, and the entire estate was filled with what I perceived then as a deathly silence.  In fact, I was convinced everyone who lived there must be dying and that I too would die there either by accidentally jumping out the building or just because I’d catch the sense of ‘deathliness’ I was convinced I sensed all around me. Mmmmm – it was a tricky time in the head of SJF.

What actually happened was that I grew to love the height, made friends with some of the people, old and young, and ended up moving from one flat to another across the corridor because I loved being there so much.  And I especially appreciated the peaceful quietness of the estate.

It became my home.  I found a life long friend there, lost her briefly when Mr. X moved in, got pregnant, lost a baby, got pregnant again, lost Mr. X briefly, then married him and got pregnant again.  I grew up there.

And the prison was a constant presence just across the road.  Where other people went through similar life journeys, only living inside that 150-year-old building.

The point for me is that the prison is part of Wandsworth.  Real lives are lived in there – both staff and inmates.  The building and the people inside are part of our community.

About a year or so ago I noticed some of my local friends posting photographs of themselves breeding pigs on Facebook.  What I hadn’t really taken on board was that my city slicker friends were part of a small farming co-operative that was based on prison land and which had been instigated by a local reverend.  I have since discovered that the Paradise Co-operative is a fascinating project with various long-term plans that connects the prison and its land to the community.  And that interests me enormously.  Modern communities and how they function have become one of my big interests over the years and Wandsworth community in particular, since it is where I live and have done since 1997 (despite attempts to leave), which is by far the longest I’ve ever been anywhere.

So, Son. No 1, I may seem a little obsessed with all things prison-related right now as I look at other photographers’ relevant work, watch dramas based in prison, and read pertinent articles and books around the subject.  But I think I must have picked this quality up from you – having learnt about real obsessiveness by watching you devour Thomas the Tank Engine etc and all the rest of it over the years.  Is that the way it works?  Or does he get it from me… either way, all three sons had a great time at the Paradise Co-operative Summer Fair which was my introduction to a project that I hope to document as it continues to evolve.

The land, just across the road from the main building, had been transformed.  It was kind of magical entering through coloured bunting and cloth to find lovely stalls with games, food and drink.  I hope the organisers were proud of themselves because it was a great way for local people to connect with the project.

(P.S. I do really have plenty to be getting on with during that ‘free’ time I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, but if you know of any great prison dramas I couldn’t do without, please let me know!  But don’t tell Son No 1 – he can be so censorious.  In fact he’s made me promise only to watch two episodes a day of the next thing I’ve discovered on Netflix.  Not a prison drama but it does have the occasional ex-convict popping up.  Role on September when I’ll start studying again, heh, before I turn into a TV drama addict!)

You can find out more about the project here:

And here are just a few photographs from the day. All (c)Sarah-Jane Field 2015

Paradise co-op-8547 Paradise co-op-2484 Paradise co-op-2345 Paradise co-op-8616 Paradise co-op-2361 Paradise co-op-2439 Paradise co-op-2346 Paradise co-op-2473 Paradise co-op-2380 Paradise co-op-2426 Paradise co-op-2377 Paradise co-op-2469 Paradise co-op-2412

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy summer hols everyone!

Image (c)sarahjanefield 2015


South London Photographer: I’ve done all the laundry; what can this possibly mean?

Something very strange indeed is happening in my world. It’s most perplexing and disorientating, I can tell you. Try as I might I can’t quite get to the bottom of it, although in one real and certain sense ‘to the bottom of it’ I have without any doubt arrived.

You see, I have washed everything in my laundry basket. Yes, everything! And now, for the first time in I do not know how long, it stands empty in my bedroom waiting (neither patiently nor impatiently for it is just a basket) to be overflowing again. I do not recall when last that was the case!

How did this happen? I have absolutely no idea, other than I know I must surely have washed everything in it. Not only have I washed it all, I have put most of the clean laundry away too. Which is even stranger.  No more scrabbling through piles of clothes to find a pair of matching socks in the morning – well, for a day or two at least.

I can only think it must have something to do with the very tangible state of transition we are in the middle of. My friend swears its something to do with Jupiter being in conjunction with Venus.  I think that’s a load of twoddle myself, but certainly – so, so much is changing at the moment, or about to change, and what that seems to mean for me, other than lots of clean laundry, is a great deal of emotional weeping on my part…

Son No 1 is about to finish primary school. I went to his Yr. 6 final production the other night.  I did, I’m pleased to say, manage to stop myself from just lying down on the floor in front of the stage and howling extremely loudly. I could not quite believe that all those little people, most of whom I taught drama to for a few weeks when they were in reception, were all so terribly grown-up already, not quite the maniacal mini apes they once seemed.  I must add that that experience 7 years ago elicited in me an overwhelming and immense respect for the real teachers of those little, terribly cute but barely human, and somewhat maniacal, hairless chimps.  The other night though, I felt so proud of them all.  And of course, proud most of all of my own crazy, beautiful, intelligent and belligerent Son No 1.  Even as I type my eyes well up. He’s about to embark on a whole new chapter in his life and despite the fact he drives me truly, absolutely spare I am so proud of how he seems to be navigating this huge transition in his life.

Then there was Son No 2’s end of term assembly. Son No 2, whom I think has always been a little overwhelmed by his older brother, hiding in or rather hidden by his shadow, gives me the impression he feels able to venture out of it, perhaps because said older brother is heading off and leaving some space for No 2 to find his light. For the first time he had several lines in the play, which he was very chuffed with. I loved that he looked at me every time he spoke, proudly showing off his newfound and growing confidence. There I was sitting on a plastic school chair in the upstairs hall, in maternal tears again, and the wonderful Mrs.B, who had been at the Yr.6 play as well smiled sympathetically at me – honestly, Mrs. B, I never used to be this emotional. I don’t know what’s come over me!

I don’t actually have time to get teary over Son No 3. I’m too busy trying to keep up with him. He too is heading for a major change having just finished at his nursery school. “I’m on my summer holidays now” he routinely boasts to his brothers, who aren’t yet. But in September he will go to big boys school and jolly excited about it he is too, although I’m not sure he will be quite so enamoured by the full days once he realises what that actually entails. I’m also hoping that his obsessive Spiderman-costume-wearing phase will be over by then because it’s going to be quite trying tearing it off him every morning to get him in a school uniform if not. Not that there will be anything left of it by then. He currently wears nothing else so it’s very quickly disintegrating, made as it is of cheap nylon.

I guess that might be one reason I have managed to get through all the washing. His refusal to wear anything else certainly means there is less laundry being generated.

Summer must have something to do with it as well.  We all wear less and I’m loving the weather we’re having.  It makes me ride my bike more and even though my mother told me I look weird with my pre-Raphaelite curls and a safety helmet that looks like something from Star Wars (I did have it on backwards at the time and I’m sure it did look weird and so probably did all the people who smiled at me that morning) I don’t really care about how I look on it. Goodness, Spiderman sits behind me in his bike chair pulling up my shirt, showing off my greying underwear to the world and I tend to have my skirt hoiked in my knickers.  What difference does a weird headdress make? The photo at the top of the page was taken one of my lovely evening bike rides last week (thanks mother for making that possible) where I think I managed to get the helmet on the right way round.

Is my laundry boon simply down to summer or is there something else going on here, I wonder? You see, I too am on the brink of a new stage and feel I have a little more space for now (in my head at least) but maybe that also means a little more time. Son No 3 is now most definitely no longer a baby and I’ve never got to this point with a small person and not had another on the way. I have also come to the end of the module I was studying, well, apart from some reading I need to get sorted before embarking on the next. All of which is a good thing because more work is coming in and by September I hope to have signed up for another module which is, I think, going to be quite hard – I nearly changed my mind about it when I looked properly at the course work because I’m really setting myself quite a challenge if I go that route. Yikes!

Whatever the cause for my sudden, unexpected, and terribly weird laundry miracle, which I don’t for a minute pretend to understand, as we stand on the threshold of the new, getting ready for the next era we’re all about to embark on, at least I know we all smell good and clean and fresh* as we go!

*Any South Africans my age – do please feel free to add the “♪tra ♪la ♪la” you won’t be able to stop yourself from hearing at the end of that phrase!

Images (c)sarahjanefield 2015

Son No 1 after his school play where he was very grateful I only cried quietly and unobtrusively. He made a very good George Bernard Shaw.
Son No 3 won’t wear anything other than a tatty, ripped, old Spiderman outfit at the moment and gets extremely upset if we suggest something else.
Son No 3 and I doing some homework for his next school project. He loved a video installation by an artist called Kadar Attai where sugar is dissolved in unrefined oil, which I can’t help feeling reminded him of a YouTube video (no offence intended to the artist) which is why he it felt so accessible for him. He really loved it.

South London Photographer: In another life I was an actor and a funding call for The Lights, a short film.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I was an actor. It’s odd because I gave it up over 16 years ago which is getting on for two decades and yet it still seems like it was a huge part of my life. I stopped for lots of reasons but mostly because it wasn’t making me happy; in fact it seemed at the time to be making me desperately unhappy. And so one day I decided I was going to get a ‘proper job’. It must have been the right decision because the moment I made it, a proper job materialised.  So I told my not-very-understanding agent at the time I was going to take 3 months off to see if not being an actor made me feel any better about life at all, and would she mind waiting for me. She promptly returned all my publicity which arrived with an unceremonious and rather rude bump on the floor behind my front door the very next day.  So that was that; I was without an agent and a couple of days later I found myself walking down to Clapham Junction Station with the rest of the world during rush hour to catch a train to my first proper job.

I knew immediately that not being an actor, for the time being anyway, was the right thing for me. I didn’t earn very much but I had some structure and learnt that I was quite good at organizing things and planning events. So after a few months I decided to get a better proper job and it must have been the right decision because before long I found myself sitting at a desk in an office in The City of London being a marketing assistant. I have to admit I had no idea what I was doing and I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I tell you I did very little other than sit and stare at my computer screen for 3 months.  (And what on earth was that thing called the internet computer in the corner of the office for?) Thankfully, some internal moves, resignations and rehiring led to me being thrown in at the deep end, at which point I had no choice but to get on with it.  I discovered that as well as being good at organising and planning I also enjoyed writing; yes, even about investment funds which I had to learn all about in the first place because I’d never even heard of them when I was an actor. (And very soon after I started we all got internet access on our own screens so the weird computer in the corner was removed.)

I spent about four years in The City and discovered all sorts of things about the world and myself, which I’d never have realised had I not stopped being an actor.   And I suspect not knowing those things didn’t help me when acting – how can you play anything other than an out of work actor if you’ve never been anything else in life?

Recently I was very pleased to be asked by a friend, Lucy Barrack, who had written a short film along with her writing partner, Keiran Grant, to do the stills on their production. The film, called The Lights, is produced by Andrea Ferran and Sophie Reynolds and will be part of the Film London festival.   I went along and met a fantastically hard working and good natured crew and actors, Bradley Walsh and Joseph Kloska, who from what I saw, were doing some pretty excellent stuff on set.  I took a whole bunch of photos documenting the day’s shoot, as well as some stills for publicity.   Because the film is being produced based on ethically sound principles everyone on set apart from the director/writers and producers were paid the national minimum wage. That doesn’t sound very much but I can tell you it will have put a huge strain on the budget and it is quite rare for low budget productions. Actors and crew are often expected to work for nothing at that level which I always found really quite extraordinary when I was doing it all those years ago. The company are now looking to raise further funds to ensure the editing process is done as well as it can be. If you or anyone you know are interested in supporting them you can do so here. Forward the link to people you think may be interested if you can’t do it!

I’ve never gone back to acting. Eventually I left The City and looked after my kiddies for ten years, although I did teach acting and drama for many of them to children and adults before embarking on my photography adventures. Sometimes I’d love to get back into it and other times I think, thank goodness I left all that behind. Who knows what the future holds though…

I think however that my time as an actor on sets and in rehearsals meant that I was quite comfortable working on The Lights and really enjoyed my day there. It was certainly challenging given the very low lighting but I think I managed to capture some of the atmosphere they were aiming for.  I probably might quite like to do some more film stills so if anyone out there is planning on writing/producing/directing a film and wants someone to photograph it, I’m your woman! In the meantime here are some images from The Lights.

©sarahjanefield 2015

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South London Photographer: Some more road rage but also a long-term personal ambition achieved!

On Wednesday I overslept.  This was a bit of a shame as it was an induction day for Son No 1 at his new school.  With very little time I threw some clothes at all the children, made arrangements for the younger ones, and also for my supermarket delivery to be welcomed whilst I was out as I’d evidently forgotten about the school thing when I finally realised our cupboards were quite bare (I really was quite disorganised about this whole day, it turns out); and leapt into the car yelling at Son No 1 about how we had to hurry because we were going to be late, almost as if it were his fault. I guess it wasn’t an ideal start to the day.

Of course we then hit a traffic jam and I had to do a U-turn to avoid being even later than we already were, so when an annoying man banged on my car and told me off for turning around near a zebra crossing, I must say I wasn’t really in the mood for receiving his opinion about any possible errant driving habits I may have.

Poor Son No 1.  Nervous about his upcoming day, a bit ruffled by our rushed exit and now sitting next to his highly neurotic yelling mother, who was currently swearing at a complete stranger about how she thought he was a wanker who should wait until his own life was perfect before taking it upon himself to start telling others how to live theirs!

“Mum, you’re so embarrassing!  You don’t even know him.” Mmmm.  Would it have made it any better if I had known him?  Sometimes, I do wonder how much the therapy that my intelligent and sensitive boy will need later is going to cost him?  Not ‘me’ you notice…

So anyway, we got to the secondary school on time, thanks to my U-turn. (Which I will tell you was not actually on the zebra crossing and in fact there was no one except said censorious grumpy pants crossing at the time, and I do have a rearview mirror and a small camera at the back so I could see him, and had I wanted to run him over, I of course could have and with a great deal of accuracy too.)

I was exceedingly proud of Son No 1. He was exceptionally cool about it all, really enjoyed the day and later when he tried on his new uniform in the pop-up shop at the end of the day I could have wept.

I find it hard to have ambitions in life.  Not sure why, I kind of just rumble on taking little steps in all directions, making strides and then finding myself sitting down for a brief or even a long whistle and possibly a little think before bothering to get up again. Probably because taking steps in all directions all the time is really quite tiring, not to mention disorientating.  But one of the ambitions I have held for a long while is to try and give my children some sense of stability.

That hasn’t always been easy, especially given a recent divorce and some house moves we’ve had to do.  But an ambition of mine that meant a great deal to me was to ensure that at least one of my children (if not all, although I do have high hopes) managed to stay at the same school for the duration. I guess because I went to quite a few schools in my time – and I actually mean a lot – and found it extraordinarily disruptive although I’m certain it needn’t be so if your children have moved about, please don’t feel I’m having a go.  This was just something that felt personally quite important.

And guess what?  We’ve achieved that.  For Son No 1 at any rate.  He’s been at the same school since nursery and is now really ready to move on. It’s just a small thing to some but to me it means a great deal and I’m pretty pleased with it, I have to say.

It doesn’t mean he’s without his problems. He’s been in trouble at school this week, had computer rights taken away and then earned back and then taken away again several times.  He’s rude as hell to me and drives me round the bloody bend. But we’re doing OK despite my road rage, current state of exhaustion and bad time keeping in the morning; along with my absolute inability to keep on top of the online food shopping! Have a great week.

The children engrossed in playing and So No 1 showing the others how it’s done.

Image (c)Sarah-Jane Field 2015

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

Son No 2

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: 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