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: Climate Protests in London

The following images are from today’s climate Extinction Rebellion protests, which I believe are planned to continue for some days to come. As I have been doing over the last two years, I photographed the way people are choosing to speak out about issues that matter to them. I will need to keep some images back as I read there are planned arrests this evening, but the protesters in the following images are obscured in some way or performing and so overtly present or have already been arrested.

This morning, someone I know said that the arrests had been pre-arranged but I spoke with a legal observer this evening and was told categorically the arrests had not been arranged in any way. Those being led away did not look like they were happy to be going anywhere and I saw how they tried to sit it out – but no-one was violent. I was told people were arrested as gently as possible on Waterloo Bridge this morning, which is where I heard a policeman telling one of his colleagues they were going to arrest people one by one – and then they proceeded to do so.

I was not able to stay for the evening but it will be interesting to see what happens over the next few days.

All images (c)SJField2019

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South London Photographer: Winding up the summer holidays

I promised the boys a trip to the Wonderlab at the Science Museum before the end of the holidays and today I kept my word. After picking up new uniforms in preparation for next week, we jumped on a bus and made our way over to South Kensington.  I was extremely grateful to my mum who had bought us annual tickets, as these things can be quite expensive, especially after a long summer. But goodness, it’s a photogenic venue so I hope she will know it was worth it for that at least. Oops, they had lots of fun as well, which I think is more the point! Either way, I have some lovely shots of the younger boys which will certainly be going into this year’s album. (I’m getting better at making sure I get those organised, and am very glad about it too – make sure you do, it would be awful to lose all your digital images and not have anything material to show for it.) Here are a handful of my favourite shots from today.

Do get in touch for information about family shoots in your home or at a favourite venue*. Autumn is around the corner and a great time for organising extra special Christmas presents for grandparents!

(c)SJField 2018

*Please be aware, some venues require prior permission for photoshoots

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South London Photographer: Wedding in Islington​

I was so pleased to be asked to photograph Carlo & Helena’s wedding. They had relatives fly in from all over the world to witness their marriage, and so they hired an old London bus and gave them all a tour of our exciting and terrific city on the way to the reception. It was brilliant listening to the most hilarious, and surely one of the best tour guides ever, who also happened to be Helena’s very good friend and colleague. It was an absolute treat and honour to be part of Helena & Carlo’s day and to meet their wonderful families. Here is a sample of images. Massive congratulations to them both!

(c)SJField 2018

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South London Photographer: Midsummer’s fun at the Grosvenor Arms

I was so impressed at the Grosvenor Arms the other night.  The open mike night run by It’s Ok, I’m with the Band was really fun and all the talented people who got up to join in were fantastic.  A lovely way to spend a hot summer’s evening, although busy as I was taking pictures and listening, I did keep losing my shandy!  Here are a few shots of some of the guests along with the band, and of course people just hanging out, listening to the music and enjoying themselves too.

(c)SJField 2016

South London Photographer: Chatting with 12 year olds about photography

Last night I met up with a group of 10-12 year olds to share some fun tips about using their phones or tablets to take and edit photographs.  It was a bit of a windy, grey evening weather-wise, but even though we all had horribly cold hands by the end of it, I definitely enjoyed myself and hope the others did too. I’ve alway liked that age group. Years ago when I used to teach drama to children and young people (adults too, in fact) I remember acknowledging that I really enjoyed spending time with preteens. They’re not quite grown up yet, so mostly are still imbued with a happy childishness, however, they are without any doubt fully fledged human-beings by then. Because in actual fact, the very young ones just aren’t. Nope, not at all. I realised this fact about some four and five year olds when I offered to do an after school drama club with my oldest son’s class when he was in reception. It was then that my respect and admiration for anyone working with that particular age group soared. I tried desperately to keep those rowdy miniature hooligans in control, failed utterly, and eventually gave up, blaming my son’s obvious jealousy and discomfort over sharing his mum with 18 other children. (I’ll always be grateful to the mums who stayed behind and helped with toilet breaks and upsets). But I realised too that the uncontrollable chimp-like lunacy of those small people was not for me. Teachers who can manage it, for there are those that are brilliant at it, deserve our utmost admiration and thanks.

Last night’s workshop made me aware of some important facts as far as sharing information and knowledge goes. Perhaps a really important point was made when a lovely girl I’ve known since she was born told me she couldn’t work out whether she wanted to make her photographs look very  natural and realistic, or ‘weird’. Heh, I said, join the club! I still can’t work that one out myself and keep playing with a variety choices, and maybe will forever.  Just play, I advised, and maybe you’ll reach a decision or maybe you won’t. Don’t worry about it for now, though. One day, if you’re photographing for a specific reason then you can make choices based on what is required, for instance it might not be appropriate to have a ‘weird’ image illustrating something in a text book. Saying that, I recently read that if you want to make lots of money then settle on a style but if you want to explore and discover, don’t limit yourself.  I think it was a great photographer called Alec Soth who said that. Do look him up if you don’t know him and are interested in photography – he’s terrific.

I’m sharing a picture here which I’ve already shared on Instagram, one which has had lots of positive feedback, although I’m torn about it. I love the mood but in the same vein as my friend’s daughter who questioned her aesthetic choices last night, I never know whether I’m entirely happy using affects and apps, or if I’ve gone too far, or if I should simply accept that those choices faithfully express something I’m playing with right now. I think I should take my own advice and stop worrying about it – although I think I am probably expected to have more than an inkling about why I make certain decisions, especially in my studies. Whatever else is true, and perhaps down to being little bit ‘naughty’, for now I think I’ll continue to approach my own work by just playing and discovering for as long as I can, and trying not to worry too much.

As we had so much fun last night, I am going to offer an ongoing phone photography club aimed at kids aged 10-13 years old.  We’ll meet once a month and just hang out taking pictures and sharing them like we did last night, and generally talk about how we think we can improve our skills. Please get in touch at photo@sarahjanefield.co.uk or message me via social media with your email address and I’ll keep you informed with updates. I may well offer a different club to a slightly younger group, 8-9 years olds, because in the end a few little monkeys can be fun and they’re certainly very close to being human beings by then, but that group will be limited to a relatively small number. Again, let me know if this interests you. Keep a look out on Twitter and FB for dates regarding both. And I’ve got a couple of places left on the adult workshop/photo walk in the 17th, so get in touch about that if you fancy it.

Enjoy the rest of half term for those of you still on it. My font room seems to have been turned permanently into a den made out of blankets and duvets.  And I’m fine with that, really. Honest. No,no, no… I am!

SJ x

Image (c)SJField 2016

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Captured on my phone, edited in apps – Snapseed, Hipstagram and Instagram (c)SJField 2016

South London Photographer: Good surprises and other nice things

Don’t you hate it when people refer to unexpected babies as mistakes?  “Was he a mistake?” they say with pity in their eyes.  “No!! He most certainly was not. He was a wonderful surprise that took me a while to get my head around.”  I suppose the word ‘mistake’ might be better than a comment I had from a women working at a playgroup I visited.  “I had three.  All grown now, ” she said sadly, “Wish I hadn’t bothered with the last one.  He’s nothing but trouble!” Not an overly sensitive thing to say to a women heavily pregnant with her own third child. And actually, by the time No 3 arrived I was immensely grateful for the opportunity to experience those early precious days with an infant again.   I’m not saying it was easy.  A friend who also had a 3rd baby at the same time and I still talk about the enormous shock to our systems.  Goodness, imagine all those poor women who had 8, 10, or more children in years gone by.  I have no idea how they coped.

If you thought it was hard finding time to pee after having your first child, just wait until you try to manage three.  Also remembering to feed everyone, walk the dog, pay the bills, and talk to grown-ups too. Prior to having children I had a verdant collection of house plants, a super-organised filing system and regularly hosted dinner parties where I impressed my friends with culinary delights. “Wow, Sarah-Jane! It’s like eating in a posh restaurant!” By the time Son No 3 arrived I had lost the ability to keep even a cactus alive, managed to misplace important court documents and am currently the less-than-proud owner of a cardboard box full of bank statements, randomly chucked in, in no particular order.  My cooking skills have been reduced to the level of burnt baked beans and undercooked frozen pies.  And I’m not pointing fingers or name shaming or anything, but I’m not sure being dumped by the now ex-husband before baby No. 3 reached his first birthday helped any… that aside, having three kids has proved challenging to say the least, and it was only when I started packing up my flat to move a couple of months ago that I started to appreciate just how immensely chaotic the last few years had been.

As I sorted through our belongings I realised that I must have barely unpacked when we’d moved in there two and half years previously.  I seemingly just chucked overflowing boxes and bags in corners and cupboards, only took out what we couldn’t do without, and then did the best I could under the circumstances.  Which is I think all any of us can hope for.  As I packed up this time round, I began finding things that I had forgotten about, thought I’d lost, or never even realised I’d had.  I came across all sorts of objects and items, but mostly what I discovered were shattered and disparate parts of me that had long ago been put aside, shoved away, hidden and misplaced, perhaps because being a mum and a wife made me think there was no room for them.  I don’t think I’m unusual in this – it seems to be part of the process, and there are undoubtedly several groups of anthropologists dotted about the place looking at changing roles for modern Western women and how they cope with children, marriage, and work. (Especially interesting when you consider that nowadays so many have never even held a baby by the time their first one arrives.)  As I packed up my home, I seemed to be unpacking myself.  And guess what? I was pretty pleased to see all those parts of me resurface.

The last few weeks have been a bit strange though, as all the separate parts I recognised try find their way back into my existence.  Will I ever have an organised filing system again?  I’m not sure; I have been slowly trying to sort out the mess that several years of un-filing amount to, but there is always a floor to mop, a bottom to wipe, or a meal to cook that everyone will grumble about for some reason or other. I’ve been bought a beautiful plant as a moving-in present, and I’m very much hoping to keep it alive for longer than a few weeks.  And I’ve invited some friends for dinner soon, who I know will be hoping for a little more than burnt baked beans and a pie that’s still frozen in the middle.

I guess the point is that having a family, navigating life, and just getting from one moment to another isn’t always straightforward.  Perhaps it’s not easy to accept that in a world where the general consensus seems to be that we should be aiming to have it all NOW!! And be damn good at every aspect.  Perfect parents who never shout, with successful happy children and blossoming careers too.  I’m pretty sure that’s not how life works all the time though, despite the plethora of articles in women’s magazine telling us otherwise. So let’s recognise the good stuff, work through the difficult and just be a bit more realistic with ourselves. I’ve had some other really good surprises recently; like when I lost my phone and found it still lying in the gutter half an hour later, where it had presumably fallen out of my pocket as I yanked a sullen, sulky child out of the car so we wouldn’t be late.  Or the beautiful foggy morning we had yesterday so that I was able to take photographs in some of my favourite weather conditions.  Neither of those of course even come close to the best surprise of recent years, my amazingly cute and funny Son No 3 who celebrated his 4th birthday last week.  He’s an absolute pain in the arse sometimes but I am so very glad I bothered.  And if anyone refers to him as a mistake again I might be compelled to slap them.  Hard!

Image (c)SJField 2016

 

(c)SJField 2016

South London Photographer: a move coming up

I’m sitting here staring at my books and the kid’s toys willing them to pack themselves. I should be concerned by this peculiar delusional conviction of mine; that if I stare hard enough it will eventually and spontaneously happen. I’m clearly not wholly aware of the total disconnect with reality my delusion must surely represent otherwise I’d have started doing something physical by now like actually getting on with the business of putting things inside boxes. Of course, if you know you’re mad you aren’t actually all that mad, so the theory goes, which is good to remember while I ponder my reluctance, ok let’s be honest – hopeful sloth …

I do hope the truth hits me before the movers actually turn up on their appointed morning and ask where all the packed and ready to go items are.

The previous movers I’d hired when we moved in here a couple of years ago were very sweet indeed, offering boxes which they never charged me for and helping to sweep up the last of the Lego bits, broken action figures, random books and other detritus just moments before shutting the door on that place for the last time. What are the odds of the next lot being equally as understanding? Well, I do find that the vast majority of people I come across in life are helpful and kind, but even so, it will probably be best to snap out of this limbo, or do I really mean denial, and dig those folded cardboard packages out and start the tedious process of sorting what I need and want to take forward, and discarding all the junk I no longer have room for in my life?

“Are we taking Grandad?” asks Son No 1.

“Where’s Grandad?” asks the littlest one.

“In that box,” No 1 replies pointing to a plain brown cardboard package on the very top of our bookshelf.

Son No 3 looks very confused. Son No 1 helpfully explains that granddad lives in an urn inside that box until we figure out where his final resting place should be. Obviously the top of my bookshelf is not ideal.

Once son No 3 has listened to his older brother explain some of the facts of life, or rather death, my delightful small person helpfully suggests that we take Grandad to Italy next time we go since there is a cemetery at the beginning of the dirt track that leads to my mother’s house. He refers to the cemetery as ‘that place with the flowers’.  I don’t tell them that my mother rejected ‘that place with the flowers’ as a final resting place for her second husband because it was filled with dead people.

“Yes, for now we’re taking Grandad,” I reassure everyone, as I silently thank providence that we are no longer still the guardians of someone else’s parent’s ashes too. That particular lady was quite well to do in life, apparently dressed always in Chanel twin sets, and so she might have been more than a little disappointed, perhaps even disgruntled, to find herself living out eternity on top of my bookshelf, alongside the ashes of my late father, looking down at the scattered broken toys and chaos that exists in my living room.  Well, not eternity, obviously – clearly, I will be arranging a more dignified last resting place for Dad. (Although how I achieve that when his final wishes were to be scattered on a race course so that his beloved horses can pound what’s left of him into obliteration along the grassy furlong – in a weird way mirroring what his gambling habits did metaphorically in life – I’m not sure!)

So now you know why my blog has been quieter than usual of late. Not because I’m busy doing things (but yes, that is true too), rather because I’m in a state of utter paralysed shock at the thought of how very much I’ve got to do.

Presumably after I’ve moved normal business will resume. And hopefully not before too long.

Lastly, before I go – do remember I am doing a special offer right now of 5 free A4 prints included in all family shoots until the 28th February 2016. (Conditions apply – please see the prices page of my website for details).

Image (c)SJField 2015

 

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Chaotic, natural and somewhat wild growth – maybe a little like me! Taken on my iPhone6 and edited in Snapseed and Stackables

 

South London Photographer: Shopping or not as the case may be

Christmas, commercialism, and consumerism.  They’re all tied up together and I can’t help feeling disappointed that Christmas is more about shopping than anything else nowadays.  Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE the mid-winter festivities, feasting, imbibing, socialising and gift-giving.  Not to mention the sense of bittersweet nostalgia that these weeks bring with them.  It’s lots of fun.  Or it ought to be.  But I’m really not keen on the intense shopping aspect to it all.   So I tend to ignore it for as long as possible.  However, I wouldn’t advise anyone else to follow my lead.  Since I leave everything until the last minute, I quite often can’t get hold of the gifts I know people in my family would like.  A few years ago my mother had to do with a promise of a Kindle on Christmas morning which wasn’t due back in stock until mid January.

This year I have told the boys I am not able to spend lots of money on presents although I’m pretty sure I say that every year and then a sense of guilt sets in and somehow I forget my intentions and still manage to get out in time and buy a whole load of ‘stuff’.  But I’m going to be strong this year and try to stick to my guns.  Perhaps it can be a sort of old year’s resolution and unlike a new year’s resolution, where you have a full 365 days ahead of you in which to fail, there are only a few weeks left, so surely I can do it.  Not only do I want to avoid buying lots of junk, I’d really much rather give experiential presents.

Even before I mentioned this Son No 1, he totally surprised me when said for Christmas he would like a photography shoot of us all in Richmond park.  He has decided he’d like a framed print to put on the wall of his room when we move.  Obviously he’d also like a TV, sofa, sound system and coffee table, because at the tender age of 11 he is fantasising about turning his room into some sort of bachelor pad.  But thankfully he knows there isn’t a chance in hell of getting any of that stuff from me for Christmas, so not only is he being delightfully unmaterialistic by asking for something so personal, he’s also being a realist, which is an impressive development, I must say. I was, nevertheless, quite gobsmacked.

“What?” I said, “You want a picture of your family?  And you want me to take it?” Wow  – all those anger-fuelled insults during the last couple of years about my photography being rubbish and how much he hates his brothers and me suddenly dissolved in a moment on uncharacteristic familial appreciation.  I’m not sure it will last and I suspect he’d be rather disappointed on the morning of the 25th December if there wasn’t any junk at all to unwrap.  Oh, no!  I suddenly feel so full of love, awe and motherly pride, prompted by his wanting one my photographs on his wall that I’m starting to feel compelled to go out and buy him lots of expensive stuff which I can’t afford, such as a special fruitily named watch I know he’d be extraordinarily pleased with …. goodness, what a slippery slope that could so easily be.  And how short my old year’s resolution nearly lasted.  Yikes, it’s hard to resist the pull of commercialism.

Son No 2 has not yet learned the art of subtle manipulation so there are plenty of straightforward “I wants” coming from his direction.  To be fair to him he has said he is perfectly prepared to pay for the plastic arsenal he is so keen on acquiring with his pocket money savings. Sadly for him his concept of what £20 can buy has yet to reach anything approaching reality so it’s a constant circular discussion right now.  Thankfully, the youngest still doesn’t really know what any of it’s about so his needs and wants are more immediate and often easier to satisfy.  I want a funny yogurt he’ll wail from time to time.  By that he means the ones that are half pink and half yellow for anyone wondering how yoghurts ever get to be humorous.  Easily sorted though!  Although it does require actually remembering to order a shop from the supermarket occasionally.  My poor kids – in fact it seems, all they might really want is a mother who can get it together to make sure there is milk for breakfast in the morning! (I’m not that bad really – all in the name of hyperbole, honest!)

I know this whole present buying conundrum is felt by most parents nowadays.  Kids have so much stuff it’s often quite difficult to work out what to buy them; how much to spend; what if anything do any of them even need.  I’m not sure how everyone else goes about solving it. If you have any ideas, do let me know!

This week I’m posting some images from a family shoot that was given as a Christmas gift last year.  If that’s the sort of thing you might be interested in then do get in touch and I can arrange a voucher.  Alternatively, there is still a little time left to organise a shoot and print photographs before Christmas.  I also have framed prints of images ready to go or which can ordered in the next couple of weeks.  Check out my website for details.

Have a  good weekend all.  I’m looking forward to a PTA organised quiz at the kids’ school!

SJ x

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South London Photographer: High up in the City

I was really lucky this week to be asked to photograph a round table event hosted by British Land, held in the amazing Leadenhall Building, colloquially known as The Cheesegrater.

In the morning as I got the boys ready for school, No 2 asked me what I was doing for work that day.  When I replied, photographing a round table event, he suggested I do it at home since our own kitchen table is round.  I’m pretty sure the event attendees were happier in the stunning surroundings of the Leadenhall Building, designed by architects, Rogers Stirk Harbour, than they’d have been in my cramped and cluttered kitchen.  The views are a little better too – an overgrown magnolia tree vs uninterrupted views of London for miles and miles…. I know which I’d have chosen.  (Not sure what Son No 2 would make of the fact they weren’t even sitting at a round table but a long rectangular one instead.)

Although I was mainly concentrating on taking photographs, I did have a listen in and was heartened to hear architects, planners and various sustainability experts discussing the enourmous benefits and importance of building communities, and how integral a strong sense of community is to general well-being.  As someone who had a fairly nomadic and transitory start to life, I am deeply committed to my own community and also extremely grateful to the people in it who have supported me in all sorts of ways over the last few years.  And despite the high costs of living here, which of course was also discussed at length, I do feel I’d have to be dragged kicking and screaming from my little corner of London.

In fact, without my community my own business wouldn’t be starting to flourish as it is. And I’d not have had opportunities such as the one I had this week, where I got to visit the Leadenhall Building.  It really was quite spectacular.

Here are just a few of the many images I took once I was no longer needed to record the meeting – lucky me!

All images (c)Sarah-Jane Field 2015

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