South London Photographer: My first exhibition and promises of more to come

Here I am making time for a second blog post this week although truth be told, I could probably be catching up on some college work.  It will wait.  I have to talk about my first small but significant outing as a photographer who is trying to make some kind of art for people to hang on their walls.

To be honest, I have been a bit shy up until now about my non-portrait work, hiding away online and not really sharing it with people I know or who are close to me. Instead I got caught up with a bunch of fellow photography nuts on the internet but it was an inward looking process – useful but only virtual and therefore certainly quite limited. As I turned outwards, learning about how to get everything ready was a trifle challenging, but I was lucky when an offline photographer friend introduced me to an amazing guy who did my printing for me, and did it extremely well.  And the very sweet people at Lavender Framers on Barmouth Road, SW18 gave me lots of advice and practical help.

And last Friday it all culminated in a fantastically enjoyable evening when quite a lot of people turned up to see and buy my work.  I was so relieved and had a great night.  I have had some solid and positive feedback, including from people who couldn’t make it on Friday but who have called me up to tell me they’d like to buy a print, which is a great feeling for someone who hadn’t actually sold art work before.

So, what do these first public pictures of mine represent? Well, that’s up to you. Perhaps they’re just pretty pictures of random spots, some quite colourful, some a little less so. For me they’re a direct response to events in my life. A search for growth, for colour following a very dark personal time, and most importantly for some solid structure – both internally and externally.  These photographs also, without any doubt in my mind, stem from a desire to record the landscape within which my community exists,  a community that means the world to me. All in all, things went very well on Friday and I now have the confidence to keep going and am looking forward to bigger and perhaps more ambitious projects in the future. Now that I’ve got over that initial ‘dipping of my toe in the water’ other things have already begun to appear on the horizon.

I went out with for dinner with the sweet, kind and adorable Mr & Mrs C on Monday night to The Thai Grocer on Garret Lane which if you haven’t been is really worth visiting.  The food is delicious and the atmosphere perfect.  Mr C took it upon himself to become my agent and promoter and I may have an opportunity to show some work there too now.  I like Mr C’s terms – he’s happy always to work for free – thank you!!  So all in all the meal was extremely satisfying; tasty food and wine, genuine friendship, lots of laughter, a helpful and generous sense of community spirit from Mr. Thai Grocer all of which add up to lots of well-needed and much appreciated nourishment for me.

If you weren’t able to make my little opening at Barmouth Kitchen you can see the images hanging there for a few weeks yet or click here for an online experience, and don’t forget prints are for sale.

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South London Photographer: A New Year and a son who runs an airline

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Brighton!!”

“Why? Why? Why Son No 1?”

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

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

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

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

“Why, mum? Why? Why?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All images (c) Sarah-Jane Field 2014

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South London Photographer: A magical blue chair and a story about some mice…

We’ve got mice.   I tried to convince myself we didn’t but the slightly subliminal darts across the floor are becoming too hard to ignore and the other day I knew the time had come to open up the grey envelope filled with traps which was delivered some time ago. The thing is I didn’t want to come downstairs in the morning and see their little dead bodies, certainly not before breakfast. I needn’t have worried though because those mice are probably just laughing at my incompetence. Following advice from a friend who had the same problem I dutifully popped some pet food on the little spikes one evening because she swore this was the only thing they went for. And the next morning I came downstairs and the cheeky buggers had eaten the food and not set off the traps.

My oldest friend and general adviser in life says the only way to keep mice at bay in these old Victorian buildings is to have cats. We actually had a visiting tabby recently. I was sitting here, as I do, writing my blog when there was a loud crash from the kitchen. I checked it out and noticed something had fallen from the windowsill. Assuming it must have just been the wind or something I went back to work. About 10 minutes later a very insistent “miaow” gave me the fright of my life and I turned round to see a beautiful cat sitting on the wooden chest that houses our vast collection of Thomas and his Friends paraphernalia. As lovely as he was I of course took him down to the garden below and told him to go home. Now, what with the mice and all, I kinda wish I’d invited him to stay for a bit longer, but as far as I remember kidnapping someone else’s cat even for the best of reasons isn’t ideal. And he most certainly had a label on his collar so I couldn’t even have pretended he didn’t belong elsewhere.

And then there’s the problem of my little dog Poppy. Being the Jack Russell/Border Terrier with more than a smattering of Paterdale that she is, she’s rather partial to small fluffy animals and has to go out and about looking a little like Hannibal Lecter, so I’m not sure a cat would last that long with her around. (Don’t they say that the dogs we own are reflective of us in some way? I’m sure I don’t need a muzzle but perhaps I’m blissfully unaware of that side of myself!) Unfortunately, she doesn’t catch the mice but instead sit and stares at the floorboards, whining for hours on end when she knows they are there.

So, getting a cat is a bit tricky, but then cats are funny creatures anyway, aren’t they. They sit on your lap purring loudly and then for no reason at all start repeatedly and rhythmically plunging their claws into your thigh! When you kindly put them down (or throw them off in alarm) they very haughtily saunter away with tails and superiority complexes high in the air as if it were you who started the painful poking.

Son No 2 has asked for a kitten for Christmas though. Mercifully the ex husband said, “As if I would buy a live animal without asking first…” Phew! That’s a relief then.

The thought of any more animals to add to the mix of small boys, mice, a dog and then this imaginary cat as well, begins to sends my crazy hair just a little crazier. I mean, why not get a couple of birds in here too? Actually, come to think of it, we have had those in the house. One instance was the morning after I found out my father had died and a pigeon very bizarrely crashed through the window in the front room leaving a cartoon-like, open-winged-bird-shaped hole in the glass.

“Now don’t go thinking that’s your dead dad visiting!” said Mr X.

“Course not,” I replied although as the poor slightly lame thing was set free I couldn’t help thinking “Bye, Dad!”   The crazy hair was no doubt and quite understandably completely bonkers that day.

Who knows how I’ll eventually deal with the mice… sure it will get sorted soon. Somehow!

I have too much editing to do now so best stop blathering on about the various animals (two-leggers and four-leggers) in my life. Just a photograph of a chair this week. I was working at a corporate party recently and in between snapping photographs of workers dressed up in their finest drinking champagne, I couldn’t help but find moments of magic and mystery.

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Image ©Sarah-Jane Field

A swearing (feral?) toddler, language and discovering other mothers who are OK with being real – South London Photographer

One of the things I enjoy about becoming a photographer is looking out for work by others that I find interesting, effective, beautiful or thought-provoking.  There are so many different uses of and for photography, comparing one with another is often a pointless exercise.  As I study as well as work as a photographer, my understanding of what is possible for me is changing and developing all the time.  Do I want to  concentrate on observational photography or creating my own images that might communicate something to someone? Studying introduces to me to a wide variety of styles and photographic languages and it’s good to have begun appreciating just how much there is out there.

I know photographing families commercially, as I do, gives immense joy and pleasure to parents when they see the images of their children and families.  The funny little scribbles I do on my phone and post to Flickr are like a kind of instant art, colouring-ins that give me immense pleasure and joy as I create them but are ultimately somewhat ephemeral.  I’m still trying to work out how I can use photography to express myself and even what it is I want to express although the college work seems be informing that in some ways.  (I don’t mind saying I was really rather chuffed to be referred to as an ‘artist, thinker and photographer’ by my tutor in my latest feedback!)   I recently stumbled across a highly effective short online film made by photographer, Dana Spaeth, who has put a collection of photographs together to voice her concern about gun violence in the States. It’s a powerful film and the message is stark and alarming – share it, American friends; it is useful for me to see photography being used in this way.

I stumbled across the film on Twitter where it had been shared by a site called Scary Mommy. I’ve not looked at the site fully but my initial reaction was, ‘great, a site that promotes the reality of being a parent’.  There are so many messages out there about being impossibly perfect that it’s somewhat refreshing to come across something that promotes a more truthful message.  My youngest child is at that amazing age where new language just tumbles out of his mouth every day.  As we listen to his developing syntax we are all constantly going ‘cute!!” It’s slightly disconcerting however that he is under the impression when we’re in the car that all people outside the car are called ‘bucking nankers’.  To be fair to me I only tend to use the term ‘bucking nankers’ about motorbike riders who nearly crash into my new car (crazy fools because it’s most likely them that would have come off worse; the bonnet of my car could be fixed or replaced whereas their necks are more tricky to deal with) or suicidal pedestrians who step out in front of my moving vehicle.  Oh, and the occasional ‘bucking’ aggressive driver who thinks he/she owns the ‘bucking’ road!  Still, I probably need to temper my in-car road-rage when the 2 year old is with me.

Here are a couple of photos of my own kids for this week’s blog.  They’re not at all like the commercial family stuff I do but I love the reality about them.  I discussed whether or not to post the second one of my oldest son with him, and he said he liked the styling so I could go ahead – he was having a bad moment, just as any 10 year old boy (well all of us really) does from time to time.  This is the reality of childhood and family life and I do find it quite satisfying to record.  The first image is of my middle son teaching my youngest who has just moved out of nappies how to have a pee when there isn’t a loo around. “Thanks, dude,” said the baby!

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