South London Photographer: In Bethnal Green

The last few weeks have been exceptionally busy as I, along with fellow photographers, John Umney and Keith Greenough, prepare for an exhibition we have been working on called Oxford HouseNexus. I’ve included a short quote here from our joint artists’ statement and you can find out more on the Oxford House website, which also includes directions to the gallery.

 

Nexus:
noun
1. A central or focal point.
2. A connection or series of connections linking two or more things.

Ever since Oxford House was founded in 1884 by Keble College, University of Oxford, it has been a nexus for the residents in and around Bethnal Green. Initially conceived to ”alleviate or remove the impact of poverty to the local community”, its history is rich and fascinating, and its connections with the surrounding area remain as significant as ever today.

We open on 10th November at 6.30pm with a short artists’ talk and a few glasses of something fizzy.   The event is also a fundraiser for Oxford House. Recently the building has been placed on the Buildings at Risk Register by Historic England due to the damage being caused by rainwater coming through a very old roof. All proceeds from sale of prints and donations at the exhibition will go the regeneration fund.

The show runs until 29th November, 2017. Do get in touch if you are interested in coming along at any point. Schools may find a trip to Oxford House and the exhibition particularly useful in terms of historical context, as well as artistically  – if any educators are interested in arranging a talk, we would be very happy to oblige.

John Umney
Keble House, (c) John Umney, 2017
Keith Greenough
Oxford House, (c) Keith Greenough, 2017 
Sarah-Jane Field
Honor’s Dance, (c) Sarah-Jane Field, 2017

 

South London Photographer: Not quite singing in it, but certainly enjoying the rain!

Clients always tells me they hope for lovely weather when we have shoots, but don’t completely write off rainy days for photography. The light is generally much nicer and easier to manage than when it’s bright, and cloud cover is a brilliant diffuser. I’m not sure the kids are quite as enthusiastic as me, and perhaps if it had been a bit more stormy this morning they’d have had something to say about being dragged up to Wimbledon Common. Nevertheless, they were content enough to go for a walk in the drizzle, providing hot chocolate and marshmallows were on the agenda, and even let me grab a few snaps of them as I we did. Here are a handful. (That’s my woolly hat, he’s wearing, by the way…)

Despite the weather there are definite signs of spring in the air! And to celebrate I am currently offering a 5% discount off the cost of a family shoot (as specified on my site, valid until the end of April, T&Cs apply.) Get in touch for more information.

Have a great week. SJ x

Images (c)SJField 2017

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South London Photographer: Last minute shopping

I don’t really get the thing where people manage to start buying Christmas presents six months in advance. Thankfully I only have a few people to buy for as I’ve yet to do my Christmas shopping, and looking at my diary I’m not entirely sure when that is going to happen. Let’s hope I can avoid a frenzied assault in a state of angry panic in the local toyshop sometime after lunch on the 24th. I have friends who have dozens of cousins and nieces and nephews, all of whom need something. Surely a Secret Santa is preferable in that case! If you’re like me and have left it until the very last minute, and have no idea what to get, how about a voucher for a family shoot?  You can choose between a relaxed session where we aim to capture some images of everyone in a favourite place or at home, or something more planned where a family and I will work together to create an image over a period of time that is deliberately made to say something about you and your loved ones. Visit my site for more information or get in touch via email or phone.

Here are a few images from a recent shoot I did where we took a few photographs in the family home and then headed to Merton Hall in Wimbledon.

Happy shopping or whatever else you do at this time of the year.

(c)SJField 2016

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South London Photographer: Managing expectations

I like so many women I know, can do lots of different things. And often simultaneously. I can get dressed, hoover the carpet, eat toast and reply to an email on my phone, and all at the same time as yelling at a small child who can’t find his shoes because he’s hidden them in a basket for reasons only he understands. Sometimes I truly impress myself with that common mum-like ability to travel through the day successfully, surrounded by several virtual plates spinning maniacally all about my aura. And often they don’t even come crashing down before I make it to the end of the day. Instead I’m able to place them neatly in the corner ready for the next morning, when once again I’ll be getting dressed, eating toast, tidying up and yelling at a child about getting dressed before he ventures out into the street to hunt for ants to observe, because he’s decided that they are the greatest possible pet option on a growing list of exotic creatures, all of which I’ve rejected so far. Nevertheless, I’m sometimes saddened but also perfectly honest enough to admit, there are plenty of things I have yet to master, and many that I likely never will. I have not worked out how to grow an extra couple of arms, although, lord knows, I could really do with a spare set. I haven’t worked out how to be in two places at once, and I can’t even deduce that young boys in places quite far from me are disgruntled because I’m not where they think I ought to be, at exactly the time they think they need me to be.

“I exist in a reality outside your head too, young boy! I’m a person in my own right, really, I am. How can I possibly know you’ve not got your keys if you don’t call and let me know?” He replied, “I did!” I looked at my phone. And it’s true, he did, precisely three minutes earlier. But not at the very beginning of the 45 minute episode that he’d been sitting on the doorstep waiting impatiently. “Where are you????” he implores with utter indignation on my voice mail.

And no matter how hard I try I will never be able to morph into a dustbin, coat-rack, towel or snack, regardless of how much my children think I am surely any one of those objects at any given point. And I will never, ever, ever be able to control the weather. Nope, not ever. And nor do I wish to either. This comes as a shock and rather bad news to at least two of my children who make weather-dependent demands and then become infuriated when it just doesn’t work out the way they hoped.

All of which made me immensely grateful when I spoke to a client who has some weather specific aims for her photographs. We’ll need to play things by ear and see what the weather is doing for that, I said. Of course, she replied, I’m all over ‘flexible’. When you’re dealing with small people on a daily basis, flexible seems like a most precious and cherished trait to come across in someone. Mind you, my client is a yoga teacher, and not a somewhat willful and intractable 8-year-old boy, so it seems perfectly acceptable to expect that of her. And because she’s a mum, I bet she can do loads of stuff at the same time, and a sun salutation to boot too. But of course she wouldn’t even try, because we all know, that way sheer madness lies.

(c)SJField 2016

If I could control the weather, as I’m sure my children believe I can, I’d make sure it was foggy a lot more often. I love the mysterious atmosphere it brings and the diffused light is just beautiful. I’d also have been able to order a bit of lovely dappled sunlight in the woods this evening. (c)SJField 2015

South London Photographer:A brand new year

Yes, that’s right. I’ve decided to make September the start of my new year. Bollocks to January! It’s grey and cold. No-one has any money and nearly everyone I know gives up drinking too, which always makes me feel vaguely guilty for not doing so. But come on, didn’t you hear me? It’s grey and cold, and surely everyone can see that’s the worse time to give up – unless you’re really dependent, then anytime is obviously good. But in September, it’s still sunny and mildly warm, even baking hot on some days, and while no one has any money after all those summer days out and camping trips and pizzas which still cost a fortune even with the 30% off voucher, having no money anytime at all is the new reality for most of us, regardless of the month. So, far better to mark time passing, to celebrate the communal endings and societal beginnings, when the brats return to school and we all get to go back to what ever it is we spend our lives doing when they’re not around. Even if that something is simply sitting and enjoying a moment of peace for five minutes without someone yelling, “Mum, wipe my bum!” Or else banging on and on and on about a new game that the whole world is playing on their phones which seems, frankly really boring, except for the fact that since everyone is wandering around holding their phones up to their faces, anyone taking surreptitious street photographs with one can kind of get away with looking like they too are simply playing a game and not being a weird creepy pest, as my eldest son likes to call me.

Hang on, is that peace and quiet I hear?  It’s been such a long time since I last experienced anything along those lines, I’m not sure if I should trust my ears along with the slow sense of returning to something approximating a relative type of equilibrium. Oh, yes… I think it is. Allowing it to creep in and take hold of me feels …’oozy’, a bit like the sensation of cool mud squelching between my toes. I like it! And it gives me a chance to come up with a new year’s list of things to consider going forward. Because they do say writing things down is good for something or other, not sure what, but here it is

  1. Create something brilliant and award winning
  2. Have realistic and achievable goals
  3. With reference to point 2 adjust point 1 and internalise point 2
  4. Keep telling youngest son he mustn’t randomly grab a women’s boobs
  5. Or anyone else’s for that matter
  6. Nor lift my skirt up in the high street to show everyone passing my knickers
  7. Or even my T-shirt in the supermarket to show everyone my post-3-children stomach
  8. Nor should said small child carry on thinking its acceptable to swear really loudly in public
  9. Or quietly
  10. Or at all
  11. Sit and do homework with middle child even though he’s a whiny pain in the arse about it
  12.  Try to remember point 11 for the whole of the academic year not just week 1 of term 1
  13. Force oldest child tidy to his room occasionally even though he’s going to be taller than me very soon and already has much bigger feet than me – especially so perhaps since I won’t be able to for much longer
  14. Be nice to kids generally
  15. Be stricter with kids generally
  16. Try hard to reconcile points 12 and 13
  17. Make some money
  18. See point 2

And with that I must get on and order things and answer emails and work. Oh yes, now I remember. That’s what I do when those small people are at school. I work!

Have a great week!

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Street photography taken on my phone. Did they they wonder what on earth I was doing photographing them, or did they assume I was playing a game featuring these crazy little virtual reality critters?  I have a friend who has given up his smart phone altogether. I said I would like to do the same thing but for the camera and he said, heh, here’s a crazy idea, why don’t you use one of those actual non-phone cameras with the really excellent image quality you’ve got there? Good point!

Image (c)SJField 2016

South London Photographer: Fishy crisis

Oh dear, I think to myself. He’s really not very well at all. As I’ve been watching him for some time now, I have to admit it’s abundantly clear, indefatigably true, undeniably apparent that something is fundamentally wrong with him. His little black fins flap furiously as he tries to right himself. But just as he’s been doing constantly since I noticed, he gives up, floating to the top of the bowl where he bobs listlessly. And upside down too. Until the next time he musters enough strength to try yet again. Poor thing. He’s quite, quite unbalanced.

Oh, my god, I cry, I think I’ve killed the fish. Somehow, as I prepared to clean the water, I must have damaged his fin or something. Because now, this poor little creature, whose name incidentally is Joseph, can’t help but float upside down at the top of the fish bowl. I peer closer and notice his tummy. Is it fat, I wonder? Yes, I think it’s fat. Maybe Joseph is pregnant. Oh, Mary, mother of …. Little fish, we’ll have little fish. What will we do with little fish? And how many little fish?

Hang on a minute, do fish even give birth? No. They lay eggs. I do remember that much. And how fat does a goldfish with a stomach full of teeny, weeny tiny eggs get? I may not be that ‘up’ on fractured fins. But I know about reproduction. And I don’t ever recall hearing that pregnant fish swim upside down, (even though the experience may well have turned your own life upside down; it did mine). So, it probably won’t be pregnant, will it? As always in times of confusion nowadays I reach for my phone and type into a search engine, ‘upside down goldfish’. My eyes fly eagerly through the links and rest on something looking vaguely relevant. After just a few moments it is more than obvious I’ve probably not harmed Joseph at all. Phew! And, he’s almost certainly not expecting. That’s good too. What’s most likely is that poor old Joseph has a bad case of wind.

Joseph just needs to fart. Really badly, it would seem.

Yes, that’s awful. It’s not usually fatal, but a tummy full of trapped air is dreadfully uncomfortable, as everyone knows. So, for the next day or so I feed Joseph tiny pieces of chopped up defrosted peas as instructed on the web, and before very long he has righted himself and is no longer looking like a very pregnant, albeit upside, Josephine. No births. But no deaths either. “It’s alright, boys,” I report, “No need to euthanise the goldfish this week.” They look up from various screens, grunt at me and life continues as before. Which, in Joseph’s case, is truly great news.

Story: just one of many moments from our summer holidays. Pictures: taken in France near the town of Cap Ferret, where we went camping this summer. A beautiful part of the world. And good for fishing apparently although I’m not sure Joseph and his friends would agree.

For all those heading back to school this week, have fun.

SJ x

Images (c) SJField 2016

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South London Photographer: A day out

Whatever you feel about the current political state of collapse it would be difficult to deny how historically important it all is.  I won’t say much in words.  Everybody has their view and I know from past experience that asking people on either side of an argument to shift or broaden there positions can be hugely challenging.  But obviously I took some photographs while out and about today and I’m sharing some of those here.

Images (c)SJField 2016

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South London Photographer : By the seaside

I remember much of what I have written about in this post because of the photo albums which I avidly used to keep up to date, meticulously recording and documenting our lives. Two children and one early pregnancy later, everything got far too busy and crazy. My photo albums stop at that point and it’s harder to piece things together without the visual reminders. I’m pretty sure the last time I went to Brighton I was heavily pregnant with No 3. Hang on a minute, I can’t have been heavily pregnant because he was born in March and we went in the summer. Oh yes, I remember, I looked heavily pregnant from about day 2 of that pregnancy, so that by the time I was just 3 months gone, I looked like I was about to pop. I do know for sure I ate a family pack of Wotsits and felt sick in the car going down – aaah, you might think, therein lies a possible reason for having been so incredibly big. In fact, it’s impossible to forget just how very sick I felt for most of those 9 months, and I suspect the salt in the Wotsits probably helped keep the nausea at bay. I also recall flooding my bag with a broken bottle of water and destroying my phone on the way home. But I wouldn’t have taken any photographs during that visit because just holding my phone, or a camera, significantly and palpably added to the feeling of nausea. Most people reminisce about how they couldn’t drink tea, alcohol or orange juice when pregnant. I remember I simply couldn’t take a photograph. It just made me want to hurl. Which, as you might image, is a truly depressing way to spend your time when you once loved taking pictures of your kids.

It was a weird aversion and I never experienced it during my other pregnancies. But thanks to the albums, I know for certain that we had a lovely day out in Brighton during my pregnancy with No 2 too. I like looking at those pictures. No 1 is still very young. I have a short gamine hair style, which suits me and my large belly well, and we all look really happy sitting in a fish restaurant, and then later on the beach, throwing stones into the sea. (Here’s an image from that visit.  I photographed a picture from the album, using my phone, and uploaded it to Instagram a while ago – so a great combination of old and new technology.)

Thankfully, the pregnancy hormones have long gone, No 3 is running around outside my belly causing chaos, and the aversion to technology has dissipated. I started thinking about lenses again when No 3 was roughly 4 months old, so I knew then that me and my photography would be OK. When we recently visited Brighton again (sans any pregnancy) during half term to see old friends whom we’d not seen in years and years, I was able to really enjoy my love of photography and record our day out with my usual enthusiasm.  No 1 was very keen to recreate the image I’d posted to Instagram, which I’d taken when he was 3 years old. We had a play and eventually he told me he’d rather wait until he was 18 to do that but he did very patiently let me continue trying out new scenarios.

Here’s a selection from our day. I used my Fuji X100s which is the camera I tend to carry around because it’s light and easy. I really must get back to albums of one sort or another because they’re great for holding and looking through when you have a spare moment, and terrific for future generations to have.

Get in touch for family photography sessions, mentioning this post and I’ll include 5 A4 prints to your booking for free*.  That way you can also think about creating old fashioned albums for you and your children to look at in years to come.

Incidentally, I was recently introduced to Light, a camera company that is aiming to change the way photographs are taken with a new compact camera that has DSLR quality in a lighter and more convenient form! One of my photos will be submitted as part of their Vantage Point project.

Back to school tomorrow.  And onwards with work in a slightly less disruptive manner (and breath….)! SJ x

Images (c)SJField 2016, *T&C apply – see website for details

 

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: Focusing on community

Last night I photographed an event at the Grosvenor Arms, where I’ve been documenting some changes since Brendan Conway and his partners took it over.  The group are studying ways to create ventures that encourage genuine human connection within communities, and looking at ways of providing spaces where positive interaction between businesses, families and individuals can occur.  It’s really great to know these concerns are bing addressed by society.

I was lucky with the light and some great moments.  I left the group having a brilliant time and I hope they enjoyed themselves.

Short blog this time – but I’ll be back soon!

SJ

Images (c)SJField 2016