South London Photography: Headshots and other portraits

My first love with photography is portraiture. It always has been. And since taking up photography I have enjoyed the process of spending time with people, getting to know them relatively quickly and capturing an authentic quality about them in my camera. However, there is something quite satisfying about photographing people I already know well, like one of my oldest friends, Trudi Jackson, who also happens to be a talented actor. Trudi was recently kind enough to let me work with her for longer than I normally do when shooting headshots. Poor woman must have been exhausted after our day, which of course included a couple of breaks, (I’m not a total tyrant!) during which we fetched her daughter from school and ballet. And who, lucky for me, is equally obliging. Working with Trudi for an extended period gave me plenty of opportunity to play and learn, so I was grateful for her time, and her daughter’s too, of course!

Here are a handful of head shots with some very different looks, chosen by Trudi’s agent, followed by portraits for my own purposes including a couple of the future talent that is Ms. L, who may well follow in her mum’s footsteps by the looks of things.

(c)SJField 2017

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South London Photographer: Dunkirk

I was incredibly pleased Just Shelter invited me to accompany them on Saturday to the Dunkirk Refugee’s Children Centre again, and I’m grateful to all involved for allowing me to document the day. Since first going to the Jungle in Calais in December 2015 I have been mindful of respecting people’s privacy and have avoided posting images of recognisable faces online. However, a part of me really wishes I could share more of the images I took this weekend, but of course safe-guarding means that isn’t possible. If it were you would see children just like yours and mine, playing, laughing and enjoying a fantastic day. We are all used to seeing some incredibly powerful images in the news, as journalists cover the crisis, but often those images emphasise and re-inforce difference. During all of my trips to northern France I have tried to focus on aspects which I recognise as deeply human regardless of any of the categorisations we apply to each other. For example, an innate creative response in all and every social group. This morning, as I looked through and edited photos from Saturday, it was extremely clear the children I photographed in Dunkirk and those I might be employed to capture in south London are exactly the same. Although the former aren’t living surrounded by all that we take for granted, they are just kiddies doing what kids do. The people who set up and run the Children’s Centre in Dunkirk have done a fantastic job making that a possibility.

If I could show some of those other photos I took, the ones with faces, you would see joy in the smiles of the girls who had been singing and dancing to Let it Go from Frozen several times, just like my friends’ daughters might have done, before playing All About That Bass as loudly as they were allowed to. You’d see the eager faces of toddlers who enjoy showing off artwork or toys they are particularly fond of. And perhaps you’d be able to recognise and connect with the physicality of the little boy who skipped through the camp in exactly the same way my own four-year-old son does routinely. The delicious hysterical laughter triggered by Earlsfield based performer, Jake Rodrigues, was, as always, wonderful to hear. Perhaps one of the best things from the day was the genuine, utterly spontaneous laughter from so many young children, and we were rewarded with plenty of it. Jake thoroughly entertained everyone, including a journalist who insisted on joining him with a guitar he somehow found during the second half of the day, which led to an impromptu mini-gig for all. I’d hope that rather than difference my photos would show you how very similar we all are. But even though we had such a lovely time the seriousness of the situation could not and should not be ignored. For instance, you can’t help but notice the rashes and bites some children have on their skin, an inevitable and common problem in refugee camps, as it would be for anyone living in cramped conditions without adequate facilities. I have nothing but admiration for any parent living under such conditions while bringing up their children.

During our time in Dunkirk, it was very hard to conceive of anyone wishing those children harm, or of being unable and unwilling to offer sanctuary; yet there they are, stuck with their families in a refugee camp that is woefully inadequate, despite being a far cry from the first Dunkirk camp, shut down last year. The officials who allowed the current camp to be built have done so with some risk to their political careers and should be applauded for that at least. Even so, families are in dire circumstances and the help they receive is deeply appreciated. I know Just Shelter and the Children’s Centre have expressed their huge thanks for all support they receive.

Just Shelter are hosting a coffee morning on 10th March in Earlsfield at 9.15am to raise awareness, garner any further interest and help, as well as raise funds or donations. I will be giving a short talk and showing some more photographs from my various trips to the area. Please get in touch if with me or Just Shelter if you are interested. Numbers are limited so don’t leave it too late.

Best, SJ

Views my own.

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: Chicken!

This week I’m posting a portrait of my son and one of his greatest, most special friends. It’s a little opaque, I know, as portraits go. But then so is he sometimes. Not long ago my son decided to only use the word ‘chicken’ in place of all nouns. Now that really was opaque; “What would you like for supper?” I’d ask.  He’d reply, “Chicken please!” Followed by, “Or shall we have chicken instead? I don’t know. I kind of feel like chicken.” And later, “Chicken! Chicken’s hurting me!!” Or, “I really hate chicken, it’s so chicken.” Even so, I marvelled at his timing because his overwhelming commitment to one single noun came along just as I started the semiotic section of my course. My son, lover of the word ‘chicken’ had managed to illustrate the arbitrary nature of words in one morning whereas the complex and difficult book I was struggling with remained almost entirely out of my intellectual reach. I’m happy to say I’m getting there with it, slowly it’s true, but I thank my 8 year old for his help. I don’t know how old the author of the book is but I wonder if he’d like some advice from my son, about the way in which chickens can be so very strange. For such a cavalier disregarder of so many words in favour of one, it might surprise you to hear that he later wrote a poem at school which was so good no one believed it had sprung from his own pen. How frustrating that must have been for him. He declared sadly that no-one trusted him, except for me (and I had my doubts, I have to admit). The thing is, children and young people, when we give them the space, can do amazing things.  Let’s listen to our young people more and stop underestimating them. They’re pretty wonderful when we let them be.

Have a great chicken everyone. x

Image (c)SJField 2016

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South London Photographer: A very local wedding

A couple of weeks ago I dropped the kids off at school and sauntered down the road to Wandsworth Registry Office to photograph one of the loveliest weddings. Maybe most weddings are lovely but I particularly liked being witness to the genuine and extremely evident feelings of joy I hope I was able to capture in this one.  And what a cute baby to make my day too.  I’m so pleased Hannah & Andy got in touch with me so I could photograph their day. All in all, everything about my morning at work that day made me think, this job’s pretty good indeed. As always in blog posts about weddings, I think I’ll let the photographs do the talking.  Have a great week, SJ

All images (c)SJField 2016

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South London Photographer: Celebrating Mothers Day with a Special Offer!

I wasn’t quite woken up with a cup of tea in bed, since the oldest child who is capable of making such a thing happen has reached that teenaged habit of wanting to sleep in for as long as he can at the weekends.  Instead, my 4 year old ended my night’s sleep with a beautiful rendition of a song about a spring chicken and some chicks hatching – “heh! let me out!” the little chicks yelled at the end of each numbered verse.  It was a beautiful, stirring, passionate and loud performance sung right into my ear as he lay on top of me, trying to get his hands up my top.  There are worse ways to be woken, of course.

Yes – Mothers day may be a commercial celebration driven by conglomerates in order to commercialise yet another part of our lives.  But…ignore that aspect of it. Instead lets celebrate mothers, young and old; those still with us and all the many that no longer are.  We all begin our lives inside the belly of of our mum.  It’s a profound relationship.

Motherhood is at the same time both wonderful and challenging, life affirming and desperately difficult, exciting and then tedious as hell, extraordinary and dreadfully normal too.  And what other relationship entails so much bottom-wiping?

No, it’s not all an idealised fantasy by any means! And we in the West have gravitated away from communal living and instead exist in small units that support our economic social structure. Where once we had aunties, grannies, cousins and other community members all working together to bring up the children, now mothers are more isolated.  The saying ‘it takes a village to bring up a child’ really resonates with me.  Us mums need to remember this when we’re desperately furious with our little ones, and subsequently disappointed in our own failings.  It isn’t easy.  Luckily, neither is it always trying – there are times when it’s absolutely wonderful being a mum.  Sometimes I just love the simple sound of “Mum!”

And it doesn’t matter whether you’re a working or stay at home mum, old or young, have single or many children; from the moment we become mothers, our lives are no longer our own.  But they are enriched and we are given the opportunity to love in a unique and important way; a love like no other.  And that is a very precious.

So mark Mothers Day in which ever way works best for you.  But make sure you do!

Yay – lucky me! I’ve just received vouchers for a massage – one of the best presents I could hope for.  I really could do with a bit of pampering.  I hope you get what you want. And a message for any husbands or people out there who haven’t bothered…. What are you thinking? It’s not too late!  Do something small or big.  But make sure you do something.  It matters and will be so appreciated.

Gotta run – been called to wipe someone’s bottom!

SPECIAL OFFER:  Mini shoot – £145 for a 1 hour session at your home or in a park local.  8 prints and edited jpgs which you can print and share online as often as you like.  Call or message me on FB/Twitter/Instagram/LinkedIn for more details. Terms&Conditions apply.  Vouchers available. http://www.sarahjanefield.co.uk SHARE THIS POST FOR A CHANCE TO WIN A MINI SHOOT – WINNER ANNOUNCED 3RD APRIL 2016.  (Please let me know if you’ve shared this post by emailing/messaging as not all FB shares are registering). Offer ends 3 April 2016.

Below are a collection of images of mothers with their children or grandchildren, including one of my own mum and there’s even a sneaky picture of me and my son in hidden there!  (c)SJField 2014/15/16 (and one that’s very old – see if you can spot it!)

 

South London Photographer: How do you talk about sex to your kids?

My biggest ambition for these boys of mine is to see them grow up into decent human beings. Obviously feeding, clothing and keeping them clean are the urgent, pressing and more than challenging objectives on a day-to-day basis but if I can just encourage them to be essentially decent people into and throughout the majority of their adult lives…. Well, that to me will be success.

But it is so much easier said than done. And sadly, even parents with the best intentions will unwittingly fall short of achieving even a fraction of that aim. I might be one of them.

And that’s because being human is so damn hard at times. There are so many factors involved too. Genetics, environment, events, unstable and changing moral boundaries all have an impact, and many of those aspects are entirely out of our control.  How we bring our children up to think of others and themselves is fraught with potential pitfalls.

Take, for instance, the subject of sex.

My oldest son has asked me time and time again why sex is thought of as ‘bad’ by society, or at any rate something to be hidden. His question is prompted by the reaction of peers through his years in primary and now in secondary school during sex education classes. Everyone is always horribly embarrassed.  Some weren’t even allowed to be there at all.

It’s true; it’s a difficult subject to address appropriately with children and can feel awkward. I have always tried to be age appropriate but honest, to avoid cloaking sex in something mysterious, hidden or dangerous. But I don’t know how to answer his question fully. We discuss religion’s role, the need for family planning when there wasn’t any, and even touch on Lady Gaga’s new video about the prevalence of rape in American colleges.

His involvement at school on the debating club and an avid interest in current affairs and human beings in general means he doesn’t simply accept everything I say but instead counters arguments I offer which lack robust substance, questions statistics I might have read on Twitter, for instance, which are based on short-term and limited data, and offers alternative viewpoints that take various positions into account. I really hope his thoughtful responses are a good indication that he has the potential to grow up into a well-rounded, sensitive and emotionally intelligent male person.

We’re in the car at the time and I temporarily forget there are two much younger children in the back, who may or may not be listening in.   Suddenly my littlest one squeals in delight, “The Penis Movie!”, and despite everything I’ve just written I didn’t react as helpfully as I might have done.

“Pardon?” I said hesitantly. I wanted to be sure I’d heard right. I’m not concerned he’s referring to pornography although maybe that’s a failing in me. However, that does seem unlikely – the possibility of pornography I mean, as opposed to me being without failings.  I have an awful lot of those. Rather, that he’s using the word penis at all – and simply because I don’t want him to get into trouble at school.

“Where did you see a poster for The Penis Movie, darling?” I asked calmly. The older boys are laughing hysterically.

“Heh,” said No 1, showing No 3 some pictures on his phone, “is this what you mean?” I have no idea what images he has found for my little bundle of cuteness in the back and wait with slightly bated breath to find out where he’s going with this.

“Yes,” says my now acutely embarrassed three-year old who clearly has no idea why all this energy is focused on him.

Son No 1 shoves the phone in my face as I try to negotiate Sunday traffic on a busy A road. Briefly, before I shove his phone away, I see that when my son says The Penis Movie he is actually referring to Alvin and the Chipmunks.

Ohhhh!” I say, “OK!”  I suspected it might be something like that.  Rather than porn.

I tell No 3 he must be careful about using the word penis because sometimes grownups are shocked when very young children mention penises. I also explain that the little furry creatures he likes so much are actually called chipmunks. But I forget to explain what penis means. He asks. Because he’s 3. And clever and inquisitive. Which is good, isn’t it?

“It’s a…” I almost say scientific but then realise he won’t know what that means either so change to…”a grown up term for willy.”

Son No 1 helpfully reminds me that Son No 3 probably has no idea what I mean by ‘term’. Of course – a word. “It’s a word. It’s just a word.”

Then I say, “OK, which one of you told him penis was the word for chipmunks?”

Both older children categorically deny any wrong doing but are each laughing so much by now it’s difficult for me to concentrate on the traffic. But all I am really concerned about is that when I look in my rear view mirror, my little baby boy looks incredibly sad and like he’s about to burst into tears.

Damn, I think. I handled that completely wrong – now I’ve somehow communicated the world is intolerant of him and his penis and somewhere in all of that there is something to be ashamed of. Shit!

“Not that there is anything wrong with the word penis,” I start to try and unpick the damage I’ve evidently caused and well… somehow I think I just make it worse.

“In fact,” I say, “you should all be very proud of your willies. They’re all very nice indeed.”

“Mum!!!” Son No 1 is appalled by me and Son No 2 is in stitches.

But my loving, innocent, delightful little monkey child is still devastated and embarrassed. I wish the traffic would abate so we can get out the car as soon as possible and change the subject. I hate that my own awkwardness has caused him distress.

The thing is, no matter what you do, or what you say or don’t say, being human is fraught with complications whether it’s to do with language, morals, religion, or indeed sex. And there are just so many things to navigate and stumble over as you progress through life, and of course we all cock up (excuse the pun) not only from time to time, but each and every day. I read this fantastic article by Alain de Botton this weekend which is ostensibly about crushes but in actual fact his musings on what is to be human are brilliant and worth reading for that alone.

If you haven’t got time for the whole article, I do think just the following should be read by everyone; “…the facts of life have deformed all of our natures. No one among us has come through unscathed. There is too much to fear: mortality, loss, dependency, abandonment, ruin, humiliation, subjection. We are, all of us, desperately fragile, ill-equipped to meet with the challenges to our mental integrity: we lack courage, preparation, confidence, intelligence. We don’t have the right role models, we were (necessarily) imperfectly parented, we fight rather than explain, we nag rather than teach, we fret instead of analysing our worries, we have a precarious sense of security, we can’t understand either ourselves or others well enough, we don’t have an appetite for the truth and suffer a fatal weakness for flattering denials. The chances of a perfectly good human emerging from the perilous facts of life are non-existent.”[1]

I just love that! Maybe I should tattoo it across my forehead and let anyone I come across sit and stare at the point just above my eyebrows, hopefully taking it on board. Seriously, everything I think in relation to my recent growing acceptance that all human beings are undeniably complex, and sometimes or quite often really horrible to each-other, no matter how straightforward they might seem (in fact watch out for those ones), is summed up perfectly by Botton’s essay and those words in particular.  And yes, we damage our kids no matter how hard we try not to by imposing our own and the world’s  shit on them constantly.  It’s part of being a parent.

And so, even though I don’t think I navigated The Penis Movie episode as well as I might have done, what matters more is that I sensed his discomfort and shame and did my best to let him know I think he’s great – every little bit of him.

Next time, I might write something about how this relates to photography… you never know!

Image ©SJField 2016

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[1] Alain De Botton, The Book of Life, On the Madness and Charm of Crushes

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: Staying in control of the list. Or with a list. Or something like that. I think.

It’s only just gone 11am and I’ve completed a ridiculous number of tasks already. From putting away 3 week’s worth of washing (“3 weeks!” you may well say), to cleaning the whole flat, writing some ad copy and providing images to the advertiser, as well as a bit of filing and some invoicing; and I’ve even confirmed a selection of images I’ll be displaying in the new year, which incidentally will be for sale, of course (more info soon). And now here I am again, jabbering away about life with three kids, a job and whole load of studying to get through too.

Maybe someone put some rocket fuel somewhere unmentionable because I can tell you, I’m not normally this focused and capable of achieving quite so much in so short a time. Of course, with three kids, the youngest of which is 3, you can understand why life often feels a little like I’m wading through syrup. Although I don’t think it’s the number that does it. I suspect it’s like that for anyone with small children – they’re just so demanding sometimes.

Without a doubt, I really felt very sorry for Son No 3 who kept me awake for 2 nights in a row with his truly dreadful cold and cough. Especially when I clambered out of bed at 3 in the morning to find the Calpol and he looked at me with wide open eyes and said apologetically, “I don’t know why I feel like this, Mum.” Oh, my poor little boy! “It’s not your fault, silly.  You’ve got a cold!”, I assured him as I scooped him up. But the person I felt most sorry for the next day as he watched Spiderman happily while I tried to concentrate on work was me. Yes, everything feels like such hard work when you’ve not had any sleep and you have a list as long as your arm to get through looming in your mind’s eye, threatening to bash you over your tired and sleepy head at any moment. And it never ends, so just as you think you’re on top of everything you check your list and it seems to have grown even longer – not shrunk at all.

I keep my real list, as opposed to the imaginary head-bashing personified one, in the Notes section of my phone. There I scribble down what I need to do, jot down articles I might use for college work and sometimes I record stuff the kids have said which has made me laugh, and which I might include here. Such, as the other day when the sickly small person told me I didn’t look like me after I’d clipped my hair up. “Oh, and who do I look like?” I replied. “A man,” he told me! A man!? How’s that for a thank you after I’d stayed awake most of the night while he climbed all over me with his germs and snot, foot in my mouth at one moment, and then when he finally did fall asleep, his small body managed to take up the whole bed, so I clung to the edge too afraid to move in case he woke again. A man!?!

What was much cuter and seemingly less offensive was when shortly after saying I looked like a man, he kept repeating, “The greatest weapon of all is imagination”. It was really very sweet indeed, so absolutely, I wrote that one down. However, when I realised he’d heard it on YouTube in a truly irritating ten-minute advert for junk, it kind of lost its appeal. And then when he kept saying it over and over again for about half an hour I think it really died a death in the cuteness stakes. Especially as by then I’d given up trying to work and was no longer fighting my body’s desire to catch up on some of the sleep I’d lost out on the night before.

Lists are just so important. Without them I’ve forget everything I need to do and instead of starting this blog as I did, I’d have had to say, I haven’t done much today, but I’m sure there was something…. But sometimes I find things on my list I don’t understand at all and that really confuses me – such as when I found the following statement at the end of my most up to date list page: “You eat shit!”

“Kids!!!” I yelled. “Who’s been writing inappropriate things on my phone and why?” As I studied the possible culprits’ faces for signs of abject lying, I couldn’t fail to believe them when they both categorically denied it, and showed no hints of dishonesty whatsoever. And then from somewhere deep in the back storerooms of my hormone battered brain I recalled having written it down myself. But I have absolutely no idea why. Did someone say it? Did I say it? Did I think it? And if so why did I write it down? Was it a message to myself from myself, although why I would choose to be so horrible to little ol’ me, I have no idea?  Or was it the imaginary personalised list that threatens to bash me over the head actually getting in on the action by beginning to write stuff down itself?  “MY list!  Do you hear that head-bashing list-thingymajiggy!!! MINE!”

So even though I keep a list, various lists actually – it’s far from failsafe (especially if it starts adding things itself). Having had plenty of chats with mums in similar situations I am well aware that this is what is to be a mother of small children whilst also trying to do a million other things too. You know, as well as feed, clothe, clean and house the little buggers. We are never on top of things, we are always catching up, constantly forgetting, cocking up and finding ways to make amends to children, family and friends; always running, always in a hurry. And sometimes it really does takes 3 weeks to put away the clean laundry.

So even though the beginning of the week was frustrating because I couldn’t get on with my chores and work, having had so little sleep, I really ought to thank my son for forcing me to have a break because obviously I must have needed it. Considering how much I’ve got through today before lunch, the relatively restful two days I’ve just had seems to have done me the world of good.

And who on earth knows why I wrote, “You eat shit”? But I can safely say from the self who read it to the self that jotted it down, “No, I bloody well don’t!”

Have fun! SJ x

PS.  If you’re after a shoot for  Christmas presents, do get it booked sooner rather than later.  Time’s a marching on!

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This image is available as an A3 framed print.  See my website for details.

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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