South London Photographer: Son No 1 suggests ranting for a living

“You put dead mans in boxes,” the smallest person says.

“Pardon?”

His statement races through my mind chaotically like a confused mouse in a clinical maze, trying unsuccessfully to connect Son No 3’s belief that I ‘put dead mans in boxes’ to the conversation I’m having with No 1. He, the oldest and my resident social-networking expert, is telling me about ‘ranters’.

“So, they’re an actual thing?” I had queried.

“Yes, you just rant about stuff. It would be perfect for you, mum.”

Even so, I don’t understand why a ranter is categorised differently to a blogger or a vlogger, but I am told the woman we are discussing is neither of those things. She is most definitely a ranter and I can be one too, if I like, although I must have some extreme ideas to rant about.

That’s the whole point of a ranter. She or he must be vociferous.

Son No 1 goes on to give me an example while Son No 3 continues quietly munching on cereal, and taking it all in.

“So, you could spout extreme feminist views, for instance, but they have to be really out there!” He then does an impression of my potential ranting which is not terribly flattering about men. Or me, to be honest.

“Heh, men are ok,” I say, “so long as they go back in their boxes at the end of the day!”

It’s a joke, of course. But I do worry immediately about the message I’m transmitting to my youngest and oldest male offspring.

Which is where Son No 3’s statement about putting dead men in boxes comes in.

“No, darling, I don’t mean it …I don’t really want to put them all in boxes…” I find it too hard to fully explain because well… how do I deconstruct a slightly acerbic, not terribly funny joke to a four year old? Four year olds famously don’t really do irony. (Neither do psychopaths, they tell me, but that’s another story).

And anyway, I am more concerned about his notion that I want all men to be dead before putting them in their boxes.

“Why do you think they’d be dead?”

“Because your dead dad is in a box,” he replies.

“Ohhhh – yeah!” He’s referring to my late father’s ashes, currently residing in an urn, which is still inside the cardboard box we received it in, on the day of his funeral, and which rests at the very top of the book-shelf in my front room; reasons for which I explained in an earlier blog.

So it turns out, to all intents and purposes, that Son No 3 has listened carefully to the lesson about social networking ranters given by Son No 1 along with my interactions, and concluded that I believe all men should ultimately be turned to ashes and stored in cardboard boxes. Which, I hasten to add, isn’t true. Really. I mean, mostly, it’s not true at all.

All joking aside, in case anyone misses the irony – I’ve realised that occasionally parody doesn’t travel as well as I imagine it might – it is often challenging passing on basic feminist ideals to my three male children in a balanced, mature, and humanist way. Feminism isn’t about women or men. It’s about human beings being decent and fair to one another. Which, obviously….Silly… never equates to one gender being consigned to boxes, dead or alive, at the end of the day, or in fact any time – no matter how their sex is defined.

I am, like so many other parents, trying to ensure the boys grow up to be modern, helpful, authentic, genuinely kind, gentle but happy in their masculinity, as well as present; and who know where the washing machine and dishwasher are. And who don’t assume it’s their God-given right to be absent most of the time doing who knows what while some poor long-suffering wife/girlfriend is stuck at home, either all day or at the end of a full working day sorting his underwear into darks and lights before shoving them in the machine, which only she knows how to use. I know I don’t always get the tone right. In fact, I fail miserably every now and again.

Either I am a little too caustic; presumably generating ideas in small minds that suggest I might think men should be kept in boxes. Or I just find it easier to get on with domestic chores myself, rather than teach them how to contribute.

The challenge of bringing up those three little boys who absorb messages from the world around them, some of which lead Son No 3 to believe that I can’t be a super hero because I’m a girl, is immense. I strive constantly to counter such beliefs calmly and rationally but I’ve been bought up in the same world, and have undoubtedly, and without thinking, upheld many of the gender specific roles we still cling to in our society, by cleaning up after everyone and allowing them to get away with not learning basic white goods management. I do of course know little girls can also be happy to let mum do it all too. And I totally get that we mums love to mother our kids, to make them feel taken care of, looked after, even cosseted to various degrees. Because it’s lovely for them to feel that way, and wonderful to be able to do it. Nevertheless, I am furiously trying to back-peddle, and listen enviously to tales of how other families apportion various chores equally to all their children, regardless of gender. Instead of always doing everything for them, I am consciously trying to remember to give them space to learn how to take care of themselves in the domestic sense. Because it would be awful for them to reach their 50s and still not know how to use a washing machine like that poor deceased dad of mine, whose ashes live in a box on the shelf.

So no, I don’t think I’ll become a ranter as suggested by Son No 1. I don’t have extreme enough views. I can’t possibly bang on about men being consigned to boxes at any time and in any state because the world would be a sadder place without them. Most men are, of course, OK really. Especially when served on a nice bit of toast with a little dollop of pickle on the side. And perhaps a glass or two of a decent chianti.

Image (c)SJField 2016

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Son no 3 likes helping. Long may it last! 

 

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: some landscape photography from Italy & the end of Easter hols

So, travelling alone with three kids is something I’m used to.  People often give me a look of sympathy, and say, “three boys…!!” which I think they believe helps me in some way. It doesn’t – it just makes me feel like there should be something wrong even when there isn’t.  I’m happy to travel with them as they are pretty good travellers most of the time, and Son no. 1 helps out as best he can nowadays.  (Although, I would be lying if I didn’t sometimes dream about heading off on my own now and again.)

Even so, I might have found things a bit easier if I hadn’t arrived at Leonardo Da Vinci Airport to find no lifts or escalators working.  This meant moving very slowly with luggage across the airport and over to the train station with three children who had been up since 3am.  Then because there was no power we were unable to buy tickets directly to our destination, but instead had to go into Rome and change there.  The train from the airport arrives at platform 26 and the train to where we were heading goes from Platform 1.  Which would be fine on my own, I’m sure – a five-minute stroll perhaps. But by then Son no. 2 was so tired that every two or three meters he kept lying down with his pillow-pet on the floor and Son no 3 needed to be carried much of the time.  So it took about 30 minutes or more.  Nevertheless, I resolutely kept smiling and refused point-blank to be beaten by the vagaries of Italian electricity.

And I owe Son no. 1 a huge thank you who made that possible by being just brilliant and made the whole journey more than bearable by staying cheery and helping with the luggage and the younger ones the whole time (he’s being a right pain the arse right now though!)  The other fabulous thing was how many people helped us upstairs, and on and off trains, and I also got chatting to two lovely and fascinating people on the train into Rome, which certainly made up for the discomfort and additional travelling time.

Once we’d arrived at our destination things ran much more smoothly and when we visited a regular spot for lunch in the mountains half way through our holiday we were greeted with the most beautiful scenery as it was covered in gorgeous snow.  I was so excited and it was for me the highlight of our holiday, which perhaps seems a bit odd as my friends who stayed back in the UK all got sun-burned noses while we froze in the Mediterranean!

Here are some landscape images of the snowy mountains in Piano Grande and the hilltop village of Castelluccio, Umbria.  If you’re ever over there, do make the effort to head in that direction.  Although I always feel quite sick on the curvy drive up, it’s so worth it. A stunning magical place up in the clouds!

We ate at a terrific place called Ristorante Il Fienile where my loud brood were made to feel very welcome and the lentil and sausage stew was, as always, absolutely delicious.  You should call beforehand and book as I think they are doing very well indeed since opening a couple of years ago – we were lucky to get in.

The Easter hols, I have to say, were much-needed by all of us and it was a little sad to say goodbye to Italy and my mother who is staying out there for now.  But I’m very much looking forward to the kids going back to school tomorrow as I have a lot of work to catch up on.  Hope everyone else had a good break and is raring and ready for summer.

All photographs were taken in or near Castelluccio, Umbria, Italy. Although the colours up there can be beautiful and they were that afternoon, I chose to convert these to black & white as it seemed to suit the dramatic sky and atmosphere.

All images (c)Sarah-Jane Field 2015

 

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Taken from the top of the village of Castelluccio.
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Also taken from the top of the village
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The plains of Piano Grande are covered in different coloured flowers in June, but when we visited the fields were covered in snow and pools of water
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I kept asking to stop the car as the scenery was so stunning and I took this as we left Piano Grande (which I didn’t really want to do!)
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A last look before we left the plain

 

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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Wandsworth family photography

In the middle of the summer madness I popped over to Balham to capture this family in their London home before they left the UK for good having been here for some time.  I hope there is lots of help back home and I know the extended family will be ever so pleased to have this little charmer with them.

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All images ©Sarah-Jane Field

 

South London Family Portrait Photography

This lovely family are very busy with full time jobs, a restaurant and a family which includes an adorable new baby girl.  It was fun to pop round one morning and photograph them before they rushed to a local fair for some summer fun.

 

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Wandsworth Family Photographer

A couple of weeks back I did a family shoot with the lovely Hughes’ family who were after some images for a present.  I hear the recipient was very pleased!

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Always worth getting a few of Mummy & Daddy together rather than simply concentrating on the children
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I love the seriousness of this
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Personalities truly captured here!
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I think it’s a mistake to underestimate children and this portrait is a good indicator of that.
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Glad I was on the ball enough to catch this!
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Lovely family!
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I really like being able to rely on natural light. A large sliding door made this shot possible.
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Granny (mum to this mum) would have been so pleased to get this, I’m sure.

Managing work, studies and being a mummy

The last week has been a good one photography-wise.  I’ve managed to do all the exercises for the module I’m currently doing for The Art of Photography (OCA) and am just about finished with the assignment which feels good.  Although I have no idea if I’m going about it the right way since I’m on only on the second section of the 5 part course .  Time will tell when it’s marked or commented on.  I’m not sure at the moment whether to put my work in to be assessed or not.  It’s possible to simply do the assignments for the joy of it, which of course is worthwhile.  However, I completed my first degree a long time ago, 20 years ago in fact, so I’ve been debating about whether or not to add pressure to an already full existence by actually trying to go for marks this time round.  Perhaps it would be a shame to do all the work and not achieve the grades – we shall see…  anyway, here are some examples of images I may include in the assignment. It’s all about lines and shapes.

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I’ve also had a couple of family shoots over the last five days which have kept me on my toes.  Each one was very different.  Working with young children can be challenging sometimes – they don’t always want their activities interrupted by someone sticking a great big camera in their faces and I’ve yet to master the art of it.  With my background in teaching drama and my experience as a mother you would think it came easy but it doesn’t!  There is so much to think about and it’s a real skill.  However, I’m not averse to a few sullen shots either – in fact I think the less jolly ones can show us something very moving and real.  I think family shoots can offer a wonderful activity in themselves actually but I wonder if people feel under pressure to provide the photographer with an ‘ideal’ family picture to capture.  My task I guess is to encourage a sense of calm and relaxation and enable genuine moments which I’ve then got to record.  No mean feat!  Here are a few from this week’s outings.untitled-1927 untitled-1870 untitled-1723untitled-1364 untitled-1349 untitled-1307-2 untitled-1247

As well as the study and work I’ve been juggling three little boys – now there is a challenge as any mummy and daddy knows.  But we muddle along and my oldest has expressed an interest in helping me with my work!  In fact, he often comments on anything web or computer related and I don’t think it will be long before he is way more advanced with Photoshop than me – although to be fair that wouldn’t be difficult!

One of my very lovely youngest to finish off this week’s post.  Enjoy the weather and long may it last!

 

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Wandsworth Family Photographer

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untitled-0192Having focused on the technical side of things with photography over the last year or so I am now studying with the Open College of Arts where I’m spending much more time and energy concentrating on finding a style that is personal and particular to me (technicalities are still important but it’s the content that really matters now).  Taking photographs isn’t exactly rocket science but photographers who have a style of their own, one that is instantly recognisable as theirs are rare – that’s the really hard thing and I suspect there are far, far fewer photographers who manage it than there are photographers.  It will probably take years of work and practice to reach that point, if ever, but I feel like I am beginning to get a real sense of the direction I’m heading in, especially in relation to the last two shoots I’ve  done.

I am enormously interested in relationships, families, childhood, aging; in a word – life.  I’m not entirely sure why I’m using photography as the medium to explore those interests – perhaps it’s because I’m a rubbish drawer/painter and didn’t make it as an actor.  Photography isn’t exactly secondary to the very real need that exists within me, that which drives me to explore and understand those interests mentioned above  – there must be something about the way you get to control light, the need to find it in the first place and then the voyeuristic nature of being behind the camera and capturing moments in other people’s lives that suits me.  But it’s important for me to remember what it is I’m doing with photography.

In the photos I have included here there are some very genuine moments.  I love that.  I have tried hard to keep the photos real and hope the balance is right.  Touching up and editing is an integral part of photography, always has been even before Photoshop came along.  But finding the balance for your own particular style isn’t always easy.  There’s nothing wrong with very processed work but I’m not sure that’s where I’m at at the moment.  Knowing how much to do, or not to do is the trick I guess.

I really enjoyed this shoot with the very lovely Conways.  I hope I’ve captured the personality and ‘flavour’ of their family.  I feel I’ve achieved at least some of that.  The final image is not a formal portrait with everyone looking at the camera but that is what I love about it:  the circular shape of the family – all heads creating a sweeping movement which in my mind shows a real continuum, and the loving connection that is so evident between the parents.  I think it might be my favourite of the lot.