I know I am in a similar boat to many other photographers who have endured a year and a half of barely any events to photograph! However, I am happy to say that work is beginning to trickle back. And what better way to reintroduce myself to the wedding scene than to share this beautiful occasion. Liz and Bayly are a wonderfully thoughtful, kind couple who went out of their way to hire local contractors and make their intimate wedding an opportunity to support local business, as well as celebrate their vows with close family and friends. Thank you to both of them for sharing their day with me and allowing me to share it with you. Below are a handful of moments from the event, some of which I’ll definitely be adding to my website.
In the meantime, do enjoy these pictures of this lovely family having a wonderful wedding in Wandsworth!
This has been by far the busiest year I’ve had since setting up as a photographer. One of the lessons I’ve had to learn and am still learning is how best to manage my time as I navigate parenting, studies, and social as well as commercial photography. It’s a good problem to have though!
I’ve been extremely pleased to carry on working alongside local charitable organisation Just Shelter throughout 2017 and will continue documenting their trips and the situation in Northern France in 2018. Long- and short-term volunteers I meet are involved in a number of projects devoting their time and energy to a range of causes both here and abroad. At a time when we see so much extraordinary violence both online and in the physical world it is great to be reminded there is also a lot of genuine goodness and kindness out there too.
Workwise, I was pleased to photograph teams in highly recognisable companies, such as Barclays, as well as several other groups in the same sector; a few up and coming businesses that are doing exceptionally well such as Aurelia Skincare; and lots of self-employed people after professional headshots. I was also very pleased to be made a Preferred Supplier for British Land and am looking forward to working with them again.
I was lucky enough to exhibit my work twice this year. The first time was at The Grosvenor Arms, now sadly closed down. I am grateful to Brendan Conway for his support and encouragement and wish him the best. The second show was Oxford House, Nexus, when I was invited by Keith Greenough to work alongside him and John Umney on a project celebrating Oxford House’s history. Thanks to Honor who I captured for the project and to everyone who supported me.
I continue studying, which keeps me from resting on my laurels. I was very glad to receive over 70% for the academic module I finished earlier this year as it was incredibly challenging. I absolutely loved that course, despite its difficulty – and have moved onto a new module where I continue to be challenged.
And of course, I photographed my children constantly. I’m about to put an album together recording our lives – I’ll certainly have lots and lots to choose from, as always.
Do see my website for details if you’re after photography for work or family, or follow me on Instagram to keep up with my visual sketchbook. And if you live in or visit South London, perhaps I will photograph you during 2018 at one of the community events I usually get along to – you never know! Here is a very small handful of images I took in 2017.
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.
“So, we need to make a list of words and phrases that we mustn’t use,” announced my oldest son a couple of weeks ago. We were eating supper round the table at the time and as far as I can remember no one had just been rude or insulting, but then perhaps I’m just inured to the open aggression that flies about the place and which three young boys seem to accept as humour. And in any case, are the harsh words they sometimes use towards each-other any worse or more difficult to be near than the physical aggression they accept as ‘play’? “OK,” I said with encouragement. I’m always very pleased when he appears to want to implement some structure in his life, no matter how small, even something as simple as a list. It’s so alien to him usually.
Immediately he leapt up from the table and grabbed a piece of paper and a pen, despite not having finished his meal. He’s not the only one who does this. For some reason these boys simply can’t stay seated for an entire dinner, and spend most of the time finding reasons to spring from their bottoms constantly. And as for the middle one – he’s got jumping beans in his pants and is genuinely unaware, I’m sure, that a seat is for sitting on, despite my constant pleading, commanding and finally demanding that he ‘sit down!’ each and every evening. I feel myself wanting to erupt and am on the point of yelling, a litany of aggressive language desperate to explode out of my mouth, when fortunately and just in time I remember my son’s desire to do away with harsh language.
The boys make a list of phrases and words they can’t say and all, especially the youngest one, enjoy very much the business of saying the words in order to put them on the list of words that can’t be said.
“So mum, what can’t you say?” I’m reluctant to give up any language. But it’s right we don’t insult each other constantly even though there are moments when the impulse to is overwhelming. Eventually I say, “Obviously, all the words you’ve already listed”, and then I also stupidly offer the word ‘twit’. Straight way I retract my offer. How on earth will I get through life if I can’t transform the genuinely dreadful words that are in my mind into a relatively benign and ineffectual word, used by Roald Dahl never forget, when I want to express my rage because they won’t put their shoes on, refuse to get dressed, or forget to throw away sweet wrappers and leave them on the floor instead? “Nope!” says the oldest one, “you’ve given it up. It’s on the list”.
“Mum needs to say, twit!” says the youngest with force.
“N0!” replied his brother.
“You take twit off the list now or I’ll hit you really hard with my fists!” Oh, I think to myself, this moment hasn’t unfolded so well.
The words bounce of the big one, and he says calmly, “Well, if she’s allowed to call us twits, then we can call her one.”
At which point the littlest walks up to his bother and punches him in the stomach. “Mum can say twit,” he yells, “and you can’t!!!” For a moment, I’m so proud of him and his desire to protect and fight for me with such passion. It’s too adorable. Although I do see it’s not so great that it comes with such a hefty blow to his sibling. Thankfully, rather than prompting my first-born into a full-on fist fight with his four-year old brother, which has been known, Mr. Sensible laughs and tells us he’s happy to remove twit from the list, leaving me at least one word to insult them all with when I feel like it. By now the middle child is laughing hysterically because seeing a four-year old take such command over everthing is simply the funniest thing he can imagine.
I don’t know what eventually happened to that list. It lay on the kitchen counter for a couple of days and hasn’t been seen since. I thought about it afterwards and felt, as much as I agree with choosing to be kind to each-other over meanness, removing words from our language entirely actually presents us with different problems. There is always a cost. Making words illicit risks giving them greater power, and probation tends to force things underground. When we’re angry, instead of expressing it we risk suppressing how we feel if there is no medium for communicating it. And suppressed anger leads to bad feelings building up inside and transforming into trapped emotional wind. And we all know what that results in. It’s painful and uncomfortable and stinks when it escapes. Passive-aggressive language is far worse is my mind than outright verbal insults, even though those aren’t great either. At least you know where you are with open and honest words. But in the end you can’t have small children wondering about the place calling each-other by unmentionable names and shouting out swearwords really loudly down the street now, can you? So, we currently have no contraband list in the house, but we know we’re all OK with twit and flippin’ or frikkin’. Personnally, I tried friggin’ for a while until I thought about it and resolved that friggin’ was no less ‘rude’ than fucking when you get down to it, although it’s often used as a replacement. I’m not sure you can wonder round saying you ‘friggin’ anything at all to your kids. But I am sure there are times when you and they have just got to say something!
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
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).
If you’re just after photographs, please scroll down to the bottom of the page. Otherwise….
When I agreed with Nic Brown, editor of the local edition of family magazine, Raring2Go, to head out with her to the newly opened GoApe in Battersea Park, it didn’t really register that I had in fact agreed to climb to the tops of some incredibly tall trees, hang from ropes and then go careering through the sky. I wonder, if those facts had actually registered in my mind, I’d have been so eager. The thing is, just a few years ago I was too frightened to walk across a very high bridge I know well, never mind leap off tiny platforms, harnessed admittedly but still… When I say I was too frightened, what I mean is I was really bloody petrified – stuck, still and immovable about the whole tall bridge thing. But apparently, it’s all changed now.
“Sure”, I said, “I’d love to go along to that”. I wasn’t even nervous. In fact, weirdly, I had sort of forgotten that I was once so scared of heights. So, off we drove this morning. And I have to say, even as we filled in forms and read through warnings that began with the sentence, “You are about to embark on a high risk activity….” I still didn’t think anything at all about my previous terror.
The five minute ‘training’ didn’t faze me, and the first couple of stages didn’t either. It was only as I found myself having to climb up a narrow but steep, netted in – thankfully, tunnel that I had any hint of fear. Hang on a minute, I thought, wasn’t I afraid of heights at some point? Oh yeah…. anyway, I was really pleased because even though I found I was suddenly consciously aware of those past feelings, it still wasn’t bothering me. Much. Cool, I thought!
What was quite tricky, I must admit, was taking photographs. We were high up, so even though I was enjoying myself, and not in the same sort of state I certainly would have been in several years ago, it was still fairly nerve wracking at moments, and the rain didn’t help either. I managed to get some nice shots of Nic making her way across the wobbly roped bridges, but of course I always had to be very careful not to step too close to the really rather small platforms in-between each crossing as well as making sure I wasn’t holding people up, so there were things other than taking photographs to think about.
But the thing with the way GoApe is designed, is that it gets more and more challenging as you progress, and so a little scarier too as you get higher. I’m saying I wasn’t as nervous as I once might have been, which is true, but I did swear pretty much every few minutes, so I guess I was finding it somewhat terrifying in-between feeling fine about it. OK, I’m sort of playing it down; it was getting more and more ‘yikes’ as we went. And then the bars you could hold on to were no longer available. And as we made one crossing, all I could say in disbelief was, “It’s just a pole!, It’s just a pole! It’s just a pole!’
Then we came to the zip wire. Oh my god! Was I really going to let myself fly down that? Apparently I was – but only after some very nice friendly people told me that of course I could do it. And guess what it was the most fun ever. I loved it and was rather sad we’d come to the end. But, brilliant news… We were told we could go up the next level of difficulty and go on another zip wire too – whoo hoo! – not, however, before someone working there asked, “Was that you screaming all the way down the zip wire?” Uuuh, yup, that was indeed me.
So off we went again. A bit harder this time. Oh, hang on, a lot harder this time. More precarious seeming, higher and more wobbly all round. I wasn’t keen on the wobbly bits at all. But apparently I wasn’t doing it quite right, which I found out a bit later when someone told me how to get a better balance by holding on to the ropes properly, rather than clinging ignominiously to the wires. Turns out it really feels better when you hold on to the correct ropes. Note to everyone: maybe, just maybe it’s best to pay attention to the training rather than try to get great shots of the person doing the training… although who knows, perhaps they didn’t tell us about the balance thing; I wasn’t listening, obviously.
There was some more wobbly bits and a roped wall to cling to which wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be.
And then came the second zip wire. Which was good, right? Because I loved the first one. But suddenly I had one of those ‘what if’ moments. And that’s the worst thing to have happened because somehow I didn’t quite make it all the way across, and I’m sure the ‘what if’ thought was responsible, although of course it could have been that I am just so terribly waif-like that I wasn’t quite heavy enough for gravity to do its thing and ensure I made it. Er, hang on, am I really that waif-like? Well, no, actually. I mean, I’m not large but I’m not a tiny wispy thing either. Nope – I’m not even remotely a waif.
So who knows? It was probably the ‘what if’ moment that threw me off course a bit. Anyway, my harness, with me in it, slid back to the middle after failing to make it all the way over, and there I was hanging goodness knows how many feet above the ground quite stuck. I looked down at the ground feeling suddenly sick with fear and a very sweet looking man putting rubbish out the back of the cafe below smiled at me. Or did he smirk. Who knows? I was fucking terrified! “Hello??” I called; horrible, hideous, terrifying thoughts racing through my mind, adrenalin pricking my cheeks. “Hi,” said a voice from below, “what’s your name?” I told him and he then explained he was going to give me an extra wire to grab onto. “Ok!” No one looked terribly panicked. Well, no one expect me that is. I felt really panicked. I kinda wanted to burst into tears. In fact, it was pretty bloody terrifying actually. At the time.
But of course, I grabbed the wire, pulled myself over to the next platform and then stood very quietly by a steady and sturdy tree and tried to gather myself. “Do you want to carry on?” “No!” I replied, “not really”, the thought of any more hanging mid air really too much just at that moment. “You’re nearly there,” said the kind voice. “Ok,” I reluctantly agreed. But I took my time. Staying very still and letting the fear subside. And suddenly as I stood there, everything became really clear and focused in my mind.
Shit, I thought. You have to face your fears. You have to do some weird and crazy stuff, like climbing up trees and flying down wires. You can’t just sit at your desk the whole time. Or hide under your duvet, which obviously was for many years my default position. But you can’t, especially if you’re going to take any decent photographs. Because let’s face it, any monkey can learn how to press a button on a camera. But if you want to do more than that, you have to take risks and put yourself in scary situations and push the boundaries of what you’re doing. Again and again. And for some of us, well for me, things can seem scary until they’ve been done – and I realise they weren’t that scary after all. Or even if they were, I still managed to get through it and do something positive.
When I first went out to take photographs of actors for free in order to get some experience and build a portfolio, I was shitting myself. And then when I set up and published my website, I was so frightened of what the world might say, I can’t tell you. And then when I went to do some corporate jobs when I still felt I had really no idea what I was doing (I did though, actually, just less than I know now), I was so bloody scared, I nearly burst into tears on the way.
I have to say, one of the reasons I feel I was able to put myself in any of those situations, despite my innate desire to climb under the duvet, is because after having found myself lying a pool of snot and grief on the floor three years ago, following the break up of my marriage, which was perhaps the scariest thing I have ever been through by far, I realised I can pretty much face most things. Suffice to say, it has been a catalyst for all sorts of pretty challenging changes. And definitely for the good too, I’m sure.
I must tell you though, that I still get nervous, but only because I really want to do a good job; and thankfully, no longer to the point where I can barely move, or where I spend more energy trying to quell the terror than I spend on just getting the job done. The more you get out there and do it, the easier it becomes. But the challenges you set yourself get harder, just like the levels at GoApe do. There are barriers inside me that I have to overcome and always will be. And maybe I’ll get stuck now and again but thankfully, there are people like the man who handed me the wire to help. Phew! So, on I went and when I reached the last zip wire I made the people there promise me I’d be able to get across without getting stuck again and guess what, I did!
In the end I had a fantastic time. It was so much fun and despite the slightly terrifying moment dangling from a wire between two trees in the middle of the air, I am absolutely pleased to bits I didn’t remember how bloody shit scared I used to be of heights and went along. Thanks so much to Nic from Raring2Go for the invite! My muscles are really sore so I know I got some exercise. And all in all, it feels like a very good thing that I’m off for a drink with my friends now – I think I deserve it. Here are some pics from the morning. Stay well, SJ
I can’t tell you how annoying it is not to have my MAC here. It’s a bit sickly, running very slowly, and so has gone into the MAC mending shop to be sorted out. Having a small, but growing business is all about learning from mistakes, as much as it is about anything else. And all my images are backed up on an external hard drive, but are my invoices and records?? Er… nope!
Also, whilst I do have a small laptop, courtesy of some generous friends of mine, on which I am working now, it is much better to edit, portraits especially, on the bigger, higher resolution screen that is currently idling away in MAC hospital.
Being forced to slow down through a mixture of necessity and incompetence, however, is probably not a bad thing. I’ve had the most awful cold for a couple of weeks and I can feel myself getting better and a lot less tired, which is not only a relief but also quite a pleasant feeling…hmm, weird!
And although I also do feel quite frustrated by my inability to get on with admin and editing, I take comfort in the fact that I have been able to have some fun, grab some street photography on my phone and catch up a little with the study stuff.
Here’s an iPhone image I took yesterday on my way to meet a friend for lunch, which I enjoyed without feeling any guilt whatsoever about all the editing I have waiting for me, but can’t do for a few more days. (Ok, maybe I did feel a bit guilty but was able to rationlise it in my head as I told myself to stop fretting – No MAC, dingbat, enjoy your falafel!!)
Right, enough of the relaxing Erik Satie and chit chat about how nice it is to slow down a little. I’m going to brave learning about Marx’s base and super structure….a subject which I tried to read about earlier this week and promptly fell asleep, which is probably slowing down a bit too much, wouldn’t you say?
Last week as I walked away from big boys’ nursery school, having just dropped my youngest son off, No 1 said to me, “So, this is the first time in nearly 12 years you will be free…” I don’t know what to say about the fact that at the tender age of eleven he had decided his presence no longer counts in the mix of small boys I am responsible for, but anyway, I did try to answer at the time without twitching and also maintaining a clear and reasonably calm modulated voice, “YES!!!” Not that I was excited by the prospect of a few hours of daily uninterrupted work time available to me from now on, or anything. Oh no, I’m lying. I was!!
Later that day Son No 3 who had waved me away so cheerily that morning, and with so much confidence and a genuine sense of happy independence, put his head in his hands over supper and moaned, “I haven’t got a life!”
Oh, my god, I thought. One day at school and he has obviously realised that this is it for him; the start of a life long journey, which for many of us is made up of going to school, then possibly university, then work, then retirement followed only by the inevitable end.
I was just about to quote Woody Allen, who’s alter ego Alvy Singer, says in the opening gambit of Annie Hall, “Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering – and it’s all over much too soon” followed by “so stop your wailing small boy and make the most of it!” when I noticed the plastic cutlery he had thrown on the floor ….
…Aaaah, yes, he wasn’t actually having an existential crisis. He simply can’t pronounce the word ‘knife’ properly and was merely expressing his sadness about the fact that he (and no one else, take note) threw his knife on the floor and was really quite annoyed that it hadn’t magically jumped back up on table ready for his grubby little paw to grab hold of.
Phew! I mean I do like a thinker and all, but there is a limit and succumbing to the futility of a modern, Western, materialist-driven existence when you’ve not reached your 4th birthday is under-stepping the mark, surely. I don’t think he can have overstepped it at this stage, but of course I may be wrong. And actually, even if I do say so myself, he looks to have a fantastic life from where I’m sitting, which at that time was not as near as he was to the knife/life he’d discarded, and so I said to him, “Well, pick up the knife you’ve belligerently and churlishly chucked on the floor then. And your problem will be marvellously solved!” He did.
This morning Son No 1 started secondary school and so now I truly do have a great deal more time than I’ve had before to get on with work and studies, and, oh yes, that other murky thing I don’t quite get…domesticity. Yes, time for that too. I have a million things to do though before I begin balling socks and folding clothes; such as editing clients’ baby and wedding photos as well as setting up a blog for my new course, which all come at the top of the list.
Last week I photographed a little boy who was just 5 weeks old. His mummy and daddy look like they’re doing amazingly – They won’t believe how fast it all goes. I remember so very clearly, like most parents, bringing home Son No 1 for the first time and wondering what on god’s earth I was meant to do next. Thankfully, almost twelve years later the two of us are able to muddle through together, which sometimes results in minor scrapes and mishaps, like this morning when he left his brand new school bag on the doorstep at home, as we drove off to the start of his first day. “Oh, crap!” he announced when he realised and we were already half way there.
Here are some of the images from the baby shoot. I love these jobs and I do absolutely adore babies. But having tasted what is now nearly 4 hours of my newfound freedom I am certain that photographing other people’s tiny people is the way forward. My latest baby is my photography and that is just perfect for me.