South London Photographer: The start of a new era and another baby!

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.

SJ x

(c)Sarah-Jane Field 2015

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South London Photographer: Spring and getting on with ‘stuff’

Despite the inconsistent weather, warm one minute, freezing the next, it’s great to know that spring is poking its buds into the snug little cave I’ve been hibernating inside of these last few months. I do know this because I suddenly feel a little more energetic and am starting to do things that have been languishing on the ‘list of things to do’ for a while now. (Perhaps I must remember to pack away a bigger store of nuts for the next winter.)

So, having been meaning to make a few changes to my website for some months, I am now rather pleased to have done so and can see the very long ‘list of things to do’ beginning to shorten. Making space for more.

As well as work and college tasks, I have also been doing some traditional spring-cleaning. Sorting and de-cluttering is always therapeutic and what’s more it’s just great to be able to sit down without finding a bit of Lego or train set stabbing you in the bottom.   Of course, Son No 1, is pretty much up-in-arms about this new zest for order I’ve suddenly imposed. Nothing like some inconsistent parenting to confuse the complacency out of the little monkeys; but I do find it keeps them on their toes.

When I explained we’d be tidying the older boys’ room and taking some of the toys, of which they have far too many, down to the charity shop both of them rather appallingly said, “Yay, then they’ll give us some money so we can buy some more!”

“Uh, no… that’s not quite how it works…” Seems I should have got it together a bit sooner, but better late then never, I hope.

My oldest son also told me that messy rooms are much cosier. We sat down and discussed the term ‘pathologically chaotic’ and messy, however, in retrospect I’m pretty certain letting your child know that you think he is somewhat emotionally and developmentally challenged might fall outside the boundaries of positive reinforcement and all that….oops!

As any mum knows, taking care of your family as well as trying to take care of yourself and your work can be exhausting and demanding, so I have to add I am always grateful for the help I receive, especially the constructive and genuine sort – and I do receive a lot from here and there. My life is certainly richer for it.

So, just to remind everyone, I do events and have finally, prompted by queries and the rhythm of changing seasons, managed to update my site, so prospective clients actually have a chance of finding me!

Have a great week,

SJ

 

Below are photographs from one of the the nicest weddings I’ve ever been at and I was really chuffed to have been asked to do it.  I’ve got a couple of lovely looking weddings coming up, and beginning to get queries for more and other events so it’s certainly time to start letting people see some more examples.  These were taken on one of the hottest days of the year. See other weddings and events on my site.

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Why I’m feeling proud of my son this week – South London Photography

When do children start becoming adults?   For a long time in our culture 21 was thought of as the beginning of fully fledged adulthood, although nowadays we are used to seeing 18 year olds vote and see any film they like as well as drink legally; young people can go to war and shoot people when they are 16 and they can babysit others from 14 or is it 12 – I think I remember a TV thing saying the law was pretty unclear on that one.   In days gone by, and by that I mean before the 18th century, childhood wasn’t even considered a thing.  Children were simply viewed as little adults.  That’s what Hugh Cunningham tells me anyway in an interesting book, The Invention of Childhood, which ends with, “We certainly wouldn’t want to put our seven year olds up a chimney to clean it.  But children could do these things.  So fixated are we on giving our children a long and happy childhood that we downplay their abilities and their resilience.  (…) and it probably does no-one a service”.

I mention this because I do like to encourage my children to do things for themselves.  A couple of weeks back I asked son no. 1 to go up to the counter and order his own drink and snack along with a cappuccino for me.  He did unfortunately get the whole order wrong and forgot my card number 3 times in 2 minutes even though I was sitting less than 2 meters from the till.  The guy serving behind the counter was extraordinarily rude and suggested I do the ordering myself next time.  I should have told him to bugger off but I’m far too polite so made a a joke and then sat there seething (got to get over that – just be rude back, Sarah-Jane!) It’s not like he was busy and I think it’s important for children to get used to doing these things, and more importantly not to grow up expecting everything to be done for them.   For children to grow up with a sense of agency does everybody a service.

Like so much in life there is probably no definite point at which someone becomes an adult; instead it happens gradually over time and one day we wake up and find out that we are no longer children, even though we may still feel that we are from time to time (I certainly do).  Son no. 1 is 10 and he is beginning to show signs of being terribly grown up, despite his calamitous food ordering.  The other day when we were travelling on the Undergound across London he kept offering to help with the toddler’s buggy, ensured his younger brother got off the train while I dealt with my littlest and even agreed that the restaurant we adults chose was actually rather nice, despite the horribly vociferous reservations he and his friend had had earlier.  A few weeks ago he went upstairs to where I had deposited son no. 3 after he’d poured juice all over the sofa on purpose, and when he came back down stairs he told me that his baby brother had something to say to me, at which point, the naughty toddler said, “Sorry, Mummy’.  I was immensely proud of son no. 1 who behaved in a far more mature way than I had just done, yelling and cursing at the mess, or rather at the three small boys who made so much mess.

All these things may seems small and insignificant but when it’s something you’re totally unused to it’s an absolute wonder, and I am so pleased to see my son showing signs of growing into a decent human-being.  However, it can be quite confusing for me and probably him too because these moments are interspersed with bouts of extreme childishness and emotional hysteria – “I hate you, what’s the point of you, I wish you’d never been born!” – (no, that isn’t me yelling, in case you’re wondering) just because I say no more computer (after some hours of computer) or that he’s eaten enough biscuits for instance.  I am never quite sure who I’m dealing with; kind, thoughtful and terribly helpful young person or monstrous, berserk, hooligan. Quentin Blake’s wonderful Zagazoo gives a brilliantly accurate description of this process.  Well worth getting hold of if you have young children as it’s a lot of fun for adults to read too.

It’s important to remember that our kids are capable of far more than we give them credit for and when I take photos of children I really enjoy getting them involved, allowing them to come up with ideas and generally be part of the process.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but when it does the kids are incredibly present in the images and that really goes a long way towards making a photograph that’s worth keeping.

This week I’ve posted an image of my boys during our trip during half-term to visit The Art of the Brick when son no. 1 behaved so well.  Next week I’ll be sharing some lovely family shoots I’ve recently done.  And jobs this month include a newborn and a christening so it’s all about the very beginning of the growing-up process.  Don’t miss the cute baby shots to come!

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Three different stages of childhood. My oldest son has begun to show signs that he may be growing up although I’m certain we still have years of humps and bumps ahead of us!

©Sarah-Jane Field

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

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

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

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

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

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Wandsworth family photographer

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I was quite worried the other day when I was asked to do some photographs at midday as the family needed the photos in a rush and that was the only time they could all get together in time.  The forecast predicted the hottest day of the year so far in the UK and so I was rather grateful for the hazy overcast clouds which stayed until we’d finished!  Without this cloud cover the strong shadows would have caused all sorts of issues and we’d have had far less choices available to us.  So that was good!  Nevertheless I realised that I will do my best in future to convince clients that early mornings and late afternoons or early evenings are the best time for lovely light.  Not sure how appealing this is for families.  As a mother myself  the thought of getting my brood together first thing would be rather daunting and who can guarantee a pleasant mood at the end of the day from any of us?  However, I know how much difference good light can make to these sorts of photographs.  I wonder how insistent other photographers are when choosing a time with clients.  Would love to hear about it.  In any event, the family are very happy with their photographs and I hope the gifts they are planning will go down well – that I guess is the most important thing!

I should probably add that using a lighting set up with large reflectors is probably the obvious answer  but I am convinced that this ends up making the whole process more daunting and less relaxing for people who aren’t used to and may not like having their photographs taken.

 

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.