South London Photographer: Some shots from Bank Holiday Monday

I took these images on Monday evening at the end of the bank holiday during one of my visits to the Extinction Rebellion protests (see previous blogs). There might have been a further image here; one of a policeman who was sitting, clearly exhausted in the evening sunshine, arms crossed and alone against some hoarding on Park Lane just before Marble Arch. Diane Arbus whose work you can currently see at the Hayward Gallery said taking photographs can feel ‘naughty’ – and yes, it is when we steal pictures of people in the street. The ethics of street photography seem more complex than ever as the structures of our culture emerge, perhaps in part, due to the internet which acts as a mirror and as ubiquitous smartphone-cameras make everyone a potential photographer/voyeur. Although I had asked most (but not all) the people in my images for their permission, I hoped to take an image of this lone policeman who seemed to represent authority,  exhaustion, and isolation so well. Perhaps, in the end, it would have been a clichéd shot that would never have made it passed an initial edit. However, I never got the chance to take my ‘naughty’ picture as he saw me, got up, then walked towards me to call me an idiot. I must stress this was not the behaviour of most police-people I saw, who seemed immensely patient despite what must have been a testing and exhausting week for them.

What are you doing, bloody idiots, costing a fortune, we’ve not seen our families in days, you’re all idiots …. I attempted to explain I was documenting this fantastically interesting period of change in our history … documenting what, there’s nothing to document? You’re all idiots. History is happening in front of us, I said. It’s not history; idiots the lot of you, he’d insisted. I understand he must have had his patience tested. I’d loved to have been able to explain my enthusiasm for witnessing everything I’d been reading about for the last few years emerge so vibrantly, just as the authors had predicted. To see, in front of us, the way we have internalised new ways of understanding and being – in helpful and not so helpful ways – coming to fruition, to see clear evidence of a system changing, to view power evolving. I could have bored the poor exhausted policeman to death with my childlike excitement! Next time, he ranted as he followed me, we won’t …. I never heard what he said about next time as I was too far away from him by then.

I walked on and as I reached the end of the cordoned-off area, another policeman got out of his van. Perhaps his colleague had radioed him about the idiot with the camera coming his way. Nice pictures? he asked. Maybe, I shrugged and smiled at him. It was a beautiful evening. At the bottom of Park Lane tourists stood taking pictures of a golden sun setting over London. Parked outside the Lanesborough Hotel were two super-cars and guests milling about on the steps. And around the corner, yet another sign of homelessness which we see everywhere and far, far too often nowadays.

(c)SJField2019

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South London Photographer: Protests, Easter Friday 2019

Today I wandered through the centre of London and photographed people protesting, but included here are people who are just watching, or taking advantage of the fact there are no cars on the road, and some are simply getting on with life as they explore the city.

The protesters were expressing themselves for a variety of reasons although most of the images below cover the Extinction Rebellion blockades. However, there are other groups too. There are signs in the pictures which may identify movements, but that’s not what I’m most interested in here. What matters to me is the desire to protest – to speak out, to question the status quo – regardless of what the individuals choose to affiliate themselves with. Perhaps I take my lead from Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa who is quoted in Nicholas A Christakis’s latest book Blueprint, “Seeing people only as members of groups is …’ inherently reductionist and dehumanising, a collectivist and ideological abstraction of all that is original and creative in the human being, of all that has not been imposed by inheritance, geography, or social pressure’ Real, personal identity, he argues, ‘springs from the capacity for human beings to resist these influences and counter them with free acts of their own invention.”‘ (2019)

Many people here gave me permission to take their photographs. However, there are some candid, taken in the tradition of street photography.  I am extremely grateful to everyone who acknowledged my camera or spoke to me and told me a little bit about themselves.

The world might seem a lot less stable than it’s been for a while and people are often justifiably angry and frustrated – perhaps for reasons we don’t always understand, but I try to take comfort from scientists/writers Fritjof Capra and Pier Luigi Luis who wrote in A Systems View of Life; “…new structures, technologies, and new forms of social organisation may arise unexpectedly in situations of instability, chaos or crisis.” (2016)

All images (c)SJField2019

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References

F Capra, P Luigi Luisi, 2016, A Systems View of Life, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press

NA Christakis, 2019, Blueprint, New York, Little Brown Spark

 

South London Photographer: With Just Shelter in Dunkirk & Calais

There seems to be so much upheaval and chaos surrounding us all today, it is very difficult to know how to write about Just Shelter’s trips to France. The team continue to gather donations which people kindly deliver when requested. As always Just Shelter takes everything over to Calais, where they transfer carefully packed boxes and bags filled with the simplest and most basic articles to a warehouse populated by volunteers who give up their time, often for weeks and months on end, in an attempt to help a situation which is seemingly helpless.

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Volunteers in the warehouse mending donations which can still be used

Thereafter the London based group travel to a field where people are living in the most appalling conditions, and try in as orderly a fashion as is possible to hand out much needed and appreciated packs of clothing, perhaps some fruit, whatever token of support they can offer.

**

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I thought the wood had been taken for firewood but I was told the police had deliberately destroyed the bridge

Each time, I aim to engage with people and I hear the same story. “The police slash our tents. They treat us like animals. The scream at us, push us, they don’t give us even five minutes to get our stuff. Then they take us somewhere. Do they think we would choose to leave our country, our homes to live like this if there was not a good reason? We don’t come here to live like this because we want to. We come because we cannot be free. But here we are treated worse than animals. If we can stay in the sports hall [an indoor space where limited numbers of people can shelter during the coldest months], we are like prisoners with so many rules, lining up, being told when we can come or go.” Another came up to me as I listened to the man and asked me if I knew who I was talking to. “Gengis Khan!!” he laughed. We all laughed. Even though it was bitterly cold, even though people are clearly bored, frustrated, desperate, there is time for irony and humour.

 

“Take my picture!” some young men invite me towards the fire they are burning. There is little wood and they are using inappropriate donations of women’s nylon underwear from another group visiting which can be worn by no-one here. I take their photos and then get them to message me so I can send them copies. A pair perform and pose with the female undergarments as I photograph them. We all enjoy the playfulness. A guy selling cigarettes stands nearby and asks me if I want to buy any. I don’t smoke, I tell him. We stand quietly and he lets me photograph his bag filled with well-known brands. “A good man. Cheap!” says one of the other guys who had been photographed earlier as he points to the seller. He then indicates to the barber, “A good man also, cheap haircuts.”

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The barber did not want to be photographed but was happy to speak to me. He made a living giving people affordable haircuts, which sometimes means free.

“I was a manager in a hotel back in my country. I had a good job. A car. A good home. But no freedom. You criticise the government. And within 24 hours you’re dead.”

When I first arrived at the car park where Just Shelter began the process of handing out backpacks, I noticed a boy who might have been in his late teens or early twenties. He sat on the wooden pole and listlessly watched people queuing patiently for the nominal packs we had gathered from people in London. “Don’t you want one, I asked?” He shrugged. He looked liked he could have done with something warmer to wear. They all did.

At the end of the day, Just Shelter travelled to a more disparate camp where there are many more groups of people. We visited the same camp during our previous visit. I had taken some photographs of boys and young men there before and they recognised me. We greeted each other warmly. Despite their smiles and friendliness, this camp feels darker, less safe. I try to engage with others but it is clear they are not willing. I don’t blame them. I head to the site where the old Jungle used to be and take some photographs to of it now so I can compare with the images I took before.

Afterwards, the group head back to get our ferry. I know we will see some of the same faces again next time.

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The area that was the Jungle

 

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The same view as an image taken at the bottom of the page in 2016

 

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When I first visited here in 2015 a man had covered the graffiti up and had become its gatekeeper. This was the first place I arrived and it was packed with tents. Two young women immediately offered me hot tea. The camp held 10 000  at its height. Now the smaller camp nearby is populated by about 300 men.  Variously sized groups are scattered all over the region and beyond making it hard for volunteers to distribute tents, sleeping bags, clothes and food.

 

 

**

While our group were there, another team of teachers had been working with children in a local building where families have been able to shelter for the worst of the winter months. The children were grateful for real lessons and their parents equally so. Please follow Just Shelter if you haven’t already so you can read about the work the teachers were able to do while they visited, and to find out how you can get involved.

(c)SJField 2019

 

South London Photographer: Corporate​ Headshots

We’re barely through the first week of the new year and I’ve not stopped since first thing Monday morning. I can’t claim ‘no rest for the wicked’ because I was lucky enough to have had a super break over Christmas (thanks to all who made that possible and no, that does not include the drone gremlins at Gatwick), which meant being more than happy to leap back in. It seems to be going well for now – yesterday after I finished off an edit and my clients told me they were very pleased with the results, they paid me half an hour after I sent the invoice. You don’t get that very often, do you? I was exceedingly grateful! I will certainly be popping a couple of these lovely faces up on my site and thought I’d share a sample here too. If you also fancy a fresh new look on your website or social media platforms for 2019, do get in touch for details about corporate headshots and profile pictures. In the meantime, I hope your holidays were everything you wanted and now that the twinkly lights and silver tinsel have gone back in the cupboard, that you’re also feeling ready to get on with ‘stuff’ again. (c)SJField2018

 

South London Photographer: Family Shoot, Christmas Voucher

A few weeks ago I went with a family to a local park for a shoot. I tend to recommend families take their time when choosing which images they would like to enlarge and frame. Sometimes we need a little bit of a gap to see what’s going on in photographs, perhaps even more so when young children who are growing and changing all the time are concerned.

I aim to capture photographs which are full of life and was very pleased when a photographer friend described one of my images precisely in that way. Perhaps working nowadays on digital means we have greater opportunity to take risks, which we might not have been inclined to do back in the day when photographers worked with film. Some photographers see this as a problem – I see it as a brilliant plus. I don’t mean you should simply press the shutter down for ages and rapidly shoot as many frames as possible under all circumstances – apart from being an unhelpful strategy, there would be way too many frames to look back over when editing (in a world where we bombarded by images as it is!) Rather, you can try things out and experiment because the cost of a digital frame is not prohibitive. And so it’s not a problem to allow the kids to get involved in the creativity. Of course, you also need to pay attention to their energy levels and patience – but ultimately I want to take pictures that are teeming with life rather than stilted and posed, and that is my aim when working with families.

Here are a handful of images from a morning with a lovely family and two beautiful,  very sweet children. This shoot was given as a Christmas present last year. Check out the link for more details, and find a discount available too for anyone who books before the 1st December.

(c)SJField 2018

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South London Photographer: Phone photography​

Just before the end of the summer term, I was invited to lead a photography workshop with an enthusiastic group of eight to nine-year-olds at my local school as part of their Arts Week festival. The work they created was great!

One of the things I always impress upon children when doing these workshops is how accessible phone photography is nowadays and why that is a very good thing. Not only do we have ever-improving cameras in our pockets, they can be accompanied by a host of editing programmes, many of which are free or don’t cost very much, and which are becoming easier and easier to use. This is great news. Traditional software can be prohibitively expensive and darkrooms obviously out of reach for many, many people. What that means is, everyone with a phone can engage in creative photography. All they need is the desire to do so.

When I first started getting into photography I remember reading comments made by photographers who lamented the ease of digital photography and all its related software. I recall being shocked to see someone moan how any old mother could potentially set up and become a photographer nowadays – as if this was a terrible thing which threatened to kill off photography altogether. Not any old mother??  Good lord, how dreadful! I mean, whatever next, mothers taking photographs and becoming skilled at something creative which might just fit in with their role as parents. Shocker!!!  Stop it now, please before the old order it overturned entirely!

Last week a famous filmmaker said something equally daft about phone photography. Phone photography is, according to this highly successful man with access to all the cash he needs to pay for Polaroid film, killing off real photography. In fact, it’s so dire, we need a new name for photography. Photography, when translated back to its Greek roots, means drawing with light. I think the word fits perfectly fine and what we actually need is a new attitude. Photography is not for a select few. Phones have made it possible for everyone and anyone to start playing and creating and having fun with the recording of light. What’s more, there are lots and lots of avenues for people to go down, from making commercial images to creating obscure experimental work, meaning there is space for all sorts of photography out there.

I am one of those terrible mothers who had the audacity to just set myself up as a photographer. Of course, just setting oneself up is a complete fallacy in most cases – I suspect very few people can just do that and succeed. The business of learning is long and at times tortuous whatever the equipment. As a financially strapped single parent, a darkroom is pretty much out of the question for me, and film is prohibitively expensive, so I am enormously grateful to the whole digital process which has allowed me to learn and develop a skill which would have been very much harder to access otherwise. My learning has also been significantly enhanced by the apps I use on my phone, not only in terms of ease but also access.

Next term I have more workshops booked in and as well as teaching people how to edit, blend images, cut out and make montages, incorporate moving image alongside still, I will continue to promote the idea that photography is for everyone. You don’t need lots of money or space. You need your phone and the desire to create. That’s’ not to say phone photography is everything. Of course, it isn’t. But it’s an amazingly fruitful and egalitarian route into photography which anyone with a phone can access.

Below are links to my own creations all made on a phone and here is a link to some images by digital artist Stina Walfridsson which go far beyond in terms of editing. And let’s not forget you can also make films on a phone  – check out this film by director Micheal Gondry called Détour. Next time you hear someone say phones have killed photography, roll your eyes, say “what a load of rubbish!” and think of all this amazing creativity.

(c)SJField2018

South London Photographer: Wedding in Islington​

I was so pleased to be asked to photograph Carlo & Helena’s wedding. They had relatives fly in from all over the world to witness their marriage, and so they hired an old London bus and gave them all a tour of our exciting and terrific city on the way to the reception. It was brilliant listening to the most hilarious, and surely one of the best tour guides ever, who also happened to be Helena’s very good friend and colleague. It was an absolute treat and honour to be part of Helena & Carlo’s day and to meet their wonderful families. Here is a sample of images. Massive congratulations to them both!

(c)SJField 2018

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South London Photographer: The Wandle Trail

I have lived close to the Wandle Trail for some time now and heard all sorts of lovely things about it being a super place to ride your bike, but until this afternoon we had never done so for some reason. What a shame it has taken me so long to get it together. Even today, as we set off on our bikes, I was a little unsure how to get to where we needed to be, but after a couple of wrong turns, we found a route about two minutes from where I live onto the banks of the Wandle. And everyone was absolutely right. What an amazing bike trail to have access to in the middle of London. We ended up riding to Dean City Farm which we have visited lots of times over the years but always by car. My youngest son said, “Wow! We rode all the way to the farm and we’re not even tired!”. My middle son was only disgruntled by the absence of his favourite drink in the enormous supermarket which he ducked into on the way there. “Disgraceful!” he grumbled. Where do they get these sayings from?

Here are a few images from our afternoon. I think I could certainly return many times and take lots of pictures along the route. The mix of nature and variously-sized signs of industry along the river’s bank, as well as a long history of documentation, is potentially really interesting. The picture with the lace curtain is for my mum who loves and collects owls. (We’re a bit sad the owl at Dean City Farm is moving soon).

Next time, I might be able to write about a seminar I photographed recently which promoted inclusion and diversity in the workplace. I was very impressed with the way the seminar was handled, especially when comparing the industry in question to my own. Until then, happy weekend everyone.

All images (c)SJField 2018

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South London Photographer: Website update

Running around, trying to fit everything in, spinning a lot of plates precariously while I do, like most of us nowadays, it’s easy to forget about updating my website. But doing so is important, and not just because it increases traffic to your site which is always a good thing. I think an online presence which gets ignored can start to have the same feel as a dusty, bleached-out shopfront on the high street. Luckily I recently photographed a seminar run by interior designers, Salvesen Graham in Wandsworth Town. Of course, their shop looks absolutely beautiful, which obviously makes a big difference when taking pictures. I’d be crazy not to take advantage of their skills and show off some of the lovely shots I managed to capture in-between talks. See some examples below, and the page I’ve added images by clicking here.

For corporate portraits, event and lifestyle photography which is suitable for blogs and web-use get in touch for a chat or visit my site for further information.

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Images (c)SJField 2018