Author Archives: Doug

Greeting The Sun

Why would grown ups get up at 4am, strap some bells to their shins, and head to a hill in Surrey to wave hankies and bash sticks? Probably because they were members of the Ewell St Mary’s Morris Men and were participating in their annual dance event to “Greet The Sun” on May Day morning. It was a mixture of intrigue, and a rash promise to a magazine editor, that made me get up even earlier and head to Box Hill to capture some portraits of the Morris Men as the sun came up at 5:34!

It was pitch black when I arrived to set up my gear, but I had packed a head torch and had done a reccé of the hillside a couple of days before to work out the best spot for the portraits. Initially I was alone but then I heard what I thought were goats, only to realise that it was the bell clad Morris Men making their way down from the car park!

It was very misty on the day and we were on the shadow side of the hill so the sunlight wasn’t around for long but there were some interesting skies and I was able to get these portraits.

And of course what else can you do after an early morning’s dancing apart from head to the pub at 7am for breakfast, a pint and more singing and dancing!

The sun must feel well and truly greeted…

George & The Dancers

How do you celebrate St George’s Day? The Ewell St Mary’s Morris Men don their outfits and head up to the City Of London to entertain all and sundry, and this year I followed them around for the day whilst they danced, sang, shook their bells and quaffed ale! What could be more English than grown men wearing daft hats and having a thoroughly good time in the midst of the UK’s major finance and business centre? There were crowds, selfies in abundance, as well as confused and bemused tourists, and the odd, far too self important, grumpy businessman.

One of the Morris Men even had to earn his Ewell St Mary’s rosette by performing a dance on his own in front of the public; the dance of course was choreographed by one of the other Morris Men and involved lots of running around, jumping and even pirouetting!

And as with everything the Morris Men do, they ended up in the pub. St George would have been proud…

Only Human: Martin Parr

I must admit I’m a massive fan of Magnum photographer Martin Parr’s photography and he currently has an exhibition on at the National Portrait Gallery (NPG), which is well worth a visit (on until May 27th 2019). The NPG ran a competition to encourage people who have been inspired by his work and one of my entries made it into the top 30 shortlist. It was even used in the PR to encourage people to enter.

Here’s the selection of images that I entered.

The JPEG File Size Myth

“I need a High Rez JPEG file – it’s got to be at least 2MB”. Ever heard that one? It’s a completely meaningless statement. Okay if you’re emailing or uploading something and it needs to be BELOW a certain size then there is a degree of meaning, but it certainly doesn’t tell you anything about the size of the image contained in the JPEG. It certainly doesn’t mean it is high resolution. Why? Read on.

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Max A Hatter

It’s amazing what you find on little islands. I met Max A Hatter on Johnson’s Island in West London; he makes hats in a very small studio, at the top of a spiral staircase (I seem to be sending a lot of time in small rooms at the top of spiral staircases!) Max was introduced to me by Tim at Clement Knives, who I photographed on a nearby island making chef’s knives.

Max’s hats are really quite unique; based on a bowler style but with influences from Sapeurs and Yardies, and with a Turbanesque – a detachable padding or turban, which is used for position and comfort. 

As well as being a hat maker of distinction Max is also a member of The Rad Orchestra, a band for whom he plays the Ngoni, a West African string instrument, but not one for convention Max has had his Ngoni made by fellow Island resident Peter Longfellow, and Pete’s speciality is making musical instruments out of metal. You can see the Ngoni on the sofa in the portrait of Max, and there is more on Pete to come.

Dentist

In the first week of January I did my first job of 2019 – some executive portraits. One of my subjects said that she hated having her picture taken. I spent some time trying to convince her that it was going to be alright and there was nothing to be worried about. Finally I managed to convince her and she said “Well, its got to be better than going to the dentist!”

So for 2019 my new strap line is:  Douglas Kurn, photographer – better than going to the dentist!

PRINTAGRAM ISSUE 2

It’s been a while coming but the first issue of my magazine Printagram has been so well received that I just had to make a second issue. If you not seen it before Printagram is a not so instant version of some of my images, coupled with some of my musings – which if I’m honest have mostly been taken from my blog. 

This issue consists of current personal work, commissions, historical stuff and something even shot on very old and very outdated film. Intrigued? Of course you are, so grab a copy of the PDF here. It’s over 30 pages of stuff so you might want to start the download and then go and put the kettle on to accompany your read!

It’s best viewed as a double page PDF which if you are on a Mac using Preview you do like this:

If you missed the first edition of Printagram you can download a copy here. I hope you enjoy it and please let me know what you think.

Now must get to work on creating more for the next issue…

GOODBYE 2018

As we see the back of 2018, maybe it’s time to reflect on it in a historical context; 2018 was the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One – the Great War, the War To End All Wars. It’s perhaps sobering to think that 100 years ago Europe saw the year ahead as one where they would try and put Europe back together again – how times change! 

Whatever your opinion about the ongoing shenanigans surrounding the departure or otherwise of the UK from the EU, we would never have been able to have had the debate if it hadn’t been for those who fought in that, and subsequent wars.

I wish everyone what I suspect was all that those who survived war wanted; peace, love, health and happiness. x

The Silent Soldier Memorial

Life In A Dark Shed

I’ve often wandered past a tin shed behind some gates, and wondered what was inside. One day I went inside and met Trevor, who has worked there since the age of 14. His Father worked there too, up until 4 weeks before he passed away at the age of 94. With all the welding, drilling and cutting that goes on there is a lot of dust everywhere but Trevor says he is tidying it up. Whilst I was there we came across a letter from 1984, although Trevor said that he had found one from the 70’s recently!

Doors in the shed also come in handy as notepads for making notes on jobs and customer numbers, and the portrait of Trevor against one of the doors has been voted for as one of the portraits to take place in the Portrait Salon 18 exhibition.

 

 

Who Tolls The Bell?

Campanologists that’s who! The sound of church bells ringing out is a part and parcel of town and village life in England, but how many people have seen inside a bell ringing chamber? My latest project involved creating portraits of bell ringers in their ringing chambers, which seemed like a good idea until I saw the steps I’d need to climb to gain access (and yes that’s my foot on the top step – and no I don’t have big feet!):

Once I had climbed the steps though I found that each space was very different, but they were unified by always being small, which presented some photographic challenges! The spaces were unique and quite fascinating, which is something I tried to capture in my environmental portraits.

Peals, methods, bobs and Sallys were all words that I thought meant something else until I started meeting bell ringers, but it turns out that they are all part of ringing life. Bell ringing has always been a significant part of Remembrance Day, dating back to when Armistice was declared on November 11th 1918, when they rang freely for the first time since the start of the first World War. With 2018 being the 100th year since the end of World War 1 there is a campaign called Ringing Remembers that is attempting to recruit 1400 new bell ringers this year to commemorate the 1400 bell ringers who lost their lives in WW1.

It is common for the bells to be rung half muffled on the morning of November 11th, which means putting one of these on one side of the clapper:

…like this:

It produces a more muted sound and is considered to be more fitting for the sombre mood of Remembrance Day.

To take these photos of the bells I had to go right up the tower to where the bells are housed, and if I’m going to go that far then I might as well go on the roof to see views like this:

St Peter’s Church in Chertsey, where I live, has a dumb bell for beginners to practice on, and when I visited them I was allowed to have a go on it. It’s called a dumb bell because it makes no sound, and the residents of Chertsey don’t know how lucky they were when I had a go! I think bell ringing is best left to the professionals like these: