Now I’m used to photographing in very small places, as my project on bellringers will attest, but when I agreed to photograph artist Mr Mr Pearce in his studio on Johnson’s Island, I didn’t realise that it wasn’t much bigger than a desk, and had all the usual artist paraphernalia inside including a lot of his artworks (obviously).Continue reading
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.
Or more accurately a knife’s edge on a river’s edge. Meet Tim who hand makes knives from reclaimed steel in his workshop on Lots Ait on the river Thames in Brentford. Tim’s a trained chef, and like all chefs he has a fascination with knives, but he’s taken it a step further and decided to make them himself.
What could be more fun than making your own high temperature oven out of an old gas cylinder, heating bits of steel up to over 1000 degrees C inside it, and then bashing the steel repeatedly with a big hammer until you have a knife? Okay there’s a lot more to it than that, including the amount of time spent making it razor sharp. Tim also hand makes the handles which he traditionally made from wood but has started making recycled plastic handles from plastic found in the Thames. All this in a 12′ x 12′ workshop in an old boatyard – to create these pictures we had to take the window out!
Check out Tim’s videos of him slicing an onion with one of his knives on his Instagram page. Remarkably Tim still has all his fingers!
Or to be more precise beer made in the Thames – well, on an island in the Thames; Platt’s Eyot, a former boat builders yard that also made torpedo boats during the second world war.
Oddly is an independent brewery that operates out of one of the old boat yard buildings. Dilapidated and cold when he first moved in but home to this new and growing brewery.
Brian, the head brewer, moved in last year to set up a permanent home for Oddly on this fabulous island, access to which is via a small suspension bridge just large enough to take a narrow van, which led to Brian’s first challenge; how to get the barrels from the delivery point on the shore to his brewery. A job that took 10 minutes previously now took two and a half days!
As an independent brewer “Dry January” isn’t one of his favourite months, however the independents have responded with Tryanuary, a nationwide campaign to support independent brewers by encouraging people try different beers.
It was a great shoot and I’ve always been a fan of the odd beer, but now I am definitely a fan of the Oddly beer…
No, that’s not a comment on the recent political shenanigans; it’s a reference to my latest project, where I try to understand why a group of people get up at 5am and go rowing in the dark – backwards.
I’ve been spending time at Molesey Boat Club in Surrey photographing the rowers and coaches as they set about their training programs. The club consists of elite athletes and top drawer enthusiast rowers; the elite athletes are there daily, rowing, working out and consuming bucket loads of calories.
The enthusiasts have to fit rowing around their daily lives, which brings me to The Breakfast Club, as they are known at MBC. These are a group of individuals who get up at 5am and head out on the water for a training session – all before breakfast. As they often row in teams of 2, 4 or 8 having a sneaky lie in doesn’t make you any friends. In the winter it is pitch black at 5am (not to mention freezing cold) and they row backwards in to dark nothingness. When they get back off the water a couple of hours later they head off to work.
These photos are a series of portraits and reportage shots taken during these sessions – and yes I went out on the water with the Breakfast Club; admittedly I had to wait for the Spring/Summer seasons to arrive so I had some light (honest – it was all about the light; nothing to do with it being freezing cold and having to be still in a boat close to water on exposed rivers!)
Before I started this project I imagined that there would be a lot of individual rowers going out on their own (sculling as I learnt it’s called), but in reality there are mostly teams and I was struck by the camaraderie of the rowers – even first thing in the morning.
As to why they get up at 5am and go rowing backwards, I’m still in the dark…