Category Archives: Portraits

Split The Difference

How brave are you? Would you recommend that someone attend an anger management course? What if that someone was holding an axe? That’s what a former boss suggested to my latest subject Clay – before he left and set up his own business – as a tree surgeon, hence the axe. His leaving was more to do with paperwork and the safety ‘elf than anger management though.

Despite how that sounds Clay is a remarkably mild mannered man and a bell ringer at the local church in his spare time. He also lives in this beautiful old listed cottage in the heart of Surrey.

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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.

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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.

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.

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:

On A Knife’s Edge

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!

:DK

Pacy Portraits

Guess what I did over the summer? Yep I shot 175 Portraits in two days – mad but true. It was Chertsey Agricultural Association’s 175th Annual Show so they asked me to shoot 175 portraits of people at this years show, one for each year. Obviously wandering around a field asking a load of strangers if I could photograph them was right up my street (or field may be a better word)!

To emphasise the history of the show we gave the show images an aged treatment and you can see all the characters here (okay there are some of kids cuddling dogs but come on I had to shoot a portrait every 4 minutes!)

Some of them were too good to not to take a second look at in colour, so I’ve selected some of my personal favourites and uploaded them here – just click them to see the gallery images..

With it being an agricultural show, when I had completed my 175th portrait I obviously had to enjoy a pint of cider…

 

The Kingfisher And I

When you think of Oxford you are probably more inclined to think of the University, the city of dreaming spires, punts on the river, the Radcliffe Camera, Inspector Morse, and you may have even stayed in the old prison which is now a Malmaison hotel.

You would be forgiven if graffiti wasn’t the first thing that comes to mind though, but, as I discovered during a recent reccé, there are some fabulous street art focused projects taking place in Oxford, most notably the Oxford Canal Mural Project initiated by local residents and the Oxford Canal and River Trust, which includes the fabulous Kingfisher mural below created by artist Richard Wilson.

Inspired by all this artwork I decided to use it as the basis for a recent portrait photo shoot in Oxford including some of the canal side murals and down the Cowley Road in Oxford City. It wasn’t without it’s challenges though as we got “boat-o-bombed” on the canal (see below)!

Whilst I think the initiative and the art in particular is fantastic, I’m not sure Morse would have agreed…

 

Oddly – Beer in the Thames

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…

Platt’s Eyot island

The tasting zone

Brian in the brewery

Platt’s Eyot island

The Oddly bar