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!
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issue consists of current personal work, commissions, historical stuff and something even shot on very old and very outdated film.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…
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!
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!):
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.
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.
When I was commissioned to photograph a pheasant shoot in North Wales, I had mixed feelings about it; I grew up in the countryside so knew about these things as well as some of the people involved, but I am also aware of people’s sensitivities towards this subject.
I was allowed to shoot some behind the scenes imagery with the head gamekeeper, which was an eye-opening experience and I was struck by how integral to the local economy this shoot was. The village pub’s survival was based on it and many local people worked on the shoot in various capacities outside of the shoot days.
There was an odd contradiction in the way the gamekeepers would spend months looking after the pheasants and their habitat, feeding them and providing clean water regularly, as well as protecting them from predators such as foxes and rats. The pheasants are given free rein in a large wood which is fenced off using wire netting, and again the ‘keepers patrol the fence daily to ensure that there are no breaches that would mean a fox may have got in to the wood. They would lay traps to catch rats and grey squirrels which eat the food that they put out for the birds, and to keep crows away who can eat the young birds (as well as attack lambs). The effects of the ‘keepers efforts generally help the survival of other non-game bird species, as well as helping lamb farmers protect their flock.
Although it’s not my job to judge things I certainly came away with an alternative perspective, but I still wouldn’t want to be a pheasant….
No, not a job shooting for the Sunday Times, but a profile of little ol’ me in the Sunday Times – in the business section don’t you know. It was for a piece about the self-employed, or more specifically the effects of the gig economy on the rights and benefits of workers, or lack thereof in reality.
It can be summed up nicely by a conversation I had with another photographer a while ago when he asked me if I missed anything about my previous job (I was employed in sales travelling all over Europe for a FTSE100 company in case you didn’t know). “Apart from the regular salary, company car, paid holiday, sick pay, pension, company expenses, company laptop and mobile phone, there is one thing I miss and that’s the best feeling in the world – taking off my suit at the end of the day and pulling on a pair of jeans as it signified that I’d finished work”.
And that’s the biggest difference for me now – knowing when to stop, as there is always something to do – shooting new work, editing, processing, estimating, marketing and promotion, admin (grrrr!!!), VAT returns (double grrr!!!!) archiving, sorting out IT problems (too much time), oh and chasing unpaid invoices. Luckily I don’t have too many issues on that last point, although when I do have to chase an accounts department I like to remind them that only one of us is being paid for my time spent chasing payment, and it ain’t me!
There are lots of challenges and many uncertainties but would I change it? Not a chance! Why? Well this year I’ve been shooting on boats, beaches, planes, rivers, canals, as well as the streets of London, Oxford, Hastings, Berlin, Brighton, Nottingham. I’ve had jobs in London, Surrey, Sussex, Herefordshire, Wales, Shropshire, Merseyside, Staffordshire and Cornwall. I’ve been in kitchens, offices, breweries, boathouses, factories, building sites, as well as photo studios.
Put simply – every day is different and I get to meet some fabulous and interesting people along the way – what’s not to love?
You can see the lens being turned on me and read the full Sunday Times article here.
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…
Molesey Boat Club
Lucy at Molesey Boat Club in the Tank Room
Arron, one of Molesey Boat Clubs men’s rowing squad