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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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…