Tag Archives: Portrait

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!

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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!):

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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.

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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)!

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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.

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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.

Platt’s Eyot island
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Binary People

How much detail is too much? Modern digital cameras capture a huge amount of information, and with a seemingly endless search for more Megapixels (Phase One make a 100MP camera back which produces a 300MB image!) I decided to go back to basics; no, not film but binary which is the basis of all digital systems including cameras. What is binary? Well it means there are only two states – on/off, yes/no, black/white, true/false or 0/1 in computing terms. As an example a simple light switch is binary as it is either on or it’s off (dimmers don’t count).

Binary people is an ongoing personal project where I create portraits, mostly in profile, but solely in black and white, and take that term literally; there are no shades of grey, just black or white!

Despite these images being described by only 2 states the people in them are clearly very individual and clearly recognisable as the people (and dogs!) they are.

Shooting A Shoot

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….

 

Going Backwards – Fast

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…

 

THE PICTURE THAT CHANGED MY LIFE BY JEREMY SMITH

 

I photographed Jeremy Smith, Editor-At-Large for OX Magazine last year. He wrote this about the experience in OX Magazine (which you can see here ). All words from this point on are his own.

INTRO:

You may recognise these photographs of five men and five women; they are, in no particular order, Albert Einstein, Raquel Welch, James Dean, Betty Grable, Jim Morrison, Marilyn Monroe, Che Guevara, Farrah-Fawcett, Audrey Hepburn and Salvador Dali.
You may not be familiar with the cause of their fame or achievement but you will, undoubtedly, be familiar with these portraits.

Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 16.34.50

Why?
Because these are pictures that define so much more (a whole universe more in fact) than the two- dimensional profiles they present.
I, thank god am neither famous nor, sadly, an outstanding talent, but I do share something in common with these icons of science, art, cinema and music; I have a photograph.
A photograph that embodies a micro second of existence yet also a whole human lifetime of success, failure, ignorance, enlightenment and resurrection.
It was taken in August of 2016 and has, quite simply, changed my life…

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There is great speculation yet its precise inspiration remains obscure.
Not that it especially matters: “A picture is worth a thousand words” simply endures as one of life’s great truisms. But until August 2016 it held little personal relevance.
It was a Monday morning, and save for the fact the sky was blue and a slight chill lingered in the air, it was ordinary.
I was about to be photographed and sporting a wardrobe I had spent more than a week clinically appraising. Not that it was a fashion shoot or anything so alluring. Just a shoot of me attempting to own, rather agreeably, my recent disability.
In my head of course I envisaged it as infinitely more profound: a statement if you will of everything I had fought to overcome since falling so gracelessly 18 months earlier.
You see, the slip, the trip, the tumble of 40 feet which had left my frame so scrambled had left me wheelchair bound (and that, trust me, was an unimaginable bonus; it had looked for many months as if I might remain bed-ridden).
But I didn’t, I’d persevered and I was proud of what I’d achieved. But ‘proud’ perhaps in a way that was slightly atypical.
I hadn’t wanted to use sport to redefine my rehabilitation as so many spinal injury patients do; I wanted to use attitude. And I don’t mean defiantly or grittily. What I wanted to do was nail my colours to the mast… sartorially.

And no, even I wasn’t sure exactly what that meant.
Spinning in my head since the early weeks of my trauma, and doubtless morphine induced, I nevertheless sensed that my journey to recovery was to be as aesthetic as physical. Yet I couldn’t then nor 16 months later crystallise what that meant. It was just an intuitiveness without form or substance.
However, on this particular morning I had been more doubtful than excited. I had explained to photographer Douglas Kurn the ‘statement’ I was after (and yes, I now cringe at how pretentious I must have sounded). He in turn had simply acknowledged my grand ambition by readying the location (Oxford’s Bodleian library) and appraising my physical prowess.
Clearly, I could stand but for seconds rather than minutes. And to complicate matters even further, I wanted to cross my legs.
I think we both knew from a clinical perspective it was unwise but I was adamant it would pictorially translate as ‘rakish’ and felt buoyed by my outlandishly arrogant percipience.
And so it was after several false starts, spasms and near falls that Douglas’s camera came alive.

Naturally, my perpendicular fragility allowed for a window of maybe only a few seconds, but within such a constrained time frame, Douglas invented, initiated and improvised blurrily.
I’m guessing this shot took only 10 minutes from start to finish and although quietly confident about the result I expected, I was depressed too by the sudden, all to apparent naivety of my design. After all, how could I hope that such an everyday morning could be transformed into something so visceral and life reaffirming?

And indeed, that is how sceptical I remained. Not cynical or pessimistic but frustrated and impotent by the sheer folly of what seemed such an illusory goal.
Heck, if I couldn’t put into words the sense of what I so desperately wanted to project, how could I expect Douglas to capture it?

Jeremy Smith in Oxford City

Jeremy Smith, outside the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

Not that I had long to wait…
I remember every breath of that early revelation and like many revelations and life-changing moments today, it came via email. And what I saw made me cry. Openly and unapologetically. It was me alright, but as I’d dreamt me, stylish, savvy and oh-so-chipperly defiant. And today, almost 10 months on it still makes me cry.
Appropriately, there are no words that can capture my joy.
Pictures? Yes. Plenty of them, which explosively chart the recapturing of dreams, hopes, and faith (in me). But none that will ever match this one, defining millisecond out of 475,000 (approx.) grasped, lived, and wasted hours.
Douglas Kurn’s photograph quite simply embodies the best of me.
It’s truer and more honest than any epitaph (one doesn’t even need to look closely to see the vanity, the arrogance, the childlike dream to better myself), and for that I will always be eternally grateful…

ENDS