28 Dec 2020

book of the year

I've been looking for new photography inspired by the events of this year even before I'd thought of collecting my own work into a book. Insiders by Liam Basford and Dominic Nozahic was published over the summer with a real energy and urgency to capture the moment but also acknowledge the impact on artists and creators. This was the theme of Limbo too with some high profile contributors and production values. In contrast Robert Law's Village Lockdown was a very personal response and none the less important. 

However in this final week of 2020 it's fitting to have found Amuleto by Francheska Melendez and Ben Roberts that synthesises COVID-19 and the killing of George Floyd in a powerful, understated way.

Amuleto by Francheska Melendez & Ben Roberts

The link between the two events is now, tragically, the phrase I can't breathe. Referencing current and historic texts as well as snippets of conversations the book weaves those words around a series of photographs of medical masks that we've now all become dependent on to ward off evil.

I admire the thought given to the iconography of the mask. Illuminated by Spanish sun its ubiquity and utility is transfigured. It's inspiring to take one element of so many visual references I've seen this year, to develop it in this way and then to combine it with words that root this in historic as well as contemporary context.

My book of the year. 


 

21 Dec 2020

here comes the sun

 Before dawn on the shortest day of the year

Before Dawn 21.12.20

 

After dusk on the shortest day of the year

After Dusk 21.12.20


Tomorrow, the days become longer


9 Nov 2020

london's dreaming

It's the start of the Second Lockdown.
 
For the only the second time since March I'm in the West End. 
 
I really feel I am literally going through the motions of being in the city. 

woman on Shaftesbury Avenue


Following one of my usual paths, along Piccadilly to Leicester Square and into Soho, emotionally and mentally it's not the same place. I could expect that. 
 
But the absence of its physical nature strikes me more.  
 
Wariness of our proximity to others feels like it's becoming second nature but it's not ...natural. 

cinema on Rupert Street 
 
The fabric of the city is beginning to rent, making manifest the mood of temporality. 
 
Don't get me wrong. Decay and renewal is part and parcel of the life of the city, a reflection of life lived. This is different. 
 
This is more about neglect and rejection. 

Shop window Piccadilly\

 

A brokenheartedness.


 

14 Oct 2020

sacred cows

The topic of ethics is never far away from documentary photography, and street work in particular, so my presentation on Post-Production to my local London Independent Photography group was a great entry point for me into that theme. I opened by apologising I'm the least qualified person in the group to talk to this topic, working in film as I do with no overt digital manipulation. Yet the very nature of photography is a manipulation of time and space so...anyway you're see where I'm going.

Since being introduced to The Corners by Chris Dorley-Brown discussed at a Street London event I'd been intrigued by reactions to it. I personally found it an exciting evolution of street photography, accounting for new technology - as street has always done - but retaining a fascination with the serendipities of people and place. I confess to have been taken in by the conceit until paying attention to the titles of the photographs and also listening to a great interview with him by Ben Smith.

This reminded me of the work of Peter Funch, someone else who had provoked questions about the legitimacy of composite images as street photography. I found the relationship between his series Babel Tales and the later work 42nd And Vanderbilt really interesting as the former threw doubt on the latter which, arguably, "fitted" the traditional definition of candid, non-manipulated photography more closely. At this point I was drawn to give some historical perspective and, to my opening premise, highlight examples of post production from other genres of photograph i.e. the surrealists including Dora Maar who herself bridged documentary and art in an inspirational way.

Falling headlong back in time we then found ourselves on the battlefields of the Crimea where the primacy of staged above found images give another dimension to the debate. Pre-Production perhaps? Roger Fenton's arrangement of cannonballs set a precedent that also bridged the realms of documentary and art into one of story-telling that runs until this day. Who is telling whose story has for me always stood in the shadows of photojournalism and this has now become such a topic of debate. It felt apt to close with an example of the work of Steve McCurry which for me is now a watershed from that Life magazine tradition which so inspired me growing up but which I now see with much more social and political context.

So, quite a meander through a history of photography but one I enjoyed researching at least! Here it is for the record.

 


 

20 Sept 2020

buy now and donate

So pleased to announce the launch of my Living Lockdown zine. It's great to have been able to use the experience of my last zine New Europe 2015-19 to create something to benefit people in real need as a result of the lockdown.

The achieve it I had to put a little method to my usual madness. Before I'd even begin to look at layouts and sequences I needed to revisit each of the pictures I'd selected in my daily edit and see where they could be categorised into a common theme. 

Once I had my mini collections of Walls, Faith, Out Of Business, Shoes etc I then tried to see how they could work in some kind of timeline reflecting the early days of lockdown leading into a gradual relaxing of measures. I didn't want to follow an exact calendar of events. One of the fascinating elements of the experience is how the same situation can shift in meaning over time. Shop windows that never came back to life and still advertised Easter in July. Social distance circles on pavements gradually fading away. People's front windows transforming from rainbows for key workers to symbols of Black Lives Matter.

 Living Lockdown layout

Then I started to play with combinations of images within those categories. The zine format is really liberating and appropriate for the project theme and the style of the images. I looked at layouts that reflected the mood of each of the sections. By doing that I began to look at how I could use those combinations to set the rhythm of the whole zine. Segues and counterpoints between them begin to appear too. Some obvious, some less so. It was during this phase I had the light bulb moment to make the zine landscape format not portrait so that flow could really work.

I realised this was in danger of turning into a magnum opus of all 900 pictures. I needed to remember to keep it affordable and not turn it into a coffee table paperweight. This is about raising money not profile. On reflection it's a really good lesson for me about editing work and valuing people's attention.

 Living Lockdown layout

I figured 64 pages would be a good target and worked with Ex Why Zed printers on size and paper stock on a price that would still leave room for a donation. Thanks to them for the discount! The idea of a 50:50 split between printing costs and donation was attractive as I wanted to keep the purchasing process as simple and transparent as possible. Which lead me to the next stage. Selling it online.

That really meant a decision on the book title so I could find a relevant domain name. Fortuitously my working title Living Lockdown was available. A good omen! Next the I needed a simple and secure ecommerce website. I'd bought zines from sites using Big Cartel so that was my first stop. The process fitted the bill but the design options to present the pages were limited. I really wanted to make this as impactful to as big an audience of donors as possible. I'd used Squarespace before which I knew could do that but wasn't sure of the selling bit. With a bit of tweaking it started to take shape

It's been a labour of love but the real measure of success is how much money I can raise.