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. 

 

20 Aug 2020

take a walk on the southside

Books - as well as virtual tours - are a great resource for me right now so I was so pleased to see Paul Treacy had created another wonderful handmade book of his life in south east London.

 

I've written about his work a couple of years ago when he published SE26. I suppose it's one of the benefits - for me at least - of this blog that I can take time travel back to my state of mind over the last ten years and in a way a long time before that too.

I was thinking then of my roots and that concept is very much back on my agenda, courtesy of our current hyperlocal lifestyles. I identify with London, of being a Londoner. Although I'm not quite sure what that means right now. Where I was born in an area of south east London - not central, not suburban - gave me an outsider's perspective of the city. Reinforced to a large degree by my parents' status and a big motivation behind my photography. I've since started to appreciate where I live now in west London over the last few months....again through the medium of photography. 

The outsider-ness is still present (I blame reading French existentialism at an impressionable age) so maybe that's here for good now but to be honest I feel I need to dig a bit deeper, beyond my surface and that of the world around me. The New Europe project was a step in that direction. 

I need to keep walking. 

 

24 Jul 2020

kind of normal

I feel the Lockdown project needs an endpoint - as I'm sure we all do in this endless time.

The phrase getting back to normal is becoming more common even though there's plenty to contradict that. 
 
The streets around us are telling a very different story whether it's the shops that are not coming back to life or the social distancing measures to deal with people still absent. Talk is of the second wave of a surge in cases and local lockdowns in the Autumn. Government support for individuals and businesses will start winding down then as well. The reality of the new normal will soon dawn. 

I've decided to use my pictures to help raise money for Ealing Foodbank as a small way of directing this work into something practical. I'll make use of the experience making my New Europe zine (hey that feels from another planet right now) to make something affordable and hopefully interesting enough to buy.

My challenge will be to distil over 900 images into some kind of narrative. To put that in perspective it's more than the number of my final prints over the last thirty years! I like the flow of the slides I put together for the Ealing LIP group so that gives me a start.

I tried to segue the themes with images that had an ambiguity about them. The easier option would be to present them in separate categories e.g. shop windows, walls, schools etc. If I was being more savvy another route would be to organise the images by area or by street, perhaps with a map or index for people to look up their own neighbourhood. 
 
Needlesstosay neither option is satisfactory for me. It's back to my jazz metaphor. Create a tempo. Build a mood. Solos. Counterpoint. See where it takes us.

 

7 Jul 2020

reality check

In a year when the 4th of July has been vigorously challenged as a day of liberty for all there's an uncomfortable parallel with England's own Independence Day billed as the Day We Smiled Again by some and #SuperSpreaderSaturday by others. 
Whatever the outcome it marks a moment in the Lockdown story. Whether it's the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning we don't know. It does feel timely to reflect on my experience expressed through my own documentary project 
I confess I've become a little obsessive. Each morning I think I've taken all the photographs that can be made of household belongings on garden walls, of socially distant pavement markers, of going out of business/opening soon shop window signs. No. They keep coming.  
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I don't want this project to become a kind of dystopian scavenger hunt. Behind all these signs, symbols and ciphers lie people's livelihoods and lives. It's so moving to observe all this so vicariously. Is it a very English breakdown of society? Polite. Apologetic. Decent.  
There's been plenty of allusions - and illusions - of war. The nation coming together. Spitfire flypasts. No room for dissent. The hidden social impacts have still to play out in public.  
I've always looked forward to summer. Lately I've come to regard the sun with more portent. Now the weather feels more part of a bread and circuses strategy. To distract and to palliate.
Ah yes. How could I forget. We've been here before.
Humankind cannot bear very much reality. T.S. Eliot

12 Jun 2020

eye opening

There are far more significant impacts on peoples' lives in lockdown but, for the privileged, access to collective experiences of any description are one that people miss. The last exhibition I saw feels in retrospect both prophetic in its content and historic as an example of a world since turned upside down.
Our experience is now like a lot of things screen based so I was impressed by the approach Four Corners took to switching their Another Eye exhibition to an online version.
Another Eye exhibition
Another Eye exhibition catalogue cover
A survey of women photographers displaced from Germany and Austria in an era of anti-semitism and political persecution to make new lives in Britain in the 1930s caught my attention as another reflection of our times. The perspectives  and subsequent influence of these women was fascinating to discover. I confess the only one I was familiar with was Dorothy Bohm who I had the fortune to hear speak a couple of years ago at Street London. 
Another Eye exhibition - social documentary
Illustration from Another Eye
The significance of Gerti Deutsch, Elisabeth Chat and Edith Tudor-Hart on the development of Picture Post was my highlight of the show. I love finding copies of this magazine which is such a rich resource of social history and discovering their work was another wake up to the (un)recognition of women in the history of photography.
This work are great examples of the humanist tradition of photography that publications such as Picture Post and Life championed. However nowadays it's a form that is rightly challenged. The rights of people to control the representation of their lives is paramount to help empower them and dismantle stereotypes. However for me the work in this exhibition has an integrity that does not dilute its effectiveness. It's a salient illustration of what an outsider can do using their own experiences of alienation. 
Empathy. An important word for our times.