Mind the gap …

•October 11, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Yes, I’m ashamed to see how long it is since I last posted, but things have been busy these last few months.  What with finishing university, moving back to London, and general unsettledness, it’s been quite tiring.

Anyway, I was experiencing photographer’s block for a while … didn’t feel like being out on the streets and I wasn’t travelling anywhere, so I didn’t take many pictures, except a few rather touristy pictures of my own newly re-found city.  It’s changed a lot since I last lived here 20 years ago.  But then, things changed when I was lucky enough to participate in a Fine Art workshop in Paris in September with Roger Ballen, who is definitely one of my favourite photographers.  It was 4 full on days, with two challenging assignments and the time just flew by far too fast.  I learnt a lot about composition and framing, and to beware of white, even if it doesn’t show yet.  Roger is a wonderful teacher – very good at critiquing images –  and being able to hear him talk about his work was inspiring.

 The first assignment was to go to some recycling shops and find some cheap items and make a still life using an incredible space as a backdrop. Squat Le Bloc is a building abandoned by a French Government department and now occupied by artists and all kinds of people.  Every surface is painted with art and graffiti and you could spend a lot of time there and not see it all.  It has a buzz … of creativity and life going on.  I liked that.

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 Doing the still life was hard.  I had no flash for my camera, and no tripod with me either, so I had to make the best of the low light and try not to breathe when pressing the button.  The still life went through many different set ups and ended up using the minimum of items. Luckily I had thought to bring string scissors and some sticky tape.  Here are a few pictures.

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Each day we finished around 6, went home to edit for the next day’s critique/eat/sleep and then be back at Le Bar Floréal by 9am the next day.  I think I have never done so many Metro journeys in such a short time!  The second assignment was also hard.  For me anyway, as I am used to doing candid photography and not asking permission. We had to ask strangers in Le Bloc if we could make portraits of them, and somehow try to reflect ourselves in the other.  The concept slightly went out of the window as it was enough just to try to get people to pose!  I found a lady with a dog, (no pet cats in the building) and I made quite a few shots of her.  Then I went to the studio of the president of the building, VIncent, who is a man of many talents.  He makes incredible work painting with light, as well as being a tattoo artist and illustrator.  I made his portrait in front of a painting he has been working on for 4 years (still not finished yet).  That day went far too fast and I hope to get back there to take more pictures sometime.  

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I came back feeling inspired to do some constructed work in my studio, but the day I returned I had a phone call out of the blue asking to show my compost bucket pictures at a London gallery which just opened in September.  So I’ve been working on the prints for that as well as a couple of new projects.  I feel very lucky that my work was seen at the right time by the right person, because getting shown in a gallery is not easy.  Next post will be about how the Private View on 22nd October went.

The end is in sight!

•June 17, 2013 • 1 Comment

Soon I will have to change the name of this blog because I will no longer be a mature student.  I will be a mature graduate!  So, it will probably change to something more general which will chart what happens next in my life and more posts about different types of photography.  It is a good feeling to imagine that I will now be able to concentrate on things more fully without always having a module to attend to.

The last two years and 8 months have been an amazing learning experience and I would urge anyone who wants to and can to become a student at any age.  I have learnt more than I thought was possible, and I am quite a different person than I was in 2010.  I now feel confident to apply for all kinds of art-related jobs, but I do feel that I will be discriminated against because of my age.  Time will tell.

So … I started writing this post on 26th May, since when I’ve been too busy to finish it.  Life is really crazy at the moment, and it won’t calm down until I’ve moved house back to London in mid-July.

The end has now arrived and my time at University is over.  I think the final exhibition went well.  I certainly put a lot of effort into making everything look as good as it could.

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Reconcilation

This was one of the pieces I showed, called ‘Reconciliation – 9 Days in Mexico, March 2013′  It’s large, 100 x 180cm.  Being mainly a street photographer who doesn’t stand still for more than a minute, this was an uncharacteristically  more focused and detailed piece of work.  There is a story behind it all … of course … but too long for this post.  It took quite a long time to arrange all the photos in a balanced way and get them all into one photoshop grid so that it was perfectly aligned.  My other piece was composed of 307 small photos covering a 22’ stretch of wall, and a book of selected images called ‘Same Same But Different’.  People who have travelled in SE Asia will get the title as they will have heard that phrase a lot I think.

Same Same But Different

All this packing and house moving is exhausting and I feel too weary to write more now, although there is lots to write about.  Meanwhile I will think of a new name for the blog.

I am lucky enough to have managed to get a large artist’s studio at Bow Arts Trust warehouse opposite Bow Church.  I am moving all my art and photo stuff there on Sunday … but I won’t be able to use it really until I have actually got the flat in London … frustrating, but not long now.  The bad (or good) thing is that they have Open Studios over the weekend of 29/30 June and I have to put up some work and be there.  Not what I need to be doing with everything else that I need to be doing at the moment, but it will be exciting to meet all the other 149+ artists who work there, so yes, must make effort to do the best I can for that.  Come along if you’re in that part of London!

Still alive …

•May 2, 2013 • Leave a Comment

It’s so long since I posted.  Life has been very busy the last few months, and now everything is directed to preparing work for the degree show which opens on 31st May.  Then on 7th June, we take it down and it’s all over.   Still have no idea of the mark for my dissertation which I submitted in January, but I expect we will get them soon.

I can’t believe how fast this last two and a half years has gone, and also how much I’ve learned.  I think there will be a void in my life as I’ve always had something to focus on.  Hopefully I might manage to get some kind of photography related work, otherwise I will just have to generate my own.  Will I do an MA? I don’t know, but I need a year off first.  It’s a tempting idea though.

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One image from one of degree show pieces, taken in Mexico.

It’s nearly March

•February 20, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I’ve been meaning to update, but the last few weeks have flown by.  I got my dissertation in on 18th January after a lot of last minute revision, then left for Dubai on 19th and arrived feeling exhausted.  3 days later I had full blown ‘flu but had to fly to Bangladesh for Chobi Mela Vll, an international photo festival in Dhaka.  I hadn’t realised that there are hardly any taxis in Dhaka, so it was lucky that I met some Chobi Mela volunteers at the airport who gave me a lift to my hotel.  The hotel (Ambrosia) turned out to be really nice, with a big room, and a garden, and a team of cooks who seemed determined to feed me up.  My lack of eating, due to feeling like I was going to die, worried them, which I thought was rather sweet.  I managed to get to the opening ceremony on 25th Jan., which first included  a march to the Shilpakala Academy, where Shahidul Alam, the founder of the festival, and a distinguished panel spoke.  After that me and Richard Billingham (my tutor at Uni of Glos) ended up at a weird drinks party (something to do with the British Council) in the posh part of Dhaka, where there were all kinds of English biscuits and twiglets (imported expensive stuff) and lots of drinks.  I couldn’t really enjoy it as I couldn’t stop sneezing and coughing and being feverish and headachey and just wanted to get back to my room, and not infect everyone else with whatever I had.  I think I spent the whole of the next day in bed, thinking that that was a gross waste of time.

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One of the thousands of rickshaw drivers in Dhaka.

If you get a chance to go to to the next Chobi Mela 8 in 2015, do try to go, as it is a really impressive effort.  I haven’t been to many photo festivals yet, so I can’t compare, but I think the presentations and the exhibitions were world class.  What I liked most about it, was the friendliness of the Bangladeshis and also having the opportunity to meet so many interesting photographers at close range.  I went out most days to take photos, bumping round the very polluted city in many rickshaws,  and attend as many presentations as possible.  Richard Billingham gave a good talk about his work and I saw images of his that I hadn’t seen before.  Every evening, after the talks, there was a dinner event somewhere, including on a very beautifully lit top floor balcony at ULab, which is a liberal arts University.  The next evening, a group ended up at my hotel and we sat outside being devoured by mosquitos and I produced a litre of best Moskovskaya vodka, which was drunk at great speed.  I think everyone got a bit drunk as we had no mixers!  I don’t remember much about the end of that night, but it was fun.

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Drinks on the balcony

Richard B and I and a photography student, Arfun, got a car with a driver and went to a national park north of Dhaka.  It was not that exciting but different and good to get out of the city, and the air was so hazy that all the pictures look strangely blurry.  There was a rather beautiful pool full of water lilies.  We also saw many brick factories, making bricks by hand to provide the mass of new buildings in Dhaka with building materials. We also came across a cow sale which was lively.

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The lily pool

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Brick factory chimneys

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Cows for sale

Otherwise I saw as many of the exhibitions as possible.  I particularly liked the work of Pablo Bartholomew, who I saw as a kind of Indian Larry Clark, and Max Pam, who manages to distill details from his many travels into two large grid format pieces.  Bartholomew also used this format, which I seem to like.  Otherwise there was a wonderful show by Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide, large black and white square format film prints, called Naturata.  She was also presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Too much else to describe here, but it was a full-on week, which I managed to enjoy as much as I could despite my illness.  I also visited a slum called the Geneva Camp, where effectively stateless Bihari people have lived since 1971 when Bangladesh was liberated from Pakistan – around 25,000 of them in the space of one city block in Dhaka, with no running water or private toilets.  This was the best part of my week, and it happened due to a random conversation in a park on the day of a general strike.  I could (and will) write a whole post about that as it was so interesting.  I went back the next day to take more pictures and meet more people there.  Again I was struck by the openness and friendliness shown to me, by a nation that is not really used to having many tourists.  It touched my heart and made me want to return there.

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Colourful ladies in Geneva Camp

Then back to Dubai, where I spent a week.  Time was spent in the desert and the wadis and also seeing ‘Cirque du Soleil’ which I hadn’t seen before.  It was impressive. The time passed all too fast, but I managed to see a few old friends which was good.  Came back exhausted to a miserable, grey and rainy English morning which dampened my spirits somewhat, but the cat was pleased to see me.

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The bustle in the narrow lanes of Old Dhaka

Many photos were taken (as always) so here are a just a few.  All taken in Bangladesh.

Busy, busy

•January 12, 2013 • Leave a Comment

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I know I haven’t updated lately, or even taken many new photographs.  This is because since Christmas (well, for the last 6 months in fact) I have had to be concentrating on my dissertation, (and the two modules from last term).  I need to hand it in by next Friday and there is nothing like a deadline to concentrate the mind.  Official hand-in is not until 11th Feb, but I wanted to go to the Chobi Mela photography festival in Dhaka quite badly, so this is my reward for finishing it early.  I have re-written/edited nearly all of it in the last week, necessary because I kept straying off the main topic.  Actually I wasn’t sure what the main topic really was until quite recently!  It’s quite an ambitious subject, and the title (which I hope won’t have to change again) is “Voyeurism and Gender: Exploring the Gaze in Street Photography”.  I’ve learnt a lot through researching this, so writing something like this is definitely a useful part of a Uni course.  When it’s all finished and handed in, I’ll make a PDF link to it, for anyone who might want to read it.  Unfortunately, writing this has caused a severe increase in all my most self-destructive habits  – all of them ending in -ine!  Caffe, nicot and w, (and even chocolate).  Very bad, and no idea why I feel the need, must be reaction to pressure.  I vow to reduce or give up most of these things (not coffee!) once I am on the way to the airport, when I will no longer have any excuse.  No doubt this will increase again when we have to do our final degree show, but that is a few months off yet.

Much as I love being a student, I am quite keen now to get on with all the projects that my mind has stored up to work on once I’m free again, so looking forward to June now.

Phew, the postman has just come with my passport containing the Visa for Bangladesh, so that is one less thing to worry about!  I can’t wait to photograph Dhaka and see all the wonderful work that is going to be shown there.

Okay, back to work on the dissertation now.  My bibliography and referencing is a nightmare because of all the sources within other sources etc.  So need to work on that and the conclusion.  I will be SO happy when it’s finished!  The picture above radiates a sense of calm which I wish to feel.

Goodbye 2012

•December 30, 2012 • 1 Comment

It’s gone too fast, as usual, but it was a memorable year in many ways.  I worked hard and I travelled hard.  Vietnam and Indonesia were wonderful, and looking at the photos makes me want to go travelling again.  Here are a few of my favourites from the year.  I’m not sure exactly why I like them as they are all so different, maybe it’s the memories they evoke.  Thanks to everyone who looks at my posts, and Happy 2013!  Let’s hope it’s a good year.  I will graduate, and after that … who knows what adventures lie in store.

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Season of fire and light

•November 11, 2012 • 1 Comment

 

 

Seems like the firework season goes on for about two weeks these days, still heard some going off tonight.  That’s fine by me.  I found an old box of them and we had some fun playing outside.  It took 4 of us all doing different things to get these pictures.  The fun part of photography is about playing, and being experimental!