By standers by admin

Sometimes the people I train my camera on don’t see me, it’s becoming a rarer and rarer event because I now stand very close, put my camera to my eye and wait. Even then occasionally they are too engrossed in what they are doing (usually their phones) or I can see that they have noticed my out of the corner of their eye and are determined not to look at me. Then the stars of the pictures become the by standers, they are watching me looking at my intended subject and I very rarely notice them, it’s only afterwards in processing that I will see a face in the background, watching me.

It’s interesting because they are observing me often without considering the fact they might be in the photograph, they might become the key. I don’t know why I need the eyes but there is something that legitimises a picture when I have a set of eyes staring down the lens at me. Maybe my photography is legitimised by viewers and like in my close up portraits where I get a reactions, all I’m looking for is to be seen. It’s something I have been considering for a while, that the photographer is the subject of the photograph and what the viewer sees are people’s reaction to the subject. I’ve never heard of a photographer taking this position before and it’s something I want to explore further.

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London Bridge (1)

My first fashion shoot by admin

It’s that moment when you realise you have absolutely no idea what you are doing, you just have to resort to whatever experience you have gained from the last few years taking pictures without an audience or anyone standing in front of you asking you what to do. I’d said yes to a fashion shoot mainly because I’ve never done one, I work in magazines and I’m trying to get as much experience as I can in as many facets of photography possible. This was a safe environment where I knew the clients quite well, they knew my work and as it was a favour there was considerably less pressure; but there is always that moment when you are there and it’s happening.

I have no experience using lights or flash, to illustrate this I was standing there wondering why the camera wouldn’t go over 250th of a second when the flash was up. Most of you will be facepalming right now but this is the extent of my ignorance. I am busy now watching videos after being advised not to go on a course when I can learn it all online.

So armed with just a reflector, three designers, a makeup artist and a model we went to a run down artist studio in Bermondsey. As the makeup artist was working we scoped out the building and found half a dozen spots where we could get enough light and there was interesting backdrops. There were eleven outfits to shoot and about two hours of light.

The first couple of outfits took far too long, the model was quite stiff and unsure and we weren’t really getting much I was happy with. It took the first hour and a few location changes for the first good images to start to appear and from then on it felt plain sailing. As the sun went down we even got some golden shots with the sun behind and reflected light illuminating the model.

I never quite got the hang of the flash though, but next time.

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Getting closer by admin

It’s a piece of advice you’ll hear over and over again, especially in Street Photography: “Get closer and you will get a far more intimate and interesting image.” In practice it can be terrifying to raise your camera when you are within arms length of someone and there will be absolutely no doubt that you are taking a picture of them. I have been experimenting with a cheap 18-55 plastic kit lens that I got with my Nikon D50. Holding the camera against my chest with the lens wide on 18 I can get really close to people and catch them completely unaware, especially when walking through a crowd.

But recently I’ve wanted to get closer and with my 50mm f1.8 and at eye level. I tested a Nikon D7000 before eventually deciding to buy, it’s much quicker than my D80 and also the shutter is quieter, so on a journey home one evening I was getting bolder and closer. On the tube there was a beautiful blonde girl with headphones standing 3ft away. In the shot she looked straight down the lens and it’s safely the best street portrait I’ve ever taken.

The best places to do this are where the rules of personal space have been suspended due to practicality, like a tube or bus. So far I’ve only had one real complaint, I really get inside people’s comfort zone and I was shooting in a tube station. A few people have asked me what the moral implications are of my street photography, what gives me the right to take pictures of people on the street? Usually I just say if they are out in public then there is no issue. I never cast anyone in a bad light so why would anyone object? So what would I say about getting this close? I don’t really know, the subjects have a much greater opportunity to say if they don’t want their picture used as I am just as trapped on the tube or bus as they are. I don’t go out of my way to spark up a conversation with them after I have taken the image, but they would simply have to say they wanted me to delete the image and I would. It’s only happened once and I deleted the image on the spot.

A couple of days later I found myself opposite a stylish black girl, again with headphones, on a bus in Brixton. This time as I raised my camera her eyes swept across me and settled top left, another perfect shot: full of attitude, style and personality.

This is the way forward. The buzz you get from getting this close, provoking a reaction and walking away with a shot that pops with the very best of humanity in it’s many forms. I’ve gone from taking pictures of buildings to taking pictures of people and wondering why on earth I bothered with buildings at all, to not being happy with wider images of people and wanting to get in so close that not only do I see them, but they see me.

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Victoria Line

Tate Modern (2)

Borough Market (1)

Angel (2)

Borough Market

Brick Lane

Northern Line (2)

Northern Line (1)

London Bridge (2)

My 2011 pictures by admin

This has been a pivotal year for my photography, it was the year I was published, had my first photography review, started to discover why I take the pictures I do and learnt a lot about how to move forward. The year started well with an image winning a slot in a Dorset Cereal calender. The picture of Jules at the Hot Rod Hayride had been taken the previous summer and started a trend in my photography for a very filmic look, usually at night and using bright, coloured lights to illuminate a scene.

Next an even earlier image of Brixton BMX park was included in the Time Out Cycle guide to London. The picture was a simple image of a BMX in mid flight with a couple of boys sitting in the background on their bikes looking at something out of frame. The image leads the viewer not to really look at what I was concentrating on when I took the image, the BMX in flight, but wonder what was going on out of the shot and create a completely different narrative to the picture.

My trip to America in the summer lead to me moving away from black and white and start taking all my images in colour, I was shooting street around San Fransisco and the sun, vibrancy and colour of the subjects, including Gay Pride, just lent itself to staying in colour.

In July I met Gina Glover of Photofusion for a photography review. I took along a pretty random set of images and she very quickly deciphered the different angles my photography was pulling in and helped me identify and compartmentalise the themes. One of the first things she commented on was that I should work in colour, a great confirmation of something I had already been thinking about. She also encouraged me to start writing about my images as it would help me work out where I was heading. It was then that I started my blog, since then I have been trying to articulate the things that motivate the images I take and it has been incredibly helpful.

It was around that time that Google+ launched. Merging functionality from Facebook and Twitter it was an immediate success for photographers and has been a constant source of inspiration. I try to add images and update as much as possible and so far I am being followed by over 1000 photographers.

Throughout the whole year I have been taking images of Borough Market, solidifying the style of the images, experimenting with the light at different times of the day and really attempting to pull together a coherent body of work. About two thirds of the way through the year I had half a dozen images and decided to try and get some images of the market accepted into the Photofusion Annual Members Photographic Show. The process of entering, collecting together the images, writing the submission and presenting it to the gallery taught me a great deal; despite the fact that I didn’t make the cut. However the process has made me focus on the kinds of images I want from Borough and I have gone on to make some of the best pictures of the market that I now have in my portfolio, so it was very useful indeed.

The year has brought me to some conclusions. I love shooting at night and working with the colourful lights and signs of London streets and I adore shooting in the rain, the harder the better!

The year has ended well with news that two of my images have been accepted into an urban sculpture project called Vertical Gallery in Shoreditch. They called for entries taken on a camera phone and in black and white. I took a number of pictures around the area on two visits and I’m looking forward to seeing my work displayed in 2012.

I like to remain anonymous and step back, my best pictures look like stills from films and are stark and contrasty with lots of black; I love the shadows. And I can see in my mind the direction for my images, I want to create dark narratives but not of cold and empty spaces but with people and glimpsing something that is usually unspoken...

Finally thank you to everyone who has looked at, commented on and guided me this year, it’s been tremendously encouraging to hear about the images you like and the ones you don’t. I couldn’t have moved forward with my photography without the help of people like Dave Hodgkinson, Gina Glover, Tom Gifford, Lucy Bainbridge, Liz Somerville, Anna Hales and many more. Onwards to 2012!

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On the way to San Fran on Amtrak

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Seaside by admin

When I was a child my parents had a caravan in Norfolk, on the East coast of England. I spent up to 6 weeks a year, every year, playing on beaches in rock pools with seaweed, crabs and cold wet sand. We used to spend a lot of time at the beach, on the cliffs and around the concrete ramps and sea barriers that you can find in every single coastal town in the UK.

I stopped going when I was a teenager and have rarely been back to those kinds of places in adult life but having just spent a weekend in Margate and Broadstairs, so many memories came flooding back. The textures, smells and visuals that I had rarely thought about since visiting them last evoked that feeling you get when something from childhood that you had forgotten about surprises you; so I set about shooting.

Lots of photographers like Martin Parr have shot at the seaside and commented on the uniquely British sense of holiday but these shots are more about my memories and I don’t think they talk about that old fashioned run down feel that so many other photogs do when they cover the subject. I tried to shoot things that were not about where I was, but what I remembered. Some of them are classic seaside shots, but some are much more personal, especially when it comes to the preformed concrete that I spend so much time playing around. It seems so cold and alien to somewhere so soft as a beach but indicates quite how powerful the sea can be.

So I hope I’ve captured the beauty of the British seaside, it’s what I remember from my childhood.

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Borough Market by admin

Borough Market is well known as being a busy market in the London Bridge area of the capital. Most tourists see it rammed full of people and in full flow selling a variety of produce, ranging from everyday veg to fine pastries as well as lots of delicious food on the go; half real market - half tourist destination. I see it a little bit differently. At 9 am in the morning it’s either empty, if there is no market that day, or busily being set up by the vendors. Vans are parked in areas that will be full of people only an hour or so later, commuters are passing through on their way to work and locals with their dogs are drinking coffee.

It’s at this time that you can pick out individuals, see the workers in action, feel the build up; but it’s also very quiet, most people walking through are wearing headphones. Away from the main road it feels like an oasis.

The market it situated next to Southwark Cathedral in a very old, and relatively unspoilt part of the Southbank, which is also home to The Golden Hinde, The Clink prison, The Globe Theatre and Tate Modern: the mix of people makes for great photos. It might be one of London’s most photographed tourist spots but most of those pictures only tell one small part of the story. I plan to create a more rounded view of of the market, visiting it at varying times, specifically the end of the day and also at different times of the year.

Geometry, shadows and negative space by admin

Last Sunday I helped paint Lucy’s flat, she has an apartment above her artist space and studio and it’s pretty big. Her living space was originally going to be an office, so it’s painted white. When we had finished it looked like a beautiful sea of white like a fresh fall of snow. So I got my camera out. The bannister's looked great, as did the white brickwork and curtain hoops all in white and when I took the contrast down even further they start to look like ghostly images.

Afterwards I was thinking about why I had taken the pictures, it’s not the first time I’ve taken images like this. In fact with an early Kodak digital camera, living in Bristol, it was the first artistic set of photographs I ever took. My bedroom had unusual ceiling plasterwork which created really interesting shapes and shadows. At the time I was going to use them to paint some pictures, but I never did. Since then I’ve shot pictures of the stainless steel ski slope roof at Vauxhall Station, motion blurred images of train tracks and quite obviously there is a whole theme of geometry, shadows and negative space going on in the images I like. Even my pictures of Spaceships are as much about the negative space they create as the buildings themselves.

I suppose my career as a Graphic Designer has a great deal to do with this, as a designer these kind of images are easy to work with if you are laying out copy or designing posters but there is something very comforting about choosing and shooting a geometric theme. The way you can get the same geometric proportions from vastly different scales and find the same pleasing space and negative space from totally random subjects is, I think, why I seem to come back to it again and again. I think it’s like slipping back into a comfort zone while I experiment and learn about new things.

Goodbye Black and White by admin

“Give me something to do”

Just over a year and a half ago I needed a project and spoke to my photography tutor Dave Hodgkinson http://www.davehodgkinson.com/blog/. He tasked me to study Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, Garry Winogrand and other famous and influential Street Photographers.

Since then my focus in Photography has been Street because as soon as I got out there is becomes very obvious quite how difficult it is and how many mental obstacles you need to overcome to get truly amazing Street shots.

As you may or may not know, Street is traditionally shot in Black and White and I duly went about converting my images, and that is the point of this post.

I’m saying goodbye to Black and White.

It’s not because I don’t like Black and White images, it’s not because I think i still have a long way to go before I can create truly great Black and White conversions, even though I do. It’s because I feel more comfortable in colour. It feels more natural to me and after looking at images by nick Turpin and Martin Parr I just feel that moving to colour will give me more reach. At the moment I can’t imagine exhibiting Black and White images. The pictures I’m making are composed in colour and in so many cases an element on their modernity and reality seems to be stripped out when I remove the colour.

This has been whirring around my head for sometime but only really settled whilst I was in California recently staying on my brothers farm. He wanted images he could use on postcards for the people who buy organic produce from him. Obviously these were in colour and there wasn’t even a conversation about whether the pictures should be in colour, the beautiful Lavender, Cherry trees and Sunsets of the farm can’t be represented in Black and White.

However, when I went into San Francisco and shot some Street, I didn’t turn them into Black and White and suddenly felt they spoke to me through the colour. The looked modern, they looked more real and, maybe because I have become more proficient at processing my images in Lightroom, they looked more professional.

So when I recently had my photography portfolio review with Gina Glover it was great to hear that one of the first things she told me was that I was a colour photographer and she thought I should stop shooting in Black and White.

So this is a collection of the Black and White Street shots. Looking back I now realise how far I’ve come but I feel I need to continue this journey in colour. I’m sure it will change what I shoot, I think it already has and I hope it’s going to extend, enhance and expand the images I make.

Canada Water by admin

On Sunday evening I visited Canada Water to grab some images during the golden hour. I would never describe myself as a wildlife photographer, the wildest thing I usually shoot are ferrel kids in Brixton.

Situated near Rotherhithe, Canada Water is a fresh water lake with a small canal leading to Surrey Water. It’s all that’s left of Surrey Water docks and is now surrounded by flats.

I’m interested in London wildlife and how it co-exists with us in such a large city. With so much park land it seems odd that anything would choose such a scrappy bit of water. Admittedly there weren’t a great deal of birds there but the ones that were had nested in unbelievably close proximity to human life. I could have reached from the edge and taken a Coots chick quite easily.

The image I am most happy with is the Pigeon, with the city background and the pigeon looking straight at me. Unlike most London Pigeons this one looks relatively healthy and provides a nice juxtaposition with the old 60’s tower block on the left and the new development being build on the waterside to the right.

Photography Portfolio Review by admin

Start a sentence with ‘I remember...’ see where that takes you. I recently went to show Gina Glover ( www.ginaglover.com & www.artinhospitals.co.uk ) my photographs from the past 3 years at Photofusion (http://www.photofusion.org/) in Brixton.I’ve been shooting seriously now for long enough to know that I need some direction. I’ve never really thought about what I have been photographing, only whether each image, on it’s own merits, pleased me visually and I thought was technically good enough to go into the portfolio. The subject matter, or rather, the motivation behind why I stopped and took that shot was always second. Or not at all.

Gina started by separating my images into three sets, 1. a couple of images she didn’t really care for, 2.  my big landscapes and 3. my curiosity shots which are a mixture of street and ad hoc shots that visually appeal to me.

The first thing she said, and something I had come realise over the past few months was that I am a colour photographer, she recommended I stop working in Black and White, which was a great confirmation to something I had already had an inkling of. I have even gone back and switched a couple of pictures back into colour.

‘This is you!’ pointing to the pile of curiosity shots, ‘This are the interesting ones, the pictures that give a view into your visual eye’.

She went on to say I need to write more about my work, because by writing I will discover why I like taking the images I do and be able to progress my style. It makes complete sense, I’ve always shied away from writing, even though I don’t think I’m at all bad at it, I just never have had much to say, thinking that my work should speak for itself. But clearly the writing Gina wants me to do it not for you, it’s for me and that appeals far more as it’s delving into the Id.

This suddenly is a fascinating idea, going back to early memories and thinking about what types of images I liked as a child and as a teenager and then into my career as a Graphic Designer. Visual imagery has always been important but I don’t think I’ve ever actually stopped to think why do I like what I like.

So Gina recommended writing down memories, ‘Start with “I remember...” and see where that takes you’

So here we go, of my first ever memories I remember being 3 years old and cradled out to the green Vauxhall Viva estate at 4am just as it was getting light for a long car journey to Scotland. During that holiday the images I can still visualise are a dark old gypsy caravan we were staying in with ornate fittings and lacy curtains. It was there I decided to throw away my dummies and watched the men take them away in a large grey dustbin lorry. Also I have images of being on the beach and having a tantrum over not wanting to go on a donkey (still legendary in my family).

Was this embryonic in my visual style? I don’t know but it’s these types of memories I shall be investigating to see where my motivation is and I’m very much looking forward to it.

Spaceships 3 by admin

In the first scene of Star Wars, we see a small spaceship pursued by a much larger monolithic star cruiser which keeps coming and coming and coming. When I look up at the enormous buildings in London today and flip the image upside down, they remind me of these star cruisers...

Train Tracks by admin

On a trip to Mottingham I took these out of curiosity and I'm really pleased with them. The Graphic Designer in me loves the colour and stark lines.

Vauxhall Station by admin

Vauxhall Station has probably been shot thousands of times, a beautiful, iconic structure that is part American diner and part fifties sci-fi dream. I have been experimenting with tonal contrast in a couple of my street shots and thought it would work well with this. The result is far better than I hoped, when you apply the tonal contrast you can see the grit, grime and pores in the steel.

No Cuts March by admin

I ran into the No Cuts March completely by accident. Spent some time walking up and down Oxford St shooting the protesters, general public and the Police in riot gear who were there to protect the shops, Top Shop in particular.

Portfolio for 2011 by admin

As a Graphic Designer I was taught traditional photography at college but as a student it was a means to an end rather than the art form I consider it now. I could take pictures, develop film and print; but a lot of it was guesswork and luck.

I suppose, without realising, I was waiting for was Digital Photography. The first digital camera I used was an Apple Quicktake 100 in 1996, but only being able to take 8 shots at 640x480 it wasn’t exactly practical. It was a few more years before I had my first Kodak point & shoot, however, in 2005 when I bought my Nikon DSLR (the D50) my attitude toward photography changed. At this point that I realised I didn’t know very much about photography at all; leaving the dial on Auto all the way up until leaving it on a plane a couple of years later.

After suffering major withdrawals from photography  I decided to go back to school and enrolled on a short basic photography course led by Dave Hodgkinson. Six weeks with a borrowed Nikon plus 50mm prime lens seduced me under the skin of photography forever.

It was in San Fransisco with a Canon G10 that I took my first portfolio shot: The Bay Bridge and ferry terminal at dawn.

I now pack a Nikon D80 which nourishes my passion for photography; a passion that consumes my every waking moment. The shots that I’ve missed over the past couple of years because I either didn’t have a camera or it wasn’t in my hand at the right time, are burnt into my memory.

This body of work is a selection from the past three years, which reflects my recent move into Street Photography. As the work changes and progresses, more and more black and white street shots creep into my portfolio. Let me know what you think.