Back in March I did a test shoot with Sophie, it was a beautiful day filled with sunshine (and a few gales but hey, free wind machine). I’d seen Sophie work with a few other photographers and thought she had such a beautiful and unique look. I was thrilled when we could get a shoot arranged. It was a pretty short shoot but I was impressed by Sophie’s professionalism and how she threw herself into the shoot. It’s great to finally get these images up and I’m excited to work with Sophie again in the future.
Disclaimer: As I write this I’m currently recovering from a sprained hip (yep I didn’t know that was possible either but it hurts like a mother…) and have some heavy duty pain killers. If things start to become non sensical waffle, then that’s why. On the bright side I get to use my great grandad’s walking stick and it makes me feel like Yoda, so there’s that.
Back in November I made the decision to give up my desk at my co-working space and take some time away from commercial photography. It wasn’t a reflection on the space, which I would still recommend to anyone, but the plan was to take a month off, come back in January to hot desk with a view to taking on a desk again full time sometime in Feb or March.
It’s April now, any guesses on how that turned out?
Yeah, that didn’t quite pan out…
So, why the silence over the last few weeks?
I’ve been taking some time away from social media and commercial commissions, focusing on my health and assisting other photographers. It’s only now I’m coming out of this season of rest that I’m realising how much I needed it. Been fighting burn out for a while now and it finally got to a point where I needed to stop, take stock and figure out what I actually wanted. I went down the path of commercial photography because it’s what I’d been doing during uni and I felt like it was what I should be doing. However, there’s a big difference about doing something because you should, not because you actually want too.
Truth is, I don’t mind doing commissions but I miss working on my own projects and it’s something I’ve neglected over the last couple of years to prioritise earning through photography.
So I’ve made the decision to step away from working full time on commercial projects. That’s not to say I won’t take on commercial commissions and that I hated doing it, far from it. I worked with some brilliant teams and wonderful clients and if the right projects come along then hell yeah, count me it. It just means I’m going to be a lot more selective and focus more on the research/art side of the practice and assisting other photographers. I had an instinct going in that long term working purely commercially wouldn’t suite me but it was important to dive head first and give it a go, at least then it’s a decision based on experience, not fear.
As scary as this pivot is, I’m pretty excited. Feel like I’ve rediscovered the thing that makes me want to be a photographer. Back in my first post I hinted at how lost I was feeling within my work, for the first time in my recent career I don’t feel lost and have a renewed sense of purpose with my practice. I’ve got a plan for something currently under wraps; whether or not it pans out I’ll let you know in soon once the wheels are turning.
With that in mind, I’m working on a side project called Spectral Shores, a new blog dedicated to writing about photography. Spectral Shores is a place where I’ll be working on longer form essays, exhibition reviews and documenting my research and work about coastal erosion on the North Norfolk coastline. I’m launching it in early May and it’ll be a borderline academic space, so if you’re interested in that then feel free to check it out, I’ve started an instagram account for it where you can stay tuned for updates and work on this project.
As for this blog, it’ll still continue in a similar vein, photo journals, life behind the lens etc; I’ve got a mountain of 35mm to scan and a couple of shoots from the last month I’m excited to share.
As wonderful as this season of rest has been, it’s exciting to be coming to the end of it.
(Well, hip sprain aside)
Funny story, I was heading to London today but thanks to the snow and ice that’s now not happening. Slight annoyance aside, I really can’t complain too much when the landscape is this beautiful.
Bracing the cold I went for a walk in the freezing fog this morning, there’s a peacefulness that happens in the snow and ice that is profoundly calming. Cold air in my lungs, camera in hand with frost crunching underfoot I strolled around familiar surroundings painted unfamiliar by a coat of ice and hanging fog rendering the space around me ambiguous and mysterious. It never fails to astound me how landscapes and places you know can become new, unknown spaces with the addition of certain kinds of weather.
Since my walk I’ve been sheltering from the cold and since January is nearly over, thought it would be fun to compile a list of things that I’ve been enjoying this month. By no means exhaustive, but it’s a few highlights in music and books I’ve been getting lost in.
On the turntable
We Appreciate Power - Grimes
7 Rings - Arianna Grande
Play Destroy - Poppy ft Grimes
These tracks in particular have been on heavy rotation, don’t quite know how but on We Appreciate Power and Play Destroy Grimes has managed to take a nu-metal sound and make it fresh. It takes on an extra weird factor in Play Destroy with Poppy’s ultra feminine vocals floating over the top of what sounds like an industrial slaughter house (and to be honest they both feel like they’re musical representations of what’s going on inside my head most of the time).
7 Rings has quickly become my latest obsession (had it on repeat for ages when it dropped) and is just another chance for Arianna to hammer home the point she is an unapologetic boss and it’s her world, we’re just living in it.
Ex:Re - Ex:Re
Ex:Re is the solo project of the lead singer of Daughter Elena Tonra. To be honest, I’ve always struggled to really get into Daughter, some of their songs are stunning, raw masterpieces like ‘Landfill’ and other are a bit meh. Wasn’t sure what to expect with this album but it actually blew me away. It had a bite to it and encompasses the raw emotions of love, loss and getting over a relationship and really resonated with me. Elena Tonra is a perceptive songwriter and musician and it took some of what is great about Daughter and elevated it in this haunting album.
Dreamrider - Lazerhawk
Came across Lazerhawk while browsing some synth wave playlists and quite enjoyed his stuff. Dreamrider has been my companion on long drivers from jobs and it’s proved infinitely listenable. It’s just good synth and it strikes the balance of music that you can both work too and get lost in.
Creature EP - YONAKA
This gem of an EP is a great introduction to YONAKA and their sound, which is quite hard to sum up in one word. They’ve got a great mix of rock, pop, hip hop and metal with some catchy riffs and brilliant lyrics. Came across them via Chloe Sheppard’s instagram feed and excited to see how they develop because Creature knocked my socks off.
On the bookshelf
Just Eat It - Laura Thomas PhD
Laura Thomas PhD is someone you should get on your radar if you want to get your shit together around food and say farewell to diet culture bull once and for all. I’ve been a fan of her podcast ‘Don’t Salt My Game’ for a while and was so excited to see she was writing a book (seriously I pre-ordered this last July…) Thomas is a nutritionist with a focus on intuitive eating and has condensed all her knowledge into this brilliant book. It goes into the nitty gritty of why diet culture sucks and how it works alongside guiding you in intuitive eating and gentle nutrition. As most women, my relationship with food and my body hasn’t exactly always been a walk in the park but I would recommend both this book and her podcast to anyone looking to develop a more body neutral or body positive attitude. Plus seriously that cover is cute AF.
The Truth About Fat - Anthony Warner
Really enjoyed Warner’s first book ‘The Angry Chef’ and this one is just a well research, readable and fascinating. In this book he explores the contentious concept of fat. Like Thomas’ book, this is backed up by looking into the research studies around the topic of obesity and how the correlation between weight and health isn’t as simple as it seems and the model of calorie restriction doesn’t actually work as well as you’d think. It dives deep and explores things like the socio-economic issues around weight and all with a few hilarious quips and anecdotes thrown in.
Wabi Sabi - Beth Kempton
Kempton is a Japanologist and explores the roots of the philosophy of wabi—sabi, beyond the western idea that it’s an appreciation of wonky pots. This book was very interesting and I learnt a lot about the concept; it covers how this principle is part philosophy, part aesthetic and intrinsic to Japanese culture, so much so that’s it’s quite hard to truly describe and something that is instinctual. Taking you on a journey from Tea Ceremonies to Forest Bathing framed via Kempton’s experience of learning Japanese by immersing herself in the culture and living. I will admit I found the more self help-ish elements of how to incorporate wabi-sabi into your life less interesting than the historical and conceptual aspects but that’s just personal preference. Plus, it’s a gorgeous book.
Capitalist Realism - Mark Fisher
This probably won’t be everyone’s cup of tea (unless theory is your thing) but in this short volume is both insightful and a rally cry to look for a future beyond our current Neo-liberal capitalist society. I picked it up after going to the Mark Fisher Memorial lecture by Jodi Dean at Goldsmiths and am looking forward to getting into ‘Ghosts of my Life’ as Fisher is a brilliant writer weaving politics, film, music and television into accessible cultural theory. Drawing on the likes of Zizek *sniff* and Jameson, Fisher interrogates capitalism and the prevailing notion that there is no alternative to what we currently have, exploring why inevitable future has become the accepted truth and the relationship between capitalism and mental health.
[UNIT] Phase II @ Norwich Arts Centre
Thus 24th Jan
Note to self, when a pal asks you to photograph an audio visual performance he’s part of, check that it’s not going to be in a pitch black room #photographerproblems.
Photography difficulties aside, this event was brilliant, an amazing fusion of improvised sound and visuals. Unit is a collective working on immersive audio and visual installations, having seen them at St Mary’s Works in 2016, their Arts Centre residency was something I was looking forward too, plus this time my friend Henry Driver was one of the artists involved. It’s a hard thing to describe, but it certainly was immersive and for a few minutes it felt like the sound was not only pulsing through you but also about to rip you apart (in a good way).
For more info on [UNIT] and to see their upcoming performances check out http://unitunit.org/
You know what the best thing about having creative, talented pals working in other mediums?
You get to see the awesome things they create.
Marquess is a project by Elizabeth Elliott, focusing on making fine handmade garments with a nod to historical styles and techniques. The collection she created for her MA collection was breathtaking in it’s simplicity and beauty. We’d been wanting to shoot it for a while and finally the stars aligned in December and we got the chance to finally document these garments.
This shoot was a dream, possibly one of my favourite fashion shoots ever and we had an awesome team to help bring this to life. Hannah was a great model, with the look and attitude to pull off being a modern day Goddess. She also deserves major credit for dealing with the cold so well despite wearing some pretty sheer outfits, she is a braver woman than I.
I have a confession to make. Up until recently I didn’t have much interest in film photography.
(Sacrilege I know)
I could appreciate it, but didn’t particularly engage with it to a great degree.
To say I’d never engaged with film photography wouldn’t be accurate, growing up in the 90s, film photography was part of my childhood, in the manner of me running off with my nana’s cameras and photographing people’s knees, (we have a lot of photos of blurry knees knocking around). However, it’s not a medium that I can say I had an especially deep affinity for. It was a nice nostalgia, but I never felt compelled to work extensively with it. When I was in college I had the opportunity to do some film photography and work in the darkroom, but I’d be lying if I said I had some profound connection to the process. Film felt fiddly and high maintenance and working in the darkroom triggered my asthma. This aversion to time consuming processes is also what put me off working with medium and large format cameras at uni. In comparison to my SLR, the studio’s Mamaiya was a temperamental diva and I just didn’t like working with it.
Patience has never been my strong point.
It still isn’t, which will be painfully obvious I’ve you ever see me waiting for a take out delivery.
Despite my aversion to working with film itself, I adore the aesthetic. Through hours in Photoshop, more VSCO filter packs than you can shake a stick at, I poured time into getting my digital images looking as filmic as possible. Which was fine for a while.
My draw towards film began slowly, and it grew from becoming a research nerd. I became fascinated by an album made by my grandfather; it was photos of his time on HMS Glory during WW2. This album formed the basis of my dissertation, working with it and diving into the research aspect of photography kindled a new appreciation for the photograph as an object. My journey into analogue started tentatively with instant photographs with my Spectra, later an Instax until I got to my masters and began experimenting with cameraless image making via cyanotypes.
The further I move into research, the slower and more intentional my process has become, with a desire to work with mediums and processes that demanded I slow down, think through my images and let go of some control over the final outcome. This is also part of the digital process, but due to the instant feedback you get it’s a quicker and easier to react and adapt.
I’d also credit this shift and desire to begin working with tangible materials with getting older and more interest in the nature of time. Digital is still great, but I find film challenging and therein lays some of the attraction.
Over the last year my film output has increased, working with an EOS 650 SLR and a collection of point and shoot cameras lent to me by my parents and inherited from my grandparents. Shockingly, despite my initial reservations about working with medium format I picked up a Lubitel TLR to play with and I’m currently saving for medium format SLR system…
Now that I find myself in a quieter period, with time to reflect on what I really want to do with my practice, I’ve had an itch to dig deeper into film and analogue processes. My first port of call was to try some new 35mm and 120 film stocks which I picked up on the website Analogue Wonderland. I came across Analogue Wonderland via Elliott Knott (who recently wrote about his return to film) and Neil Piper, two brilliant photographers and ambassadors for the brand.
Overall, I’d recommend them, between the range of stocks, quick service and my preference is to support independent businesses where possible (Amazon doesn’t need more money).
((I’m not affiliated with them in any way, just a happy customer.))
This online store has a brilliant selection of film stocks, including Cinestill. I’m excited to try this stock; I follow a lot of cinematographers and have a strong draw towards cinematography. I’d seen some of them using this stock in their photography work and it had a quality I was really resonated with me. I’m currently working my way through the 800T version with the 50 Daylight version waiting in the wings.
Film has got me excited about photography again and I’m looking forward to seeing where deeper the incorporation of analogue processes takes my work.
(Hopefully not back to photographing blurry knees)
On a final note, I’ve recently joined Ko-Fi! It’s the equivalent of an online tip jar and if you like what I do, any and all support would be appreciated. The money goes towards funding my work, and occasionally actual caffeine.
You can buy me a coffee here
Before Christmas I had the pleasure of working with Hannah Crystal on two shoots, one for a new designer brand and the other was a test shoot for a personal project I’m thinking about working on in the coming year. We shot at Nunnsyard Gallery in Norwich which is a brilliant space for not only shows, but shoots. This shoot was a lot of fun, both in terms of team and the process. I don’t use colour gels nearly enough.
This project has been lingering in my mind for a few months, but as of yet I’m not sure how it will progress as it is a departure from my usual style of photo and also my usual research paths.
The problem I’ve often found is that I have a range of interests, from the intersection of time, memory and place to the more abstract notions of the sublime, the uncanny and it’s sisters, the weird and the eerie. With a love for the scientific, natural history and folk horror, I’ve often had a hard time trying to define my practice as one thing.
Ultimately, I’ve come to the realisation that my practice is in part a reflection of my personality and interests, both of which are electric and that it can be a good vehicle to explore these wide ranging ideas in a way that can better focus my research. So, I’ve begun feeling out the foundations of another project inspired by another of my great loves: science fiction.
Science fiction has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember; growing up in a household where my family enjoyed shows such as Star Trek and listening to Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of War of the Worlds. It was during my MA I began exploring that influence on my work and my interest in making work via this lens as science fiction. It can be a great genre to explore current and contemporary concerns which allows for an analytical distance. For that project I collaborated with concept artist Holly McGergor and between us we created the world of ‘Schism’, an interdisciplinary research and practice project bridging the worlds of photography and games concept art.
Exploring ideas of divergent paths of human evolution and the tension between the progression of modern technology and a pull away from what could be considered natural; Schism was a fun project to work on and wetted my appetite to explore the use of science fiction themes, aesthetics and tropes within future projects.
Over the last year of working in a commercially focused practice, I’ve not paid much attention to my personal projects, which is something I want to redress this year. In terms of progress from this shoot, I’m not sure what direction this will go, but it’s been fun getting back into the habit of stretching the creative muscles.
Boxing Day my father and I went for a walk along the coast to Happisburgh. A space which fascinates me and terrifies in equal measure, where you can witness the sea reclaiming the land and leaving only traces of it’s existence. It was in this space that the reflection on this year I’ve been attempting to outrun finally caught up with me.
This year has been a mixed bag, it’s also passed in a strange way. Feeling still and stagnant up until May and then suddenly it’s December. I started 2018 with a clear idea of where I was going, what I wanted to achieve and who I wanted to be, now I’m standing at the precipice of 2019 and have no such clarity. But what I lack in clarity for my future plans I’ve made up for in a quiet confidence that has been absent for many years; more importantly, I feel confident in my work again which is a good place to develop from.
For most of this year I was attempting to contort my work (and myself) into a certain mould of what I thought a commercial photographer should be. I put all the things that truly interest me in a box and ignored them in favour of trying to create an Instagram worthy ‘creative’ lifestyle and business, which was devoid of one key thing; me. Ultimately, if that’s your bag then great, different horses for different courses, but it’s not me as much as I try to fit that mould. After a couple of disastrous portfolio reviews that shattered my confidence in my work, a silver lining came in the form of Folio Friday at the Photographer’s Gallery. I signed up on a whim, the night before I didn’t sleep and on the train down I had anxiety attacks before drifting off due to exhaustion.
There’s something profoundly scary about presenting your work for critique, but it’s a necessity because fresh perspectives are always valuable. It’s something you take for granted in art school. Turns out my fears were unfounded, this event was genuinely wonderful. It started with talks by Hanna-Katrina Jedrosz and Steve Macleod then we got the opportunity to talk with all the other photographers in attendance. Never underestimate the value of being able to form communities (even if they are temporary) with other creative practitioners; being able to share images, ideas and experiences with people who get it makes you feel less isolated . It was brilliant to see a diverse array of practices and having the opportunity to present my work to other photographers, gallery staff and the public. I walked away with some great feedback, more assured in my practice.
There’s one piece of feedback though that has hung in my mind since, it was perhaps the most difficult to respond to as it was a fairly probing question to do with who am I and which version of myself is being presented in the work. I still don’t have an answer, and I’m not sure I will any time soon but it’s a project in progress and who knows, this time next year I might.
In terms of my plans for 2019…well there aren’t really any. What I do know is that I want to take all the things that interest me out of the box and get back to making the work I’ve been avoiding for the last year because I miss doing weird things, like filling jars with oil and dead plants for the sake of photographs. The other vague idea is to start writing about these things again.
To blog or not to blog, that is the quandary. For a long time I’ve wanted to write, about photography, about life, and a few other disparate subjects, but I’ve always been a deep fear of actually doing it. Concerned that my words would not be perfect enough, that there isn’t enough of a connecting thread between my interests or that it’s not niche or commercial enough to be worth reading. I’ve made a few attempts in the past but every time I end up deleting it because it’s it doesn’t measure up to the impossible standards in my head.
So this time around I’m being brave and throwing my voice into the void, imperfect, unpolished and dedicated to all the weird things that pique my curiosity and drive my practice.