Afternoon round-up

Quite a good afternoon as it turned out.

We’re after a cupboard for the front room to put the children’s bits and bobs in and a phone and a nature table (whatever) on. We went to try the dump (sorry, recycling centre) in Bridport and, bingo, there it was.

Elliot, my eldest, fancied a bit of dressing up and looked very smart as a result:

Back home to get the wood burner ready. I have a ‘steel’ for causing a spark, some cotton wool (which goes up a treat) some kindling and some ‘King Alfred Cakes’ which are a type of fungus that’s great as a natural firelighter and you’ll always find some in the woods. So, I have all this but no wood to burn. Elliot and I went and found some the other day but soon realised that one large log wasn’t going to keep us warm for very long.

No problem. One call to Rob-the-log and a ton of logs was delivered to our door. In fact on our doorstep. Rob’s little lad came to the door and shouted for Elliot. Elliot seems to know everyone. How?

Here he is guarding the logs (a pirate by this time):

Anyway (this is fun to write – apologies to those of you who actually read it), got a good fire going and now we have an evening of cosiness, red wine, washing-up and arguments to look forward to.

I’ve just popped up the road (8.30pm) to look after our neighbour’s son whilst she put the geese away. Our neighbour actually phoned my wife to ask if I would be able to help and my wife (Rachel) told me there was a glass of port in it for me when I got there. I said I’d do it only if I didn’t have to go near the port.

Where we live now

Here’s a few photos from our wander round the village today. As ever, we end up visiting someone and having a cup of tea. Oh so idyllic, oh am I not a smug what-not for putting these pictures on here? Well, no, the truth is I haven’t got a fat lot of work so far this week and so here’s my diary of my day clomping around without gainful employment.

Rachel with a goat (caption not really necessary here):

Elliot and friends:

Harper:

Our house can just be seen behind the trees on the right (car outside front):

Rachel being led to the goat shed:

Harper and his new friend:

Must get some work soon.

Other stuff

Thought I’d try and remember any eventful things from the past few days.

Err…?

Oh yes, went and did some printing in the darkroom again. I’m trying to go once a week with the aim of chipping away at the winning images that appear on the odd roll of film. Processing film, as I have mentioned here before, is exciting in terms of waiting to see if you got what you thought you’d got. It is also, however, a total hassle and printing only compounds it. I print on fibre paper which for those of you who might know is a laborious process in terms of washing the print. 

But, it is all worth it because if I’m spending my life documenting and learning about all I see, I have to take seriously the objects that represent my work – i.e. a well-made print.

Anyway, la-de-blah. There was also a close-encounters moment the other night when a corn harvester (an evil monster version of a combine harvester) had taken a shortcut through our village. It stopped right outside our front room and when we opened the window, it was so large and with all its many headlights blazing, so bright that we honestly for a split second were worried. The driver couldn’t get past our car as the road is narrow and I went and moved the car. On walking back to the house I thought about a photograph and only had a bloody TELEPHONE on me:

It didn’t matter. He had decided to reverse all the way back out of the village anyway.

I’m also in the process of plastering my workroom with photographs both my work-in-progress and influential things I find. A semi-plastered corner:

and a bit near a shelf with suff on it (one photo so far):

My eldest son and I have built a trailer for his go-kart from a shopping trolley and a box:

Photography notes 4 – Authenticity in portaits

If someone is preoccupied at the time of being photographed, either physically or mentally, they are photographed as ‘alive’, as authentically living.

To pose or to be aware of the camera – to the point where it makes you aware of yourself and hops your mind onto the circular track of “what do I look like?” – is to be dead when alive.

Photography’s major disadvantage is its ability to faithfully record inauthenticity.

If someone is photographed with their gaze directed away from the lens axis, there is a good chance that an authentic portrait will result. It’s not guaranteed however.

For a portrait to be made with the sitter gazing straight down the lens, staring at their fate – to be trapped in silver – will almost never result in an authentic representation of that person as they are or were in their time here. The only time an authentic portrait can result from staring at the lens is when the photographer is skilled enough and sensitive enough to strike while the sitter’s mind is genuinely elsewhere.

This is a great example of this last point from 1960 by French photographer Jean-Louis Swiners:

 

It’s a tricky and delicate job and the result is always emotionally gripping.

Personal Work

Just had an email from a friend discussing the hassle involved in generating projects for yourself when you already work as a photographer. 

I thought I’d stick my reply to him here as it helped me to clarify things for myself as I wrote it:

“Personal work is hard to start. If you’re anything like me, the main problem is that the tool you use for work is the very same tool you intend to use for self-expression. It’s a job to tell them apart. I’d start by putting your camera down and making a list, no matter how small, of things that truly fascinate and intrigue you. Don’t think about it in relation to photographs only in terms of what you respond to about the subject. Anything, as long as it genuinely fires your enthusiasm. Having small kids and being knackered could mean that nothing fires your enthusiasm at the moment which is fine – it answers your question about only having vague ideas.
When you have a list, ask yourself which subjects are ‘visual’: existential philosophy would be a tough one to photograph. Then, which subjects do you have regular access to. A project on the Golden Gate Bridge would be quite tricky to photograph regularly over time.
Finally, decide on a subject, research it and photograph it. Write out a list of say 20 shots that might tell the story and tick them off the list as you do them. Then it’s done. Move onto the next one. The job of a documentary photographer is to photograph the world. Easy really.
All of this to be undertaken with not a thought to how much it will cost or what it will do for your career. It’s not your career”.
Most of these ideas are paraphrasing the photographer David Hurn – look him up. He’s an outstanding photographer.

Energy

Had a not very interesting day. But is that true? I think it has a lot to do with whether you’re tired or not. Our little one keeps us awake at night (Yawn – people not interested in children) and today I was grumpy virtually ALL day.

My eldest dressed as Elena the fairy first thing, some minor re-touching on the TV stills photos was needed, editing my Dan Leno shoot and speaking to someone in Bridport about an exhibition – meeting on Friday – this was my morning.

Quick argument with my wife, some lunch and then down to the fields with the boys for a hoof around.

Bad mood the whole time. Here are my boys benefitting from having their Dad around today:

Got back and there was a phone call from the Times Educational Supplement asking how long it would take me to get to Southampton. Wasn’t quick enough. Grumpy.

Finally, cooked some sausages for tea and had a cup of tea and the world was back to normal.

We need some SLEEEEP!

PS: These photographs were taken using a TELEPHONE. Extraordinary.

Favourites

These are my two favourite photographs from 2007:

and

They’re both of children and are both about different aspects of what it is to be a child. I conclude from this that that was my main concern during 2007.

2008 is yet to close and I’m looking forward to arriving at a favourite or two.

Also, while I’m on black & white photography in general, I would urge anyone who hasn’t put film in a camera for a long time to do so immediately. The thrill you’ll get taking the film off the reels is inversely proportional to the thrill you get downloading a card. Please, try it.

Dan Leno

I’ve just finished a job in south Devon photographing Tony Lidington who’s written a play about the life of the music hall star of his time Dan Leno:

Dan Leno 11.eps

One shot as Dan Leno in oversized tailcoat and dusty top hat looking mildly drunk and the other as a (I’m a) ‘lady’ with a wig. The photographs are for a poster that’s being designed in a music hall style. I’ll post some images when I have them. Oop, here’s one now:

dan-leno-0261

My eldest son gets on really well with their son of about the same age and our tiddler (1 and a bit) got on well with their little girl. It was nice chatting to people who have also decided to devote their lives to creative endeavours. I sometimes feel I ought to try and get a proper job but let’s face it, I’m 38 now and it seems unlikely. Remembering something Ricky Gervais said (or something like it), do what you want to do and then no matter what the outcome, you’ve done what you wanted to do.

Photography notes 3

For anyone who’s remotely interested, and there can’t be many, this is how I arrive at my exposures when I’m outdoors with the Leica in the daytime:

a) 400 ASA (ISO if you must) b&w negative film

b) Leave the lens set to f8

c) As the light changes, I move the shutter between ONLY THREE different settings: 250 = bright AND sunny, 125 = bright or ‘don’t know’, 60 = near a building/in shadow

d) This leaves focussing. Set lens to 10 ft and be done with it. Use rangefinder if there’s time of course but using ’10 ft’ means you’re able to keep your eye on the ball and actually get the shot you wanted.

Photography notes 2 – Portraits

A photographic portrait involves actively searching for and then instantly recognizing a SIGNIFICANT MOMENT.

The search is exciting.

Start with detached observation without the camera. Chat to the subject (or don’t) and generally get yourself and them ‘in tune’. Next have a think about light and shapes. Gut reactions count here. Use all the experience you have and also use your memory of other images or potential images.

Finally, LOOK. Get the camera to your eye and look for that significant moment like your life depends on it.