"Interface" - World Premier!

Very exciting news, the short Sci-Fi film that I have recently co-directed with Sarah King  is having it's world premier in New York Next Saturday night 16/02 at the Phillip K Dick film Festival.

Its showing at Cinema Village 3, 2nd ave, at 9:30pm. If you happen to be around, I will be in NY representing! Will do a fuller blog post on my return. But in the meantime here is a totally unrepresentative trailer for the film, of a deleted scene which was never supposed to be in it...

Please also visit the Facebook page for the film here

'Born to Be' at City Airport

I have been photographing Deutsche Bank's 'Born To Be' Youth engagement program for a couple of years now - see gallery here .

They are currently using some of my images from this work on 4 advertising board at City Airport. Highlighting 4 different community project that Deutsche Bank support and might not exist without them.

St Matthews Project is a community football club, based in Brockwell park, that helps kids from the Tulse hill and Brixton estates interact with their piers through sport.

Crown and Manor Boys club provides a safe haven for boys between ages 7 - 25 and encourages both sport and education activities, through the Sporteducate programme.

Design Ventura teaches creativity and enterprise skills to 13- 16 year old state school students, helping them turn their design ideas into products.

Playing Shakespeare with Deutsche Bank, helps over 100,000 London state school students see a free play at the Globe theatre, learn about shakespeare and meet national curriculum requirements, emphasising themes in the plays that are relevant to modern day life.

So if you are flying from London city airport check them out - they will be on show till Feb 2016.

Election 2015 - The Supporting Cast

I was lucky to be commissioned to follow two of the party leaders wives for a day during the UK election buildup. Justine Thornton - Ed Miliband, the Labour leaders wife and Miriam Gonzalez Durantez - Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leaders wife.

Both are successful and powerful lawyers and both had put their jobs, opinions and identity on hold for the election in order to support their husbands - smile and wave and get dissected by the media for the way they dress and look.

First up was Justine Thornton campaigning in Brighton and Battersea. The press had just dug up that, shock horror, her husband had had girlfriends before they met and that he had sex with them - personal life is public life during election time. She met the 3 local candidates and supported them. posed for photos, recounted 'safe' stories about Ed and family life and had to answer political policy questions that she never signed up for. All this while labour PR's were checking backgrounds, shielding her from questions and gently ushering her to safety.

Next was Miriam Gonzalez Durante who was campaigning in Cardiff. Again the Lib Dem Minders where out in force, mostly blocking and negotiating any scenario that might yield an off message photo.

The Election circus really is the best show in town, rolling into marginal constituencies across the country, setting up photocalls and meeting with the (selected) voting public and then once everyone feels warm and fuzzy disappearing for another 5 years -  a serial one night stand - the illusion of proximity to power and the individuals influence on it. 

Now, post election, of course all this has changed. Both the leaders have resigned and will return to lower profile political life, both wives will return to their jobs and all the momentary celebrity and interest in them will stop.

A dramatic end to a peak moment in their lives. Maybe I should go and photograph them again now...

Don't let facts get in the way of a good story

"Don't let the facts get in the way of a good story" this was a cautionary joke of my Dad's, who was a journalist for the Financial Times in Israel in the 70's and 80's. But it seems that in photojournalism, this is no longer funny.
Last week the World Press Photo award had to yet again make an embarrassing U turn over its Contemporary Issues award winner Giovanni Troilo's Charleroi story.

The photographer had staged photos depicting events that had happened in Charleroi, and the mayor of the Belgian city had complained that the city was being portrayed in a very negative light. The World Press upheld the award claiming that the "The contest requires photojournalists do not stage pictures to show something that would otherwise have not taken place." the last bit being important (though slightly straying into the realm of quantum physics). But then in a further twist several days later it emerged that one of the photos was staged in a different town and the photographer was stripped of his award.


It seems that the World Press, which had for years become trapped in the straightjacket of dated war and news self referencing imagery was trying to engage in new ways of telling stories. But had been caught out by 'editorialised' photography.
Photo manipulation and staging is part of contemporary photography, being both widespread in Landscape and Fashion in particular, but photojournalism, setting itself up as a sacred cow, believed that their photography is pure and free of manipulation, either before or after the photo had been taken.
Do we really still believe that an image is fact or is it more just a subjective narrative, and does it matter? 
It all boils down to trust and integrity. I'm often sent to create images that are idealised or a partial visualisations of what is before me, but they are often illustrations of a story that is being told, or a way of drawing attention to a subject. And I'm assuming that people seeing these photos read it this way. They are portraits - which are fundamentally a subjective views


However, photojournalist trade on being at least Witness to an event or its aftermath and often, crucially, they are the only ones - as journalists largely collate opinions and facts from secondary sources. A news or documentary photo story that drifts so far into fictionalisation and staging is really just little more than an opinion piece or blog. Leaving the news in the hands of Citizen photographers with their hunger for death, violence and celebrity. I would prefer my news feed to be more rich and complex than that.


By removing themselves as 'Witness' photojournalists might find that they have photoshopped themselves out of existence. Which would be a shame.

But equally maybe the long and unquestioned view of photography as 'fact' rather than 'comment' is now very dated. 

Woman in Parliament - Clare Short

Exhibition number two of the week (and shameless self promotion) is 'Women in Parliament', photography and paintings from the Parliamentary art Collection, showing at the House of Commons.

My portrait of Clare short (former MP) is in the show. It was part of my commission for the House of Commons permanent collection and has been hanging proudly on the wall in Portcullis house with the rest of the set of 7.

I wanted to shoot her in a Lobby area of parliament as that is where much of the informal work and agreements in parliament happen. This is at the top of the grand staircase leading to the committee rooms in the House of Commons.

She had been a minister in Tony Blair's government and had always been an outspoken MP, which often got her into trouble with the labour party.

She had opposed the first Gulf war and then while in the cabinet, had spoken out about the second Gulf war, eventually voting for it, but, it would seem, under duress. She resigned from the cabinet not long after and eventually left the labour party and resigned from parliament in 2010, throwing a political grenade over her shoulder and suggesting that a hung parliament and proportional representation was a good idea, in a final defiance of her own political party.

When I met her she was defiant and proud. Having been a woman in parliament that would never shy away from controversy, she was used to battling her male colleagues and the old school mentality of the house. Even though this persona was firmly fixed and on display, I was hoping to get beyond that, and maybe there is some hint of doubt and regret after a long parliamentary career.

She was very friendly and happy to humour my unprofessional questions and I was happy to work with her green jacket.

FA Cup in Blue

FA Cup in Blue

First of two exhibitions that I'm in which are opening this week, a blog on my website on the back of The British Life Photography Award exhibition.

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Cycling Emerging

Cycling Emerging

Cyclists, bikes and archetypes on the streets of London

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Everyday Superheros

I was recently asked to photograph at The Superheros Convention in London's Excel centre, a popular photographers safari, with many pop-up studios situated around the event itself. 

Everyone I approached was more than happy to pose for me and tell me in detail about their CosPlay (costume play) character and how they made their outfits. It's clearly an opportunity for people to step out of their everyday lives and become their fantasy, playing with gender and power and transforming into Superheroes of their own making.

Jimmy Mann, as apocalyptic superman

What struck me was the amount of work that went into making the outfits, with great improvisation - garden hoses, dustbin lids, body paint, and fantastic attention to detail. Beyond the costumes, the Cosplayers also made sure that they were posing as their characters would, so that they could fully disappear into the role.

There were many princesses from 'Frozen' but there was no princessy behaviour, only admiration and camaraderie that they were also into that character.

I photographed the visitors using the Excel conference centre as the background and allowing them to magically transform it from its brutally dull warehouse box into a fantastical world. I also chose couples as I found that there was an interesting dynamic in their relationships.

This last shot is of the queue of Cosplay finalist waiting to perform before the Judges and a large audience. Caught in a moment - off duty.

Cosplay finalist waiting to get on stage at the Superhero convention.

Halloween Blog - "I'll Murder You"

From a string of blogs about dead people, to "I'll Murder You", a Halloween special!

A short while ago I teamed up with the very talented Sarah King and Francesca Beard, to make a short film called "I'll Murder You".

We were making a 'poetry film' a special sub genre that I had never heard of before, for a competition that London's South Bank Centre were putting on as part of their 'Love Festival'.  

We had looked at the 'poetry film' genre and it was mostly populated by women walking barefoot through woods and fast flowing rivers with a recited poem over the top. Not really my idea of film and we didn't want to make anything that was a literal illustration of a poem either.

First up find a poet. Step in Francesca Beard with her selection of beautiful, and darkly twisted love poems.  Each one exploding, like fireworks, in your head and creating multiple bright visual trails for you to follow.

Second, find a story. Step in Sarah King, a fantastic writer who I had made another short film with "Glumtree", and can magically interweave subtle threads to make the richest metaphorical tapestry.

Marrying film with poetry was tricky and finding a path where neither dominate and both add to the sum was a challenge.

We settled on one of Francesca's shorter poems - 

I'll murder you and keep you in my bed.
Each night I'll find you colder, harder,
less responsive.
Then one day, you'll change,
growing softer, warmer, more yielding
until the moment when I take you in my arms
and you melt.

This had space and was intriguing, and yes we did go literal on it.... we've given it a bed and a naked torso, a playground in Brixton and let it live in a new medium, and tried not to suffocate it too much.

Thanks goes to our fantastic actors Rebeca Grant Pearson who was murderous and charming in equal measure, and Henry Profitt who brought new meaning to playing dead.

And also to our fantastic crew - Sara, Bev, Dominika, Rory, Lucas, Paul, Zen and everyone else that helped out on this project.

The film was chosen for the "Shot From The Heart" Poetry Film festival at the Southbank Centre and has since also been selected for and screened at "Still Moving" film festival in London.

John Peel - Ten years later

The 25th of October marks 10 years since John Peel's untimely death in Peru, in 2004. So I'm using this opportunity to remember the man and also delve into my archive.

I was lucky enough to be commissioned by The Guardian in April 2004 to do a portrait of him in his home in Suffolk. He had done many interviews and photo shoots before and was regularly featured in the Guardian, so this was potentially him just going through the motions.

I had always been a fan since my university days when he was the godfather of obscure band tribalism. So this could all have gone very wrong, but luckily he was charming and chatty and willing to answer my endless stream of questions. 

 

His home was also where he kept his amazing archive of record - stuff that was sent to him, Peel sessions from the BBC Radio 1, and many many rarities -  all housed, or should I say stuffed, into room after room of overfull shelves and then spilled out to two sheds and a garage in the garden. It was and is a colossal archive and was often used by record companies for rereleases as it had the only reference copy to many important early band recordings. I also remember that there was at least one volunteer / intern who was painstakingly cataloguing the collection, and basking in the great mans proximity.

On the day of my visit he was baby-sitting his grandson Archie who was not quite walking yet and had to be held at all time. I was soon to be a parent myself (Noah was born in Sept 2004) but was in the anxious and happy period leading upto the birth and of course oblivious to what comes after.

I did several shots in various sheds listening to various stories with Archie in shot too. But ultimately I asked if I could do just a solo shot of him in the record shed, and (probably in a gambit to get rid of me) he agreed. I got out my Hasselblad medium format camera and shot a roll of film of him. He had a fantastic T-shirt on, no doubt some obscure band, that echoed his persona with his 'babies' in the background.

This was a transition time for me between shooting on film and shooting digitally and I was keen to carry the self importance and slow mechanical-ness of a Hasselblad portrait with me into fast flowing river of digital photography. Also I was ignoring a major part of John Peel, he was a family man and had been at the time nearly as famous for his "Home truths" radio 4 show as the radio 1 show.

I also took a similar shot in the same shed with Archie and ultimately it would become my favourite shot from this shoot.

This was shot on my ancient Nikon D100 digital camera, a new digital age.

He nurtured his grandson as he nurtured the many bands that he took under his wing, hoping to help them grow. A photo with his two 'babies'.

Six months after this shoot he died of a heart attack, and I had shot one of the last portrait ever taken of him. The photo went on to be published many times and the solo shot was bought by the National Portrait Gallery for their collection.

I feel privileged to have spent a happy hour in his company.

 

Alex Salmond - Two doors

Alex Salmond impressive drive for Scottish independence is now over and he has decided to step down.

I was lucky enough to do a portraits of him for The House of Commons perminant collection a while back. I was hoping to shoot him at the house of commons but dues to his obviously busy schedule, we ended up doing the shoot at Duff house, in Banff, Aberdeenshire where his constituency is. 

He's was very charming and a bit of a joker too, though I'm sure this was his way of measuring people up. He came across as a bit Machiavellian, but he was also happy to play along with my requests.

All the shots in the House of Commons series here were shot in 'in-between' spaces in parliament - lobby areas where informal political agreement were done. But as we were shooting in a country house in Aberdeenshire this was a bit more tricky to achieve.

Luckily the place was decorated in blue tones, and had slightly odd double doors. I set him up with both an open door, but also a closed door behind him with one of my light beyond it to give a sense that something hidden was happening within.

The rest is just him and his little Scottish lapel flag.

Richard Attenborough

Sad to hear that Lord Richard Attenborough has died. I was lucky enough to photograph him in 2008 shortly before he injured himself and went into decline.

He was an excitable and very willing sitter even though he's was already 84, and certainly very much the old pro Thespian who loved the attention. It was a studio session at the Cheltenham Literary festival and he was meeting his fans.

I'm sure I got a 'darling' off him or maybe I'm embellishing. 

Boxing for Centrica

This is an internal promotion project for Centrica / British gas - a very large company! I worked with a design agency that had created a strategy to promote company benefits to its employees. They were producing a variety or marketing and promotion material to appear throughout the company and engage with its workforce.

So I had to travel all round the country and photograph people with boxes, but it was fun and I got to see inside such a big firm.


Tangle Teezer untangled

The Telegraph creative department recently sent me to shoot Shaun Pulfrey, the creator of Tangle Teezer, for an advertorial that was running in The Saturday Telegraph Magazine.

Shaun was famous for being mocked on "Dragons Den" TV show for his tangle free hair brush invention, that none of them would invest in - but then went on to make millions with his brush, that became a global phenomena.

I went to his offices, which are in a storage space and made this first shot on the left - technically tricky with all the reflection off the plastic boxes but quite a classic business portrait.

I wanted to make something a bit less office like but still a business portrait in approach - so no combing hair etc.. so I set up the second shot in a location that I arranged. Shot on the right.

They ended up using the office shot, but it could have gone either way and presented the art director with a nice dilemma.

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