October 2013

Australian Boys

Australian Boys.

I was looking at The Contemporary Australian Family Photographic Project presented by the Fier Institute (on Vimeo) when I was struck by an image of an Australian family with brothers. In fact I had  a twinge that told me I knew these boys and that in fact I had photographed them before.

The black and white photograph was by Kevin Cooper  and had brothers just a little older than brothers I had photographed. The boys in my photo would be men now and Cooper’s still boys, as he took his photograph within the last two years. I could see they weren’t the same boys…

But those T-shirts.

Yes, t-shirts. The sleeveless stripy t-shirt made me think of those boys and imagine for a second that another photographer had photographed them too. I had to dig out the photograph, I wanted them to be the same boys, I wanted some one to tell me how they are doing. I wanted someone else to know them too. Of course I knew they weren’t the same boys, they didn’t look the same, the family make up was different and of course Cooper had only recently photographed this family.

I don’t believe that photography steals your soul but I do believe photographs have power. I remember when I met the two boys and spent the day with the family. I remember what we did, what I felt, where we were. I would never in a million years have remembered what they wore. I don’t remember what I wore. And yet a photograph with a stripy sleeveless shirt instantly, takes me to these children as if I had taken the photograph yesterday. My memory of the photograph is strong and I am glad that I have photography to remind me of the details I have forgotten. This shirt triggered the memories that I have. Remembering the photograph didn’t delete or override the memories I made on that day it just became a convenient switch to bring them to the fore.  I love that about photography. I wonder where these boys are today. I hope they are strong men, healthy and happy in their lives.

Note before viewing the images.

I photographed the boys with permission and even though the boys would still be young men I am including the following statement, out of an abundance of caution as I do not know their current whereabouts, to respect the customs of the boys and their family, should the worst have happened.

The following photographs may contain the names or images of people who are now deceased. (Some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities may be distressed by seeing the name, or image of a community member who has passed away.)

Photograph by Kevin Cooper  https://vimeo.com/38479744 the photograph I am discussing is at the 5.00 mark



Photograph by Tanya Ahmed of Chungari aged 5 and Jabarula aged 9




ˈfōtō ˈfôrtˌnīt frīdē


This building, 100 11th Avenue by Jean Nouvel, is an amazing jumble of frames when viewed from street level. Even though I took the photo and know the building I still can’t work out what is going on with all these angles.


London From Punk to Blair

London From Punk to Blair.

In this book London is black and white. My London is black and white, a bit chilly and a bit rough. But then my London isn’t now, it’s back in the 1980s. Sure, I’ve visited London recently but I don’t remember when any of those new buildings went up.

Reading this book coincided with a trip to the brutalist South Bank. I’ve had many adventures there including an exhibition and appendicitis. They’ve splashed a bit of colour on parts of it but it is still a great blank, concrete platform to launch from. It needs people to add their activity to make the place come alive and there was plenty of activity when I was there recently.

The Long Live South Bank campaign was in full swing. The aim, to keep the underbelly filled with skateboarders rather than yet another shop/restaurant catering to the pursuit of capitalism. I’m not sinking into nostalgia here. I’ve never been a skateboarder, in fact the much vaunted graffiti wasn’t always there, but who is the South Bank for? Just adults shopping or kids too? Sitting with small children in the Sandy Village, we watched the skateboarders, participated in the performance art, hit the book stand, strolled on the beach, went to two exhibitions, had lunch (from 4 different countries) from the market stalls. We interacted and spectated. There were all manner of people. Young, old, local, tourist, rich, poor. All doing.

I come back to London and see the Palace. Who cares? My companions, visiting as first time tourists, seeing the ‘sights’. I get to the bookshops I haunted on Charing Cross Road. Foyles boring now, just like -insert name of chain here- it used to be fun rummaging in the old fashioned shop. Al- Hoda gone, I can’t complain, I left, London moved on.

But reading this book, brought my London back to me, talking about Hackney and Camden, the South Bank, Brixton. I dipped in and out of these neighbourhoods, working part time, full time, studying, staying with friends, going up at the weekend, getting a flat.

I knew about street photography and studio photography back then. I went on political marches. We tried to free Nelson Mandela from Hyde Park. It seemed like a serious place.

Maybe it is all about the weather though. Not nostalgia or gentrification. I see London with typically English weather and old brick. I live in sunshine surrounded by gleaming skyscrapers.

I cannot see London in shiny and colour even though I have seen the Shard, the gherkin, the new bridges, the London Eye. Is it because the sky is so often full of heavy clouds, that greyness suits the place? Is it in my mind, am I just sunk in nostalgia or does the new London popping up feel a bit odd? Like an add-on, not an update or an expansion, like a transplant from somewhere else?

I went through Docklands, it was sunny, it was like a little New York, without the rough edges, I liked the view, but it didn’t feel like the real London to me. I’ve started to realize that the 70s and 80s weren’t just a few years ago, they were decades ago and yet, London, away from the new bits, looks the same to me.

I have forgotten to talk about the book. Best to read it yourself. It talks about the culture, the architecture, the weather, the people. If you’ve lived in London during that time most of it will resonate with you. If you didn’t you’ll get a real feeling for the time and place, it’s a book of sensibilities rather than a history text book,it’ll make you think about how you think about London. This book scared me a little. It’s a good read, good food for thought.

Even though it’s not a photo book it is heavy with excellent photographs. The book made me think back to some street photography I did in Brixton. I don’t do street like this anymore and I thought how it would be interesting to look back at both my photography and the people and place of Brixton.

I know that some of you reading this blog also have Brixton (or London in the 80s) in your photo files, why not dig some out and post them here. Back then we couldn’t post them, we didn’t have internet and blogs, our images sat in boxes. Let your images see the light.

London From Punk to Blair                                                                                                          Edited by Joe Kerr and Andrew Gibson                                                                              Photographic consultant Mike Seaborne                                                                                        Reaktion Books, London, 2003






















Click on images to see them larger.

James Morris

October 13, 2013

James Morris, Time and Remains- Reflections on the Palestinian Landscape.                 Aberystwyth Arts Centre until November 2nd 2013

I’m not sure how I stumbled across this photographer’s work but I am glad I did. His website is a feast for the eyes, with a penchant for architecture and landscape that really exposes culture.

I will not be able to see the exhibition because it is in Wales, but I’ll bet that it looks much more magnificent on the wall than on the computer screen. But here I want to talk about how good it does look on the screen. I have noticed that most photographers and artists do not display whole collections on their websites and I understand why. After all, if everything is available at the click of a button who would trek out to the gallery, or spend money on a book or a print.

I used to think like that too, but then I realized that it was akin to hiding the work and that is not why I made it. I make my images it to share. When we consider this body of work presented by Morris it is available on his website with detailed captions for that very reason. It is a work that needs to be shared. Has to be shared. The detailed writings about the images are concise and unemotional but hugely impactful. I can only imagine what it must be like for someone unfamiliar with the history to encounter these images and words, the two must go together here for maximum effect.

So what is the work all about? There are two sections, That Still Remains and When This Time Comes. The former looks at remnants of the past, the other the contemporary situation. I don’t need to say more as the website has a great written introduction.

I implore you to take the time to wade through the words so that when you look at the photographs the  history will manifest itself within the visual experience. Stick with it to the end. I found it a very rewarding if somewhat upsetting experience. It was interesting because having the words changed some of the desolate images from a feeling of sadness and emptiness to rage, and that is a first for me with landscapes!

The link to the work in the exhibition is all on one page, just start at the top and scroll down. When you are finished take a look at the rest of the work on Morris’ website. Let me know what you think.



ˈfōtō ˈfôrtˌnīt frīdē

ˈfōtō ˈfôrtˌnīt frīdē

This week has been very busy and I wanted a photograph with a bit of breathing room.  A photograph that doesn’t shout at you, that isn’t complex or needy. A photograph to sink into.

This photograph is taken inside the Whitney Museum of American Art. It is a window to the outside world that allows a soft light in to illuminate art but no view out to distract the viewer of the art. I found it more beautiful than the art work with its subtle range of colours, softness and hint of buildings outside.