Diving for pearls

I watched this video about August Sander’s photograph of “Three farmers on the way to a dance”. It was revealing, beyond the fact that none of them were actually farmers. I was pleased that it was possible to trace the three men and not only discover two were miners and the third worked in the mine’s office, but research also revealed what happened after the photograph was taken. Two survived the first world war, one did not. Another thing that was compelling about the short film was although John Green is at pains to talk about the facts of the …

Two Unknown Women with a Baby and Dog

Mudlarks and Oyster Shell Ghosts

Mudlarks were people, frequently children, who scavenged along the Thames foreshore in the olden days. It was a way of making money. It could be pretty dangerous, not least because the Thames was full of raw sewage, the guts of fish and animals discarded in food preparation, glass, metal shards from the industries that went by the shore. These days the Thames is much cleaner, though I wouldn’t drink it. The glass and the metal has been worn by tides and scraping up against sand and stones and anybody caught tossing animal waste after food preparation into the river will …

Dispatches from the Woodpile

For one reason or another I recently found myself getting my ducks in a row about making photographs of transracially adopted people. At the root was the simple wish to make voices like mine heard because I think we have some interesting information that might illuminate some of the febrile discussion around race. I also wanted the excuse to write about two of my favorite films: The Watermelon Man by Melvin Van Peebles and The Uncle by Desmond Davis. Both of these movies are about individuals who have and identity imposed upon them by external interests and in both cases …

Travel Chaos at London Bridge

Some poor bastard threw themselves under a train near New Cross this morning. It screwed up the trains into London Bridge so when I arrived at my office people were late and moaning about it. I listened to them in the lift and a bit more in the kitchen but eventually the selfish assholery of complaining about being 30 minutes late for a job that isn’t going to dock your pay, punish you or probably even notice you showed up late got to me and I said; I would imagine they were feeling pretty bad. The response to this was …

Not at all Somali, apparently.

You don’t look Somali

I get this quite a bit. Never from Somalis, they have a habit of going oh yeah, you got this or that and point to things about my face that they have. One woman once and grinning broadly grabbed me by the chin and rubbed the top of my forehead and said what else could you possibly be. But I was buying “Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race”. And I got into a conversation about it with the sales person who had read it and thought it was really great and when I mentioned my dark …

Workshops at the Dhaka Art Summit and Bistaar Arts Complex February 2018

In February this year I was invited to give workshops as part of the Dhaka Art Summit and for the British Council at The Bistaar Arts Complex. The plan was to be part of a team delivering four workshops during the summit, plus another workshop in Chittagong. I went with Eleanor Von Browne, Trish Scott and Fraser Muggeridge. It was great, not least to be with three other people I either didn’t know all that well, or had never met at all but whose company I thoroughly enjoyed, in a place I had only ever heard about but had no real …

In the Prado

What with one thing and another, the Prado is mainly warehouse of paintings of people doing shit things to each other in the name of various deities, though mostly the christian one.  That has never stopped me from visiting those kinds of places and I was hugely rewarded by seeing Rogier Van Der Weyden’s descent from the cross in the pigment for the first time.  I watched walrus of art, Waldemar Januszczak, banging on about this painting in an episode of the Renaissance Unchained and he was his usual hectoring self but in this case with good reason.  That said, nothing …

Writing

I write about work in progress, the work of other people and the occaisional random rant.  The categories broadly link some themes as does the tag cloud.

People

I’m thinking a lot about portraits at the moment as I am collaborating with other trans-racial adoptees to create portraits that represent us in a way we feel comfortable with our own image.  So I’m reviewing other portrait work I have done.  The relationship between the sitter and the photographer is so much more than point and shoot.  There is a skill to sitting.  There is a skill to managing the pose from both sides of the lens.  I took each of these photographs for distinct reasons and I can see what I was thinking about when I made the …

The Civil Contract of Photography

I am reading this and it is difficult but also rewarding. I am reading it because I am photographing other TRAs, creating portraits and having discussions about the experience of transracially adoptive/fostered lives.  I am not investigating tracing or tales of reunion with the unnerving prospect of Davina McCall and Nicky Campbell hoving into sight and engineering tearful reunions.  I’m after what the lived experience of being in a world that cannot recognise you as part of what you know to be your family without verbal and written explanations. Azoulay focusses on citizenship, the implication of equality that this term …