“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.” - Mary Oliver.
Look at the light, feel the sun, seek out the shapes in the shadows, smell the flowers, lie down and watch the clouds go by. As part of my work as an artist and my job as a photographer I have a daily practice of the afore mentioned. The photograph is only the end result, the process of touch and a sensitivity to a connection to the world is the daily practice. Some may call it mindfulness I like to call it curiosity. This thirst for discovery never stops, maybe I am nosey or am I an explorer? Who knows but my job is to tune into how I see and experience the world in a visual sense and I am more than happy to spend part of my days dong just this.
Chris is a very talented photographer and his girlfriend Alline is equally a wonderful talent too, the other week I get the following message from Chris.
‘Hey Jo, Alline + i are going away for a couple of days to celebrate her somehow tolerating me for the past 2 years. we’re not doing gifts or any of that sh*t but we do both absolutely adore your work + wanted to see if you’d be free to shoot us at our little hippy crack den in rye harbour nature reserve? here’s a link for context. We get there on the 3rd july before i head to wedding nearby on the 5th july. there’s no brief, we’re not looking for an “out of the box” couples shoot, we’d wanna just give you full creative freedom + licence to experiment, without any restrictions. “licence to experiment, without any restrictions” sounds like a james bond porno spoof…which isn’t entirely what we had in mind but yeah… we are bringing tonnes of film and some of our favourite point shoot / medium format cameras if you want to play too…’
So I headed down to the beach retreat on the afternoon of the 4th July, the weather was hot and sun twinkling brightly in the huge sky above, the scene was set. We hung out and I shot til twilight, squeezing the last bit of light out of the day. I don’t want to fill this space with too many words as for me the photographs tell the story much better than my words can. Hit play, turn up the music; the track is ‘House of cards by Radiohead’.
I am sitting under a big oak tree in a tiny village somewhere deep in the Cotswold’s. The heat is rising and there is a welcome cool breeze gently tickling the hairs on my arm. I am shooting an outdoor wedding today and the weather could not be any better; ‘the hottest day of the year’ they repeat on the radio, I think they are right about this, the temperature is already 23 degrees and it is still only 10.
I set off this morning at 6 and spent the 3 hours absorbing and reflecting on last night’s ‘in conversation’ with Nick Cave. I have been a longstanding fan of his and I also live in his hometown, Brighton. The last time I saw him I was having lunch in a local café and he was with Warren Ellis just sitting opposite. My gaze kept being drawn to him and I felt very foolish as he looked straight at me and I pretended that I was not utterly captivated by his presence.
I digress, the format of his performance last night was a mixture of the audience asking questions sandwiched between Nick playing his piano. He began giving the evening some context and brief explanation of what it was that he was hoping to explore; ‘connection’ and ‘intimacy’. Simple, it was an invitation to have a conversation thus dissolving the barrier or space that sits between the artist and the performer. It was an extension of his ’Red hand files’. He confessed to how nervous and vulnerable this made him feel, how he had no idea where the evening would take him or and beyond the shows he has not thought how this might be expressed in his music or anywhere else.
I felt like us in the audience responded by reaching out to hold hands and together we created some kind of circle for him and us, a space to collaborate He literally was surrounded by the audience with tables and chairs on the stage with some people being a metre away from him. I have seen quite a bit of immersive theatre over the years, and experienced this idea of shifting the physical space of the audience and also of the conventional format and narrative narrative being challenged and remolded. I had never seen this done however with music; how well he weaved the two elements.
It felt like a dance he was initiating between him and us the, being passed backwards and forwards. He assisted this with the lights being really low down when he performed and in this moment it was just him and the piano. Then in contrast the opposite, full lights on the stage and in the auditorium enabling dialogue, we were all equal. He would choose when to break up the talking with a performance and it enabled a welcome bit of space around the previous conversations, it worked really well. The intimate performance was in contrast to the raw, open and illuminating conversation that followed.
I could ramble on for hours and hours about the finite detail of what he said and sung, however the most important thing was his humility, compassion and humour. He demonstrated through out what it is to be a human. My highlight was when someone asked if they could sit next to him when he played his next song; yes he said. They sat together and as he played ‘Distant Sky’ it was clear that the piano stool was too small and that this would mean them being pressed against each other, two strangers whilst being watched by a thousand people! As he started to play and sing to her whilst looking straight into her eyes she gently put his arm round his shoulders and this moment was to me the most powerful part of the evening. They were not afraid and instead moved and sat together. Just think about that for a minute, please click the link to the track and just imagine what that felt like and how intimate and beautiful it was… something and nothing, just being human. He cultivated intimacy for 3 hours connecting with each and everyone of us at the moment and beyond, what a gift he is, he really is a wonderful artist and human being. I left inspired, slightly tingling, and glowing. Nick you shined on that stage so very brightly and also and forever more up in the distant sky above.
It is 5.12 and I am woken by the summer rain thrashing against the window and my son ‘Fox’ wakes like clockwork at this time every morning. Everyday I head downstairs to make him breakfast, brew a strong black coffee and creep back to bed to write in my journal. Since studying for my degree I have always maintained the discipline of using some kind of journal, sketchpad, notebook, scraps of paper, and even written notes in books when i have no paper to hand. Today photography and my business exists purely in the digital landscape; images live in clouds, folders on a desktop, hard drives ladened with photos, pintrest boards and various platforms of social media . I studied and learnt the art of physical Photography; loading film, winding on, developing film, and creating beautiful prints all by hand. One of the reasons I continue to shoot film in a number of different formats both at Weddings and personally as first and foremost I have a real physical connection to the craft. I defiantly have one foot in the physical and one in the digital and more and more spend more time in the virtual space just because of the nature of running a business. I have in the past blogged and whilst building this new site I lost my blog which i had been using for the past 9 years! I see this as an opportunity to create something a little bit different in this new space. The style of this will be more like a diary/sketchbook where I share work, ideas, inspiration and hopefully shape it in more of a personal meaningful way than just becoming formulaic and a SEO driven space. There will be weddings of course as that is what I shoot mainly, but also the other things which feed into how and why I shoot the way I am and also a bit more about me as a person.
Here are some film images that I shot with my Diana Camera recently. It was late spring and mother nature was waking up from her slumber. One Sunday afternoon we adventured out to deepest darkest West Sussex to a beautiful gardens called Leonards Lee. I can honestly say it felt like we were in Alice’s wonderland; miles and miles of paths weaving up and down revealing colours and shapes like I had never seen before. Shots of bright colours were abundant each and everywhere I looked. I wanted to create dreamlike images, using multiple exposures to create a riot of colour and form. The light was bright enough but not overly, I could still get enough detail and texture that I wanted…. Shooting on film is purely process driven, starting with choosing what camera and film stock and then the art of inhabiting the ‘decisive moment’ and finally the wait of the film being processed and until they appear in the world as physical prints. I was over joyed when I got the film back, the colours are so vibrant, the landscape unrecognisable from the everyday, the essence of the place singing so clearly…. I chose the right camera, the right film and painted with them that day. If you are interested in a print of any of these please send me mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.