Wednesday, 17 December 2008

The right to defend your home

The court case of Peter Boggis, 77 fighting Natural England over if he should be allowed to continue building his sea defences to protect his home from falling in to the sea, in Easton Bavents, Suffolk got quite a lot of coverage in the national papers on 6th December.
Natural England(a government body) argued that they want to make this stretch of coastline a 'Site of Specific Scientific Interest' (SSSI) and it should be allowed to erode naturally to reveal fossils etc. Boggis wants the right to protect his home, he has already put down 250,000 tonnes of clay in front of his house. This court battle also highlights the issue that 'if you don't allow someone to defend their own property then you must compensate them.' (The Times) This is something that is not happening in the U.K at the moment.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Birling Gap

Birling Gap, Sussex - A National Trust site

Wednesday, 26 November 2008


It is not exactly on the theme of borders but I am looking at different stories at the moment that are somehow relating to what I am trying to do in order to find a working 'template' for my project. Some images that I have kept returning to over the past year is Gideon Mendel's photographs of last summers floods that affected many parts of the U.K. The images are interestingly juxtaposed with his images of floods in India that happened around the same time. They feel quite bizarre and yet so real. The work was published in the Guardian's G2 supplement last year and author Maggie Gee wrote a really intelligent and thought provoking article titled Drowned Worlds to accompany the images.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Missed exhibition

I found this postcard advertising an exhibition titled Borderspaces when visiting an exhibition at Photofusion. It ended Sunday so I missed it unfortunately. Did anybody else see it? Looking at the website it is nice to see that the theme has been interpreted in many different ways. Really gutted I didn't see it though, so many good photographers and it would have been interesting to see how it was put together in relation to what we are doing. Instead I just got myself wet and soggy down the coast with no good photographs!
However I did see Uta Kogelsberger's Bunker series which are fantastic to look at.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Some rough scans for today's tutorial

National Trust report

Changing shorelines, a report published by the National Trust, Britain's largest coastal landowner.
Changing Shorelines pamphlet

Monday, 10 November 2008

13m from the edge

I have spent some days exploring parts of Norfolk coast that is badly affected by erosion. I stayed in Happisburgh, a small village which has lost most of its sea defences. Diane Wright bought Cliff house on Beach Road in Happisburgh over 20 years ago to run a B&B which she still does but the house is now only 13m away from the cliff edge. From the room I was staying in I could hear the sound of the waves, the windows were rattling in the wind and the rain pouring down outside. Diane has 3 m left to go until she will be forced to move out and the house will be demolished. She has grown used to the idea over the past few years but still feel it is unfair that the government is prepared to protect certain areas but not others. Diane said she bought the house in the belief that she would be protected.
Bryony next door, just moved in to her bungalow in July. 'I bought it in an act of defiance, I don't believe the sea should have the last word' she told me.
My trip was an attempt to try to start the project and get my head around the issues I want to focus on. Unfortunately I managed to take a lot of not very good pictures of subject matters that could have been very interesting. I feel really gutted over how crap my composition is at times, so unhappy with my horizons....I get in to a real state about things like this and end up chucking my negs in a draw, pretending they never happened, until I feel strong enough to face them and attempt to make better photographs. So feeling really quite unsure of the whole project, I haven't got a totally clear idea of how the project will look or how to precede and what is realistic to expect. At times I think perhaps I should focus on another idea I have about residual spaces, this would give me more freedom in terms of what I could include in the photographs. But I feel really quite strongly about the effect of these coastal landscapes and the people who inhabit them.
The project will definitely be a challenge for me, it is a more specific story from what I am used to photographing and is proving quite tricky in terms of how to physically shoot certain things. It is problematic photographing people and their houses on the edge. How to portray it? Only way of getting the houses and the people in would be to stand below the cliff shooting up, but one has to move far out in order to see the bungalows and the people would be tiny...
The broken sea defences look quite dramatic to me and I keep thinking they would look good shot on panoramic format, but I definitely don't want to shoot the whole project that way, mixing formats?... Anyway I put the above pictures up here to give you an idea of what I'm interested in conveying.

Friday, 31 October 2008


I'm heading up to Norfolk for a few days to have a look around areas affected by coastal erosion. I'm staying in Happisburgh, in a house that is very near the cliff edge which should make for an interesting experience. It looks like the weather should be grey with drizzly rain which suits my needs. I'm after some really bleak landscapes. I spend a lot of time on Google Earth looking at the coast line, so I have an idea about what to expect but it stands to see if the landscapes will be as dramatic as I imagine.

Thursday, 30 October 2008


I can't believe what a fantastic line up Vision has this year. Actually it is so many good speakers that it will be impossible to see them all because some talks are on at the same time. What a dilemma!! Just found out that Stuart Franklin will show his work from the book Footprint. I have just recently become familiar with this work through my research for the borders project. His work is about the environmental changes that Europe is facing. Looks really interesting but it seems that this talk will be on at the at the same time as Simon Robert's though, I can only hope that the schedule will change for the better. Simon Roberts and Simon Norfolk is a must, their work is truly inspirational. Jacob Aue Sobol and Sam Faulkner should be really good to see too. I'm so looking forward to this!

Monday, 13 October 2008

Border stories

Here are some photo stories that I really like that are about borders:

East of a new Eden Yann Mingard and Alban Kakulya

People of Derry - Philippe Grollier

Abkhazia (Imagined States) - Eric Baudelaire

Trading over the Borderline - Guy Martin

The Middle Distance - Olivia Arthur

A lot of Paul Seawright's work deals with borders and the periphery.

Sacrificial Coast

I guess I originally thought that I would go back to Kaliningrad for my Borders story, being and enclave and cut off from the rest of Russia, border issues are a constant issue there. But I feel that I need a story I can revisit regularly and therefore it needs to be in Britain for the moment.

Land and people's relationship to the land interests me and is a theme that I keep returning to.
I came a cross an recently published book Vanishing landscapes which deals with the fact that landscapes will soon no longer exist the way we know them. John Bergers writing appears and work by photographers such as Edward Burtynsky , Joel Sternfield, and Robert Adams are featured.Photographer An - My Le has written some very thought provoking words in this book:

'While landmasses are carved up into jigsaw puzzles of nations, territories, and green zones, oceans define borders but defy politics. Against the backdrop of an ocean, any enterprise, military, commercial or scientific, appears fragile and barley tolerated.'

I really like this: 'oceans define borders but defy politics' This makes me think about Britain's eroding coastline. Certain parts of the coast especially in Norfolk is eroding faster than ever before. There are communities such as Happisburgh, Walcott, Mundesley that in the not so distant future might be completely swallowed up by the sea and wiped of the map. The U.K government says it is to costly to protect the whole of the coastline. 'Managed retreat' is the term scientists has given this approach, meaning that governments around the world are making decisions about what it can afford to save and what has to be sacrificed. A big part of the Norfolk coast seem to be out of luck, the sea defences are considered unsustainable and new ones will not be built. This mean that many people stand to loose their homes to the sea, farmers will loose their livelihood, historic sites and nature reserves will disappear. Unlike in countries like The Netherlands where compensation is given for loss of land to erosion, in the U.K there is no compensation. The effect the sea has on the land has become a political issue. How to decide what is protected and what is to be sacrificed? And there is talk of what could be Britain's first climate change refugees.
I want to visit these areas, photograph the landscapes and the people who belong to these places, not just Norfolk, though I think this might be a very good starting point but also other areas. At this stage I am quite open minded about what will be included. I could just focus on what I want to call 'Sacrificial Coast' or it could be extended to look at what is done to preserve and defend ourselves from the sea.
I would like to use statistics with these images and get quotes from people. My hope is that I can make some good connection with people living in these areas. In terms of making it in to a multimedia presentation I could perhaps use voice over from people talking about the situation or perhaps record the sound of the sea hitting the cliffs and use it as 'background music'. But right know I really need to delve deeper in to the research and check some places out.
Some very useful articles:

Waves of destruction The Guardian April 17 2008

Living on the edge The Guardian October 9 2006

As the climate changes, bits of England's coast crumble International Herald Tribune May 4 2007

Should we abandon Britain's crumbling coast? The Guardian August 18 2008

Living on the edge: The owners whose homes are going over a cliff Daily Mail 12 July 2008

Players at England's oldest golf course told to let it crumble into the sea The Guardian May 20 2008

Erosion plea from sea victims BBC News player

Wale's coastal erosion threat BBC News player

CCAG Coastal Concern Action Group

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Perpignan thoughts

Perpignan was such an intense experience, it was so nice to meet so many of the class all in one place. Saw and talked so much photography, been feeling exhausted, so many thoughts spinning in my head...

Some of those thoughts...

I have mixed feelings about the exhibitions and slide shows that were shown. There were predominantly stories from Africa and Asia, shot by western photographers, very few stories from Europe and U.S. I have to admit that I found a lot of the work shown uninspiring. Many of the stories felt the same, shot in different countries but often seemed to take the same approach. I can't help feeling that many photographers see conflicts and suffering as an opportunity to make their name and it is something quite bizarre sitting in a pretty little town in France watching war, misery and disease on a big screen. I felt quite uneasy about the whole thing at times, wondering what the hell I was doing and was grasping for some sort of context.
Having said all that, there were off course exceptions, such as a really amazing set of portraits of Belgian fishermen shot by Stephan Vanfleteren, documenting a dying breed, there were so much character in their faces, truly anthropological. Exhibitions I liked were Paolo Pellegrin's images of the Iraqi diaspora, focusing on Iraqi refuges in Syria and Jordan. Pellegrin has that amazing ability to capture very big issues of our time without forcing a specific viewpoint on the viewer. The Return of the Concubine story by Axelle de Russe really reached me, these women's situation is disturbing and very upsetting. Brent Stirton's image of the evacuation of a dead mountain gorilla in Virunga park creates a reaction in me every time, so it was fascinating to see the full story on display.

Looking at the World Press Photo exhibition that also were on show, I feel that a different state of photography are also represented with different styles, many stories are more portrait based, using medium format or even large format in some cases, often taking on a more anthropological or poetic/reflecting stance. This is inspirational, there is a feeling that the medium is evolving, acknowledging new ways of seeing. I would have like to see some solo exhibitions like this in Perpignan.
A really good thing in Perpignan was the bookshop at Couvent des Minimes. I got really blown away by the Ojodepez magazines I found. I have seen a few issues before of this magazine but never seem to be able to find them in the U.K. So,so, so inspired by the photography in them. Olivia Arthur’s Behind the veil story heads the latest issue which really fascinates me. Brilliant stories in here are Matias Costa’s Cargo about how an abandoned fishing fleet crew from the former Soviet Union is stuck in Gran Canaria – amazing story and the light is so bleak, like nothing I have seen before. And Johann Rousselot’s suicide crop story of cotton farmers in India taking their on lives is just so strong and really brings attention to the disastrous effects big western corporations have on local farmers.
So Perpignan defiantly got me feeling opinionated about the state of photojournalism. Coming back home, one of the first things a picked up to read was an article in PDN titled: 'The State of Art report: Photojournalism Survival' (I can't seem to find it online)it acknowledges the changing face of the media it also drew heavily on an article that Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin wrote in foto8 earlier this year: Unconcerned but not Indifferent. Reading this again made me feel a lot better about what I think.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Note to Self

I feel that this course is making me more focused in my practice. I feel more comfortable with my style of photography and have a more positive outlook of what I potentially can do with it and where it might fit. My approach to photography has pretty much always been related to exploring places, searching for locations that seem to tell a story. I took this same approach to my work this term but I also did portraits of people that I meet along the way. This was a first for me and to my surprise it felt very natural and I think the portraits worked quite well with the landscapes. I’m a bit worried though, that there is not enough stories to my work or that it lacks clarity. I research and read a lot but perhaps the images I take are to general? My ambition is not to create classic photo essays but more trying to give a sense or understanding of a place. At times I feel torn between aesthetics and content….
I want to continue to photograph in the same way for the borders project. I would also like to include text in future work, perhaps quotes or statistics to go with the images. I did experiment with that this term but feel that I have some way to go.

For me, being on this course has been very stimulating and really good for developing my thinking and understanding of the direction I want to take with my photography.
My experiences in Wimba World has been mainly positive. I find it hard though to be communicative and miss the form of the traditional classroom interaction. I think talking in small groups will help me a lot. But at the same time I really enjoy studying with everyone on the course and the fact that we live in so many different places adds a great sense of diversity and experience. The blogs are brilliant, it is great to read what everyone is doing, quite addictive, and I must start to write more on mine….

It was really good to do the ‘person at work’ etc. assignments, this has really made me a lot more aware of composition and the way I frame things. Saying that, I still keep ending up with some unforgivably crap images of things sticking out of peoples heads etc. I have also enjoyed the photographer lectures. It was new to me to look at some of these photographers’s practice in relation to other photographers work produced in the same era. And I can never have enough of photographer’s such as Evans, Frank, Eggleston and Sternfeld.
The photographer talks have been really interesting and I hope that we will get a lot more of them. Zijo Gafic’s work inspired me the most.

I need to learn more technical skills, my photoshop skills could be a lot better, trying to read things but learning curve is slow. It is also all the multimedia stuff, I feel a bit behind, some kind of workshop would be good…

Though I do enjoy shooting with an SLR I really feel the happiest with medium format, I’m drawn to the more ‘formal look’ and it feels the most suited for the type of images I like to take. And…I never thought I say this but I’m thinking of picking up the 5x4. I’m so in love with the formal and technical quality of the images it produces, but at the same time, this way of photographing will be completely new to me and the whole slowness and heaviness of the camera puts me off. I might just be too impatient to handle it, but I really want to have a go.

Friday, 4 July 2008

All done!

Just finished, it feels really good, I think. I always find it really hard to hand in work, I want to do more. I have spent the last week changing and cutting my essay. I hope I didn't cut to much. Robert Frank's images keeps appearing in my dreams. I got a ferry to catch in a few hours, no point going to sleep... So looking forward to holiday, driving to Sweden this year so I can stop and see friends on the way.

I want to continue with the Thames Estuary project when I get back but also start to think about borders project.

Monday, 23 June 2008

New exhibition on the Thames Estuary

Just came across this on the Guardian website - an exhibition called Soundings from the Estuary about the Thames Estuary off course. From what I can see off the pics on the site it focuses on the landscape. Guardian wrote:
'Artists have set out to capture the archaic sights and sounds of the Thames Estuary before its transformation from marshland to new town as the Thames Gateway Development. Soundings from the Estuary is an ongoing project inspired by the estuary's industrial, architectural, and maritime traces as well as the threat from construction and rising sea levels. Frank Watson’s photographs’s will feature with artists Germander Speedwell and Dave Lawrence at the Contemporary Urban Centre in south London, from June 20-July 20 2008.' The radar tower at Tilbury and the Tilbury power station which I have photographed as well is among the images featured on the website. There will be a talk at Tate Modern about the exhibition on 11th of July but I will be in Sweden then - really frustrating. I have to go and see this exhibition now, I am just so curious and in all honesty a bit gutted. It's hard not to get upset when you realise someone has already done a piece of work on the same topic as you. It is different though but nevertheless...
Good news though is my camera is not broken, took the role I had in the camera in for processing and it came out fine. My local lab said it sounded like the chemistry had been off on my mystery roles, anyway best thing is I can carry on shooting.
Trying to focus and write intro to my project, I find it difficult to get the tone right, what fits with images... Also struggling with a title. Some thoughts: estuary tide, out of tide, tidal time, tide & time, esturial........

Thursday, 19 June 2008

My negs are ruined!!!!!

I went in to college today to process my film and have spent most of the afternoon trying to figure out what has gone wrong with my negs. They look really dense and of a very different colour to what they usually are, it made me look on the film type as they looked almost B&W. Concerned but didn't ask the technicians. Came home put the negs in the scanner and this is what I get:

Thought first that I must have overexposed really badly but i know for a fact that I had underexposed a few negs by mistake on one roll. I really don't get the disappearing heads etc. because I can see their heads on the negs!!! Really spooky and they are life guards as well!
I feel really really awful as most of the images were portraits and I had promised copies to people. That's the worst, it makes me look so unprofessional, especially towards my contact John in Southend that put me in touch with most of the people that were on those negs. God I feel bad.
Scanned other negs, they are good, so nothing wrong with scanner. It can't be the camera can it? Light leakage would have showed clearly. I can only think it was something wrong with the developer or fix. I want to scream and shout anything to get my negs back but they will off course forever be lost. And I had that thought to hand them into the lab, I wish I had but wanted to save money... Are taking a roll down the lab tomorrow, got half finished roll in camera have to know it's not the film or my camera.
This means that I have nothing to show for my tutorial tomorrow and have more work left to do than I thought. But as always I guess it could have been worse...

Thursday, 5 June 2008

More finds along the estuary

I have not got as much photographed the past few weeks as I would have liked much due to the weather. It has been a real washout on the days I am able to go places. Spent pretty much the whole of last Thursday in cafes on Sheppey waiting for the rain to stop, reading in the local paper how the island got more rain in two days than is normal for two months! And Monday was so bad I got really depressed. I love overcast skies but problem is no one is around when it is so wet.
I made a journey to Shoeburyness at the weekend and found an abandoned garrison where kids were playing. I would have loved this as a kid, absolute dream. The kids told me it was haunted by ghosts and this was all part of their excitement. This garrison will very soon disappear and make way to housing development on this former MOD land. I did not really get the picture I wanted so will go back and try again.
I was fascinated by the low visibility, normally one can see the other side very well but when it is foggy it is like starring out at sea unaware of the other sides existence. I tried to make some clean images illustrating this, which I am quite happy with except that I need to scan them better. (My scanner scans some things better than others).
On the beach in Shoebury there was was an African church holding mass. Really different, I spoke to them but they did not want me to take pictures however I had already taken a couple of quick snaps.
I have started to record what people are telling me rather than taking notes which is working far better, I think, but I have yet to put this next to the pictures. I have got small prints made of the images so I can show people I meet while photographing what I'm doing but also to try to see if the images work together and what is missing. I'm really quite worried about edit it all together, I like the process but I also feel insecure.
I will hopefully get to photograph the life boat crew in Southend on Saturday. They are based at the end of the longest pier in the world. I like the idea of this crumbling pier.

It is 6th June today - Sweden's Nation Day, I wish I was in Sweden.

Saturday, 31 May 2008

The significance of crumbling paint

Going through some of my old work books, looking for scribbles about Robert Frank, I found these close-ups I took of the Berlin wall some years ago. Our class went there together as part of a project when I did my B.A photography course. I was intrigued by how the crumbling paint looked like maps...and I remember having the word remapping on my mind...
It made me think about the borders project and how fascinated I am about maps, borders, geopolitics. On another trip to Berlin I got a brilliant book 'Wall Remnants - Wall Traces' done by the Brandenburg University. I spent some time walking along the traces of the wall, it would be fantastic to re-trace the whole wall. It's amazing how much is still there.

Monday, 26 May 2008

More places along the estuary

Map of Thames Estuary
On Saturday I took the train out to Leigh on Sea and walked through Westcliffe, Southend and Thorpe Bay. Again the light was to bright for my liking but might have got a few good pics. Often I need to spend time walking around exploring and find out what is there and what sort of light would be good and then keep revisiting places. The busy end of Southend, down by the pier really gave me headache, it was load and brash, full of tourists. Moving past and in to the Thorpe Bay, which is really another part of Southend gave me much more inspiration. In my tutorial with John on Friday we spoke about potentially trying to get more engaged contact with the communities. I luckily bumped in to John Clarks of the Southend Beach Hut Owners Association, a very talkative guy who has lived in the area all his life. As well as telling me all about beach huts, how some of them are over a hundred years old, originally in Victorian times they had wheels and were rolled in to the water, eventually the wheels fell off and today's beach huts were born. Some huts sell for as much as £20,000(!) Other stories were about SS Montgomery an American ship that sank in the channel during the war, full of explosives, engineers has to check on the ship every few months and ships has to navigate around it. There is apparently enough explosives to blow up the whole of Southend or at least all the 500 beach huts! It is possible to see the mast sticking up if one goes out there. He also told me about Mulberry Harbour, a floating harbour that was one of many built in secrecy, in the estuary for the D-day landing but this one got broken in half and stuck in the water. It is possible to walk out to it at low tide, A group of teenagers I photographed earlier had described the big piece of concrete as a shipwreck where they like to go, seems to be the thing to do if you are 15 in Southend.

John has so much knowledge about the estuary and seemed genuinely interested in my project, he also knows a lot of people in the community and has offered to put me in touch with some people among others a local fisherman that he thinks can take me out to the sunken ship etc. That would be brilliant, I really hope this will work out! In 1972 John worked on Foulness Island, digging up and dismantling bombs. The land had been used as a dumping ground from the WWII. This operation was due to the governments plans at the time to build an airport on Foulness, this later got scraped when a new government came in to power and only a third of the bombs were cleared. John said he thought this was very sad, since the idea of an airport there would have been perfect, it would not be flying over any houses just straight in from the sea. This is all new to me and I will do some research. Foulness is furthest out in the Thames Estuary on the Essex side, much of it is MOD land (Ministry of Defence) and can not be photographed, one also need permission to walk on much of the land. I really have to get in contact with people in charge and see if there is any possibility at all for photography and if so what locations. I asked John about this and he said it would be difficult but perhaps easier than some years ago. Again he said he might know somebody.... The best thing about doing this kind of photography is that I meet so many interesting people, it is amazing how much you can learn from them, so fascinating.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Canvey Island

I'm currently reading Downriver by Iain Sinclair. He writes beautifully but also somewhat negative about places along the estuary, '...Canvey Island: a gulag of sinking caravans, overlooked by decommissioned storage tanks.' Yet I sense great passion in his writing. Celebrate might be to strong a word but I want to acknowledge these places for what they are, both good and bad. I'm very concerned about representation.... Jackie, a lady I photographed together with her daughter Morgan and friend Kelsey, was very upset about a recent picture in a tabloid of a haggard lady which were suppose to represent the average Canvenite. 'She looked like something out of 'Shameless''(Channel 4 TV-series of a group of people on an estate up to no good), she said. I feel that this is what many journalists and photographers do far to often - reinforce stereotypes without even really looking for anything different.
I guess I'm looking for a kind of beauty in places that often feel forgotten and Sheepey and Canvey inspires me greatly, they are not perfect, streamlined or boring. There is no Starbuck's or sameness in sight, there is room for exploration and imagination. Character and sense of place is on the menu, I feel great love and affection. At the same time I wonder for how long this will last? Places are constantly evolving and changing. In the 1930's Canvey was a thriving holiday resort for Londoners, then fell in to decline much due to cheap travel abroad and easy access to places further a field and now when more and more Londoners are forced to move out of the city due to the high cost of living they might just settle in places like Canvey.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Thames Estuary as a national treasure?

I found a really good program on BBC Radio 4: National Treasures from August last year. They debated the question: Should we spend £500 million on preserving the natural landscape of the Thames Estuary or transforming Stonehenge into a visitor attraction worthy of World Heritage Status? It was all just a theoretical exercises but gave me some good ideas about how investors, politicians and academics think about places and if they are worthy of preservation. (This idea is of course in stark contrast to proposals like Heathrow's third runway in the estuary). The panel argued around historical, emotional, social, and existence value.
Words like melancholy, decay, love of ruin, wilderness, despair came to mind for emotional value. (I'm always desperatley drawn to places of such character).
Problems with access to the estuary was mentioned which can not be understated, it is of course much due to this that it holds its special character. Germain Greer called the estuary the cradle of Britain's industrialisation, one of her many good points I thought. Finally, not to my suprise, Stonehenge scored the higher points.
Other words to think about: mud, intertidal zones, marshland, biodiversity, rising sea levels, changing light, interlocking system, sewage.

Technology frustration

Really gutted I missed most of the Tim Hetherington talk but just couldn't get out of work on such short notice and the quality was to poor on what I did manage to listen in to and I'm half deaf anyway... Technology in so many ways are amazing but sometimes frustration takes over.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Sheppey and the Thames Estuary

I was told Isle of Sheppey is 'forgettable' and would be a waste of my time by someone I know. After a few trips to the island I personally think 'forgotten' would be a better word. Sheppey fascinates me - it is has a special feel to it. It gives a sense of being far away, so it is rather strange to know that London is only about 65 km from there, perhaps it is more of a mental state than about geographical location. In many ways full of contrasts - there is neglect, youth with little to do, lots of rubbish but at the same time friendliness, people with a lot of time on their hands, people walking their dogs, tending to their gardens. It is also a place people retire to, Doris, a lady whom I photographed told me 'It is every Londoners dream to live by the seaside'. Sheppey is her realisation of that dream.

I've been pondering over maps, looking at the rest of the Thames Estuary, there are many small places scattered along and big gaps of empty marshland, much of the area is undeveloped. It all awakens my curiosity and I think it could be a relevant project, especially since more and more attention seem to be given to the plan of putting an airport on a man made island in the Estuary (just outside Sheppey) and there are other ideas too, an article in Sunday Times - 'Take a dip in Dubai-on-Thames', outlines the idea for two man made leisure islands in the estuary including marinas. I don't know about Dubai but sounds like there could be another Sandbanks on the way.
If any of these plans go ahead it will for certain change the places along the estuary forever and would impact on communities and wildlife.

So I am expanding my project to places and land along the Thames Estuary rather than just Sheppey. Photographing very much in the same way, using medium format, available light and mixing landscapes with portraits. Also talking to people, trying to get some good quotes.

I went out to Canvey Island yesterday. The light was really strong and horrible for most of the day but I saw lots of good locations to return to when better light, very exciting. I got some shots of a group of 17-year old girls sunning by the beach using a very graffitied wall as shelter, I thought that made a terrific backdrop. I also met a lady who told me about a man called Joe who lives in a mobile home and builds model railways, there is a track running through his garden. He sounds like the kind of person I want to include, hopefully he will agree to be in a picture. I also got the man running the beach cafe terribly worried that I was from health and safety, I had to keep reassuring him I was not.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Easter projects

I started the Easter break looking for upmarket dog grooming salons. I had the idea that I wanted to portray the upswing in pampering for dogs and get some amusing pictures illustrating it. It proved a lot harder than I first thought and has not worked out at all so far. I shot in two salons, first Wagin'tails - a pet boutique and spa. All the to me outrageous treatments they listed like aroma therapy etc did not really happen in reality and the dogs pretty much just had the ordinary cuts. I also feel that I did not make the most of the shoot, I could have taken more photos upstairs in the boutique and got the owner's dog to try on some of the outfits. I find it really difficult to ask when I know people are busy and I feel bad about being in the way.
I also did a more conventional saloon in Primrose Hill, more like a day at the salon. Both these shoots are rather uninspiring and I have spent a lot of time looking for places and events. I found a place in Brighton which looked great, it has pink interior and looks like a kitch hairdresser but really smart at the same time. They unfortunately would not let me take pictures there. The response was that I could upset the dogs. I also tried a dog walking group for toy dogs (small dogs), they are really in to dressing the dogs up, but the organiser gave me a long list of reasons of why they would not allow any photos. They were upset because photographers had published their dogs in calendars etc without their permission or knowledge and they have their personal photographer as the lady on the phone kept pointing out to me. So I'm stuck with an idea and no real pictures at the moment basically. But I will keep trying.....

For another project, I spent a long time pondering over different places to photograph, trying to find some interesting fact or something unusual. After trips to Dungeness, Folkestone and Ramsgate I eventually settled for the Isle of Sheepey - an island out in the Thames Estuary. It is part of the Thames Gateway regeneration project and has had a new bridge built connecting it to the mainland and there is further development planned. Sheepey has a reputation for being one of the most deprived areas in South East England. This project has really just started, so there are lots of 'missing' images(the bridge being one). I also keep doubting my choice which really does not help my shooting. I want to mix landscapes with portraits. The weather was wonderfully temperamental which I really like but I was also badly prepared for it and got quite soaked the two days I spent there.
Just realised that I have managed to delete all my Sheepey scans after the ftp upload. Me and technology.....

Friday, 21 March 2008

Poodles and the seaside

Images found on Google

For Easter project ideas I am thinking of poodle parlours or maybe luxurious dog spas as they seem to be marketed as. A 35mm approach and a set of portraits shot on medium format. I want to find as outrageous grooming as possible. The idea is to shoot colour and add a bit of fill flash for the portraits. Been surfing the net, yellow pages etc to try to find the perfect salon. One thing is clear, U.S would have been absolutely brilliant for this project idea. Nevertheless London is catching up, Yellow pages states that dog pampering services are up 93% from 2001.
I am attracted to the idea of how much our society spend on pet care, not just the grooming but boutique dog hotels, dog fashion, there is a yearly fashion show at Harrods called Pet - a - Porter showcasing the best fashion in doggie world. It is held in November each year but I will keep that in mind for the future. The search for pink poodles and extreme cuts continues....

Paul suggested I find a place in U.K and approach it in the same way as I want to continue the Kaliningrad project, that is to shoot medium format, mixing landscapes and portraits of people. This is what I like best to go places and explore them. Loads of choice and I am still very much researching ideas.
A few thoughts:
A place called Drigg, small coastal village in Cumbria. It is the place where most of Britain's low level radio active waste is being put and in January this year the government made a deal with the council to expand the site. Strange place to live I think but there is only 300 people living in Drigg and looks rather tiny on the aerial photos I have seen. Maybe not enough scope....

The decline of the English seaside resort or perhaps it is being born again.....? Decline is often much more attractive to photograph, I love crumbling paint and abandonment but it is hardly a new story. Looking for an angle..

In Morecambe Bay an old hotel is being restored to its 1930's heydays, the rest of Morecambe is in crumbling. On channel 4 a few month ago they questioned who would come to a boutique hotel in such a depressing place.

Folkestone has been seriously regenerated from its decline. Business man Roger de Haan has invested in art and galleries etc. It all sounds like a rather hip place to hang out. Folkstone is a gateway to mainland Europe with the channel tunnel.

Had a look at Sealand, a micro nation that I heard about a while back, well terribly disappointed to find out that Sealand is only made up of a sea barge, a military base during world war II. In 1967 Former English major and radio broadcaster Paddy Roy Bates occupied the island, named it Sealand and settled there. Recently there was a fire and as I understand it no one lives there now. Anyway it is really quite mad.

Hopefully I will get time to check out a few places on Monday like Ramsgate, Margate, Folkstone, Great Yarmouth.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Many things to think about

For the portrait brief I decided to focus on Muslim women, particularly western women that have converted to Islam. I have done some portraits on this subject before and wanted to explore further and try some different approaches. I found a really good lady (or so I thought) who agreed to pictures but changed her mind after I taken the photographs! The reason was that her husband got really upset about it when he found out, she said I could not use them for anything. I will respect that apart from putting one up here on the blog. (below) I was really not happy with the pictures I had taken anyway, some of the photos are really cliche, her looking out of the window, trapped in her house, so what was I thinking? It was raining and the house was not very attractive. It is a real shame since her story is so interesting, she is in her third marriage, she was the second wife in her previous marriage which she finally could not cope with. She converted to Islam because after her first divorce she felt the church would not accept her anymore. Religion is her obsession.

Awful picture

I tried Iman a German girl who I have met briefly before through a contact, I thought she be good for close ups since you can kind of tell from her face that she is northern European. To stick to head shots was really difficult and new to me, I find my self wanting to include more of the scene, stepping back.


Iman is a student of linguistics and lives in a house with two other Muslim girls, Aia from Egypt (also student - Visual communication)and Leila from France (working) I asked if I could photograph them together. I wanted to illustrate who many Muslims chose London because of its multiculturalism. Iman says life for her is so much easier in London, in Germany she is not treated as a German anymore. I had arranged to shoot them on the stairs outside the British museum this did not work out, it was hard to get them together during daylight time and I had to opt for stairs outside The Tower of London, with the light coming down very fast. I did not do very well, made a stupid mistake in many of the images, where the girls further back are slight out of focus and the background is not right. Did some more at their house. I used flash and it is really harsh I really, really have to sort out my flash skills. I always desperately try to avoid using flash.

Aia, Leila and Iman

Through Iman, I met Julia another convert, I was interested in her because she has a n MA in theology and converted to Islam half way through. Julia does not wear a headscarf. I think that it is important to include that not all Muslim women do, but it is really hard to convey this in the photographs..... and I don't want to photograph her standing outside a mosque exactly.


Aqeela is my third person, I have photographed her before but wanted to try some new things, her putting her hijab on looking in the mirror etc. The light was very good coming through the windows and I managed to use natural light reflecting a bit in some of the shots and using tripod for some.



I also went to Trafalgar Square for 7am the other day to meet up with Sheila from Save the Pigeons Organisation. Since the feeding ban came in to place volunteers from this organisation has been feeding the birds every morning, but are now forced to feed just of the square. I had this image in my head of loads of pigeons flying around her. Sheila said the pigeons had gone a lot more shy lately because of lack of human contact. I came back with a set of pictures that did not work at all.
So it has been a pretty step learning curve. I enjoyed the portraits, the interaction with people is very rewarding. I need to practise a lot more on composition and light and most of all to be more assertive in these situations. There are so many things to think about, the most important being representation I think.