Monday, 22 July 2013

Shooting for Pleasure

I am currently in the process of working on a brand-new website. The design of my new logo is complete (which you'll be able to see right above this post!) and the design and basic 'shell' of my website is also complete. However, I have decided to delay publishing my site for a little longer since as I feel like I haven't been shooting much personal work lately, and so I was starting to feel a little uninspired when choosing images from my portfolio to be displayed on my new site. I have some interesting shoots coming up over the next month or so, and so I thought I would wait until I have a set of images I completely happy with so that I can publish a website I am proud of.

Going through all my 'old' photographs has made me realise once again the importance of working on personal projects, and taking photographs purely for pleasure. While I have a sizeable collection of recent work, these are images that I have shot for other people, so to speak; as well as being a practising photographer, I also work in a university teaching photography, and so I often get asked to photograph various university events, guest speakers, staff head-shots etc. While I enjoy this work, it does not result in my creating photographs that I feel truly represent my own 'vision'.

Sometimes I feel that I get caught up in my general day-to-day activities, and while I am always thinking about ideas for photo-shoots, there are times when I neglect to go out and actually realise those ideas, which has been the case recently. While I have some interesting shoots to look forward to in the coming weeks, I decided to just get out there with my camera this weekend and photograph people in a few areas I know well in South Birmingham, including Kings Heath, where I used to live up until a few months ago. Although I no longer live there, Kings Heath still remains one of my favourite places in Birmingham to just potter about and people-watch, purely because there is such a mix of different types of people - I love it!

Here are a selection of images from this shoot, taken in Kings Heath and the nearby district of Balsall Heath:

Local man, Balsall Heath - a lively and spirited soul who was
more than happy to have his picture taken.When I asked if I could
photograph him through his shop window, he told me with a big smile:
"Inside and out...whatever you like!" :)

    Local man, Kings Heath - he speaks only Punjabi, but with my limited Hindi
          we were able to have a very brief conversation, which was good fun :)

Steve, Kings Heath. He makes his living asking people for money on the street,
and has an infectious smile that seems to have won him a lot of friends in the area!

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

More People Watching...

....this time at Leicester Market where I had some fun trying out a couple of new lenses ahead of a purchase. Photographing people in public places can be challenging challenging, but it is also lots of fun and quite exciting - there's a certain rush of adrenalin that comes from trying to capture people on camera without being noticed!

This particular shoot was quite eventful as I was out shooting with my boyfriend David, and about an hour or so into the shoot we got confronted by the landlord/security guard of the market, and asked to stop taking photographs, in turn opening up several issues regarding the public rights of open market areas. It seems it is rather a grey area when shooting in markets as the ground is actually council-owned and an official 'public right-of-way' (meaning that when standing on the public land, anybody has the right to take photographs for personal use); however, the rents for the actual market plots are paid for by the market traders themselves, and hence these particular areas are not 'publicly accessible'. We were also told that we needed permission from every person in order to take their photograph: this is a fallacy since nobody owns the copyright over their own face, meaning that anybody can take photographs of anybody providing the person with the camera is standing on public land, and the images are again for personal use (there are, however, some moral and ethical issues at play when photographing people, but legally permissions do not need to be sought!). We were also asked to give our personal details (name, address etc.); a completely unreasonable request and we were under no obligation to disclose these details whatsoever, so we overtly declined! After some debate we were allowed to continue photographing so long as we were shooting from the public right of way and not from the market stall plots.

This event reminded me once again how important it is to know your rights as a photographer in the event of confrontation from security guards (and members of the public), who make unreasonable demands, without fully understanding the law themselves.

Monday, 18 February 2013

People Watching

It seems it's been a while since I last posted, and so to mark the occasion, here are a couple of photographs from a recent trip to the fruit and veg market in Birmingham City Centre; I must say, I do enjoy people watching...

Thursday, 6 September 2012

The Exhibitionist

I am very happy to say I have my first solo photography exhibition up at the wonderful Ort CafĂ© in Balsall Heath, South Birmingham. Aside from my final year show when finishing university, this will be the first time I have displayed any of my work in a public space so this is both an exciting and nerve-wracking experience for me!

My display is a celebration of some of my favourite images and the people I have photographed since finding a passion for photography nearly nine years ago, and includes a selection of documentary, portrait, fine art and fashion images from my portfolio.

My work is on general display at Ort until Tuesday 18th September 2012.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Art or Artist?

This is a question that I come back to in my mind time and time again: when I interact with art, where does my true interest with it lie - with the 'art' itself, or with the person who created it? 

'Art' as I think about it manifests itself in many forms: in painting, music, dance, photography, or writing; for me, a palpable form of human skill and imagination. When my intrigue is stirred, I can of course appreciate art in itself,  in whatever form it takes; however, I always find my mind wondering towards the person who created 'it': Who they are they? What is their background? What was the thought process behind the work? What was the process of creation? I think that for me, art truly is a product of self expression rather than a 'product' within itself to be consumed independent of its creator.

To draw on a personal example, I follow the blogs of several photographers, and I have realised on more than one occasion that I spend more time reading the personal posts from the photographers than actually looking at the photographs themselves. I enjoy and appreciate the photographs that these artists create, and of course there are undeniable unique qualities to their work, but in the internet age it would be easy to identify other photographers photographing similar subjects in a similar way. However, it is ultimately the person who created the photographs that I find most interesting - the unique way in which they work, the passion and commitment they express for their craft, and the they way in which they write.

The question of 'art or artist' struck me again this weekend. I spent the entirety of Saturday afternoon in the company of Birmingham artist Frank Sidney Smith, recording and photographing for a photofilm project I am working on. Frank was born in 1928 in Thanet Union workhouse in Kent where his mother lived and worked, and was then brought up in a children's home close by. He went on to join the army, and, later in life, lost both his wife and son to the consequences of schizophrenia. Frank has led a full life, experiencing situations that would break the spirit of many people. To come to terms with his experiences, Frank has documented his whole life in a vast series of paintings and sculptures; his creations visual memories of his past all in his very distinctive, wonderfully raw and (some may say) 'naive' style of working. Now, it was my dad who introduced me to Frank, who used to buy bits of pieces from my nan (my dad's mom) when she ran a stall at the Birmingham Market many years ago where they became friends. I looked at a few of Frank's paintings online and...yes...I thought they were interesting; they had a certain intriguing raw quality to them, but nothing that at first glance made the blood course through my veins and my heart swell. However, I knew though that I wanted to find out more about this work and that I absolutely wanted to meet Frank, given everything my dad has told me about him.

After spending a fair few hours with Frank on Saturday, listening to his stories and looking more closely at his work, I understand and appreciate his art in a whole new way. Frank has lived such a full life, lived through many hardships and every one of his paintings in imbued with his experience, emotion and passion. When I spoke to Frank on the phone before I met him he described his house as like 'Steptoe and Son' and I knew what he meant when I stepped in his front room as it was piled high to the ceiling with all sorts of bits and pieces - frames, mannequins, paperwork - it was fantastic! When we went into his kitchen he opened up his cupboards and I was delighted to see rows of his clay sculptures sitting on the shelves - in exactly the same visual style as his paintings, almost like 3D versions of the people and environments in his paintings! 

Frank then said that he wanted to play me three songs he had written and recorded onto a CD, so we went into his middle room, where he also sleeps, and he switched on his stereo. I didn't quite know what to expect at this point, but when the music came on I heard Frank's voice singing. I listened closely to the lyrics and realised that he was singing a memory from his past. And his voice - raw, naive - again, EXACTLY like his paintings. I appreciate that one listens to music and sees a painting, but I felt that in this moment, the two were one of the same. It was at this point that I felt an incredible connection to his work and I fell in love with his creations - every piece just meant so much. Sitting there with Frank on his bed while he sang along and laughed, I felt an incredible honour to be there - just him and me - experiencing first-hand the man whose heart and mind has created this collection of wonderful work. Frank has had his painting and sculptures formally exhibited in galleries, but being with him and seeing his work in his home setting was above and beyond the best way I could possibly hope to experience his wonderful and unique art.

So...I digress...however,  this does lead me back to my original point: for me it is usually the person and the story behind the art that intrigues me the most. I once went to a talk by the spiritual ecologist and former Jain Monk, Satish Kumar, and I will always remember him saying, "an artist isn't a special person; every person is a special artist. How right he is. I find it wonderful when people are able to express themselves without restriction or constraint, in whatever medium they engage with. I long to discover a unique and humble authenticity in the artist that transcends a purely egocentric, pretentious need to flaunt hers or his skills and talents. Show me a blank piece of paper that has been framed and hung on a wall at an exhibition and I'll most likely walk away shaking my head. Bring me the artist to tell me why they chose to frame a blank piece of paper and hang it on a wall, and my mind remains open :)

The wonderful Frank signing my copy of his book 'A Brush with Life'

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Middle Earth Weekend

Last weekend I spent a lovely afternoon photographing the annual Lord of the Rings 'Middle Earth' weekend in Moseley, Birmingham, very close to where I live. It is understood that author J. R. Tolkien lived over the road from Sarehole Mill (where the event is held) when he was a boy, and the surrounding area inspired parts of his famous novels. 2012 marks the 75th anniversary of the first edition of 'The Hobbit' and this celebratory piece was produced by my good friend and collaborator Sam Coley.

Video by Ian Fish
Photography by Ellie Gibbons & Sam Coley
Audio and Production by Sam Coley

Thanks to the Birmingham Central Library, Birmingham City University

For more information visit the Middle Earth Weekend website.

Friday, 20 April 2012

S-Endz: The Final Set

I must say a BIG thankyou to Blogger for finally implementing a '1 click' multiple photo upload function to the backend template - an absolute blessing for posts like this!!!