12/13/2010

It's a nice day to start again.

I have such a massive love / hate / love relationship with weddings, even when attending just as a guest. I love dressing up, but always stress massivly over what to wear. Goodness knows what I would do if by some miracle I found myself having to be a bride; I think my brain would explode from sartorial fear and angst, and perhaps from a corset several sizes too small.

I do love the emotional journey that you share with the couple on the day, but hate the hangover that comes with the free bar the next morning. And why is it that you ladder your stockings the second you step out of the car? Always, always, always, without fail. The flowers always seem to be aimed at you, just after a break up, the best man will hit on you just after you've got back together, and so it goes on. Weddings are stress filled endurances which one must spend most of the summer training for. That's what the hen nights are for, yes? For the training...

Photographing a wedding however is something else. Regardless of whether it's a friend or stranger, I will spend most of the day silently hoping that I don't throw up over my shoes with nerves. I won't eat the day before just because of this, it's that bad. It's even worse when you're shooting for someone who you care about as it's not like a shoot in the studio; you can't just rebook the models and lights and start all over again. Having spent a good few years as a lab-monkey processing films, I've seen too many fogged, under and over exposed negatives come back as the remains of someone's "professional" memories for their special day, and have felt so much second hand fear for them having to plead their case to their clients. But I feel even worse for the clients who are dependent on just the disposable cameras / digital point and shoots belonging their friends.

Luckily I've managed to avoid this so far, and with each wedding I shoot, I always swear that it's going to be my last. And then, I see the reactions of the couple when they get the photos back, and my heart melts. Dam you sentimentality. Dam you. I think partly it's nice being involved in the process of the couple's special day; I've always known that the closest I'll get to being married is being the six year old child running around with a length of curtain thrown over my head, and that's fine with me as I've never really seen myself as the sort of girl who ever would. But because of this, it's nice to help compile the memories of those less vow-shy, and no matter how much I insist the weeks of post-wedding editing, and lead up nerves are... I'll always do it again when asked, no matter if I've said that the previous one was the last.













12/02/2010

Uniform Of Youth

Undoubtedly one of the biggest perks of taking photos of people is that you get to meet so many different personalities. Whether it's in a club, at a wedding or in a studio for a magazine, there are just so many faces to talk to and hear stories from. There are the clients. Then there are the make-up artists, the stylists, the lighting technicians, the runners, the ushers, the family members, that long lost cousin twice removed who forgot the floral buttonholes in the taxi... Everywhere you look, there's an interesting angle, a possible photo, and a fascinating story to hear.

Of course, many of these people wash past you during the course of a day with little interaction. If you stopped and talked at length to everyone you came across, you wouldn't end up taking that many photos (something which even years later, I still often have to remind myself of during shoots.) But there are some people who for whatever reason stay in your head. It's not necessarily about how good the photo looks, but what was left behind after the image was snapped. Some people just leave an impact on you, and sometimes, this impact turns into something even better; a friendship.

I've always been quite lucky that I have an amazing circle of close friends. Even when a few months pass without seeing them, there is that magical ability where you can sit down over a cup of tea, and it's as if you had seen them just yesterday. Others drift in and out, and even if there isn't such a closeness, there is always that warming feeling of seeing a familiar face. I think in essence that is part of the job; you just get to know people. And as you might have gathered, despite my hermit-editing-hobo state at the moment whilst we get The Second Floor Studio to take care of itself, I do love being around and meeting new people. So in the spirit of that, here are a few beautiful faces, who I am always more than happy to see.



Geoff Carr stumbled into my life in the most unlikely of ways. With our eyes meeting across the less than romantic plains of Wood Green, he was a Northampton based studio technician on his way to test  the lights in a small studio that I worked from in North London. Although we didn't meet again for months, it was one of those moments where something just changed, and somehow several hundred miles back and forth later, we're now both in London, pushing our own studio further, and producing better work every day. Although the reality is that we've known each other for a year, have been dating for just six months, and living together and running a business together for three... somehow we seem to have put an entire lifetime into such a short space. The way I see it is that we've not killed each other yet. So we've passed the first test... That and he makes me more happy than I ever thought possible.

 
My beautiful Bunny Munsta! Partner in crime, dyer of hair, killer of zombies and introducer of Nandos to the vegetarian. My best friend and accomplice in wasting time at The Prince Charles Cinema. Destroyer of Krispy Kremes. And person who I miss so much right now since he moved to Barcelona for a few months. I'll be waiting on the tarmac as soon as he flies back armed with some beef jerky and many, many shiny pound coins to go and play arcade games with him. London hasn't been quite so bright since him and his cymk personality vacated in search of cats and sunshine...


Carl Morris. Writer. Actor. Teacher. Tea lover. I can't quite put into words how much I adore this man, and love that an afternoon of hot chocolate and book buying can lead to adventures in Wonderland, and 5am cups of tea in Turkish cafes. And that was just on our second meeting. His answerphone messages left in either the voice of Stitch or with various regional accents are as endearing as they are silly, and it is this exact, inane silliness which makes Mr. Morris so much fun to be around, whether it's in front of the camera, or shopping for real coffee and books in Soho.


I hardly even know where to begin with this beautiful girl. Janey Hallam was a friend who I met through Bunny, which began a long saga of multiple cats, cider and a discovery of how to make sushi. She has let me try out so many ideas with her, and is as wonderful a model, as she is a friend. Currently residing in the USA, I am counting down the seconds until she's back in London in January. The Hackney House of shame has so many memories, many in photographic form which may at some point need to be destroyed... :-)


Binky + Diana = Cupcake and cleavage overload. Divine, adorable, evil and amazing, this glitter queen has the burlesque world at her hardworking feet, creating the most amazing pieces over in the world of Pearls and Swine. I have been lucky enough to work on several photoshoots with both her and her products, and every single one of them has been amazing. There are just some people who creatively, you spark with and Binky is most certainly one of them, if not THE one for me. However I am lucky that she isn't just a creative partner, she's also become like a big sister, always at the ready to lead my astray. And for that, she will always have my heart. And my last cupcake.


It was fortune which led me to meet these two beautiful ladies. Both friends of friends, Natalie Booth came along first, having bumped into her at a magazine launch party. With her bright red hair and model height, my initial reaction was one of wow. Especially as she was wearing a different coloured version of a dress which I'd recently purchased, and was making it look literally a billion times better. That dress has languished in the back of my wardrobe ever since, and is unlikely to ever see the light of day until I can either walk in 15" heels or find a corset that can suck me in by about 60 inches! However it was worth the loss, as I gained a wonderful friend instead who luckily, has become less shy of the camera since we've met. Which is awesome for me, as she is a natural pin-up, and a super-cutie!

Kat Kollinski was again met through a friend, and it was upon seeing her photo on Facebook that I just knew that I had to photograph her. What I hadn't quite prepared myself for was the fact that as well as looking like Poland's answer to Dita, she also handmade all of her incredible 1940s style clothes, from the tailored dressed and matching separates, right down to the winter coat which is quite literally to die for. She has such a natural elegance, and looks as if she's stepped out from a vintage postcard, with her cutesy smile and set-curly hair. The camera adores her, but not as much as I do!

Next, come the faces who I don't get to see nearly enough and often miss... Mr. Phillip Spence, creator of Ninja Bunny, my darling cute-faced Missy, Lauren Ding of Pocket Rocket Fashion, and that boy's face who I'm sure I contemplate offers of tea and friendship with far too frequently. Not that there's any bad feeling. It's just. Well. You know. Sometimes you miss people even when you shouldn't.









I think that it's just difficult to walk away when someone made such a huge impact on your life. A year isn't a long time, but it's long enough to make a difference, and although a photograph might be thrown away, those memories still stay in your head. Even if you did try to erase them with several bottles of cheap wine at the time. And it might be easier to cling onto the bad memories but, it's more fun to remember the good ones. It's just that being that way inclined ensures that you dream of tea in Soho, movies at the PCC, and forget how badly you were hurt. It's difficult to navigate.

I think as well that when working with different people, you can learn so much as well. I think it'd be fair to say that assisting with photographers such as Medwell, ensured that I learnt more about lighting and posing than what I ever had done from books or classes. It's a mixture of seeing how things work first hand, but also feeling inspired by someone elses expertise.



Medwell for me was some sort of deviant teacher. Dismantling wrestling rings at 5am whilst drunk after a crazy shoot, falling asleep on buses with hundreds of pounds worth of equipment with us, and baking scones in his kitchen when too broke to buy real food. I have a crazy adoration for him, but also a very high level of respect for his craft. Which he'd probably respond to by trying to draw on my arm in marker pen, but this is partly why I wish I saw him more now.

People to me are important. I'm lucky that as a photographer, I get to document the people who waltz in and out of my life at will. But sometimes I wish that I was better at being a proper friend and keeping in touch. Photos are good, but they're nowhere close to a cup of tea and a hug.

11/27/2010

Who are you?

There are many photographic clich├ęs used when trying to describe the importance of images. "An image speaks a thousand words" is one which tends to be used to death. There is also the statistic banded around that apparently, it takes just between seven and thirty seconds to make a first impression. With photos, this time is reduced to a mere one or two, and so really hammers home the importance of a good, well lit headshot.

Headshots at The Second Floor Studio are probably one of my favourite things to shoot. Strange when you consider that we have all manner of quirky showmen and models waltzing through our doors to the studio. Yet there is something so satisfying about taking an intimate portrait with holds a strong look of both beauty and intensity to it, especially when the person looking into the lens is just your everyday Joe / Josephine.

Of course everybody is unique, and I don't mean "everybody" in a derogatory manner. What I mean  is it's nice to take a photograph that you're not going to have to photoshop to death afterwards. The photo is allowed to keep the character defining wrinkes, roles and lines which make a face all the more interesting. It's a proper portrait, rather than a digitialised dream, and is something which I consider completely seperate from most of the work that I do. Of course, I love the unreality which fashion brings; it's a complete and utter fabrication from the structured and padded underwear, to the face shaping make-up and lighting, but the photos which you take can sometimes become less a photo, and more a mini collabarative work of art between yourself and a team of people. Whereas a good portrait; a strong, sharp, eye-gazing image is different. It's real. You want to almost be able to touch the stubble, or ruffle the hair. They're the people that you meet in a cafe, at a supermarket till or sat on a park bench eating sandwiches. They're the people who have real lives and real stories, and are the very essence of portraiture, and the reason why I love it so much.

Bunny Munsta, Stokey

Jane Hallam, Soho

Carl Morris, The Lexington

Tom Perry, Gladesmore Garden

Salty Seadog, Broadstairs

Geoff Carr, Gladesmore

This along with landscape will always be the type of photography that I love the most. Just capturing those moments, those expressions, those sentiments in a image. They are of a time, and will always remain from that moment. Headshots, are almost reverse, and attempt to hold a almost timeless quality. Yet with that, they still never fail to engulf that deep, searching stare that makes them have such an impact.

Matt Toppin, The Second Floor Studio

Suzie Lantham, The Second Floor Studio
Julia at The Second Floor Studio

Suzie Lantham, The Second Floor Studio
I often feel that is because they are in essence, such simple images. The person is stripped bare. It's just them, their stare, and the camera lens. And because of that, the image entails both a powerful stance, but also, a gentle, vulnerable beauty.

One of the less cheesey photograph quotes comes from the legendery Ansel Adams.

"When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs.  When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence."

However, I also feel the need to add in something from Stephen Rea... "People ask me to smile for the camera, but somehow it always comes out gloomy."

11/21/2010

Let's get this party started

In the absence of any type of artistic hedonism these past few months, my brain has been longing for an evening of excess and good music. One of those nights where your eye liner is dripping down your face and your hair has pouffed to Marie Antoinette proportions, and yet somehow you just don't care and manage to dance it off. Bar a few gigs that I've shot, my nightlife as of late has involved working out advertisement designs, sourcing larger clients and contracts that we can pitch to and editing an ever increasing work load of photos shot for both clients and magazines. I've been the Queen of little more than the kettle, with far too much time spent in pyjamas with unrulely eyebrows and roots that would make even Cruella De'Ville shudder in horror. In short, I'm feeling less than fabulous, and nostalgic for those evening of Vaudeville mayhem, and carnival carnage. When did my red lipstick get swapped for Primark f-Uggs to wander around the studio in? When did the stockings and corsets get replaced with star pyjama bottoms and Hello Kitty t-shirts? I can feel my sensible sensibilities being attacked. Rumbles in the back of my brain. I fear than war might have been declared. Let's hope that the f-Uggs are taken prisoner first...

But in the meantime, here are some photos of people being fabulous...






















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