Thank you Arts Council

How many times have we heard someone say, ‘if I had known how hard it was going to be, I would never have started in the first place”?  It felt a bit like that filling in the Arts Council proposal. It is no slight undertaking. Especially when one is hugely form-phobic; but Phew we, ( myself and co-producer Alison Brisby) have got the go ahead and I believe it’s a testament to the value of the project. It’s a huge boost to have some one believe in something as much as you believe in it yourself, so thank you Arts Council.

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The Fallen, Then and Now ( #ThenandNow)   is the project we have now been officially funded for: it’s a work which I have discussed in previous blogs exploring the aftermath of the conflict in Afghanistan, recreating existing family photographs of service personnel killed in the conflict and running the pictures alongside the testimony of the family members left behind trying to make sense of the devastation.

The work explores memory, and remembrance from a very personal perspective.

Then and Now series Loss in Afghanistan

The proposal for the Arts Council was to expand the scale of the project to 20 case studies and to turn the work in to a touring exhibition. I am hoping the size of the project will make it valuable as an archive and a tribute to the loss and sacrifice not just of the soldiers, but their families too.

I will be reporting on the progress of the project here, but please feel free to share this with anybody who you feel may be interested in getting involved –  especially service personnel and charities working in this sector.

 

Thanks: 

Thankyou very much to Alison Brisby for helping me steer this proposal along without which I suspect I would not have managed to navigate the hoops and hurdles required to get funding. Thank you also to Four Corners Gallery and Oriel Colwyn the first galleries able to confirm space for the shows in September and November 2015.Thanks also to all of the guys who checked and rechecked the proposal to make sure it was strong and appropriate, have expressed interest in showing the exhibition  or simply for having the decency to share their worldly wisdom and own experiences for Arts Council funding: including Open Eye gallery,  Dave and Carla at Four Corners,  Emma Smith at Look 15 Liverpool International Photography Festival, Colin Cavers, Fotospace gallery , Fife ; Kate Peters; Ania Dabrowska; Ed Thomson; Adrian, Katy Regan and Sophie Gerrard  .

Ok now the hard bit: Do the project!

 

For more information on completed work click here for the previous blog.

 

 

Then and Now- a Story of Loss in Afghanistan

“After Afghanistan” published this month in Marie Claire , is a story I have been thinking about and working on for a while.  (My working title is Then and Now). I came up with the idea of recreating family snapshots after conflict bereavement during a trip to Libya, in July 2012. I was wrestling with the idea of how to tell stories of Loss in the aftermath of War (a theme I have explored in several countries). In the picture below we see the recreation off a snap after the child (later a rebel) on the right was killed in action in Tripoli, Libya . libya45 In Libya the culture of the the family snapshot is not so great; and this made it a difficult approach there but I knew it would be well suited to a similar story in the UK.  Its great Marie Claire have given the space to these stories. I really believe its important to consider the sacrifice the families of service personnel make alongside that of the  soldiers. The interviews by Katy Regan are really powerful, there is no online gallery but here’s a sample from Caroline Munday’s  interview ( pictured below) that really struck me:

“I was just leaving work, at Parcel Force, when I saw my sister had rung, leaving an odd message saying I had to call mum.  Mum was very insistent I immediately go home to her and Dad’s.  I just felt this blackness come over me. I said, “Oh God, tell me it isn’t James”.
I was on my knees, alone in the car park, screaming. I felt like my heart had been wrenched out.  Then, this bubble just emerged around me. I walked back to the building and said, calmly to the security guard, “I’ve just found out my son’s been killed in Afghanistan. I need to go back into the building

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A big thank you to all who took part, once more, for the emotional strength and commitment to the story.

You may be able to help?

I am planning to apply for Arts Council funding to make this a much bigger project, with many more stories told which would tour as an exhibition – hopefully as part of our remembrance celebrations. In order to have a chance of getting this, however, I need to find ‘match funding’ that is, a partner to supply sponsorship.

You could help by sharing this story with your contacts and colleagues. My hope is, that it would then reach organisations who might be interested in giving back to our troops’ efforts and their sacrifice by backing such a project.

Each case study who takes part gets to support their chosen charity, so by even just tweeting or Facebooking the story, you would be giving back in a small way.

Seamus Heaney 1939-2013

Seamus Heaney, in his kitchen , photographed , at home, shortly before the launch of “District and Circle “for the Telegraph.

Afterwards Seamus took us ( me and the journalist whose name evades me) to Dublin for a memorable pint of Guinness, where I remember a very animated conversation about poetry. What a privilege to spend this time with a fabulous poet and fabulous man.

Many pictures of Seamus online are quite serious such is the fashion for photographic portraiture; but I’m pleased I took this which reflects the warmth of spirit he emanated, – like a radiator. RIP Seamus.

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Renaissance Photography Prize 2013

What a lovely summer we are having here in the UK. I have to say all those barbecues and iced drinks can be very distracting ,  but think I ought to put my work head on for one moment and point you all towards the Renaissance 2013 Exhibition which takes place at the  Wapping Project Bankside gallery from 3-7 September. The gallery is located a short walk from Tate Modern on London’s Southbank.

I am a finalist; out of a submission of almost 5000; and with a prestigious selection of judges (including “Monica Allende, Sunday Times; Bret Rodgers, Director of the Photographers Gallery;  Simon Bainbridge, BJP; Mirander Gavin, Hotshoe; Chris Littlewood,  Nadav kander and so on)  I was  needless to say, very pleased. Apparently the standard was very high, but  you may want to  pop down and decide for yourself.

Right now I’m off to pack for France, how smug!

Director Licensing Department,Department of Tourism and Marketing.Dubai, UAE.

Story Telling in Azerbaijan.

Baku, Azerbaijan.  It was 4am and dark on the streets outside the Landmark Hotel (this works better if read in the style of an American Private detective, circa 1930s!)

The city was quiet at that hour, the shiny baroque facades obscured by the dark. Baku was a brand new city, a signal to the world that Azerbaijan was a place to do business like any other town in Europe – Paris, London  – At least that’s what we were supposed to think.

A man gets out of a black Sedan. He is wearing the standard Baku uniform: black leather jacket, jeans and boots, no sunglasses at this hour though. He mumbles something in a thick accent: ‘British Embassy?’ I nod and get in.

It’s only then I start to question – who is this person? He could be taking me anywhere! This is Baku not London. I should have checked his I.D.  It’s too late…..dun dun deeerrr!!

It’s ok, relax, fortunately he was my designated driver dropping me off at the airport after all – phew! – Only my active imagination was cause for suspicion.

I had been running a workshop in storytelling in Photojournalism, aimed at the emerging photojournalists of Azerbaijan. I think sometimes we can learn as much from writers about storytelling as from photographers. Each needs a beginning, middle and end; photographers look for the opening shot, writers consider their prologue and so forth.  (By the way, you can drop the American accent as you read this now and excuse my indulgence in writing. I guess there’s a novel in all of us eh?)

I have to say I really enjoyed teaching out here. The students were passionate and actually not exposed so much to outside influences and because of it keen, soaking up information like sponges. This made our role there seem very worthwhile. The OSCE (Operation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) were funding this. They believe a free and professional press is a vital building block of a functioning state. Unfortunately, Azerbaijan scores very poorly on the freedom of the press ranking 140th out of 200; so in a way one could say myself and my fellow tutor Guy Martin were on a bit of a mission.

Not a secret mission however, but one where we discussed the vital ingredients of story telling in photojournalism:  For example: the building blocks of a good picture story, ethics and legislation in photojournalism, the Golden Proportion and aesthetics in image-making to name a few of the lecture’s themes.

The students were up for the challenge. Everyday we sent them out and by the end there was a real sense they were developing and working with enthusiasm and commitment. I am posting some of the pictures here (assuming permission from the talented photographers of Baku) mainly from the last day’s exercise:  “The Environmental Portrait”, hope you agree they make an interesting set.

Exhibition at Streetlevel Photoworks

Pleased to be taking part in a group show at  Scotland’s Street Level Photoworks Gallery in Glasgow. The work was selected from the Desk Job series shown at Format Festival.  Also showing is Ken Grant, Kajal Nisha Patel and Moira Lovell.  It’s nice to be part of a smaller show with such an interesting collection of work.  Desk Job - Workers at their Desks Around the World

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My bowl of Rice Crispies has  just enough snap crackle and pop to get me to wordpress,  this week to update my blog.

It was smashing to be invited on to the Guardian Master Class to talk about photographic story telling with Sebastian Myer.  The class seemed to work (we  got nice feedback at least)– perhaps because of  a combination of our different approaches to story telling: Seb is a classic photojournalists use to working on the front line, I tend to approach story telling from a completely different perspective.  Seb talked about techniques in traditional photojournalism, while I looked at how I use portraiture to tell national even global stories- Looking at work done in Libya , Kosovo, Afghanistan and also my  recent story, Desk Job.

This  links me nicely to its selection for Format Festival in Derby which was another highpoint this month. It was  a treat to visit Derby, not just to catch up with old friends , make some new ones perhaps , but also to look at new work like Brian Griffins excellent commission at the Museum or  to enjoy work by friends like Oliver Woods.

Other exciting news includes the publication of the same work in Wired blog , Raw File ( last week, apparently stats are good and it should get  a quarter of a million hits)  and also on the 20/3 in Fotoredactie Vrij Nederlandand.

Also ,  I’m off to  teach a workshop to 17 Azerbaijani photojournalists  In Baku on the  02/04  (The theme, once more, is Story telling  in photojournalism)  with Guy Martin . 

Finally, while i’m here , just time to mention the  fascinating commission for Marie Claire magazine that started this week. Looking  forward to updating the blog with news on these fronts soon, Thank you for reading,