Farewell Colin O’Brien

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A photo I took of Colin O’Brien alongside one of my favourite photos taken by him, at his retrospective exhibition ’65’ at the Oxo Tower Gallery in 2014

If this year isn’t remembered for being the year of Brexit and Trump, it will be for all the painful losses that we have suffered, of people who brought poetry and beauty to the planet rather than division and hatred. When David Bowie’s death was announced back in January I thought that the year had dealt its trump card too soon. But it turned out to have a deadly hand, with the actor Alan Rickman quickly following suit and Leonard Cohen being the latest of a long list of losses that are felt like personal blows to so many.

Among the very public English losses there was a more discreet and quiet departure back in August. Maybe appropriately so, as it was of one of life’s gentle observers over seven decades – the photographer Colin O’Brien. I was lucky enough to have had two close encounters with Colin’s work. The first occasion was at Chats Palace in East London, where I was first introduced to his East End photographs of the 1950s. His monochrome images of everyday Londoners resonated with me so strongly that I still feel a quickening of my heart as I recall that moment of discovery. The second time was through another exhibition, this time at the Oxo Tower on the South Bank, when I re-acquainted myself with those old friends, as well as being blessed enough to meet the person who had taken them – an experience which left such an impression on me that I wrote about it: https://anenchantedeye.com/2014/08/03/an-homage-to-colin-obrien/

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A young Colin with his first Leica

If Colin thought that he was going to slip away without for once being the focus of attention, then he was wrong. For last week the historic St James church in his childhood neighbourhood of Clerkenwell was filled with people who had known or been inspired by him and wanted to come together to celebrate his life and his work. There were reminiscences from lifelong friends as well as fellow documentary photographer Tom Mazzer; a moving reading of his personal reminiscences by the elegant and eloquent Dame Sian Phillips and some short documentaries. And of course there were the photographs – what a gentle pleasure it was to see those evocative monochrome images fading in and out before me as first a fiddle then a string quartet played, interspersed by photographs of Colin himself spanning right back to childhood when he already had a camera in his hand.

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One of Colin’s evocative photos, depicting London life

It was a heart-warming affair, full of love, appreciation and generosity, followed by drinks in the cloisters downstairs. One of the beverages on offer was, rather poignantly, blackcurrant soda in bottles decorated with photos taken by Colin on his final assignment. This had involved joining a coach-load of East Enders on a day-trip to Tudely in Kent to pick the fruit that we drank. His good friend and scribe “the Gentle Author”, who was with him that day, recalls how they plotted to slip off post-assignment to have a drink in the local pub, on the pretext of going to visit the local church. Strangely enough, on route to the pub they became drawn into the church anyhow, transfixed by the stained glass windows which turned out to be the creation of the great Russian artist Marc Chagall .

Colin was so preoccupied in taking photos of the light coming through those magnificent windows that those pub pints alluded them. I don’t know what his religious beliefs were, but somehow it seems befitting that probably the last photographs he took were in a spiritual place, capturing the work of another artist whose work will be a legacy for many years to come.

For I strongly believe that Colin’s poignant, tender and beautifully framed images of East London will be as an important a contribution to our country’s heritage as that of any other artist. Apparently he knew when he was taking them, back in the fifties, that he was recording something of value for future generations. He has also deduced that the best photography is often the work that hasn’t been commissioned. Those words resonated with me, because sometimes there is a sense that photographs are not of value unless you have been paid to take them. Instead of being frustrated by the devaluation in the currency of photography as an industry, I look at photographs such as Colin’s and remember that first and foremost, it is an art-form, not a business, and that those images should not be held in any less esteem just because they were taken for the love of expressing yourself, and recording the world as you see it, through the camera.

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Colin captured ordinary life, such as a young family window shopping

Rickman and Bowie were both Londoners, born in 1946 and 1947 respectively. Although neither grew up in the East End, I like to think that many of the photographs that Colin took captured what they too would have experienced – from its bomb-scarred cityscapes, to the fashions and ‘props’ of that post-war London stage. Which is why Colin’s photographs are extra precious. Because it is by recording the everyday present that we are better able to know our own culture, our people and ultimately our country’s heritage. Fortunately Colin did this beautifully and, like Bowie’s songs, his images will live on and continue to enchant, entertain and educate us. I’m as grateful for that as I am grateful that Bowie didn’t transport “Life on Earth” up to heaven with him.

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In Time of the Breaking of Nations

It is still less than a week since the British referendum result. And yet it feels much longer. So much has happened since then that I can’t a recall a time in British history so tumultuous. I feel that we will look back asking not “What were you doing when Brexit occurred?” but rather “Which way did you vote?” For I cannot think of anything that has divided our nation so much – not only geographically; even within the Conservative and Labour parties there have been divisions so great that staunch Labour supporters have found themselves on the same side as the leader of the Conservative party. And now both of our main parties are at war, as the nation itself is, with themselves.

To get some sense of inner peace amongst the chaos and drama I went on a couple of walks – first on the day that the results came out and again yesterday. Both were typical British summer days – not particularly hot, but not unpleasant either. There was a break from the usual rainy days that we have been subjected to recently (as if the weather itself had echoed the bitter tears of half the population) and I was at least able to benefit from the lush, verdant beauty of early summer.

I walked through some of the greenest areas of London, and also in some pretty affluent streets (which I couldn’t help thinking up new names for – “Lucky Bastards Avenue” and “Fat Cat Alley” sprang to mind). As I ambled the hymn ‘Jerusalem’ kept playing in my mind, particularly the line “England’s Green and Pleasant Land”. I remembered how I had not been allowed to include this hymn at my wedding ceremony because the priest considered it too jingoistic. I was a bit annoyed at the time, but now I was starting to wonder if he had a point. After all it is based on a Blake poem suggesting that our land was so magnificent that Jesus must have walked on it.

Maybe Brexit is just about us getting a bit ahead of ourselves with our collective opinion of how great this country actually is. How we conveniently forget minor reality checks like the fact that our national football team this week could not even beat a country with a population smaller than most of our cities when called upon to do so. Maybe if we took ‘Great’ out of our name, banned Jerusalem from ever being sung again, and had a slightly less trumped up flag, then it would help us to have a more balanced view?

Because the problem is that even I, who felt physically sick when I heard the referendum result and cried angry tears that this could have happened, couldn’t help feeling a little bit comforted when I walked my city’s historic streets and parks and took in their beauty. And I knew that, however much the aggrieved 48% have threatened to revolt, in reality we will probably gradually accept the change and comfort ourselves by grumbling about it and telling everyone “Don’t say we didn’t warn you!”

Something else that came to my mind during my ambles was the Thomas Hardy poem ‘In Time of the Breaking of Nations’, written at the start of World War I. Hardy’s poem depicts how life goes on the same in England, in spite of the carnage taking place across the channel. The land is still farmed; people still fall in love. The poem was written in response to a request from the government to Hardy to comfort and reassure people. Conjuring it up now doesn’t comfort me; it reinforces my gut fear that we will not take a stance against tumultuous changes like Brexit when we have newspapers to misinform and mould us; and football tournaments and Facebook posts to distract us from the bigger picture.

I did not mourn our departure from the European Cup. I was glad. Because I wanted some of those who voted for England’s much bigger exit to share some of my pain, if only for a fleeting moment. And I wanted them to be reminded that we are not that great a nation anymore, just like we have not won a major football tournament in fifty years.  We haven’t found a winning team and we haven’t been fixed. We’re just a confused, deflated and divided country, wondering who our next leader will be and what our next ill-conceived tactic will be to try to restore those glory days we misguidedly think we deserve.

Here is Hardy’s poem:

In Time of the Breaking of Nations

Only a man harrowing clods

In a slow silent walk

With an old horse that stumbles and nods

Half asleep as they stalk.

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Only thin smoke without flame

From the heaps of couch-grass;

Yet this will go onward the same

Though Dynasties pass.

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Yonder a maid and her wight

Come whispering by:

War’s annals will cloud into night

Ere their story die.

London’s Little Scandinavia

I was recently invited to attend a Sunday church service and I jumped at the chance! Not, I confess, because I’d had a spiritual reawakening. I was simply curious to visit this place of worship in one of my favourite areas of London. You see the church was Norwegian and the area was Rotherhithe, which from now on will be London’s ‘Little Scandinavia’ to me.

Several years ago I lived in this historic south London Thameside area and became very fond of the ancient pubs (including the Mayflower where the Pilgrim Fathers originally set sail from – sorry Plymouth but they actually started their journey from here), cobbled alleyways and general Dickensian feel. I traversed Brunel’s incredible engineering feat in the form of a tunnel under the Thames (which incidentally now hosts atmospheric underground concerts, as well as wonderful garden parties during the summer) and I regularly cycled or walked along by the river.

But I was blissfully ignorant of the area’s Scandinavian connection, other than a vague awareness of there being a Swedish Seaman’s Mission somewhere in the vicinity. Sadly the historic Mission closed before I was able to visit it, but it turns out that it wasn’t the only Nordic place of worship in the area, as the Norwegian Church and Seaman’s Mission (also known as St. Olave’s Church) is still conducting services, as is the Finnish church.

As Rotherhithe’s major port status has crumbled since Rotterdam stole its thunder, I would be forgiven for assuming that there isn’t much call for a Norweigan Seaman’s Mission anymore, so I thought I had better pay the place a visit sooner rather than later. Then I received an invitation by the wonderful organisation SharedCity (www.sharedcity.co.uk), which helps Londonders to visit the world without leaving town through their cultural tours, to join them at a service. It was the last impetus I needed to do something sacred with my Sunday for a change.

On the morning that I visited, the St Olave’s church service was being recorded for Norwegian radio, so it was a strict phones off policy (which meant no discreet photos of the service to share). But I can report that it was a beautiful hour-long affair, and that not being able to understand a word being said didn’t diminish my enjoyment of it. In fact familiar hymns such as Amazing Grace sounded angelic when sung by the choir in Norwegian, and when a celloist and opera singer ‘entertained’ us from the gallery during the blessing I was in celestial heaven.

As if that wasn’t enough, the after-service refreshments weren’t confined to mere tea and biscuits. Instead, you could indulge in a full-on Sunday lunch of Scandinavian meatballs with all the trimmings, including generous dollops of lingonberry sauce, followed by delicious cakes. This generous and delicious lunch was included as part of the SharedCity tour and was followed by a friendly talk exclusively for its participants, by the priest, who incidentally looked like he had stepped out of the Norwegian band Aha! (and anyone who remembers them will know that that is definitely a good thing!) He explained how the Mission came about and how it still thrives. They basically have an open door policy and are so so much more than just a place to worship. In fact the building was deliberately constructed back in 1927 to include a relaxation area to read or eat in. This was in order to attract the visiting seamen from Scandinavia there instead of the many bars and brothels.

After the beautiful service, a delicious lunch and an interesting talk I felt well set for the week ahead. But wait, there was more! A jazz band would now entertain us. Apparently non-sacramental afternoon entertainment is the norm. I was beginning to like St. Olave’s more and more with every passing minute. In fact I would have been happy just to visit the beautiful historic building for the architectural enjoyment alone but I came away having felt part of the Norwegian community for a few hours and I felt very blessed as a result. I wasn’t sure that their Finnish neighbours would be able to top that.

Actually the Finnish church was full of surprises too. Admittedly it was a more modern building, though still attractive in its own minimalist, tasteful, Scandinavian way. But the trick up its sleeve was that it had its very own sauna! Yes, that’s right! And anyone can come and use it; there is just one rule – clothes are not allowed. (Well actually there is another rule – you can only use it alone or with other members of the same sex  -but still, it’s not often that church-goers are asked to politely requested to strip).

Of course the sauna is not compulsory, but it is a very popular feature. This is because apparently every home in Finland has one, so to come and live in England and not have access to a sauna is a bit like being told that you lovely new home is missing a bathroom. I was told, during the interesting talk for SharedCity visitors, that it is very much the norm for the Fins to partake in a sauna at the end of the day as a kind of demarcation between work time and relaxation. A bit like the English tradition of going down the pub I guess, but a bit healthier.

Saunas aside, the Finnish church is also home to a very well-stocked Scandinavian food store and a pleasant cafe, with indoor and outdoor seating. I was impressed enough by this, so the unexpected concert by the Swedish children’s choir was an unnecessary addition. But it was lovely and I certainly left feeling very elated.

In fact all in all I spent a very pleasant few hours in an oft overlooked area of London. So, Ikea eat your heart out – this is my Sunday Scandinavian pastime from now on!

SharedCity conduct several tours around London where you can immerse yourself in different cultures ranging from South Indian to Italian to Latin American. The three hour ‘Norway & Finland’ tour costs £25, which includes the Norwegian lunch. I strongly recommend trying one of their tours, particular as a pertinent reminder that it is London’s multiculturism that helps make it such a vibrant, fascinating and popular city!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some Margate Gems

This week I was invited to photograph Margate for the local tourist board, while joining them on a whistletop ‘fam tour’ of the town. I like to think I know Margate well, as I divide my time between my flat here and London. But I have to admit that most of the places we visited had previously been off my radar. I can now say that I’ve ventured down the shell grotto (a cave decorated with shells ‘recently’ discovered in 1835 but no-one knows why the shells are there and who put them there); stepped inside the beautiful Tudor House, which I have previously only admired from the outside; done time in a prison cell – now Margate History museum, and hopped on-board the bus cafe at The Old Kent Market.

I’ve come away now knowing that the shell grotto has a fantastic gift shop; that Tudor House was nearly demolished by the council because they didn’t know what historic gem was quietly lying underneath a rough plastered facade (a lesson for us all perhaps…); the Old Kent Market bakes lovely huge teacakes on the premises, that are effectively Hot Cross Buns but without the cross. (So you don’t have to wait until Easter to eat them); the History Museum is housed in a former gaol and is really large and that Helen Shapiro, who sang at the Winter Gardens, was actually Columbian (a random fact gleaned from the history museum).

I also got to have a private tour of Dreamland amusement park on the first anniversary of its new incarnation (sadly the rides were not operating during my visit – I guess only the Royals get that kind of private tour) and discovered that the park is now free to visit (you just have to pay for the rides).

I also got to see the latest exhibition at the Turner Contemporary gallery, which is basically centred on all things round; and popped into a few shops and bars including the lovely Morgans, which I returned to later on so that I could enjoy the sunshine from their beautiful seaview terrace.

Next week I’ll be joining them on another fam trip and photographing the local Kent villages. I can’t wait!

My deer

One of the many things, in my totally biased opinion, that makes London special is its wonderful parks. And some of these are wilder than you can imagine – such as Richmond and Bushey Park, both of which have some rather special Royal residents – the Queen’s deer.

This autumn I boarded a ridiculously early train from Waterloo and braved the first of the chilly mornings in order to venture into Richmond park. I was there during the rutting season when the deer are more visible and, dare I add without upset my readers too much, it also helped that it was just before culling season, so they were at their most plentiful!)

It was a fascinating experience being so close to these wild and yet seemingly tame animals. Having joined another photographer and driven into the park as soon as the gates opened pre-dawn, within minutes we saw a huge stag staring into the car headlights seemingly unfazed by our vehicle – as if to remind us that we were merely tolerated visitors in his territory.  As dawn lifted we saw more and more of his clan and were able to get very close without them being the slightest bit fazed by us. It made me laugh to see how some tourists went stupidly close, as if they hadn’t noticed those huge antlers and stopped to pontificate on what damage they could do if their owner got slightly fed up by their intrusion; while at the same time regular visitors to the park cycled, ran or rode past chattering away to each other seemingly oblivious to these magnificent animals inches away from them.

I don’t know which response perplexed me the most, because I felt like I was on a safari and my heart beat that little bit faster every time I saw a deer peering through the grass . Maybe if I had this park on my doorstep I too would take them for granted and the camouflage would work on me as well.

But I like to think that I won’t, because I still catch my breath whenever I see St. Paul’s cathedral illuminated at night, or London’s new corporate cathedral – the Shard – shimmering under the sun’s rays, even though I see them practically every day. And I still marvel at what a wonderful place London is – to have white Portland stone and glistening steel on my doorstep, and majestic wild animals just a short train ride away.

That sea of blood

 

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There has been a bit of a poppy frenzy going on in London, by virtue of the “sea of blood” filling the moat at the Tower of London to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War. The ‘blood’ was made up of thousands of ceramic poppies – one for each Commonwealth soldier who lost his life during that great war. The installation process began in the summer and slowly grew each day to mark the soldiers who fell until the last poppy was planted on Armistice Day by a young army cadet.

With the addition of each flower it seemingly captured more and more of the public’s hearts until it became London’s biggest tourist attraction. People flocked to do ‘selfies’ of themselves with the poppies; they marvelled on how beautiful they looked on-mass and many rushed to buy them, post-installation, at £25 a pop. No doubt they will make a good investment and some wily people, fully aware of this, were already trying to cash in by selling them on Facebook before the display had even been dismantled. I had mixed feelings about it all.

I wondered if the soldiers would have approved of their barbaric, needless deaths being remembered as something to ooh and aah about and a backdrop for selfies. And more worryingly, I wondered if the act of creating a thing of such intense beauty was glorifying and romanticising war or, at the very least, accepting it as an inevitability. By turning those tragic deaths into a glorious work of art it was almost as if their deaths had formed some kind of artist’s palette; albeit a selective one. Why should we just sigh and shed a tear over those poor ‘Tommies’ while forgetting that war continues and that hundreds and thousands more lives have been lost then, right up to the present day with the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Armistice Day ceremony also unsettled my mind. By inviting both Chelsea war veterans in their splendid red jackets and a young army cadet to the ceremony is it not suggesting that war is an inevitability for every generation; and by placing them against that beautiful backdrop where they are made to look so stunning in their uniforms are we not glorifying war just as much now as our forefathers did a century ago when young men were sent to their slaughter with such glorious fanfare?

I am glad of my camera sometimes because the mere act of trying to take photos stops my brain from chattering too much with their nagging doubts. Though I’m aware now that by posting my photographs I am helping to perpetuate that notion of a “good and glorious” war. It makes me wonder about the conscience of photographers, as artists, and where we draw the line. I remember an interview with a conflict photographer, Robert King I think, in which he was asked how he could photograph the atrocities that he has seen in conflict zones such as citizens with freshly amputated limbs. He replied that your mind becomes that of an artist and you try to capture the pools of blood and the decimated body in the most aesthetic way possible. It isn’t that you don’t care, but just like a doctor doesn’t spend time wondering about the life of his patient while you try to save that life, you concentrate on the job on hand and think about it later.

In a remote sense that is what I am doing too. I photographed those “pools of blood” in the most beautiful way according to my capability, then shared the photos. My conscience is slightly troubled by the fact that I am helping to perpetrate war as a thing of beauty by doing so, but at the same time I am recognising another artist’s stunning creation and wanting to share it. Maybe I would feel happier if the actress Shelia Hancock’s suggestion of bringing a tank onto the moat to crush the lot of them had been taken up. That would have been a more fitting finale, rather than letting people own a poppy as a piece of artwork or, dare I say it, an art investment. I would have been there to photograph that for sure.

One thing that comforts me while I pontificate over all this is a wonderful act of nature that I was fortunate to observe. The local birds around the Tower of London had accepted and adapted to the presence of these artificial flowers by quite happily perching on them. I found this very comforting when I thought of what each poppy represented. The birds weren’t using the poppies for PR purposes or political gains – they just enjoyed being amongst them. I can’t help but think that this, probably unexpected, sideshow of the whole installation, was the truest and most moving. It brings to mind a poem by Thomas Hardy written during that ‘Great War’, entitled ‘In Time of the Breaking of Nations’.

Only a man harrowing clods

In a slow silent walk
With an old horse that stumbles and nods
Half asleep as they stalk.

Only thin smoke without flame
From the heaps of couch-grass;
Yet this will go onward the same
Though Dynasties pass.

Yonder a maid and her wight
Come whispering by:
War’s annals will cloud into night
Ere their story die.

Mother and child bonding

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A mother was sitting with her young daughter and son outside the Printers & Stationers cafe just off Columbia Road – which is a wonderful place for people watching – especially on Sundays, the flower market day! The sight that first caught my attention was the red glasses next to the red flower as their heads almost touched, so I wanted to capture that – purely for aesthetic reasons. But just as I was discreetly photographing them the little girl moved closer to her mother and then leaned her hand against her head with such effortless affection. It seemed such a mature thing to do that it felt as if the roles had been reversed and the child had become the mother. It was such a moving sight that I’m glad I captured it. I hope they don’t mind my sharing this sweet little moment of intimacy!

The Boy with the Balloon (in colour)

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I found out yesterday that this photo has been selected for a photography exhibition in Bristol. The judge is a winner of the Deutsche Borse photography prize (considered the most prestigious European photography award) so I was pretty chuffed that he considered my image worthy of inclusion.

I’ve previously included a monochrome version of the photo on the blog: https://anenchantedeye.com/2014/07/07/boy-with-the-balloon/ but to celebrate I thought I’d now include the original, which is how it will appear in the exhibition.

John and George

 

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Sometimes I wish I didn’t have to do things like this blog. Don’t get me wrong – I love sharing my photos, and I love getting feedback even more! But if I wasn’t sitting at my desk publishing my photos I could be out and about in the streets of London forever meeting fascinating characters. People like John Dolan and his wonderful dog George.

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I spotted George before I saw John. I was captivated by the sight of this dog with begging note and bowl and thought what a clever idea it was to dress a pet up in a jacket and get him to do the begging for you (though it turned out that the jacket was only on him because he was cold). But I soon discovered that George was more than just a characterful dog; he was a lifesaver. And his best friend happened to be a pretty good artist who was busy sketching his faithful friend while he was earning his Pedigree Chum. And John was more than just an artist – he was a man with an incredible story, whose life had been turned around thanks to this dog in front of me.

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John didn’t need much encouragement to tell his story. It  turns out that he is a former petty criminal who has been in and out of prison more times than George has shaken a leg; he is also an ex-heroin addict and has spent far too many years living rough on london’s streets than was good for him. It was George that got him off the crime because John realised that if he was sent away again he wouldn’t be able to look after him. (Incidentally, the affection between the two is palpable and the intense pleasure on George’s face when his master goes to pet him is so evident that I doubt John can bear to be away from him even for a second). So he switched to begging instead. But he found the process so demoralising that he decided to place George in prime position so that the focus didn’t fall on himself. But he had to do something to entertain himself while George was doing his job, so he returned to the one thing that he had been good at at school – art.

John gradually re-found his groove at drawing and, as generally happens when you have visible talent in the streets of London, he was eventually discovered. What happened next is like the script of a feature film. John got himself off the heroine; got himself an exhibition (his collaborative prints sold for up to £50k each); his book is about to hit the streets (which he assured us would be a bestseller); he’s a regular on TV and there is now an LA stamp in his passport.

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Like George, who was sadly beaten up by some other dogs the night before and was looking very delicate as a result, John still bears his physical and emotional battle scars. And while there was no doubting his talent I could not help but wonder just how much of what he was telling me was true. I enquired how much it would cost to buy the sketch that he was working on. “They usually sell for £50 but I’ll let you have it for £20” he replied. I didn’t have that much on me and I was so distracted by the conversation and in taking photos of George that I forgot to pursue purchasing it. But I did tell John that I’d love to photograph him. “I tell you what, I have an event at Howard Griffin gallery in Shoreditch on Thursday” he replied. “Come along!” “Ok, give me the details”. With that John drew me a little picture of George and said “That will get you in”.

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After saying our goodbyes I decided to view the gallery website just to check that the event really was taking place. Sure enough a rather impressive exhibition of John’s works was just coming to a close. But there was no mention of an event, so I phoned the gallery. “Yes there is a reception,” the employee told me, “but the entrance policy is very strict so you really have to prove that you have been invited  to get in.” So I sent them a photograph of John’s sketch and  a nice response came back saying that my friend and I were now indeed on the guest list. I felt rather honoured to be included, but also rather churlish for not having taken up John’s offer of his latest sketch of George for just £20!

Well least I still have his little sketch in my notebook, which had already felt rather special, but now has an extra monetary value that I hadn’t fully appreciated at the time!

You can find out more about John Dolan and George here: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/jul/19/john-dolan-homeless-addict-to-artist-and-author

and see his pictures from his exhibition at Howard Griffin here: http://howardgriffingallery.com/exhibitions/john-and-george/

The event I am attending is in aid of Wrap Up – a charity that donates coats to the homeless. (John’s life may have moved forward in incredible ways, but he hasn’t forgotten where he once was, and could still be now, if it wasn’t for that rather special dog called George).

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Columbia Road people – and pets

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As promised, here are my people photographs taken at Columbia Road on Sunday morning, with the occasional dog thrown in for good measure. There is a slight nod to two very different street photographers – Martin Parr and Vivian Maier – in them, especially in the final two pictures (no prizes for guessing who features in the last one!)  I think the photo of the lady smiling with the flowers looks slightly out of place amongst all the other more somber pictures, but I included it because of the contrast with the homeless guy in the background looking on rather dejectedly. And yes he is the same guy featured in two other pictures. I don’t think he was having a very good day so he moved around a lot.

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Colours and shadows

 

DSCF3510-4It was a glorious evening earlier so I took a quick stroll along the South Bank to practise some camera settings – in a bid to get those colours even more vibrant, and those shadows even more intense. It was probably hit and miss, but if you don’t try these things out you don’t develop.

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Colours of Columbia Road

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On Sunday I organised a photography excursion for my female photography group to Columbia Road flower market. This is such a great location for photos because not only do you get to see the flowers of course, but also so many interesting people – from the die hard Eastenders to the ‘hipsters’ that have invaded this part of town and of course people flock from all over the world. Then there are the buskers and the cools cafes and the lovely shops selling handmade or vintage produce.

With all this around me, naturally I made sure I found time to whip out my own camera! I’ll share some photos here this week, including some people posts and more flower pictures. But first I wouldn’t to give you an idea of the vibrancy of the market, even on an overcast Sunday morning with a whiff of autumn in the are

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The woman in all of us?

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I love pictures that tell a story. In fact in my opinion all pictures should tell a story. In this photograph, taken in Margate, I like the way we have three totally different types of women represented. First we have the sexy, sassy young thing in her pretty summer frock; further along the road there’s the artistic and quirky lady dressed up like Rosie the Riveter.  Both are obviously very conscious of their respective styles and seemingly still making adjustments, just to be sure that they are looking their best in their individual ways.

Finally, on the sidelines and almost blending into the mundane backdrop of cardboard boxes, stands another female who seems to be standing quite defiantly and looking on rather disapprovingly (or possibly dejectedly) in her ‘uniform’ of sensible shoes and comfortable clothes.

I wonder which of these figures my female followers can most relate to. Or maybe there is a touch of all three in each one of us – the desire to be feminine; to be a bit of an exhibitionist, or sometimes to just be plain comfortable?