Aperativo break at the Venice Carnival

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I wasn’t able to make it to the Venice Carnival this year as I’m in a play and can’t miss the rehearsals. So, I’m post photos from previous years instead.

I love the expression on the gentleman’s face on the left. He doesn’t look too happy. Maybe his wig is itching him, or he’s wishing he was drinking an Aperol Spritz like his companion. I felt a bit like a time traveller watching them both anyhow – was it really the 21st century?!!! The wonderful thing about Venice is that the backdrop looks so historic, and there are no cars, so once people step into period costume you really can start to believe that you have stepped back in time.

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!

Meetings and greetings in Madhya Pradesh

 

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Regular followers of my blog will know that I was fortunate enough to stay in a remote village in Madhya Pradesh during my time in India last year. It was one of the most peaceful times of my life – calmer even than being out at sea on a sailboat. I loved waking up early and going for strolls in the first light when the air was still blessedly fresh and cool. Fortunately everyone else had the same idea, and the local folks were happy to stop and chat (or smile when my limited Hindi ran dry) on their way back from the village pump or on their way to work in the fields. Often they would happily let me photograph them too.

The oxymoron is that I seemingly witnessed joy and poverty in equal measures each day on my walks. I’m not saying that these people are happy because they are poor, but maybe they don’t yearn for things that they have never known. When I witnessed the sense of peace and contentment all around me I felt sure that an influx of material goods would not make them any happier. But that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be able to move away from subsistence living – for none of the children to have swollen bellies, wear tattered rags or peer at me through infected eyes. And maybe having electricity to run a fan and keep themselves cool during the intense summer heat or light a bulb or two once the sun went down would not spoil their lovely, kind, generous natures either.

But unfortunately it often seems to be all or nothing in India. And so these folks will keep getting by – with that shrug of acceptance bordering on cheerfulness – in spite of their daily struggles, because of that inner calm within that seems to stem from their beautiful surroundings, family, and the close-knit community that they live in.

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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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?

Pretty in Pink

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It can be annoying whenever the school holidays came around and all those tourists swell London in even greater numbers than the norm. Right now the South Bank is swamped – it took me five minutes just to get onto the steps for Tower Bridge yesterday, such was the sea of people. This year the crowds seem even more dense – which is shouldn’t be surprising as London has recently been declared the world’s most visited city and as I happen to live in one of the top tourist places within said-city.

 But the funny thing is that it used to bother me but not anymore. I don’t know if it’s because my photographer’s eye has developed, or because the sunshine is having a calming effect on me, but I just see one photo opportunity after another.

I love the fact that the tourists look so different to the Londoners – whether they have come from just a few miles away or from across the world, they just stand out as not being one of us. They bring a sense of innocence and charm with them, as if they are slightly bewildered by this big city and overwhelmed by it, but in a positive way. (Because, let’s face it – London is an amazing city!) I particularly enjoy seeing the children in their colourful summer clothes and funky sunglasses – if they happen to be clutching an ice cream I’m in heaven!

I found the sight of this little girl pointing to her choice at the ‘SNOG’ frozen yogurt bus rather endearing. At first I was frustrated that her presumed mother was standing so close and I couldn’t crop her out. But then looking back at the photo I realized that she added something to the scene – a motherly protection perhaps, and maybe a subtle prediction of what the future holds if this little girl enjoys too many frozen delights!

 

An homage to Vivian Maier

DSCF4667 2Yesterday I finally got to see the documentary ‘Finding Vivian Maier” I was covered in goosebumps for practically the entire duration of the film. It is a fantastical story about an incredibly secretive Chicago nanny in the 1950s who took photos, most of which were never even printed, but whose images are some of the most powerful, moving examples of street photography that I have ever seen. She had such empathy with her subjects – the joy, the misery, the poverty. She may have been a reclusive outsider but she had such a feeling for humanity, that finally was able to be revealed in the dark room, coincidentally so soon after her death.

I walked home in a trance, so excited that street photography could be so beautiful, and so appreciated. If I needed another spur to keep doing what I am doing with my own street photography, then this was it. This is one of the photos I took last night in that drunken haze of admiration and inspiration.

Thank you Vivian Maier. I’m sorry I never met you, but I will always feel like I knew you, through the legacy of your work, and  as a friend who felt compelled to do what I too feel driven to do – to capture all facets of street life in through the lens.

Ganga gazing

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This morning I went to see an exhibition about Virginia Woolf at the National Portrait Gallery. It was a gentle yet weighty collection of images and mementoes – ranging from photographs and paintings, to deeply personal letters both to and from the author. I was surprised at how many significant people she knew – both in her childhood and through the ‘Bloomsbury Set’. My friend commented on how lucky she must have been to have been able to spend so much of her time being creative and just being around creative people. It made me realise how lucky I am too, because I also am in that position. I am so in awe of some of the people in my life right now and so humbled by the fact that they want to even give me the time of day, let alone encourage me with my own art. I will keep trying to earn that respect; and will continue to be inspired by those mighty shadows from the past and those wonderful giants in my midst.

I am so grateful to them for believing in me – and for making me feel so alive again by sheer virtue of being around such incredible, beautiful talent.

The Hot Snack Stand at Margate Car Boot Sale

DSCF3906The finale of my recent magical Margate mystery trip was a stop off at a car boot sale on route home. “Can we? Can we?” pleaded Mair as she expertly swerved off the road into a conveniently placed parking spot by the gate. How could I say no when she was already slamming on the brakes and unbuckling her seatbelt?

I have never been good at the likes of charity shops or car boot sales. I just find it impossible to spot the diamonds amongst the dross. Mair, however, is very good at it. She came away with a vintage De Longhi heater for £2.50 (no I didn’t know that De Longhi did anything beyond coffee makers either) and a stack of tantalising vinyls including one by OMD that sent my brain on a little trip down memory lane to many a night spent listening to said CD in my youth. Sadly, I could not prise the damn thing off of her even when I played my trump card and told her I was once a signed up member of the OMD fan club. Perhaps it was something to do with the fact that she knew that I don’t actually own a record player. But it sure was lovely clutching that record again! I’m beginning to admit that spotify is lacking that all-round sensory appeal.

So, with shopping out of the question for me, I did what comes naturally and started taking pictures. I was a bit nervous because I wasn’t sure how the amply-built and boldly-tattooed locals would react to this interloper with her camera. I found myself clocking the gate and working out my exit strategy just in case things got dangerous. Finally a stall holder came up to me and asked, in the nicest possible way, if I was taking pictures on behalf of the local Social Security benefit office. I replied, in the nicest possible way, that no I wasn’t, I was just someone who disliked shopping but enjoyed taking pictures, and so was doing this while I waited for my friends. You sensed the entire cuddly toy, 70’s pottery and kitchen gadget laden field breathe a collective sigh of relief. As if given his cue an elderly gentleman sidled over – an immigrant of Eastern European origin. “What nationality are you?” I asked. “British,” he replied, with a slim smile that was a blend of cheekiness and pride.

Before I knew it I was buying a slice of Mo’s homemade cake and discussing the state of the nation with her, then buying two, no three, sweet papers from an elderly lady who wasn’t getting a lot of trade. She saw me photographing them in their wonderful Union Jack box and boldly asked me if I would like to buy one. “How much? I reluctantly asked. “20p” she replied. “20p!!! Why don’t you have a price sign if you’re selling them so cheap?” I gently scolded her. She just shrugged her shoulders and I handed over 50p and asked for two. She scrambled around for change and I told her that seriously two sweet pepper plants for 50p was a bargain. But she politely disagreed and insisted that I take three.

As I look back, part of me wishes that I’d come away with the whole damn set of peppers in their lovely Union Jack box. But maybe that would have been a bit flash. So instead I will nurture my three little plants and as I watch them grow I will remind myself that not all commerce is bad. If it helps those who are hanging on in there in society by virtue of a bit of get-up-and-go on a Sunday morning then it’s perfectly fine by me, and I for one won’t gripe about immigrants coming over here and taking over our jobs or people doing a bit extra on the side while claiming their miserable benefit.

The cake was lovely by the way – moist in the middle and crisp around the edges, completed by a generous topping of coffee flavoured icing. Far better than anything I’ve ever tasted in Starbucks. But she’s just a lady getting by through selling the fruits of her labours for a few pence in a half-empty playing field in Margate. So what she creates doesn’t really count in British society does it? Which is a sad waste of good honest cake I think. Because it really was rather good.

 

 

Venetian ‘bunting’

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I couldn’t resist another Venetian washing line picture. In fact the hardest part was choosing which photo to post because it was like royalty had come to town the streets were so decorated. Add the clear blue skies and I was in heaven!

Posted for the weekly photo challenge

Venice promenader

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Taking a photograph of someone in costume along the Venice waterfront at sunset is a bit of a carnival cliché I know. But I  like the symmetry of her mask reflecting the dome of the church and the way her outfit mirrors the colours of the sky.

My top 20 from 2013

As we prepare to say goodbye to another year I reflect on what has been generally a great blogging year for me. I’ve made some nice virtual friends; had some very encouraging feedback from people (thank you so much for taking the time to do so –  it DOES mean a lot); shared many photographs – some of which I am admit I am proud of; and I’ve ended the year with a revamp of the site which I think is a change for the better.

One of the positives of the new style website is that I’m now able to include more than one photo in a post. So, I have chosen some of my favourite photographs that have featured in the past year.

Here are some interesting observations I’ve made about them:

  • The majority were taken in India, 2 were taken in Nepal and 1 in Italy – which is about right when I consider how much time I spent in each country in the past year.
  • My favourite type of photography is of people and animals.

  • I don’t generally want the subject to be smiling, or even looking at the camera, but i don’t want them to be miserable either – contemplative, or peaceful is a common theme, or even asleep (especially with animals).  I somehow managed to catch a monkey looking pensive and a huge bull looking quite fragile.

  • I’m equally happy with vibrant colours or soft muted ones, but I like harmony of colours and an element of texture.

I hadn’t realised that there were these common threads so this has been an educational experience. I’m still undecided regarding my overall favourite but I’ve included my top three first (of the sadhu; the woman and child wrapped in yellow; and the woman in the doorway).

Enjoy them – and feel free to let me know which are your favourites!

(Just click on the first photo to scroll through them all at full size)

Bold and beautiful

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I spotted this rather eccentric looking gentleman more than once in my local patch in Varanasi. He would always sport an interesting selection of clothes including some very long woollen socks, which seemed totally necessary as the temperatures rose, but I think he was rather fond of his assemblage and didn’t want it to change.

I get the impression that he is a kind of holy man, though he has chosen not to wear the usual orange or saffron robes of the sadhus. I also think that he is smiling, though it is hard to tell because of his beard. Maybe I’m influenced by the bright and cheery colours, but I like to think that there’s a twinkle in his eyes – maybe thanks to the snack that he’s enjoying.

I think the photo works because of his kindly face and also because of the combination of bold primary colours.