It’s all about who you know…..

A couple of weeks ago I was at Cannes Film festival, mostly accompanying my partner, Fred, who was promoting a film he was producer and editor of, and attending the premier of another film, My Feral Heart, which he also worked on (more about that wonderful film in another post).

It was a fantastic experience just being in the city of Cannes for the buzz of the festival alone – the glamour, the excitement, the sunshine, the people I got to meet…. But it was told it would be even better if I could get into the festival itself, so I decided to apply for an accreditation pass. This involves being vetted so that the organisers are absolutely certain you aren’t blagging it and really are involved with the movie business (because when the likes of George Clooney are the other side of that fence and there are networking meetings galore, complete with complimentary drinks, there would probably be a stampede to get in otherwise).

So, with slightly sweaty palms I queued up in order to be interrogated. I had my business card ready and was accompanied by Fred, who could verify that I had worked as a stills photographer on his film. Finally we were invited to step up to one of the windows, where I couldn’t help but notice that the woman next to me was being given a severe grilling, for trying to convince the guy that the person next to her really had worked on her film when she had nothing to show for it. I hoped that they would be suitably impressed by my credentials to save me the discomfort of such an interrogation. I was asked immediately for my business card, which fortunately included a direct link to the film section of my website. I then let Fred, who is French, do the speaking for me in his native tongue.

From my limited French I heard Fred offer to show the gatekeeper my website, but he replied with a smile that it was fine, he already had my website up and was issuing me with a pass – no questions necessary.

“That was easy!” we agreed as we made our way into the hallowed ground. Then I realised what may have helped. The first picture in the film section of my website was a photograph of none other than Gilles Jacob (who was interviewed for a documentary for which I was stills photographer). He just happened to be the honorary president of the Cannes Film Festival!

So I guess you could say that the president himself gave me my accreditation! Little did I know when I was photographing him that within six months I would not only be entering his festival, but also dating one of his fellow countrymen. So, maybe taking this picture proved lucky for me in more ways than one….

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A studio portrait

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I haven’t posted for a few days because I have been incredibly busy at the six day SWPP photography convention in London. Wow what an event! There were literally hundreds of seminars; a great trade show with demonstrations; I got to network with other photographers (and was thrilled to see how many female there are in the industry); and then for the grand finale I enjoyed a day’s seminar with the incredible Clay Blackmore. He has so much energy, talent and enthusiasm – in fact he put so much into the seminar that he was in tears at the end – and is truly inspirational.

So, I highly recommend that photographers attend the event, whatever your  level or specialism – there really is something for everyone and all the people I spoke to were buzzing! (Some folks think that the society is a bit old fashioned and I admit that I didn’t go with any expectations, but was very pleasantly surprised!)

Just when I didn’t think I could learn anymore I also had a studio photography workshop this evening with Andrew Mason. Again I couldn’t complain as the workshop was both practical and productive and I realised that being in a studio isn’t something to  feel intimidated about. The photograph featured was taken today and is one I’m particularly proud of it because myself and two fellow pupils devised and set up the lighting ourselves (for the technies out there we had one soft main light, one to light up the background, one for the hair line and then another one from below) so it wasn’t just a matter of pressing the shutter button. Andrew was so impressed with the results that he got out his camera and took some pics himself!

Funnily enough, the first time Andrew whipped his camera out was after seeing one of my shots. Being a bit on the short side I was shooting from a much lower angle than everyone else. I showed him one of my pictures and he said it looked great; then I noticed he was still looking at it over my shoulder on the view finder. Eventually he said “It’s so unusual to see the models shot from that angle; I have to replicate it.” For the rest of the evening nearly every shot he took involved him crouching down to my level. I even stood beside him at one point so that he could see what the exact angle was!

It isn’t often that being short is an advantage, especially in the photography industry, and I know that I was lucky that this model had such a strong jawline to carry it off. But it  made me think that maybe being small could be seen as a positive rather than a handicap – in that my pictures might just look that little bit different to everyone else’s! Well, people are always looking for new angles in photography so maybe this is it…

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)

Portrait of a young boy

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A couple of days I posted a photograph of a schoolboy looking away from the camera, which seemed to receive a positive response. I said at the time that I liked the photograph because the boy wasn’t looking at the camera. Just to confuse you I’m now posting a photograph of a little boy who is staring right at the camera with a piercing gaze.

Both, I feel are successful portraits – but for different reasons. What makes this photograph strong, in my opinion, is that the boy’s head is slightly lowered, which makes it more interesting than someone just looking straight at the camera. Also, it’s all about the light! There is a fairly dark background but the sunlight is spotlighting him, making his arresting stare even more pronounced.

And naturally it is about the boy too. Not only is he photogenic but he has a powerful, confident presence – which makes an interesting contrast to all the cute pictures of toddlers I think.

Portrait of a lady in a sari

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This gentle lady worked at the ashram which I would often visit in Varanasi. I would see her quietly getting on with her work – working hard cleaning up after the sadhus all day – without asking for any special attention. In fact, although she was more than happy for me to photograph her family she only let me take a couple of pictures of her. This was incredibly frustrating because I thought she looked so beautiful that I would have loved to have photographed her all the time. But my only consolation was that I did get some lovely, natural photos that I think demonstrate her grace and quiet dignity. In fact the one featured is one of my favourite portraits from India. I think I like it so much because she is wearing a simple cotton sari, which seemed to be uncommon in the city famous for its silk sarees. And yet the simplicity of it seems the perfect frame for her natural beauty.

Peaceful Baba

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I haven’t posted a sadhu picture for a while so I thought it was time to include one of my favourites. This must be a pretty special Baba because I’ve got three pictures of him, taken on two different occasions, all of which I am very fond of.

I should add that he knew he was having his photograph taken and was closing his eyes for the camera – I wasn’t intruding on his morning meditation!