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Project Portrait: Day 128

Next up we had the lovely Anna Stanford who is an old old old friend of mine I haven’t seen in a bloody long time. Anna swung by my first marathon photo session – more to come from this – and we had a right good catch-up. Me and Anna first met about 10 years ago when I was first starting out as a journalist writing gig reviews for a now long-dead site called Dogmanet. It wasn’t paid but it meant we got to go and see new bands every night of the week, which was a pretty sweet deal. Anna is now running the online world of Design Bridge, but still enjoys a good gig. For this photo I wanted to hark back a bit to the days we both spent in dingy pubs and clubs watching new-rave get everyone very excited – and then promptly disappear. But instead of the dinge and day-glo, I wanted to put Anna in more opulent surroundings, to suggest we’ve all grown up a bit. In more ways than one. If you’d like to be part of my project, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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Project Portrait: Day 127

Next up we have the wonderful and inspiring Melanie Denyer. Melanie volunteered to be part of this project after seeing some of my earlier work. In fact, she discovered it by chance as she moderates the FB page of the studio I work in and saw me tagging it as a location. With every new person that comes and sits for this project, I always ask them the deceptively simple question, “tell me a bit about yourself.” It sounds easy but I’ve come to realise it really isn’t. It requires someone to have a sense of the journey they’ve been on, and how difficult (and positive) experiences have shaped who they are today. I’m loathe to quote Steve Jobs, but it does make a lot of sense in this context. “You can’t connect the dots looking forward you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” For Melanie those dots have been difficult, challenging and life altering pretty much since birth. When I asked her why she volunteered to have a portrait she said, “I’m tired of hiding all the time and saw this as an opportunity to prove that.” So for this photo I wanted to show Melanie emerging out of the darkness and into the light. It’s a portrait about hope and overcoming. About the start of something new. Melanie was an absolute joy to photograph and we had a big hug at the end as I felt we’d both connected over all the above, and hopefully this portrait.

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I’m an award-winning photographer!

So today I found out that I won a pretty big competition on the Portrait Photo Awards for my portrait of the lovely Jennifer Cole Fernandes. I’ve been taking pictures properly for less than a year now and it’s been a hugely challenging but rewarding experience. From shooting people ad-hoc in an office to working with the likes of Uber, Magnum and Absolut to winning my first award. I can’t quite believe how quickly it’s all gone. I want to thank everyone who has helped me, listened to me guided me and sat for me. All the travelling to people’s houses, helping out friends and spending all my spare time experimenting and learning (instead of seeing friends and family) is only possible because I have amazing people around me and supporting me. Special thanks to @emi1y_maguire for putting up with me @dateconcierge for finding people for me to shoot and @andrewibbotson for letting me turn his office into a makeshift studio. Thank you everyone. You can see my photo and other amazing photos at the following link.

Project Portrait: Day 126

Next up we have Samanta Giblin Echo. Samanta was another person who threw their name into the hat to come and sit for me. Samanta has just finished two years of intense therapeutic arts and child counselling studies, something she had wanted to do for over 10 years. She is also the one in her family who always takes the pictures and is never in front of them. So Samanta was a little nervous. When I asked her why she volunteered she said, “it just felt like the right time, but the day before I was coming up with excuses not to come.” But I’m so pleased she did turn up. We spoke at length for over two hours about everything: childhood, parents, adulthood, being a parent, the stuff life throws at you and the stuff you throw at life. We covered some pretty serious ground on all of them, and I had come up with lots of elaborate setups to try and convey some of the ideas we were talking about. But this photo, right at the beginning when I was just easing Samanta into the idea of having a giant lightbox just off camera to the right flashing at her, summed up the experience. I can say from the conversation we had that Samanta has seen and been through a great many things in her life, but in spite of that, has found a point in her life where she could honestly say she was happy. This photo says just that. I’m happy. It’s not a high-fiving, “life is awesome” kind of happiness. It’s a relaxed, gentle happiness, the kind that washes over you when you’re not expecting it. Thank you Samanta for sharing and giving so much during this, it was really a very moving experience for me. If you’d like to be part of my project don’t hesitate to get in touch – I have 250 places left to fill!

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Project Portrait: Day 125

Next up we have the last of my mini-series on Kathleen Patricia Keefe and Derek Keefe. So we had the two of them individually before and this last one is of them as a couple – and I guess you could say it’s a culmination of the thoughts and feelings I’ve had about them. This picture is another homage to Frida Kahlo, in particular, a photograph of her and Diego Riviera, her husband and also an artist. In those pictures, it was usually Diego standing and Frida sitting. But I wanted to swap the two around as that felt overly patriarchal for this portrait. Kathleen cares for Derek full time and is his aural guide through life. So it made more sense to have her standing. I also wanted to bring in some of that symbolism I mentioned Kahlo loved to put in, this time with flowers. On the table are a bunch of gladioli. In painting the presence of these symbolize strength and moral integrity, and the giver of them is supposed to pierce the recipient’s heart with passion. Despite having only spent half an hour with the pair, I could say, wholeheartedly that they have strength and moral integrity in spades. This week they’re currently celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary together and appear to be just as much in love as I imagine they were when they first met. If this photo manages to convey even a 10th of that idea, I’d be a very happy man. Happy Anniversary you two.

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Project Portrait: Day 124

Next up we have Derek Keefe – who is Kathleen Patricia Keefe’s partner. This is part two of my series with the lovely couple. I originally only planned to photograph Kathleen, but when I saw Derek he was someone I was absolutely captivated by. He had this tremendously thoughtful look in his eye and was probably the most gentle soul I’ve ever met. I took some pictures of him head on and absolutely loved them, but when Kathleen told me Derek was deaf it completely changed the picture I wanted to take. I think people with a disability are unfairly surmised as such. I think others, me included often just see someone for what’s wrong with them rather than look for all the wonderful things that are, to put it crudely, right. Derek is a testament to that. He was funny, kind and allowed me to take his glasses off so you could see his lovely blue eyes. For this image I wanted to make his ear the centre of the picture, but make it slightly blurred so your eye starts exploring what else is going on with Derek – of which, I think is a lot. There’s more to people than meets the eye. Or in this case, there’s more to Derek than his ears. If you’re interested in being part of this project, do get in touch.

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Project Portrait: Day 123

Next up we have Kathleen Patricia Keefe. Kathleen got in touch with me after I shot Adah Parris last week and wanted to put her name forward. This is one of the reasons why I have loved doing this project – it’s given me the chance to connect with people and hear their stories in ways I never thought possible. For Kathleen, she’s an artist, a milliner and a book binder. She’s also a carer, charity shop volunteer and life long fan of Frida Kahlo. She has spent her life collecting clothes and trinkets that remind her of the artist ever since discovering her work in art class at school. So for this photo I wanted to make this an ode to one of Kahlo’s paintings. Frida was famed for her strong, very direct self-portraits that were loaded with symbolism. She often used bright colours and objects that provided very direct references to where she was in her life. This is the first of two portraits I took of Kathleen – the second will come on Wednesday. In the half an hour I spent with her, she gave off this wonderfully calm, centred and above all, peaceful vibe. Which from what I know, is something Frida Kahlo always struggled to find. But it’s amazing how someone can find a sense of self through others – and there’s a little Frida pin on Kathleen’s lapel that nods to that. This was one of the most relaxed, enjoyable and above all, fun shoots that I’ve done and I can’t wait to share with you the next two from this series.

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Project Portrait: Day 122

Next up we have Hannah Ross. I met Hannah while on my therapy training course last year. Hannah works for ActionAid when she’s not exploring psychodynamic ideas with me. This was shot at her home in south London. For this portrait I wanted to show Hannah as the strong, articulate, independent woman that I saw sat across me during our sessions. But despite the bright red hair and the love of colour (her living room was full of it), I always felt there was a quieter side to her. I got the sense there was more than meets the eye, in the best possible way. So I took lots of photos of Hannah at home, a lot were very good, and I’d be more than happy to share them. But as I’m learning with these photos, I’m trying to do more than just get the exposure and framing right. I don’t want these to just be headshots. I’m trying to get these images to say something – that doesn’t necessarily require these lengthy descriptions to go with them. I know I’ve got a long way to go, but having lots of interesting people around to shoot makes it a lot easier. 🙂 Thanks Hannah!

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Project Portrait: Day 131

Next up is another photo from my weekend spent with my family. This is my brother, Chris. About 12 years ago he bought a one way ticket to Pakistan after he graduated university and never came back. During that time he’s travelled throughout Asia, Australia, New Zealand, had a brief stint in Turkey before cycling the entire length of South America on a bicycle. You could say he’s a bit of a nomad. That was, until the guy in his arms came along. That’s Bruno, his six month-old son. Since then he’s been getting used to fatherhood – which from seeing my brother for the first time face-to-face in three years, looks bloody hard. So for this photo, we were riding an old steam train (my dad’s idea) and Chris was sat in the back feeding Roux on his own and I just saw this image and thought it went some way to summing up the above. The thoughtful look out the window, the dutiful pose, it kind of reminded me of Dorothea’s Lange beautiful photo of a migrant mother during the Great Depression. I thought a lot about how I was going to capture my brother, this wasn’t the photo I was expecting to use, but seemed to say more about Chris now, than it did the brother I grew up with.

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Project Portrait: Day 120

Next up we have only my second group photo in over 100 portraits! But this is a very special photo for me – this is a portrait of my family. Now for people that know me, they’ll know that my family has been through a lot over the past 15 years. But despite our ups and downs, we came together last weekend. The last time we saw each other face-to-face, my two nieces and nephew weren’t around, nor my wonderful fiancee, Emily, or Elaine, my step mum. But they’ve been amazing additions to my family and it was a great privilege to bring them all together – despite the family tradition of a) resisting photos and b) making fun of my camera equipment. One of the main reasons I have loved doing this project is because it’s allowed me to spend time with people, some I knew, some I have yet to. With this photo, I got to spend a day with my family, after a long hiatus. I hope this is just one of many photos I get to create with them.