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Project Portrait: Day 73

Day 73 of Project Portrait. Next up we have the mighty Lauren Gilmore – who works at The Next Web’s Amsterdam office. Lauren was originally working in another part of the company but after my minor meltdown to Rey Caacbay, Gilmore was assigned to help with my workload. Since then she’s singlehandedly managed to work across three teams simultaneously without so much as a peep of protest (at least in public). I owe Lauren a huge debt, because without her I wouldn’t be working at this company. Despite being from Texas she’s actually a sensitive soul so I wanted to try and tease that out of her. I think I got it ;).

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Project Portrait: Day 72

Day 71 of Project Portrait. Next up we have Victoria Anne Bull, a fellow alumni of the Magazine Journalism Masters at City. Victoria got in touch after following these photos over the last few months. We hadn’t seen each other since we both graduated in 2007 so I was really curious to see what she’d been upto over the years. As it turns out, she’s had the same struggles with journalism that I’ve had, and has tried multiple times to find a different career path. But, like me, she always found herself being pulled back in. We’d both changed a lot since we were students and we spent a good hour talking about those changes. I also have to add that Victoria hates having her picture taken so I applaud her bravery in coming down to see me. Jess Holland was another unwilling subject but I think that came out quite nicely wink emoticon. I spent a good 90 minutes shooting Victoria – I never normally spend that long – as I wanted her to get used to the idea of having her photo taken. We had a few false starts, but when she did relax she had this fantastic smile which just lights up her entire face. When I saw this photo in the edit it immediately jumped out at me.

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Project Portrait: Day 71

Day 71 of Project Portrait. Still managing to find more gems from Gambia. This one was taken while at the fish market in Bakau. They smoke a huge amount of fish there as refrigeration is still an expensive luxury for many. I never caught this man’s name and while it looks fairly clear in this image, the room was full of acrid wood smoke which burns your eyes and makes it incredibly difficult to breath. This guy seemed completely unfazed by it. One of the big themes I learned from my time in Gambia is how labour intensive the vast majority of work was. Bakau itself, while being the country’s biggest fishing port doesn’t actually have any docks to unload ships. Instead, giant rowing boats are hand carved on the beach, launched on logs and when they return, they’re driven up the beach and unloaded by hand. Middlemen grab handfulls of fish, drop them into buckets and then run up the beach to sell them to clients and families who have pre-ordered. It was fascinating but a stark reminder of the contrast between the division of labour in post-industrialised nations and pre-industrialised ones. Gambia’s economy is still dominated by subsistence farming and has yet to establish any kind of heavy industry.

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Project Portrait: Day 70

Day 70 of Project Portrait. Next up we have Oharu the tortoise. He was sat by the side of the road in Senegal, which no one else around us seemed to think that was all that impressive. He had found a water sprinkler nearby to keep him cool in the intense midday sun. It’s not every day you get to be six inches away from a tortoise and the longer I sat there and stared at him the more fascinating his face became. There was something just so prehistoric that I don’t think I appreciated or even thought about before.

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Project Portrait: Day 69

Day 69 of Project Portrait. I actually found another pic from Gambia that I totally forgot I took. On one of the days we had the chance to visit a local community school in Banjul that relies on donations to survive. There were three classrooms with 50 kids each, but I wouldn’t really call them classrooms, more giant cupboards. The kids were between 3 and 5 and as such were just full of beans. While the experience was amazing I couldn’t help but feel a little voyeuristic going to an African school and everyone being so deferential, mainly because I’m white. Awkward doesn’t really sum it up. I learned just as much about my own postcolonial guilt than the Gambian education system that day.

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Project Portrait: Day 68

Day 68 of Project Portrait. Next up we have Sara Kelly and Paul Vincent, co-founders of Sehkelly – a British fashion brand. I shot these two outside their store in east London. I had the chance to spend a morning with the pair while working on Provenance. Sara, whose initials make up the brand name used to work for Hardy Amies on Savile Row, a company known for its exacting standards.
Paul on the other hand is glib, gregarious and always seemed to be drinking from a bottomless cup of coffee. The two are an unlikely mix but somehow they’ve made a hugely successful company out of combining Savile Row style tailoring with cuts and styles most commonly seen in workman’s uniforms from the early twentieth century. To capture the pair I liked the idea of them both sitting in their tiny doorway, optimistically peering out at the world as a reflection of their size in comparison to the giants of men’s fashion and tailoring they compete against.

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Project Portrait: Day 67

Day 67 of Project Portrait. This is the last in my series in Gambia, and it’s a photo I never thought I’d be able to take. This is Assan the 18-month-year-old male lion. This was taken at the Fathala nature reserve in Senegal on a very hot and sunny day. Assad was one of five lions that take part in something called a lion walk in which members of the public can spend 45 minutes in the company of two adolescent lions. No collars, fences, just a carved wooden stick and a healthy sense of paranoia. Lions aren’t native to Senegal and these five were brought in from the Kalahari. While we were under the impression they were trying to start a colony in Senegal it turns out that these had been reared by humans and as such wouldn’t survive in the wild. But, in light of it being basically a tourist attraction it was incredible to be as close to something as powerful and dominant as a lion. They say you should never look directly into a lion’s eyes as they’re very good at reading fear – and acting upon it – so Assan is just looking into the lens while I tried to look as calm as possible (difficult, very difficult). I’m still amazed at just how this picture came out.

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Project Portrait: Day 66

Day 66 of Project Portrait. Another shot from my Gambia series. This is Stefan. Stefan ran a small fish restaurant on the beach where I was staying. I met him one day while trying to capture a shot of a man walking alone down the beach (I’ll get that one up later today). While Stefan initially was trying to lure me in to having lunch with him he actually taught me a lot about Gambia and its tourist industry. A lot of the hotels are foreign owned (the one I stayed in included) and as such the money that they make never stays inside the country. Those same hotels also work very hard to create experiences where tourists never have to leave meaning any of the trickle down effects these establishments normally provide are all but halted. So I was pleased that I’d accidentally broken out of that business model through my photography. While many feel hassled when they walk around places like Gambia it’s actually a vital part of the informal tourist economy that keeps many small businesses going.

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Project Portrait: Day 65

Day 65 of Project Portrait. Another Gambian shot. This time it was on the way to Barra market from the ferry across the Gambian river. There are a number of preconceived ideas we have about people’s lives in Africa. Images of women day laden with food, water and children is definitely one of them. It’s nearly a cliche. But when I saw this child looking up at me, it just struck me as a beautiful moment that needed to be captured. I was struggling with the idea of posting this as a portrait. Was it consensual, would his mother have approved? It’s debatable. But I’ve been starting to learn more about photography in greater detail and a portrait isn’t necessarily about an agreement between sitter and photographer to portray the former in the best light. It can be used to explore wider ideas about humanity and the world we live in. I think this photo fits in with that description and that’s why it’s my day 65.

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Project Portrait: Day 64

Day 64 of Project Portrait, this week I’ll be using images taken while in Gambia. First up is a guy I’ve called “Market Man”. This picture was taken while at the Barra market on the north side of the Gambia river. The markets in Gambia are intense experiences. Hundreds of stalls packed tightly together sell everything from knock-off Beats headphones to livestock and everything in between. It’s noisy, full of people and photography is something Gambians are deeply wary of. However, afterwards I saw this man waiting for the boat back across the river with what I can only imagine was a week’s shop. I raised my camera and he didn’t seem to mind so I grabbed two shots and this is one of them. For me it summed up the experience of Barra market: exhausting but productive.