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Screen Shot 2016-10-19 at 13.34.39

Project Portrait: Day 134

Next up we have the lovely Penelope Laura Downes and two of her fabulous children. These two were the most fun to shoot by a very long way, as you can probably tell. I was originally planning to only capture Penny but when I saw these two I thought this could be fun. The young man on the right turned up in full spiderman and refused to show me his face. But after a bit of cajoling from his big sister, he came out to play. I haven’t had much experience shooting children, and I realised that there’s probably about a four-minute window in which they’re willing to sit still and look at the camera. About 30 seconds after this, they were all on the floor and all I could capture was legs. So in that, these two taught me a lot: don’t faff around, move quickly, and above all, don’t take yourself too seriously. So thank you Penny for letting your kids teach me a valuable lesson.

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Project Portrait: Day 133

Next up we have the lovely Uzma Lodhi. Me and Uzma went to secondary school together, we were in the same form class and had a bunch of lessons together, included the ill-judged business studies (I have zero interest in supply and demand). Anyway, Uzma had been following this project and swang by my studio on the weekend. We haven’t seen each other for more than 15 years, which is a feat in itself. But perhaps what was most surprising was how easy it was to talk to someone I hadn’t seen in more than a decade. As you can imagine, we spoke a lot about school, our perceptions of each other and what happened to all those faces we shared our lives with for seven years. It was a surreal, but kind of magical experience. To be taken back to who I was at 11, 12 and 13, and then comparing it to where we’ve both ended up today. For this photo I just wanted to tap into those rose-tinted memories of sunny days sat on walls in and around school, whiling away the hours. I think most of us look back on the positive childhood memories with a gold tinted lens. Laughing, messing around. I didn’t really enjoy school all that much, but I do have some very fond memories, and I have to say re-connecting with Uzma helped me rediscover them again.

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Project Portrait: Day 132

Next up we have the awesome Stephen Vasconcellos-Sharpe. Now, where do I start with Stephen? Stephen runs a magazine called Salt, which is all about bringing together people and ideas that transform the planet in a positive way. He is also running something called the Compassionate Manifesto, which is a platform for the world’s top 50 thought leaders to come together to solve some of the world’s problems. AND he’s trying to set up a rival to Davos – an invitation only conference for the world’s financial and political elite. So I think you can all agree with me when I say Stephen is trying to make the future a better place for all of us. Stephen is a bright, brimming with energy Scot who is falling over himself to tell you about the wonderful things he’s doing. But it hasn’t always been that way. He’s had his darker moments, too. And he wasn’t always the global citizen for good. But like so many of my portraits, I’m interested in this idea of transition and transformation. It seems people come to me at a point in their lives where they can safely say they’re turning away from a version of themselves in their past and are actively finding a vision of themselves they feel happier, healthier and more at home with. This portrait attempts to show that transition. The dark blue tones of the past creep up Stephen’s face, but he’s firmly focused on the brighter, warmer, happier future. The past is always still there, but we can choose to be either defined by it or galvanised by it. Something I think we can all benefit from.

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Project Portrait: Day 131

This one is a long one so prepare yourself ;)Next up we have the awesome Sadaqat Ali. I met Sadaqat while I was attempting to be a startup founder a few years back. I managed to accelerate away all my money and ended up being rather unceremoniously spat out the other end of startup life. Where as Sadaqat kept going. Sadaqat was born deaf – the only member of his family to be so. He grew up in a part of Birmingham that on the one side was affluent and leafy, but on the other, was part of the grittier inner city. He saw friends being sucked into the darker side of life but because he physically couldn’t hear the temptations coming from that side of the tracks, he steered clear. Despite finding school boring, he managed to escape to college where he discovered a love of learning. So much so that Sadaqat now has three degrees under his belt. While others went into social work, Sadaqat started launching businesses. All of which help people, be they deaf or not, gain access to services or facilities to help them better themselves. Oh and he’s married to the lovely Saduf Naqvi and has two children. Which is what lead to this portrait. Sadaqat said something amazing to me while we were working together. “The biggest thing I have learnt so far about my experience is that my deafness has not only protected me from harm but has given me a different lens with which I use to see the world and the opportunities it has within it.” So for this picture I asked him to take his hearing aids out and put them on the table. So they weren’t hidden. I want people to see Sadaqat’s secret to being an enormously successful entrepreneur. Something others would class as a disadvantage. I also wanted to show the strength and a stillness I felt while sitting in front of Sadaqat. I hope that comes across.

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Project Portrait: Day 130

Next up we have Glykeria Kissa and Antonis Ninos – a lovely couple who I’ve worked with on multiple occasions. They came down to the studio for my portrait marathon. For this shot I wanted to try and convey how they are together. They met on an island in Greece (where they’re both from) when they were teenagers, and have been together for eight years since. They’ve traveled together, lived together, studied together and now find themselves in London together, graduating from their Masters and heading out into the world together. So for this shot I wanted to try and show that connection. How a relationship is made up of two people pulling together to make the whole thing work. How two faces make up one if you will. I have yet to met a sweeter, more dedicated couple to each other.

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Project Portrait: Day 129

Next up we have Sam Butterfield and his lovely daughter Marlie. They were another brave pair who put their names forward to come and sit for me. The original plan was to shoot just Sam but he asked if it was ok to bring Marlie with him. She was a bit shy and looked a bored while I was setting up my lighting to shoot Sam. So I asked if we could do something together. Marlie really liked climbing so I found the only thing she could climb on, her dad. She was a bit reluctant at first but soon relaxed into the idea of having her dad as a climbing frame and this wonderful image presented itself. It’s been a huge joy to have people take time out of their lives to come and sit for me, and it’s even more of a pleasure when I get the chance to share work that I think has so much joy in it. I’ll be posting my portrait of Sam later in the week but wanted to share this one first. If you’d like to be part of the series, please do get in touch

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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.

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.