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Project Portrait: Day 85

Day 85 of Project Portrait. This one is a bit of a special day for me. I’ve been reading a lot about old photo techniques and how they generated these incredible looks and feels, but were abandoned for their complexity and use of dangerous chemicals like cyanide and mercury. One such technique is wet plate collodion. Photos taken via this process were known for the incredible levels of detail they created and the amazing colour palette that no other photographic process seemed to be able to recreate. Well, I’ve been quietly obsessed with these images and so I set out to try and create one myself, and this is it. Now, I have to disclose I couldn’t find the right chemicals and or the space to do it for real, so I’ve spent hours trying to learn how to do it in Photoshop. Some might say it’s cheating but for me the act of learning techniques that would previously be unavailable to me are all part of this project I embarked upon months ago. So I took a portrait I took of the lovely Matt Verity and turned it into a wet plate collodion version. It looks like he’s been painted in silver. I hope y’all like it as much as I did creating it.

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Project Portrait: Day 84

Day 83 of Protect Portrait. Next up we have Marcel Kalveram, a software developer who works at Hanno with Matthew Lenzi and Laïla von Alvensleben. Marcel has spent a few days at The Hatch using one of our spare desks. When I mentioned to him the idea of taking his picture I immediately thought about how transient communal workspaces can be. At The Hatch there have been dozens of people who have come and go, using a desk for a day and then disappearing. Marcel is based in Valencia and I imagine this might be the only time I meet him. For this portrait I wanted to try and convey a sense of how transient London can be sometimes. So I got Marcel to walk past the lens, to suggest two people passing without really knowing one another. It’s a feeling you get dozens of times living in a big city. The grey tones are well, if you’ve ever spent any time in London that colour is everywhere.

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Project Portrait: Day 83

Day 82 of Project Portrait. Next up we have the awesome Grace Probyn (the only Grace Probyn on Facebook, so I’ve been told). Grace has just started working with Nana Wereko-Brobby at Social Concierge. The first thing Grace said to me when we went to shoot this photo at The Hatch was, “I absolute hate having my photo taken.” But of all the people who have said that to me (which is most) the camera seemed to love taking pictures of Grace. When I wasn’t trying to get her to ‘squinch’ – a weird halfway house between squinting and not – she had this amazingly deep gaze that just jumps out of the photo as I hope you can see below. She also told me this incredible story about how she was an au pair to a mob family in Chicago which immediately got me thinking of British nanny stereotypes and this idea of us Brits (can you believe it eh?) being the epitome of class of sophistication (at least in some American circles). I wanted to try and bring out that idea of Grace being the quintessential child carer in the eyes of her former employers. A hark bark to the ideas of good manners and excellent elocution. This photo is a nod to those more proper times via the side profile and pale, gentle lighting.

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Project Portrait: Day 82

Day 82 of Project Portrait. Next up we have Tom Nurse, an editorial UX designer at the BBC. Same as Emily Mags. I managed to grab Tom on his lunch break outside the Beeb’s new broadcasting house. If you look carefully at the wall behind, the black holes are actually outlines of sea shells that were in the original rock where the stone was mined. ANYWAY, I haven’t had much chance to speak with Tom, but what I do know of him is that he’s a bit of a genius when it comes to all things UX and he’s always on hand to help out anyone on his team if there’s a problem that needs fixing. Given that, this photo is my attempt to gently reflect that.

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Project Portait: Day 81

Day 81 of Project Portrait, and my first of 2016! It’s been a while I know. With this new job and the general stresses of being a human in London I think I needed some time off from everything, including taking photos. But now I’m back. To kick things off here’s the lovely Victoria Lynn. Victoria is an actress and a former gymnast. She was also helping out Nana Wereko-Brobby with a few bits and pieces for Social Concierge so I managed to grab five minutes of her time. It was one of those windswept days that we all love and loathe so I wanted to try and use that instead of fighting against it. Plus Victoria had an excellent coat that I wanted to use against the cool blue shutters behind.

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Project Portrait: Day 80

Day 80 of Project Portrait. Next up we have Kevin May. Kevin works with Nana Wereko-Brobby at Social Concierge – another startup at The Hatch. Scott moved from Los Angeles to London to study film and business. I was wondering what he thought of London compared to his former home. “I absolutely love it.” That got me thinking about the nature of cities and how it affects the people who live there. Terri White wrote a great piece about her relationship with New York recently. I’ve lived in London all my life, but because of that I don’t really have a clear idea of how much who I am is tied into who or what London is. Next year I’m planning on moving overseas which will be the first time I get to examine this idea in more detail. I also think the way I photograph people has something to do with living in London. With Scott he had one of those warm, open faces, which if I’m honest is a bit of a rarity in these parts. So I kept this shoot brutally simple. Light from above and to the side and just ask for a smile. The deep blacks in the background make it feel like he’s appeared from nowhere. Hopefully this’ll cheer up those (like me) who are working on Christmas eve.

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Project Portrait: Day 79

Day 79 of Project Portrait. I’ve been a bit tardy as of late and I apologise for that. But, while I’ve got you, I thought I’d present you with Amisha Ghadiali. Me and Amisha used to work together at Provenance a few years back. Amisha got in touch with me after my plea for help and it turns out she works regularly two streets away from my studio. Small world eh? While me and Amisha were #teamnosleep while trying to build the startup we both worked at, Amisha has turned a corner, choosing to become a yoga teacher and spiritual healer. Say what you will about being spiritual, but the difference in the Amisha I knew a few years ago and the one I met on the street off Brick Lane last week was a world away. She just oozed happiness. We walked around the block and I saw this beautiful piece of graffiti with the word ‘Alive’ scrawled across the top. As soon as Amisha stopped the photo instantly came together for me. It also helps to have a lovely smile, which she does.

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Project Portrait: Day 78

Day 78 of Project Portrait. Next up we have Aimee-mae Edwards – who works with Nana Wereko-Brobby at Social Concierge to help find new clients and promote the brand. She’s also trying to get into the presenting business. What I found interesting about Aimee is that despite the outwardly confident career choices she was making, there was a shyness that seemed to come out when I looked at her through the lens. In fact, the more pictures I took, the more I saw it. So for this photo I wanted to take the idea of Aimee being in the spotlight literally – so I created a halo effect coming from above. But in choosing to be in front of camera, we cannot control how much or how little of the person within is seen by others. It sounds cryptic but hopefully you can see it too.

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Project Portrait: Day 77

Next up we have Dikson Slamajamjar – a poet and comedian from Zimbabwe. I met Dikson this week at The Hatch. We got talking and it turns out Dikson produces a comedy show about Zimbabwe, filmed and shot in Zimbabwe. I was absolutely fascinated by this. From my limited knowledge, Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe is notoriously opposed to any kind of press freedom or dissent – not even the BBC can report from the country. So the idea that Dikson and his colleagues can produce a show that lampoons Zimbabwe and its political overlords is a brave stand against the tyranny that has gripped the country for way too long. For the photo I wanted to lean on the rich photographic history documenting struggle across the world. This incredible photo from Eddie Adams shot during the Vietnam war immediately came to mind. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eddie_Adams_(photographer)…) I tried to play with that idea slightly by using a toy gun instead of a real one to highlight Dikson’s comedic mission while still reminding the viewer of the potential for danger.

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Project Portrait: Day 76

Day 76 of Project Portrait. Next up we have Sophie Labrey, who is the community manager for TrueView. She is also I’ve been told, a pretty awesome drummer. I had a whole set-up planned for Sophie and we were happily chatting while I found my angle, until she showed me her hands. Having tattoos on the palms of your hands is unusual, but I was drawn to the broken line on her left (your right). Sophie explained that because she drums so often the tattoo wasn’t given enough time to heal and so was worn away. I asked if she would ever fill the line in and she said she’d grown attached to it. Over these past few months I’ve learned that a portrait doesn’t necessarily have to be of someone’s face. You can get a sense of someone from the things they wear, their environment or even a part of their anatomy. When I saw Sophie’s hands I immediately felt this told more about her than a picture of her face ever could.