6 Oct 2017

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Some mustardy flowers

Just a quick post to share this cosy autumnal arrangement I captured last night at Second Home while photographing an event for TEDx Shoreditch, and to say hi! I'm alive! Been busy working on some more experimental bits and pieces for the last little while, and if you're interested in that could I suggest you follow me on Instagram, where I post snippets and Stories of what I'm up to far more regularly than I do here...

14 Jul 2017

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Park Road Pool 1960s


In my last post, I shared a different portrait of artist Dan Ferguson. I am lucky enough to know Dan through my friend Lisa, who shared his work with me via the magic of Instagram. Lately I'd been thinking about starting to collect art in a slightly more concentrated way than previously and thought that commissioning a small painting from an artist whose palette and subject I loved, and who I had a personal connection to, would be a good place to start. 

Am I glad I did? You bet. Dan and I emailed a little about inspiration and subject first off. I had been arranging some of my own photos and bits and pieces of others' work on my shelves at home and realised that I already had an unconscious focus on swimmers, swimming pools, water, divers and so on. This made sense to me: I've always felt that water was my element, as I wrote about after my time in Morocco. 


When I mentioned this to Dan he got pretty excited as he's already been working on a series of swimming pool pieces. He grew up swimming in a pool in Crouch End which his children then learned in before the family relocated to Northern Ireland and he shared with me some stills from a vintage informational film about that very spot. I highlighted a couple that spoke to me, and off he went!




A few weeks later, and we met in a Stoke Newington park so I could say hi to his son and youngest daughter, who I'd never met, snap some photos of his oldest, who I hadn't seen since she was a baby, shoot Dan himself, and of course receive my beautiful painting. 

The soft blue and purples tones he has used suit the misty, memorialised act of leaping into an unknown void that is the future and the air all at once. The physicality of the flecks of paint is exciting to someone whose work exists (even in print) in a flat, 2-D state. It seemed fitting that we met on such a hot day, in such a childlike place, when I am so in-between myself. 

The finished piece can be seen in his gallery.

Please do drop him a line if you're thinking of buying or commissioning a piece of art. He paints gorgeous family portraits too. 

Dan can be found on the internet at the following places: website / Instagram or by emailing dan_fergie@outlook.com.

13 Jul 2017

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Dan Ferguson

Dan is an extraordinary painter of swimming pools, places of memory, figures and families and is based in Northern Ireland. Check out his work online at danferguson.co.uk and see his process on Instagram.

24 Apr 2017

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Morocco, part IV: a multimedia adventure

The final post on my recent trip! I’d like to share some half-finished thoughts and some sketchy experimental bits and pieces.

As I’ve previously mentioned, Morocco blew my mind in the best way. This wonderful stimulation only added to the generally fresh and new creative vibes I’ve been feeling lately; exploring painting, drawing, writing, sketching ideas for multimedia pieces, film and performance art. 

Another piece of a jigsaw fell into place when I watched Randall Wright’s documentary about David Hockney shortly before leaving. Having visited Tate’s retrospective in February I was surprised how little I knew of Hockney’s output and how much I loved the work. (Run to see the exhibition, which closes soon!) and I was inspired to find out more. 

I watched the film on BBC iPlayer, where it’s no longer available, but you can watch the trailer online or buy the DVD and I strongly recommend that you do! One of the most interesting parts was where the artist was talking about making panoramas on his iPhone - how he thinks of them, like his multi-canvas landscapes or his collaged photographs as a way of exploring space differently and more expansively. 

Sometimes when I travel alone I take pictures of my own feet in the places I walk. (Also used this tired old trope as documentary while I’m training for a marathon hike to raise money for breast cancer research). Partly this stems from an impulse to prove I was there; partly I am embarrassed about asking strangers to take photos of me and am certainly not that interested in snapping selfies - mostly because I don’t look good, not because I hate selfies. This time just those photos didn’t seem to take in enough of the scene so I began to make vertical panoramas - I’m sure partly influenced by Hockney’s stamp of approval for this accessible form of photography. 


These turned into a way of documenting literal and emotional waystations. They also functioned to capture something of the landscape and required me to move within space to fill in the edges, to crane into a backbend to capture the blue sky and hot sun that was an intrinsic part of the experience for me. I’ve collected them below; they are kind of fun, and kind of silly, and kind of nothingy; but I also think they are interesting and in future travels I want to make more. 
Here are another couple made more 'traditionally' by rotating horizontally on the spot (one is shot by a fellow surfer and I think it’s kind of fascinating how a tiny, handheld object with almost zero photographic manipulability can create an image with such a sense of drama and scale. 

A final pano shows some glitched portions that I made by forcing the ‘stitching’ mechanism, moving the phone side to side more extremely than the instructions given by my phone were telling me to.
All of these were originally cropped and edited using phone and web apps (mostly Pixlr and the in-phone options) and this also provokes me into questioning the role of automation and control in my image-making. This is something I’ve been interested in for a while now and continue to experiment with. 

Before I even left I knew I wanted to try and recreate some of Hockney’s collaged photo-print works as these are some of my favourites of his; at the exhibition I particularly noted the piece Walking in the Zen Garden at the Ryoanji Temple, Kyoto for its inclusion of his feet pacing along the bottom edge. Thinking more carefully about digital creation, control and release of control, I ran the selection of images I shot at Le Jardin Majorelle through all of Photoshop’s ‘photo merge’ command; five are stitched together below. I want to consider the algorithms involved here; what is ‘looking’ at these images and what is being ‘decided’? Of course the automation isn’t ‘pure’; I edited the initial JPEGs; I chose the five to feature here, I was asked to select various options; I cropped them into squares and erased one errant image that almost none of the commands could incorporate (hence the gappy portion top left). I enjoy their slight - or not so slight - variations.

Also while at the Jardin Majorelle and pondering these things as I and all the other tourists wandered around documenting ourselves in this moment, I recalled that my camera has a built in double exposure mode and had a little play with that. Again, the camera decides various things then I - and Adobe’s little spiders - decide some more - but time folds briefly in on itself here, like the snap shut of the aperture itself. 
Here’s an accidental creation that happened while I was editing all my more traditional images of the Jardin - zooming as close as possible to check the crop on one picture, I realised I’d filled my screen with the International Klein Blue the house is famous for and in doing so created a Moroccan tile pattern of sorts. This has another layer too, seeing as (according to William Gibson, via Wikipedia), it is extremely difficult to reproduce accurately on computer screens…
AND FINALLY…another habit of mine when travelling or moving through my home city is to record sound clips of especially evocative moments. Among other things, I’ve recorded babbling rivers in Wales, vibrating hive sculptures in Kew Gardens, and a busking cellist under the U-Bahn in Berlin. All of these have an ability to transport me to a particular point and place in the way that scent does and that photographs rarely do. In Morocco, the calls to prayer that punctuate the day are one of those soundscapes, as are the sheer levels of birdsound (songs, twitterings, squawks). Click on the image below, which I shot before I recorded this clip, or here to visit the rooftop of my Marrakech riad as the sun sets.

With all of these noodlings, what I’m trying to do is stretch my practice a bit, to challenge my assumptions and habits and to begin finding a more expansive way of photographing.

21 Apr 2017

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Morocco, part III: Oh I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside…

What was your seaside growing up? Mine was the quintessential South Coast English sort: gentle dunes, salty water, goose pimples (often), picnics behind stripey plastic windbreaks (always), games of cricket with my cousins, sandcastles, 99 flakes, seagulls, chips (lots of vinegar please) on the way home, and falling asleep gritty with sand and covered in freckles in the back of my mum’s Ford Escort to the tune of Paul Simon’s Graceland on repeat. Imagine the Famous Five filtered through Martin Parr and you’re about there.

Since then I’ve explored the top layers of the Great Barrier Reef, all be-rainbowed with tropical fish, and dipped from snowy river meltwaters into bath-hot sea on two sides of a Turkish peninsula. (Less romantically I’ve also forded hip high mud flats to freeze my lungs stiff on the Norfolk coast). I love swimming in fresh water and dip my toes into the paradise that is the Hampstead Heath Ladies’ Pond on a summer’s day with glee; but saltwater will always be my first love. It buoys you up, it heals your skin, it makes your hair mermaid-wavy with no effort, and gives you the ravening appetite of a hungry wolf. 

In the case of the Moroccan Atlantic coast, the waves will also tumble you upside down like a gemstone in a barrel, leaving you gasping and giggling till the water runs back out of your nose. It will get inside your wetsuit so that after half an hour you have to run back up the beach to wave at Faizel the drinks man to warm your insides with some hot sweet mint tea (“Seulement un peu!” you must say as he waves both honey bottle and sugar jar at you). Luckily you’ll be attached to a surf board and practicing popping up in very baby waves, so at all times you’ll feel only enjoyably free and abandoned. The sun will be shining fiercely, filling you with vitamin D, but you’ll have your parasol ready stationed in the sand when it’s time for a nap, sketching, reading, or a snooze.

After my time in Marrakech I hopped on a bus and was driven through a whole lot of flat, semi-desert. In the distance, mountains loomed like cut-outs waiting to be flown onto a toy stage, resolving as we drew closer into voluptuous folds in shades of dust, newsprint, and sepia. From Agadir I was transported by taxi through a warm night that smelled faintly and pleasantly like fish, Jess Glynne and Clean Bandit on the car radio (“plus fort” I yelled and he turned it right up), to arrive at Marocsurfcamp in Tamraght.



I’d signed up to their six-day surfing and yoga retreat and it was bloody brilliant. Tamraght is just a little further away from the main centre of surfing in the area, Taghazout, and as such has more of a village-y feel. Evening walks would cross paths with kids leaving school, women popping to the corner shop for a tin of cat food, families playing together or teenagers snatching a quiet moment to canoodle as the sun set. 

Everything is a little ramshackle; lots of building and landscaping is happening all along the coast and I bet if I went back in a year or two everything would be shinier. Luckily for me, I caught it at the perfect level. There are enough surf lodges that you don’t stand out, but locals aren’t sick of tourists yet and so you can exchange a nod and "salaam" with the older men, wave cheerily at the women prepping dinner, and make google eyes at the babies to your heart’s content. 

The camp itself is lovely; a rooftop yoga studio allowed me to stretch out every morning as the sun rose around me; Khadijah (pictured below admiring the view of the sunset from our terrace) and Fatema in the kitchen spoiled us all rotten with three delicious meals a day (and unending supplies of tea and cheer); the instructors (the two Mehdis, one below assessing conditions!, and Said) were patient, good-humoured, and lots of fun to be around.


After only 24 hours with the other guests I knew I’d made some true friends. (Jesse, Asa, Alex and Marine, below, to name just four).




We travelled to different beaches each day depending on our mood and that of the wave gods, picnic lunch packed, stopping off to buy massive bunches of very tiny bananas to keep us well-fuelled. 
In the evening I walked a few minutes down the road to Villa Solaria where Lena (below) led another yoga class on a terrace overlooking the sea itself.

After a much-needed series of flow sequences, hip and shoulder openers and that all-important time in shavasana I would potter back to tagine, kefte, baked fish, or whatever delight had been prepared that night. Exhausted by our efforts we lazed around post dinner chatting, reading, writing journals, before retiring to do it all again the next day. Little excursions to the souk in Agadir and for a second lunch of fried fish and coffee in the ‘bustling metropolis’ (ha!) of Taghazout kept everything varied and despite not sleeping all that well I’ve never felt more relaxed. Some views of Taghazout below...central London at rush hour it ain't.


This is Momo, who works at La Terrasse d'Argana in Taghazout. I admired his lightbulb plant holders (below) and when he brought our coffee over he also made me a gift of one! In return I made his portrait. Do visit the cafe, which has fantastic views (above). 

As someone who isn’t naturally very sporty or well-balanced I enjoyed the surfing itself way more than I was expecting - and yes, I managed to stand up a few times! 

The sole cloudy morning meant Jesse and I could take a little stroll up Devil's Rock and make a canine pal. Don't worry, the sun came out about ten minutes later...



I didn’t take as many photos during my time at the coast because I was feeling too damn lazy to pick up my camera. This is in fact an ideal state of affairs for one’s holidays (but perhaps not for one’s blog posts!). For phone snaps and Johnny-on-the-spot reports, scroll back through my Instagram feed.




Can you see why I didn’t want to come home? 



Check out the other packages the camp offers here, and do contact owner Maria with any questions. She was extremely helpful beforehand (it was especially brilliant to know I would be picked up from the bus station and dropped off at the airport).


If Morocco isn’t your bag, see where else your yoga could take you…I booked initially through BookRetreats and they also come highly recommended with a prompt and personal query service and easy search tools.

Keep up to date with Lena’s yoga practice here and her photo travels here.

And then all that’s left is for you to book your flights!