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Monthly Archives: March 2012

This week just some phone pictures and an idea that has been going around in my head for a while…

The Babyccino! Where did that come from? I’m sure it wasn’t created in Italy. Nope, apparently it is from Australia and has been around for the past 10 years. It’s certainly been in the UK for the past 5, and it has just hit the US. Over here we are just talking about some frothy milk in a small cup with a bit of chocolate on top. It the States they are serving little ones decaf coffee and frothy milk.
It’s another great marketing success aimed at the Yummy Mummy, as a way of keeping her child quite so she can spend more money in the cafe.

It may sound like I don’t approve, but I do love the Babyccino. It’s healthy and the kids love them. For me it’s the name – it just seems to sum up this new generation of little people and how we treat them. There is a project here somewhere, but for now it’s just a good title- “The Babyccino Generation”.

These photos are of my daughter who ran up to me in the park the other day asking for a Cappuccino. My first thought was ‘you are NEVER having coffee’, but she meant a Babyccino. We are both off to Glasgow tomorrow where I think they are called ‘Weanaccinos’. We’ll find out and report back.

Thanks to Ruby for her individual dress sense and for sharing many a Babyccino moment with me.

No new photos this week. I have been editing my book project Generation Pink. There’s now lots of advice out there, on how to make your own photo book, but I came across a great post on the Conscientious blog with some sound advice on book making and at just the exact time I needed it.

It can seem an overwhelming task at times, but as with most things once it is broken down into separate jobs becomes manageable and this week’s task is editing. Not that I will do an edit and it will be done. Editing will be an ongoing task, but at least I have made a start. I have started to pair images together that will become double page spreads. It is amazing that as soon as you start to put photographs together the work begins to feel like a book.

These images are from the middle chapter of the book, which is made up of formal portraits paired with still lives. When I have been shooting the children’s portraits I have always been very conscious that families have welcomed me into their home, and allowed me to photograph their children. I have always felt that I wanted to make positive images and not criticize anyone’s choice of how to dress or raise their children. I am there to record. I also really hope that the children gain something form working with me to make the photograph, as it is very much a collaboration.

The still lives are a different matter. I found it impossible not to let my own feelings come into these pictures. I have only photographed second hand toys, that I have either found out on the street, or bought form charity shops and from Ebay. I like the idea that these toys have already been played with, discarded and the child has already moved on to something else. I have added a bit of glitter or make up (see the unicorn above) just as little girls do when playing with their dolls. I don’t shoot still lives often, but have really enjoyed using a medium that has allowed me to add some of my own expression.

I have set up a Generation Pink Facebook page to find out what other people think about the issues raised in the project. It will follow the making of the book with weekly updates and I hope that it will also encourage discussion. I might even be able to use some of the comments in the finished book. Please support my book project by ‘liking’, commenting and sharing Generation Pink on Facebook.

Thanks to Jenny for such a strong and confident stance from such a little child. And many thanks to Jasmine and Amelia for allowing me into their magical play room.

Only a small offering from me this week. I photographed nine week old twins Eli and Laurie for my pink project. It was one of those occasions, when having a camera allows you a glimpse into other people’s lives. It felt really special to have spent a some time with these two little people, and in this case, their two mums.

Having a boy and girl at exactly the same time, I had thought would really emphasize the inherent differences between the two sexes and how other people treat them. Their mums Louise and Laura have all this to come. I was stuck by how different the babies are already and could see very clearly  their different personalities even at this young age. Laurie, the girl has such a pretty and very feminine face and Eli has that slightly old man face that babies boys sometimes have. Their mum Louise told me that they generally dress the babies in whatever clothes are at hand, and so have already confused many midwifes and health visitors, who have just assumed that it is Laurie who is the one in pink.

I shot 3 rolls in total, but this was the only frame that really works for me. I like how they are positioned, head to toe, like yin and yang. I couldn’t help but include the iron in the top left corner as a nod to the domestic drudgery of looking after small children, which must be increased by the demands of twins. There are two piles of clothes on the bed one pink and one greeny blue (with a bit of pink).

This photograph is a good edition to my pink project which is now titled ‘Generation Pink’ (look out for the Facebook page coming soon). I have a deadline to finish off the majority of the photographs, which is the end next month. I will be doing a book design course with book designer Stuart Smith of Smith Design, who are responsible for the amazing and imaginative design of many many great Photo books .

Many thanks to Louise and Laura, Eli and Laurie.

This week’s images are all outakes. They are the frames I have rejected because they are too posed or the expression is too contrived. Most of my photographs are portraits. I try to capture something of a person that goes beyond the exterior. I want to get behind the front that people project to the outside world. All of these images were rejected for more natural or more honest pictures.

Last week on Martin Parr’s blog, he wrote about his frustration when at the moment he holds up his camera to take a photograph, people immediately change and start smiling and posing. Whatever had initially sparked his interest is then lost. Martin puts this down to what he calls ” The Facebook problem”. He says that people (especially young people), are already thinking about showing their friends on Facebook what a good time they are having, and so they project this to the camera.

I see another reason, that Martin and all other photographers are faced with young people posing for the camera in this way. Facebook is only a tool for sharing photographs. I consider digital photography to be the culprit. When you take a photograph with a digital camera everyone wants to see the result, then and there on the camera screen. They have an opportunity to analyse the photograph, deside what they like/don’t like about how they look in the image, and take another shot. They can then modify their stance, pull in their tummy, tilt their head and adopt what they consider to be a more flattering expression, which shows themselves in a better light. Young people have grown up with digital photography. They have also been influenced by celebrity culture and have borrowed the poses from the red carpet, but I believe the instant feedback provided by a digital camera is just all to tempting to people that are still discovering and experimenting with their identity.

I have noticed that when I look at a photograph of myself I am immediately critical. If I look at the same photograph a week later it doesn’t seem quite so bad. If I leave it a year I might start to think it is a good picture of me. Leave it 5 years and I wish I still looked like that. We cannot distance ourselves from images of ourselves that we see in the present. Time helps us to become a bit more objective.

Children and young people are the subject of many of my photographs and I see how they now have such clear ideas of how to stand, pose and smile for the camera. This was not the case even 10 years ago. I tend not to show my 5yr old daughter the digital photographs that I take of her – not at the time. I don’t think that kind of immediate and repetitive visual feedback can be too healthy and I want to be able to take natural pictures of her, without the pose and attitude. I will show her the photograph, but later on when we are not in that moment of taking the picture and some time has past between picture taking and viewing. The moment will have passed along with the temptation to tilt the head or push out the hip.

Martin Parr doesn’t want the people he photographs to pose for him. He wants to record the moment that ‘caught his eye in the first place’. Not the moment influenced by the photographers presence. My aim is to capture an honest portrait of a person rather that the facade. But perhaps it will be the posed photographs and the outtakes, that as we look back on this time, will best reflect this digital celebrity obsessed age.

This week the Culture Show broadcast a special on David Hockney titled ‘The Art of Seeing’. In this episode Hockney tells how he has to look at the landscape for a long time before he sees the colours, that he then transposes onto canvas/iPad. He also explains his video pieces from his show ‘A Bigger Picture’ at the Royal Academy. He uses 9 video cameras set in a grid formation to make the films, because he wanted to be able to capture ‘a bigger picture’. I was mesmerized by these films when I saw the show last month, as were the entire audience. Their effect is to make us look more closely at the landscape and for longer.

This is exactly how I have been feeling about my portraits recently. I feel a need to get closer to my subject. In my case by using a longer lens, to fill the frame with a head and shoulders crop. I can be guilty of relying too much on perspective to compose my pictures. I have a desire to strip this out of my photographs and allow myself to concentrate on the face and the expression. I have also been thinking, that in the process of taking the picture, I need to look more closely. To pause, and take my face away from behind the camera, look directly at the subject before pressing the shutter.

In the process of photographing and because I often stop people in the street to photograph. I can easily get lost in the process, in trying to communicate with a stranger and dealing with the hustle and bustle going on around me. Sometimes it is difficult to pause that process and just look, especially as I don’t have a lot of time with each person. The pause is important. When I worked as an assistant we would set up the shot and shoot a Polaroid as a test. When you look at a physical print in your hand you can see exactly what you need to do to get your shot; you are not in the present, but looking back at a shot that has already been taken. When you look through the viewfinder you are back in the present, and faced with a person looking back at you, and that makes it difficult to be objective and see clearly. It is the same with digital you get an idea of your shot on your camera screen, but it is not until you upload your images onto a computer and view them on it’s screen that you can really see the final shot.

Here are two portraits that I made in Brixton, using my longer portrait lens. I have never found it that easy to use, as with all bits of kit, just takes more practice. I have sussed out that it is not good wide open (f4) . So next time I go out it will be the only lens I take with me and I’ll try it stopped down. I will focus as closely as the lens will allow, to get as close as I can to the subject. Sometimes it helps to have restrictions. I need to concentrate and look more closely until I start to see more.