Archive for the ‘Portrait’ Category
This interesting little journey started, unknowingly, last summer at the Edinburgh International Film Festival when, after a Q&A with the fascinating film director, Eyal Sivan, I hesitantly, politely, nervously asked, in an ever-so British way, if he would mind awfully if I took his photo. He was chatting with some folks in the Filmhouse Bar and he was more than happy for me to take his picture. The bar was buzzy with festival go-ers, there wasn’t much time or space in which to think or compose a photo but I asked him to ignore me and carry on his conversation, which he did, and while he was talking I took a couple of pictures. I wanted to capture something of his mesmerizing intensity and I hope that with this resulting image I managed to do that.
It was a momentary encounter. Of no significance really. But a pretty decent image to come from it (apart from the annoying lights on his forehead but this was a busy cafe so you have to take what you can get!). I posted the picture on this blog, as is my habit from time to time, and thought no more about it.
Then earlier this year, while browsing the internet for photos of Eyal Sivan, I came across this picture below. I took a double take at first. Much as this might prove to be the pinnacle of my career as a photographer so far, to have a photo I took on the front cover of a magazine, since I had no idea that it was going to be used, I wasn’t sure that this photo could be mine.
However, yep, there again were those annoying little light flashes on his forehead which confirmed that this was indeed one and the same photo.
I sought some advice about what to do because this was completely foreign territory for me, copyright, image rights, blah, blah, blah… but crucially, for me, as a non-professional, I have to say that ultimately I was very flattered that another Film Festival chose my image to put on the front of their brochure.
We came to a very satisfactory compromise. As well as profound apologies for the oversight in failing to credit the image to me, I got the fantastic bonus of free passes to the Thessaloniki Film Festival earlier in November and spent a totally brilliant 5 days, watching 3 films a day, escaping the cold and wet of the UK for the glorious sunshine, fine food and great films that Thessaloniki had to offer.
The highlights, for me, were the Aki Kaurismaki series, Constantina Voulagis’ ‘A.C.A.B. All Cats are brilliant’, and Lore by Cate Shortland. The programme was excellent and female film directors featured quite prominently which was great and having gone to the Festival with my lovely friend Esther, who is herself a very talented director, it was all in all a perfect few days.
(and in keeping with the spirit of the post, I just stole this photo off Esther’s Flickr stream :-))
Some photos I took in Tirana. I do always try and ask permission (if appropriate) before taking someone’s portrait but in Albania this was problematic as a ‘Yes’ is expressed by shaking the head from side to side and ‘No’ by an emphatic nod (reversed by those who deal with tourists more frequently). I was never quite sure if I had permission or not, I just hoped that a lot of smiling on my part would help either way.
The gentleman sitting outside the Etham Bey mosque, Skanderburg Square, Tirana
Inside the Etham Bey mosque, Skanderburg Square, Tirana – the lovely man who put all the lights on so that we could see its beautifully painted interior walls.
One very impressive moustache – in front of a tyre shop, Tirana
Last night I got to see my all time favourite singer songwriter doing a gig in Edinburgh. She adorned the ceiling of my bedroom growing up and I must have spent hours, days, weeks between the age of about 17 to 23 listening to her albums, dreaming of running off to live on an Amsterdam houseboat and wishing I could write poetry like she sang it.
Twenty years of living later and she’s still the cool punk rocker she was then. And I still can’t write poetry.
Last night she played in someone’s front room in a house, an amazing house, The House in Edinburgh.
With 50, maybe 60 people in the room, two sofas away from me.
It was amazing. I was quite the star struck teenager again.
And wanting to see 5am from an Amsterdam houseboat all over again.
Hello. It’s been a while. I haven’t been taking many photos recently, which obviously means that for a blog that is ostensibly in existence for the posting of photos, there wasn’t really very much point in stopping by. Either for me or for you.
But hopefully that might start to change.
Starting with Fran’s Granny.
I have always wanted to take a portrait of Fran’s Granny as I think she has an amazing face, in fact she’s quite amazing generally. She turned 90 this week, received over 100 cards, had 4 parties, 3 cakes; she has lived in south west Scotland for all of those 90 years, knows everyone within about a 30 mile radius, knows their spouses and their offspring and their offspring’s offspring. And even their offspring’s offspring’s offspring.
For all of you worried that your mind may start to deteriorate after the age of 60 or 70, take inspiration from this fledgling nonagenarian – but beware, she’ll probably beat you at Bridge, Sudoku AND Scrabble
Actually, my life is a lot more interesting than it seems on Facebook. Largely because I’m not on Facebook.
Imagine this. A man sits in front of his telly watching X Factor. He opens up a note book, scribbles on a piece of paper “I’m watching X factor”, rips it out, folds it up, steps outside his house and posts it through his neighbour’s letter box.
He goes back inside, makes a cup of tea, sits down, opens up his notebook, scribbles the words “Jeez, this is a good cup of tea”, rips out the paper, folds it up, steps outside his house and posts it through his neighbour’s letter box. Again.
What’s to miss?
This is the one and only picture I’m going to post from this trip to Malawi. The trip was short and the work was intense and there was very little opportunity to explore Lilongwe in the few days I was there.
‘Exploring’ is logistically difficult in Lilongwe anyway. I have always enjoyed taking myself off when in a new place, with a camera if possible, to just walk and to watch and explore.
But Lilongwe is not an easy place to do this. Everyone and no-one walks. And that all depends on where you sit upon the spectrum of wealth. On the one hand, Lilongwe is full of people walking, Malawi is full of people walking. All walking along a road somewhere, or pushing a bicycle, wheels buckling under the weight of the load being carried – stacked crates of vegetables for the market, sack upon sack of Nsema, pregnant or elderly relatives.
Then at the other end of the spectrum, no-one walks. The roads are full of giant 4×4 vehicles, powering round potholes and on towards the other stratosphere of existence.
There was a chronic fuel shortage whilst I was there which meant that lines of vehicles were left abandoned for days at petrol stations throughout the city in the hope that when the fuel lorry finally did arrive to replenish the pumps, they would be fairly near the front of an impossibly growing queue. There were ‘Petrol Watch’ Facebook groups set up, alerts went out that petrol was due imminently at a certain location, or newly arrived at another, and suddenly half our workshop participants vanished in the chase for fuel. Two or maybe three hours of waiting and finally you’d have a full tank. All that effort, all that anxiety and expended energy, all for a single tank of fuel!
There were queues for sugar too. Rationed to four bags per person, the sugar queues were set up outside the main shopping centres and kept orderly by security guards. The highest denomination of bank note in Malawi is now worth less than £2 and yet, to eat in a restaurant, to buy basic food stuffs at a supermarket, take a taxi into town or stay in a hotel – these all cost almost the equivalent as in the UK. Very few places take credit or debit cards so, imagine heading out for an evening to eat as a party of six and making sure you have the equivalent of £120 in £2 coins in order to pay for the evening. In Malawi it’s not £2 coins but 500 Kwatcha notes, in bundles the thickness of a household brick. Western purses are not designed for carrying the Malawian Kwatcha.
On the morning I was leaving, I did finally go for a walk. I stepped out of the Lodge I was staying in and walked along the road to the main shopping mall about half a mile away. There are no pavements, so everyone walks ON the road, body swerving the 4x4s as they body swerve the pot holes. A western woman walking alone along a main road is quite an unusual sight in Lilongwe and it wasn’t an entirely comfortable experience. I felt a little exposed and vulnerable, more so than I was expecting.
Walking back to the Lodge, the man in this picture stopped me and asked me for money. On the spectrum of wealth, he was clearly not at the end with the giant 4x4s or indeed with the complaints about how much Kwatcha is stuffed in one’s purse.
He was immaculately clean and well-dressed and was sitting in an improvised wheel chair, unable to walk. He had an air of defiant pride about him, and the way he asked me for money was as if it was both my duty and responsibility to agree, which I tacitly did.
I nodded, smiled and asked him if he would mind if I took his photo, turning this into a crude currency of exchange and he accepted. But he didn’t smile back. Not once. He remained defiant and proud. I respect him for that.
I haven’t quite finished with the Last Man Hanged photos but at the moment the Edinburgh Film Festival is on so I’m going to digress slightly as I wanted to post a picture of the Israeli film director, Eyal Sivan. He was in conversation on the subject of Palestine on Film on Saturday afternoon but talking also about films he made on the Eichmann trial (The Specialist) and surveillance in the DDR (I love you all) as well as a film about the Israeli education system and the role of memory in shaping the Israeli identity (Izkor: Slaves of Memory).
He was totally inspiring, such a huge intellect, driven by passion, highly critical of Zionism and totalitarianism of all kinds – I could have sat all afternoon listening to what he had to say.
He kindly allowed me to take his photo in the bar afterwards.