Making Transit Fun
As more people have acquired digital cameras over the years, it’s got more difficult to sell stock images. But I love it when I do shift some, especially ones that I’m quite precious about, like my fruity bus stop series.
Several years ago when I was traveling the world and making photos of unusual bus stops, I made my way to a remote rural district within Western Japan. I kew about these quirky bus shelters from a couple of pictures online, but I hadn’t been prepared to see them so void of people. Therefore I did a lot of hanging around, and persuading locals who couldn’t speak English to pretend they were waiting. In all I spent the best part of two half days there, wandering between giant strawberries, melons and lemons. I needed to check that I hadn’t wandered into the set of Alice in Wonderland. It’s great, therefore, that they have seen the light of day in Darrin Nordahl’s book about public transit.
It’s not often that I get a commission from a tabloid newspaper, but last week I was phoned by the Sunday World to photograph a female nurse who appeared on the Graham Norton TV show. As an audience member, she told a story about how she caught the eye of an attractive man at the gym, but tripped up on her treadmill at a crucial moment as she was establishing eye contact. When I met her in Stratford, I realised that the part of the appeal for the newspaper was merely to splash a picture of a young lady across their pages, so I dutifully obliged by producing an aesthetically pleasing one. Hearing the story before setting off, I took the orange dumbbells which are a large part of the focus.
To see the one I picked for my website, please see my best editorial portraits here.
This is the second spread using some of the pictures I took at Grow Heathrow (see earlier post from Inside Housing). It’s the showcase magazine for members of London Independent Photographers, of which I have been a member for 6-7 years, and run the Shoreditch Satellite group meeting.
I’m so used to seeing my “precious” photos cropped, that it’s great to see these images reproduced as they were taken, and also my text unedited printed on quality glossy paper!
If you’re a photographer and not a member of LIP, do join as you’ll receive this magazine 3 times a year, amongst other benefits.
I had a sizeable commission from Briefing Magazine to shoot 7 portraits around London and Bristol. They’re all leaders in law firms, so the brief was to have them looking powerful and leader-like, and crucially outside their normal office environments. One of my favourite portrait photographers is Harry Borden, whose pictures I like because they’re quite understated, and he has a great eye for placing people in often unexpected locations. I feel inspiration from his work. With my portraits here, I was given 30minutes+ in order to strike up a little bit of rapport and wander around the immediate vicinity of the subjects’ workplace with them. I’ve often struggled in the past to feel comfortable with city workers, because their jobs seem so different from mine. However I now realise it’s best establish common ground outside the workplace, whether it ‘s about cycling, London-life or the perils of hair blowing in the wind! I’m happy with these images because as well as having high impact I feel I’ve captured a little of their personalities. Well, all except one who didn’t let his guard down, no matter how hard I tried. (Can you guess which one?).
I am really chuffed that some of my images from my long term project documenting Grow Heathrow have been published across 4 pages in Inside Housing magazine. It’s rare that pictures are used so well, without cropping arbitrarily by editors and designers. Some of the copy is also mine, though adapted by the features editor Lydia Stockdale to make it more relevant to the readership. I’m happy that a magazine with such integrity has dedicated so much space to such an important story, thanks everyone involved. I’m planning on returning to the site and continuing with the project. Click here to view the rest of the project.
Thanks to Photofusion Gallery in Brixton for selecting 3 of my pictures for their Annual Members’ Photography Salon, which will open on 6th December. The pictures are all from the Grow Heathrow series, more about which is written below. They’ll be shown on a slide show.
The two featured above both depict housing. The photo on the left is of two participants preparing cob, a material used for house building composed of local ingredients: clay, sand, hay, water and earth. It is fireproof, inexpensive and has been revived in recent years by the sustainability movement. Mixing the ingredients was a very interactive, not altogether clean experience. I like the photo because, for me, it contains an element of romance between the two participants.
I have been trying to document the structures that residents at Grow Heathrow sleep in (top right). They are all unique and some very innovative due to the constraints that are placed upon them by using only renewable and found materials. This one is surrounded by tomato plants, and rather a lot of wild bushes, reminiscent to me of the Alaskan wilderness!
- Apples, juice, damsons, hawthorns and pressing
Much of the weekend I spent at Grow Heathrow, an eco-village that is situated just outside the perimeter of Heathrow Airport. It started off as a protest against a third runway, and has evolved into a community that lives off grid, powering all of it’s own electricity through solar and wind power.
At certain times of the year they invite visitors to participate in events and workshops, like foraging and apple pressing which took place this weekend. I’ve been back to the site in order to photograph the evolution of the project every few week or months. Check out my ongoing project here.
The apple press we used was an old fashioned one that made the whole process very interactive, and a great way to pass the time while chatting to others. The damsons (miniature purple plums) tasted really sweet, but the biggest surprise was discovering mushrooms on the way back from the orchard. Puffball and another unidentified variety were picked, and collected. The former are round, white and have little taste but do well in stews or with garlic.
I was commissioned to photograph the woman who is leading the government’s troubled family’s team, Louise Casey. The pictures of her being interviewed came out well due to the light streaming in from the window behind her, and the fact that she was very animated and unconscious.
She said she could talk for hours about what she’s passionate about, to which I replied I could do the same on the subject of photography.
When it came to taking the posed shots for which I had scouted a location earlier, my lens decided to send cryptic messages to my camera, to the tune of error message. I got flustered and took it straight down to the camera doctor soon after, but I’m pleased that I got at least one shot that I’m happy with, particularly the playful nature of the colourful sculpture contrasted with her serious expression.
Michael McGuinness’ work, Monday Comes Very Quickly
Once a month I host a night of discussion for photographers in Shoreditch, London. We are a satellite group of London Independent Photographers (LIP) which has been running for over 25 years, and has a great magazine showcasing members’ work 3 times a year.
In our group we showcase finished work and projects in progress. Last night, by chance, turned out to be a Mental Health Special, as 3 out of 4 of the showcased photographers had work connected to the subject.
Michael McGuinness kicked off, a recent graduate of Photojournalism MA at Westminster University. He has been working in collaboration with Birmingham and Solihull Health Trust, and has photographed patients within their care. It’s a mixture of portraits and reportage-style images presented as a final piece in a newspaper, plus more experimental media within his exhibition. He even printed one of his images on a lady’s headscarf, amongst the items that are for sale. Michael has had paid work offered to him to continue similar projects, which indicates that he has made a successful impression on the Health Trust. So is this a way for clients to undergo therapy? Apparently so, as Michael encourages subjects to use cameras while he’s engaging with them.
I am excited to see how the work evolves, as the photographer is committed to continue along the broad theme of mental health. He’s produced a great set of images, though I think his work will only get stronger the more he engages with the subject.