Dark Corners - Winner

Really thrilled to be one of five winners of the British Journal Of Photography's "Dark Corners".

Our work will form part of The Museum of London’s new major exhibition, London Nights, which will fuse archival, conceptual and modern photography to reveal the city after dark. With photography from the likes of Rut Blees Luxemburg, Tish Murtha, Nick Turpin and Bill Brandt, London Nights takes visitors on a dramatic, nocturnal study of the capital. 

The show will run from May until November this year.

Dark Corners

Delighted to be shortlisted for Dark Corners, a competition from @MuseumofLondon in collaboration with @1854, exploring London at night. My work, Sunray Spring, was made as a response to the pain of nostalgia when I returned to the place of my childhood after a long hiatus. The cherry blossom is lit, at night, by the glow of sodium vapour street lights.

For Dark Corners, photographers were invited to submit work exploring London at night. Each of the five winning images, to be announced soon, capture a different corner of the city  East, West, North, South and Central London. My picture, made in Tolworth, is for the South.

The selected photographs will be exhibited at the Museum of London as part of London Nights  a major, upcoming photography exhibition, which will reveal the city after dark through the work of 60 acclaimed photographers including including Alvin Langdon Coburn, Bill Brandt, Rut Blees Luxemburg, Tish Murtha and Nick Turpin.

The winners will also receive coverage from British Journal of Photography, and bespoke framed prints of their exhibited works.

Come what may, the show will be amazing.

Sunray Spring


Back in 2014 I had to drive to Bath early one summer's morning to drop off a box of mounted prints, my application for a RPS visual arts associateship. Photography is many things: a medium, a family of technologies, an art form, a document, allegory, a discourse and more. On that basis I'd opted for this qualification as it helped me sharpen up the basic elements of my practice such as camera handling, how to build up a small body of work and how write a statement. The validation of the award is nice, too.

The run up to, and day of, my assessment in Bath was, however, enough to test the most stoic and unsuperstitious of people:

1.  The 13th print in my hang mysteriously creases two nights before the day. Fortunately Spectrum can print a replacement overnight. World class customer service. Thank you, Hazel.

2.  Shortly after leaving home at 5 a.m. I become blocked and stranded on the level crossing at Portslade by a white van driver while the alarm is sounding and a train is approaching

3.  Later, while driving through roadworks near Salisbury, a truck jumps a red light and heads straight at me in the single-lane.

4. Minutes later I collide with a kill a wounded bird of prey; I cannot avoid it  because of oncoming traffic. 

5. In the outskirts of Bath I become stuck in a traffic jam, behind a 13 bus.

6. My work is assessed late in the day, after another application so impressive that one of the judges jokingly commented he would "fight anyone who disagreed".

And breeeeath.

Wolfgang Suschitzky, 1912 – 2016.

It was with deep sorrow that I learned of the recent death of Wolfgang Suschitzky at the age of 104. Wolfgang was both a remarkable photographer and a highly accomplished and sought after “cameraman” (his own self-effacing words, but in fact a cinematographer) for both documentaries and narrative features.

It was my good fortune to know Wolf a little. We first met in 2000, when I asked specifically for him, Mike Hodges and Michael Caine to contribute an audio commentary to an upcoming Warner Bros. DVD release of the 1971 British crime movie Get Carter. The three had worked on the film as DP, director and star respectively. Wolf and Mike recorded their pieces at Pinewood and we celebrated after with Wolf’s partner Heather at Mirabelle on Curzon Street.

A week or two later Wolf kindly invited me to the opening of a show of his photography at a gallery in Ladbroke Grove. While there I bumped into my friend, Hannah Donat, who looked at me with bug-eyed surprise and asked “why are you at my grandad’s private view?” Small world; it turned out that Hannah was one of Wolf’s nine grandchildren!

Picture: Gerard Malanga

When I am asked – as any photographer might – “who is your favourite photographer?” I always reply “Wolfgang Suschitzky.” The next two questions are usually “Who?” and “Why?” I then explain that, as much I passionately enjoy the work of countless other photographers it is – was – Wolf’s rare combination of compassion, versatility, creative skill, doggedness, wit and artistic longevity that won me over, both personally and in his brilliant work in the realms of still and moving image.

I have, since we first met, collected Wolf’s work. I once popped into the Photographers’ Gallery (the old address on Great Newport Street) with a recent bonus burning a hole in my pocket and asked to look at their current holding of Wolf’s prints. “You’re in luck,” said the print sales manager, “we have more than usual. Wolf has cleared out his drawers to help us put together a new book of his work.” She was right, there were loads of prints, three boxes. What caught my eye in particular was a set of prints that were, without doubt, shot in pre-WW2 Amsterdam. Wolf had moved from the UK to the Netherlands in 1934 with his Dutch wife, Helena Voûte, moving back to London alone in 1935 after the marriage foundered.

I was familiar with some of Wolf’s Dutch work, but these pictures were wholly new to me. They were a mix of images of everyday street life, evidently from Amsterdam’s Jewish Quarter and, to my delight, street portraits of young children from the same area. The portraits were straightforward and appealing head shots of fresh faces: smiles and frowns, smudged cheeks and tousled hair. As I looked through them I began to realise that these children might not only be united by a shared neighbourhood and the experience of being photographed by Wolf, but also by the likelihood of their deportation by the Nazis, along with the majority of Amsterdam’s Jewish population of 80,000, to death camps in Poland a few years later in 1942. If, as the curator Duncan Forbes once commented, Wolf “often monumentalises those he photographs” then it seems to me, in this specific instance, he inadvertently created a small but significant monument, inscribed with light, to these children.

Rest in peace Wolfgang Suschitzky, 1912 – 2016.


A Life Aquatic

Last year, when I replied "Not yet" to a passing jogger who enquired if, while I was up a ladder in the Hogsmill River tending to my tripod, I was "In trouble", I must have tapped into some prescient faculty. Why? Because 7 months later, while trying to get a BMX bike into the same river I slipped on the sodden clay riverbank and slid, with inexorable slowness, into the deepest pool in that stretch, over 2m deep. As the cold water filled my waders - not my favourite sensation - I discovered that nothing motivates a hasty exit from a watercourse like a) fear of drowning and b) having your iPhone in your trouser pocket. I clawed my way up the riverbank as If I had just evolved and was keen to get my towel onto this novel new dry land thing my fellow amphibians were raving about but ended up, flat on my back and panting, looking like Ophelia by way of the cover to the Slits' "Cut" and smelling very, very bad. Whoever called fresh water "fresh" should take a fully-clothed dip in the Hogsmill. 

Worse was to come. As I emptied out the contents of my pockets to dry I realised I would have to retrieve my prop - the BMX - from the bottom of the river. I can't believe I did this but I stripped off to my underwear and socks and jumped back in to the river, wrestled the bloody bike back out and counted myself lucky that no dog walkers had stopped to stare at this bizarre aquatic ritual. The wounding of my dignity continued - of course! - with walking in soaking wet clothes and muddy waders back to the car and driving home to the coast in my underwear. I'm relieved I wasn't stopped for speeding - "Sir, can you explain why you are driving trouserless in wet and pungent undergarments?"

"Officer, it's a long story." 

"Are you in trouble?"

My photograph "Hogsmill Valley (26th November 1977)" has been accepted to show at this year's Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition. Here is, after a fashion, the story of how the picture was made. A recorded version can be found here if listening is your preference.

So there I was, standing on a stepladder in the middle of a river, just levelling the  camera and tripod.  There was this furtive rustling from the river bank, from the bushes, so I turned my head carefully because when you’re wearing gigantic waders, up a step ladder, in the middle of a river with someone’s else’s camera, that’s what you do. No sudden movements.

A man dressed in orange joggers is staring at me and he says “Are you in trouble?”  “Not yet,” I said, “but thanks”. He ran off.

So what was I doing standing in a river on a winter’s morning when I should have been in bed?  Here’s the story. It starts with the death of both of my parents and my realisation that the memories they had of me as a child had perished with them, and that my own memories from that time were imperfect, fragmented and disordered. And I was really perturbed by this sense of the fading away of self and so wanted to respond to that feeling by making work, to somehow use my photography to make new memories to add to what I saw as my own dwindled inventory. 

To make that work I chose to return to the place of my childhood, at the edge of London. It’s the place with the strongest connection to my childhood so it felt like a natural place to work. I also returned in time, to 1977, it was a headline year for me, it’s when my horizons really expanded. I got my first summer job, Star Wars opened in the cinemas, there was the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, an uncle died, alone, our neighbour turned out to be a wife beater. And so on.

Yet, this isn’t about recreation, it’s about origination. I was working with a blank slate, which left me in need of that first idea from which I could get traction to start this creative process.  That spark of inspiration came from something  Jeff Wall said about his picture “Boy Falls From Tree.” When Wall talks about the picture, he says “we’ve all fallen”, which made me consider the universality of that event, that falling boy pin-wheeling through space.  This was decisive. It freed me from worrying about what I would have done as a child, instead I would ask myself “what if?” and make work about a boy who is just like me, but is not me.  I could set him loose in 1977 and make work of his adventures, even if he himself remains elusive and out of sight in the pictures.

Which brings us back to the river, doesn’t it? In the picture, we’re standing in the Hogsmill River. The Hogsmill Valley is right by where I grew up – a few hundred meters from our old house. The Valley is an archaic space, a finger of green poking into the frayed edge of suburban London. It’s never been built on and it’s still thick with old oaks, willows and hawthorns. I was stunned when I discovered that John Everett Millais painted his Ophelia really close to where this photo was staged.  If you put on your waders and walk towards the bridge, duck and mind your head, then press on for a bit,  you’ll be standing precisely where it all happened.

But why this spot? If you look to the left of the river you’ll see a water outflow like a little waterfall. That water pours out of a massive drain. My brother told me he used to crawl up there with his friend Paul, and they weren’t the only ones. Well, you have to do something to get your kicks and go to bed with a smile, so fair enough, I had my picture, and it was only the beginning of the project.

Thank you.

It's May tomorrow?

One thing that reading a Master's Degree does for your life is to choke off the time for some of life's gentler pleasures, such as blogging. On the one hand you feel as if you have little to report from day to day, or week to week: "This week: still writing the essay. Sixth week on the trot!" On the other, the rhythm of your activity, divided as it is into semester-long tranches, channels your work into a series of periodic culminations that follow months of labour, tutorials and fretting that leaves you feeling distinctly disinclined to share; you simply don't have any emotional or intellectual energy left. I have never worked so hard, and there's so much further to go.

Why, then, am I writing now? I am still immersed in shooting my Final Major Project and in overhauling my website and writing for Professional Practise. My Degree Show isn't until September. What is it that makes this moment different to the many other moments that have passed without comment since September 2014? Perhaps it's my perspective on myself. I began the process of reviewing my website a few months ago and concluded that, beyond doubt, I am a different photographer to the one who who started this degree. I'm a firm believer in lifelong personal change and evolution and the changes, intellectual and creative, that were set in motion two years ago have started to assume a greater degree of definition. Perhaps that's another reason why there was almost no blogging, the sense of personal flux I have experienced is a state in which it is difficult to state anything with certainty. 

Many of the pictures I created in the period leading up to a couple of years ago no longer sit comfortably on this site now that my work has become more reflective. It is, however, the work that helped to make the case for my acceptance onto my degree and I still like much of it. On that basis I'll be zapping a lot of this work back out via Instagram and Twitter, picture by picture, where it can live forever in the digital social realm. 

As for me, it's back to work!

My muddy handprint on the corridor wall at the now defunct University of Brighton Photography and Moving Image building at Circus Street.  My hands were muddy from installing the turf for my assessment installation, January 27th 2016. 

My muddy handprint on the corridor wall at the now defunct University of Brighton Photography and Moving Image building at Circus Street.  My hands were muddy from installing the turf for my assessment installation, January 27th 2016. 

RPS 158

Happy and humbled to have a print selected for the Royal Photographic Society's 158th International Print Exhibition. This year's entry comprised more than 5,000 photographs, from which just 100 were selected.  

The judging panel included two artists I have plenty of time for: Richard Billingham and Simon Roberts.  

My print of Wonder Valley (2) (listed in the show as Wonder Valley, to keep things simple) is currently on show with 99 other fantastic photographs at The Truman Brewery in London's Brick Lane until October 13th. After that the show will tour:

15 Oct - 12 Nov Royal Albert Hall, London. The exhibition can be viewed when attending performances or on the following free open days: Sat 17, Sun 18, Sat 24, Sun 25 October (10am - 4pm) 

28 Nov - 30 Jan 2016  Aberystwyth Arts Centre


16 Feb - 23 Mar The Hive, Worcester

2 - 30 April Warrington Museum & Art Gallery

30 June - 19 August University of Derby

Photocrowd & Alamy Exhibition 2015

I was really pleased when a portrait taken by me of my late father was selected for the Photocrowd & Alamy Exhibition 2015 at The Printspace in Shoreditch last month. 

"My Father is Dying."  Fuji C-Type Print, 39cm x 51cm.

The photograph, taken when my father was dying from dementia in 2013, is not an easy picture to like. It depicts an old man in a fitful sleep, calling for his wife, my mother, who passed away the year before this picture was taken. Yet, while it challenges us to confront the possibility that old age, and all its attendant complications and frailties, will take us all, it is also a simple and open picture of a man I loved at a moment of vulnerability for us both.

The motivation to create the portrait was driven by the realisation that my father had been the subject in photographs for his entire life but, at the end, there was the possibility that this grand cycle of image-making would close with nothing to mark its terminal point. I would photograph him, with his permission, whenever I visited. It eased the pain of experiencing my father's rapid decline and gave us an extra point of interest to talk over while I worked.



An empty car park toward the edge of Barcelona by the Camp Nou. A highly organised space, gridded by paint, bounded by walls. Each parking space a void awaiting fulfilment, some showing evidence of earlier encounters; a little spilled fluid, cigarette butts, wind-blown tissue. Shadows gradually sweep across the silent expanse, intersecting the grids, a sun dial with nobody telling the time. Beyond the walls, informality and entropy, await. Tracks are scoured into the grass, freshly obliterated graffiti shows through paint, weeds erupt. The seedy aroma of human waste permeates. Toward dusk, prostitutes and johns inhabit this place, everywhere the evidence of earlier encounters; a little spilled fluid, cigarette butts, wind-blown tissue.

Diptych - Traces

One day, standing by an abandoned diner on Highway 62, sipping coffee (that I'd made myself), I looked at my feet and realised I'd missed something: the dirt here was a palimpsest, marked with the tracks of tired travellers in search of gas and coffee, U-turners and break-takers. Quartz fragments had blown into the troughs formed by tyre treads. Miniscule pieces of dried plant - leaves, thorns, twigs - completed the complexly-textured surface. My own footprints and tracks were there too, until the wind blew once more or another person pulled in, erasing my marks with their own.   

The highway was newly-laid asphalt, closed-packed, unmarred by pots or scrapes and marked with fresh paint, a bold and seemingly permanent contrast to the ever-shifting dirt. It too, though, was marked with wind-blown dust and ingrained dirt from the tyres of passing vehicles, recording their passing-through.

Here were two very different, adjacent, surfaces, yet both capable of recording certain events despite this purpose, I feel sure, never being intended. This compelled me to think about how we could be in a constant state of mark-making, leaving traces of our movements and actions on our environment minute-by minute, day-by-day, an unintentional record of our lives. 

Cross your palm with Silver?

Argentiera. Tucked away in a cove on Sardinia's remote North West corner, reached only by a crazy series of hair pin bends that killed a bus right in front of us, Argentiera is in every way Yesterday's Village.  The village sat on a rich seam of silver ore that excited, more than two millennia ago, the Phonecians and the Romans, and wasn't mined out until 1963. In the intervening 50 or so years the village has declined into a tidy, but largely derelict, coma.

One or two neat houses and a sleepy cafe nestle amongst a muddle of gutted mine workings and derelict outbuildings with shattered windows. A vacant apartment building, seemingly prestigious by way of its prominent location on a low bluff overlooking the cove - perhaps it was home for management or important visitors -  has had its balconies removed so that upper floor exterior doors open into thin air.  

Argentiera's beach of slate grey grit curves smartly between two attractively craggy headlands that frame the cove and there's a whiff of renaissance in the air. The beach-side promenade is being renovated and a mining museum may yet be built.  Until then, Argentiera sleeps on. 

Locker Room Secrets.

Three more images for you from the roadside container-offices and shacks at the Sardinian marble quarry. I love the little details of the day to day lives of the quarry workers, like the glamour calendar in the locker room. Can you find it? 

Every item of clothing was stiff with marble dust, just used for warmth during the day and then slung onto a hook when work is over.

The lonely chair was just parked in the corner of an incomplete bath house where every surface was dusted grey, creating a softly muted ambience. 

Now Wash Your Hands

I have a constant and restless interest in how the things we create are transformed by the depredations of time and the environment. The things we leave behind and the things we work with are often the most dramatically - and beautifully - altered by these processes.

Last week, while travelling in Sardinia, we spotted a marble quarry. The vast workings practically came up to the roadside, a series of colossal and roughly hewn pale steps reaching down into the hillside. Huge and bulky machines parked about the ledges - diggers, dumpers, tractors - were totally dwarfed in scale and seemed more like the carelessly abandoned toys of some giant child.

Shipping containers and shacks dumped near the roadside proved to be basic washrooms and changing areas for the workers. Work clothes like boots and overalls were strewn about, and every surface was thickly coated in pale talc-fine marble dust that altered and muted normally vivid colours. 

Holy Holy Holy

Village life, Palm Sunday in Sardinia. Spectators begin to gather in the town square from mid-morning. Others look on from cafes and sip cappuccino. By 11 a.m. a noisy, boisterous crowd is pressed against the barriers on both sides of the Via Nazionale. A steel grandstand, built to give the best view of the big procession through the village, is full. Everyone is here. Everyone is having a great time. We participate in this show as both spectators and players.  Poses are struck. Cheeks are kissed.

Garlands are scattered onto the route of the procession before it leaves the village church and children in traditional costume gather outside to watch it set off. As it moves through town, white robed and dignified, the faces of the younger boys taking part as chalice and mace bearers betray their feelings. Bravado, pensiveness, pride, a little fear; the entire town looks on. 

When it's finally over the crowd quickly disperses as families gather for lunch. All that's left to do is clear up and maybe text a friend. 

If only Stephen Shore had looked down.

One warm and sunny Mojave morning, as I stood in the Motel 6 parking lot in Twenty Nine Palms,  I looked toward the highway and contemplated Stephen Shore's road trips and the large format pictures he made as he travelled from motel to motel. 

Then I looked down and saw this.

I take precautions.

When I made work in Wonder Valley last year, I blithely strolled in an out of the abandoned homesteads for a week, breathing deeply of the heady cocktail of dried animal faeces, powdered insulation and general desert-rock-of-ages that coats every surface here. For this, I paid a price. I fell ill with a fever and three week double lung infection that required two courses of antibiotics to shift.

This year time I took a tip from Bryan Cranston and now wear a respirator while I work.