Thursday, July 14, 2016

Castles, Butlers and Tea on the Lawn

Simeon Rosset is a freelance butler - the real kind, not the strippergram, although he says he periodically gets enquiries about it. He served his time as head butler at Leeds Castle and now hires out his services for events such as exclusive gatherings, weddings, and shooting parties, and can be found butlering anywhere from Scottish castles to European palaces to Super yachts.

Our paths crossed when he was looking for a photographer for a particular event, and although I was unable to help him on that occasion, we subsequently met up for morning coffee, which merged into lunch. What was going to be a general introduction to each other turned into a few hours of questions, storytelling and idea swapping. It wasn't long before we started talking about creating a butler-in-action shot.

And so a couple of months later I found myself out at Craufurdland Castle near Kilmarnock.



Although this castle was built in the 18th century, the land has been in the family for nearly 800 years. The current descendants/owners/custodians are Simon and Adity Houison Craufurd and their two daughters, Indra and Manisha.

We decided to do the shoot in the library, as a wall full of books would make a timeless backdrop. Many of those tomes dated back hundreds of years.

Simeon also runs a Butler School service, training potential butlers to the high standards required. On this day he was completing the training of Alistair, which gave us a 2nd butler to include in the shots.

The shoot went well. Everyone adopted their roles and got into the part, and it wasn't long before I managed to get a couple of photos I was really pleased with.





And what better way to end the day than butler-served tea on the lawn?




Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Sculpture Workshop with Lucianne Lassalle

This is going to be great. I'm going to learn a whole new raft of skills and gain a whole new set of experiences.

A little later...

What the hell am I doing here? I can't do this. I'm way out of my depth. What a stupid bloody decision to come along!

A little later...

This is so cool! Look at what I can do with this tool. Look how it cuts and shapes and moulds!

A little later...

I'm useless! I'll never get the hang of this! I'm the only one who hasn't done this before. Everyone else knows what they're doing. All I'm doing is embarrassing myself and everyone else!

A little later...

I am amazing! Look at this - behold my mighty creation! If I carry on like this I could become a world class sculptor with adoring fans throwing themselves and their money at me!

A little later...

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh.... Run away! Run away! Run away!

And so it went on. For 4 days my emotions were up and down and all over the place as I tried to get to grips with working in 3 dimensions on a clay sculpture workshop with artist, Lucianne Lassalle.

3 years ago I joined a life drawing class - not because I wanted to become a pencil artist - but to see if it would influence my photography. Every time the model would emerge, I would know exactly what I would do with the camera and lighting, but I couldn't do it. Instead, I had to find a way to translate what I was looking at through my hand and a pencil and onto a sheet of paper.

It was exasperating, frustrating, challenging, terrifying and amazing. There hasn't been a single class I've ever been to where at some point I haven't wanted to run screaming from the room and never pick up a pencil again. And yet I stuck with it.

Over time I became aware it was subtly changing the way I looked things - at line, form and the body - and this in turn fed into my photography.

Creativity doesn't happen in the status quo - it happens when our brains think in different ways - and putting ourselves out of our comfort zones, and learning new things, helps with creating new pathways in the brain.

2 years ago I did some product photography for Lucianne - photographing several of her brilliant sculptures for her. Rather than ask for cash, I requested a space on one of her workshops.

It's taken this long to coincide with time and place, but this weekend past I finally got to play with clay and begin to learn how to create in 3 dimensions.

I'm now quite adept at working in 2D - this is what photography (and life drawing ) is. You look to create the illusion of depth, but the image only has to work from one side.

By contrast, I discovered in 3D it can look fantastic from 3 sides and seriously naff from the 4th. But when you change the 4th side it can throw out or even completely destroy the carefully crafted lines that look so good from the other sides.

My brain has been twisted into meltdown several times.

However, I am delighted with my final creation. It is way beyond anything I could have hoped for, and could never have achieved without such a wonderful teacher and superb model.

Here are a few pics of the progress...


Day one, we created maquettes - small (about 5 or 6 inches long), very quickly made clay "sketches" - done in about 10 or 15 minutes, just to get an idea of the shape.


As we started into day 2, I began working out how to create the basic structure - still in maquette mode - using cone shapes for the thighs/buttocks and upper arms/shoulders.


The rest of the limbs and a tubular torso were played with as I thought about the abstract-ish design I wanted to pursue


By the start of day 3 I had my basic sculpture created (it's probably around 16 inches-ish long), but still hadn't worked out what I was going to do with the head, which seemed to break the flow. The hips weren't the way I wanted them either


Lucianne took this photo of me as I was finishing off on Day 4. It now as the curves and flow I was seeking. In the background another student is going for a different interpretation. I loved the fact everyone in the room created something in a completely different style, even though we'd all been working from the same model.


Another shot from the bottom end

Now all I have to do is allow it to dry out over the next couple of months, and if it survives that process I can get it fired in September.

Fingers crossed...

If you would like to do a sculpture workshop with Lucianne Lassalle, then contact her on contact@luciannelassalle.com or visit her website - http://www.luciannelassalle.com/ - or Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/lucianne.lassalle.sculpture/

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Festivals, Photography, and The Cracked Man

Music Festivals come in all shapes and sizes - from the megaliths such as T in the Park, where more than a quarter of a million people gather in front of stadium-sized stages, down to local pubs putting on a few bands and maybe a couple of extra flavours of beer.

This corner of Scotland has many music festivals of one kind and another across the summer, although not those which are the size of a small city.

Two of my favourites were this month - Eden Festival, which completely sold out its 8,000 tickets this year for the first time in it's short history, and Gatehouse Midsummer Music Festival, which has attendance numbers in the hundreds, but is nonetheless passionately organised by local musicians and is spread across the pubs and community spaces throughout the wee town.

Although very different in size and feel to each other, one thing they did have in common was my band, The Cracked Man, performed in both. At Eden we played late on the Friday afternoon in the beer tent, Rabbie's Tavern, and a week later, at Gatehouse, we were playing in the Masonic Arms on the Saturday afternoon.


The Cracked Man at Eden Festival
Photo courtesy of Pete Robinson of PR Imaging

When you're a local band without a huge following, payment tends to come in the form of a free ticket to the event. In exchange for anything from 20 minutes to an hour's performance, you get to spend the rest of the weekend watching other bands play and, in my case, wander around with the camera.

For a photographer, one of the great aspects of Eden Festival is upwards of 40% of people will dress up to varying degrees - from a bit face paint and glitter, through to unicorn onesies. At Gatehouse there's a casual intimacy where you can't walk more than 5 yards without bumping into someone you know.

Unlike the giant festivals - run and sponsored by huge corporations, which see them as a money-making machine - local music festivals only survive by the passion and support of music lovers and the local community. Everyone is volunteering and any money made is plowed back into next year's, with the hope they can afford a bigger band to headline it.

Live music is an entirely different beast to listening to CDs or downloads on your iPhone. The connection between the performer and the audience takes the experience to a whole new level.

Make sure you go along and support your local music festivals, and if there aren't any in your area, then come to Dumfries and Galloway in Summer and you'll be spoilt for choice.

On the 9th of July we're playing an entirely acoustic set at the Newton Stewart and Minnigaff Traditional Music Festival. Come along if you can.

In the meantime, here's a wee selection of my photos from Eden and Gatehouse festivals, and you can find more on my Facebook page here:

Eden Facebook Link
Gatehouse Facebook Link



Susi Sweetpea - the best faerie in Scotland


Mobile piano


Dressing up is not just for teenagers


There's a reason I mentioned unicorn onesies in the main part of this blog...


King Charles - it was a music festival so I thought I'd better put a band pic up, although at Eden I think I enjoy photographing the revellers more


One of Galloway's hardest working singers, and a festival favourite, Zoë Bestel playing at Gatehouse


The Barr Stools are great for good rocking pub folk music


Samson Sounds - lots of influences - from Dub to Jazz


Headliners, Bombskare were awarded BBC4's Best Part Time Band in the UK. It was announced on TV at the same time they were playing in Gatehouse.


Susi the faerie's daughter giving it laldy

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Chasing Shadows: The Photographer Interviews - Daria Endresen

NSFW - please be warned, nipples make an appearance in some of the photos on this page. If the sight of nipples offend you, or if you might get into trouble at work because nipples have appeared on the screen, or if a glimpse of a nipple is likely to send you into an uncontrolable frenzy where you become a danger to yourself or the public at large, then you are advised to quickly hit the "back" button on your browser.

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When I first came across Daria Endresen's work, I was captivated. Dark, moody, and other-worldly.

Wounds, piercings and body mortification, Photoshopped and layered with textures. It was photography, but not as I knew it.

At that time all her pictures were based on self portraits which, as a photographer, you realise also adds a whole new layer of difficulty in creating them.

For some people, photography begins and ends in the camera, although since its inception, most photographers have edited their images - from physically painting on the glass or negatives to manipulating exposures in the darkroom - but usually with the emphasis on it not looking like it was edited.

But for Daria, photography was clearly just one step along the way to creating fantastical images - scenes that didn't try to echo reality, but tapped into the unsettling depths of our subconscious.

I was hooked.

And now I'm delighted Daria has agreed to take part in my photographer interview series, Chasing Shadows.



Kim: Thank you so much for taking part in these interviews, Daria. My first question has to be... did you start out photographing kittens and pretty flowers and get drawn into the darker side, or has your photography always explored the more disturbing aspects of the human psyche?

Daria: I started with landscapes - when living in Norway that’s the most natural thing to do. But I have been drawn to the darker side of things as long as I remember.

As my favourite singer Chelsea Wolfe’s album title goes - "Pain is Beauty".

Kim: I can understand beginning with landscapes - especially living in the dramatic scenery of Norway. So what was the first image where you decided to feature yourself rather than the landscape and what were your thoughts about it?

If I am not mistaken, the first self-portrait was the one called "Pagan poetry".



I was very much into Bjork back then and I listened to her “Vespertine” album non-stop. The video for "Pagan poetry" is quite explicit, showing Bjork in an in-body-pierced wedding dress and in the end there is a shot of corset piercing.



I was so inspired by it, and by the song as well, that I got an idea to make my own version of it. It showed me from the back, so I didn’t really feel exposed, but I have to confess it was quite frightening to release it in public.

I did a remake of this image later on - and I like the concept up to this day.



Kim: I see from your opening portrait you have your nose and your lip pierced. Have you gone as far as the skin piercing in the Pagan Poetry photos, or other body modifications, or has that exploration been limited to Photoshop?

Daria: I do have only my lip pierced - the ring in the nose on the picture with the raven is a fake one.

I guess I like the general concept of piercing but I am not sure I'd want to have more of those on me - feeling a tad too old for that :)

Kim: Here's a quick camera question: what camera and lens(es) do you use most often, or are your favourite, and why?

Daria: I shoot with Canon EOS 5dm2 and 50 mm 1.4 + 80 mm 1.8

I am definitely not one of those fierce Canon vs Nikon warriors, it just happened historically that my first camera was Canon EOS 20d and I stuck to Canon since then.

Kim: I know what you mean - I've never seen the point in the rivalry between brand ownership. These days the technology in pretty much all cameras is amazing. Of course the biggest expense with DSLRs is the lenses, so once you buy into a system, you generally have to stick with it.

Daria: I don’t have a huge array of lenses - 50 mm is my preferred one, it’s sharp and fast and works great for the type of photography that I do. I like to use 80 mm for the outside shoots and nice DOF, also for portraits.


Novembre

Kim: Are you a full time photographer?

Daria: No, photography has never been my job. I currently work part-time as a bartender, have been doing this for several years now and feeling pretty comfortable with it.

Kim: Is your ambition to become a professional photographer and derive your main income from it?

Daria: No, I don’t thrive under pressure or instability, and in my eyes being a freelance entices exactly that. I am happy to have a boring job on the side and keep my art as a passionate hobby.

But I suppose it would be nice to make a living from selling art prints. It was my goal before but lately I’ve come to the conclusion that only a few people can achieve that, and most likely I won’t be one of them, so it’s time to move on to something else.

Kim: As you were growing and developing your photography, was there are particular image where you felt you crossed a line and made a significant move forward - in your sense of what you were able to create with the camera?

Daria: I don’t think I can single out one - can’t say that there’s been a significant step forward at any time of my artistic development - instead it went slowly and steady.


Frida

Kim: What about an image which you feel propelled you into a much wider audience and recognition?

Daria: I think it was "Darkwood" - it is by far my most popular most bought work, it beat all the records on social platforms and it has also opened a new chapter in my artistic direction.


Darkwood

Kim: There's no doubt it's an amazing image, with a real sense of tapping into dark mythology. But what counts as a successful image to you? Is it Facebook likes, sales of prints, or something else?

Daria: A successful image is the one that I enjoy throughout time. I stop liking most of my work and feel ashamed of some images in particular. Some of them are still my favourites though - and these I consider successful.

It’s also nice to receive public appreciation but then very often my opinion and the opinion of my followers don’t coincide.

Kim: I think the difference between how we view our work and how others do is an age old problem for photographers. Can you give me an example of one of your images where your opinion differed from the public reaction?

Daria: One of my latest images called "The Rite" got some controversial opinions - I personally like it quite a lot, it turned exactly how I imagined and planned, and I think I managed to capture the atmosphere I was after. A lot of people were appalled at the concept, blaming me for promoting violence and mistreatment of women - something that I obviously didn’t have in mind in the slightest.


The Rite

Another recurring topic is anorexia - every time my models show protruding ribs, there is always someone advising them to eat a sandwich and bashing me for corrupting young minds and giving awful example of how a woman should look like.


Nowena 1

When I released my black and white series "Nowena", I received a lot of negative remarks, which were directed towards model’s thinness and my supposedly open glorification of it. I get immensely annoyed when I hear things like this, and I am tired of explaining that none of my models are anorexic, it’s not anorexia I am trying to push forward, and it’s incredibly rude to discuss the model’s appearance in public.


Nowena 2

Kim: The first images I saw of yours were pretty much all based on self portraits. Many of them are nude or semi-nude, which suggests a strong body-confidence, but there is often body mortification and mutilation happening too. How complex is your relationship with your own body?

Daria: It’s interesting that you mention confidence - I am probably the most insecure person out there. And my relationship with my body has always been complicated. I was plump as a child and ever since I hit puberty, I fought a constant battle with my curves - I loved food and I yearned to be thin at the same time - that is an awful combination. This battle is still ongoing and I still haven’t learnt to properly love and accept myself.

My images are a perfected version of me - and they are both pleasant and painful to look at.


Zu Warten

Regarding nudity, I somehow never perceived myself as naked - it was always some sort of an abstract distant feeling, that the model is me and yet it is not me at all.

I stopped shooting self-portraits a couple years ago and I don’t think I will be coming back to it anytime soon.

Kim: In my previous interview with King Douglas, the notion of the influence of Religion came up. Some of your work seems to have religious overtones, and some has more of a mythological feel to it. In what way does the metaphysical influence in your work?

Daria: I used to be largely inspired by the Old Flemish Masters, Hans Memling in particular - one of my favourite books is the detailed analysis of his “Last Judgement”. So I wouldn’t say it’s religion per se but rather one of the visual sides of it.

My latest series is focused on the mysticism of a ritual, particularly one of sacrifice - and here I find my inspiration in Scandinavian mythology - going back to my roots.


Distant Shore

Kim: How strong is the relationship between the dark mood of your images and your outlook on life? For example, would you say you are melancholic by nature, or is the creation of your images cathartic?



Daria: I think it is very strong. I am probably going to sound overly goth here but I have been melancholic since I was a child (well, at least that’s what my mother tells me). I am not sure if there is a specific reason for it or if I was just "born this way".

Sometimes I hit especially difficult states but I’ve learned to manage and live with them and in some cases even overcome them. I wouldn’t call myself depressed (it’s not wise to drop this word lightly) but I can’t claim that I am a perfectly happy person.

Kim: How does your relationship with Nihil affect your (and his) work? I'm not sure how long the two of you have been together, but I see he also creates dark, complex and disturbing imagery - often using you as a model. Did you develop your work together, or did you create it separately and then discover each other later on?

Daria: We have been together for over 5 years now :)

And I think our relationship has been very rewarding - first and foremost, we perfectly understand and are able to support each other when artistic crisis strikes, and that is really important. We also exchange techniques and new finds - very often we work in two different ways, so it’s very enriching and helpful to share.


Protection

As for the influence, he had his own developed style before he met me - and I think maybe that’s why our collaborations have been successful : our universes intertwine in many ways.

Kim: How much planning goes into your photos beforehand?

Daria: There is a lot of planning involved. I have to scout for the location, make the props, wait for the suitable weather and think carefully about the poses - very often my models work in awfully uncomfortable conditions, so I have to be quick and don’t really have time to improvise.


Preparation for Distant Shore

Kim: Do you do rough sketches?

Daria: I do sketches beforehand - they look pretty horrid but it helps to visualise the final result and build up the composition.

Kim: How much variation is there between the original concept/sketch and the final image?

Daria: Depends. Some ideas just don’t work and then I have either to abandon them completely or to try something else on the spot. Other times it can be some small adjustments, but all in all I’d say the original idea and the final result are quite close.





Kim: As well as the adjustments done to bodies in Photoshop, many of your images are layered with different textures. Do you have any favourite editing techniques?

Daria: I don’t have specific techniques that I favour in particular. But from the whole editing process I adore the tedious retouch - removing all imperfections and making my characters flawless. I can spend hours fixing the skin for example! After that I think most of my tricks are pretty standard - healing and cloning brushes, frequency separation etc.



Kim: I think it was Leonardo da Vinci who said, "art is never finished, only abandoned". When you are editing, how do you know when it's finished?

Daria: When I just can’t stand looking at it anymore *laughing*

I am a perfectionist and I am almost never satisfied with final results, but at some point you simply realize that it’s done and there is nothing else you can do - you basically can’t go any further.

On rare occasions I actually like what I see, and then I feel like I can release it in public.

Kim: I'm guessing you are probably looking more at stories, film and art than other photographers, but what would you say most influences your ideas and style?

Daria: It’s actually a wild mix, mostly visual one. Lately I’ve been very attentive to movies - sometimes I may hate the movie, the story and the characters, but I love the visual part of it - how it’s shot, the compositions and tones - and it can be very inspiring!


Thrjar

If you take my earlier works, I looked up to Frida Kahlo and Karina Marandjian. Right now I am mostly after the general ambiance - a good example would be "Valhalla Rising", "Antichrist" or "The Witch".


Trailer for Valhalla Rising

Kim: Have you ever had to worry about people stealing your work, or passing it off as their own?

Daria: No, not really. I mean as soon as you publish your work online, it’s practically inevitable - someone will repost it without giving credits or will attempt to print it. And if you have the wide audience, you can’t really control that. I don’t get mad when it happens and I accidentally find out - I just accept it as a given.

Kim: Still, it must be frustrating. Do you ever try and do something about it?

Daria: Asking the people to give me credit or take it down - sometimes it works :)

Kim: It seems as though you are constantly striving to capture a particular mood or feeling. What drives you? What are you chasing?

Daria: Erhm, totally stuck here :D

Kim: I guess what I'm looking for here is insights into why you are drawn to creating images in the style that you do. Some people prefer to capture gritty realism, or wild landscapes, or lines in architecture, or even abstract shapes and colours. Some people are seeking adoration, while others feel driven to create as though it is outside their control, and for some it is cathartic - a way of trying to heal deep wounds. There are so many different reasons photographers (indeed any artists) keep at their work, even though it takes up a lot of their time, often for very little financial reward.

Daria: I think in the beginning it was more of attention seeking. I remember feeling stressed because I told myself I have to release an image per week, to keep the interest, otherwise I will be forgotten.

After certain events in my life, a couple of years later, it became much more deep and personal - I shared my stories, and it definitely was some sort of therapy for me - most of my self-portraits represent to me exactly that.


Melancholia

When my life got stable again, I realized I don’t have that much to say anymore because I am calm and happy, hence I don’t need the therapy. I was stuck for over a year in an artistic limbo until inspiration got back to me, and this time it was more remote and abstract, not as personal. Perhaps because of that I started working with other models - and thus my Scandinavian-inspired ritual series was born. That I guess is more of a study, it’s still sharing but it’s not personal anymore.

I think others’ feedback continues to play an important part in my artistic life - insecure as I am, I need a constant confirmation of my worth.

And there is definitely some universal, somewhat subconscious, need to create in general - I can’t not, and I’m having hard times imagining myself not taking pictures at all, I am quite sure this is something that will always stay with me.

Kim: I appreciate the honesty of your response and can identify with much of what you say. What direction do you see your photography moving in next?

Daria: I honestly don’t know.

At this point I feel that I have had enough exhibitions and after my two upcoming solo shows this June in Belgium and Finland I plan to take a long break. I will definitely continue working but perhaps this time it will be more private, for myself, rather than for exposing it.

My focus has been shifted to other projects, namely my own jewelry brand, and I guess for now I will shoot mostly in context with it.

Kim: This sounds like an interesting development - tell me more about your jewellery - what drew you to the idea of creating it?



Daria: Thrjar (from Icelandic pl. f. of “three”) is my side project that was born in November 2015. It’s my own jewelry line, made of oxidized silver and heavily inspired by runes and nature. I think I wanted to try something more tangible than moving around pixels, and I felt greatly motivated by the idea of designing my own adornments.

The site www.thrjar.com was officially launched a few weeks ago and I am overwhelmed by the positive response I got so far - I suppose people can see that it was made with love and inspiration.

Kim: Do you see connection between your style of jewellery and your style of photography?

Daria: There is definitely a link between my images and visual representation of the brand - and that was actually the point : I didn’t want to drop photography for good and instead planned to intertwine the two and work on them simultaneously.

You can follow all the updates on my instagram account - https://www.instagram.com/thrjar.jewelry/

Kim: Norway is definitely on my list of must-visit places - do you have any plans to visit Scotland?

Daria: Oh yes, absolutely! It’s pretty much in my top 3 to-visit countries, together with Iceland and Japan - I sincerely hope I will have the opportunity to do it sometime soon :)

Kim: If you make it over here, let me know so I can take you to one of the best places for hot chocolate in the area. Many thanks for your time and sharing your insights into your amazing photography. I wish you every success with your exhibitions and jewellery.

Daria: Ah, I will never say no to chocolate in any form! Thank you very much for having me here and for this interesting dialogue - its been a real pleasure. I hope our paths will cross either on Scottish or Norwegian soil :)

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If this has whetted your appetite for more of Daria's work, then you can discover much more on her website and social media sites here:

Website: http://www.dariaendresen.com
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dariaendresen/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dariaendresen.art/


Meanwhile, please feel free to leave a comment! And be sure to check out the previous interviews I've done in this Chasing Shadows series:

King Douglas - an extraordinarily skilled and talented photographer who was creating really cool special effects in-camera long before the days of Photoshop and Digital SLRs.
http://kimayres.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/chasing-shadows-photographer-interviews.html

Nicolas Marino - he's been travelling the world on his bicycle - over 80 countries and counting - and has the most amazing ability to capture the "other" as "not-other"
http://kimayres.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/chasing-shadows-photographer-interviews.html

Bill Gekas - who has achieved global recognition for his captivating photos of his daughter, Athena, dressed in a variety of outfits where images owe more to classical paintings than they do to photographs
http://kimayres.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/chasing-shadows-photographer-interviews.html

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

The Cracked Man - Moving On EP

As I slide the bottleneck across the strings of my bouzouki, it screams an unearthly sound more akin to a beast from the deep calling out in challenge, than some kind of folk instrument. Plugging the bouzouki through a distortion box and delay pedal I think, not for the first time, the recordings we have available online don't really reflect the full range of music styles The Cracked Man is now producing.

Yes, some of our music is distinctly acoustic with a bluesy or folky feel to it, as represented by our first EP released last year, but some is harder and rockier or even a bit psychedelic.

Time to put some more tracks online to give a fuller flavour of The Cracked Man.

Although we are currently developing our debut album, the completion will be some way off yet - and at that point, the tracks will have many more instruments than just the 2 we use when playing live. So we set up in Marcus's living room and did a "live" recording to a bunch of microphones and recording equipment.

On Friday this week, we have a half-hour set in Rabbie's Tavern (the beer tent) at Eden Festival. For this we will pump out our louder, rockier tunes.

Next month, however, we are playing for half an hour at the Newton Stewart & Minnigaff Traditional Music Festival, where we will be purely acoustic.

In between we will be appearing at the Gatehouse Midsummer Music Festival where we have more time so will be playing a full set ranging from the quietly soulful to the loudly raucous.


So as a taster for what to expect if you can come along to any of the forthcoming gigs, or a flavour of what we sound like if you can't, below you will find 4 tracks - Moving On, Zero Energy, Footprints in the Sea, and Demon on Your Shoulder.

Do leave a comment and let me know your favourite








Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A friend and inspiration

A little over 11 years ago, I weighed 275lbs (19st 9lbs, or 125kg) which, at only 5 feet 6 inches tall, put me into the seriously heavy category.

To get down to my "ideal" weight, according to the BMI height-weight ratio charts, I would have to lose something in the region of 112lbs, which in UK Imperial measurements is a hundredweight, or 8 stone.

About 3 years later I almost got there, then climbed a bit and since then have hovered back and forth around the 13 stone mark - 182lbs or 85.5kg.

In those first few years I had a blog which ran parallel with this one, called Losing a Hundredweight, and it wasn't long before comments started coming in from other weight-loss bloggers. Soon there was a small community of people posting their weights and offering support when the going was tough.

Into this came Kepa from New Zealand - a young man in his early 20s who used the monika, Fat Lazy Guy. He was big. How big, he wasn't sure, because his scales didn't go that high. Eventually he discovered he was 504lbs.

His goal was to lose 100kg - 220lbs, which seemed like an impossible task. I couldn't even begin to imagine how he could go about it. But I offered as much insight and support as I could. Periodically he would start to lose weight, then disappear for a while, then come back and confess it had gone back on again.

And then something clicked - he got focused and took control. A couple of years later he weighed less than 100kg - he had lost 285lbs.

Kepa had lost more weight than I physically weighed when I was at my heaviest.

Let that sink in for a moment.

It was mindblowing.

When we hear of people who achieve these near-impossible feats, we think they must be "other" or cannot really be human. And yet, with Kepa, I was there at the beginning through all his self-doubts and false starts. I knew he was all too human.

We've stayed in touch over the years and recently he told me he was coming to the UK.

On Sunday night we met up in a pub in Moffat, face to face for the first time - a guy I'd first met online nearly 9 years ago.

It was wonderful - an instant connection. I'd swear we'd only been chatting for an hour when we were asked to leave because the pub was closing. It turned out we'd be talking non-stop for over 3 and half hours.

I had my camera in the car, although by now it was dark and street lights were the only source of illumination. I rested my camera on top of a bin, set the timer and went round to stand next to Kepa.

That was when it dawned on me how much taller he was than me - sitting down at a table, the height difference hadn't been so apparent.



So I re-angled the camera and this time stood on a bench



Much better.

To say he's an inspiration is an understatement. But more than that, he's a really lovely guy - thoughtful, intelligent and creative.

I'm proud to call him a friend.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Photo shoot at the Rural Mural

Even allowing for things running later than expected, I assumed we'd all be home by midnight. As it was, I didn't finish packing up until 1.30am.

Preparations had been taking place at Morag Macpherson's studio in Kirkcudbright (see previous blog post, Preparations), where Ralph, Jody and Jojo from Basement 20 had been dealing with the hair and makeup of our models, Katarina and Jessica. Now it was time to head out to the location for the photo shoot.

Once on site, tea, coffee and home made flapjack from a hamper, courtesy of my wife Maggie, went down extremely well, then the shoot began.

With models, hair, makeup and video going on, there were 9 of us on site in total, making it was one of the largest shoots I've managed so far. Although it was all extra pressure, I found part of me thrived in the situation. Of course it helped that everyone was extremely professional and engaged in the project.

Here are a selection of some of the final images.











We might have finished later than hoped, but it all worked out in the end.

As an added bonus, here's the short video (under 2 mins) I put together using the footage shot by Jesse and Helen of Viridian Skies, who usually spend their time with astrophotography and night sky tours, but were kind enough to come out and do some filming for me. The music is comes from my band, The Cracked Man, where we took our song, Zero Energy, and added a dance beat. I was surprised at just how well that worked.



Morag is taking part in this year's Spring Fling Open Studio event (this weekend - 28th - 30th May). If you get the chance, do call in - she is studio 20 on the purple route.


Credits:
Textile Design - Morag Macpherson - www.moragmacpherson.com - facebook.com/MoragMacphersonTextiles

Models - Jessica Lee - facebook.com/jessica.lee.9809672
and Katarina Marie Kositzki - www.katarinamariefoto.co.uk - facebook.com/katarinamariefoto

Hair and Makeup - Basement 20, Dumfries - Ralph Yates-Lee, Jody Crossan, Jojo Patterson - facebook.com/Basement-20-175835242466244

Photo shoot took place at - Meiklewood Farm, Ringford, Castle Douglas, DG7 2AL

Rural Mural backdrop - Morag Macpherson and Tellas - www.moragmacpherson.com - www.tellas.org - spring-fling.co.uk/sfrm

Video footage - Viridian Skies - Jesse Beaman and Helen Cockburn - www.viridianskies.com - facebook.com/viridianskytours

Photography and Video editing - me - www.kimayres.co.uk

Music for video - The Cracked Man - www.thecrackedman.co.uk - facebook.com/thecrackedman

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Is knowledge power?

At the point of writing this, on my laptop I have 2 different internet browsers permanently open. One currently has 13 different windows open on it, while the other has 26.

Despite the fact I regularly archive emails into dozens of different folders, my inbox still has 848 un-archived emails in it, 193 or which are marked unread.

It's not that they are actually unread - it's that they have been quickly scanned and I've marked them as unread so I will come back to them and not forget about them.

Some are things I need to actually reply to, but the vast majority contain information - or links to information - I feel I would benefit from.

There are interviews with amazing people to be watched and listened to; incredible ideas to be explored; mental and psychological exercises to be carried out.

Some of them could help me grow my business, improve my marketing, and double my conversion rate; while others might improve my photography or editing or help me attain an entirely new set of useful skills; and some are all about self development and becoming a more enlightened being.

All these things are potentials for a better life, a better business, and a better way of being.

And the burden of them is getting out of control...