Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Halfway Through...

I've reached the halfway point in the Residency at the Wigtown Book Festival.

Do pop across to the blog I put together especially for the event and follow my progress.

"Artist in Residence" -

And tell your friends

Friday, September 23, 2011

Wigtown Book Festival Blog

For the next 10 days - 23rd Sept to 2nd Oct - I will be in Wigtown as Artist in Residence at the Book Festival.

I've created a separate blog specifically for the event, which will be updated most days.

The intention is it will track my progress from a workspace of empty walls to hopefully a room full of faces.

And from a nervous photographer wondering what the hell he's let himself in for to a confident artist able to hold his own in among the big boys.

Please visit "Artist in Residence" - - and "Follow", "Share" and leave comments.

See you over there!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Facing The Weekend – The Book

Back at the end of May this year, I was involved in the Open Studio event, “Spring Fling”, where for 3 days I opened my doors to the public and took photos of anyone who wanted to join in the fun (see – Facing The Weekend).

I knew from the start I wanted to make a book out of the event, but rather a lot of life has been getting in the way this past summer. However, it is finally complete and available to be viewed and purchased on in Softcover and Hardcover formats.

Below is a promo video I’ve created for it – the soundtrack coming from the superb Sean Taylor, who some of you might remember I photographed for The Mill Sessions back at the beginning of the year (see – Sean Taylor and the Mill Sessions)

Underneath that is the Blurb widget, which allows you to look at the pages online to decide whether you it’s something you might like for your coffee table.

For those viewing this in their RSS feed, or n Facebook, there’s a chance neither the video nor the Blurb widget will appear, in which case, please follow these links:

YouTube Video:
Facing The Weekend on

And for those who like the sound of Sean Taylor’s music, visit his website at:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

16th Wedding Anniversary

Over the past few years on the 21st of September, I’ve been noting the traditional symbol that accompanies the number of years of our wedding anniversary – Tin for 10, Steel for 11 etc.

Last year – 15 years – was Crystal.

However, there doesn’t appear to be anything for 16 years. It seems from now on it goes up in periods of 5 years – with the 20th being China and the 25th being Silver.

Well, it couldn’t be left entirely at nothing, so I took Maggie out for a meal to Luigi’s tonight to celebrate.

I now hereby designate 16 years together as being the Pizza Anniversary!

I wonder if it will catch on.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Who's in Charge?

I had another one of those little revelations the other day – the kind that in some ways I already knew, but hadn’t looked at it from quite that angle before, and suddenly the world shifted and this little bit made more sense.

Of course the rest of humanity might well be enlightened in this matter already and be surprised I wasn’t aware of something so obvious. But it makes no difference whether I am one step ahead or 40 steps behind. What is important is how it allows me to contextualise my thoughts and feelings.

It’s about the hierarchy we assign to the body and mind.

For many thousands of years there has been the idea of a separation between mind and body. There are our thoughts, memories and ability to rationalise – which has a sort of ethereal, non-physical form - and then there is the body with its physical nature, which responds to the commands our mind gives it.

So strong is the idea of this separation between mind and body, that it is the cornerstone of many religious ideas. We can easily imagine our bodies changing and dying, but not our thoughts, which feel like our essential selves. And if this is the case, what happens when our body does die? Well then, surely our consciousness and personality must move on to some other realm.

This was thrown into some confusion, however, when Freud and others started on about there being influences on, and aspects to, our personalities that were bubbling beneath the conscious arena – a sub-conscious, full of desires and agendas our conscious mind is unaware of. In which case, our mind is not necessarily the all-powerful ruler we think it is – there are powers behind the throne.

But while this is all very well to debate over coffee or beer, on a day to day basis, we still tend to think of our thoughts as being our own – that we are our thoughts, memories and ideas. If I want to make a cup of tea, or put my shirt on backwards, then I just command my body to do so.

What doesn’t tend to occur to us is why we might want to make a cup of tea, or put our shirt on backwards.

We know that if we have bodily urges, such as wanting to eat or drink or go to the toilet, then we ignore them at our peril. We might be able to stave them off for a while, but these needs will make themselves felt more and more strongly until we reach a point where we can no longer deny them. They will obsess our every thought until we sate them.

And there are older, primal, pre-self-conscious parts of our brains where instincts and strong emotions reside. These can save our lives in extreme situations, but they feel like they get in the way when we are trying to be rational about things.

Very often our conscious thoughts follow after something triggered by another aspect of our selves. We feel hungry so then we start thinking about what we want to eat. We feel angry and then look for something, or someone, to be angry at. We want to be loved, and then we do or say things to attract approval from others.

So while we might think that who we are is primarily our conscious mind, and our body is just there for us to command, the reality is our conscious mind is only one part of the much larger whole. A useful part, no doubt, but by no means the ruling authority. Our bodily functions, instincts, primal emotions and subconscious desires are all equally a powerful part of who we are and driving our thoughts and behaviours.

What this understanding allows me to do now, is put my thoughts and moods in a wider context – to start listening to my body, emotions and subconscious to see what they are saying, rather than either blindly ignoring or over-ruling them.

If we can understand that each part of who we are needs to be heard, acknowledged and dealt with, then it's highly likely we will suffer from a great deal less internal conflicts, guilt and exhausting emotional overloads.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Hut

With the Wigtown Book Festival beginning next Friday, preparations have been occupying most of my waking thoughts this past week.

As Artist in Residence (see earlier post), I’ve been given a studio space to be open to the public at least a couple of hours each day and to create the artwork in. The space I’ve been provided is in “The Hut”, which is behind ReadingLasses café and bookshop.

Despite my initial thoughts that it might be something akin to a garden shed, “The Hut” is actually a large wooden building divided into several sections and is mostly used for storing large numbers of books that haven’t yet made it out onto the shelves of ReadingLasses.

In the centre of “The Hut” is a room… of sorts.

It has wooden joists rising up to create a frame about 3 feet in from the walls, which has been covered with a muslin kind of material. It’s all rather odd and unlike anything I’ve seen before. It's not unlike being in a tent inside a building.

Novelty is one thing, but the muslin walls are a major problem.

My concept is to take lots of photos over the 10 days of the Festival, of residents, authors and visitors staring into the lens of my camera. And each day I plan on printing out the photos and pinning them to the walls. The idea is that the people in Wigtown during the event become artwork. And as the walls will fill up with all these faces and it will become something of an immersive environment.

But trying to pin photos to muslin walls would be a bit too tricky.

However Anne Barclay, the Festival Manager, is a fast thinking problem solver, and they are going to fix white boards to the joists, giving me a more stable wall to pin the photos to. They will also clear the space around the windows so I should have a bit of natural light.

This should be happening over the weekend so I’ll be popping back out there early in the week to see what it looks like.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Equipping for the Future

My past self was over-protective of me, and I've been restricted because of it.

So I've decided to equip my future self so he can go off into the world and have a lot more fun.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Wedding Photography

When Danny told me he was getting married, I congratulated him with a warm smile.

When Danny asked me if I’d be available to take a few photos, the smile froze on my face.

While there are plenty of photographers who advertise themselves as Wedding and Portrait Photographers, the reality is Weddings and Portraits – or at least the kinds of portraits I like to do – are entirely different beasts.

Good Wedding Photographers are worth their weight in gold - five, ten, twenty years on and the photos are the gateway to the memories of one of the most special days of a couple’s life. And yet, while the happy couple may be prepared to spend thousands, or even tens of thousands on their wedding, too often they will skimp on the photographer – looking for the cheapest option - only to regret it for many years to come.

But then there are a lot of Wedding Photographers out there who are little more than a bloke with a big camera. They might have the equipment, but they have precious little in the way of an artistic eye and produce nothing more than snaps. Unfortunately the same can be said of a lot of Portrait Photographers too.

A really good Wedding Photographer might cost you a 4-figure sum, but they are worth every penny. It’s not just the understanding of how to frame a shot to make it look spectacular, it’s also about the endless hours spent afterwards in post-production, removing the lipstick from the teeth of the woman with the large smile.

And of course the responsibility is huge. If I do a studio shoot and my camera or computer decide to wipe all the images without my consent, then I can always apologise, call the client back on another day and give them a discount for the inconvenience. But you can’t re-shoot a wedding with all the guests who travelled long distances to be there.

The kind of Portrait photography I like to do is all about the connection between the sitter, the camera and me. It’s why observational photography – wildlife, sports, documentary, architectural etc, has never really appealed to me: I don’t just want to look at something and record it; I want it to interact with me.

Wedding photography, then, is about documenting, crowd control, long hours and heavy responsibility, with no time to really get to know the people you are photographing.

Not really my cup of tea.

However, I’ve known Danny for several years and it turned out he already had a photographer lined up for the main part of the wedding. He didn’t need me to do the whole thing, just a few shots of the happy couple before they headed off to the wedding, and some informal shots at the reception early in the evening.

Breathing a sigh of relief, I agreed because, well, it was for Danny.

But if anyone else comes asking, I’ll be charging a 5-figure sum and reserve the right to disappear for a couple of hours for an afternoon nap...

Congratulations to Katie and Danny