Ooo, the sacrifices I make for my art

A kneeling-down photo
A kneeling-down photo

“Decorum. That’s why I married you,” Noel declared as I brushed the dirt off my jumper, pulled the leaf mould from my hair and wondered aloud whether that was bird poo on my jeans or something that had slipped from a small child’s mouth.   In my defence, it was worth getting down and getting dirty for my art.

Now I’m not saying I’m the world’s best photographer, I’m not even the best on my street, but I know what I like, and I like my photos to make a statement. I hardly ever take a shot standing up, I crouch, kneel, sit, teeter on a wall, or just lie flat out on my stomach. Whatever weather. So when I saw the sun illuminating the low-lying fritillary at Harlow Carr Gardens, there was nothing for it but to get as low to the ground as I could to brace my long lens and snap away. Fortunately it was a dry day. Mainly.

I suppose Noel did have a point, he’s the one who has to stand around pretending he’s not with me as I do the arty farty stuff. There was the time I wanted a good stance to get photos of runners and found the perfect spot, unfortunately I had to sit in a sewer outflow. Hey ho. We had to drive home with all the windows down and me in the back seat. And then the attempt to photograph while skiing, hampered by my lack of skiing skill and ending in a pile of snow and cloud of obscenities. Oooo, the sacrifices I make for my art. Still, it’s worth it to take photos that are, shall we say, different!

I’m pretty certain there will be no decorum next week when I take a bunch of children on a knee-high photowalk around Leeds Museum. I’m sure Noel will understand.

A model workshop

Creative photographers at work at the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery
Creative photographers at work at the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery

If you can’t be creative, you can’t really BE, as far as I’m concerned. So it was great to get the chance to provoke fellow photographers into thinking outside boxes and take the kind of photos they’ve never taken before.

With my Exposure Leeds hat on, I designed a couple of workshops to complement the collection and current exhibition at the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery. The lovely little Gallery, which houses Leeds University’s art collection, is tucked away in the Parkinson Building and, dammit deserves to be better known, used and visited.

The workshops Beyond Snapping and After Chen Man got people out into the gallery to take different photos, of the same exhibit, I had them taking so many photos they had to be creative. Some of the results were fabulous!

Chinese photographer Chen Man definitely thinks outside the box, the exhibition of her wacky photos and make-up work inspired make-up artist Faye Robertson to break out the pinks and the blues on the eyes of our volunteer models. Then when they discovered one of our models is a ballerina, they had her twirling and pirouetting all over the place. Talk about getting those creative juices flowing!

Great fun, but exhausting. So when are we doing it again, guys?!

The result

Coffee and A Little Retail Therapy

Ooo look, I have a picture in an exhibition!
Ooo look, I have a picture in an exhibition!

The task was simple. All I had to do was to turn up at the White Cloth Gallery and review the exhibition, our exhibition, There was absolutely no need to get involved with the coffee-making. But I did and it ended with one of us being sprayed with cappuccino froth.

I’d arrived slightly early, very excited to see Exposure Leeds’ collection of images from the streets, backstreets, markets and yards of our lovely city taken by fellow local photographers.   The gallery is one of the city’s newest, focusing on photography and film, my favourites, with the added benefit of coffee and something a little stronger.

There was a meeting going on in the area I wanted to review, but with a top-of-the-range Rancilio, big brother to our own humble home coffee machine, sitting proudly behind the bar, I was as happy as a pig in muck made from coffee grounds. I could wait, I said.

University student Georgia, who helps out at the Gallery, confessed that as a non coffee-drinker, she couldn’t promise caffeinated perfection. That’s OK, I told her, we have one like this at home, I can help. What could possibly go wrong?

It’s all in the tamping, I told her. Good pressure on the grounds leads to a thick crema. And indeed, that was the case, she knew that, but was too polite to say so. The frothing was trickier, I gave unsolicited advice on nozzle positioning and jug angle. Just a little more, I told her. Ah. Not quite that much, as the froth left the jug and settled on her cheek. Maybe I’ll just leave you to it……. She was very sweet about it, though. And the coffee was excellent.

By this time, the meeting had broken up and I could view and review. It was good to see images in a gallery setting. I took mine when I spotted a tourist holding their cameraphone high to capture the magnificent ceiling in the Victoria Quarter, a photo of a photo, taken with my very favourite 50mm f1.4 prime lens.

Just a Little Retail Therapy runs until 8 April.


A clickiness of photographers

Photographers photographed

There’s something rather wonderful about spending an afternoon with a bunch of photographers intent on doing creative stuff. With my Exposure Leeds hat on at a jaunty angle, I set off to lead a street photography workshop in Bradford city centre.

This was this third workshop I’ve run with the lovely people at Impressions Gallery. They were so popular, all the places were filled as soon as the workshops were announced, which was encouraging.

There are some magnificent street photographers, capturing people, shapes, patterns, light, shadow, movement and anything else on the street. We set out to take photographs of pretty much anything that moved – and plenty of things that didn’t.

The results are here . I have to confess to being rather chuffed with the photos they took.

A little bit of imagination goes a long way

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One of the great things about kids is their uninhibited imaginations, there’s a whole world of make-believe is inside their little heads, bursting with energy and ideas. Before you know it, they have a story, a play, a song or a picture and the dozen or so youngsters who burst into Impressions Gallery looked like they could do the whole lot!

With my Exposure Leeds hat on, I was leading a Family Photo Workshop, the idea was to encourage kids to enjoy photography and use their imagination. They didn’t disappoint. No sooner had they arrived with their parents than the props box was broken out, wigs, gowns, silly glasses, the lot. One little boy who wasn’t even part of the workshop picked out a rather fetching Geisha wig and a sparkly handbag and helped me  welcome everyone, adding a comment or two of his own.Which was nice.

Grown-ups were dressed up, their children art directed the photography. Who’d have thought so many hats could be fitted on one head? Oh the power of telling your dad to pick his nose or act like a pirate arrrrrr, all in the name of exploring new ways to express yourself with your camera.

While Si did the indoor stuff, I took a group around City Park making them stop every 20 steps, look around, think, tap into their active imaginations and then take a photo. I’d already encouraged them to think of themes, maybe a colour, or a shape, types of buildings, reflections or shadows. One youngster carried a spotty bow tie around, photographing it in all sorts of places. Another worked with a blue feather, another captured architecture and buildings. They stood on things, lay flat on their bellies on the pavement, splashed through water to get the shot they wanted, excitedly showing their photos on the camera screens. It was glorious.

Thanks to Si for helping with the ‘shoot the grown-ups’ session.I don’t know who were the bigger kids, though, Si, me and the Impressions staff or youngsters. A tough call, I’d say…

Portraits, not snapshots!

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About 25 photographers with kit ranging from the shiny and complex to the old and simple, joined me at Impressions Gallery, Bradford, in the hope of learning something about portrait photography. I think one way or another, they did.

I don’t pretend to be an expert photographer, just a cheerful enthusiast. As part of Exposure Leeds, a social enterprise which promotes community photography I was asked by Impressions to run a couple of workshops for their visitors which would complement their work exhibition programme.

The first was a portrait workshop, something simple, something to help people take portraits and not snapshots. Simply put,the difference is, portraits have much more thought behind them, they say something about both the subject and the photographer. I encouraged them to pair up with someone else in the workshop, a stranger to them, find out a bit about them and take a portrait. Then the fun started!

The slideshow shows the photographers in action – and here’s what they did. Rather impressive, I think. Not that I can take much credit, I just talked and waved my arms a lot!