I’ve always looked for the beauty in dereliction. Decaying, abandoned buildings, peeling walls, rusted artifacts and long discarded objects all hold a visual fascination for me. I spend time searching out and photographing these places – both in their own right and as a backdrop for my environmental portraits.
Recently I stumbled across an old abandoned ‘finca’ with an amazing series of graffiti artworks decorating its walls and inhabiting its spaces. It was a gallery of work – years in the making, that nobody had ever seen. Through each room you could see the development of the artist as they fueled the need to paint these crumbling walls. I was intrigued by this ‘unknown’ artist and what inspired them to paint a building that would soon be demolished. Most of all I was overwhelmed by the respect the ‘unknown’ artist showed this devastated house and how the graffiti complimented, rather than detracted from, its environment.
I posted a photo of the ‘artwork by unknown artist’ on Instagram but nobody knew more of this mystery creator.
I was left with nothing but questions. What drives an artist to produce art that may never be seen, let alone bought, by anyone? When the building is demolished and the artwork reduced to dust – where does that leave the artist?
I can relate to the physical need to make images – to take photos or paint pictures, because it is compulsion, obsession, vocation and from the day I left the ‘finca’ I was determined to find this fellow artist.
I did that yesterday. His name is Mangüe López. He’s just 17 years old. If he had a website to link to I would but he’s an original talent and he’s not doing it for the fame or the gain – he’s just doing it because he is.
I photographed these black and white double exposures in Paris years ago – back in the day when I still used film and there was no photoshop, no lightroom, no presets and everything was done in camera. I pulled them from the archive because I wanted to do some more double exposures recently and discovered that with digital cameras I can no longer do this!!! It got me thinking about the ‘decisive moment’ and our ability, as photographers, to capture that frame in the split second that it passes across our vision.
I took the colour ‘pool splash’ photo in Cape Town for an editorial where the budget only allowed 2 rolls of film per shot. Shooting medium format it meant I only had 24 frames to nail it. In order to get the water splash back lit against the sky I was shooting directly into the sun. Using the model’s body to partially block the sun, but still allow enough flare to create the shot, I also had to perfectly time it with the assistant throwing a bucket of water off camera.
It’s hard to describe the anticipation of waiting for that ‘decisive moment’ and the exhilaration of just knowing you’ve got it. Instinctively I ‘knew’ the minute I pressed the shutter button, and before I wound the film cartridge on, that I already had the image I wanted. I didn’t need to look at the back of the camera to check – because you couldn’t.
Call me a purist but I’m proud of the fact that I took these shots ‘in camera’. I guess it’s an obsolete skill to have but in the modern photographic world we seem to have forgotten the very basics of photography. The internet is full of second rate photographs taken in terrible light and with no clue as to a half decent composition. The people who take these pictures then blog/brag about how to make them look decent using an array of quick click post production tools.
Actually I admire the honesty of these ‘before and after’ artists. It’s a bit like celebrities who have plastic surgery and don’t try to hide it. I’ve never used more than minimal retouching in my own work – preferring, even now, to get as much as I can ‘in camera’ because I can and because, personally, I think it’s lazy not to.
It’s a skill that’s served me well in motion capture and the move to cinematography and I’m grateful for it.
recently finished working as the cinematographer on a new short film ‘Dotty’ directed by Ben Charles Edwards,
starring Sadie Frost and Rudy Law.
Dotty is a touching film which begins when a lonely 9 year old boy stumbles across a modest caravan in the American Midwest. Inside the caravan lives Dotty, an eccentric but kind women old enough to be his grandmother.
Dotty invites the boy into her rainbow decorated caravan which is littered with exotic memorabilia from her past, and in particular an incredible collection of brightly coloured shoes.
The boy, who has a hidden sadness he won’t discuss is momentarily able to forget about his troubles as he and Dotty embark on a journey of discovery.
Currently in the edit suite the finished film should be released soon. In the meantime here’s a behind the scenes shot of me in action
on a recent trip to New Zealand I discovered that it’s cities have a rich and vibrant history of graffiti and street art.
Sadly most of the public spray paint art in Auckland had been erased in preparation for the Rugby World Cup 2012
so I missed out on seeing some its most iconic pieces but I did get a chance to meet up with many of the artists driving the regeneration and appreciation of this evolving art form.
Thanks to all those who took part and to the hugely talented aerosol artists I missed meeting up with – I hope to catch
up with you all further down the road to continue this project.
For more information on each featured artist – just click the images below…
Although I have no tattoos myself I’m fascinated by the characters that cover their bodies with them and the artists that create them. Traditional Maori tattoo or Tā Moko are representations of bloodlines etched onto the skin – inked stories of genealogy, history and ancestry that are crafted specifically for the person who wears them.
Since 1990 there has been a huge resurgence in the practice of Tā Moko for both men and women – as a sign of cultural identity and a reflection of the general revival of the Maori language and culture.
In a suburb of south Auckland I recently met up with Gordon Toi who greets me with an easy smile and a bone crushing handshake. Gordon is a prolific artist who trained as a traditional carver before exploring other forms of Maori art such as Ta Moko, painting, and stone sculpture.
His philosophy and craft remain true to his teachings to preserve the integrity of his culture, and this is reflected in his workspace which is a far cry from the commercial tattoo studios of the High Street. Filled with artifacts from his travels, books, pictures, paintings and a shrine in one corner – He Tohu O Te Wa has a intimate and spiritual feel.
It’s a moving experience to witness the Maori prayer that Gordon delivers before he begins the tattoo and a privilege to be invited into his world to photograph him at work….