Impressions of London

The other week my son Joe and I took a day trip to London. We try to make it each year, normally in Summer, but this year was a little later than normal.

Apart from the tradition of the trip, Joe also had some pictures to take for his college photography course. So naturally I took a film camera to capture some of my own impressions and just to have a play with more film.

Joe’s work took precedence, so I did only get around to shooting one roll of Kodak Tri-X which, because it was a dismal day, I rated at 800iso.

Here are the results, with special thanks to Brick Lane’s finest leafleteer Charlie Kloos for posing while I messed about with a Pentax lens from the 1960s, which was a little tricky to focus as the evening light started to fail.

 

Gimme Some Room!

Much of my business photography consists of taking portraits of, rather predictably, business people. So far so good.

This pretty much always happens at their place of work because that means less disruption to their busy schedule and I can create a set of portraits covering all the colleagues that happen to be in the building that day. Still so far so good.

Where “so far so good” becomes “ummm” is when I’m shown into a meeting room/stationery cupboard which is so crammed with immobile tables and heavy chairs/stationery that I have no space to actually take pictures.

I do make a point of requesting a space roughly 10 foot square, but sometimes the message gets lost or it’s assumed the boardroom table can be moved when I get there. More commonly now, tables are cabled to the floor with telephone and computer wires, which will only stretch so far before they go PING! and the IT department has to be called in.

So to say I was utterly delighted with the space I was given this week is an understatement – half a ballroom in a hotel. All to myself, with nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing taking up floor space. In fact I had to pull a small table into the room so I could check off peoples’ names as I went without having to squat on the floor.

A photographer's backdrop and studio flash equipment are set up in a large empty room in the Hilton, Walcot Street, Bath, UK

A great space for portraits

I thoroughly enjoyed setting up my backdrop and lights slap bang in the middle of the space. It gave the whole thing a slightly surreal air and the people who came in to have their photos taken were astonished that the room they’d been assigned for their meeting was so much smaller than the one reserved for me.

Of course the ballroom wouldn’t have worked for them because they needed AV and a projector for their presentations which the ballroom didn’t have, but it did make me feel very special and it also meant I had bags of room to control how the lights lit the backdrop and the sitters. It meant I could work towards a very particular look without too much difficulty.

Ok, not the most exciting tale in the world, and it’s not as if I’ll be dining out on that one ever, but it’s a fine illustration of how giving the photographer ample space to work will not only make their life easier, it’ll also mean they can work to achieve more accurate results in-camera and ensure that so far so good endures right through to “that’s a wrap”.

Latest on Routes

Screen grab of the archive thumbnail images from the Faces of Routes exhibition.

The brilliant people who sat for the Faces of Routes photo session.

Great news! Frome’s best and only youth drop-in centre, Routes, has been saved for at least another year following a concerted campaign to raise awareness and funds.

Local businesses have run various fund-raising schemes and events and these, along with my Faces of Routes project and exhibition, have raised over £60,000 in donations with a few more bits and pieces still coming in, plus the outcome of a National Lottery application which was started before the appeal was made.

Routes manager Sarah Stobbart assures me the bulk of the money was raised as a result of the exhibition, with a very large chunk being donated by an individual who saw the pictures during a visit to Cafe La Strada in the town centre. I don’t know much detail about who, but I believe the sum was £30,000, which is brilliant and I’m thrilled to know that the service has gained valuable breathing space.

Of course this isn’t the end of the story, but with such a lot of good will and awareness raised this will make future funding applications that little bit easier. I still believe Routes should be properly funded by responsible organisations such as local government, but perhaps this stay of execution will allow these avenues to be explored further.

Sarah got in touch to say, “I truly think that the portraits, the use of them and the associated press has contributed massively to the fundraising campaign for Routes being successful – you’ve no idea how glad I am that you got in touch to begin with!”

In the meantime it’s fantastic to know that youngsters from Frome and the surrounding villages have somewhere they can seek help, guidance and a listening ear. I’ll be keeping an eye on things and will update here whenever there is significant news.

To all my blog readers who donated, a very heartfelt thank you. This has been the best personal project I’ve ever undertaken and without so much support it could have been a very futile gesture.

Thank you.

Faces of Routes Launches!

Wow, what a rollercoaster ride that was. From concept to completion, a photographic exhibition launched in less that five weeks and that includes shooting the photos! I may have to give the Guinness Book of World Records a call.

You can now see the Faces of Routes pictures in all their glory at Cafe La Strada in Cheap Street, Frome, until the end of March and I’m hoping many of you will take the opportunity to take a look around the gallery areas and read the quotes before enjoying some quality refreshments.

06/02/2017 Faces of Frome exhibition at Cafe La Strada, Frome, Somerset. Photographer Tim Gander (back) launches his Faces of Routes exhibition at Cafe La Strada in Cheap Street, Frome, with (left to right) cafe owner Jude Kelly, Routes service users Laura Davies and Kieran Wason and Routes centre manager Sarah Stobbart. The exhibition features 18 portraits and quotes from those who use and run the Routes service.

(L-r) Jude of Cafe La Strada, Laura and Kieran with Routes manager Sarah and me at back

This really has been a Frome effort, obviously starting with the help and cooperation of Sarah at Routes and her colleague Silky, all the young people who so bravely sat for my camera and shared their very personal experiences for the case studies, right through Nik Jones who added the text to the images for the exhibition, Mount Art Studio who did such a fantastic job of printing them and Studio Prints who did the framing at breakneck speed so we could get the exhibition launched as soon as possible and of course thanks to Cafe La Strada for giving us exhibition space for two months for free!

Of course the whole point of this exercise has been to try to save Routes, and we’re not there yet. The hope is that the bodies which really should be funding this kind of service will understand how important Routes is to young, vulnerable people of Frome and that without it there will be barely any other resource to which they can turn when they’re in difficulty.

Fingers crossed then. In the meantime, if live in Frome and you want to help but haven’t the finances to do so, please consider writing to your local councillor or David Warburton MP. If the message is made clear that we don’t want Routes to close, we have to speak loudly.

 

 

Routes Update

The launch of the Routes exhibition inches nearer, slowly. We’ve been working hard to find sponsors for the printing and framing because even though we’ve been offered a fantastic deal on the printing by Mount Art in Frome, exhibitions aren’t cheap to do.

The exhibition is important because it will spread the message far and wide to those who need to consider funding for services such as Routes (the local MP, councillors and so on), so if you feel you’d like to donate to the costs of the exhibition or to help Routes continue its work, please text MEND41 £AMOUNT (between £1 and £10) to 70070, or donate via the website www.mendipymca.org.uk.

In the meantime I’ve launched the Faces of Routes portfolio page on my website which gives you a broad preview of the exhibition itself. There will be additional images on show at La Strada Cafe in Frome, so if you’re in the area, do pop in for a lovely coffee, a piece of cake or an ice cream and take the time to view the prints and read the stories of the youngsters featured.

I’ll update you all once the exhibition goes live!

Routes to Exhibition

Happy New Year! Ok, so 2016 might not have been your favourite year, but the bright side for me was lots of great work with wonderful clients and some personal highlights I won’t go into here.

To make sure my 2017 kicked off with a January-blues-beating personal project, I’ve launched into one which is exciting in a number of ways; I was able get it under way quickly, it’s local, it has a finite duration, has a tangible purpose and perhaps best of all it looks like it’s going to culminate in a local exhibition.

It all started when, just before Christmas, I had been trying to formulate ideas for a personal project I could launch in the New Year. I wanted something which would not only please me, but also have some kind of impact either on those involved, or on its audience.

Then I saw a tweet from Routes, the youth drop-in centre in Frome. I’d always been vaguely aware of their work with young, often vulnerable people in the town, but didn’t have much detail beyond that.

Routes tweeted that their funding is coming to an end in March 2017, after which they would have to find a new source of revenue or close. While I can’t afford the £80,000 + per year to keep them running, I felt I could help them publicise their plight so I got in touch with the centre manager Sarah Stobbart, an absolute ball of energy and a real doer.

The idea was simple; I would take portraits of those who who either use or had used Routes and the pictures could be used for press releases and grant funding applications. Sarah added the idea of holding an exhibition of the portraits somewhere in the town, and so the ball got rolling.

I started shooting on January 3rd because there’s no time like the present, and with all those willing to participate we now have 13 youngsters, Sarah and her colleague Silky shot for the project.

The local press have picked up the story and one local paper is looking to publish the portraits with case studies as a series, while a local cafe/art space has agreed to host the exhibition for free for two months.

At some point I’ll create a portfolio gallery of the final images on my website, but I’ve included a couple of examples here to give you a taster of the work.

The main purpose of all this is to get funding for Routes to continue their work, so I’ll leave you with this plea from Sarah:

“If you would like to show your support and help to keep this vital service operating for young people in Frome, there are a number of ways you can help our appeal. By Texting MEND41 an amount from £1 to £10 to 70070 Or by a cheque made payable to YMCA Mendip to ‘Routes’ Drop-In Centre, 1A Palmer Street, Frome, BA11 1DS. Donate online by clicking on the BT Mydonate button at http://tinyurl.com/j9jukt9 and select Routes as your chosen project. By holding a fundraising event to help raise funds and awareness! Or become a ‘Friend’ of Routes!- Contact Sarah Stobbart (Routes Project Manager) on 01749 679553 Ext 5020 or e-mail sstobbart@mendipymca.org.uk”

2016, a personal review

Normally I’d post a “year in pictures” round-up just about now, but I’ve decided to do something a little different this time just because.

Instead I’m going to focus on the more off-beat, off-diary photos I’ve taken. You’ll have seen most of them, but not all, in various blog posts through the year, but it’s fun to pull them together into a single gallery to enjoy again.

So sit back with your cuppa and your mince pie and enjoy…

 

 

First Film Results!

Last week I told you about my new adventures in black and white film photography, well here’s a selection of the results. I need to work on my digitisation process a bit more because of course this is all still a bit trial and error.

I’ve owned a scanner in the past, but the results were never more than “ok” in spite of it being quite a high-end Nikon machine, so I’m using a digital camera and a copy box which I constructed myself.

As much as possible I want to preserve the beauty of the negatives (and they are quite lovely) and while this might only be truly possible by making direct prints from them, that’s not so practical when it comes to showing them on my blog.

But away with all this technical talk, what about the subjects of the photos?

There’s the shopfitter in Bath who didn’t mind me taking a few frames while he was on his cigarette break, but wasn’t going to pose. That’s ok, I just wanted an interesting face and some half-decent light for my test photos. He was the perfect candidate.

Then, back in Frome, I met Bad Rasta who travels the country selling balloons and novelty toys at carnivals. He was on a break before the start of the evening carnival in the town and was great fun to chat to and was very happy to pose for me with his van and balloons.

Finally Geoff, a Frome local who I met while wandering around the funfair in Frome. Full of interesting reminiscences, a face full of character, and a pig skin jacket that belonged to his father.

There are more photos of course, but some were just tests to check the camera metering and to see how the Kodak Tri-X film would handle different lighting situations. I wanted to make sure I had a few engaging portraits to share.

Of course the question has to be is this worth all the effort and expense? And of course the answer is yes. Ok, I could have taken these photos digitally with better technical quality for web, but these negatives would print beautifully well, and even if I never get the pleasure of doing that, it does give me satisfaction.

There is also the fact that knowing how to do this improves my work as a digital photographer. I’ve always firmly believed that having a background in processing and printing my own film work back when I started has always been a big advantage over photographers who didn’t get that grounding. So to continue it now is helping me keep in touch with the basics.

And besides all that, getting out and about to discover personal stories and just talking to people I wouldn’t otherwise get to photograph makes the whole exercise utterly, utterly worth it.

Contextual Portraits

One thing I love about being a photographer is the chance to meet a wide variety of people, all with different backgrounds, interests and personalities.

As a prime example, this week started with a delightful encounter with local ceramicist Jane Gibson who runs a gallery in Bradford on Avon. Jane needed images of her work to send to art galleries and for her website update.

With a simple backdrop and lighting set-up I was able to create lovely fresh images of Jane’s quirky work, but when I’d finished photographing the pieces I also felt a portrait of Jane would be useful for the promotion of her art. Thankfully she didn’t need too much persuading.

Although Jane’s specialism is ceramics, she also offers a selection of her paintings and I wanted to suggest this in the background of the picture without it overwhelming the photo or being too distracting. I think Jane looks beautiful in the soft window light of her studio with subtle hints of her work behind her.

I particularly enjoy taking portraits with context, and this is a good example of what I mean. A contextual portrait is a great way to broadcast not only what you look like, but also what you do or where and how you work. This can really engage the viewer and hold their attention in a way a headshot against a plain background won’t always achieve.

Most of next week I’ll be working exclusively on contextual and action portraits, which I hope to share with you soon. It’s going to be challenging, but huge fun.

Goodbye 2015, Hello 2016!

Traditionally I would do a “year in pictures” post about now with a photo from each month of the year, but this year I thought I’d just pick out a slightly random selection of this year’s pictures from various assignments, personal projects and even the odd holiday snap for you to enjoy.

This is the last post for this year, but I look forward to being able to bring you lots of exciting stuff next year.

I just wanted to say a massive thank you to all my lovely clients, and to wish all my readers a wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year!

Without further ado, here’s a round-up of 2015. Click an image to enlarge and you can scroll through from there. Enjoy!