I literally stumbled upon Jim Mortram’s Small Town Inertia project quite a few years back totally by luck, via social media on Tumblr and Flickr. It happened on one of those photojournalism Google searches, that ended up down a black and white internet rabbit hole, swerving from Eugene Smith through to Don McCullin.
I'm still obsessed with the search. I cannot believe it is even possible, considering all the technology. The only way of gaining any new insight or view on a photographers work whilst I was starting out, were the endless obsessive trips to the world's shittest provincial bookshops, delving between the knitting and woodworking sections. And the odd (and I mean odd) exhibition. Oh...and a paragraph or two in the Encyclopaedia Brittanica. Followed by the monthly rifling through the pages of Practical Photographer in WH Smith, which was the world's shittest photography magazine. Right through to the golden copies of National Geographic, stacked high and untouched (we're talking provincial England here) in the doctor's disease ridden waiting room, whilst awaiting that ever elusive cure for repeated teenage glandular fever.
Jim Mortram's excellent storytelling, definitely the medium format black and white photography, plus his impecable usage of modern profanity on The Twitter, helped me really understand what he was trying to get across to the rest of the human race.
It really opened my eyes. I mean, geographically Jim lives a stones throw from me really. Yet, his home area and the people within it are really struggling, struggling with a system that has no mercy. This totally opened my eyes, as I was traversing the metropolis of London, where I always revelled in anonymity. Yet, like the people of Dereham, my fellow Londoners also struggle from an anonymity they cannot control. This is a national/global problem and Jim's work really distills these issues with locality.
WATCH THE VLOG.
THE KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN.
So following on to the great community, there was a very successful Small Town Inertia Kickstarter Campaign (£21,810 pledged from an £8k goal!!) to finally produce one of the years most eagerly anticipated hardback photobooks, published by Bluecoat Press. I was in from the start and recently received the benefits of the pledge I made.
BUY THE BOOK.
BUY THE BOOK.
BUY THE BOOK.
Do you consider yourself a street photographer?
If so, you are not alone…
Whether you like it or not, they are snapping away on a mobile phone, through to shooting ‘old school’ 35mm black & white film on a Leica, they are owning the street & recording our modern life for posterity.
A Cartier-Bresson, every single one of them…
The argument of whether street photography is even now an art form, will be an ongoing debate amongst all the purists out there. Even then, there will be a debate about that debate. Who actually are the purists and who decided that they were the purists in the first place!
Paparazzi of Strangers.
Last weekend (or the technical term ‘wochenende’), I was in the German capital, Berlin for the 2017 EyeEm Festival & Photography Awards, which was held along the River Spree, near the East Side Gallery in a huge converted factory. The morning session was pretty good. Some great speakers intensely covering artificial intelligence, neuroscience and extreme photography.
After downloading my brain onto a hard drive during the lunch break, I returned to the venue and literally walked straight into a street photographer who’s work I had been admiring from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean for a while.
In fact, I kind of just guessed it was him, because you know how it is with social media, you’ve only ever see somebody’s eyes, mouth and a small part of the face in their profile photo and never the rest of them. In this case the head with covered by a Yellow Cab baseball cap and to the toes, double denim.
It had to be Daniel Arnold, the self-styled ‘Paparazzi of Strangers’, after all, he was the keynote speaker listed for later in the day.For me, the opportunity to ask, was too good to miss. Not only did he look like a character out of a Hunter S. Thompson novel, but he was so immediately engaging and open, that I had to take that chance. I took my chance…
Fear And Loathing In Berlin.
As I hurriedly grabbed my Mamiya 7ii out of my camera bag, I explained to him how I have been following him for ages, before even his rather large spat with Instagram. We walked round the building, so I could find a suitably industrial and Berlinesque location to place him in.
He looked a bit taken aback, that I was under the impression that he was successful.
“I am really not successful…”
As he swung his knackered Contax, pendulum style, from it’s strap, Daniel explained to me that he was making no real money, apart from the commissions from the New Yorker Magazine & Vanity Fair. They had come along, as a consequence of years of walking miles and miles photographing the natives of New York City each day and as a consequence his Instagram account blew up.
Obsessive Photography Disorder.
Daniel had had a very high profile print sale via his Instagram account, which was basically to enable him to get on his feet, as he had been struggling financially. It was very successful from what I read and it was then, that I learn about him and his obsession with street photography.
Being a street photographer myself, I am completely aware of how difficult it is to go out and take photographs of people, who are totally unaware of your presence and why I am compelled to do so. It is never done for financial gain. If you are good enough this will come later…much later. Personally I am compelled to do so, because I am a real people watcher. I like to see humans being funny, amazing, cool and alarmingly stupid. So I record that.
London has always been a very difficult city to make it in and the people do not make it easy. I have photographed in Daniel’s adopted home of New York City (he’s from Wisconsin) and I found it as difficult, so I really enjoyed following his journey, because of the kind of photographs he comes up with and knowing the boundaries.
Mobiographers Of The World Unite.
The now mobile phone toting general public still can be really hostile towards street photographers. The distinction between ‘us’ and ‘them’ still is huge. This is simply because they don’t understand why photographers are motivated in taking photographs in the public street and assume immediately that they are up to no good. Victims of a fear mongering media, projecting false truths.
The funny thing is that, these are the people, who, if there was a major incident that was newsworthy, or something funny was happening in front of them, are the same people who would hurriedly get their mobile phone out of their pocket, photograph or film the incident in question and immediately post it to social media, to show their friends and family.
Perhaps, a street photographer is going to steal their soul from them? Or, God forbid, they, with their camera kit worth thousands and an inability to hide in plain sight, have an unhealthy interest in their children!? Either way, the street photographers in particular are on the front line or that discussion.
Blink 182 Times.
We both compared mental notes and agreed, that if you just keep on your toes and you keep moving quickly enough, you actually are almost invisible to the public. People are unaware of you, because they are so busy…especially in a large city. This enables you to get in, take the photograph, get out, ‘blink and you’d miss it’ style.
Jumpin’ Jack Flash.
Nothing really new there to street photographers! But, this is where Daniel is really different. He uses flash. You are always going to elicit a massive reaction from somebody, if you stick a camera up and bang a flash off. The surprise value of it for some people is sometimes too much to take…so Daniel’s imagery & strategy I really hold in high regard. In addition, he photographs on 35mm film, so the images are not available immediately to post onto the Internet and shared. The process there is far slower.
One insight I learnt from him was that whenever he receives the email notification from his lab that his film & scans are ready for download, he literally drops what he is doing on one of his many walks and returns home to sit, view and edit his catch for the rest of the day. Although, developing the film is taken out of his own process, he is still totally engaged and obsessed with the imagery that he has captured and the curation part of his process is key. There is still ‘the big reveal’ that is so compelling for all photographers out there…
Using his background as a writer, his storytelling ability for me, is key to his success. It makes his process unique amongst a peer group bulging at the seems with talent. His vision and humour. Also, his tenacity, is something that any young street photographer, who is at the beginning of their career needs to emulate and not be caught up in building up an Instagram following. The key ingredient being the content produced, not a hashtag created.
As he described in his EyeEm keynote, the young people he encounters want an instant online hit with their photography, without actually putting blood, sweat and tears into the work itself and creating something longstanding and therefore tangible for future generations.
Follow You, Follow Me.
Daniel Arnold can be found mostly on the streets of New York City & on Instagram Hit him up & give him a follow!
I’ve been really lucky in life. I am an only child, who was hellbent on making friends. I have satisfactorily made an entire herd. Without siblings, there’s no way of getting away from it, it can be a lonely old business. Combatting this problem & not having an adolescence wrestling, punching or arguing with someone who looks exactly like me, has ensured that I got myself a group of mates who are all class acts. Brothers if you will. There are sisters too of course. Never forget the Sisterhood! I covet them all & really don’t want to lose any of them. But, as men are inclined less to talk, the Brotherhood of Man really is one hell of a difficult group to join.
Brotherhood Of Man.
So, when your mate, who is the same age, has the same warped sense of humour, into all the same stuff, even supports the same football team, casually announces in the pub amongst all the other bollocks spouted between the two of us, that he has been thinking about killing himself, you do pretty much sit bolt upright, spill your pint & listen. The instant adrenaline hit that that news produced, literally had me in some sort of energy limbo, where I wasn’t sure whether I needed to immediately go run it off, or if he was going to just run off & do it straight away!? All I could think of was…
1) But you’ve still got your fucking hair!?
2) Who else will I talk about hating the Arsenal with!!?
3) How are you going to do it!!!?
Instead, a very important manly decision was made.
More pints were swiftly ordered…
Coffee & TV.
Nick & I met & hit it off straight away, when we were thrown together with all the other bleary-eyed twenty-something crew, on the set of The Big Breakfast, a cult Nineties breakfast television show filmed at LockKeepers Cottages in Old Ford Lock, a pre-hipster quiet backwater of East London. Post Chris Evans, it was presented by Paul Ross, Gaby Roslin & my personal favourite, Paula Yates. We formed a tight double act of PR & set photographer, hammering out words & pictures between us, fuelled by coffee, toast & the incessant daily rage of the producers. It was exhausting.
I sat calmly & listened to Nick (which is no mean feet for me!?) as he explained that due to his cyclical Clinical Depression condition, he couldn’t muster the energy to go through with the morbid deed itself. I breathed a sigh of relief. Having extensively browsed the suicide websites, his brain was so completely fried, that he couldn’t get the energy together to even complete reading anything in detail online. This & his guilty thoughts of his young, legend of a wife & amazing children suffering post any act of desperation, had hindered him completely.
Let’s Stay Together.
Over the years, I’d always been aware that Nick had irregular ‘down periods’ which debilitated him. Phone calls & emails go unanswered for weeks on end, then he’ll pop up out of nowhere going running for miles & phone fancying a few pints or ten. His work had suffered. This in particular was the reason for his abrupt departure from The Big Breakfast, which at the time really annoyed me. ‘We worked really well together’ & ‘But we’re are all tired’. My selfish younger head couldn’t get round it at the time.
In between sipping his pint, Nick matter of factly told me that he & his brain had decided that jumping in front of a train was going to be the way forward. As he explained at length, it all sounded to me like the Worst Advert For Train Travel EVER.
Last Train To Clarksville.
I grew up near an express train line, where this act was an unfortunate regular occurrence. His words shook me to the core, of the memories when the line was shut down because of a ‘jumper’. The ‘selfish git’ who was stopping everyone else from moving forward & getting on with their day, whilst taking their ‘attention seeking’ to a whole new level. But really was it…? It is quite an act of personal destruction for someone to be driven to it. This reminded me about Bob Carlos Clarke, an amazing photographer I followed as I started out & more recently, the death of the German international goalkeeper Robert Enke who both suffered this fate, whilst being treated for depression.
Suicide Is Painless.
The conversation had now switched from what he had been thinking internally, to the suggestion by myself of a working collaboration which might help to release his burden further. We can work together in words, in tandem, in pictures or individually, whatever it takes to alleviate any Nick overwhelm. Perhaps, then put a project together where we address the fact that SUICIDE IS THE BIGGEST KILLER IN MEN UNDER THE AGE OF FIFTY YEARS OLD. Just digest that for a moment. A truly shocking statistic, one I am sure people would be interested to read about first hand. Perhaps it will help others too..?
Boys Don’t Cry.
Being part of this age group, has enabled me to see others in my own creative industry, who evidently have the same symptoms, but are undiagnosed. Half the time, they really don’t know what is going on with themselves, but also cannot be approached by others due to the stigma attached. It’s a little like standing up for the pregnant lady on the crammed Tube carriage, so she can sit down & rest her feet. But she isn’t actually pregnant. Awkward.
My Heart Will Go On.
An already very open Nick (he doesn’t think he is open, it’s just mind games playing with himself…) can literalise his thoughts, with my photography, to potentially help others stuck in that same sinking ship. Think of it like a photojournalistic Leo & Kate in Titanic. Nick’s incredibly hairy simian-like naked frame, reclining on the chaise long, whilst I ponce about painting with light.
Perhaps this project may become something larger, but for now we’ll work together little & often to perhaps at some point produce a photo book handbook.
For now, I just want to help get my very hairy mate back on his feet.
And Heaven Knows You’re Miserable Now…
You can view more exciting project portfolio images here:
Please tweet fun questions about depression & photos of monkeys here:
You can read more blog posts that Nick has written recently here:
I found Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert online ages ago, as I was finding photographers who were based in Japan. I was going through a real Nobuyoshi Araki period & was wondering what else was going on in Tokyo, having had an interest in Japan for years.
Ring any bells….?
Anyway…the first camera I bought, (after saving for months whilst working double shifts alternately at Sainsbury’s & Pizza Hut) was a Nikon FM2, which contained an instruction manual in Japanese inside the box, so therefore to me was incredibly exotic. My only other connection with the Land of the Rising Sun, was with the mini series ‘Shogun’ starring Richard Chamberlain.
Now with Jeremy’s insistence I go visit…& my daughter living there now, I have no excuses!
That being said…it is the arrival of one of Jeremy’s new photo books Unsullied & Untarnished that any trip to the other side of the world may be put on hold to visit Scotland instead!
Jeremy, however, has now returned to Scotland to live & work & is part of a collective who are shooting some great work under the name Document Scotland. I highly recommend that you have a good look through what they are shooting, plus go to the iTunes App Store & download the Document Scotland apps for the iPad, which are very interactive!
Once I’d had a good browse through The British Abroad book, there was just too much to say in one vlog!
The Kickstarter campaign is also worth a look if you hadn’t seen it already!
Quite sometime ago, deep on the internet, I came across the Kickstarter photo books campaign by London based, English photographer Peter Dench, for his upcoming book The British Abroad which he needed to get some funding for.
I say ‘came across’…what I meant was that, I’ve met Peter once & his very good grasp of social media means that it is very easy to follow him & what he is up to. It amounts to some light cyberstalking & cups of tea.
I buy loads of photo books. It’s the only thing I can be bothered to collect. When I was young, I collected Corgi cars. Then, as I got older, that quickly escalated to collecting Level 42 memorabilia. I had to stop before I bought a white Ford Sierra XR4i with a gigantic aerofoil & a Blaupunkt in car stereo system.
The reason for collecting loads of photography books, is that you cannot beat the feeling of peeling off the wrapper, getting the smell of the pages & actually touching the photographs on the page. It beats any experience of an all-singing all-dancing retina display or say….a Commodore VIC-20.
Then each sheet (if it has been designed in an aesthetically pleasing way) contains the amazing photography, laid out with complimentary typography & often a story or two. I love to read, but a photo book does not obviously need to be too heavy with text….that ruins it for me. Photography has a chance to tell a story itself…
So, I got England Uncensored through the post first which was greatly appreciated, as I wasn’t actually expecting it…& then The British Abroad arrived a week or two ago, but I have been saving it to do a ‘reveal’ video once I returned from my holiday.
Mainly so that I didn’t look so pasty like a Brit abroad!