Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Bill Cunningham New York.

Recently, since I discovered Netflix, I've been watching tv while I work. I usually watch fairly mindless, dialogue heavy tv series, seeing as how I am am mostly looking at my work while I'm working (honestly) and anything more subtle gets lost on me, but today I watched something different and it was so good that I had to share it with you. 

Bill Cunningham New York is a beautiful, gentle film about a beautiful gentle man. Cunningham is an octogenarian fashion photographer who has been taking pictures on the streets and at the parties of New York for the NY Times since the 1970s, and that is as much as I knew about him before I stumbled across the film and remembered that someone somewhere a long time ago had said it was good. 

Despite what you might expect, the film is not about photography and it's not about fashion, it's about a gentleman and an artist, striving to make pure work in a desperately commercialised industry. Bill Cunningham is a quiet, infectiously cheerful, unassuming man who until he was evicted lived in a tiny kitchenless and bathroomless studio in Carnegie Hall, sleeping on a camp bed, surrounded by filing cabinets full of his negatives. He travels around New York on his bicycle, with his old Nikon film camera slung around his neck, wearing a blue jacket that he first spotted on some Parisian street cleaners and thought looked both practical and was a nice colour. He is 84. 

The film is about him in the simplest way that a film can be a portrait of a person; it follows him working; interviews him about his thoughts, life and ideas; speaks to the people who know and love him, (which seems to be everyone, he is an immensely lovable man - something that becomes apparent almost as soon as the film begins) and leaves the viewer to fall for and feel for the man as it goes. There isn't much that I can say about him or the film that doesn't feel inadequate; it's quietly moving and inspiring and if your heart isn't a little bit broken by that interview with him (you'll know it when you see it) then you might want to get your heart checked, because it's likely defective. It's been 3 hours since I watched it and I still feel tearful. 

*image Bill Cunningham by The Sartorialist

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Very London Maternity Shoot.

A few months ago I got an email from Bridget asking me if I would take some pictures of her and her husband Rory, partly to document this stage of her pregnancy and partly as a record of their time in London. Bridget and Rory are from South Africa but have spent the last year here and have completely fallen in love with the city. 

My first impulse (as is always the case when someone asks me to do something new) was to say no. The truth is, I'm fairly of scared of photographing grown ups unless they're distracted by something small like getting married. I photograph kids, kids like my jokes and share their cheese with me, adults tend to notice that I talk too much and walk into inanimate objects, frequently. But I said yes, because, well, do things that scare you. I needn't have been such a pansy. I had the loveliest morning with Bridget and Rory, who despite being a little nervous themselves were an absolute delight to photograph; their love for each other and their excitement about their impending arrival being huge enough to overcome any camera-shyness. 

It was the perfect January morning when we met up, every single day in London should look this crisp and clear and bright. (It doesn't, but it should.) Rory works right by Westminster and he and Bridget live right by Tower Bridge, so they really wanted to take in some of the sights that are part of their every day in London. We started at Waterloo and walked along Embankment towards St Thomas' Hospital where Bridget will be giving birth and which was bathed in the most perfect light that morning. I would be willing to bet that no more beautiful photographs have ever been taken in front of what might be the ugliest hospital in London.

After walking across Westminster Bridge we hopped in a taxi to the Tower of London and meandered slowly across Tower Bridge, the light and colours blowing me away. I'd kind of fallen out of love with London recently (winter, flu, noisy neighbours) but all was forgiven as I stood on that bridge, drinking in that crazy beautiful view. Finally we picked up Bridget and Rory's two pugs and strolled through the streets of Bermondsey, an area I'd never been to before but which felt spookily familiar, looking as it does distinctly like bits of New York

As I said goodbye to Bridget and Rory and headed off towards London Bridge station, I felt a hundred times lighter than I had in weeks. The sun, the sky, the incredible landmarks of this amazing city that we have found ourselves living in and the excitement of two people about to have their first baby; all of those things felt like a shot of something invigorating to a body and brain bogged down in the damp, dark gloom of winter and introspection. I left feeling so grateful to these two for letting me document such a beautiful blessed time in their lives and for waking me up to the joy of living where we do. And more than a little pleased with myself for getting better at saying yes to the things that scare me. 

Thursday, January 09, 2014

First day.

Tuesday, on her way to nursery for the first time. In her bag is one small tiger, one large rabbit and a fresh pair of knickers. The kid knows how to travel.

Hi. How are you all? We're fine. Mostly starting nursery, learning not to shit in our pants, giving up naps and trying not to die from the common cold.

Christmas was fine too. Mostly port, wine, sherry, mince pies, rum, wine, port and roast meat. I'm not a vegetarian any more. The thing about starting to eat meat after 20 years of not eating meat is that you want to eat ALL THE MEAT all the time. Which isn't really cool, for the environment or your arteries or the tightness of your jeans. Yes, in that order of importance. Oh, or your bank balance. Meat costs more than lentils, as it should.

New Year was less fine. Usually New Year is a very shiny time of reflecting (shiny things reflect) and promise and planning. This year it was mostly crying about All The Changes and fearing that my ovaries have started exploding again from all the meat and sugar and alcohol and caffeine.

Last year was fucking intense. We moved to London and we hit London running, we did all the gardening and all the landscaping and all the working and all the exploring and had all the visitors and then we just sort of... crashed. So I have no resolutions for this year except to keep on keeping on. That's it. There are things I want to do and places I want to go and it's really tempting to Resolve to do and go and make. But when my brain starts Resolving ('knit a jumper! learnt to make bread! Take a sock class! Explore London! Write more! Drink less! Read more! Complain less! Socialise more! Shout at my children less! ') I ask it politely to shut up, right now then I take myself to the sofa. Which isn't to say I won't do some of those things, if I feel like it, maybe. But only if I feel like it.