“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” Dorothea Lange
My earliest memory of a camera is my bother’s first birthday party. I would have been three years, one month and 19 days old. My Dad was trying to take a photo of my brother blowing out his one candle. My brother just kept trying to grab the flame. I was asked to show him what to do. I’d blow out the candle, my Mum would relight it and my brother would grab the flame as my Dad clicked the shutter. And repeat. Multiple times. We have many photos of my brother grabbing the flame but not one of him blowing the candle. Reflecting on this memory I realise I may have got my tenacity (bloody mindedness) for getting just the shot I want from my Dad.
Another memory is holidaying in mid Wales when I was about eight. I wanted to take a photo. I loved the weight of my Dad’s SLR, loved waiting for my vision to focus as I looked through the viewfinder, loved seeing a portion of the world in front of me framed in a scene. And I loved the heavy ‘clunk’ of the shutter. For some reason my Dad wouldn’t let me take the photo, saying I could take one later. “But I want to take a photo now.” “Later.” I walked all the way down the hill crying and shouting more and more desperately: “I want to take a picture NOOOOOW.” Three and half decades later my Dad or brother will wind me up in the way only families can by repeating the refrain back to me when I reach for a camera.
The love of photography I inherited from my Dad has continued throughout my life. Through my earliest trip overseas (a French exchange, aged 15) where Dad coached me in advance not on language skills or settling in with my host family, but on how to use my new camera and the kind of photos I could take along the way. There are a fair few snaps of my friends of course but there are also plenty of thoughtful shots of gardens and rivers and quirky angles of the Eiffel Tower. My camera is still how I make friends with a place. I’ll notice more about a place when I’m looking through the lens and noticing details I don’t see when I’m just looking. I love reviewing the photos and spotting things I didn’t notice even through the lens. I’ll often get up early and go walking alone with my camera as a place is waking up.
And more recently my camera has been how I’ve made friends with other people and with my own body. I’ve written so much on these pages that there’s almost nothing new to say. I’ve written about the experience of being photographed, the joy of photographing others and the role photography plays in relationships. Others have written about the photography adventures we’ve had together and it always makes me a little emotional reading their words. Of course all of those posts focus on the experiences, the emotions, the enlightenment. But none of that fun and personal growth would have been possible without the camera. My camera is the tool that’s ignited friendships, been a feature of partnerships and helped me love my body more. It’s a force for good in all my relationships, with others and myself. And what I loved about framing a photo and capturing a moment when I was eight is what I still love today. I love the power the camera has to make us see things a little differently.
This weekend is very exciting: for the first time since 1996 when I put on my degree show, one of my photographs will be hanging in an exhibition. Bare Men: the Group Show opens at The Living Gallery, Brooklyn on Sunday 29th September and will run until Friday 4th October.
The show is curated by Abigail Ekue whose Bare Men series “celebrates the inherent beauty, sensuality, sexuality and vulnerability of the everyday man.” As you probably know, I love photographing men and photography plays a big part in some of my relationships so when Abigail put a call out in June this year for submissions to her group show I knew I had to throw my hat in the ring.
I was delighted that a shot that Exhibit A first shared in December 2017 was selected. If you’re in the area this week please go along and enjoy the photo in all its framed glory, plus all the other stunning images that are hung along side it. To mark the opening of the show I thought I would share another perspective on the same image for this week’s Sinful Sunday.
And while I’ve got your attention, I’m sure you don’t need reminding that this weekend is Smutathon. Exhibit A and many other fabulous and talented writers are in a race against the clock to write as many stories as possible in aid of The National Network of Abortion Funds. If you can afford to give, please do!
“There’s a starman waiting in the sky/ He’d like to come and meet us/ But he thinks he’d blow our minds”
Starman, – The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars
Last night in a starlit (well, fairylights, actually) garden in south London, a diverse group of people from all corners of @19syllables’ universe danced and drank and ate and drank some more under the paper lantern planets. Aside from her, the thing that united all of us was Space. Just days before she (to quote her husband’s speech last night) left her own cramped capsule man had landed on the moon. Last night Captain Kirks, Redshirts, Doctor Whos, cyborg men, astronauts and aliens all mingled happily and there were no deaths. And there were a couple of Ziggys. Me and the other Ziggy wrapped our arms around each other and sang along to Starman. It was a perfect night!
Editors note: in the spirit of transparency you should all know that in reality this giant nylon babygro was in no way sexy. It was a hot and itchy and sweaty and Honey nicknamed it the menopause simulation suit!!
Today has been a perfect day. One of my favourite people to spend time alone with is me.
My all day date day started with breakfast in bed, some orgasms and some napping. When I eventually got up it was to take my picnic blanket into the garden where I lounged around eating buttery corn on the cob, reading a magazine cover to cover, exchanged ugly face photos with a friend’s daughters, did some travel planning and ate a Magnum. Then more orgasms with the sun beating down on me, followed by a long snooze as the day cooled down. I’m now enjoying a gin and tonic before I go inside to cook risotto – one of my favourite meals to cook when I’m not in a rush.
The only definite plan I had for today was to take a photo. A run of posts featuring other people means it’s been a long time since I did a self-portrait. But the photos gave way to all the relaxing and when I woke up I couldn’t be bothered. But as I was mixing my G&T I remembered this photo of me from my wonderful day out in the company of women. Although it was taken a couple of weeks back, the chilled out vibe Molly has captured so beautifully perfectly sums up how I feel right now.
“Wow! Am I a queer goddess or what?!” Eve Ray
A couple of weekends ago I had the pleasure of photographing Eve Ray. She will be sharing more of the photos along with her reflections on the afternoon in due course, but in the meantime here’s my favourite shot from the day. I love her response. I’m sure you’ll all agree she is indeed a queer goddess!
As you may have seen from this fabulous thread, @19syllables is approaching a landmark birthday this week. If you’ve never had the pleasure of hanging out with Haiku, then reading through her words of wisdom for her daughters will give you some sense of what it’s like to be her friend. And being her friend is a complete privilege. In many ways our lives are very different and as she wrote here, the media would like women like us to pitch ourselves against each other. But as we all know, opposites attract! Not only are our lives very different, we are hilariously ridiculously different, full stop.
When we’re chatting over coffee I start one of my long and detailed (and sometimes tedious!) stories. Before long she’s impatiently interjecting with questions or a summary conclusion. “Well let me finish the story and you’ll find out,” I retort. When we’re on a photo adventure she’ll be bouncing all over the place, waving limbs and busting moves while I through gritted teeth say: “Hold still, I haven’t got my shot yet.” I am a dyed-in-the-wool planner, carefully and logically plotting things out before I start. She meanwhile will say yes to a day out, then realise she can’t go because it’s A Level results day. Me: “I already checked and that’s not A Level results day.” Her: “Ah, maybe I’m still on holiday.” Me: “No, you’re back by then.” Her: “So I can come?” Me: “YES!” Her: “HURRAH!”
My kitchen is turning into a little shrine of things she turns up with. On the window sill a fading dragon from Chinese New Year and a glass in which she brought a flower for my newly decorated bedroom. In the drawer is a paper vulva and some random stickers that she picked up at a festival to use as a prop for a photo. On the back of the door is a cool bag that she delivered full of food when I was sick earlier this year. So many touches of kindness season my kitchen.
And she is the greatest cheerleader I know. For family, for friends and for nature. She is a clarion call for living, loving and feeling. Recently I was sat at my desk working on a dull document when my phone pinged: “I’m actually fucking crying with rage. IN A FUCKING CAFE.” She’d stumbled across something and in her reading of it a penny had dropped about something that had been causing me sadness. Her response to what she read was passionate angry tears; for me and for others who are dear to me. The words she fired off in the ignominious state of crying IN A FUCKING CAFE did more to ease my emotional burden than she’ll ever know.
So if you want to know what kind of friend she is, know that she will run naked across a bridge at 8am, don her most elegant skirt in a wood, deliver food parcels when you’re sick and cry tears of rage about the things that hurt you. She really is one of the best!
Happy birthday, my friend! ?
“The Thames is dear to the Londoners. It is the scene of half their pleasures. In the summer season it is ever in their thoughts, and they are often on its bosom.”
A.D., “The Banks and Bosom of the Thames”, The Metropolitan, Volume 41
On Wednesday The Other Livvy, @19syllables and I had a day out to the Tate Modern to see the new (and excellent!) Olafur Eliasson exhibition. Before we headed into the show we popped down to the banks of the Thames so see if there were any photo opportunities. These chains hanging down from a boardwalk seemed just perfect. But the most important question is: do you prefer Christopher Wren’s cupola or those of my beautiful friends?