Today is one of my photography days and it’s going to be a busy one. But I’m feeling pleased with myself, having finished off some vital admin this morning, and it’s not even half past 9! No rest for me though, as I must complete some editing for a recent job, and to end the day, I am looking forward to a shoot this afternoon with a lovely repeat client. In many ways, things might still feel tenuous out there, but businesses do seem to be picking up and I am definitely open! So do get in touch if you are planning to update your website and looking for new photography.
In the meantime, here is an image I look last week when I was off for a few days and we visited the coast – I’ll admit, I could have spent way more time down there!
We love a winter walk and are fortunate enough to live close to several open spaces in or very near to South London. Just before sunset this afternoon, we traipsed about Richmond Park and almost ended up being locked in! Worth it though for these images. Incidentally, the yellow gloves were for magnet fishing – it’s a thing, apparently! (c)SJField2019 (click on individual images)
I had so much fun yesterday doing a portrait shoot with a very old friend of mine from university days. Actor and director James Nickerson has always made me laugh and yesterday was no different.
Our shoot started in a local, proper old-fashioned pub that has yet to be homegenised and plasticised. I think our starting venue came as bit of a surprise to James, but I really like the lighting as well as the vibe in there and I’m sure James was rather pleased to start the afternoon off with a pint. The landlord was welcoming and jolly accommodating too – thank you!
I’m sure our location is not the only reason James relaxed into it so quickly — something to do with being professional, experienced and the fact that we know each other might also have played a part, but it was just such a joy to work with someone who wasn’t prone to tantrums, demanding of regular bribes of chocolate and who didn’t have eager parents standing around saying, “If you don’t smile, Father Christmas won’t come!” (Never that helpful, by the way…) Having concentrated on children and families for a bit, that is the sort of thing I have become used to.
Just before Christmas James and I had met and we hadn’t seen each other for years and years so had lots of catching up to do. We had a good laugh about all sorts and I brought him up to date on the tale of woe of my somewhat disastrous marriage/divorce. Which took us onto the subject of Internet dating.
A good friend who shoots weddings had suggested I sign up to an online dating site as a large proportion of her clients meet that way. Since I am no mood to get married again this century, I think I might be avoiding the site she suggested. And I know I’m too old and somewhat disinterested for another site that I’ve heard is really all about instant gratification. I asked James’ advice and he said, don’t bother; you meet too many weirdos on the Internet. Then he told me about some of his friends’ dates, which all sounded very unappealing, I must say.
I remember reading an article in the Guardian suggesting that you should try to avoid being too honest about yourself when you sign up. This particular article was written by a women whose male friend told her she came across as too successful, too intelligent and basically rather daunting for any potential male suitors. So, this is where I have a big problem with the idea of Internet dating, even though I know so many people do meet that way nowadays. (In fact, a potential client of mine told me he and his future wife met via the Guardian. He went that route, he said, because at least he could more or less guarantee anyone he met would have similar political ideas to him.)
My problem really lies with the ‘not really being yourself’ aspect to it all – oh, and the meeting weirdos bit too. Given that I have spent my entire adult life trying to find out who ‘myself’ is and then trying be that person, I think I’d find it all a bit bothersome and annoying. And I’m really not sure it would do to start my little online dating career with the following:
“Woman: slightly moody, often neurotic and definitely needy, but also bizarrely distant and fiercely protective of time alone; occasionally rather slovenly but highly censorious about anyone else’s mess; probably quite intelligent and not really up to pretending otherwise in order to flatter any fragile male egos; no money to speak of; three brats in tow; rather cross and peculiar ex-husband lurking in the background.
Seeks man: Well, maybe she does and maybe she doesn’t;
who isn’t a sociopath and washes properly.”
Yeah… I’m not sure my Internet dating life has any legs…
James did come up with another idea though. Do a long-term project where I go on Internet dates and do a portrait of each one, then write about them on a special blog. “So,” James advised, “You’d tell them, no ongoing dating or sex or anything like that – ‘I just want to take your photograph’’. You see, James is just funny! He did make me laugh – thank you, James, and thanks for being such a brilliant person to work with.
So here they are. I’ve popped little notes about lighting etc. underneath for anyone who is interested.
All photographs (c)Sarah-Jane Field 2015
Thanks to the Grosvenor Arms on Garrett Lane in Wandsworth for being so welcoming.
I suspect this will my final blog post before the New Year. I can’t quite believe the old year is nearly over – what happened, where did all that time go?
Son No 3 is really no longer a baby – there is no denying it anymore. He had his hair cut this week and he looks like a proper little boy now. His naughtiness levels have shot up exponentially all of the sudden too.
It’s his table manners that are most alarming. Two minutes into any meal he stands up on his chair and holds his arms out to me saying, “I want you”.
“Sit down and eat,” I say.
“I want you!” I eventually give in because despite the fact I am trying to eat and it’s irritating having him on my lap while I do so, it’s more irritating having him standing there wailing and not finishing or even starting his meal.
When I offer him his plate he might push it away or even slap me in the face for daring to suggest something so audacious. I suppose it all makes sense to a two year old.
Son No.2 has an even worse emerging habit. He seems to think it’s very funny to stand up on his chair in the middle of supper and take his trousers down for absolutely no reason. The other boys think it’s too funny, of course. There are times when I would like to pick up the ketchup and squirt it at Son No 2’s face from across the table, but I’m guessing that would just heighten the sense of chaos and the mother is probably meant to resist the urge to join in with general juvenile anarchy.
Currently at mealtimes Son No 3 is really only interested in discussing what he might be getting for Christmas. Oh! There, I’ve said the Christmas word so I guess I ought to say a little more about it now.
I love Christmas. I love the presents, the lights, the food, the mulled wine, the excitement. I love the tree and the smell of old decorations and spices, and the presents – oh yes, I’ve said presents already haven’t I? I really love the table cloth with a Christmas tree on it that my mother digs out each year, which she had as a child and which I remember from my own childhood. I love the bittersweet nostalgia that Christmas brings with it. I really look forward to the drinks and socialising and cheesy Christmas songs that make you feel warm and slightly icky at the same time. But, and it’s a fairly loud BUT, I cannot abide the fact that Christmas starts around about the 27th July thanks to the shops desperately needing us to start spending after whatever event failed to deliver their summer sales numbers. It drives me insane!
So, the boys try often to discuss what they want for Christmas from about the 27th July and I always say, “Not until the 1st December. I will absolutely and categorically NOT discuss Christmas until then, alright!”
“OK, Mum,” they groan.
I tried that line last week on about the 7th December and Son No 1 looked at me like I was an imbecile.
”You’re going to have to face it, Mum,” he said, “It’s December and Christmas has arrived!”
Tomorrow we will head out to buy our tree and I’ll drink some mulled wine while we (I) decorate it and listen to those cheesy songs (I’ve got a very well worn CD of them), although this is the first year where Son No 1 is so vocal about his musical likes and dislikes so I’m not sure how they will go down. Nope, I do know. He’ll hate them and try to insist on something much cooler.
I can’t help wondering how the boys will behave at Christmas lunch this year. The “I want you” phrase two minutes in after I’ve been cooking for hours is not going to go down well with me and if Son No 2 drops his trousers again I might force him to sit through the Queen’s speech. Son No 3 will hardly eat and be desperate to get back online for something or other, I’m sure. And my mother may have had a little too much wine. These are the realities of my life!
In any event, Christmas for me is about wrapping up time as the year comes to an end. And when it is wrapped, and has been transformed into the gifts that we give the people we like and love, we say good-bye to all that has past and make space for the new. Present giving is a universal and important human activity that cements and reaffirms relationships, family and otherwise. So, however you celebrate the festive period, I hope you and yours have a wonderful time and I’ll see you again in the New Year. xx
When do children start becoming adults? For a long time in our culture 21 was thought of as the beginning of fully fledged adulthood, although nowadays we are used to seeing 18 year olds vote and see any film they like as well as drink legally; young people can go to war and shoot people when they are 16 and they can babysit others from 14 or is it 12 – I think I remember a TV thing saying the law was pretty unclear on that one. In days gone by, and by that I mean before the 18th century, childhood wasn’t even considered a thing. Children were simply viewed as little adults. That’s what Hugh Cunningham tells me anyway in an interesting book, The Invention of Childhood, which ends with, “We certainly wouldn’t want to put our seven year olds up a chimney to clean it. But children could do these things. So fixated are we on giving our children a long and happy childhood that we downplay their abilities and their resilience. (…) and it probably does no-one a service”.
I mention this because I do like to encourage my children to do things for themselves. A couple of weeks back I asked son no. 1 to go up to the counter and order his own drink and snack along with a cappuccino for me. He did unfortunately get the whole order wrong and forgot my card number 3 times in 2 minutes even though I was sitting less than 2 meters from the till. The guy serving behind the counter was extraordinarily rude and suggested I do the ordering myself next time. I should have told him to bugger off but I’m far too polite so made a a joke and then sat there seething (got to get over that – just be rude back, Sarah-Jane!) It’s not like he was busy and I think it’s important for children to get used to doing these things, and more importantly not to grow up expecting everything to be done for them. For children to grow up with a sense of agency does everybody a service.
Like so much in life there is probably no definite point at which someone becomes an adult; instead it happens gradually over time and one day we wake up and find out that we are no longer children, even though we may still feel that we are from time to time (I certainly do). Son no. 1 is 10 and he is beginning to show signs of being terribly grown up, despite his calamitous food ordering. The other day when we were travelling on the Undergound across London he kept offering to help with the toddler’s buggy, ensured his younger brother got off the train while I dealt with my littlest and even agreed that the restaurant we adults chose was actually rather nice, despite the horribly vociferous reservations he and his friend had had earlier. A few weeks ago he went upstairs to where I had deposited son no. 3 after he’d poured juice all over the sofa on purpose, and when he came back down stairs he told me that his baby brother had something to say to me, at which point, the naughty toddler said, “Sorry, Mummy’. I was immensely proud of son no. 1 who behaved in a far more mature way than I had just done, yelling and cursing at the mess, or rather at the three small boys who made so much mess.
All these things may seems small and insignificant but when it’s something you’re totally unused to it’s an absolute wonder, and I am so pleased to see my son showing signs of growing into a decent human-being. However, it can be quite confusing for me and probably him too because these moments are interspersed with bouts of extreme childishness and emotional hysteria – “I hate you, what’s the point of you, I wish you’d never been born!” – (no, that isn’t me yelling, in case you’re wondering) just because I say no more computer (after some hours of computer) or that he’s eaten enough biscuits for instance. I am never quite sure who I’m dealing with; kind, thoughtful and terribly helpful young person or monstrous, berserk, hooligan. Quentin Blake’s wonderful Zagazoo gives a brilliantly accurate description of this process. Well worth getting hold of if you have young children as it’s a lot of fun for adults to read too.
It’s important to remember that our kids are capable of far more than we give them credit for and when I take photos of children I really enjoy getting them involved, allowing them to come up with ideas and generally be part of the process. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but when it does the kids are incredibly present in the images and that really goes a long way towards making a photograph that’s worth keeping.
This week I’ve posted an image of my boys during our trip during half-term to visit The Art of the Brick when son no. 1 behaved so well. Next week I’ll be sharing some lovely family shoots I’ve recently done. And jobs this month include a newborn and a christening so it’s all about the very beginning of the growing-up process. Don’t miss the cute baby shots to come!
I started this blog to promote my work as a photographer with individuals and families but if it hadn’t been for my own family, I may never have started obsessively taking photographs at all – I think this is a fairly common trend. I don’t tend to share photos of my children and looking through the recent shots from our holiday I felt this was a shame so I thought I’d occasionally do a little post specifically about my own children and family.