New portraiture

New portraiture

I have been working for the Lewes District Council on a series of portraits of people who live and work in the District. The aim is to show the diversity of the area, focussing on people who lead interesting or unusual lives. What fun for me, then, to track down possible subjects and photograph them in their surroundings.

I have set up a new gallery on my website specifically for environmental portraits. You can find them all here.

This is Ruth Rose. She leads a group of year-round swimmers called the Seaford Mermaids who swim from the beach 365 days a year, no matter the weather.

Ruth is 86 and claims her exceptional good health is due to her passion for the cold water sea bathing she has been doing for years.

Please get in touch if you have an event, a celebration or a portrait you would like to have photographed.

Blessing the boat

Blessing the boat

You may remember that the Lewes Pilot Gig Club featured in my photo of the week a couple of months ago. At the time, the club was using a rented boat while saving money to buy their own. Enough money finally accrued and the boat was duly delivered to a group of very happy rowers. A ceremony was organised to bless the new vessel on the auspicious day of Good Friday, Moon Beltane and the full moon. Priestess Melissa Corkhill performed the ceremony with specially collected water that each club member used to anoint the gig while casting their wishes for the future of it and the club.

The event began with the Skull Drummery Bonfire drummers, followed by the blowing of a conch shell and finished up with the rousing singing of sea shanties. As one of the club members (who doesn’t live in Lewes) said to me, you just can’t get more Lewes than that. More photos of the boat naming ceremony and other celebrations can be found here. More photos of gig rowing can be found here.

Please get in touch if you have an event, a celebration – or even a boat blessing – that you would like to have photographed.

The carousel that made people happy

The carousel that made people happy

Once upon a time there was an amusement park on the edge of a beautiful lake where people came to be happy. They arrived from far and wide to ride the roller coaster and fly in the space rockets. They loved getting scared in the Laff in the Dark, laughing with Laffing Beulah and having their fortune read by the gypsy Esmeralda.

At the very centre of the park the best of all the rides was a carousel of beautiful horses that rode round and round to the sound of the Wurlitzer organ. The horses wore flowers and feathers and armour, their manes flew and their nostrils flared as they pranced and jumped.

The man who owned the park had a daughter. This little girl loved being at the park and going on the rides that made people happy. Most of all she loved the carousel. Every day she visited her favourite horse, the one with the golden rosette and flowers on her blue harness, and rode her to the sound of the organ music.

After many years the park closed its gates and the rides that made people happy were shut down. All except the carousel, which was placed in a city park where it continued to be ridden and to make people happy.

Many, many years later, when the little girl had become an old woman, her daughter took her to see the carousel and ride on her favourite horse. The carousel did its job once more and made them both very happy.

My mother’s family owned Meyers Lake Park in Canton, Ohio, for over 50 years. When the park closed in 1974, the historic Stein and Goldstein carousel was moved to Bushnell Park in Hartford, Connecticut, where it continues to be ridden by generations of children and adults. My mother had not seen the carousel for 40 years when we went to visit it last week. You can see more photos of this beautiful carousel here and find more information about Bushnell Park here.

Do you know what gig rowing is?

Do you know what gig rowing is?

This week’s photo is a small glimpse into the world of gig rowing, a sport I have only recently discovered. Pilot gigs originated in Cornwall in the 18th century as shore-based lifeboats. Manned by six rowers and a coxswain, they are rowed and raced along the British coast and further afield, with the number of clubs totaling less than 100 worldwide. The new Lewes gig club is now a member of this small group.

I joined only a few weeks ago but am already a devotee. We row on a small local lake, but also on the tidal River Ouse that flows through Lewes and on the open sea. A noticeable element of the club is the strong sense of working together, both on the water and on shore. A gig can’t move forward unless the crew arecompletely in sync. This sense of teamwork is mirrored in the camaraderie and dedication of the members. You can find more photos here to see what gig rowing is all about.

300 years of history in one blacksmith shop

300 years of history in one blacksmith shop

I have been itching to photograph the Lewes Forge for years now, ever since I spotted it tucked away in a hidden corner off one of the most traffic-filled streets in town. By the time I got around to it, Ben Autie, the blacksmith, was ill and unable to work. Two years later and Ben is back and the forge is up and running full time again so I arranged a visit.

It was extraordinary to walk through a quiet courtyard and into a building that has been a blacksmithing site for 300 years. The main room has high ceilings and old whitewashed walls and is filled with equipment. Three huge bellows, now redundant, hang high up above the two forges. A large manual drill dating from the 18th century sits at the back of the room.

Two walls are covered with horseshoes, from when Lewes was a town with a racecourse and horses would line up on the road outside, waiting to be shod. Photographs of the former blacksmiths who worked here line one wall. And many dozens of pliers and hammers of varying shapes and sizes hang in convenient places around the room.

The amazing thing is that, although this space is filled with history, it is a living, working forge. Ben is here five days a week, busy with sculptures, weathervanes, furniture and anything else he is commissioned to make out of iron. It is definitely not a museum, it is just a business with a lot of history. You can see the rest of the photos here. You can find more of my photographs of people at work here.

It was a banger of a night

It was a banger of a night

So, the Lewes Bonfire celebrations have come and gone for another year. It was a warm, dry night and the town was buzzing with spectators lining the High Street, lots of fire everywhere and costumed, torch-bearing people marching through the centre. As a photographer, it is a rewarding, but very challenging, subject matter, what with the extremes of light and dark, the continuous movement of the procession and the jostle of the crowds. Then there are the bangers. They are loud, they are very bright, and they hurt if they hit you. (I admit to being a bit scared of them).

Which leads me to my photo of the week of a string of Chinese firecrackers being let off. I am pleased and just a little surprised by it. First of all, the change in light is obviously very sudden when something is exploding, making it difficult to meter for, but also I know I was probably hiding behind other bystanders when I took it. In addition, I am amazed that my camera was able to record something so extreme. What I like most about it, though, is that it captures a moment in time that the eyes cannot see in real life, which is one of the joys of photography. You can find more of my Lewes Bonfire photographs here.

BREAKING NEWS: I am very pleased to announce that my photograph of the Stephen Lawrence Trust Centre came second place in its category at the Event Photography Awards 2019. You can read more about it here.

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