The great day (Tuesday, 15 November) has arrived. This evening, Jacquie and I will be at the presentations and awards of the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize 2016 at the National Portrait Gallery. The three winners know who they are but not in what order. It must be really knicker-gripping hoping that it's your portrait that gets the £15,000 cheque for the first prize.
I do not know the format of the evening other than we shall be served celebratory drinks and be viewing the exhibits. For me, it's been incredibly exciting, not only to have had my image selected but for it to have used for the exhibition catalogue cover, postcards and I understand it features prominently on the banner outside the National Portrait Gallery and publicity posters. If that were not enough, the first image up on the NPG website is the one taken by yours truly. Here's the link: http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/twppp-2016/exhibition.php
Wednesday, we are at the NPG again for the Press View. That'll be interesting.
So, what does it all mean? For me, it is a wonderful opportunity to represent the enthusiast photographer with just a camera, no assistant, no studio or lighting, no planning or preparation, just curiosity and hard pavement pounding. Don't get me wrong, last year's winner was a superb study of five teenage girls, exquisite lighting, expertly, planned, arranged and executed. Stunning. Mine took less than 3 minutes to shoot and that's what has given me a kind of warm glow.
These days, it feels like the number of barber shops in Brick Lane is beginning to outnumber the curry houses. Perhaps this is as a result of, if you will excuse the pun, the growth of beards. Half way down the street there is a new shop, Jack the Clipper, whenever I pass, there is rarely an empty chair. Then there's a newish walk-in on the corner of Fashion Street where the scissor wielders look like heavies and sport huge tattoos.
Everywhere one looks, you'll see the hirsute. The current fashion for facial hair goes something like this. Well covered chin and cheeks, preferably with a slight ginger tinge, fairly sleek and not too luxuriant at the sides with decent growth on top. For maximum effect, worn with skinny black jeans, black T-shirt and long pointed shoes. All combined with a special kind of demeanour that says “I’m hip even if there are hundreds more just like me". I think they are called hamsters but I'm not sure about that, confirmation required.
Elsewhere, there is a traditional Bangladeshi barber shop also near Fashion Street, where I suspect that the prices are a fraction of those in places frequented by the hamsters.
Now to the point. I've been inspired by the late, great New York photographer, Saul Leiter and trying to capture splashes of red, views from under awnings, views through the windows of cars and vans. It's hopeless of course trying to reach Saul's levels of creativity but I am going to persevere. I tried to snap the Bangladeshi barber in action through the shop window, but he waggled his fingers indicating no! I waved back, smiled and moved on. The next occasion, I looked through the window, smiled and gave him the thumbs up sign - and moved on. On the third occasion, he had a client in the chair, pointed at me with my camera, the client turned towards me, gave me a friendly stare and 'click'!
I belong to a photography forum where members can discuss more or less anything photographic and post images for discussion. One member, let's call him Fred, is a prolific and very good street photographer. When it comes to captioning and giving descriptive titles, Fred believes that the viewer should strike his or her own opinion and interpretation of the shot and not be influenced by the naming of the image by the photographer.
I have some sympathy for that view but I believe that there are occasions when the photographer can draw attention to certain aspects of the image and engage the viewer more fully. Much of today's photography is ephemeral, hardly given a glance and quickly forgotten. I want to entice you in, make you work a little and think about the above image. The young man is called Chancelvy, I could have just used his name for the title but I want to draw your attention to the tiny posy in his beard. Is it an affectation or is there more of a story that will retain your attention?
As the title suggests, the flower was affectionately placed by a five year-old by the name of Perle. Who is Perle and why did she place the flower where she did. Are you intrigued and is there scope for further speculation? Giving you all the information would surely shorten your involvement.
On the other hand, (think Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof) do you feel that the young man's name would suffice? Let me know.
Welcome to the first of my posts during Photomonth 2016 (2016.photomonth.org/) What I hope to do is to introduce you to some of the people I meet as I meander along and around Brick Lane. This street has always been a transit point, The Huguenots came to escape persecution in their native France, Jews from eastern Europe arrived in their tens of thousands, today there is little sign of either community having lived here. The evidence of the Bangladeshi community is everywhere but one sees the relentless march of gentrification as curry houses are sold and replaced by exotic outlets selling delicious but very expensive chocolate.
I digress, so, please let me introduce you to Bea, short for Beatriz. Our paths first crossed a few years ago when Bea was distributing leaflets for 'Blitz', one of the larger vintage clothes shop along Brick Lane.
Originally from Granada, southern Spain, these days Bea runs her own vintage stall in the basement of the Old Truman Brewery. Full of fun, smiles and whacky poses, it's always a pleasure to meet this charming girl and be shown her latest tattoo. I hope she stays, I'll miss her if she succumbs to the undoubted pull of her very beautiful home town.