I’ve been photographing “House Of Cards” author Michael Dobbs, who is also Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party Lord Dobbs of Wylye. All-round nice chap and a very interesting day.
I’ve been shooting a few newspaper assignments over the summer. Mostly it’s been portraits as it often is working for the dailies (around 90% of all assignments are portrait related when working in the newspaper industry). It’s always interesting meeting new people and trying to create something in a limited space as well as time with a few, simple remedies. Often the only thing you have available to create something special is light, and in that way it’s one of the purest forms of photography. Not that I’m particularly good at shooting portraits, but I do enjoy it!
Firstly I shot a series at the British Library of a Polish artist couple, Malgosia and Jakub. They showed me a secret garden at the top of the library which was amazing but I promised Malgosia not to tell anyone about it, so can’t say any more I’m afraid.
A week later I went to West London and met with Kasia and her daughter and did a series of them for an article about why immigrants (me included) chose to stay in London instead of going back home.
Finally I went on the hardest assignment so far this year. It was for a story about one of the so-called “transition towns” that are shooting up all over Britain. Smaller towns trying to prepare themselves for another recession by becoming economically self-proficient so they won’t be depending on outside resources for survival (no, we’re not talking doomsday preppers here, simply straight thinking ordinary folks trying to create a bit of balance in the system). This sounded like a dream assignment as there ought to be plenty to shoot, but unfortunately it was also one of those assignments that just didn’t work out because of timing. None of the projects were up and running when I arrived and many wouldn’t be for the next couple of years as it’s all about long-term investments. No matter, I’ll be back to shoot this again. This is what I got (and yeah, I am very pleased with the dog)…
I’ve recently begun teaching a short course at London College of Communication.
I’ve always loved to teach but this is the first time where I’m leading the students through from the beginning to the end and it amazes me how much I learn from them and their progress each time. I love the connection that you get with the students as you share the world of photography through their work as well as through the historical representation of imagery.
It’s great to see students who come from a non-photographic background suddenly finding a voice of their own and create beautifully photographed stories with amazing storytelling as well.
Up until now they’ve covered subjects through their work ranging between everything from Jewish minorities, mans impact on nature, the notion of Home and the pugs role in British culture. Wow…
Here’s a selection of images from the course.
One of the main things we work with on the course is the development and execution of a personal story chosen by each student. We try to help each other develop this story and to find new approaches to the storytelling, locating right formula for each documentary project. The number one thing I try to teach is that it’s all about the storytelling!
Matthias Brücke’s story of Roehampton is a good example of this. A housing project there once build as a futuristic dream of togetherness now stands as a symbol of a time there once was…
The next course starts the 2nd of September at LCC and you can find the course description here.
“The depth of the Syrian tragedy is poignantly reflected in the accounts of its victims. Their harrowing experiences of survival detail grave human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The destructive dynamics of the civil war not only have an impact on the civilian population but are also tearing apart the country’s complex social fabric, jeopardizing future generations and undermining peace and security in the entire region.”
Report of the independent international commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic
United Nations General Assembly
Human Rights Council
Agenda item 4
We tend to see the frame as the image itself, objectifying the photograph instead of looking through it to understand.
Often our imagery is produced by highly educated “seers” as a product of a civilisation that have been taught to view the world in a singular way.
These Polaroid’s are shot in and around Syria in 2012/2013 and are all relating to the ongoing conflict. Each Polaroid have been exposed as well as composed correctly, but the exposed negative has never been removed from the photographic paper.
Right after the moment of exposure the Polaroid has been handed over to people present in the situation with a request for them to write on the back of the picture. No direction or explanation of what to write has been given, this has been left completely up to the individual.
“At 5 am we woke up to the sound of a helicopter that then fired a rocket.”
“Bab al Salameh – Door of Peace”
“This is the body of a woman killed by a grenade that hit her home and thereby killing a mother of seven children.”
“Abu Jamil, rocket warrior.”
Here’s an extract from my latest project from Syria that should be ready for publication within the next two months.
Broken Boy Soldiers
A dark, starless night wraps its arms around us. We are floating in its deep, black nothingness and only the white reflective lines on the asphalt road caught in the one surviving headlight reveals our movement. We are rapidly being absorbed into the Syrian night, removing our self with increasing speed from the relative normality that comes with the Turkish border.
It’s been a while since we last passed the burning oil drums marking the start and end of cities, all revealing bearded faces of city elders that peer out of the darkness, the red warmth of the fire reflecting in their eyes. They stop us: Who are we? Or more importantly, who are we not? The two people in the front seats are well known faces on these roads so we continue onwards.
Momen and Yahoo are members of the Tawheed Brigade and fights for the revolution. Yahoo is 21 years old and experienced. He used to be a fighter, but due to his technologic abilities, he is now in charge of media and communication. Yahoo is driving the car. Moomen is 16 and carrying the Kalasnikhow. They are best friends.
A few hours earlier, walking down the main street of the Turkish border town Reyhanli, I stopped at a street stall selling army fatigues and belts for ammunition. I had recognized a black nylon vest with pockets on the front and back large enough to hold AK47 magazines and grenades.
This type of vest is the highest fashion among the rebels along with the black headscarves that carry the Shahaada (Muslim declaration of faith) in white writing.
A couple of men come up and look at the headscarves. With their long white robes and full-grown beards they are as foreign as me. They smile and I smile back. They are here to join the rebels and crossing over the border today. They ask me to come with them, but to their disappointment I politely decline and explain that I already have made arrangements. We wish each other safe travels and as I turn the corner I find my Syrian contact waiting for me.
As we approach the border barrier on foot I see a sea of faces through the metal bars marking the end of Turkey. A policeman stands blocking a small opening in the gate, not letting anybody in. We sneak behind a truck and walk up to the guard with our heads down. My friend grabs my arm and starts to press through the opening. The officer barely notices us. He’s too busy keeping the many Syrians out of Turkey to notice anybody trying to get in. Why would he?
This is the first time I’ve been smuggled over a border and I can feel the adrenalin pumping. The contrast of this other territory hits me immediately when we enter…
Stay tuned for the publication of the full story shortly.
In light of the recent protests spreading from Istanbul and through other major cities in Turkey I found it fitting to re-post this blog entry from my latest visit in December. Reading through this story again, this time seen in the light of the recent unrest, gives me a new understanding of my experiences back then.
I hope that you will have the same experience. Here goes…
Istanbul is a Feeling, an Impression and a Steppingstone
The first time I was here I was 12. Memories of smog, crowds, kebab and an incomprehensible wait for the telephone to connect to my mom in Denmark are left behind and 19 years later it’s a different city. The calls for prayer and the scent of apple tobacco are still the same but now they float through streets occupied by men in cravats and women with and without hijabs lunching at trendy cafes next to designer shops and photo galleries showcasing the latest from the international art scene.
As the plane approaches the airport it is increasingly clear to me that this is a metropolis with a responsibility. A responsibility to keep two parts of the world together so they don’t drift too far from each other, but also a responsibility to keep them separate so we still can tell them from us and us them.
Bosphorus is the name of the strait that cuts through the giant. With a head in one part of the world and a body in another the strait is like an aorta that pumps life into the Turkish economy as well as to the oil market in Europe via tankers full of the black Russian gold.
Also for the individual Bosphorus is a vein of life. All along the many kilometers of coastline couples promenade while local fishermen sells their catch of the day. Tivoli’s offer entertainment while small ferries sail back and forth non-stop, working as needle and thread tying these two continents together.
While the empty bottles on the table in front of me goes from one to two, ships slowly drift by in the night. Across the strait thousands of lights waver and then disappear one by one as we pass midnight. A new day is coming and one thing is for sure. Istanbul is neither Asian nor European, Istanbul is it’s own.
As we are coming up to the five year mark of one of the worst natural catastrophes in our time, I thought I would revisit my work from the 2008 earthquake that hit the Sichuan province in China.
I was visiting China with journalist Lisa Ioannou as we were working on a story about industrial pollution and it’s impact on newly born babies.
We were in the middle of checking in to a hotel many hundred kilometres away from the epicentre when the highrise began to sway. It only lasted for a few minutes and afterwards we were laughing with the locals in the street, relieved that it was over and there were no harm done.
Little did we know of the horror and incredible tragedies that were playing out simultaneously in the neighbouring region.
An estimated 68.000 lives were lost.
I was commissioned to shoot another series of images for Danish newspaper Information recently.
This story is about young, well educated southern Europeans emigrating to northern Europe in the search for jobs. Me and journalist Mette Rodgers had a chat with Sofía Vieira, Roberto Cacabelos Bote, Tamara Guerrero Feijóo and Raquel Vazquez Santos, a group of friends that have left Spain to try their luck in London.
Here’s a selection.