Last year my husband and I visited Cambridge for the first time to meet with friends and I bought this roll of T-Max film at a small shop there. Then sometime in Spring we ventured to Dedham in the heart of Constable Country where we took a long walk along the river Stour and I got to meet some new friends. These were shot with my Nikon FM2, a handy camera from the 80′s that I take with me when I don’t want to carry a lot of gear.
A substantial portfolio of work by photographer Angus McBean will be auctioned off next month in Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk.
The collection contains images of famous and noteworthy people including screen legends Marlene Dietrich, Vivien Leigh, Katharine Hepburn (my personal favourite) and Laurence Olivier, as well as musicians Shirley Bassey and the Beatles, who used McBean’s photo for their first album ‘Please Please Me’ in 1963.
Along with the photographs, a visitor book containing more than 1,000 signatures of visitors to McBean’s studio will be sold, making some autograph collector extremely happy (seriously, TS Eliot and Agatha Christie both signed his book).
McBean began his career designing scenery and creating masks for theatrical productions before he began to pursue photography. He opened his studio in 1935 and the work he produced was influenced by the Surrealist movement of the twenties. McBean soon became known for his dramatic and often exaggerated photographs.
After photographing British theatre stars from his roles as official photographer for the Royal Opera House and the Old Vic, McBean retired to Debenham to open an antique business, though he came out of retirement for a few years before he died in 1990.
I hadn’t heard of McBean until I saw this piece about him in our paper last month. I quickly went online and looked through his images. I quickly fell in love with McBean. It wasn’t his theatre photographs that did it, or his photograph of starlets or even the Beatles. Instead, it was his self-portrait Christmas cards- especially the one where he is dressed as Neptune from 1938. I also loved McBean’s 1950 Christmas card featuring him in a fish tank using simple trickery, but impressive for the time.
The auction, by Lacy Scott and Knight in Bury St Edmunds, will be held on 12 April, with the collection being sold in 200-300 different lots.
I started my proper Friday (that means I don’t have to work the weekend) by heading out to Harwich, which is right on the coast. New York has the Holland Tunnel, Harwich as the Holland Ferry!! Seriously it only takes about six hours and you could be driving past tulip fields and windmills.
I was sent to the Quay (in the UK its pronounced Key and is a pier or a wharf) to photograph the RSPB’s (that’s the Royal Society for Protection of Birds) Barge to Birds trip. Bird watchers got to board a 117 year-old barge called Victor and view the wildlife on the Stour Estuary.
Unfortunately I didn’t have a whole day to spend on the barge so I got there early to shoot people on the pier watching for the barge and then its arrival. Someone informed me that a fisherman was feeding a seal and me being a sucker for sea mammals put on my long lens to take some shots.
After Victor set sail I headed over to the boat moored by the steps up to the pier and I introduced myself to James and Ray who were the fishermen feeding Sally the Seal, who is a regular visitor to the Quay.
They offered to let me try my hand at seal feeder and I correctly asked “permission to board,” which impressed them by my knowledge of sea conduct (or my knowledge of cliche sea terminology from over watching TV).
I love seeing wildlife in their natural habitats, like Fred the tortoise in my mom’s back yard, or the alligator that lived in the fenced in pond in front of my high school (yes I’m serious).
They said they hadn’t had a good few days out because of the weather, but that didn’t them from filling Sally’s stomach. She was so full up, they said, that she started being picky about which kind of fish she ate letting the others drift to the bottom of the quay.
You could see the look of disinterest in her eyes when the guys offered her something she didn’t want. It was incredibly amusing and by far my favorite assignment (well it wasn’t actaully my assignment but I wouldn’t of been there if it hadn’t of been for my assignment) of the week.
Last week I was assigned to photograph the opening of a new child and adolescent mental health centre in Colchester. It was like most opening ceremonies with a plaque hidden behind a curtain waiting to be unveiled, a room full of local dignitaries chatting with local business people and several members of the press on their smart phones figuring out what’s next.
Standard right? Yes until British Olympian Rebecca Adlington walks in. Of course we knew she’d be there because any good p.r. department loves to capitalize the exposure a high-profile individual brings. She didn’t have any connection to the centre itself, but her sister’s harrowing near-death experience when she contracted Encephalitis when she was only 17 years-old. (Coincidentally, this is the disease that killed several people in and around my hometown in the nineties. It was carried by mosquitoes, which ruined a Halloween because of a curfew to avoid the nights when the critters are the worst.)
Rebecca was quite sweet and seemed shy but undaunted by the cameras. Our little crowd must be like nothing after the coverage she had this summer. After she and the centre’s namesake drew open the curtain and posed with the plaque, she was whisked into a room down a long secure hallway and the pressed queued outside for an interview.
My reporter had already asked me to take her photo while she interviewed Rebecca so I clicked away in the room as three men stood behind us a bit awkwardly. We found out that it was Rebecca’s first time in Essex (insert fake tan jokes here).
I felt like a nerd but I asked Aimee the reporter to then take my photo with Rebecca and Rebecca was really sweet about it. I even told her it was going on my blog! OH what a geek I am! So now I’ve kept my promise and here is my brush with an Olympian.
Just along from the Sizewell nuclear power station the road dead ends at Sizewell Gap, a tiny fishing village that was ideal for smuggling two centuries ago. The Coast guard had a base and living cottages on the gap to deter smugglers, which are now havens for artistic types. The power plant looks down on the gap from a cliff where a mansion used to dominate over the beach and a guest accommodation called the Gap House. The mansion was torn down to make way for Sizewell A in the early 70’s but the Gap House remains and has since had neighboring homes attached.
The Gap House has been home to a fisherman named Noel for over fifty years. Noel wakes up every morning at six and takes out his blue fishing boat that usually is pulled up on shore with a few other boats. He comes back ashore around ten with his catches of the day, which he then prepares and sells from his house. He doesn’t advertise because he doesn’t need to and he does pretty well for himself. He likes the power plant because it keeps the village small. He wouldn’t want it to turn in to another Aldeburgh or Southwold.
I photographed Noel for an assignment called “In the shadow of Sizewell.” He was very comfortable in front of the camera and I really enjoyed photographing him on his boat. I wanted to stay longer; I wanted to follow his fishing day with my lens. But we don’t get that opportunity at my paper. Where I would have been encouraged to follow any story at papers in the states, here I’m expected to take only the photos the reporters ask for and usually only a fraction of those get used. It’s a frustrating system but I do get to photograph a lot of amazing people so for that I am grateful.
Unfortunately I can’t show any of my photos I took on that day but I shall provide a link as soon as they are published in the paper.
It’s not often that a product comes along that makes me want to pry open my wallet to spend money to help produce the item instead of purchasing one for myself. The Impossible Instant Lab is a Kickstarter initiative by the folks over at the Impossible Project that allows you to take a photo on your iPhone, with the Impossible app, and the device transfers the image, with a wizarding spell of some sort, and viola! Your digital photo slowly develops like any normal Polaroid. The device looks like a SX 70 Polaroid camera but the “tower” expands out and a cradle is used to attach the iPhone.
I have mixed feelings about using digital technology to make an analog product mainly since I don’t want it to devalue my old, cherished Polaroid cameras. But then I think it doesn’t matter because I have to have it! I do love what these guys do for instant photography. They bought an old Polaroid factory where they will be producing the Instant Labs, which can only add to the authenticity of the product. Well, at least as authentic as a fake Polaroid can be right?
I can’t actually review the product since it hasn’t really been made yet but I can only hope that it will be an amazing addition to my burgeoning Polaroid family.
*This is a new section of my blog where I can talk about some of the interesting things I get to see and do as a photojournalist. I’m lucky to have a job where I get to go a lot of places that the general public doesn’t have access to and I also get to meet ordinary people with extraordinary stories. The flip side is that I also see things the general public doesn’t want to see or I meet alarming, offensive and unpleasant individuals or groups. Therefore specifics shall be omitted unless I have a rave review of someone or something and then only with their permission.
My first ASSIGNMENT OF THE WEEK was last Thursday when I photographed a woman at her home where she keeps her mobile petting zoo animals. At first I was a bit dubious as to how a petting zoo could be kept in a suburban area but she had a really nice set up in her back garden. She had a Chinchilla, an amazing Raccoon Dog (yes that is a real animal similar to a fox but it was basically a dog as it lives with a Golden Retriever), a Python, a Hedgehog and, ready for this, BABY MEERKATS!! Okay I’m a little excited about this.
I have never actually seen Meerkats except from a far in a zoo and I didn’t realize they were that tiny when they were small. The women had just acquired the baby sisters and had to keep them indoors until they were socialized. When I asked what her most popular petting zoo animal was she said by far it was her Raccoon Dog but now she thinks it will be the Meerkats. I have to wonder if their popularity has anything to do the pervasive Compare the Meerkats commercials that hawk adorable stuffed mammals to help sell insurance.
Regardless of the reason for their popularity, I fell in love with the critter as is evident in this photo.
—I have been a photojournalist for over a decade in the US, Scotland and now in East Anglia and I have photographed almost every possible subject from presidents to post mortems. What I love most about my job is that I never know what to expect when I arrive to photograph an assignment.
While working a day shift last Saturday, my first assignment was to photograph the open day at the East Anglian Sailing Trust in Levington Marina where the Paralympic flame was expected. After photographing the sailors taking out disabled individuals and their family onto the River Orwell, I went back up to the trust’s building to await the flame.
I was greeted half-way by Chris Dawson, an individual attending the flame ceremony who offered me a chance to do something I’ve waited a decade or more to do. Chris said “I have a helicopter. I can take you up if you want to get some aerial photos.”
“Yes Please!” was my reply. I have worked for six newspapers, a few magazines and freelanced for many clients and every single time a chance for a trip up in a plane or helicopter came up, it went to other photographers due to seniority or scheduling issues.
I told Chris “This is something on my Bucket List” as I hopped in. He said I was the most relaxed first time passenger he’d ever had and I told him it’s because I love new experiences. My head was up in the air the rest of the day as I told every single person I met about my experience.