First Time in Drag

When I agreed to model for one my MUA (make up artist) friends, Cait - I didn’t quite know what I was letting myself in for. Yes I did, I’m so lying aha.

A couple of months ago my good friend Cait Owens (go check her out https://www.instagram.com/caitowensmua/ she’s amazing and you’ll see soon why) asked me to help her out in one of her final make up assessments for the year and being the top notch and always willing (little bitch) pal I am agreed without question. Now I can’t remember her exact brief but I feel it was down the line of, theatrical/androgyny, as during my session I was a strong she-man in a sea of David Bowies. 

Now when she mentioned it was going to be a drag look, I’m not gonna lie, I was incredibly intrigued. While I’d never had any massive urge to have my face caked in make up, stuff my shirt with chicken fillets and have a new ass carved out of Styrofoam, the notion did bring back memories of my 5 (10) year old self wanting to wear my Mothers dresses and shouting at the top of my lungs, “AM A LADY”, aha good lord. 

I had watched the BuzzFeed video, with the ‘Try Guys’, and it was actually hilarious, they all ended up looking so good and they all looked like they had a great time so why not - so I also had a little idea of the process I was letting myself in for, including the gluing back of my eyebrows to be replaced by finely tuned, non-beaver like ones.

So the morning of the test run for the make-up I hadn’t slept the night before, as my end of year graded piece was due that morning so I was fairly exhausted and irritable. None the less, I am a man (kinda) of my word and put on a brave face that was about meet a smorgasbord of makeup aha. I actually made a point of not looking in any mirrors while the make-up was being applied as I really wanted to see the transformation (little did I know how big a one it would eventually be) - it took just over an hour the first time, between me cringing when anything went near my eyes and the flash eyelashes - bleh. After the basic make-up was done, Cait escaped to grab me an array of lice ridden wigs for me to try and I eventually settled on the red.

I was actual flabbergasted. I wanted to date me. I think what took me by surprise was just how little like myself she looked - she being Miss Sylvia Liddel ahaha. That turned out to be my porn name but none the less, it sounded better than Gus Lammermoor. It wasn’t even that I had a face full of make-up, but between the conturing and other face shaping combination wig - I looked more feminine than ever and I didn’t even know that was possible. When I posted it on facebook/insta etc, some people didn’t even know it was me lorde. Props to Cait. 

 

When it came to the day of the actual photo-shoot, we’d gotten the makeup down to fine 45 minutes and me, looking like the image above, had to walk from one college building to another encountering countless folk on the way, and no one looked twice. amazing. I mean I was wearing a pair of Dior Sunglasses so most people just thought I was being ambitious with a bold lip aha. Our photographer for the day, Siobhan Morton, took very good control of the shoot allowing me to channel all the full blown feminine poses that Euan certainly couldn’t get away with, but Sylvia could. While I was satisfied with how the overall look went, I am a bit of a dedicated exhibitionist so finishing of the look with a cheeky complimentary heel, wouldn’t have gone a miss.

I honestly didn’t have that many reservations about doing it, like I don’t think I’m so comfortable with myself that I would do it super regularly or perform like others do. But to me it was just like a great, very elaborate game of dress up - with a professional MUA followed by a heavy duty photo session. It was just a great experience to see just how different you can act and look with the right equipment. And while I know the two aren’t really connected it kinda confirmed a few queries I had over those who go through sex change surgeries, it’s less about trying to conform to “social norms” and more about, like so many other things, allowing the outside you to comfortably represent the real you and the person you want people to see. I guess I felt slightly uncomfortable by what some people might have thought but future Euan definetely didn't want to end up saying "oh yeah I almost did drag once, but nah was worried what others would think".

I think everyone should do drag at least once. Feel fun and flirty for an hour or so.

Black & White (The Grey Area)

I always used to say “if there's not a lot of colour, don’t photograph it in colour”. 

I feel like now having a good understanding of when and why I would covert an image to black and white in photo-shop, since I primarily shoot in RAW (a file type which is conducive to good post processing) comes from being able to appreciate my motivations behind why I want to take a picture in the first place instead of the edit being an after thought - which often was and sometimes still is the case. 

A good friend Sarah, who writes a lifestyle blog - (00zero0.wordpress.com) - check her out,  and is an amateur photographer herself once told me “making an image black and white is a lot of the time just saving a bad image, unless it comes from like an old camera, whats the point?” - I agree with this sentiment a lot actually, I’ve been guilty of putting a monochrome edit onto an image simply because it didn’t “look as good” in colour - but it is kind of a cheats way out because in actuality it meant the lighting wasn’t good or I was trying to hide something I didn’t want the viewer to see. But for a lot of my photography friends monochrome is adapted into their style so much so that I see it a rarity to see them produce anything in colour. And a lot of clients will often ask for black and white images out of preference or as a chosen instagram filter. So what is it about Black and White photography that people connect with so much? 

Firstly and most importantly black and white photography has a lot of nostalgic connotations as it was - as expressed earlier - the only type of processing available for a long time when SLR’s were made available to the masses. We live in such a throwback society where nodding to a culture of the past is something people love and want to share whatever chance they get. I often play on this nostalgia when I am maybe recreating a look where analogue photography was used. A black and white portrait for example has the potential to convey a certain type of mood and is also a good way to neutralise an individuals profile depending on attire or the overall purpose of the image - referencing that of an actors headshot so that an employer is fixated on their actual appearance and anything else could be altered later - it perhaps puts everyone on a level playing field that way. Colour processing was also quite expensive before digital photography came on the scene in the mid 90’s so the b&w option was an affordable compromise. Now in your day to day selfie, a monochrome filter is used to “cure” that of an image where the lighting/general scene is maybe unpleasant in colour and diminishes some facial blemishes the (model/sitter) wants to de-emphasise from a viewer. Just gotta rake them likes in wherever possible. 

Also, it wasn’t until the mid 1970’s where colour became the more dominant processing of choice. A lot of street photography that existed during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s was monochrome and this is still used in street photography edits today to pay homage to this as black and white can actually turn what could initially be unflattering high contrast (due to the sun) and allow it become a quite striking and dynamic way to create beautiful line and shapes to an image. Black and white is also an excellent way to pull the viewers attention to the tone of an image, accentuating the shadows and highlights and allowing a viewer to stay connected to what exactly is happening in a scene instead of being distracted by colour which could vary unpleasantly (particularly if this is a candid street scene) where you have no control and are using your skill mixed with a high level of chance, especially if this is a series of images where the monochrome edit is critical in consistency within the collection. 

Additionally, a lot of fine art photographers play a lot with black and white in order to create abstract images or allow a scene to become more surreal than what colour would reveal, black and white can really accentuate texture in an image depending on how light falls onto subjects. I feel like it appeals to a lot of people’s creative nature because it just simply has a lot of artistic associations within the field it exists, like the emotion in Robert Doisneau work and the Punk feel to that of David Bailey’s.

 

Finally, there is little correlation between the constant visitation of black and white in that of photography and that of filmmaking. Today you will very rarely see a film made/shot in black and white, some filmmakers will often use vintage 35mm recording equipment as a nod to the past but this is still often in colour probably for mass appeal across demographics and then perhaps monochrome moving images can’t compete with black and white photography possibly because the action is always moving and the focus frequently shifts so there is no big profound creative aesthetic. In fact whenever I see black and white film sequences today, I get a very unsatisfied feeling as the quality is often “too good” for me to really associate it with the time in which it was originally utilised.  

I’ll admit there’s a lot of “over processing” in colour photography today that strains away from that of reality - but at least I know that there’s a little bit of believability that the colour could have been actually that way. I love black and white images and the kind of emotion that can resinate with a viewer, but for now at least I prefer to always shoot for colour when I and then play around with emotion behind that colour.

Writing this post, I think back to myself starting out just under 4 years ago and thinking, I’d never have believed there was so much associated with the decision of just hitting a b&w conversion button ahaha it just goes to show that nothings that black and white. 

 

(I’m Not a Terrorist) “Discrimination” in Photography, Learning to Understand your Rights

As a learning photographer who shoots on location quite regularly, if I’m doing a shoot - particularly with a model, with some quite heavy duty equipment and a team I’m not surprised we may attract some attention to ourselves, but thats just how it goes, it’s interesting to look at - you don’t see it everyday. However sometimes you can attract the attention of the wrong kind, people who want to make your job hard aha. 

Today, terrorism is on nearly everyones radar never mind the people who work at train stations, government buildings and privately owned properties. So when I’m informed I can’t shoot in a location for these reasons and I have to go through certain channels or I can’t use certain equipment etc, thats 100% fine - I’m not in the business of making people feel uneasy, even if someone on an iPhone could do significantly more damage than my “nice looking camera”, but I rest my case. 

But when I’m on what I presume to be public property, if someone wants to come ask me what I’m doing maybe out of security reasons and I provide my name, ID, place of study and reasons for being there thats fine too, but don’t flat out ask me to leave or make me feel like an inconvenience - that’s just rude. Freelance photojournalists run into these issues all the time and even sometimes get asked to delete images. However, under UK law its completely legal to shoot whatever you want wherever you want (within reason) provided its public domain. 

I’m not a Terrorist, I’m just an idiot with a camera, trying to take pretty photos

So as I mentioned in the previous blog post, me and my team were asked to leave the first location (Necropolis Cemetery, Glasgow) because we did not have permission to shoot “a model” on the grounds at that time. I remembered a similar incident which occurred a little under a year ago in the same place where I was assisting but I was under the impression it was because we were using quite "advanced looking" lighting equipment and there was a question over commercial use of the images. I just assumed in my head “yeno, its a known Glasgow attraction, open to the public, people take pictures all the time, people on morning jogs, some people are eating their god damn lunch and probably smoking in the bushes” (do they need some kind of special documentation?) so I didn’t have too many reservations about wanting to take a photo of a person, but I was mistaken. 

So after we explained we didn’t have our permission forms - but insisted on standing our ground - we attempted to have a conversation about why we weren’t allowed to shoot which was met by “this is council owned property and they could get sued” - which we all found slightly odd at the time but then after trying to explain we thought it was public property, they were very rude and condescending and basically told us they weren’t interested in what we had to say. To give them their due they did say had we applied for permission - and because we were students and it was non profit - we could have shot there for free - but it didn’t really help us at that point given that we were all only available that day. So after we gave up and decided to leave, we moved onto our next location and everything ran smoothly. But I was pissed. See if they had just been nice about it - maybe provided us with some legitimate reasons as to why we weren't allowed to work there and didn’t make us feel like such an inconvenience I would have just let it go. So me being me decided it would be a great idea to email the chair of the Necropolis. Basically I just told them what happened, how we were treated, expressed my confusion and what I would have to do/say to get permission? to which I got this reply, 

Now, while I appreciated their taking the time to get back to me, I would never have known that the cemetery was still “active” had they not told me. It mentions this nowhere online and I have heard from a multitude of sources that no one is buried there anymore including an episode of “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” - which was actually filmed at the Necropolis. Even had the officers bothered to explain this to us at the time the situation could have been avoided entirely, but no. I know everybody has day to day jobs to do and that we were just annoying kids running about with a camera, but we still deserved to be treated with decency. Sensitivity issues are a huge importance for me when it comes to my photography so I could understand not disrespecting people visiting graves etc, but this doesn’t change the fact that other people still go there essentially “for the fun of it” on a day to day basis, but the rules were different for us cause we wanted to take some photographs?

Also in regards to their comment of “perhaps you should come on a tour and learn more about the history not just use it as a convenient backdrop” - I was very well aware of the rich history surrounding the site, thats why myself and so many other creatives want to use it to inspire our work - it was never and will never be just a “convenient backdrop”. 

Quite a grey area on this, but I was annoyed. All in all as a student photographer what I take from the whole escapade is that you learn from your mistakes but never stop educating yourself about where and to what extent you can conduct yourself creatively. At the end of the day it’s always better to be organised and go through the proper channels but I have often over looked this for reasons of timing, others schedules and because sometimes places just don't get back to you. 

Honestly the moral of the story is don’t be so god damn rude to me. 

The bottom line is some people/organizations get annoyed when it comes to cameras - some like it, some don’t some are majorly offended out of some kind of personal agenda but at the end of the day all photographers want to do is capture moments in time to tell stories and give some visuals of modern day narrative. I'm not saying go into a shop or hotel lobby and kick up a fuss because they wont let you conduct a whole shoot there, thats a completely different matter entirely haha. However photography is an integral part of everyones lifestyle of today and that of history - we understand so much about the days of yesteryear through images like; style, fashion, street life and art, to name a few. Imagine telling someone 20 years from now “oh I didn’t document this because some people didn’t like it” - what a horrible reason. In all honestly I don’t really think it can really be defined as “discrimination” because I make these choices about where and what I want to do with my photography but its certainly weird injustices that occur when all I really want to do is learn and grow in my craft. 

 

First Photographer Collab

Whats the best way to bust out of a summer rut? Get an absolute stranger to dm you on insta and then before you know it you could be doing a photoshoot together.

While I’d been enjoying the quiet of my Summer after quite an eventful (stressful) few months in the run up to my HND course finishing, I wont lie in saying that apart from taking a few holiday snaps I’d missed the feeling of having my camera in my hands. So receiving a message from one Matt Reznek, a photographer from Vancouver, Canada (boldrezolution.com) - check him out, he’s super talented and creative I guess, like whatever - was exactly what I needed. We had been following each other on instagram for a while and he basically messaged me saying he was stopping over in Glasgow for a couple of days and was wondering if we’d like to shoot something together. Now the old Euan would have been all like “absolutely not, I have this guy fooled into thinking I’m quite good, I can’t let him see how I work and how I am and expose him to that amateur awfulness” but the New Euan was all like “aw yass, legitimate excuse to test drive my Canadian accent and maybe we’ll become best pals and he’ll take me back with him”. Honestly I just thought it would be a great new experience and so I was more than happy to help him out, but mostly it was to test drive my Canadian accent. 

Now in his mind he was guessing I’d show him around and maybe take a few snaps of the “lovely” Glaswegian sites but before I’d even got back to him I was contacting a model and make up artist ahaha. Luckily for me he’d already had a concept in mind in the same respects of his most recent shoot during a stop over in Iceland so I think he was really into it. I know if I ever wanted to do a shoot in a place I’d never been before I’d want people to go the extra mile for me and make it a valuable memory for me - which I hope I did for him (I mean probably not, he still had to bear our weather after all) 

I’d met up with Matt and his Sister, with whom he was visiting with, for a drink the day before the shoot just so it wasn’t super awkward the day of the shoot where nobody really knew each other. It ended up being a really great night getting to know them and their lives, something you don’t get to do very often meeting new people. I even found out we share a mutual love for cinema and theatre. Of course its me though and the evening couldn’t have been complete with me insulting their intelligence by assuming they didn’t understand what I thought was typical British terms like “dodgy” and “scran”. Plus it probably didn’t help that all I knew about Canada was that Justin Bieber came from there and they have Moose and Beavers aha, surprised they didn’t leave the bar. However once we got passed that it was also interesting to learn that Matt was self taught in photography and how our experiences differed given that I was studying it (a topic for another blog post)

Moving on to the day of the actual shoot, I’d acquired the amazing Model/Make-Up team of Mikala and Rhianonne to help on the shoot. Now Matt had planned the location for the shoot to take place at the Necropolis cemetery, now I had shot there before and assumed this wouldn’t be an issue, but as soon as we’d set up in the first spot we were approached almost immediately by two council officers asking us to show our permission slip - which of course we didn’t have. Now at first we tried to have a mature open conversation about the reasons behind why we couldn’t shoot there but they were not interested in listening to us and so we left before things just got messy (full story on this matter in part ii of this blog post). 

After leaving the Necropolis we quickly made the decision to relocate the shoot to Kelvingrove Park. I could tell Matt was slightly taken a back by what happened as I don’t believe he’s experienced being “chucked out” of anywhere before due to a shoot and so when he told me he slightly felt off his game, I wasn’t surprise and couldn’t really blame him - had I organised a shoot with people in a place I didn’t really know, I’d be worried too - but it wasn’t like anyones time was being majorly wasted or we were losing money so we just resolved the situation as quickly as possible. So we arrived at the Park and continued the shoot without a hitch, I was very aware it was really Matts shoot, as he would not have the opportunity to shoot here again and was his original vision so I came in after he got his stuff done for a few quick shots. During the shoot however I came to the realisation that this was the first time I was co-shooting on a session, same model, same location and same basic concept - so it was very interesting how we both worked with the model and utilised our surroundings and location to our stylistic advantage. 

Below are a sample of my final images,

and here are some of Matt's, 

After I worked my images I was very happy, but it was unusual seeing Matts and realising just how major the differences were - while mine were quite bold dynamic, vibrant colours and focused a lot on creating shapes - something you would expect more in an editorial. His images had a beautiful airy feel to them, I got much more of a story in his images with desaturated elements and minimal posing. There was something haunting and celestial about the scene in comparison to mine - I loved that. This once again proves that success in an image is more than just having a “good eye” or “nice equipment” but also having the ability to want to carry a style/concept through from the mood boards to the shooting, all the way through to the final edit. I often wonder what my style identity is and while I still think that this is still in development it was interesting to see how my bold, colourful style came through even though I thought me and Matt were on a similar wavelengths. 

All in all what I take away from the experience was that I got to share an experience and help out a really nice, creative guy. I’d spent a whole year learning how to say yes to more opportunities and new ventures so it was nice to see I hadn’t lost that during my summer break. I’d learned a lot of different things from my experience of meeting Matt and I hope this leads to more collaborative shoots in the future. 

 

 

(From C to A) Trusting Yourself and Your Ideas

I was going back and forth on what to write in this weeks blog post however this morning I woke up to see my certificate for my higher national diploma in Photography finally came through, finally closing the chapter on the first step in pursuing photography professionally. 

I’d mentioned on here before that the 2014-15 academic year post leaving high school was a challenging one for me. I had only achieved a C in my first big Graded folio unit and while people tried to reassure me with “hey, it’s still a pass” - for participating in a course that was all about photography, trying to turn it into a potential career, scraping by with “just a pass” was not acceptable to me. And while I could try and talk the folio up with false convictions, it did not stray away from the fact the subject matter was boring, barely relatable and inconsistent. 

Don’t get me wrong I did learn a lot in that year, it was very beneficial for me technically - I finally figured out how to work a camera properly and a lot of great beginning essentials I’d otherwise not been introduced to in high school. But in high school I used my 2 years in photography as a tool to escape a version of myself I wasn’t happy with, it gave me a stronger sense of identity and I used the projects I took on as a way to educate myself about who I am and the world around me. It was a nice form of therapy and personal development. But starting college in a new place, with different people, who were smarter, older, more confident and more talented was quite overwhelming and pretty much showed me up in the biggest way possible. I would skip classes, I had no ideas, didn’t feel connected with the lecturers; not inspired; no drive to create and really all in all did not feel good enough to be taken seriously. All of a sudden photography became this very negative dark thing that became all about knowing the best way to do something and how to make money. I wont lie, I certainly became disheartened by the whole travesty that was my first year outside of high school. Could this be a real “profession” for me? Do I have what it takes, not just creatively but emotionally and psychologically?

In the summer of 2015, I pretty much slumped into a pattern of eat, work sleep repeat with the occasional trip to my best friends house to talk about the meaning of life, and trying to work out how the world works ahaha yeah it was a bad time. But honestly the constant over thinking about emotional honesty, embracing things for what they are turned out not to be such a bad thing after all. I knew if I wanted to be something more than just someone who boxed nuggets 4 times a week I needed to have a better attitude about photography and what I thought of myself. I had the potential to get better and create a profitable service to offer people, if I really wanted it.

Fortunately for me my course was 2 years, meaning I had a whole other year to turn things around. And I sure as hell did. Walking into this year with the mindset I did was a scary one, I was still that underconfident person who bottled it trying to ask someone if I could take their picture. Which made it easier when our first project was about asking total strangers if they wanted their picture taken ahaha. But honestly, that was the best thing that could have happened - after I got over the initial fear of hearing the word ‘no’ everything else felt easier, leading to more confidence in myself and more confidence in my creative ideas. From that moment on, approaching every assignment with a positive attitude became ritualistic - if I had an idea “what did I want to do?” and “how was I gonna make it work?” - it was a lot of problem solving but as soon as I invested a lot of my own time outside of college and investing some money into ideas, everything shifted. And as soon as my ideas got better, my work got better allowing me to be more secure with myself and what I wanted. Taking myself seriously as a photographer allowed other people to take me seriously, leading me onto more paid work, interviews with agencies and major print sales. Not all of my new ventures worked out 100% but I’m in a much better place now having said yes to new opportunities and finally putting myself out there than just posting a couple of my images online. I had a lot to prove in my second year at college and thankfully my efforts paid off and I’m moving on to bigger and better things hopefully in my BA programme starting in September, a lot of which I owe to my excellent lecturers. 

That’s the thing about being creative. It’s not necessarily about drawing well or taking a nice picture, its about finding a positive way through any situation using you initiative and determination.

The Making of a Lie?

There’s been a lot of BuzzFeed coverage as of late about the use of photoshop- the volunteers willing to be photoshopped are seeing the very extreme version to see how they would look if they were altered to look like what the “media” deems as an “acceptable” body type. In the end the general consensus appears to be that people don’t really need it - they are fine as they are and people are just being fed the idea if they don’t attain these unrealistic body expectations they are somehow less than. Now I make it no secret that I manipulate my images quite a bit, but does that make me a bad photographer, deceitful, a liar?  

When I was starting out in photography I knew about as much photoshop as I knew about how to take a decent photograph, I just about knew how to toggle with the brightness and contrast sliders. Like everything in a skill setits about taking the time to sit and spend a significant amount of time learning how certain things work and how to make them work for you - and so given that I can spend up to an hour editing your basic portrait, I wouldn’t necessarily call that a cop out, I call that going the extra mile for somebody. If someone is paying for a professional, luxury service their expecting a little bit of a fantasy as oppose to something they can do themselves. Where I’m at now with photoshop - I can make people thinner, replace body parts, clean up your skin and do all these fantastic things that people ask my to do post our session together. I may do some of these things, but I don’t do it all - is that a bad thing, does it feed into your insecurities about yourself that you can’t really change outside photoshop - maybe? But the minute I send out images I myself and think a client might not be happy with, is the day I haven’t done my job right. 

Showing people how they are, straight from the camera is a highly debatable topic indeed. My angle however is that if you are marketing a product (in whatever capacity, be that a film, fashion or a simple portrait) - cleaning up things like acne, loose hairs, skin and things that are not typically aesthetic - is fine. Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying go the full monty to the point that person look unrecognisable/unrealistic but to a place where you as retoucher are satisfied that it is a solid professional portrait.

I decided to use an image of myself as not to enrage any of my pals for showing their ‘before shot’ haha: Now in the shot on the left I have what looks like an unmade bed of a birds nest for a hair style. Really revealed rough skin which is a lot to due with the quality (megapixels) and then the studio lights picking it up. No make-up to cover up that teenage acne that 99% of us have and then the text on the shirt which honestly just steals focus from my beautiful face. So I moulded my hair to something it looked like before I let the Scottish weather get a hold of it, I clone stamped out the acne which could have been covered up by a make up artist and smoothened out my skin which would normally be less noticeable had I not been lit up by 500 pounds worth of lighting equipment.

Whenever I edit I instantly make an assessment of what needs done, thats just the method of editing I've grown comfortable with. It doesn’t mean I think that person needs to change who they are in any way shape or form, it means I know the difference between looking at yourself in a mirror and looking at someone through a lens. In real life and I look at somebody, they can be moving, talking, I can feel their changing energies - I am given so much more to go on than just a 2 Dimensional image which I have the ability to look at and consciously whip out every single potential flaw. 

Where I’m at now with photo-shop? I very much look at it like most things involving image, its about image! - how can we say magazines and people with unrealistic body types are making us feel like shit when we do the same thing everyday. We do it through, facebook, instagram, twitter all portray this version of ourself to the world we want people to see. 

Why do you put on make-up, style your hair, wear nice clothes - to make the people around you feel better? Absolutely not, I do the things I do so that I feel better about myself. And so that my confidence can exude with the knowledge that I feel more comfortable having done those things than not. Does that mean that I still don’t have insecurities, no - but your natural “falsities” are what make you more human than ever and if anything make people appreciate you more. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a nice picture of yourself, no matter how you have to get it. It’s not about lying to people, its about wanting to look at the “best” version of yourself possible.

 

Back 2 School: Part II

In a way I find it difficult to understand how I can have such nostalgic connections towards a place I’d only really been away from for 2 years, it would be dishonest to try and argue that someone who’d maybe been away from the school 20, 30 plus years wouldn't come back and have more powerful emotions in their reminiscing. But I don’t know honestly how much the school has changed since its opening in 1971, the interior “look” of the school today is the one I knew and can vouch for probably not really changing in the past 15 years at least. To fully appreciate the nature of the project I feel its imperative that you understand your own high school “journey”. Personally, my first 4 years of high school were really quite a shit time, I was counting down the days to leave. If there was a day that passed where I didn’t hear “gay boy” shouted at me from afar it probably meant I called in sick that day, and even that sometimes didn’t stop people. But eventually, you come into yourself a little more, start getting closer to some good people and all of a sudden you start creating better times for yourself, good enough to almost forget there were ever any bad ones. All of a sudden those days I was counting down to leave were the days I never wanted to come. The truth of the matter is no matter who you are or how long you’ve been away for its hard to come back to a location of that calibre (a place in your history) with a creative mindset and not spiral into an emotional frenzy of good memories, bad memories and everything in between.

In first discussions with Mrs Parks (head teacher) it was a very positive chat about what a great keepsake the project would be for people, it was from that discussion I came up with the name “Last Days in Tyme” - Tyme referring to the school motto “Tak Tyme in Tyme”. However while she admired the aesthetic I was going for in “Utopia Tomorrow” with the focus on details and the notable decay, that she would rather I downplayed that aspect in regards to photographing the school - while she admitted the structural condition of the school was part in parcel for the new builds go ahead, in this photo book, given who I was making it for a slightly more tasteful perspective would be more appropriate.

Separating emotion from what I was actually photographing around the school, I needed to make mental notes of what areas I wanted featured and how I could photograph them so that it didn’t look like a very mundane shot seen in a newsletter showing the school for what it is and actually get something a little more creative where people can look and say “oh yeah that happened here” while showcasing areas in a way they might not have seen before. This is why perspective was so important, I really avoided wide angle shots unless absolutely necessary to tell the story of a scene. In the classrooms for instance if there was a patch of wall or an area of interest I would maybe shoot this at a longer focal length (70-100mm) in order to get as much compression as possible and to not give away the location at a glance, I want to force to viewer to really see what their looking at and transport themselves to that place. An issue I ran into however which I hadn't picked up on before and didn't notice even while I was at school was just how similar a lot of the classrooms were aha, or how lacking in “interesting” subject matter to act as a momento for a specific area or department, making it hard to keep a nice flow of imagery - obviously places like the art, history, pe departments will have more captivating props to photograph than anything you might find in maths or english - but I made do with what I had available. A big moment for me was revisiting my old photography studio where I finished my first ever major conceptual project - it looked so different and more or less became a dumping ground to the rest of the art department, but I spent hours and days in that room agonising over my first lot of work and then here I was ready to immortalise said studio into my most recent project. 

 

After I wrapped the shooting for the first couple of days I went back over everything to make sure I’d gotten all departments covered and then going back to take variant shots just for options when it came to sequencing the images. The biggest relief I’d gotten while in editing the final lot of images from the last day was finally seeing the images come together in a way that allowed me to see the school in a more creatively iconic aspect whereas on days 1 and 2 of shooting I’d only had a couple of areas covered and heavily doubted I had any kind of material. 

 

I had made a facebook post announcement prior to shooting telling people the nature of the project so that ex pupils could share it around and comment about anything they would like to see featured in the photo-book and while I thought I’d made my intentions clear there appeared to be a lot of misunderstanding to what I was actually doing which was a “last look” view of the actual school building. What a lot of people took from what I wrote was I was looking into documenting old photos and featuring teachers and pupils from over the years. But unfortunately as nice as an idea as this was it was a world away from what I wanted to achieve - what people were alluding to was a whole other project in itself with way too much to compile than I could have achieved in the time frame I have. I will say on a final note, as the project is still in the process of editing and sequencing - I keep going back and forth from showing any people in the photo-book, while the predominant focus is the building it has been put to me in more ways than one that a school isn't a school without the people who are there to educate and those there to learn. So I hope to incorporate the idea further down the line. 

 

First Blog Post // Back 2 School: Part I

For my first blog post on my website I thought I’d talk about the experience of going back to my old high school as part of one of my latest collaborative projects. 

In my 4th year of Secondary school I discovered that in the near future my school would be knocked down to make way for a new “Greenfaulds High School” - I didn’t think much about it at the time because I knew I wouldn't still be here to see the new build but as I only live 5 minutes away from the high school and see it almost every other day on the way to the bus stop, I was always witness to its progress. 

 

 

In the January of this year as part of my photography course I was given a “Documentary” unit, which was essentially all about documenting an event/place/person in time and ultimately learning what this means to you and others. I loved the project, I documented the high rise flat blocks in my town as in the next couple of years they also will be coming down and will no longer be a part of the town landscape. I asked if I could photograph the “last days” of what they looked like after being left by their occupants. Photographing the flats was such an experience. What I knew about who’d lived there wasn't important, it was how I felt about standing in rooms which homed families, couples - living in the memories of those people, creating nostalgia that didn't exist for me personally but for others - if that makes sense. In discussion with my lecturer I discovered the nature of my documentary book was a “typology” - the ability to associate feelings to places. To have a word make sense to a sensation I’d experienced my entire life was quite a break through - it was the first time I think photography became meaning more to me than just taking a “good photo”. 

After completing my book and moving towards finishing what had been my most successful year in photography thus far, I decided to pay a visit to my old art/photography teacher Mrs Corbett. While I had occasionally popped into seek her advice on applications etc, I’d never brought her to see any of my work since I’d left, she was very influential in where I am today so coming to show her my latest folio didn’t seem unusual. She looked through my documentary book many times suggested we pay a visit to whom was the new head teacher of the school today and to suggest I take a similar photography style approach on the “last days” of the original Greenfaulds High School building. Though I didn’t come to the school with the intention of proposing the idea it was certainly in the back of my mind and when it came to explaining my idea it went like/ felt like a sales pitch aha. 

Ultimately I was given the go ahead and while I wont talk about the ins and outs of the permission process and obstacles I will say that my school is pretty lax about letting anyone walk through the door, even if I was an ex pupil ha. But I wouldn’t really take no for an answer and I didn’t want to wait ages for it to happen as time before the summer was slipping day by day. 

The first actual shooting day was a strange one indeed. While I had visited the school before after having left, my journeys remained fairly restricted from the reception area to the floor with Mrs Corbett. I hadn’t actually visited anywhere else. I knew if I wanted the project to be successful and personal I knew I had to tap into that same “typology” I had with the flats. Now the difference here being in the flats I more or less created stories to strive emotional inspiration - In the school it was very real, very omnipresent feeling of emotion - I went there for 6 years whereas I had no real personal connection to the flats, it existed in everything around me from the dark corridors; to the lockers; to the aromas I hadn’t breathed in since I was a mere 2nd year - that was probably the most surreal, visiting these departments/rooms for the first time since 1st/2nd year and walking through them as the nostalgia just hit me like waves.