'Just' is a belittling word…

A shutter-pressing, page-turning, ink-scrawling comment.

My Sunday Interview with…Siani Warner

Over the last year or so, Siani Warner has been photographing her family closely and tenderly. Deciding to reveal all and continue with her series Returning Home, she kindly took the time to talk to me about all things familial and photographic.

RG: What inspired you to photograph your family?

SW: This photograph in particular *holds up a Polaroid image of herself lying on a sofa on her 10th birthday with ‘her new kitten Billy’* I’ve always had it with me and it’s a very special photograph to me because it’s something that I won’t ever forget. It’s something that marked an event in my life.

My mum was also my main inspiration for starting a project because when I was growing up she would always have a camera and film everything when we were younger. She has influenced my work. That picture pretty much started it because she stopped taking pictures after this photograph so I decided that I should take the role, take her role, and to view my family how I want other people to view it. They’re not really traditional family photographs either, just one’s that are fleeting and because my family aren’t the conventional, nuclear family either, they make quite an interesting subject. My family is quite unique in terms of structure.


RG: When did your project start to form?

SW: It started in my second year of university and it’s called Returning Home and is ongoing, branching off this year in my Major Practical Project module from that first project. My dissertation is about family photographs and why they are important and in another module, Mixed Media, I am writing letters to my grandparents who live quite far away from me. I’m asking my granddad to send me photographs of him, my Nan and my father who I haven’t seen in childhood pictures before. I thought that would be interesting, as if to discover the boy he used to be.

Continuing on with Returning Home, I suppose it’s kind of in the style of Billingham’s Ray’s a Laugh, though I’m not trying to brand my work with saying it’s too similar because it’s not that kind of aesthetic. It’s the sense of truth in the photographs. I’m going to attempt to not hide things as much as I might have last year.


RG: Is there an overriding reason to why you work solely with analogue?

SW: Simply because I love the whole texture and the quality it has to it. It’s nothing that a digital camera could outweigh for me. I’d like to use medium format at some point but you have to sort of plan what you’re going to photograph as you have less shots and I don’t think that that is my way of working. I like to photograph things that only happen once and you couldn’t ask to be repeated. In terms of film, I’m going to use footage as well to make it feel nostalgic, like home movies.

I know some of my images in the past I have staged because there has been something I want to remember though. For instance, there was a photograph I took of my brother, Henry, with my sister’s daughter, where I asked him to pick up my dad’s cat and put it round his neck, so it was like a cat scarf *we laugh*. It was something unusual, something untraditional as what I imagine as a tradition family photograph is quite Victorian – all standing together, very formal – whereas I’m trying to break that aesthetic.

RG: Without being able to check the images as you take them as you can with digital, do you know when you get a good shot?

SW: I always feel like something in my heart tells me, ‘That was good, that’s going to be a great picture.’ It’s the first time I’ve actually felt proud of my own work because this is something very personal to me and it’s relative to other people, to outsiders looking in.

RG: You exhibited two of the photographs of your brother in a group exhibition earlier this year. How do you feel about seeing your personal, family images on a gallery wall?


SW: I find it quite amusing because those kinds of images are personal. They should be in the home but because I’m a photographer photographing my family, I feel they should be in a gallery exhibit as I don’t see enough of it. It’s a nice juxtaposition. I’ve got a lot of feedback from it as the pictures themselves were quite contrasting with my brother’s expressions. In one of them you see the typical, childish, boyish face-pulling but it the other he looks very serious and it’s haunting in a way. It makes me feel uneasy when I look at it but when I took the photograph I had a Eureka moment thinking, ‘Yes, this is exactly what I want!’ With his facial expression he looks older than five in that picture, like the man he is going to be.


RG: With the project continuing, do you have any more plans for exhibiting?

SW: Well, I don’t necessarily have a structured plan but I would like to exhibit it in a book and framed in a gallery. Also I am going to be writing a journal about everything that is going on around me, observations.

I’ve asked my father to go through his pictures and tell me which are important and why as it interests me and it’s a way for me to get to know my dad. Our relationship is not strange, but I feel we could be even closer than we are and I think that by photographing him and looking back on previous photographs we can have a connection in that way. My parents don’t live together.

RG: Is it your mum’s house you call home?

SW: Yes, it is my childhood home. I’ve lived there since I was two years old. Whenever I go there I always feel nostalgic. I know that I’m going to have to leave it one day and that’s quite hard to deal with.


RG: If you published your series in a book, will it be like returning the project to its origin, in the style of a family photo album?

SW: Yes. Yes, it will be like a photo album, designed like a traditional family book but with contrasting images in it. There’s a picture I have just taken of my niece that I really like and can imagine in the book. She’s lying on the sofa, just in her underwear, and the contrasting cushions and things like that…it’s really quite lovely to look at, natural, in a way. But also I’d like to have pictures in there that are quite shocking, things you wouldn’t expect to see. Something like a family argument and it could be one scale to the next, just I want people not to expect the expected. I’m excited by it and just want to get going with it all the time. It’s expensive travelling back home all the time, but it’ll be worth it.

RG: Do you see a clear end to this project?

SW: No. There’s no end to it. It will definitely continue to be ongoing because I’m going to try to capture the lives of each family member; my mum’s family, my dad’s family and people separately. Because we are all growing up, my older siblings have their own children now which I still find strange and I think it will be really great to be able to show my younger siblings my work in the future, especially photographs of themselves. It will be something to talk about every time I see them. Also, I want people to see that they shouldn’t be afraid and hide their family secrets. I try to reveal my own and I’m reflecting on myself too, by writing in this journal.

RG: Can you tell me a little more about what else you’re working on at the moment?

SW: I’m writing to my dad’s parents, adoptive but we see them as grandparents, as I mentioned, because they live in Birmingham and I don’t feel close to them at all in terms of distance and emotionally. It’s sad really. The only fond memories I have of them is when I used to go to their house in Wales and I have really happy memories from then. At the moment, though, my granddad is quite lonely and I relate to him with that because my Nan has Parkinson’s and Dementia which is tough. I guess writing to him…it’ll hopefully give him a sense of purpose as well. I feel good about that kind of contact because talking on the phone is always awkward.

RG: How often are you writing to them?

SW: I wrote a letter a couple of weeks ago but he hasn’t replied yet because I asked him to go through his albums and send me a photograph and write to me about it. He grew up in World War II so has some interesting stories. He laughs about it which I can’t understand but maybe that’s a kind of recovery from the trauma. He’s quite a humorous person to be around.

That’s one part of a project. The other part is to photograph my siblings. I have quite a lot of siblings; there are eight of us in total. I have five brothers and two sisters. There are some that I am closer to than others. For example, my brother, Lee, has the same biological parents as me so therefore we feel closer in general so I talk to him more about things I wouldn’t talk to my brother Danny about, as I haven’t spoken to him in two years because of a family feud. I’d like to photograph him and interview him as well though. I was also going to go through family albums, show them photographs and get them to talk about the images, if they even remember it being taken and so on. There are so many areas I could go into with this.

I suppose these projects are a different way of seeing the familial, with a different output to my Returning Home series.

RG: My topical question for you today, as you have mentioned nostalgia: How did you find the Nostalgias conference a few weeks ago?

SW: I found it really enlightening actually. I particularly liked Rosy Martin and Nancy Martha West. I found them both relevant to my research, for my practical projects rather than my dissertation. They were both my kind of Speakers, especially with Rosy Martin’s home videos about her mum involving asking questions to her and so on. I found it quite disturbing because you had to figure out what was going on. Her parent’s house is a bus ride away from my house which is amusing.

RG: Thank you so much for your time today. You’re such an interesting person and I love how passionate you are about all of your projects. I can’t wait to see what you produce and I wish you every success with it.

To see more of Siani’s work, go to www.sianiwarner.co.uk


My Sunday Interview with…Natasha Hemsley

Earlier this year, fine art photographer Natasha Hemsley entered The Grand Prix de la Découverte International Fine Art Photography competition and came second in her category. Currently embarking on a new project in collaboration with myself, we had plenty of time to catch up about the competition, her work and her much-loved Scanograms…


RG: How did the competition come about?

NH: As an artist, putting yourself out there is extremely important for getting your work recognised and as I had just finished my first major body of work, Death’s Diary, I decided to do something more with it. Google is a wonderful tool…so I used that, literally just typing ‘fine art international photography competition’ and this one came up. That’s how it came about.

RG: What was the process like?

NH: It was quite simple at first: you just had to submit your image, title and the money, of course, to enter the competition. The judges just looked at the photos; they didn’t look at anything else, just the image itself. After that they told me I was in the next level, the next round, the top ten of the category, so to speak, and then they judged all those and I came second within the Still Life category. By this point I had submitted my image as a full sized jpeg and they also asked me to send in a print which was a little bigger than A2 in size. I did that via theprintspace in London because their Fuji Matt C-types are the best at producing the blacks in my photographs. I just love the blacks you get with Scanograms. I love dark things, things in the dark, in the night. It’s important to my work. I had it framed and it was exhibited in the Expo Centre in Paris.

Second Place winning image in the Still Life category

Second Place winning image in the Still Life category

RG: Did you attend a winner’s reception or such like?

NH: Yes, there was a prize giving held at the Centre but there was also a champagne reception held at the American Centre, just opposite the Eiffel Tower, across the bridge.

RG: How did you feel knowing you had come second in your category within an international competition, your photograph being exhibited in another country?

NH: I felt quite professional, although I felt nervous at the same time because it’s a foreign country. However, it is very close to home, being France, so it wasn’t complicated to get there and I went with my mum which helped as she can speak a little French.


RG: Do you have more planned for your series?

NH: I’m hoping to try and exhibit them again to get them out there a bit more and I’d love to remake my publication, which I completed for a university project, as well, with more images which should be interesting. I don’t think Death’s Diary is ever going to end. As long as my cat keeps catching, I’m going to keep documenting.


RG: Can you tell my readers a little about the project we are working on together at the moment?

NH: Well, it’s not got a name at the moment but the idea is enough for now. We are going out at night time, in the pitch black, looking for road kill and photographing it in its liminal state between life and death. Whether we are photographing for the animal’s sake, for remembrance or for prolonging it’s time in this life though it has passed on, I don’t know. It’s important knowing when to photograph and when to let go.

I have a quote from Henri Cartier-Bresson on my website that sums it up quite nicely, “Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again.”

RG: For this project you’re using a camera. How have you found going back to the traditional form of photography compared to the scanner you use for your Death’s Diary project?

NH: It’s quite a jump because with Scanograms you’re making the image with your own hands, in a way. You’re positioning the animal on the scanner so it’s very tactile, using your hands, and it’s quite personal, whereas with this other project, I’m not touching anything, in a sense. I’m pressing the shutter, changing the aperture and shutter speeds to get the exposure I want but the scene is staying as it is, as we found it, which is quite new to me. I’m not making the image, the image is there for me to capture.

RG: What is it about the cameraless that you are drawn to?

NH: I was inspired by the Shadowcatchers exhibition at the V&A a couple of years ago. It was fascinating how they made these beautiful images and yet there is no camera involved, no pressing of a shutter. I think it is quite a creative process and it is about artistic as I could get without picking up a paint brush. Some of my other works are Chemigrams which is quite painterly. In a way, you’re painting with chemicals rather than light. I rather enjoy that. It’s a different process, I suppose, it’s unique and I enjoy trying out new things and experimenting a lot.

RG: My topical question for you is following along a similar theme to the question I asked Sayuri Webster in my last Sunday Interview. Since recently having exhibited in Paris in print form, do you think we will see the day when the exhibition print as we know it (hanging on a gallery wall, a physical document) becomes null and the photo book becomes void?

NH: No, I don’t think so. The exhibition is important in the short term but the book is a permanent engraving. They work hand in hand.

RG: Short and sweet. Thank you very much for your time, congratulations on your second place victory and I’m very excited to hear that Death’s Diary is set to continue for a while yet!


For more of Natasha’s images, visit her website: http://www.natashahemsley.co.uk


Don’t forget that another interview will be heading your way next Sunday – double bill!

Nostalgias (exhibition) and Nostalgias: Visual Longing (conference)

First job: coffee for the team as they get on with the hang. We look at each other. We see how it is. No problem, doing what I’m told is what I do best; a result of trying to be the ‘good’ child at home and a fear of getting a telling off either by my parents or teachers. With a little time to spare as Sam and Monica needed to personally perform the condition checks on the artworks waiting to adorn the walls of the Pie Factory, three of us went for breakfast (myself, dear Gemma and Legoman Lewis – if you haven’t seen his work, it is simply brilliant, you need to take a look: http://www.lewisgroom.com/). We spoke about futures, food, Thanet and, of course, the conference. And so it began…

The day was wet and windy. A shop around the corner was allowing us to borrow some tables and stools in order to show a particular piece of work (the beautifully embossed map boxes of Chu YinHua). We got wet. I was very interested to meet sensory map artist Kate MacLean after seeing her work in The Collected at the Sidney Cooper. Such fun. It went quickly and we were home again before we knew it.

Eight days later, we parked at the Winter Gardens and walked along the seafront amongst spraying rain to the station. On the way, Gemma’s shoe started to flap. Yes, flap. The sole of her right shoe was coming away quite badly; indeed it was worse than she had anticipated. I couldn’t help but laugh and I couldn’t help but laugh even harder when she proceeded to take out the tape she had been using to keep a bandage in place on her right hand (where it had collided with a glass vase a few days before) and wrapped it around the nose of her shoe. Her hand and foot matched; I found that highly amusing.

We were to meet weary travellers and show them to the minibus waiting outside which would take them to their hotel. Wearing t-shirts over our coats and jumpers so the correct people could spot us, we looked slightly as if we were from a charity (we each had a list of names too, and pens at the ready), so we noticed wary looks from some passengers whereas others avoided us altogether. Shortly after arrival, Gemma had to disappear to the ladies in order to clean herself up. We don’t know how it happened…well, we do…or when but the pigeon stuck inside the ticket hall had meticulous aim…

To pass the time, we had a go with a new app Gemma had acquired. A game similar to HedBanz and Articulate, you put the phone up to your forehead and depending on the category, the onlookers have to describe the film, imitate the accent, act like an animal and so on. Some of these categories we deemed unsuitable for public spaces. Three hours, eight trains and twelve delegates later, we got on the minibus ourselves and jumped out near the Turner in order to go to the Private View at the Pie Factory.

Scared of my clumsiness, I was proud of myself for not knocking any wine over the table or worse, on someone. Recognising some from the station, it was interesting to see the mix of people we would be spending the next two days around, listening and talking to. Welcome speeches by Brigitte Lardinois, followed by Monica Takvam and Sam Vale (the exhibition curators and conference organisers) were well received and most people moved onto the Greedy Cow around the corner for ‘the best burger around’.

Saturday 9th, we awoke to no hot water. The money on the gas meter had run out again; need I say #studentlife? With no time to quickly run to the shop to top up, we grumbled, I splashed cold water in my face and Gemma sought out her favourite hat to wear for the whole day…

Upon arrival, a very kind gentleman ushered us into the pleasing warmth of the Winter Gardens (having no gas also meant we had no heating and with my bedroom in the basement, and a crack in Gemma’s window, our bedrooms insist on being the coldest rooms in the house), showing us where the conference was to take place. Familiar faces greeted us there; the two Jenni’s, Jade and Sam and Monica. Picking up our name stickers, pastries and tea and coffee, we chose our seats and were raring to go.

The amount of notes I made this first day at the conference was, I think, impressive. It happened to be five minutes before the start that I thought I would write about the talks and papers for my blog post. At the end of the day, however, I knew this would be too much of a challenge and thought it would be a little different if I purely documented my experience with Nosalgias 2013. Hence…this.

Worried that I was going to be far too stupid to understand a word anyone said and also that I hadn’t had the best night’s sleep, I am proud to say that I listened to every talk and took almost everything in. The talks that appealed to me most and didn’t disappoint were those of Tim Wildschut (Saturday’s keynote), Menke and Müller, Hui Ying Kerr and Alison Gazzard. I also had a special interest in Meg Jackson’s talk on the discovered photographs of Manfred Beier’s Germany, East and West, since I studied German before coming to University, with post-war Germany being a major topic.

When lunch was served (I had sausage and mash), we sat with Menke, Müller and Christian Hviid Mortensen, discussing school uniforms and playing dominoes. At the end of the day, after it was Christian Hviid Mortensen’s turn to step onto the stage, and after Chris Pallant gave a wonderful response (I don’t know how he did it, so relevant and quickly understood, not to mention how he kept everyone interested and amused) a sparky debate escalated so rapidly, I began to wonder who would throw the first punch…

Mortensen had shown a film depicting scenes from the mourning of Kim Jong-il and his funeral, the speed of the clips increased, and put to the Benny Hill theme. He had shown it, as I understood it, as a comment on juxtapositioning and how sound and footage can jar and remove nostalgia. Some people, unsurprisingly, found this hard to watch and offensive, so when it came to questions, his motive behind showing the clip was questioned. With one person in the audience defending the showing of the clip and another struggling to see why it had to have been included, interrupting each other all the while, it was difficult to see how they were going to get along for the rest of the weekend…

However, upon going to the Walpole Bay Hotel for the conference dinner that night and standing in the bar area before we were seated, these two delegates walked in together, having an (as far as I could tell) amicable conversation, most graciously.

The dinner was lovely, the owner of the hotel personally seeing to our every need and the quiz a little bit of fun after an intellectually stimulating day.  Our team happened to win, nothing to do with one of the quiz masters being on our table, I’m sure. During the main course, our end of the table struck up a conversation about the familiar ‘photography as art’ debate; whether photography is or certainly cannot be perceived as an art. I couldn’t help but smile. This was the exact kind of thing I had imagined would happen and I relished the academic notions bouncing off the wine glasses. I was more or less in total agreement with Dr Shawn Sobers when he said it is of course subjective, but also depends on the discipline. For instance, although there is a little bit of art in all forms of photography, Fine Art is so completely different to Commercial photography that the art in Commercial could be hidden and unrecognisable. I loved to listen to them discuss this (Nancy Martha West, Sunday’s keynote, also contributed) and even proffered a point of my own; before there were cameras, there was the camera obscura, an aid to art, and consider how Henry Fox Talbot worked to invent his calotype process as he could not draw or paint satisfactorily. For him, at least, photography was art.

After a delicious raspberry cheesecake, we all waddled upstairs (I heard many comments about how much we had all just eaten), to share in more energetic conversations, fuelled by the thought-provoking day and the access to the bar. We also, as top quiz team, won a couple of bottles of champagne. It is times like these I wish I liked it when others are glad I don’t (‘I’ll have to have yours’ and ‘more for me’ are familiar phrases). This part of the evening was also highly enjoyable; catching up properly with graduate of my course Jenni, talking to our lecturers Rob and Karen, before getting up to leave only to get into a full-blown conversation with Manuel Menke, Philipp Müller and Hui Ying Kerr about her talk and her research. She also kept trying to leave, but the German gentlemen were skilled in delaying tactics, making jokes and discussing classic Englishness as seen in Germany (Dinner for One in particular), Hui Ying’s outfits and Benedict Cumberbatch (and after she finally escaped to bed, we stayed longer still discussing I don’t know what before moving outside, so close to leaving, and having a conversation about Game of Thrones).

We weren’t home too late, but considering my bed time is usually 10pm and I am not really an early morning person, I was very tired and needed to refuel for the next day.

Unfortunately, I didn’t refuel quite as deeply as I needed, meaning I had to really pinch myself in order to concentrate throughout the remaining talks. On the Sunday, I was helping out rather than just listening; handing out name stickers and conference packs, trying to answer any queries people had and letting people know the staff were trying to make the room warmer (for me it felt warm enough, but our house is like an ice cave sometimes so  suppose I am used to it).

Nancy Martha West’s keynote talk started the day off brilliantly, if not a little uneasily. The theme of the day was undoubtedly death and West’s talk was focusing on post-mortem photography. Her writing was luxurious, her delivery sympathetic and poignant and I gobbled up every word with an unusual yearning for her to go on and on, past the allotted forty minutes. Afterwards, people were discussing feelings of discomfort and tears threatening to fall, the photographs shown hard to look at and a sense of uncertainty as to how to react to them. Through all this, however, I imagine many people there would say that this was the most gripping, enticing talk of the weekend.

JP Kelly’s analysis of AMC’s Mad Men was intriguing and amusing, and both Jacqueline Butler and Sonya Robinson and the final speaker, Carol Mavor touched upon Lewis Carroll, with a delectable proficiently. Over lunch, Rosy Martin’s three films were screened as her talk was immediately afterwards. I couldn’t help but think how relevant it would have been for one of my peers and I must remember to send the link to Rosy’s website to her.

As quickly as it had begun, the weekend was over. I have not mentioned every speaker, but every single one was unique and interesting. Grateful to the bones for being able to be a part of it and knowing that as a team we took a little stress away from Sam and Monica, this is a weekend I don’t think I shall ever forget; from dominoes, to debates, to dinners and delegates. I cannot wait for a week’s time when everything has had a chance to sink in and embed itself and I envisage I will be thinking about nostalgia for a while to come.

N.B. Pub quizzers: The word nostalgia comes from nostos, meaning homecoming, and algos, meaning pain or ache and was a coined by a man called Johannes Hofer.

N.B. Those who wish to know more about nostalgia: you should’ve been there…

My Sunday Interview with … Sayuri Grace

Sayuri Grace has had a lifelong connection with Japan which has recently been epitomised through her latest project. Each photograph, both from the black and white series and the colour, has you wondering about the stories unfolding in view of the camera. Textured and contrasted, it is almost comparable to any immersive experience, where you are glued to the events surrounding the subjects and you feel like a part of what is going on. Sayuri kindly took a few minutes to talk to me about her project…

RG: What’s your relationship with Japan?

SG: I guess that’s an interesting question because I got my idea for my final project [for university] through thinking ‘Why have I got this thing that is always revolving around Japan?’ Everything I’ve done over the last couple of years has some relationship to it, without meaning too, subconsciously and I think it’s because I don’t know it. I don’t know Japan so I want to know because it’s a part of me. I learn slightly different parts and then my mum tells me something and I want to hear more. So, it’s becoming a thing; when there’s something you like and then can’t get enough of and then you have to find out more.

RG: Did your mum grow up in Japan?

SG: My mum has actually spent most of her life now in England, but she spent the first twenty years or so there. So it is where she grew up but she moved pretty quickly. She’s told me all about that. I have actually quite a few experiences with Japan in the sense that I’ve been every five years. That’s the interesting part, I guess. At 5, 10, 15, 20, I’ve been to Japan.

RG: So four times…

SG: Well, I technically went as a baby but I’m not going to count that *we chuckle*.

RG: Would you say using photography is a way for you to get to know the country and culture more intimately?

SG: I think it is really different to me, it’s part of me and then photography is the only way I can think of to show that I want this relationship, the only way that will reflect it. I’ve done that since I was younger as well and have been looking at photos always, but I never thought of photography in that way but now I do, so it’s a similar relationship I guess.

RG: When you were over there, you took an analogue camera with you and your series is shot wholly on film. Do you work mainly in analogue?

SG: Whenever I used digital, I never got a satisfaction from it, which is something like the main reason I like photography. You get a satisfaction when you get something good from it so I stayed with analogue. I did use digital alongside the black and white and colour films. Because of the way we organised the trip, I used a high ISO film, so we couldn’t get through the airport. On the way back I didn’t want to go through it all again because we had to go through all the crap and we went to this place to get it developed. So I found out whether or not my five rolls of black and white had turned out the way I wanted them and then when I found out and saw that it was better than I had ever expected, it was the most joy and relief…that’s what I love about the analogue and with Japan, it was probably so much more of an experience that way. It shows my experience with Japan, more than digital would.

RG: How do you feel about the pace of using analogue compared to digital?

SG: I think you develop more of a connection with the photographs you take with analogue rather than digital because with digital you do feel like you can just do it there and then. With analogue, even when it’s 35mm and you can take lots of photos and you can change, there’s a sense of wanting to take the pictures than happen to be in your sight, that are there.

There was this case in Japan where there was a woman and her kid, and I’m not used to taking street photographs and you want to be in their face but at the same time you don’t want to be in their way. When you get interested in something and you see it and you think ‘I want to take a photo’, and there was this woman who just had this huge look that said she was lost. I took loads of photos about her and she didn’t even notice me, that was the strange part, and the kid was just mucking about. We were at the station and had time to spare and it was the strangest experience but having the analogue camera actually made it feel more real in the situation to me and analogue feels more physical, whereas digital just feels flatter somehow…

RG: You mentioned using the high ISO film. Was there ever any doubt that you weren’t going to use a film that gave you the grain effect?

SG: It’s like one of my favourite photographers, Daido Moriyama, or someone like that. It just seems to give images an extra texture to what is already visible and there’s something just gritty and nice about it, so I wanted to try it out. The results, I mean, a lot of people haven’t seen half of them because I’m still putting them together but it’s something that gave it my look, how I see Japan. My vision is kind of parallel to the way Moriyama saw it but in my own way, so I think the ISO being high actually helped it. It was amazing to work with, much easier in a way.

RG: I can’t image the images without the grain, it just works so well.

SG: I think that’s why I don’t like the colour so much. I mean, it’s alright, and my digital…

RG: Oh that was my next question! Do you prefer the black and white or colour?

SG: It’s a no-brainer. It’s definitely black and white. There’s something more colourful to the black and white than to the colour somehow. The colour photographs I have on my website, there aren’t very many of them, and they are most of the ones I like. Those are the only ones that work for me and I couldn’t seem to make a whole series with them but the black and white ones; I look at them because the individual photos are all on my bedroom wall. I look at them and I’m seeing them as a project, seeing them still as so much from just that. Colour, there’s something missing from it, like I haven’t developed yet and it was a starting point.

RG: Other than Moriyama, has anyone else inspired you greatly?

SG: The first photographer I ever liked was Man Ray so I suppose that explains my love of black and white, I have always loved black and white. Most recently, I guess because I’m looking at Japan and I’m looking at all the big names of people like Shomei Tomatsu and someone called Eikoh Hosoe who Moriyama assisted in post-war era. There was a woman who had a show at the Tate recently, Miyako Ishuichi, and currently showing at the Foundling Museum too, whose talk I went to at the Japan Foundation in Russell Square. She was talking about memory, how she started off in black and white and things like that. A lot of what she does is diverse; she photographs all sorts of stuff. I like art in general and would take photos of anything if I could so…easily inspired.

RG: Two of your photographs were exhibited in a group show in Margate earlier this year, how did you choose just two from your series and how did you decide on producing a small publication to accompany them?

SG: Basically, I was looking through them all and there were a few I wanted to show and it was the street stuff because that’s the stuff I had that I could say has more structure than any other photograph I took in Japan. I was thinking ‘what are my strongest ones?’ but then I was considering ‘how do I define strong?’ and which I could put together in an exhibition.

I chose ones that I think reflect my time in Japan and the ones that felt like how I felt when I was there, so they aren’t just my experience, but my emotions too. With the woman, I felt a bit lost and with the little girl, I felt like to me, she looked like she was part of the scenery but she wasn’t. Both of them felt a bit disjointed which was again reflecting my mood and it also felt like there was such energy about them which drew me to them and which also drew me away from others.

The publication, it was such a last minute thing, I should have put more time into it but I’ve had it in the back of my head for years, when I first started liking photography but I’ve always been scared of. Everything I’m scared of with photography is a sign for me to try it because it’s normally something that you should, something out of your comfort zone. I really wanted to see how some of the images would look in a small printed publication and I thought, ‘Just do it. Go for it.’ I sold four to strangers and I was so happy. Someone I don’t know actually liked it enough to buy it! It’s given me the confidence to do it again.

RG: It was newpaper-esque. Grainy. Textured.

SG: *nods* It worked and was influenced by how photo books are and with Japanese photography, photo books are the best, magazines and newspapers, that is the output, more so than exhibitions. It’s seen as the output. It was more interesting for me in that sense anyway as I heard that and I looked at things and agreed. I mean, of course I like exhibitions but there is something completely different in the way it’s done, texture etc.

RG: The series being plastered across you room, you must look at them every day. Is there scope for you to continue working with them?

SG: This was initially a personal project, not something I had planned to use for university, but it is going to continue to be a part of my course project and it’s something that I thought about when I took them in April. I live with them, look at them and process them. I still see a project there. I want to go back to Japan and hopefully will be raising funds to do so in the next year. I’m desperate to go back.

RG: How exciting! On to our topical question…With more film types being discontinued, yet Kodak claimed they won’t stop producing film, do you think it is likely or at all possible that we will see a total decline of film photography in our lifetimes?

SG: That’s an interesting question. Erm…I think you could easily say that digital is going to take over, but at the same time, I think it’s an obvious answer, but there are so many people invested in film that they will put their foot in the door and stop it from happening. I don’t think film could ever become extinct as long as there is a passion for film. If I, for instance, become famous in the next ten years, and film is really just going out, I would invest so much money into stopping that from happening. I would do my best, try to advertise and do whatever I could. I’m pretty sure there are people doing that now.

There are people, like Moriyama, who basically just work in film. There are so many people that use it I think you would have to kill a whole generation of people who love film in order for it not to be there. I can’t remember what paper, but there was a paper that went out, well even something as silly as Polaroid; that stopped production and now people are trying to bring it back…

RG: I really enjoy hearing people’s opinions on this topic. Thank you very much for speaking with me; you are a very interesting person and photographer. Don’t forget to look me up in ten years’ time when you’re famous!

Too see Sayuri’s Japan photographs and more of her work visit


The Leaves Are Falling Faster

Leaves are an everyday sight for most people in the world and autumn is many people’s favourite season due to the smells, the colours and cooling weather after the summer (if we in England are lucky enough to get a hot summer…)

Memories of running down the lane in my little red wellies, jumping in puddles and piles of leaves, listening for those satisfactory sloshes and crunches, alongside my love for the season make these images by Bill Stormont all the more beautiful than they already are aesthetically. Everyone, hunt out your woolly hat, push your umbrella into your coat pocket, bring out the wellington boots and simply go for a walk, making sure to notice the leaves on the way!

My Sunday Interview with … My Grandparents

After looking at my family photographs last weekend, I had numerous people kindly tell me they found my last post an interesting topic. I’ve had a busy week but something I have spent a little time on has been researching my growing collection of analogue cameras. Some of these (including my favourite at the moment – the Zeiss Ikon Nettar 515) were given to me by my paternal grandparents. I thought it would be interesting to talk to them this week for my Sunday interview and found out how photography has been involved in their lives and their thoughts and opinions on particular aspects; the digital age, for example.

Nan and Grandad

My grandad, John, was born in 1934 and started using his first camera (a Coronet box camera that he very kindly found out and let me have yesterday, much to my delight) when he was around 13 years old to photograph his increasing interest in planes. It also travelled all the way to Gibraltar with him during his national service in the army. He showed me his very first photo album, full of planes and could still point out which he had been up in as he kept a detailed log book of each flight, which also contains some tickets and more photographs.

My grandmother, Sheila, was born in 1939 (her mother used to tell her that it was her crying that had started the war) and fondly remembers her dad being a budding amateur photographer, whilst it is a long-running family joke that Nan herself is notorious for chopping people’s heads off in her photographs. I began by explaining what my blog is all about and why I wanted to interview them and so it began…

S: I don’t do much photography *laughs*

RG: I remember you saying your dad was quite into it.

S: Oh yes, he loved it, his photography. I mean, he wasn’t professional, just holidays and things like that but he did love taking his photos.

RG: Can you remember him always using cameras or was there a specific age from which you remember him photographing?

S: I always remember he always had his camera with him when we went on holiday. He did take things at home as well because he loved his garden; he often used to take pictures of that.

RG: How would he have developed the film? Did he do it himself?

S: No, you went to the chemist in those days. You just went to the chemist and they did it, didn’t you?

J: Well, I always used a photographic shop on Springbridge.

S: Oh yes, Springbridge, that’s right! Ealing. Broadway.

J: Hmm I used to have a tremendous problem with mine, every time, because mine were all aeroplane photographs,  well not always, but with the aeroplane photographs, when they developed them, they always cut off some of the bits that I didn’t want them to cut off. I mean, say if the aeroplane was facing left to right, I didn’t mind them cutting off the tail on the left, but I hated it when they cut off the front where the propeller was, as then it hadn’t got anywhere to go, if you see what I mean.

S: But why would they cut bits off if you’d want it in the shot?

J: Well because you could see looking at the negative that it was all there but presumably the frame that they put it onto somehow when printing was a little bit smaller so they had to choose which bit to chop off. I used to have to take them back and complain, which I hated doing, but it used to upset me so much that, you know, ‘Oh, they’ve chopped off the wrong side!’ I had to explain to them what I wanted and make them do it again.

It was very difficult taking pictures of aeroplanes with a box camera. With my box camera, you only got 8.

RG: 120 film and they’re large negatives aren’t they, 6 by 9, like the Zeiss you gave me?

J: The folding camera, yes. I can’t remember where I got that from though.

S: I’d forgotten about Springbridge. That was where everybody went, wasn’t it?

J: Well there wasn’t anywhere else really.

S: It was over the railway, a little hump right over the railway. A little camera shop full with cameras in it and I suppose the man did it in a little bit at the back of the shop.

J: I wonder if it’s still there.

S: I have a feeling we drove over it recently and it wasn’t there. I remember it was a camera shop for years and years and years, all the time I was there.

RG: So, Grandad, do you have a favourite camera out those you’ve used in the past?

J: I suppose I was reluctant to stop using the box camera because I’d used it for so long; I always took it to Farnborough with me. But it’s so difficult because you take 8 pictures with it and then you had to change the film, which is difficult in the daylight. The flying’s going on and you didn’t want to miss anything.


S: Well that was always the problem if they got stuck. Sometimes they’d get stuck and you’d have to find somewhere really in the dark.

J: But I don’t suppose I’ve had many cameras in my lifetime. I mean, that box camera, that was the earliest one I ever had; it even went to Gibraltar with me. Cameras were hard to come by when I was young, well, you couldn’t get film, of course, after the war for a long time.

S: Nobody took photos. That was really why there were hardly any pictures of me as a baby.

J: And of course, it was all black and white. Colour film hadn’t come in yet. Or, I think, it was beginning to come in but it was very expensive. Only rich people could afford it.

S: I thought it came in much later.

J: We had colour film on our honeymoon, didn’t we?

S: Very funny colour. The colours weren’t true, were they?

J: I don’t know, some of the colours have changed, faded and changed over the years. I mean, we’ve still got pictures but the tones have changed slightly. The prints this is.

RG: Can you remember 35mm coming in and using it?

J: I remember 35mm coming in but I didn’t have a 35mm camera for a long time after that because I couldn’t afford it. I can’t really remember how I came by my first 35mm camera. I remember even as late as when I was working in Bexhill deciding to go and buy myself a decent camera. That was more the one I think you’re probably using *looks at Nan*

RG: So is that one of those fully automatic ones rather than an SLR?

S: Its plastic I know that. It’s there beside you.

RG: Oh, I have one of these! My friend bought it for me from a charity shop; she’s good like that.

S: So if you have one, you’ll know when we bought it, as it was new.

[I looked in my notebook when I got home and saw that it (a Panasonic C-420AF) was first made and sold in 1988.]

J: I never had an SLR, like your Dad did.

S: We’ve never had a camera as good as the one Sally left you, have we?

RG: That’s a compact digital, isn’t it? How have you found moving onto digital?

J: Good, apart from getting the prints off, which is not difficult now because Matthew or Hannah [my uncle and cousin] do it for me…

S: But we can’t do it by ourselves *laughs*

J: We’ve only once been into Tesco to do it ourselves and it was a disaster.

S: We were in there an hour and still didn’t know what we were doing…

J: Sometimes I’ve accidentally taken videos instead of photos if the camera is on the wrong setting by mistake. There was one that went on for about two minutes and I hadn’t realised and it’s in the car and you see the roof and floor of the car and hear Nan talking *we all laugh*.  The man in the shop managed to print a still from the video so I’m reluctant to take them off the camera. Instead of printing what was on there, though, he said, ‘Oh you’ll just want the plane’ so he blew it up and it was so large, the grain, it was all pixelated.

S: Didn’t want that, did you.

J: Knowing it can be done, I haven’t eliminated them as sometime I want to go and get them done again.

S: I think it’s good with the digital because you can look immediately and see what you’ve taken…

J: That’s the beauty of it.

S: …and if it hasn’t come out very well you can take another one but on the other hand, showing people is very awkward because the screen is so small you have to get it in the right light and some people just can’t see it at all. So we can’t really wait to have them done but then you say we can’t have them done yet because you haven’t filled it, if you see what I mean.

J: I leave it until I have quite a few to run off otherwise it’s not really worth it.

S: Yes and then the excitement of the day, the holiday is over…

RG: So that’s quite similar for waiting for your film to finish, the 24 to 36 exposures or likewise.

J: It is.

S: Yes. What people used to do in those days, is just take lots of film, if it was Christmas or a holiday, you’d just take one after the other and very often you’d come home and take the last one of the cat or something *we laugh* and then you’d send them off.

J: Hmm in those days it was the thrill of waiting to see what you’d got because you didn’t know what you’d got.

S: They’d come through the post and half of them would be a thumb or a blur or something.

J: Yes *laughs* but it really is the beauty of the modern camera when you can look straight away, like you say.

S: There’s good and bad in all things modern and old, really. I think we’ve always, although we’re not good at it, we’ve always got a lot of joy out of taking photographs. If they’ve turned out right, it’s exciting, isn’t it?

J: Well, so many people are giving up. Not bothering to take pictures anymore.

S: No, we have several friends who say they don’t take photos anymore and I think, ‘Oh, that’s a shame. It’s nice going somewhere different and taking shots of things.’

J: They don’t seem to want to record their past, or what they’ve seen.

RG: Hold that thought…I’ll come back to this…


J: Nan’s just taken a film and there are 24 on there and when I send it off, that’s going to be five or six pounds. Now, I’m getting 60 or more for just a little bit more money. One of the drawbacks with the modern camera, though, is that you do need to keep the batteries up to date. It runs through the batteries quick, especially when you’re looking to see what you’ve taken all the time or playing your movie ones, that sort of thing.

[During this part of the conversation, Nan asked whether Grandad had enough film in his camera for a party they’d be going to the next day before asking (less than a minute after being reminded the camera is digital) if you can put batteries in the camera whilst there is still film in there… It’s okay; she is a self-proclaimed ‘Potty Nan’.]

S: It’s too beyond me, I can’t believe it. You’ve been born into it, we haven’t. [This was after I had tried to explain how digital cameras work.] You can’t believe how it’s changed from those photographs, like we have in our hall, where the man would’ve pulled the cloak over him, had the big flash and no one would’ve dared to move, which is why they all look so solemn.

RG: Did you ever have a photograph taken like that?

S: No, I’m not as old as that. No, the only portrait I ever had is downstairs and was when Pat [her sister] was about four or five and I was bout eighteen months or two or something but I can’t remember that.

J: Well, we did go next door for one. He never went to digital; he gave up when it went to digital.

S: He got rid of everything, you know. I don’t know how he could do that. You’d think it would just become a hobby. He loves wildlife and things. It’s lovely when you go round National Trust or places.

RG: Some of the cameras you’ve given me, Nan, have Auntie Pat’s initials on them. Did she enjoy photography as much as your dad?

S: Yes, she had a few cameras. She always used to take pictures. She had a Box Brownie that she used a lot. She must’ve had Father’s camera after that.


RG: I said I’d return to it, and it’s because I wanted to ask you a (sort of) topical question about photography as evidence. I wrote a blog post a few weeks ago about how some people, arguably most people, use photographs as evidence and as a record. Is this relevant to your photographs?

J: Oh definitely, as far as aeroplanes are concerned. Also, as far as family is concerned as well because we always take pictures when we’re on holiday. Nan loves to photograph the cottages we’ve stayed in, inside and out.

RG: Would you say it’s the main reason you photograph?

J: Yes. It’s nice to look back on photographs; remember old times and times in the past.

S: I suppose, when you think about it, it is for that reason. Even when you’re on holiday, you like to remember that place, so it’s evidence you’ve been there. You can say to other people, ‘Do you remember so and so? I’ve been there.’ Couldn’t you?

It would be very good for real evidence, wouldn’t it? If you took something and there was somebody in the background. You could say, ‘Look, there he was. He wasn’t where he said he was.’ If you see what I mean.

RG: Would you say evidence or memory…or are they the same thing in a photograph?

S: Hmm difficult…*laughs*

J: Well, they’re not the same thing, are they?

S: No, you could record a memory without taking a picture, though you couldn’t really prove that that as evidence if you didn’t have the photo of someone there.

RG: The sorts of photos you take are of family and holiday snaps…

S: Yes, they’re mostly for looking back at memories and I think they’re very, very good for older people. You know, when older people go into homes or can’t get out anymore, they can look back at photos and remember things as they might not have much future left, but they might have good memories. They do say that people with Alzheimer’s or Dementia can sometimes look at photographs and remember. So I think they’re very good, very good talking point.

RG: Do you ever look at a photograph and think, ‘Now, where was that, and why did I take it?’

J: Yes, I do, and that’s the reason why I tend to now, and have done for years, to write on the backs of the photographs the place and the date so that we can take them out and see where it was. Also I think when we talk about things that have happened in the past, and we think, ‘Gosh, how long ago was that?’, usually if we can date it within a year or two, I can go to the albums and get the one from that year and find the photograph of when we went there and see that it was such and such a date.

I do often go up and get an album out to look at it just for the fun of looking through. Lots of people have hundreds and hundreds of photographs and never look at them and occasionally we do. It’s good.

RG: Do you think they may be a day when there are no physical photographs?

J: I would hope not, but it could do, where they could all be in archives on this microfiche business or that sort of thing. Film is being phased out, is there going to be a time when film is no longer available? You don’t seem to think there’s much of a problem in getting it, except that it’s probably more expensive to get the older type film. But to the ordinary layman, it is difficult to get it unless you know special places for it.

RG: Well, we’ve covered a lot and thank you so much for your time. Next time I visit, I definitely want to have a nose through your albums again and hear some stories about the memories that come hand-in-hand with the contents…

“The grub is a bit rough but it’s all right…”

I am finding this blog so very interesting that I felt it must be shared! The letters were written by one Joseph Henry Thompson and reading first hand experience of WWII provides both an intriguing insight and a touching story behind the era and the man himself. Can’t wait to read more, don’t want them to end, so think I will limit myself to one a day at the most (I seem to have come quite late to the party and there are over 70 letters already transcribed by his niece…)


Precious Photographs

Firstly, let me apologize for the quality of the following images. My scanner is far from the best, with a shallow depth of field meaning there is more frame detail than sharp photograph. Secondly, this post is all about me, a little lengthy and not in the least academic and I thought my fortnightly blog post would be. Just having returned to lectures for the beginning of my final year, plummeting headfirst into research already, I thought I could do with something a little light-hearted.

Tidying my bedroom at the end of last week, I polished the photo frames I have on show and got to thinking why exactly I had chosen to put these in frames, on my shelves, mantelpiece and those I have crudely stuck to the wall. This thought has continued to plague me for a few days now. What is it about a photograph that deems it worthy enough to be shown to anyone who happens to be in view of it? I have already come to the conclusion that, of course, it is an utterly personal choice but it still interests me as to how people choose their showpieces.

I am close to my family and wouldn’t be without a family portrait of some sort. I have one photograph of my parents, my brother and I, which I chose to print and put into an ‘18th Birthday’ frame upon receiving it for, you’ve guessed it, my 18th birthday. This photograph was taken shortly beforehand, as we hadn’t had a proper, staged portrait taken since I was about four years old (my brother no older than two years old). Recently discovering my love for photography and being given a new camera for Christmas, I put it on my new tripod and set the timer. This was the shot that was sent to all our grandparents, aunts and uncles and extended family and friends.


At the same time, we took the opportunity to get one of me and my brother. I chose to place this in another newly acquired frame. A year later, a great aunt of ours gave me a lovely bejewelled frame, similar to the one I already had, with a photograph of the two of us on my first day of school. I don’t know if she knew it was a photograph I had always loved; the garden gate the best place to photograph in our temporary home near Tesco at the time, Sam’s cute little Tigger shorts and us both so blonde. In my room, I generally place these two either next to one another at an angle or opposite each other, symmetrical, like a sort of ‘then and now’ exhibition.



Finally, and a little strangely I suppose, I have some photographs from long ago; a beautiful little photo of my mother, taken I think even before she had me, a photo of our first cat, Lucy (of whom I also still have a cuddly toy imitation of which I have had since I was born), and a photograph of myself when I was a baby as well as a larger photograph of myself at a similar age. These last few my mother found recently upon discovering a box in the attic that hadn’t been touched since we moved into our current house about 9 years ago. I found this incredibly interesting; that I had completely forgotten I had these photographs and their frames, and that I had photographs of myself as a baby in the first place.



I asked my mother why I had them at all and she said simply, “You always like pictures of you as a baby.” We just looked at each other, I think I probably grunted an ‘hmmpf’ and I carried on unpacking the box, but upon deciding what to keep and what to throw away, I realised that, yes, I do like having images of me when I was younger around. There are some on the walls at home that I adore; the fore-mentioned portrait from when we were younger and one of my brother and I in my grandad’s garden in Somerset, with me in a pair of cumbersome roller-skates and Sam holding my hand and waving with the other beside me.

The funny thing is (funny peculiar, not funny ha-ha), is that I can’t think why. It’s not because I was a good looking baby, not because they were images taken by someone who has passed away, or because they were particular events. Perhaps it has something to do with nostalgia and reminiscing, but these were times I was too young to really remember.

The final image is one of my father, brother and I when we were, I think, at a wedding. It is cut strangely because it used to be in a snow globe photo holder. I love how I have my doll on show for everyone to marvel at, how Sam and I are looking away from the camera, but still posing, as if there was another person distracting us with a camera or otherwise and how you can imagine just from this one image how I am a bit of a daddy’s girl (and I still am, in my mind at least).


I do also have plenty of photographs of friends and my cats, but there is perhaps something in the way these are cello taped to the walls suggesting that, as much as I love them, my family photographs are subconsciously more sacred. This could just be because the photographs I have of my friends were all printed in Tesco from digital files, rather than some of the older images that would have all been shot on film and specifically sent off for.

So, I think I surround myself with these images wherever I go for many more than one reason. Because I know the subjects, they have a deep meaning for me, they are aesthetically pleasing to my eye, bringing back memories. However perhaps it is more likely to be because I don’t live with my family all the time anymore, so it’s nice to see their faces every day. Truth be told, does anyone really ever put images they dislike on show? Maybe it is as simple as that…


Test Yourselves…Answers

A couple of weeks ago I posted a little photographic quiz. See how many of the big names you managed to correctly guess with the answers below…

(left to right)

Louis Daguerre

Annie Leibovitz

Richard Billingham

Bill Brandt

Anna Fox


Robert Capa

Julia Margaret Cameron

Alec Soth

Henri Cartier-Bresson

Lee Friedlander

Steve McCurry

Cecil Beaton

Eugene Atget

Diane Arbus

Eadweard Muybridge

Don McCullin

David Bailey

Gillian Wearing

Irving Penn

Dorothea Lange

Sally Mann

Henry Fox Talbot

Philip Lorca diCorcia

Man Ray

Robert Frank

Martin Parr

Nan Goldin

August Sander

Joel Meyerowitz

Paul Strand

Rineke Djikstra

Richard Avedon

Walker Evans


Thomas Ruff

William Egglestone

Thomas Struth

Cindy Sherman

Nicephore Niepce

My (late) Sunday Interview with…Sarah Neuenhaus

Sarah is a close friend and an influential peer of mine. In the last couple of months, she has been preparing and getting very excited about her imminent trip to The Gambia so I thought I would interview her about whether she intends to take her camera with her…

RG: What would you say is your current field of photography?

SN: I like photographing people but I don’t think I’m very good at it so at the moment I enjoy just taking photographs that people would hang on their walls. Sunsets, flowers and things I could sell as prints.

RG: You’re planning to visit The Gambia soon, after already spending a little over a week there in 2008. What lead you to want to go again?

SN: The people and last time we went we took money to build part of their school so I really want to go back and see what that looks like, the result of fund raising the money for them and to see what’s changed, if anything has changed, to see if the people’s lives have been made better by it and if there’s anything more we can do.

RG: Are you fund raising at all this time?

SN: I’m just fund raising for me to be out there this time, towards flights and the hotel for instance, but I’ve been asked by other people I’m going with to leave space in my suitcase for things like pencils, musical instruments so I guess they’re fund raising for, or donating things like that.

RG: That sounds like a good idea. How have you been raising the money?

SN: I have been giving people Smarties and asking them to fill up the tubes with small change, I’ve been saving my tips from work, I held a tea and cake sale for the ladies at church which went well and in a couple of weeks, I am hosting a Gambian evening where I am going to cook Gambian food and we’ll sit on the floor, eat with our hands and learn about Gambian life.

RG: How will you be involving photography and your creativity in your trip?

SN: I am taking my camera and I am going to buy a video camera to have with me too. Hopefully, I’ll be producing a promo video for the established group I’m going with to have on their website to encourage more people to go on future trips. I’m not sure if I will exhibit the images or put them out there at all, maybe just as still images in the film, but I will definitely be concentrating on sharing the film.

RG: Do you have a personal ultimate aim for travelling out there? Something you intend to see or bring back with you?

SN: Well, I hope I can make a difference to just one person at least. I would eventually like to become a sponsor, to make a difference to a child’s life, to go back and visit them to see how I am helping them have a better life but that depends on money and when I would be in a situation to do this.

RG: On a different note, who or what are you interested in and influenced by at the moment?

SN: Photographically? I don’t know if they inspire my work, but I like looking at the work of wedding videographer Joseph Young. His work is just phenomenal and beautiful, really emotional to watch. I suppose it doesn’t inform my work at all at the moment but it’s something that could have an impact on my future work. I guess if I’m going to make a film after Gambia, it’s someone to look at and it may have a surprising effect.

RG: My topical question for you was difficult to find. I wanted to ask you something about Gambia so had to do a little bit of research myself. So…What is your opinion on the controversial national Media Commission Act amended in 2003 by the Gambian Parliament that regulates the operations of journalists?

SN: Well, I don’t agree with it because..erm..I don’t want to offend anyone *we titter nervously, both hoping we actually understand the Act and haven’t got the wrong end of the stick and subsequently don’t embarrassingly offend anyone. We apologize in advance, just in case*…erm…because I think it’s biased. They obviously don’t want somebody to find something out, in my opinion, otherwise why would you not allow anyone to publish something in their own words?

So, the only news reports or journalists views they have come from the government, the state, but that’s very biased because if you ever wanted to say anything about the country or take photos out there or publish media, you can’t. It hasn’t come from state, and it’s difficult for people to have their own opinion. But doesn’t that just mean that the whole country is held under one opinion? Are they ever allowed to have their own opinions, to disagree? I think that’s what I worry about; the people who do disagree, and what could happen to them.

RG: Did you notice anything before relating to this when you were there?

SN: Not really, although when we went to the capital, we drove past what I think I remember to be the presidential palace and there was a long line of women in colourful clothing, there must have been about a hundred of them, and naturally, we took photos from the taxi as it was eye-catching. They seemed to get angry, a couple started after the taxi, shouting at the driver and walking towards us as if they didn’t want their pictures taken. We were thinking, “Why are they so annoyed that we’re taking their photo? It’s a free country.” But looking back maybe this was because, in essence it isn’t a liberally free country, they agreed with the state or the opposite and were protesting or something and didn’t want to be recognised.

We’ve been told this time that when we go to the embassy we can’t have our cameras in our bags, let alone out and in use, as they’ve had problems in the past which is going to be difficult seeing as I want to be filming and photographing…so, we’ll see. *laughs*

RG: It does seem to be quite a hot topic. Is there any way we can keep up to date with the progress of your trip?

SN: Yes I have a blog!

RG: Great! I will be checking that out later, for sure. I can’t wait to catch up with you after your trip to see how it all went and I hope you have a very rewarding experience while you’re there.

You can follow what Sarah is getting up to in preparation for her trip and how it all pans out at http://sarahneuenhausgambia.blogspot.co.uk/

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