Friday, 25 December 2015


This review means so much to me. Sincere thanks to Roger May and Walk Your Camera

Photographers’ Sketchbooks | Stephen McLaren and Bryan Formhals
Thames & Hudson, 2014, 320 pages.

The list of photographers the duo of McLaren and Formhals enlisted for this books is staggering: Roger Ballen, Jason Eskenazi, Stacy Kranitz, Susan Meiselas, and Alec Soth just to name a few. McLaren writes, “To explore the ‘photographic sketchbook’ in all its various forms is in one sense a legitimate return to photography’s earliest role in the fine arts.” He continues, “Photography may be having a bit of a Babel moment, so our intent here is to let the reader see how intelligent practitioners are cutting through the visual noise to make a compelling case for photography’s future relevance.” No small feat, right? But they offer a dizzying look into the minds and processes of some truly amazing photographers and they do it well. Robin Cracknell’s diaries – heartfelt, dark, and not about perfection – are worth the cost of the book alone. This is a book to own, to keep close at hand when you need some motivation, or to simply sit for a spell and say to yourself, “Damn.”

Thursday, 24 December 2015


I got interested in photography in the 8th grade. I remember exactly where I was when I first looked through a slr camera. I felt a surge of something; something I’m still unable to fully explain.  My photography teacher was lecherous and ‘touchy’ and made me feel very uncomfortable. Even today, when I smell darkroom chemicals I think of him, his cologne, his breath, his unwanted nearness. Any boy who liked photography in my school was called a ‘photo-fag’ but, somehow, this wasn’t enough to put me off. I already felt like an outsider because of my stutter and, fortunately, had enough real friends who didn’t care whether I had a camera around my neck or not so the whispered insults never bothered me.

When my parents realised I was serious about photography, they let me use my father’s ‘den’ as a temporary darkroom. Although they called it a ‘den’, it was a dead zone that served no real purpose apart from having a pull-out sofa for occasional guests and being a place to store magazines and junk -- notably my father’s Playboys hidden in the back of a cupboard beside my mother’s medical journals. Some days I’d look at naked women. Other days I’d look at rashes and wounds. As I was getting into photography, I was also getting into girls and remember thinking a lot about a particular girl who lived down the road while I was developing prints. The first portrait I printed in that room was of my dog. The second portrait was of her, in the woods, in the snow, with her dog.

My father was impossible to please, on any level, about anything. I could rake acres of lawn and be made to feel like a failure because a stray leaf had blown back on the grass. He was a perfectionist: the grass had to be cut both ways, criss-cross fashion. No wonder then that when I showed him my photographs, I was very conscious of dust specks and stippled drying marks on the surface of the prints. I was surprised that he didn’t seem to notice them and actually called me a perfectionist. It never occurred to me that someone could look at a print with dust specks on it and not be completely distracted by this glaring and obvious mistake. Even when I spotted them so carefully with ink, I’d put them up to the light, see those little dark dots and just tear up the damn thing in frustration. I had a bright table lamp in my room, right by my turtles because it kept them warm, and I’d study my prints under that light, searching for defects like stray hairs and dust. Paper was expensive and it hurt to throw them away but any print with the slightest flaw got destroyed. I never worried much about composition or contrast (all my prints were low contrast due to the curtain in the den not being quite light-tight) but the dust, the surface marks became a real obsession, marks of my failure, my impatience and incompetence.

When I got my first car, I lost interest in photography for a while. I also didn’t win the photography prize at my high school graduation which I took as a coded message to forget about taking pictures. So, instead of cameras, I got into cars, worked in a gas station, played guitar, drank a lot of beer, passed out on friends’ floors ... the usual things. I only began taking pictures again much later, to make some money as a fashion photographer first in America and then Italy. I was an assistant to a relatively well-known fashion photographer for a while and, as technically fine as his work was, I realised I needed to go in completely the opposite direction. His lighting, his make-up, his printing was so perfect; the floors of his studio so clean, his telephone and desk so polished ... maybe he reminded me of my father. I just knew, then and there, that I was never going to take these sorts of pictures and waste so much time cleaning and preparing for such anodyne results. Making pretty women look pretty was no challenge. The artifice of lighting, the make-up tricks, it just seemed so contrived. All the head-shots looked the same. The girls on the runway all the same. Everybody was shooting the same film, from the same angles, copying the style of whomever happened to be ‘big’ that month. Fashion photography was just the worst. The photographers, the models, the bookers, the art directors, the smarmy superficial chit-chat ... all just the worst.

When I left Milan for London, I saw a show at the old Saatchi Gallery. Andres Serrano’s ‘Piss Christ’ and some stuff by the Starn Twins. This was what I wanted to do. Looking at these pictures I felt that stirring in my gut I felt when I first held a camera or while printing in my father’s den. Something hungry and sexual and urgent. Like being on the edge of something. It was like being a drunk high-schooler at an Aerosmith concert. Or dreaming of a girlfriend, wondering if she knew you even existed. Or being high in the backseat of a friends car with the window open and cold night air numbing your face. All of those teenage feelings came back looking at these contemporary ‘art’ photographers with their big ‘imperfect’ pictures staring back at me. The first thing I did when I got back to my little rented room was tear up my fashion portfolio into raggedy postcards, put stamps on the back of them, and mail them back to myself, hoping they’d return even more battered and creased which they duly did. After that, I probably threw them away anyway but it was good to see them in sections, mangled, scribbled over. I stopped doing fashion photography that day and started aiming much higher, aiming inside myself, letting all the rules go and all the flaws and mistakes show. And still today, when I look at the dust and hairs and ‘mistakes’ everywhere in my work, I think of my father, the den, his Playboys, my turtle, raking the lawn, the girl down the road. It’s all there, in every picture. When I don’t feel that nagging, confusing soup of memories when making photographs, I’ll stop.

Monday, 14 December 2015


beyond  (mixed materials. 7 x 9.5 inches) from 'Weight, the sea'.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015


blind/sound  approx 18 x 22 inches. (still experimenting with papers/surfaces)

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Sarmad Magazine

Sarmad Magazine, Book Two.
Very pleased to be part of this along with many photographers whose work I've long admired.

Limited edition of 120 signed copies
84 pages
28 X 29 cm
Silkscreen cover
33 Monotone, duotone, and tricolor Risograph plates
Produced at Charles Nypels Lab, Maastricht.

Thursday, 3 December 2015


horizon.  first draft C-type for forthcoming exhibition.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

no map. no journey. no pearls.

Carbon paper drawing (detail) from 2010. 297mm x 420mm.
5 years ago ... same themes to 'Weight, the sea' project.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

example 5

Example 5. A woman dreamed she saw a white rowboat by a quiet lake. In waking life, she was frustrated with how long and difficult it was to leave her husband.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

the time that a body takes

the time that a body takes to slide is constant  (photographs, sewing pattern, paper, pencil.) 175 x 240 mm.

Friday, 20 November 2015

example 3

Example 3. A woman dreamed she climbed a mountain. In waking life she was finding it hard to meet her goals.  (35mm film. ink)

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

example 10

Example 10. A woman dreamed of drowning in a river. In waking life she was experiencing grief over the death of a loved one.  (35mm film, ink.)

Thursday, 12 November 2015

wounds heal all time

Originally, this was a darker, monochrome print, stamped with 'normal' braille. I revisited it today, printing it as I'd first found it to show the colour of mould and decay. I used a more delicate braille -- fittingly, called 'Balkan Peninsula' -- to let a bit more of the image come through.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

free halo for lady players

'free halo for lady players' (photograph, silver frame, statue, heather, brass, sea glass) 30 x 175 x 350 mm glass box.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

woe honey

Woe Honey. glass vials, seeds, (cut leaf mignonette, ox eye daisy, red campions, mixed lupines, lucerne, hemlock, ranunculus acris, rapeseed) hair, surgical lint. 7.75 x 7.25 x 2 inches.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015


Work in Progress. I'm always hesitant about showing unfinished work but sometimes putting it out there gives me a different perspective, allows me to see it more objectively. This is a collection of different material from the 'Weight, the sea' project in a handmade box frame.  14 x 16 x 2.5 inches.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Sarmad / Risography

So happy to see this glimpse of Sarmad Book Two -- printed in the pre-digital, Risography technique, hand-collated, and produced with such care and attention by Charles Nypels Lab / Van Eyck Academie in Maastricht.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Thursday, 15 October 2015

tree (a year later)

effects on film. slowly yellowing. 12 months in harsh sunlight. lose details. new shadows. like life.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

distant signals

happy to be collaborating again with exedra on a little film project about distant signals, waiting, and the sea.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Sunday, 16 August 2015


switch on the motor. june. bucharest. 35mm expired film/cine film.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Experimental Photography

Inspired by the Science Museum’s exhibition, ‘Revelations: Experiments in Photography’, Photofusion is featuring some examples of experimental photography.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

weight, the sea

Random pages of 'Weight, the sea' project.
29 pages in lovely old leather-bound Smythsons book.
16 prints from these notebooks will be sold in editions of 5.
The book is approx 10 x 12 inches.
Prints approx 12 x 16 inches.