photography

10 things I have learnt about doing a by Camera & Kit

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PhD in photography …

You may not know this but I am in year two (the start of year two) of a practice-based photography PhD in central London. What's a practice-based PhD I hear you ask? Well it's a doctorate that combines writing a thesis/dissertation with creating a work of art, in my case, a photographic body of work where the words explain what I did and situate it in a theoretical context and framework and the creative artefact, the photographs conveys the research process and the new knowledge that I have contributed to academia. At the end of it, I come out as a Dr in photography. I'm not going to lie, I struggle with doing a PhD, it's not easy and is a hard slog, I also struggle with people (okay, namely men) telling me that you don't need a PhD to be a photographer, well, what can I say other than this is true, but I do need a PhD to become a doctor in photography. I have found doing this PhD both an intellectual and mental health challenge, and a massive financial burden ( especially if you are self-funded like I am and there is no shame being self-funded, fully funded students are not smarter or more deserving of a PhD than self funded students), no one ever talks about how much unpaid labour is involved in undertaking a photography PhD, writing conference abstracts, attending conferences, writing book chapters, writing academic papers, exhibition .... the list of free unpaid stuff you are expected to do is long and seemingly never-ending but BUT it's not all bad, here is what I have learnt having just started my second year of a PhD.

1) It takes over your life, I mean it seriously takes over your life, everything is about working towards yearly annual progress reviews and then hitting the repeat button for four years.

2) Doing a PhD is not about being the smartest person in the room, it's about having a unique idea to contribute new knowledge and then having the stamina to endure almost 4 years of further study.

3) People are surprised that I am still a practicing commercial photographer, there seems to be a misconception or at the very least, it seems to be common practice that once you enter the realms of photography academia you no longer practice as a photographer.

4) A photography PhD (or any PhD for that matter ) is an endurance sport, it's a test to see how much your passion can bear the pressure that comes with completing a doctorate. It's a lot of pressure.

5) It's a lesson in how much rejection you can tolerate and having the ability to handle brutal feedback, whilst the idea behind this that it apparently makes you a better doctor, it can be soul destroying and knock your confidence. It's hard not to take it personally

6) A PhD has an innate ability to rekindle even the most dormant of mental health issues, a PhD is stressful, it has me beset with fears and plagued with self-doubt most of the bloody time. It is more than okay to have a PhD wig out when you need one.

7) Doing a photography PhD has made me a better commercial wedding photographer, it has not dampened my passion for taking photographs and I have an increased more nuanced understanding of my craft. I can say the same about my Master's Degree in photography. Even though my field of photographic study has nothing to do with wedding photography, it has made me a better wedding photographer through developing a new set of creative media arts and artistic skill set.

8) If you say to someone, I'm really struggling, I am finding this PhD really hard (and it's more than okay to find it hard to do) and they respond with "well, it's a PhD, how easy did you think it was going to be?" then you need to find a more empathetic support buddy.

9) It makes me appreciate the serenity and peace I find in editing peoples wedding photographs and crafting albums, this stills my mind and refocuses my creative mindset to shoot weddings and tackle the demands of a PhD.

10) It will be worth it in the end and ultimately make me a better photographer and better photography academic and theorist.

For Photographers: Feminism + Wedding Photography by Camera & Kit

I have been wanting to write this post for some time but I have been hesitant to do so.  I am not sure why to be honest. It's hard in my head at times to merge the concept of being a feminist and a wedding photographer.  Sometimes, I feel like I am selling out as a generation X woman. Being both a feminist and a wedding photographer seems to be an impossibility at times.  I have struggled with this many times over the years and the questions I constantly ask myself are:

Is it really possible to be a feminist wedding photographer? and am I selling out my ethical and moral beliefs in the pursuit of creative expression and a pay cheque?

There are not many rules books floating around about wedding photography that tell you what does it exactly mean to be a feminist wedding photographer.  Actually, there are hardly any books that discuss the theoretical aspects and wider societal implications of wedding photography. Most wedding guide books and blogs will tell you about lens choice and aperture settings, how to pose a couple but no one really looks at well, why as wedding photographers do we shoot the way we do.  Why are so many poses expected in wedding photography and people are happy to say, it's a wedding, it's what photographers do.

So, my answer to the question is it really possible to be a feminist wedding photographer in an industry so riddled with heteronormative scripts, binary views on gender and patriarchal expectations is,  (and this is me being polite) HELL YES IT IS! YES YES!

Damn straight, this is me trying not to swear.

This is not a post slating the institute of marriage, I am not here to over throw the patriarchy and abolish weddings in the name of feminist rage. No.  I am here to play the patriarchy by re shaping the visual landscape of modern day weddings and marriages.  I fundamentally believe marriage has its place in modern society and there is no denying a wedding, a marriage is an institute of the patriarchy, I as a photographer find myself with a bit of a challenge, can I challenge the dominant visual tropes so embedded in wedding photography and still have a successful career as a wedding photographer.  I like to think so (he hee) 

Historically weddings have always been about men, sorry but not sorry to say that and a wedding is full of patriarchy pitfalls to avoid and saying that is not to suggest that I am misandrist who loves the tears of menimists and men's rights activists nor am I wedding kill joy so trust me when I say read this article as it explains all https://jezebel.com/5019303/the-modern-wedding-ceremony-full-of-patriarchal-pitfalls.

Patriarchy and its influence on the style of wedding photographs can explain why some wedding photographers are challenged by the notion of same sex marriages.  All typical wedding photographs are based on the visual hegemonic predefined role of man and woman, the husband takes the lead in the photos. The bride rests her head on his chest, stares pensively into the mirror pondering her new life as a wife. I heard a tale the other day about a photographer who made the groom to be stand on a box as to appear taller than his new wife because she was taller than he in heels.  See my point.  Who plays the dominant role, the protector, the provider, the head of the new household if both genders in the photograph are the same or non-binary in the eyes of traditional marital views.

So, I see two ways that I can be a feminist and wedding photographer that results in stunning images for my modern day couples and satisfies my need to be authentic to my belief system.

Firstly, I finally understand that the way I see marriage and coupledom heavily influences the way I photograph brides and grooms.  For me, I see marriage as an adventure that two best friends take, lovers who have a laugh and share intimacy together, a secret club just for two. Co conspirators and partners in crimes, lovers, usually with a cat thrown into the mix, no one is the leader or home maker, - both are partners, equal in every sense of the word, mentally, physically, sexually - both bringing equal but different elements to the relationship and then comes the dilemma, how is this then reflected in my photographs.

Secondly,  I did away with photo lists - the dominance of the man and the role of woman as a submissive wife is engrained in the wedding list, just look at traditional wedding photos. This is also not to say I do not do family shots, I do I just don't do any image that suggests the bride is now the property of her new husband and that there is a power difference at play in the relationship.   Next time you are bored at work, just take a look at parody Instagram accounts of men mocking the traditional female poses, a big burly bloke staring seductively as he sits in a bubble bath does not work, seems hilarious because we have been visually conditioned to see men and women is certain poses that reinforce societal gender roles and they simply do not work when you reverse the gender in the shots.

We all, as photographers photograph weddings differently, there is no harm in asking the question why do we photograph the way we do and calling bollocks on it to suit yourself and your clients.

 

Smash the cake by Camera & Kit

I am not going to lie. 

Of all the photography trends to come to the United Kingdom from across the pond, smash the cake shoots would have to be my all time favourite.  Trust me when I say this, I have seen a lot of photography trends come and go.  From boudoir bride to trash the dress to selective colouring (not my finest photographic hour) but I love to smash the cake, and it's not just because I have a penchant for cake and licking icing from the tops of them.  I do spend the occasional Saturday eating decadent cupcakes.  I adore cupcakes. I love the ones inspired by vintage cocktails.  You must go to Lola's in Selfridges.  Seriously go and check out their cupcakes for grown-ups. I was going tosay adult cupcakes but not sure what that conjures up in the mind!

If I can't eat cake then the next best thing is that I can photograph little ones indulging in cake.  Is there anything more satisfying than photographing a baby who has been plonked in front of a giant cupcake and let loose?  I cannot think of anything more fabulous. Little ones and cake, what possibly could go wrong?! 

Smash the cake shoots are an adorable way to celebrate your baby or babies turning one; actually, they are an excellent way to photograph any child celebrating a birthday.  They are effortlessly simple but with visually stunning results.  It's an exercise in documenting the character your child.  Seeing the different ways babies respond to the sweetness and messiness of cake is a visual exercise in photographic anthropology.   A visual study of baby kind.  It's an academic study of the tots of Nappy Valley.  Some kids instantly take to the cake straight away, burying their cute button noses in frosting, others look and contemplate how they are going to tackle what sits in front of them. Some go all Jackson Pollock and paint the walls cake.  

Whatever way you baby seeks to explore cake, whether they have a sweet tooth or inquisitive mind, a smash the shoot cake is a wonderful way to capture your little one/s in their natural state of inquisitiveness and play.

Employment Opportunity - Second Shooter by Camera & Kit

Hello second shooters!

I am seeking a second shooter to join the Camera & Kit team. This is a paid position, I have no interest in having people work for the experience only. That's just exploitation and its hardly inspires creativity on a long shoot.  Shooting weddings are hard work.   Having said that, the position would be ideal for someone wanting to gain experience not to expand their portfolio as you will not be permitted to use the images.   You will be offered ongoing training and mentoring.

Key Selection Criteria;

  1. You are able to work Saturdays. 
  2. Previous wedding experience is not mandatory however you must be super keen to learn how to shoot weddings. 
  3. Available for international travel.
  4. Be familiar with the Nikon Shooting system.
  5. Be able to shoot in Manual Mode, sounds obvious but shooting a wedding is not the time to learn the basics of photography.
  6. Have your own equipment (although this is not a requirement, I can provide equipment)
  7. Are completing or have completed a university qualification in photography
  8. Understand that you will not be able to use the images for your own websites/blog
  9. Understand that you will be required to sign an agreement.

If you are interested or would like any further information, then please email your CV + links to your work.  If you do not have a website of your work, just send 10 jpegs with your CV. 

E-mail:  info@camera-and-kit.com 

Mabel and Me by Camera & Kit

This was going to be an announcement post, that I was pregnant but regrettably its not.  I miscarried during the week and lost my baby. I have read enough posts on that brilliant support forum NetMums to know that I am not alone.

I found out at an early pregnancy scan.  She was little for her age and there was no heart beat. I could see it for my self on a big arse TV screen. My baby was dead. I had lost her.  The mental anguish is unbearable. Matched only by the intense physical pain of a natural passing.

I had already named her Mabel. Not sure why I named her so early and not sure why I am blogging this, I don't wish to make anyone sad but I thought I would share what I have done with the early pregnancy scan images. 

Photography can be important as part of the grieving process, as a part of mine.  Its helping me to honour her in someway other than watching her slip away down the toilet. Sorry but miscarriage is brutal. I stopped short of photographing it. Maybe I should have.  Delayed or missed miscarriage is extra cruel. Mother nature is cruel because your body does not know your baby has died, you carry a dead baby but with all the symptoms of being pregnant.

That's how I knew I was pregnant.

I put on my sports bra and my boobies would not fit. Suddenly I'd shot up a cup size and was wondering the hell is this all about?   I know Mabel existed, even if it was only for 10 weeks. I could feel her effects on my body and well, I peed on enough sticks to know that she was there. 

See below.

Clearly I needed convincing. My massive boobies were not evidence enough.

Nobody ever tells you how physically painful a miscarriage is.  No body ever says how to honour the baby that never was. No body really knows how to talk about miscarriage. Your response is valid, how you choose to honour the baby that never was is valid. I don't know if she was a girl but I imagine her to be.  We document our entire lives, and whilst technically not a photograph an early pregnancy scan is still an image, I can see my baby.  It evokes feelings and its visual proof that my baby was there, she existed briefly and she was and is loved.

I keep crying randomly and muttering I lost my baby, despite the warm glow from the pain killers I am taking.  So I decided to print the scan and treasure it like a photograph.

I printed Mabel's 9 1/2 week scan. I framed it.  Its in a beautiful vintage inspired frame the Oliver Bonas store in Clapham Common. 

 

I don't want to share her with the internet so I have tucked it away with the baby woollen beanie I bought because she was due in winter.

Goodbye Mabel ...