Celebrate Life!

Sometimes I find it hard doing the regular blog thing, but today I received an email that was so life affirming and positive that I wanted to share it. A month or so ago I photographed a wonderful lady’s 95th birthday party in Walsall, and provided her family with a disk of images from the occasion. A hotel was hired for lunch for the afternoon, and the room filled with family, friends and carers from all ends of the country, coming to celebrate “Gar’s” 95th birthday.

So here’s the very lovely thank you email received from her son, and the very positive message that you don’t need an excuse for celebrating life whatever your age, as it does you good!

So let’s raise a glass to Eileen and wish her many more fun filled family celebrations and birthday fun!

Dear Lesley

I thought that you might like to know that Mother is now in receipt of her finished album – and she is thrilled with the results.

She is entertaining the world by showing everyone – including the postman – all your pictures and telling everyone what a wonderful time she had. It has really done her a power of good as it has perked her up and given her something to think about and focus on with all her friends. Your excellent photographs have provided her with a lasting memento of what was for her a very exciting and worthwhile day. Almost every photo you took made it to the final album, she is even beginning to think that it might happen again when she reaches 100! We also gave her a framed picture of one of your shots of her with Abigail and Zoe with which she is thrilled and it now has pride of place on her mantelpiece – and she has not valued pictures of herself for many years.

So thanks yet again for the super photographs and the sensitive way in which you managed to get such informal and excellent shots – they were a great success and much appreciated.


New, Old or just Recycled

I’m fortunate enough to live in a village in a beautiful part of Warwickshire, Kineton in fact. We are big enough to have shops, schools, pubs and the odd restaurant. Small enough to be a community, and one which looks forward to it’s monthly farmer’s market.

It isn’t huge, just half a dozen stalls in the market square, but it comes with cake, saddlers, organic veg stalls and folk musicians. So plenty to eat and drink, and most of it sourced within a very short distance of the village centre.

I’m not sure if it resembles markets of old. Certainly there has been a bike shop in the village since WWII and, there is still a “bike man” who comes to the market. However, there have been gatherings, things bought and sold and gossip passed on, and that is still what the Farmer’s Market provides. An open forum to see and be seen and have a chat with friends old and new.

For the love of Rust

I think most photographers like a bit of grunge, so I was quite surprised when looking that very few people seem to have written on the subject. Perhaps it’s our desire for texture taken from us in many ways by the smoothness of digital DSLR capture that have sent us running for the filters, HDR techniques and textured backgrounds, but whatever it is I have a serious habit for rust and decay.

I have a friend who claims he doesn’t paint his front gate because he knows of my love of rust, so I am used as an excuse, people will unbidden point out a “good door” to me, by which they mean “good” to me, which is flaking and faded.

I have even set up a “Rust” group on FineArtAmerica where i sell my prints


and people add their images all the time which suggests to me that there is a breed of us that doesn’t like too perfect, likes a little jaded, faded and clapped out. Certainly gives us all hope in that case.

vintage acrylic prints

rust posters

Gareth Malone – A Perfect Means of Expression

Singing has always seemed to me the most perfect means of expression. It is so spontaneous. And after singing, I think the violin. Since I cannot sing, I paint.
Georgia O’Keeffe

Although I love to sing, there are many who would cry “stick to the day job”, so I photograph! There are few things in life that are more perfect than listening to a beautiful moving song. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman playing Holmes and Watson in Sherlock, mushrooms (in any form), Dorothea Lange’s haunting depression photography, Stuart Maconie chatting on about the music he loves, and Meredith Frampton’s portraits in the Tate National are things that ring my personal and admittedly quirky bell.

Perfect in isolation, but particularly perfect at this point in our social history is the work and sounds that are brought about by Gareth Malone, (https://www.facebook.com/MilitaryWivesChoir?ref=ts#!/pages/Gareth-Malone/79992688731) although I suspect he is currently a less quirky choice than some of my others, judging by the reaction on Radio 2, the Twitterverse and Facebook, his steady body of work each year has finally culminated in the kind of praise and recognition he deserves

He is sweet, earnestly enthusiastic, slightly geeky middle class choir master. Who knew that he would ultimately be able to inspire everyone from small boys to anxious military wives barely used to the limelight to soar to wonderful sonorous heights of sound and emotion.

Let’s not miss out his subjects though, part of the appeal of the programmes made for adult and children’s TV are the characters of the performers, none of whom have been anywhere near professional. The gorgeous Kitty Lee, now sadly no longer with us, who despite her advancing years learnt to sing a song in Latin with the South Oxhey choir. I suspect that had Gareth not taught her line by line the song, she would have admitted defeat.

He brings out the best in the people he works with and by association, we the viewing public too. There is currently a daily cry at 8.22 every morning when Chris Evans http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00p2d9w, plays “Wherever You Are”, the gorgeous Military Wives https://www.facebook.com/MilitaryWivesChoir?ref=ts song, soon to be a single based on the love letters sent between themselves and their partners serving in Afganistan.

On a day when a large proportion of public sector workers are reminding us that they chose to take jobs that were largely worse paid because they either had a vocation or preferred to have a safe secure future with a good pension with less initial salary, then it is clear that we as a nation need as much harmony as we can get.

Ever since the mid 80s, when a certain “lady” sent us up the wrong turning and claimed not to think that society existed we have needed to find things like this important, and to paraphrase Gareth himself said, people need the excuse to get together and singing makes us feel better.

This is a photography blog isn’t it, I hear you cry? Well the same reasons that I love photography, it’s ability to view the soul is very similar, only in this case the soul is heard rather than seen.

Taking back the Streets – Rediscovering the Art of Street Photography

Ever since Jacob Riis photographed those “poor wretches” he found in New York slums with the earliest of cameras, street photography, or a capturing of a “real” social moment in time has existed.

Riis used the pictures to make a point, but that does not move us away from the fact that the point was made at all, and it was made with photography.

One of the joys of street photographers is that you can really do it with the smallest compact camera. In fact, look at the sort of social and documentary photography we are now seeing taking with people’s IPhones to show you that street photography is accessible and within the reach of everyone.

Street photography is often presented in black and white imagery and the reason for this is it becomes at once of its age and ageless, as this format strips down to the barest story.

Street photography can record, formulation opinion, change them or create joy in the viewer. Our social history is being lost to a great extent because we don’t print our photos or record our daily lives in the way we used to. Now is the time to take back the streets and start recording our new social history.

Come and learn Street Photography’s arts and devices at http://www.lesleyriggphotography.co.uk/photo-tuition

Boudoir to Bride to Be

“Nobody discovered ugliness through photographs. But many through photographs, have discovered beauty” (1), Susan Sontag – The Heroism of Vision

The thought, if not the exact quote, fleets through my mind as I grab the receipt for a number of pretty quilt covers and sheets and ponder whether they should be put on on business expenses.
No, wait, before you call the Revenue on me, there is a reason, I’m shooting a boudoir model in a week or so, and the bed, my bed actually, needs something newer and less mauled by childish paws than the current available stock.
The word “boudoir” has been used throughout history as the name for various rooms (or parts of rooms) used by women. When applied to photography is a description of a type of shot, very often of women, in states of undress, with the aesthetic focussed on the sensual nature of the whole environment rather than the salacious.

Boudoir photography, particularly in the over 30s, has experienced somewhat of a boom in popularity with artists such as Dita Von Teese and notable boudoir photographers such as LA based Cherie Steinberg becoming more mainstream in the coverage they receive, and therefore experiencing a trickle-down effect to us girls in the street who fancy throwing a shape and feeling like Garbo for the day..

“Generation Sex respects the rights of girls who want to take their clothes off, as long as we can all watch that’s ok”. (2) Neil Hannon, Divine Comedy, Generation Sex”

More than any feminist diatribe about the objectification of the female form it’s Neil Hannon’s tongue in cheek view of a “metro”, cosmopolitan world in which nudity and voyeurism can be explained away through “liberating of the sexes” which immediately springs into my music obsessed brain and starts me thinking about what it is exactly that boudoir represents and why it has become so popular with brides to be and other women who are not models.

Is boudoir photography just another cheap thrill? Is it just an example of modern western society dropping it’s knickers to such a degree that what you publicly display about you, both your sensuality and your intimate relationships has become so blurred as to make the private negligible.

Let’s be frank, Generation X did not invent the lascivious. Bawdy and scandalous have always existed. Tom Jones, Fanny Hill and Casanova are perfect high profile fictional and factual examples of life in certain sections of society stretching back several hundred years.
The Pre-Raphaelites may have expressed and repressed their guilt at the sensual leanings of their painting and their fairly dissolute lifestyles with trips to the Holy Land and moralistic paintings depicting pleasure, morality, sin and redemption. Nonetheless the fact remains that the sensual expression of femininity has much of the boudoir in it, particularly in Rossetti’s work.

Many of Rossetti’s works have the trademarks of boudoir depictions, from the lush, luxuriant free flowing hair, so symbolic within the Victorian era, to the luminous eyes of the sitter, raptly admiring their own image in the mirror. Some feminist argument (3) http://feminism.eserver.org/theory/papers/lilith/ladylil.html has suggested that this represents a dismissal of the “other” a rejection in fact of the “male” gaze. The narcissistic self-absorption and contemplation of her own beauty illustrating the strong, liberated woman, requiring no other in order to feel sensuous. Rosetti’s “Lady Lilith” is a perfect illustration of this.

Boudoir Photography emphasises the power and sensuality of ordinary individuals – primarily women – often at a cross-roads or at an extraordinary point in their lives. The pictures express their feeling about their own relationships and, done well, depict them at their most desirable and powerful. Emboldened by this internal view of themselves, boudoir photography therefore does not objectify but instead liberates the human form from the limitations that society places upon us whether that be age or body shape.

Photography at its best is not a recording of images, but an artistic impression of a feeling, a fleeting representation of love, of romance, of desire. One should almost be able to touch the beauty of the moment. The story of the eyes, the touch and the sentiment should be there for all to see and captured at the time when that moment is most keenly felt.