Monday, 27 January 2014

NHM: Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2013

I went to see this exhibition at the NHM a couple days ago... Actually that's not entirely true, I went to the NHM to hang around, to reflect on where I am in life and to maybe say hello to a couple of old friends. I only saw the exhibition because one of those old friends offered to wander around with me. I wasn't really paying much attention to the pictures, this: Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2012 felt like a lifetime ago. 

It's funny how nothing really changes, yet everything changes at the same time.... Here again, about to start a new journey, still in a different place altogether (spiritually, physically and mentally) and yet.... everything is the same. To think it could be me there still, and what makes me really happy, is the same thing that makes me really unhappy--- this constant movement, moving away from people and places... anyway this exhibition didn't seem to be as magical and awe-inspiring as last year's (that being said I'm probably biased). I did really like this picture...

MAROC: a techni-colour dream

Morocco is such magical place. Everything about it, from it's beautiful ancient cats and old men in hooded thobes to its aromas, olive trees, and pastel colours. It was strange, as my mate H and I travelled around it was as though time and space ceased to exist. It was so dreamlike that it almost didn't feel real---- any of it. During our short time in the country we met some truly incredible people, gazed at awe-inspiring landscapes and experienced a sense of boundless freedom and possibility; the freedom of being a stranger, the possibility of being a local... of belonging to a new city... the city of Marrakech...

In all honestly, I didn't really what to expect from our trip. Neither me nor H had planned for it much. I did however manage to buy a small Lonely Planet travel guide from Foyles a day before. I think I briefly leafed through it before the flight. I also decided against taking a suitcase, speaking from experience, there's nothing worse that dragging around a suitcase especially on the tube! So instead I just stuffed my trampy eastpak rucksack with some clothes, a notebook, my camera (equipped only with the smaller 50mm lens) and my passport.

Our time at the airport was relatively easier and less traumatic than the last time we travelled together. When we last went away it took us over a half hour to get through security, in fact we came really close to missing our flight. I remember watching incredibly frustrated as this one very stern looking man searched through ever crevice in my bag, finally and wholly hesitantly, he let me go through. However-- this time--- nothing. It was almost too easy. In truth, I was slightly worried I'd get a lot of hassle on the other side, especially as my passport is filled with stamps from when I travelled to Syria and Egypt and Pakistan and Arabia... fortunately however we got through passport control just as easily. And so there we were --- three and a half hours later, in a completely foreign, yet wholly familiar land--- Maroc.

Our days were strung together by a series of events, each of which connected the other--- in a way that travellers know well. On our first day, a friendly Moroccan guy named Mustafa took us to meet a women off the Djemaa el-Fina square who arranges excursions, through this short encounter we somehow ended up camel riding and rock climbing in the foot hills of the Atlas Mountains, this then led us to discovering the beautiful coastal town of Essaouira where we met an an interesting local named Said who showed us around. And so finally this series of events led us to serendipitously cross paths with Mustafa in Djemaa el-fina on our last full day in Marrakech and so we spent our remaining time hanging out in the Menera Gardens and in the square by evening.

I wasn't going to take my camera, I only decided to last minute. I'm glad I did, but even more than that I'm glad I didn't take too many pictures. In fact considering the many people we met and places we went, I took very few pictures! Some memories can never be captured and that's what makes them so beautiful---to be in the present moment is something I've been working on for years, for it's so important--- to live, to witness, to listen, to really listen, to smile and to be present.  

I loved Morocco; the mysticism, the energy, the culture, the people. Berber and Moroccan people are beautiful, and so kind and warm! In our short time in Morocco, my mate and I went camel riding, rock climbing, we wandered through the Christian Cemetery, hung out in the Menera Gardens and Jardin Majorelle. We sat by the beach, and beneath the shadows of the beautiful Katoubia mosque, we haggled hopelessly in the souks, jammed in the Djemaa el-Fina in the evening, visited the Bahia Palace and Sardinian Tombs, made friends with numerous cats, walked countless streets unknown, drunk cups and cups of mint tea, rode on a horse and buggy, chilled out in the cyber park and just tried to learn and re-learn the art of being--- Maroc style.

After our magical journey it was really depressing coming back to Gatwick and getting the train back to London in the evening, we watched as the sky darkened and the rain lashed against the windows, both of us already feeling those all too familiar post-travel blues sink in. After we parted ways, I got the tube back to Tooting, rucksack weighing me down still, but with a feint smile on my face remembering the beauty of our journey and of life. A truly magical experience and I couldn't have shared it with anyone more special than one of my best friend's H. We were blessed enough to share a lot of moments. A moment; A brief, indefinite interval of time of value, importance or beauty. A moment, something you'll never forget, something that will make you feel something, maybe bring a smile to your face. Below I've listed my top ten moments in Maroc. 

Top 10 Moments in Maroc
  1. Wandering through the Medina in Essaouira with an interesting local Berber man named Said. 
  2. Sitting by the waterfall in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains after a difficult climb up. 
  3. Contemplating life in the Christian Cemetery in Marrakech
  4. Saying goodbye to another interesting and kind Beber man named Said in Ourika. Said, the mountain guide with secret eyes....Said the mountain guide who saved my life...
  5. Wandering around the olive groves listening to Kuch Kuch Hota Hai with Mustafa and H in the Menera Gardens....
  6. Lying by the beach and thinking about nothing
  7. Riding a camel by a mountain roadside
  8. Watching the theatrics of Djemaa el-fina with Mustafa and H in the evening after the athaan.
  9. Saying goodbye to our friend Mustafa. Ah goodbye's-- so bitter-sweet, to know you may never come to see someone again. To wonder if it would have been better if you never met so you wouldn't feel so melancholic after parting ways.... but nahhh, that's life.
  10. Lying on the grass outside the airport with H, staring at the red flag, the blue sky and never wanting to go home. 
For more photos; check out my flickr set (forgot I had a flickr account...) 

Mysterious Felines

maroc cats---  beautiful, mysterious, volatile and wholly intriguing
a reflection of maroc----- more cat pictures here

Sunday, 26 January 2014

John and Neon

John makes neon signs at Gods Own Junkyard. Incredibly interesting chap.... we talked for ages about all sorts of stuff, including the clown church and sir john soane's museum. John once applied to work as a caretaker there... can't remember much else, the neon lights were slightly distracting. 

I really like this portrait picture I took.

Gods Own Junkyard

I've been wanting to visit this place for aaaagggggeeeees...... read below for directions (albeit slightly incoherent)

As you get out Walthamstow Central station, walk half way down Hoe Street, turn the corner, walk down St Mary's Road, you'll soon hit a narrow path called Church Lane, walk down this path, pass the Vestry Museum and Vinegar Alley and then turn right. About five minutes down this road you'll arrive at an open gate, leading to a number of factory buildings, outside which you will see a sign that reads 'Gods Own Junkyard.' Follow the signs and you'll find yourself in this strange space filled with colourful neon lights! You've made it! Quite unassuming and very magical and trippy, def worth a visit!!

Saturday, 18 January 2014

The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2013

I went to see this exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery the other day, the exhibition featured some really stunning works that really captured the stories behind the portraits! I love portraits. I love photographing people. It's something that I first seriously explored and experimented with in Lahore, and have since tried to keep up with in London. 
-a few portraits I've taken, for more see stargazing in lahore and this blog-

It's incredibly challenging asking someone, in particular a stranger you've only just met, if you can take their photograph. And when they do agree, for me it's even harder to direct the picture. I'm very conscious of the other person and the last think I want to do, is make them feel awkward or exposed. I feel like I've improved quite a bit over the years but still have a long way to go!

And so it was really inspiring seeing these diverse people pictures in the exhibition! The cost to visit is very reasonable at £3 entry, I'd recommend checking it out. I've included some info below together with my favourite picture in the exhibition Fishermen by Jaime Travezan.

The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2013 is a unique opportunity to see sixty new portraits by some of the most exciting contemporary photographers from around the world.

Through editorial, advertising and fine art prints, the exhibition explores a range of themes, styles and approaches to the photographic portrait, from formal commissioned images of famous faces to more spontaneous and intimate moments capturing friends and family.

This year the competition attracted 5,410 submissions by 2,435 photographers ranging from gifted amateurs and talented students to established professionals. The selected works in the exhibition, many of which are on display for the first time, include the four prize winners and the winner of the John Kobal New Work Award.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Brixton Windmill

I went to visit Brixton Windmill not long ago, it way really magical. I met this really cool photographer named Owen who let me try out his fisheye lens to take some photos of the phantom sun/  parhelion... it was out of this world! so so beautiful! Owen's photo's are incredibly stunning and otherworldly, ASTRO and SOLAR are esp great sets. Check them out:

Quite strange, life, ---the synchronisation of it..! Ever since I started the COSMIC LONDON section of my book, everyone I've crossed paths with has mentioned stars and astronomy, in one context or another--- perhaps its the broken bits of universe within us which connect the seemingly un-connectable....

Here's a picture I took with Owen's lens. 

Sunday, 5 January 2014

mending dreams

                       mending dreams

a sewing machine
an old and lengthy dream
a never-ending thread and seam
that seams its way into a means
------so often if seems
that where you've been
is sewn into //reality
for it's the possibility 
not the actuality
that actually matters

a sewing machine
an old and lengthy dream
a never-ending thread and seam
and here I am trying to figure out
what it all means
place and person
those torn seams; nurse them
and stitch the pieces
back together again

when your world is torn apart
pick up a needle and thread
                           and just start


London Sewing Machine Museum

I visited the London Sewing Machine Museum in Tooting today, it was incredible! --so quaint and unassuming and dreamy! The London Sewing Machine Museum is open on the first Saturday of each month from 14:00-16:30.... I would definitely recommend a trip!

It's almost like stepping into a whole new world. When you arrive you're given a handout on the history of the sewing machine- the story of Singer, together with a stapled print out relaying the quirky and interesting story of the Museum and the Museums founder Ray.


A Guy named Joe

Joe's worked for the Wimbledon Sewing Machine Company since he was nine years old. It's really strange actually, we met once before, about eight years ago... and so after joking around and talking for ages about random stuff like the aboyne estate, the changing face of tooting, burntwood girls and bevin boys, quirky places in london and life in general...---I asked him 'what's your name?', already knowing the answer.... Joe.. is strange, time is even stranger.... 

Friday, 3 January 2014

Wall Paintings

The Clown Gallery and Church

I've been looking forward to visiting the Holy Trinity Church/ Clown Gallery in Dalston ever since I found out about it over a month ago---how magical and humbling and poignant, I thought--- a church for clowns--! And so I began reading up on the life and times of Joseph Grimaldi, the most popular English entertainer of the Regency era. I was sad to discover during his years of energetic clowning he suffered numerous injuries which contributed to a rapid decline in his health. Towards the end of his life he became a depressed and impoverished alcoholic.

Grimaldi is remembered today in an annual memorial service on the first Sunday in February, at Holy Trinity Church/ Clown Church. The service, which has been held since the 1940s, attracts hundreds of clown performers from all over the world who attend the service in full clown costume.

After a lot of research I found out that the clown museum is open to the public on the first Friday of every month. And so I went along today praying that it would be open. It wasn't. I was waiting outside the door for ages in the rain hoping someone would turn up... I also tried the main church entrance, but alas no luck...

So I made a whole bunch of phone calls and finally got through to Mattie the guy who manages the gallery, he told me much to my disappointment that they would open again on the first Friday of February and that there would also be the Sunday memorial service. Not much good to me, but never mind. I'm not sure if I'll be around then, but if you are I would def recommend going along to the service! I also stumbled across the beautiful 'clowns prayer'....magic!

As I stumble through this life,
help me to create more laughter than tears,
dispense more cheer than gloom,
spread more cheer than despair.

Never let me become so indifferent,
that I will fail to see the wonders in the eyes of a child,
or the twinkle in the eyes of the aged.

Never let me forget that my total effort is to cheer people,
make them happy, and forget momentarily,
all the unpleasantness in their lives.

And in my final moment,
may I hear You whisper:
"When you made My people smile,
you made Me smile."


Thursday, 2 January 2014

Geffrye Museum

I recently visited the Geffrye Museum in Hoxton, it was very English and very quaint but also quite IKEA-esque. Worth checking out, esp if you're interested in interior design. 

The Geffrye Museum is devoted to the history of the home, showing how homes and gardens reflect changes in society, behaviour, style and taste over the past 400 years. 


Wednesday, 1 January 2014

New Year, New Me

Southwark Studios

Spent New Years eve with one my best friends Chris and her husband Ray. We had a really wonderful time in the empty studios, plaiting, knitting and knotting and trying on masks and talking about magical things over tea. 

Although it was quite stormy, I managed to walk to the studios in Bermondsey from Elephant--- the back ends of Bermondsey are quite surreal, I spotted a massive south Asian laundrette factory and a few goldfinches and some other weird stuff... anyway blessed to have spent new years eve with two of the most special people I know....God bless....


Afro Supa Hero

I really liked this small but wonderful exhibition on at the Museum of Childhood and would definitely recommend a visit! It's interesting how from the very beginning the toys we play with and the games we make up, come to shape our idea's of self and belonging. To the children of immigrants growing up in a world of contradictions, when and how do we first begin to identify or set ourselves apart from others? When and how do we first seek belonging? And if we can't find it in the place we live, can we find it in lands afar? Find out more about the exhibition below. 

Afro Supa Hero is a snapshot of a childhood and journey to adulthood, shown through a personal collection of pop cultural heroes and heroines of the African diaspora. Jon Daniel’s action figures, comic books and games offer an insight into the experience of a boy of African Caribbean heritage growing up in 1960s and 1970s Britain, in search of his identity.

Born in East Sheen in southwest London and as the child of Caribbean parents, Jon Daniel found his positive black role models in the West Indian culture of his family and the African-American culture of the US. In his late twenties, Jon began collecting primarily 1970s action figures, feeling that they most strongly embodied the era of his childhood. In the display Meteor Man, Mr T and Lieutenant Uhura stand alongside real-life icons Muhammad Ali, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. Also on show are games, and comics including Black Lightning, The Falcon and Lobo, one of a two-issue series featuring the first leading African American character in the genre.