Another emotive image from the epic UK to Rwanda cycle adventure – from one of my favourite countries – Egypt. – a picture of Mohammed.
I had spent around 6 hours in the saddle, travelling along the Nile Southwards, ultimately towards Aswan. It had been a really tough few hours in the saddle. The temperature was already 38 degrees and I had received lots of hassle. As I crossed the Nile, a small moto pulled up alongside, two young lads rode alongside for around a 100 metres, before gently pulling out an enormous knife. I vividly remember staring at it, seeing it shine in the baking heat. I can’t remember what happened next – basically I lost my temper, riding towards them and shouting lots. It seemed to work, they departed and I didn’t see them again.With the temperature rising and already 6 hours tarmac/dust under the wheels I found some shade, under a small tree outside a factory. Sipping luke warm water I began to drift in and out of sleep.Within a few minutes a pickup arrived with 10 or so men and women in, a large chap came out and offered some shelter in the big warehouse… a few minutes later I was sat on a plastic chair, inside a massive warehouse, air conditioned and shear bliss. I spent around two hours, chatting to the folks working and learning about their village and work. It turns out (at the time) they grew potatoes for the UK & European markets and kept them in the airconditioned warehouse awaiting collection.
Mohammed wasn’t overly keen on having a photo, eventually I wore him down and he duly posed with the potatoes. A remarkable experience, that reinstated my belief in the good of humans after my earlier run in. After a hugely enjoyable rest, where I honestly made a couple of friends, I set off again. With another 40 miles to cover it was on with the adventure.
Early this year I began shooting portraiture of people working throughout the #covid19 pandemic.
A series of simple images, shot using one strobe, a plain background ( a rarity for me) and often in spaces with little room (offices, living rooms etc) Each image is accompanied by a paragraph telling their stories.
(these will be available to view on my website in a few months) It’s a simple body of work that creates a basic social history of time and region.
Let me introduce Robert Fairclough, freelance writer & blogger
Last week I had the pleasure of filming Dr Hills Casebook at the Halesworth Cut.
A fascinating play, pulled together by the inspiring folks at Bungay based UpShoot Theatre Company. It’s a story of a Doctor, his patients and the extraordinary legacy he left behind.
“Dr Hills Casebook is an archives, theatre and wellbeing project aimed at improving the wellbeing of people in South Norfolk living with mental health challenges, and to stimulate public conversation, comparing past and present treatments”
“Around 9 years ago I belonged to a business networking event in Norwich and we were provided the opportunity to visit the BigC centre in Norwich. The first thing that happens when you arrive is you’re given a cuppa and biscuit… instinctively I asked, “who provides the biscuits”… to cut a long story short, I thought I can do something to help… move forward a little while and I setup a twitter account ‘Biscuit Jill’.
Before too long I was meeting people in car parks, underground passages, cafes, hotels, all to be given packs of biscuits. It was all rather comical, but importantly served a crucial element to the offering of the BigC centre, it saved them money, time and effort.
Whenever I was at business networking events, instead of talking about my business, I talked about biscuits, why I am Biscuit Jill and how important every pack of biscuits is! People would often say to me, “it’s only a pack of biscuits” but honestly, its so much more than that. There is something so very British about coming in, sitting down, and having a cuppa and a biscuit. It’s a conduit to conversation. It’s such a simple thing, but so important.
You should see my spare room it’s like the biscuit isle of Tesco’s!
I’ve just collected my 30,000 pack of biscuits (recorded in 2019) and I’m incredibly proud of what I’ve instigated how the community has come together. After all, we’ve all been touched by Cancer in one way or another”
With the world starting to open up again, it’s lovely to have plenty of shoots booked in for the weeks and months ahead.
One recent shoot saw me in the middle of the Northamptonshire countryside, on a farm up to my knees in……. well, not quite that bad, in fact, it was a great experience, with lovely hosts. It was so nice to be out, talking, shooting images and doing what I love!
I was shooting for one of the UK’s premier workwear brands, producing material of their new lines and we were blessed with all manor of conditions to really provide a real life workout.
The model (also radio & tv presenter) Oliver Tompkins was on fine form, taking to farming life.
Continuing with the portrait theme from the epic cycle ride to Rwanda in 2012, this is a portrait of Muhammad in Sudan.
I had packed up and left my pitch in the desert at 5am – it was peaceful, beautiful and really quite special. 30 degrees already, it was going to be a hot one. at 65 miles the temperature was around 40 degrees, so I slept for three hrs in a storm drain (the only shade available!) Eventually, after 85 miles, I arrived in Abri. Famished, hot & bothered. I enjoyed four eggs, 6 pita breads and handfuls of salt. It was the only thing available in the village and Muhammad’s father (who cooked my eggs) was a godsend.
Muhammad was leaning against the stunning blue washed wall and it simply made the most beautiful portrait.
After an epic day in the saddle, this was the perfect end!
Another portrait from the social portrait series, taken in 2019.
Alex Mason – A life in Sugar Beet Spoken in his own words in 2019.
“if you’re a long way from it, it’s quite a pleasant smell”It was long journey to Norfolk, in fact I guess it all started around 1960.I had just got my Highers (education) in Fife and got a job in a laboratory in Scotland. After a while I was offered a management course, which ultimately saw me take management positions at factories in Shropshire, Kings Lynn, Newmark and eventually to Cantley in 1990, where I was manager until 2007.
From there, I also took on responsibility for the Ipswich and Downham market site.I started to have meetings with the local community, we built relationships and became an integral part of the community. It was an enjoyable place to work and be part of.
I’m firmly part of Norfolk now, in fact, many years ago we were part of the Norfolk Caledonian society, I was secretary for the society for a time and although this doesn’t continue anymore, we still meet twice a year for lunch.
Continuing with the portrait theme and stories about positive immigration.I shot this portrait of Karina in Norwich around two years ago, as part of the Portraits project of people (still ongoing) who live, work and have moved to Norfolk & Suffolk.
Spoken in her own words.
“I come from San Paulo, Brazil and this is my second time in the UK, we came to Norwich this time as my Husband got a job working for Aviva. The first time we were in the UK was 2014, when we were based in Bexley Heath in Kent, but this was not a good experience for me because I could not speak English and my daughter was only 6 months old.
I found it difficult with communication and I didn’t feel good at all, so we went back to Brazil whilst my Husband remained working in the UK, because he was unable to find a job back in Brazil due to the economic situation. I went to university to study management. I then decided to return to the UK to try again and I now feel very happy here. I can’t explain what happened the first time, but something made me feel bad, but now I would really like to stay here. Norwich I love, with the Broads, nature and you can do a lot outside, even if the weather is not great.
The schools are very good here also. I have made friends through my English class also. All my Family are in Brazil, it was just my Husband, Daughter and myself who have come to the UK. We hope to visit them in August time. It is very difficult to leave when we go home, a little bit of my heart remains there, but I am also excited to come back here, it feels like home. I am hoping to do volunteer work to help progress my English and get to know more people. I think volunteering is good as I can give my time to help others, and give my experiences to others. We have lived in Portugal for 9 years, my Daughter is Portuguese. I didn’t come from a rich family and we had financial difficulties, I had lots of different jobs. I started working when I was 13 years old to help my Family, cleaning houses. I gave all my money I earnt to my Mother”
The things we Photographers do to get ‘that’ shot… I must admit, it was a joy to be out shooting imagery again for clients… and on a wintery day, what better place to be that climbing a grain store in the Northamptonshire countryside!
Those memories of a fun childhood climbing grain stores & jumping off hay bales came flooding back
Good luck to all those retailers/pubs/gyms& hairdressers opening this week! Whilst working on some lockdown portraits, I popped over to Envy Barbers in Lowestoft and shot this striking portrait of owner Ash.
I don’t normally shoot portraiture this wide, but felt with his striking furniture and colours suited the angles perfectly.