A Year In Photos

I was inspired by photographer Olivia Bolles’ visual summation of her year for i-D and as imitation is the greatest form of flattery I also stole the idea. It has turned into a rather exhaustive summary of a strange year of flux; finishing university and not knowing quite what to do next.

Goodbye 2016, you were good to me if no one else.


I committed to culture and unemployment. I split my time between London and Bristol, I saw multiple plays a week, joined an orchestra, watched a lot of films, saw a lot of art, but mainly drank infinite coffees with infinite friends.


I began freelancing proper. I made a website and people started regularly paying me to take pictures: I shot my first editorial spread for The Rake magazine, I did a lot of headshots, and I began an (ongoing? unfinished?) photography series on tattoos.


Travel. A day in Paris, a road trip to Cornwall, 48 hours in a shepherd’s hut in Wales and a day in Ireland for a family funeral.


I felt like my entire life was spent on trains to and from Bristol (and one to and from Brussels).


I took the plunge and moved to the South West for an internship. I lived somewhere beautiful, I cycled to work, I read endlessly, I reconnected with my cameras, and the weather was flawless for an entire month.


I got lonely and I missed London. (Brexit happened.)


My internship ended and I promised myself a job-search-free summer. I photographed my first wedding and shot my first short film (in Frankfurt!) and went to my first Brainchild Festival.


The first film I ever worked on came out (it was bad). I summered in France and Buckinghamshire. I went to a lot of job interviews.


I started a job at the ICA and began commuting somewhere beautiful every morning to interview artists, photograph fashion shows and invite people for drinks in my workplace. (amongst other, less glamorous things.)


I spent a lot of time remembering how to get up before 9 every day. I bought Doc Martens and they changed my life. I became Company Photographer and Marketing Associate for Forward Arena, and helped sell out their transfer to the Arcola Theatre.


I perfected the art of the long weekend away in Manchester and then Florence and I poisoned myself with extreme amounts of booze at work and at play.


I joined a book club. I left a wedding party at 10pm. I went to the ballet. My partner moved in with meI visited Amsterdam and didn’t smoke any weed as I felt like I was coming down with something. The year ended and clearly so did my youth.


I wasn’t at home for Hallowevening so missed out on terrifying children, improvising a costume from my mother’s wardrobe and eating all the Trick Or Treating sweets myself. We did carve pumpkins the evening before though, and unlike last year I was allowed to watch a horror film. (I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House. Atmospheric but not too scary, undeserving of its 1.5 star review rating on Netflix.)




My own pumpkin was far too basic to even bother photographing, but Ellie and DV made some solid efforts. Next year will be my year I tell myself every year.


I spent last weekend at Brainchild Festival, a DIY festival of art, music and performance in the arcadian grounds of the Bentley Wildfowl and Motor Museum in Sussex. It’s a volunteer-led festival with few attendees outside of the 20-26-year-old-creative-persuasion demographic beside the woman who owns the land. And her small fat dog who hates men and barks at them if they get too close. I took up the option of putting in 10 hours of work across the festival to halve my ticket price, doing everything from deep-frying in the kitchen to litter-picking to bar-tending to guarding the showers. It was a lovely three days, even if I came across even more art students dressed from their own childhood 90s wardrobe than I might in an afternoon on Dalston High Street.

One of the best parts of the festival were the myriad art installations to interact with (and mainly sit on). A giant cereal box that opened on the second day to spew giant foam Lucky Charms; a maze of hula hoops and coloured yarn that over the course of the festival become more and more complex and difficult to navigate when drunk; a rainbow-painted wooden living room complete with wooden pond, pot plants and window out onto the rainbow sunsets. Our favourite was the giant colouring wall by illustrator Betty Woodhouse, complete with pots of felt-tips and excited gaggles of 20-somethings. Performances ranged from the usual bands and DJs to stand-up comedy and short film screenings to group yoga classes and interpretive dance. Too much of the music featured wailing ghostly female vocals for my taste, but there were some real stand-out acts; drum and saxophonist duo Binker & Moses stole Sunday evening, and Jess Murrain’s spoken word mixed in with double-bass accompanied vocals was a highlight of Saturday. (She was followed by a puppet show called “Miss Clitoris and the Bejazzles”.)

Mid-festival we ventured round the corner to the Bentley Motor Museum itself. It’s a strange combination of a warehouse full of chronologically exhibited cars (and some scary mannequins challenging stereotypical gender roles), displays of questionable of history, a dolls-house workshop, and a gift shop selling seemingly completely non-related items. Mainly soap. MORE exciting is the Bentley miniature railway, which everyone from completely spaced-out students in harem pants to off-duty security guards hopped onto at some point over the weekend. It’s run by retired men in train conductors’ hats, and a small dog in an official uniform. Your ticket is stamped at both of two “station” stops, in a journey that lasts approximately 15 minutes. Puffs of smoke from the tiny steam engine remained visible above the trees for the whole weekend, reminding everyone where the real fun was happening.

Although there were plenty of fab acts and DJs and workshops happening across the weekend, the best part for me was being able to spend time with good friends and interesting new ones in a beautiful setting. The weather held and I took a fantastic book to sit and read on a cushion under the light-up jellyfish, or on a sofa under the giant central tree, or in The Steez Cafe in front of some strange piece of performance art. The sunsets were glorious and the loos weren’t even too horrible by the end, and I’d recommend it as £35 very well spent.

Kids In Love

image1 (1)I recently bought photographer Olivia Bee’s first book, Kids In Love. I’m not sure I’d recommend it as a piece of curated art; the editing is minimal and it’s more of a collection of all her most popular Flickr snaps from the very beginning of her internet-driven career. But on a personal level, I love it. I can pick it up and let it fall open and every page seems familiar. Her dreamy analogue photography of her friends and lovers was really what pushed me to pick up a proper film camera age 16, after a year of attempting to document my life on disposables. She’s about a year younger than me (and about ten years ahead photographically), and although her adventurous teenage years in Oregon were a far cry from mine and my friends’ comparatively docile existence in west London I always felt a great affinity with her visual experience of youth. (As did most of the internet).

Although often a little too hip and pretentious, I find that Olivia often manages to articulate those things about photography that are hard to pin down. In an interview about the book with Tavi Gevinson recently she said:

“When I take someone’s photograph, it’s very difficult for me to lie about how I feel about them. I think my photos reek of love. It’s almost disgusting.”

And looking back over my own favourite photographs of my favourite people, my favourite places, my favourite memories and experiences, she really hits the nail on the head.

Show Me Your Ink

“I got it in Paris when I was living there. Loads of us who were there at the time were getting tattoos, everyone was getting really random stuff. I spent ages thinking about meaningful things I could get tattooed on me… I doodle loads, and in the end I just doodled it and thought “I’m going to get that tattooed on my body”. At the same time one of my friends had a square tattooed on her, so I didn’t feel so meaningless.”

I’m working on a photo series of tattoos and their bearers. I’m keen to photograph as many people as possible, so if you’ve got some ink and you’re not camera shy please do get in touch. The project is still evolving, but the basic concept may be best explained by the fact that none of the above portrait, tattoo or quotation come from the same person. Show me your ink.


I’m approaching that age when careers begin to take off in various directions, into various areas and toward varying levels of interesting dinner party conversation. A friend of mine has been carving out his niche in a field that would be utterly alien to me if I did not know him and relentlessly stalk his career online. Aleks is a journalist at The Rake; he’s an eloquent writer, a true connoisseur of luxury menswear, and a general man about town. I seem to photograph him an awful lot, for both personal and professional endeavours. In our latest collaboration I accompanied him to a suit-fitting at his tailor’s on Savile Row, the illustrious Edward Sexton (whose made-to-measure I snapped on Aleks last year). It’s a beautiful studio, with huge windows and even huger mirrors – certainly not the kind of space that Beatrix Potter’s Tailor of Gloucester ever put me in mind of.

Bespoke suiting-up is a process that requires several fittings, and I’ve only included a couple of snaps as the experience is hopefully going to turn into a feature-length piece by Aleks. Over the course of the next few weeks he’ll be getting his first fully bespoke suit; being privy to a moment he’s been dreaming of for at least half a decade was great fun. (Also very informative – who knew there were so many names for so many different shades of blue? Not I. )

Thanks to both Aleks and his tailor, Dominic Sebag-Montefiore, for letting me be a fly-on-the-wall with a very loud shutter.

Digital Magic

I am learning to edit. As someone who up until a few months ago shot exclusively film and rarely digitally-altered images beyond straightening or exposure correction, I feel a little at sea. Lightroom is a confusing place, and the temptation to simply try and make everything look as much like 35mm as possible is a strong one. A long-time lover of VSCO for my iPhoneography, I have followed the recommendation of a helpful photographer friend and sunk some cash into buying two of their preset packs to ease my inevitable evolution from Clueless Analogue Dinosaur to Genius Adobe Whizz Kid. It has made a big difference towards giving my photographs the look I enjoy within a few clicks as opposed to having to spend six hours sliding dials up and down at random whilst crying over my keyboard, but I often do feel like I’m just using expensive Instagram for adults. Bunging on filters left right and centre.

I’m keen to update my Portfolio to reflect my new digital leanings, so I hope to reach my final form as Fantastic At Editing sooner rather than later; luckily I have had many friends and acquaintances willing to lend their faces to my mission, as Adam and Imo are demonstrating above. (Always looking for new volunteers though, so drop me a line at if you’re interested.)

There’s a long way to go until I’ll feel at all confident at being able to edit work within a time constraint, but I’m glad that I’m no longer hating and resenting this new learning curve. It’s a work in progress – just like my photography itself. And, indeed, life in general.

Clifton Sunrise

“The morning always has a way of creeping up on me and peeking in my bedroom windows. The sunrise is such a pervert.”


For the past few months I have spent many of my weekends in Bristol, a place that I love for far more than just the fact that my favourite person lives there. It’s a city that has a lot to recommend it – great coffee, liberal vibes, inordinate numbers of fashionable young people – but the thing that I have enjoyed most during my visits of late has been watching the sun rise over the city from the top of Whiteladies Road. The view from the attic flat in Clifton where I stay is a stunner; a perfect vista over this undulating city built by some idiot who clearly didn’t own a bicycle. On clear mornings it’s impossible to resist leaning out the window to drink in the city skyline spread out in pastel pinks and blues. The skylight frames a view that stretches right out over the roofs and smoking chimney stacks to the rolling horizon under a crisp and streaky sky, interrupted only by tiny clouds of birds and my own breath.


I’ve always been a terrible morning person, but getting to wake up with someone I adore and squares of sunlight at the end of the bed certainly gives one a reason to get up and do the day.

Film vs Digital


From my first ever roll of film, and still a favourite

I’ve been taking photographs as a hobby for about five years now, and up until recently all on film. This was never a conscious artistic decision; the cameras that lay around my house were all analogue fossils used by my father, a man who never embraced the digital revolution and who simply stopped taking pictures roundabout when Kodak stopped making film. Age 16 I bought new batteries for his Canon EOS 500 and ignored his disparaging grumbles of “expensive” and “outdated”, pointing my new weapon in the faces of all my friends and skipping to Boots for the pricey development process. Over the years I acquired my own cameras, experimenting with films and lenses until I found my favourites, and semi-learning the technique to take a good picture. Although I still think it’s mainly luck. But it’s pointless to deny that my father was indeed right in his typically pessimistic proclamations; film is costly, time-consuming and old-fashioned, and noone is going to pay for your processing when “any other photographer can sling a preset over a digital shot on Adobe Lightroom and produce the same effect” (quote from a prospective client). In July I caved to modernity and bought a Canon 5D Mark II, some of my first attempts with which you can judge over here.

I have been finding the digital transition very difficult. I have always subscribed to that Cartier-Bresson cliche of “the moment” – a photograph as a method of solidifying a moment in time, a way of capturing a memory in tangible form. It requires spontaneity and not much forethought. When I’m heading out of the house I can’t bring myself to sling my DSLR in a bag as I would one of my film cameras – partly because it’s the most expensive thing I own aside from my violin, and it would not survive the appallingly haphazard treatment my Olympus OM-10 is used to – mainly because I know that I won’t enjoy using it. It’s large and unwieldy and rather daunting to have shoved in your face; its shutter sound is enough to make you jump; I’m not comfortable enough with its settings to just point and shoot without the result being rubbish. By the time I’ve whipped it out and set it up, the image of laughter/sunlight/cat that I wanted to capture is gone. I become a joyless perfectionist, examining my work as soon as it has entered the camera, adjusting the aperture a notch and becoming frustrated when it doesn’t produce the expected result. And sure, shooting digital gives me a more concrete assurance of at least a couple of quality snaps than shooting on film does, but where’s the pleasure in three fantastic photos when you’ve had to sift through seventy mediocre ones to find them? It’s so hard having an expensive toy you don’t yet understand.


I have written a lot about why I like film photography on various platforms, and in particular film photography. In this post for one of my favourite analogue blogs two years ago, I talked about some of my favourite quirks of 35mm film. Light leaks, double exposures, looking cool in selfies – the usual deeply intellectual commentary you have come to expect from me. But despite my confident assertions on the superiority of film – both in results and in influence on the artistic process – I had always questioned whether the justifications were nothing more than excuses for my failure to give in to modernity. I didn’t have the funds to invest in digital, or the confidence that I would stick out from the crowd once the quirk of analogue wasn’t on my side. Since entering the digital arena, I do realise my claims were justified. The process itself is what has defined my photography; when you have 36 exposures to last an entire week of holiday then the consideration and effort put into every shot is tantamount. Photos are fewer, but better. I revised my technique and learned much faster on a film camera because everything is in manual, and fucking up was expensive and disappointing. Getting physical copies of every roll changed the sort of things I wanted to photograph – it made me really think about what I was taking pictures of, and – particularly when it came to holidays – what I wanted to remember and how I wanted to remember it. I do think film is the best recorder of an instant in time, and it is often the flaws – the dust granules trapped in the lens, the light leaks and lens flares, the slight overlap of frames – that can make a film photograph so much more real and emotive than something digital. Anything can happen. Film has even penetrated my usual tendency to WANT EVERYTHING RIGHT NOW, and the anticipation of picking up a packet of photographs from the lab remains one of my favourite feelings in the world.

I will admit that I am being unfair to digital, and that a lot of my resentment of my new camera is down to teething problems. I’m still learning how to use it. When it comes to portraiture and head shots it has indeed proven a blessing – I have been able to track my progress and improve markedly over a matter of weeks as opposed to the years it took me to establish a style on film (see if you agree). But I’m still very thankful that the majority of my development as a photographer was done through the medium of 35mm. 

Over three years ago I was interviewed by Norwegian blogger Hei Astrid in her regular segment on analogue photographers. I said many of the things I have said above, but the final sentence strikes me as the most appropriate summary of why film, for now, remains my favourite way to photograph:

“I shoot film because when it comes to really capturing a moment, I would rather something I cannot retake.”