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.

Deux Heures À Paris

8219134830_91b27396b8_oI studied in Paris for four months when I was 19, because I am a cliche. I lived with my cousin in a fourth floor flat off the Rue de Rivoli that had no lift and no oven and no way near enough space for two people who were not romantically involved, (and I wrote a blog about it, because I am a cliche.) These days I regard Paris much like I regard my family: with a mixture of delight, fondness, and horror. And, much like my family, I find that I get on with it best when my exposure is limited to snatches of 24 hours or less. This weekend I had a brief afternoon window between my journey from London and my onward travel northwards, and I think this is probably the my favourite way to enjoy the city. A small taste. An amuse-bouche.

With only 2 hours between trains I elected to get the underground to the centre and walk as far as was bearable with a big cheap rucksack in city summer heat. The smell of the metro and its symphony of rattling stops and starts is oddly one of the most familiar things about Paris. So are the oppressive crowds of August that lie in wait at Citè; wading through swarms of ticket collectors and tourists trying to fit the station’s bulbous lines of lamps into a square format. (Resisting the temptation to get my iPhone out and do the same.) As soon as I emerge from underground, Paris always seems to swallow me whole, sucking me out into the sunshine and stuffing my ears with arguments and accordions and the shriek of seagulls. I begin my sweaty march towards the Île Saint-Louis, beneath Nôtre Dame’s gargoyles and alongside cafes bristling with Americans and Parisians, my boots already chalky white with Paris gravel. A woman in cream stilettos whizzes past on a vespa. I’ve already seen seven tiny dogs. Couples: everywhere. Pigeons: everywhere. There are more benches than a city realistically needs, and every welcome breeze is balanced by the smell of stale piss.

Acquire two scoops of sorbet at Berthillon, and find a patch of riverbank to sit on. I Instagram. The omnipresent smell of stale piss forces me to walk and lick. I meander along a radioactive Seine broken only by arching bridges white with seagulls, and boats of Asians in sunglasses. Branches dapple the water and the facades of apartments facing the river, and everywhere else is pale under the unforgiving glare of a cloudless sky. Comedic/tragic juxtapositions of couples whose make-or-break holiday to Paris is doing the former, and those whose is doing the latter: kissing like noone is watching, screaming like noone is listening. An old woman in red capri pants with a husband in tweed; an older woman wheeling a bike with panniers stuffed with bread; a still older woman in a silk neckerchief and a cloud of perfume and a chestful of amber beads. (Paris belongs to old women.) Away from the rippling shade and into the relentless sun. Shakespeare and Co. have opened a new cafe, and it looks like every cafe in London. Teenagers considering paying €15 for a secondhand paperback with a nostalgic cover. More selfie sticks than I can count. Someone with a Starbucks cup. I descend underground once more.

Much like my own city of London, I hold Paris both dear and in disgust. I sort of hate everything about it, and it sort of always feels like home. 



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.

South West Stillness


I took this photo while fiddling with some settings in my bedroom this morning, but it seems a fairly accurate summary of life right now. Since moving out of London for a bit (SHOCK, GASP etc), life has slowed a great deal – despite the addition of a full-time job. In some ways this change of place and pace has been difficult; it’s hard not having a constant array of companions at your beck and call, and sometimes there just isn’t an obvious activity to occupy a Tuesday evening in Bath. But the benefit of this narrowing of life is that I think it may have given me a lot more space to think and to be. I’ve read six books in a month, listened to a lot of podcasts and shot a lot of 35mm. I’ve cycled for half an hour every day and explored two new cities, all the while feeling like I’ve had the time and the headspace and the freedom to do so. Even in the longest gaps between freelancing gigs, I had not felt that way since leaving university.

Again, perhaps this has nothing to do with escaping the Big Smoke and this is just what summer is like. Long evenings with beers and books and film-worthy golden hour light; I find I have always forgotten the pleasures of each season by the time they roll around again. But either way, my current state of affairs has really helped me out with my 2016 resolutions – next step is to find a West Country string quartet.

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.

Atrocity as Ordinary


View from the watch tower at Auschwitz-Birkenau

I recently finished reading The Complete Maus, Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel depicting his father’s experiences as a Polish Jew under the Nazis. It’s the most moving Holocaust narrative I’ve read since Primo Levi’s Is This A Man, and I really do recommend it (do ask if you would like to borrow it), but it also reminded me of the continual struggle I experience in connecting with the Holocaust. That is not to imply that I am a David Irving, that I in any sense deny the absolute reality of Nazi genocide. I’ve studied the period more than once, I’ve read and watched numerous memoirs, I’ve visited Holocaust museums from Berlin to Washington DC. I’ve been to Auschwitz. It is true that mine is a generation separated from the event by over half a century – many people my age will never have met anyone directly involved in the Holocaust, or perhaps even the war itself. But even then, I don’t think that it’s the degree of separation that is the clincher in this disconnect; and I don’t think that it’s a phenomenon limited to the Holocaust.

I think your first exposure to the concept of Holocaust is akin to “where was I when John Lennon died?”. Many people distinctly remember that first encounter – perhaps because it’s often the first realisation of the horrible depths of suffering that humans can inflict upon each other. I was 9 or 10 when I stumbled across a history project display in the building where I had Saturday music school. I remember my mum asking me why I was so upset on the car journey home, and asking her to reassure me that people didn’t actually put other people in ovens. That people didn’t actually push other people into gas chambers to claw at the walls and suffocate in a pile. I don’t remember what she said, but I can’t imagine it was very reassuring, because nothing short of outright lies would be.

That same feeling – disbelief followed by incomprehension followed by horror – is one that was experienced across Europe following the liberation of the death camps, and I think that that’s where the generational difference begins to step in. Would the photographs that horrified Europe in 1945 have the same effect now? Or has the ubiquity of horrifying images of tragedy, death and violence sapped us of our ability to engage with the reality behind them? It’s true that iconic photos still make their mark – a skeletal Sudanese child followed by a vulture, a three-year-old lying dead on a Turkish beach – but with a media saturated with pictures of Daesh militants hurling gays off towers and smiling with handfuls of decapitated heads, it becomes harder and harder to connect to the reality of suffering. Susan Sontag has written extensively about the desensitising impact of photography, and she summarises her argument in Regarding The Pain Of Others:

“Flooded with images of the sort that once used to shock and arouse indignation, we are losing our capacity to react. Compassion, stretched to its limits, is going numb.”

But even that is not the only reason that tragedy is hard to digest. I will cry every time I watch Sophie’s Choice and Schindler’s List, or read The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, but I didn’t cry when I stood in the room full of hundreds of thousands of leather shoes at Auschwitz. The West gasped at the tragedy of Aylan Kurdi’s death, but continues to harden its heart towards the million and counting migrants that have made the journey to Europe since the beginning of 2015. Iconic images are rare, as are books like Maus. An outstanding photograph can fight its way through the numbness of a society overloaded with images of pain, and an outstanding narrative can crystallise a tragedy of enormous proportions into something emotive. But gosh, it is not easy.

“A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.”

(The title also comes from Sontag: photographs have produced a “familiarity with atrocity, making the horrible seem more ordinary – making it appear familiar, remote … inevitable”.)

Fear Itself

8397086166_552e46a6f8_o (1)“Time after time I never see fear coming till it swallows me whole”

I love horror films. I’ve loved horror films ever since I watched The Ring age 9 and had to sleep with the light on for a month. My next door neighbours and I used to descend on our local Blockbusters every weekend and stalk the aisles in search of the DVDs with the scariest covers – checked out by my father, obviously. Movie-rental stores were a defunct concept by the time we looked anything close to R-Rated age. We sat in their cellar under a pile of duvets, screen barely visible through gaps in our fingers, listening to our hearts beating their way into our mouths as the camera slowly pans around a darkened room; the heroine painfully rounds a corner; the hero twists a key in a lock. Because it’s that excruciating second right there – not the moment when the music crashes and the protagonist’s screams are drowned out by your own – but that preceding eternity in which every muscle in your body is coiled like a spring and your breath and heart are frozen in your chest. That is the true Nirvana of horror cinema.

“When you only have so much to go on, you tell yourself the worst story you can possibly imagine.”

Those neighbours have since moved away, the B and the K have fallen off the empty Blockbusters store, and I’ve yet to find anybody who will sit through a horror film with me. People just don’t seem to like being terrified half as much as I do. I’m asked by everyone from my housemates to my other half how I can possibly enjoy being scared witless time and time again – because it really is the fear that I enjoy, and not the more absurd trappings of horror films that suck me in. I don’t keep coming back for more because I find them funny; I don’t love to laugh at the special effects and the absurd overacting (as prevalent as these are in both the modern and the old-school). It’s because I love the feeling of fear. I sometimes try and explain my desire to live in fear as similar to people who love roller coasters or extreme sports: pushing yourself to the limits of physical and emotional feeling and seeing how you react. Isn’t it only in moments of extreme fear or panic, buzzing off adrenaline and shaking head to toe that you know who you really are? Unless you’re a soldier or a Ghostbuster (or possibly a parent), there are very few moments in which you can claim to have been gripped by an overwhelming, all-encompassing, absolute fear. In my own life I can think of but two instances, discounting the artificially manufactured fear of haunted houses and horror films. It’s a visceral, physical rush that I find endlessly tempting to attempt to recreate. Putting on a horror film in full knowledge that those images will come back and haunt you when you’re alone in bed at night is effectively just taking that power in hand. Some people do drugs, some people jump out of planes, some people watch The Descent and lie awake every night for a month. It’s empowering; it’s ridiculous.

“Maybe when we indulge the things that scare us we stop becoming the innocent victims of fear, and become co-conspirators.”

I don’t think scaring myself silly with horror films is something that I’ll tire of as I age – I think it’s about as likely as growing bored of love, ecstasy or grief. I’ll continue on my quest to convert people to the joy of the horror film, even if current horror seems to be 90% torture porn and Blaire Witch found footage rip-offs (go back to Hitchcock, Italian black and whites, The Babadook – BE PROPERLY TERRIFIED). Because we may all be scared by different things, but the feeling of fear is something that we share, across cultures and across species. It is universal, it is primal, and it makes us feel alive.

“Over time you’d think that some kind of immunity would start to build up; but the effect is still just as strong as it ever was.”

(This was prompted by Charlie Lyne’s haunting BBC documentary Fear Itself, charting the history of horror films and the history of being horrified. It’s where I’ve pulled all the quotes from, and if you’re into horror it’s really worth a watch.)



2015 was a good year for me. I got a degree; I did a serious amount of travel and photography; I read more, I saw an unprecedented amount of theatre, I watched enough films to write this blog; I fell in love. It was also the year that I moved back in with my mother and for the first time ever found myself without an iron-clad plan for What Happens Next.

Being a recent graduate in London without a clear calling is hard – I struggle with uncertainty at the best of times, and this juncture in life is as undetermined as it gets. When grappling with an uncertain future, it’s pretty easy to forget about those things in life that really are certainties: the things I know I enjoy, and the things I know make me feel good. So on staring into the unchartered void of 2016 I have chosen these three resolutions for the new year:

  1. Play more music.
  2. Keep writing.
  3. Take more pictures.

(And if I can find someone to pay me to do some of them, all the better.)