2017. Odd Year.

Its December 15th as I write this. Stuff is winding down, so even though its not quite year end, its close enough. And I don’t foresee anything earth shattering happening before New Years Eve…so here I am.

How was it for me? Oh, a little mixed…a bit of everything, a splash of nothing, and loads and loads of photographs. It started badly, the middle blew chunks as well, but in between were nuggets of goodness which kept the flame of creativity alive. Which, in hindsight, was the best I could hope for.

As written elsewhere on this blog, January was hellish…the girl I had dedicated the best part of three years to had decided to sleep with someone else over Christmas. A few times, as it turned out. As if that wasn’t grim enough, this all occurred while I was asleep as we lived on different continents. Not really much to add to it, but needless to say, the first part of the year was pretty sucky. You think you know someone, right?

I still got out to shoot though, ironically using the lens she had got me for Christmas (a Lensbaby Trio – quite good actually) though the subject matter pretty much summed up where my head was at. This was pretty much as creative as January got:

If you see this man...

Victorian London.

By the time February came around, I was pretty much sick of the English winter…in fairness, I normally am anyway, and the yearning for some friendly sun became pretty much all encompassing. I blame the junk emails – deals in my inbox everyday pointed to some much needed headspace on the island of Malta. I had never been, but always wanted to. Its not too far from where I am, and off peak, there were some awesome trips available for not all that much money.  It took all of three days from me receiving LastMinutes latest deals, to sitting on a beach in Mellieha, Malta. Not bad, even for me…

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Malta was amazing. Absolutely amazing. The weather was perfect, the people were beautiful, and here was so much to see and do on the island that I rarely had time to mope around thinking about what really brought me here. I was here, and loving every second. In fact, photography came second too…I should’ve captured more, but sometimes just the experiences became paramount and I just lapped it up.

Off peak, the village of Mellieha was quiet and picturesque – the daily grind just didn’t exist here, and just sitting outside a coffee shop watching the world go by – really slowly – was just what I needed. I found cool stuff too. The old Popeye film set was just around the corner from where I was staying, and a glorious beach was 20 yards from my hotel. Valletta, the capital, was a 20 minute bus ride away – and Sicily, a life long wish destination for me, was a two hour boat ride away. The moment of clarity I badly needed came atop of Mount Etna, mid eruption, where the cold clear air blew away the cobwebs of doubt and sadness and those niggly things I could do nothing to control just blew away with the volcanic smoke. It sounds cheesy, but I came down that mountain a different person than when I went up.

Upon my return to England, creatively at least, I went through what people refer to as a ‘purple patch’. Not only was my street photography kicked up a notch (reaping the benefits, I think, of shooting something pretty much every single day for the preceding two years! It is true, practice is everything. Opportunities do find you if you shoot enough.) but other opportunities came my way which I am also really grateful for.

I’m not a big gig goer, but Ive always really enjoyed music photography. In late 2016 I was lucky enough to shoot the band Amber Run on the set of the music video for ‘Stranger’ (there is blog post about it on this site) and I enjoyed it immensely. Even further back, in 2013 I think, I had started to shoot the pianist Tokio Myers. Back then, he was booked for corporate events, cruise ships, company parties, things like that. In February this year, he was selected (via auditions) to compete in Europe’s largest talent tv show ‘Britains Got Talent’ or ‘BGT’. I was really pleased for him, and felt, even in the early stages of the show, that he had a really good chance of winning it. If you’ve seen him, you’ll know that the guy is utterly brilliant and a true one-off.

This is his first round audition. Even at this stage, he brought out the big guns.

Following this, he went from strength to strength, and as per my ‘prediction’ won the whole smash. It wasn’t even close.

I was given the opportunity to shoot his first gigs after his monumental victory. It sounds corny now, but I was keen to capture ‘the first note’ of his first gig after the win. Its not a great shot, but it caught a moment that I hoped would be the start of some really exciting, life changing moments for the kid from Kilburn. And this is it:

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Since these shows I’ve shot him a few more times, at more shows and label events and I really hope this continues in 2018. As for Tokio’s 2017, his debut album went top 5 during the main Christmas shopping week, along with a hit single earlier this year. This weekend (which will be Dec 17th as I’m writing this) will see him performing at the Royal Variety Show in front of the Queen. Not a bad year. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer bloke…he’s really good fun to be around. Next year there is talk of visits to the US, Oz and elsewhere, and his first national tour is almost sold out. I hope to shoot a few of those, at least…

As mentioned earlier, street photography has also been a huge part of 2017. For personal reasons also mentioned earlier, I really threw myself in to this. No where in London was off limits, though Soho and Dalston Kingsland featured strongly as they rarely disappoint. They are also great places to find lunch 🙂 .

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I also found myself getting more work printed this year, more than any other year. Ive had two postcard runs too, which I love to do now as its popular with my friends, especially those abroad. It costs a bit, but my mates have been really supportive this year so Im glad to keep doing this.

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The tube (subway) is a constant source of content too. Always have your camera…this moment of tenderness would’ve been lost forever if I hadn’t had mine. Its now on my bedroom wall, though I’m lucky to have it at all.

This was delivered to me at work back in the summer on a day I would really rather forget – more grim news from the ex – and I was in such a state that I left it on the train on the way home. I really thought that it was gone forever, until I got an email from the rail company in early October saying they had found it. I wasn’t planning on having it put up, I was going to give it away to a mate who really liked it, but it represents something now. I’m not sure what, but I felt it was important that I keep it to remind me of 2017. For good or bad reasons, its important to learn from experiences…this was a bad one. But not all of the year was bad…

I was in two minds on where to go on my main trip this year. Havana had been on my mind, but ever since experiencing Malaysia Day in London in 2016, I had been becoming increasingly fascinated with this small area of the east. I decided to book a ‘multi centre’ tour, taking in the capital Kuala Lumpur and the more beach themed (and way more chilled) Langkawi…

It was a sound choice.

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Kuala Lumpur was exactly as I had imagined – a cultural melting pot, not dissimilar to London in that respect, but with a heavy emphasis on Chinese, Indian and Malay cultures and absolutely fascinating. From the ultra modern (Petronas Towers & Downtown) city to the backstreets of China Town and Little India (my favourite part) it was best discovered at night – the temps during the day were easily into the hundreds – and allowed me to get over any jet lag pretty easily. I spent only four days in KL. I wish it had been more. The city is just too vast to cover in that amount of time. To cool off, I visited the Batu Caves (bottom pic)…the only respite from the hairdryer heat that was present the whole time.

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Langkawi was the polar opposite of KL. Quiet, sleepy and as near to tropical as I’ll likely ever get. Monsoon season was just beginning when I arrived, but its really not that bad. Biblical rain for about an hour, then the sun returns. It cleans out the air too, which made the daytime temps a more bearable 90-odd degrees :-).

This was a typical down pour:

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As you can see, my view was pretty spectacular, and not just for rain storms. On the other side of the hills was the famous ‘Pregnant Lady’ which for purposes of this trip (and a painful reminder of the ex’s recent adventures) I renamed ‘The Cheating Slapper’…just for that week. I doubt it’ll catch on…

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Langkawi’s beaches were the most beautiful I have ever seen. By far. Im not a beach bum, but you can’t NOT spend as much time as possible hanging on the pristine sands, especially when you’re island hopping. Most of the islands around Langkawi are uninhabited, save for monkeys and turtles, and if you’re attracted to the complete opposite of a tourist trap (and, like me, you’re not a massive fan of humans) this could be the place for you.

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Although beautiful, 7 days in Langkawi is quite a long time. It was an incredible trip, but I was ready to come home. The heat was starting to get to me a bit, and I was missing Marmite, nice toilets and tap water. If I could do it all again, I’d spend an extra day or two in the capital…but thats not to take anything away from Malaysia. It was an awesome experience that I’ll never forget. Bring on the next one.

Since coming home, street photography has taken a back seat to other things. I’ve done a few more sessions with Tokio (though alas, NOT the album cover like I thought – Im doing the next one, apparently) and been on some film shoots which also takes up a lot of time. The break did me good though, as Im right back into it now, and enjoying the Christmas spirit that London does so well. It really is the greatest city in which to experience the festive season.

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As far as gear, other than the aforementioned Lensbaby, there have been no recent additions to the X-Series collection. Im surprised to hear myself say that. In fact, I’ve been simplifying my set up, as I have been many aspects of my life, which has both helped me creatively and given me sense of well being. Both my X-Pro 1 and XE2 have gone, both donated to worthy causes in London, and even my little (and much loved) Nikon V1 equipment found its way over to my old state of Ohio – given to a creative little chap who’s (huge) family couldn’t normally afford it. It feels good to clear the decks, especially when other people can benefit and get creative.

I don’t need all that gear. The X-Pro 2 is perfect, and I see no reason to change. If you’re interested, the bulk of the shots above were taken with that body and either the Samyang 12mm or the XF23. I still try to mix it up, but I love those lenses, and don’t feel I’m missing out…though that xf16mm is next up. I do really want that. 🙂

So thats my year. 2017. Good points and bad points – ultimately, I don’t want to go through another like it. But having said that, life can’t all be good experiences, or there would be little to appreciate.

The trips were awesome. London is awesome. My mates are too. I’m not one for resolutions, but if I was to do something different in 2018 it would be to travel more, smoke less, shoot everyday again, get published, improve at work and for the love of god, be a better judge of character….(something which I honestly didn’t think was a flaw of mine)

Being single has its downsides (and upsides, I have to say), but its infinitely better than being shat on…

Have a great rest of the year everyone, and of course, a terrific 2018. Hit me up for print swaps, meet ups, or some travel tips – I’m all ears and still undecided on where to go next.

Feel free to check out the instagram: https://www.instagram.com/capitalfaces/

– I am going to get a thousand followers this year! 🙂

 

Cheers!

 

 

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