Incandescent India

Illuminating light, insane visions, electrifying sounds, furious speeds and pervasive smells.

It was with great excitement and anticipation that I landed in India. Within minutes I realised this was quite unlike any place on Earth.  As the trip unfolded so did the landscape of my wondering mind.  There were both subtle and relentless differences between India and the kaleidoscope of my previous cultural experiences.  Few words can describe the juxtapositions each region presented.  Among a chaotic assault to the senses I witnessed a simple, peaceful beauty, an energy filled with elegance and colour, fuelling the photographic imagination.  Below I have shared some experiences of the above.

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Udaipur – hidden gems

With soft light illuminating its traders, Updipur’s covered market is a refuge from the commotion outside its walls.

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Varanasi – New Vishwanath Temple

A pilgrim from South India visits Varanasi.  She has just had her head shaved, sacrificing her hair at the temple.  Asking me to take a picture of her she sees her bald head for the first time.

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Jodhpur – Mehrangarh Fort

A women is stationed to protect an internal section of the famous Mehrangarh fort.  Whilst on duty she frequently peers outside to liaise with the male guards in the court yard below.  Away from the tourists this calm image captures the informal communication between local staff.

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Varanasi – rituals

At 5:30am young monks have just finished a session of yoga on the Ganges edge.  They follow their leader with a few minutes of laughing yoga before walking down to the water- candles in their palms.  This was a truly tranquil moment.

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Bera – Jawai Sagar Dam

A family cross the dried up dam in Bera.  As they approach me I’m greeted with warm smiles.  The children however are perplexed by my presence.  This shot stands out from the usual images whereby excited children but cautions parents engage with the foreigners lens.

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Rural Rajasthan

A typical scene in rural Rajasthan.  Orange turbans line the streets like glowing lanterns in the midday sun.  Backed by a bright yellow shop, three local men relax on a bench and watch the world go by.

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Varanasi – Aarti ceremony

A young candle seller hops nimbly amongst the ever increasing flurry of wooden boats, each arriving to take a spot for the nightly Aarti ceremony.  Sold for pence, these floating candles are set alight and placed on the waters surface.  Each candle floats away carrying a wish made at it’s origin.

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Varanasi – daily life

Local’s use the early mornings to wash and dry their clothing and materials.  Taking just minutes to dry fine fabrics, the warm concrete is a perfect heater.  For a short time before 6am, areas of the riverside are flooded with colour and patterns as local men and women get to work.

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Rajasthan – the turban

The turban (pagari) is a key part of identity in Rajasthan, indicative of its wearer’s social class, caste, region and occasion.  They have also developed a multitude of uses.  Although protecting individuals from the harsh elements they can also be used as pillows, for draining muddy water and to draw water from a well.  This proud man wears his red Pagari.

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Rajasthan – transport

It goes without saying that the various means of transport in India are a wonder for photographers, writers and travellers alike.  This image captures a traditional bus piled high with men on the roof and women inside.  The man in the centre of the roof and the woman in the window smile simultaneously.  A delightful moment and one which celebrates the uniqueness of life in India.

For more images please see my website at www.capturedonce.co.uk 

Captured Once Website

The Captured Once website has landed! Please check it out and and let me know if you have any feedback. As well as portfolios of my favourite images from around the world, it contains a new section of Participatory Photography. Putting my existing skills to use and drawing on the acclaimed training of Photo Voice, I’m facilitating sessions where the camera is used both as a therapeutic tool and to create positive social change. If you know anyone who may be interested please do get in touch.

Share, comment and like, but most of all enjoy the images and I hope they make you smile!

Visit my website at Captured Once

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Clowns Church Service

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Remember the innocent laughter and the uncontrollable excitement you experienced at parties as a child?  Remember the funny faces and big smiles awaiting you?

Remember The Clown?!

I had largely forgotten until Sunday 7th February 2016…

Here I experienced not just one happy clown but a gathering of weird and wonderful entertainers, sharing together in something magical.

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The annual Clowns Church service is held on the first Sunday in February.  Here clowns gather from far and wide, coming together to celebrate in the magic of laughter, and to honour the life of Joseph Grimaldi (considered the father of present day clowns) who died in 1837.

I had read about this event and was immediately intrigued by its nature. Clowns in church?  I had not been to church for some time but couldn’t help wondering how the two combined.  Isn’t Church serious, silent and rather ordered?!

Not this time…

On my arrival a jolly policeman greeted the public with a large red nose and a big grin. Attempting to usher the excitable audience and competing press into any form of order was not on the agenda.  Instead, entertainment prevailed and visitors rose to the excitement, colours, and energy created by the first few clowns to arrive.

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Attracting a diverse audience, arms and cameras pointed in all directions.  Leaning on the head of an elderly lady, this extraordinary policeman included everyone, entertaining us in the build up to the service.

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Above is an example of the magical outfits, extravagant face paints, top hats, flowers and bubbles that were just a few of the fabulous garments and props creating a kaleidoscope of colours.

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To kick start the service a vicar as energetic as the awaiting audience entered the church followed by a continuous line of brightly coloured clowns.  All ages, sizes and colours, the excitement was tremendous.  Situated just ahead of the frame above, press cameras fired like an electric storm.

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All seated and time to sing, the air filled with cheer and smiles.  Energy lifting the room.

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No ordinary speech.  The clowns took to the floor for an inspiring collection of readings, poetry and song.

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Throughout the service, huge shoes thumped across the floor.  I was drawn to the feet of this particular clown as she recited to the audience.

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Applauses of appreciation echoed up to the top balcony, rising from the densely covered pews below.  Frail, slow and weathered, this ageing clown became radiant with life.

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He soon took to the floor himself and gave a magical performance, reaching across to all four corners of the room.

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The service continued to a climax of celebration.  Smiles and laughter were contagious.

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Here I captured one of my favourite moments.  Set against a fading, over worn red carpet this clown’s energy set the room on fire.

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I had chosen to document the event away from the press, at a height from which I could record the eccentricity of the service unobserved.  Through the spade shaped carving in the wooden balcony above the vicar, I watched the service as if peering through a playing card.  I was looking at a childish world inside my imagination, a world of clowns attending Church on a Sunday…here in front of me.

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At this moment I was spotted and given the privacy of a more intimate experience through the lens. Receiving a rather piercing stare, I was thankful that I was not a very young child!

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A large cake marked The Clowns International 70th Annual Service.

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No ordinary day in the streets of Dalston, London.  This was a surreal and magical afternoon. The clowns performed for the children after the service, taking their smiles back out into the streets after.  I would encourage anyone to attend.

Remember the gift of laughter.

Namibian Landscapes

 

Namibian Landscapes

Currently, the second least densely populated country on Earth, Namibia is one of the most stunning regions I have ever visited.  Vast swaths of sand stand still as if frozen in time whilst piercing blue skies hover above the silent land.

Below I have presented some of my favourite images, capturing different elements of Namibia’a unique landscapes…

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From a historical view

Deadvlei, meaning “dead marsh” is a white clay pan located near the salt pan of Sossusvlei within the Namib-Nauklluft Park.  The clay pan was formed after the flooding of the Tsauchab river.  Temporary pools emerged from which camel thorn trees grew. When climate changed and drought hit, the dunes encroached on the pan blocking the river from the region and consequently killing the flourishing trees. For 700 years their remains were scorched by the sun, the wood too dry to decompose.

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From a great hight

The Namib desert is 80 million years old and means ‘open space’. Dead Vlei is surrounded by the highest sand dunes in the world.  At 300-400 meters the dunes stand monstrously above the rich orange earth.

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From the surface

Etosha National Park contains a salt pan so large it can be seen from space. Whilst journeying across the vast flat land I witnessed a storm like no other.  Brewing within heavy bruised clouds it engulfed the land, violently but beautifully.  As if rising up from the still land or being sucked down in to the earth, the moment was beautiful.

 

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From relations with

The human connection with the land offered me an exciting new perspective mid way through my journey.

In North West Namibia, the surrounding land has long been an integral part of the lives of the Himber Tribe.  Known as the ‘red people,’ for centuries this tribe have lived in harmony with the land around them.

The women paint themselves twice a day with red clay, coating their hair in clay and butter forming think mud like strands.  The red orchre cream like substance made from the natural elements is applied directly to the skin.  Women are not allowed to wash with water and this cream is used to keep their bodies clean, whilst also protecting them from the sun.  A tradition practiced only by women, this is also said to be a way of enhancing the differentiation between sexes.

Standing proudly, the women of this tribe are welcoming yet hesitant. Covered with little but a goat skin skirt they are exposed from the waist up.  I had wondered how they really received a group of tourists and remained ambivalent in my thoughts as time passed.  Whilst the women were demonstrating how to maintain their unique hair styles I took the opportunity to sit alone in a quiet place.  I wanted to soak up the village atmosphere away from the staged tourist demonstration.

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…..a Himber boy approached me.  Curious but shy. Sitting on the dry floor I watched as he came closer, staring straight into my eyes.  I was hesitant about using the camera at first but with my experience of most children’s curiosity, I’d hoped he would be captivated by it.  Allowing him to touch the camera first he relaxed a little and as I picked it up to capture his big shiny eyes, he reached out to touch me, to feel my soft white skin.  To me a moment worth a thousand hair styling demonstrations!

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From the edge

Here at Grootberg Lodge, overlooking the Klip River Valley, I spent the most incredible couple of nights of my trip. Situated on an exposed rock face, the small huts stand exposed in the face of the strong winds.  With the door open a night, there was nothing but a mosquito cover between myself and the elements.  The warm wind seeped into the room, blowing gently like a fan.  The view from the bathroom was out of this world. I have never taken a shower with the feeling of being suspended over an infinite valley.

Lying on a flat rock face at the edge of this insanely wild place transported me far from any memories of the developed world.  When a curious little lizard investigated my still body on the hot rock, I was awoken from this peaceful state of calm. I picked up the camera and attempted to shoot him as he looked straight at me.  He soon lost interest and decided to opt for the far more exhilarating view of the wider surroundings!

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From below

Driving through vast open spaces soon allows one to forget the claustrophobia of city life. Whilst the land can get a little boring after 5 hours of driving, the elements never fail to create displays of awe inspiring scenes.  This cloud pattern, as if measured by hand, sat still above the open road for miles.

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From above

Enriching from any angle, Namibia’s landscapes are utterly inspiring.  Taking to the air the land and water combine to form soft ‘painted’ patterns or rich blues and browns.

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Even the harsh desert is brought to life with dramatic lighting and beautifully created natural forms.

I hope these perspectives on Namibian landscapes have been inspiring. They certainly exceeded my expectations and through the land alone, unravelled so much of this magical region.

 

 

 

 

 

A Journey Close To Home

Witney field seasons

In the grey winter of 2013 I left the intensity of London and ambivalently walked away from my route into Art Psychotherapy and the challenging but rewarding work I had pursued with London’s street homeless population.  I spent the following two years in the quiet countryside of Wintey, Oxfordshire. Here I worked for Audley Travel sharing my passion for the people and culture of Southeast Asia.  Although taking a detour from creative therapy, I have remained committed to therapeutic work and I can say with no regret that this was an invaluable time to step back and reflect. With further use of the camera to frame my experiences, I continued to document the next two years.

To end another journey, in the winter of 2015 I left Audley Travel. I completed the Photo Voice training programme http://www.photovoice.org and I will soon be launching  official ‘capturedonce’ photography initiatives.  My central focus will be on participatory photography.  Here I will draw on past experience with a variety of disadvantaged individuals and groups and work in partnership with local communities, creating new and exciting projects together. I’ll initially be focusing on the use of the camera as a therapeutic tool for children with a range of learning disabilities across Oxfordshire.

Alongside this I will continue my own photography work on a freelance basis, capturing the essence of moments and creative works. My work ranges from weddings, events, interiors, exploring the creative and natural world, and the documentation of more complex journeys across time and place. A new website will be launched next month.

For now I will begin with a visual story of my most recent journey.  In the near future I will also share some magical moments from the past two years. Amongst these will be encounters in Namibia, Borneo and Alaska as well as documentation of adventures by John Gunn @FarallonSwim and the first British team to attempt the swim from the Farallon Islands to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge http://www.greatbritishfarallonswim.com

 

A Journey Close To Home – Changing Seasons In Witney, Oxfordshire

Over the past two years I’ve contained my lust for travel (with the exception of a few sneaky trips!) and documented a local (but no less beautiful) journey under a mile from my front door.  Far from the crowds of the jubilee line,  the screeches of London Bridge’s railways and piercing 24 hour sirens, the landscapes of Witney are alive and calm all year round.  The half hour ‘commute’ to work each morning took me over rich textured fields and through fast changing seasons.  Here are a few of my favourite snapshots from my walk to work (all unedited, taken with a phone).

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Witney Seasons

IMG_065718th February 2014. Flooded walkways. The view from my new home

photo-163rd March 2014 – Spring light. Sunken earth emerges as the sun returns. Wellies required

IMG_068914th March 2014 – Flooded waterways. Paths impassable

IMG_07617th April 2014 – Fiery trees in dark shadows. Light appears

IMG_082430th April 2014 – Soft fog engulfs. Awakening landscapes

IMG_082630th April 2014 – Hide and seek

photo-912th May 2014 – Vibrant Summer.  Lush green rolling hills

photo-2825th August 2014 – Rich texture. Ploughed for Autumn

photo-329th September 2014 – Early morning light. Winter’s closing in

IMG_156923rd September 2014 – Barren land

IMG_2054 3rd February 2015 – Frozen streams
IMG_20433rd February 2015 – Stunning peace. Snow falls

IMG_20553rd February 2015 – Stillness

IMG_22493rd March 2015 – Light creeps back

IMG_22503rd March 2015 – Colour returns

IMG_25811st May 2015 – Summer is near

IMG_283819th May 2015 – Or maybe not!

IMG_290723rd May 2015 – Natural beauty

IMG_304023rd June 2015 – Green in abundance

IMG_404611th September 2015 – Preparing for winter

IMG_415330th September 2015 – Warm glow

IMG_41601st October 2015 – Autumn colours

IMG_41591st October 2015 – The dreaded cows (far too tame). Soon to leave

IMG_423322nd October 2015 – Winter skies. My last walk to Audley http://www.audleytravel.com

 

Life On The Shores – Lake Malawi

Down from the mountains and onto the calm shores of Lake Malawi, ten years after my first visit, with vibrant colours and abundant energy, life continued to thrive.  Nothing had changed, not a single building erected, not one canoe renovated. The only evident change being the modesty of women, previously topless on the lakeside. I was greeted by a reassuring sense of recognition in an otherwise unfamiliar environment.

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Squeals of children echoed across the sand with families constantly at work; washing themselves, pots, pans, and clothing. The shoreline sees activity from dawn to dusk. In this seemingly timeless place, with so much poverty, I was curious as to where the stranger belongs, and whether I would be welcomed. Walking along the waters edge, I was greeted by shiny eyed children, full of energy. Tiny hands grasped mine, and little feet jumped over old wooden canoes, pattering across the ground -clambering around me. I was honoured to be experiencing such innocent and playful curiosity.

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On The Road – Never ending journeys!

Watching….waiting….wondering….while most journeys in Southern Africa will take a good few hours longer than expected (if reaching a destination at all), the vibrant life along the road side provides endless entertainment.  Samosas, eggs, toys, vegetables, sarongs, pens and chickens are just a small sample of what’s on sale through the bus window. I spent many a journey watching the hustle and bustle outside in the hot sun whilst folded up on a bus with chickens in my face, a child sprawled over my feet and another asleep on my lap.

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Multi-coloured sarongs line the roadside as local women wait hopefully with their goods.

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Busses pull over at ‘very’ regular intervals, ready for the many ‘offerings’ held out to hungry passengers.

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If I ever indulged myself with the idea that I might actually arrive, there was always one more obstacle or a ‘few more’ people to pick up….plenty more opportunities to observe the world through the window frame.

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On this occasion, smiling, shouting and pushing goods into the window, wins even the attention of the bus driver!

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When travelling from Malawi to Lusaka in Zambia, after a 5 hour wait for a ‘new bus’ on a deserted road side, local children ran out of the desert to play with me; a strange white being with a huge camera!  Dancing in the setting sun we ran around until dark when a local woman took me to a mud hut and I paid for dinner, egg by egg in the candle light…still waiting for the bus.

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If you can endure the heat, smells, chaos and claustrophobia; in Africa, the journey really is the destination!

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