Morning Light, Istanbul ...

5am … dawn on a summer’s day, my first morning in Istanbul.

I remember leaning on the sill of a barred window and hearing the muzzein’s call to prayer go out across the city

5am because I had woken early, a mix of jetlag and panic.   What the hell was I doing, moving to Turkey.

But hearing that call go out ... perhaps I began to understand something of why I was there.  It was for moments like these, safe in the home of a friend, listening to a new world wake up around me, enchanted by the sound of an invitation to prayer in Arabic, blessed by the beauty of that sun-lit morning.

I believe that was the moment when the city slowly began to slip in through the gaps that a new world opens in me. You arrive as a child, without language, without knowledge, and you begin again ... until that new life becomes something like familiar too.

I have been thinking about this piece of writing, begun so long ago and far away, as I adjust to yet another new city not my own.

It's London this time.  And slowly, those almost terrifying spaces that open up in me each time I move, are beginning to fill with new knowledge and understanding. 

I understand the Underground.  I'll walk home from my station after 9pm, through the winter-city darkness and along almost deserted roads.  I can agree, although reluctantly thatfirst time, to meet friends for an impromptu dinner in Piccadilly Circus, without studying Google maps and making notes.

The people at this new Sainsburys are kind too.   I go out and buy all the food for dinners that I am remembering how to cook, as each move seems to involve a degree of amnesia in me when it comes to 'things I can cook'.  My repertoire is growing, although all of my cookbooks are back in Belgium.

There is no call to prayer here in London, although two of my 'homes' in England have involved early-morning alarm clocks that have made me smile over the inventiveness of alarm-creators.   Those crowing roosters and other, barely remembered, sounds meant to wake the hard working people who have shared their homes with me, have come through doors and walls, leaving me amazed that anyone can sleep on.  I wake easily, always, since I was small.

My way home is familiar now.  The homes I pass are semi-detached and I enjoy checking out their gardens, making up stories about who might live there.  I met a lovely neighbour the other day.  Bob alternated between gentleman and mocking Englishman.  He made me laugh.

My host, he's the kindest man.  Wise too.  I'll tell the story of him, with his permission, once I have some photographs.  I met him out on Flanders Fields and we stayed friends.  He takes in strays sometimes and so I'm one of those.  A wandering stray until I work out where I'm heading and anchor myself again.

Accidentally, I am living a life where I have traveled a lot and lived in more than a few countries - long term, short term.  Never planned. 

This website is back in an 'under construction' phase ... perhaps 'reconstruction', as I re-cut my cloth to fit this new life.

I miss joy but I'm getting there.  I guess there's the grieving first.  Then the learning how to live a new life.  And then there's working out the next part.  I am exploring some possibilities and so, I guess, it's all about watching this space and seeing how things unfold.

Not even I know.

Event Photography ... a passion of mine

People often ask me, what kind of photography I love best ...

I struggle, in that moment, usually.  I love photography but actually, if I really had to choose one favourite, I suspect I might choose event photography.

I get to roam then, with my beloved 70-200mm lens, and capture people while they are unaware.  People being themselves.  People relaxed and happy, perhaps.

Those 3 months I spent working in Berlin ... they offered up some of the best event photography moments so far.  And weddings, or parties.  Any event that allows me to just work on capturing the soul of a person, there on their face, as they go about their day.

To capture a beautiful portrait is incredibly satisfying. 

Don't You Love It When ...

Don't you love it when your bowl of pasta arrives and it looks too small to fill you, then you begin to feel warm and satisfied, and realise ... the bowl is still 2/3's full!

Don't you love it when you stop to listen to a really good musician and you discover his name is Scott McMahon, he's Scottish, and you talk awhile.  And he tells you the most marvelous story ever ... in his (something like) Billy Connelly accent, confusing you a little because he's serious and the story is true.  He let's you photograph him as he sings.  You buy his cd.

And don't you love it when you order a small glass of the house red wine and discover it's quite a full glass, and that the wine is good.

Don't you love it when you find a million bookshops, secondhand too, just as you decide that the directions you so laboriously noted down, are too difficult to follow.

... when you find the perfect book for Miss 11.  So good that you begin reading it as you eat your pasta at the lovely restaurant that, while out of your price range really, is a great place to cheer yourself up on a grey and rainy autumn day in London.  And knowing, simply knowing, that you and Miss 11 have many many hours of skype reading pleasure ahead ... 500+ pages, no less.

Note: she talked me into reading her 3 chapters last night.  I couldn't resist.

Don't you love it when you work out how to reach the place you'd like to head to for those weekly meetings with New Zealanders.  Although, in the end, that knowledge is for future reference, on a day when you haven't walked your feet into a constant throbbing ache like you just did now, here in the unfamiliar heart of London town.

Don't you love it when you manage to navigate the London Underground, weaving in and out and all over the place, alone.

...  and when you find the National Portrait Gallery near Trafalgar Square, realise it's free, and walk the last of your feet off, exploring exquisite portraits of old heroes and heroines, and people you'd never heard of. 

And the deep pleasure in realising you can afford that bottle of water in the Gallery restaurant, after discovering a thirst that makes you feel you have just spent 2 days walking in a desert.

Don't you love it, really love it, when you realise you are free to take photographs in the National Gallery.

And there was that other golden moment too, when I understood that no one would miss me at the Ngati Ranana meeting, and so I found a train heading my way and got a seat, despite it being rush hour.

Don't you love it, when everything is new and kind of scary sometimes, but you end up finding Sublime out here in this city where you never imagined you might live. 

And arriving 'home', to a warm house, where your truly kind host has cooked up a big feed for dinner, with dessert.  It's warm there and the company is good.

Don't you love it when you realise, sometimes, that day ... it was good one.

The images ... Scott McMahon, and the London Eye.

Times, they are a-changing ...

How madly different can my life get ... ?

Here I am, nestled in really ... deep in the heart of a massive English pub somewhere in Waterloo, London.

I sold my soul slightly and handed over my 'information' in exchange for free wifi.  It's been grand, entertaining myself till Fiona arrived.

Suited-up English blokes have used my table as a resting place for their drinks, people have eyed me here at the table, hoping I'll leave soon so they can have it, and that's me, persevering.  Waiting for Fiona, that divine Irish friend from Antwerp, who is meeting me here tonight.

I was more than an hour early.  She's just arrived and is checking in. 

Mmmhmmm, how madly different can it all get.

Portrait Photography - as it should be

A friend posted the following story on my Facebook wall yesterday. It confirmed what I have always thought about portrait photography ... the photographer oftentimes photographs the relationship between themselves and their client. 

It's about mutual trust and respect but it's also about what the subject allows to be known of themselves ... the story he or she tells, the glimpses we are allowed.  That's why I prefer to take an hour or two with a portrait session.  I love to enter an environment that makes them comfortable.  I love if we have time to chat, to get to know one another in a relaxed situation.  It doesn't take long usually.

In this experiment the photographers all captured something of the person their subject presented himself as. I thought it the perfect illustration of how portrait photography should be.