Mar 232013
 

So many things are going on in my head right now. I’ve been reading teh interwebs for two days straight and I’m feeling like my dislike for people in general is justified. Of course, ‘teh interwebs’ (sic) is where the trolls live so I’m probably being unjust if I base the whole of humanity on a few, but still.

What made me write this post is a thread I read on an IMDb forum regarding the film ‘Monsters’ [2010] written and directed by Gareth Edwards and shot for around $15,000. It’s an awesome movie considering the low budget.

Filmed on a Sony EX3 with a Nikon 50 MM Lens the director used natural light almost exclusively except for a couple of tiny LED lights for when it was pitch black. The effects were done in Adobe CS4 and the editing in Premiere. The majority of filming was shot with just a sound guy, the director and the 2 main leads. Most of the extras were locals and a lot of the scenes and locations were shot opportunistically.

Awesome! But by fuck were the trolls out to get this one on the forums.

I replied recently to another thread on another site I use to people who were criticising a short animation. Most of them were not criticising the story or the characters, they were criticising the actual cinematography and the techniques used. This was on a gaming site.

My comment was simply; “if you can do better go out and do it. If not, have respect for the man that did. If you actually have the skill to do a better job and think that the film maker could have done things better or improve on his technique, send the director an email and offer to help him.”

Constructive criticism is welcomed by all. I know I welcomed it as a photographer. If someone obviously had more talent than me I learnt from them if I could and listened to what they had to say. I ignored the ‘I could do that’ trolls. If they could, they would’ve and I would be copying them

The two things that got to me on the ‘Monsters’ forum were 1) the thread criticising the lead male for portraying a professional photographer badly and 2) criticising him (the photojournalist) for going with the girl (that he didn’t know) in the first place (into territory infected by the ‘Monsters’ of the title).

Amongst the many reasons Scoot McNairy was criticised for playing a photojournalist badly was that in one of the last scenes he just stands and watches the monsters rather than shooting them (with his camera). That led me to thinking about the incident I was involved with only two days past. And. Bear in mind I ‘am’ (or was) a professional photographer.

20 March 2013. I was on the King Harry Ferry (a chain ferry) crossing the river Fal when I watched a car roll off of the concrete slipway, onto the riverbank and stop with it’s front wheels in the water. I was on the opposite side of the Fal. The driver, an elderly male had apparently (I was later to learn) stepped out of his car to take a photo and either didn’t apply the handbrake properly or the handbrake failed. As of writing there hasn’t been any more information.

The driver and one other male seemed to dither about by the car, one of them wandered back across the slipway to a moored and beached dinghy with an outboard before sauntering back. Neither male looked overtly worried in so much as they weren’t about to get their feet wet. As we (the people on the ferry) watched, the car began to slide into the water. The driver looked panicked and the skipper of the ferry was already on the radio and the phone to the emergency services. A manager from the ferry company had got into a small boat and was making his way across the river towards the scene of the accident.

A disabled woman was trapped in the car! With two dogs. As it slipped under the water.

When the ferry was about thirty feet from where the car had probably settled underwater I was begging the guy in the boat above the car to throw me a rope so that I could dive down and see what I could do for the woman in the car. He refused and refused. I begged. His reasoning was that the water was too deep, 25/30 feet at that point, and that the visibility was nil and that the river was tidal. I knew it would be too dangerous without some kind of safety line myself and was feeling awful and frantic that I wanted to help but wasn’t being allowed to.

When it was obvious that the ferry could dock and cause no more difficulties to the car it pulled onto the slipway and having the only four wheel drive with a tow bar (I drive a Land Rover) I figured that if a rope could be hooked onto the car I might be able to tow it out of the river. The guy on the small boat was desperately trying to hook the car, which he couldn’t see, and was only approximately sure of it’s location, with his anchor. If he could manage it, I could try to tow it.

Two inshore lifeboats arrived. Neither having a diver they agreed that trying to hook the car with an anchor and me towing it was probably the best idea available at that time.

Two offshore lifeboats and a helicopter arrived but still no diver. The best shot was a local mussel ‘free’ diver named Matt Vernon, (a fucking hero!) he spent ages in just a wetsuit, mask, snorkel and fins diving down in the nil visibility, and near freezing water trying his best to get some kind of line on the car. At one point he did and the line was tied to my car by the coastguard on the shore and I was instructed where to drive and how slow. I moved perhaps 15/20 feet before the car got stuck (I was later told) on the ferry chain and my clutch began to burn out.

The rope was then tied to the winch of a fire engine and at that point it couldn’t tow the car out of the water either.

This was perhaps three quarters of an hour after the car had gone into the water with the woman.

This is a précis of the whole story. There had also been an off duty policeman directing traffic, a community police officer trying to co-ordinate things on shore. The ferry standing offshore with two ambulances and a fire engine. A fire engine on the submerged cars side of the water with two coastguard trucks, four police cars and an ambulance.

Including the emergency services on the opposite side of the river, on the river and in the air there were eighteen vehicles. Not one of them had a trained and equipped diver.

Cornwall has the most coastline of any UK county and this local region, Carrick, is one of it’s most coastal with tourism and fishing both playing a major role. The nearest major town; Falmouth (along with the Carrick Roads area where the river Fal and river Percuil meet) has the third deepest natural harbour in the world.

EIGHTEEN emergency vehicles, at a coastal emergency, and not one diver.

Again, this is a précis. I struggle to think about that afternoon and have prayed for the man that lost his wife and dogs. For the woman that died and for the dogs and for all that were involved and that might be feeling a little raw for their involvement.

As a man, I hope I did everything I could to help. I beat myself up for not getting into the water and forcing the issue of the ferry guy giving me a rope but I know he did the right thing by refusing; while I was giving a statement to the police the officer said that the only thing more galling than losing someone to an incident like this (and he’d never, in ten years been to an incident like this) was losing two people when the person that tried to help ended up dying too. It’s a sobering thought.

As a photographer. As the only photographer on the incident side of the river. I actually considered being able to get photos that no other journalist would be able to get and wondered the financial value of said photos…

Ultimately, I decided against it. As a photographer I decided against it. This wasn’t a tsunami or 9/11 where the disaster was worldwide news. This was a local, personal tragedy and as such my role was to help and not to document a media event that would not have world wide ramifications and photography would not be part of it’s history.

Thinking about the forum comment that sparked this blog post, unless you’re there, unless you’re a photographer you have no idea how you’re going to react to a situation or whether you feel the need to document it. By saying that ‘not taking photos’ is a bad representation of a photojournalist the troll has no idea. I was there and I didn’t take photos. To not take photos shows humanity in some situations and an actors job is to be as naturally human as possible.

Troll… You have been pwned!

As for item #2. Why did the photojournalist decide to go cross country (across a monster infected area) with a girl that he’d just met?

I’d like to think that all things being equal. In that situation, I might make that decision too. Like Luke Rhinehart. The ‘Diceman’, sometimes you have to throw the dice and take a risk. Even if the dice are metaphorical, sometimes you have to roll them and do something unexpected. As the events of the 20th have shown, life is too often, too short. We have no idea when ours will run out and one has to make the most of each moment. One minute you can be admiring the scenery and within ten minutes either yourself or your family and pets can be dead.

Dead is forever. This moment, this life is fleeting. Even your allotted eighty or so years, seen in perspective, in time, is but an eye-blink. What percentage is your allotted life, of time that has gone before, since the beginning of time until the end of time with the implosion of the universe? It is an infinitesimally small amount of time. That’s all you have, all you will ever have and you don’t even know how long that time is.

Live! Live in the moment. Live for today. Take risks, take calculated gambles and live. Experience life. Enjoy life and if you don’t, find a way to. Find someone to share it with. Take a risk and talk to the girl you feel you’ll have no chance with because the chances are she feels just as insecure as you do. Take that walk in the countryside. Stop and smell the flowers. Play with your kids and pets. Take a holiday. Spend some money recklessly, swim in the ocean, hike cross country. Talk to a stranger. Look out to sea and smell the salt. Tell your folks you love them, eat ice-cream in the winter, try sushi for the first time. Just fucking enjoy and experience life because it is too fucking short not to.

Why did the journalist go cross-country with a girl he’d just met (but probably fancied)? Because he could!


Mar 312011
 

If my life were a Role Playing Game, right now I’d be levelling up in photography and my relationship status would be set back to zero: +4 commitment to life, -2 happiness, +8 peace of mind and +/-9 positivity.

Finally, along with causing abject depression, my commitment to photography and a photographic career has cost me my six year relationship. My partner decided enough was enough and were I to continue along the path I have been walking she’d walk herself; Thus, she’s left me for someone else more stable. Leaving me with a rented property I can ill afford and our dog.

I got the dog! You have no idea how happy that makes me. Sid (my orange coloured Cocker Spaniel) is my rock! We shared pancakes today, sat on the sofa, scratching our fleas, catching up on the past few episodes of The Event.

I read an article the other day on the theory that time seems to speed up the older one gets.

We’ve all heard that, right? Okay, according to a study done by the University of Cincinnati some time in the seventies this effect is so pronounced that if you’re twenty today, in terms of your subjective experience, you’re already half way through your life even if you live to be eighty. If you’re in your forties, (again assuming you’ll live to the ripe old age of eighty) your life is seventy-one percent done.

So my life is (subjectively) over seventy-one percent finished, my career hasn’t started yet, I’m broke, I live in rented accommodation in purgatory Cornwall, my family have all but disowned me, my daughter lives back in London, I’m in ill health and my partner has now left me. But, I do have my dog.

I have my dog, a portfolio of work I’m quietly pleased with, a nomination for a photographic award I’m not allowed to talk about as I’m far from a finalist yet, an article published in a professional photographic magazine this month and a plan.

+9 positivity indeed! Life could well be worse… (that wasn’t an invitation).

Actually, for the first time in my life I have three plans. I have a plan A, a plan B and a plan C. Plan A is my master plan. The one I’m not discussing yet apart from to very close friends and the one member of my family still talking to me.

Plan A is my career saving plan. However, if I fail to define myself as a photographer is my life really over? According to studies by the University of Cincinnati blah blah blah it already is so why worry?

I’ve still got roughly twenty-nine percent of my life left so I might as well make the most of what little time I have left, possibly, (probably), I should stop being a depressive drama queen and start making the most of what I do have. Hence; plan B and plan C.

Reading this back to myself to spell check and proof, perhaps I’m actually an undiagnosed manic depressive and this is one of those bouts of unbridled mania that comes before another big low. It certainly sounds like it might be. Next time you’ll be reading my obituary!

If plan A fails I could? forget being a photographer and accept that my lot in life is that of an ex-pat living in Cornwall. I could get a minimum wage job flipping burgers for one of the chains or get a job in some extreme sports or surf shop and in my spare time make the most of what this (don’t believe the ‘sunny’ hype) rainy county has to offer.

I could finally learn to surf. I could visit (with my dog) the three hundred or so beaches I have yet to see including that blasted Kynance Cove I’ve failed to get to for two and a half years now.

I could visit some of the beauty spots I have still failed to visit and I could walk the moors (again with the dog and wearing those very expensive walking boots I bought pre-Cornwall convinced I’d need them and that I’d be walking the moors all the time although as yet I’ve failed to do anything but drive through them very fast in an attempt to get somewhere else).

I could fly my kites, I could take up bird watching, I could regain my fitness and by working that minimum wage job perhaps enjoy being self-sufficient again albeit on a reduced budget.

If I were sensible this life might even offer a way to come off of my blood pressure, my cholesterol and some of my diabetic meds. I’m sure it’d be on the right track to coming off my depression meds and might even be an incentive to give up smoking if fitness were a way forward to happiness. Who’d have thought it? If not gushing I do sound vaguely positive.

But wait, there’s more! I did say there was a plan C no?

If, upon reflection, plan B seemed too mundane were plan A to fail plan C would be to sell everything I own barring the dog and take to travelling.

I’d be like those intrepid photographers of old… Just me, the dog and a trusty Leica. Travelling the world (rabies shots permitting (me not the dog)) and documenting the sights. Sure, pretty much all the sights have been documented, but not by me. Have you ever seen a Pygmy wearing a gas mask or a Inuit gimp? Neither have I!

I have friends across America, I could start there by bumming some accommodation; New Jersey, North Carolina, Texas and San Francisco. That’s a start no? Is the French Quarter of New Orleans still standing?

From the US I’d like to see some of the Caribbean, I’d like to travel to North and South Vietnam and I’d like to see the Killing Fields of Cambodia. I guess I’ve seen too many war films. I’d like to go to Thailand and Japan. I’d like to visit Prague and  St Petersburg and (vaccinations permitting again) maybe hook up with some of those beautiful East European prostitutes one reads about.

If I get bored or too despondent I’ll buy myself a drug overdose in Phuket, wander off into the jungle and never be heard from again. Leave ‘em wondering. It’s a good job that my model release forms state that my beneficiaries can gain monetarily from the sale of my pictures. A dead artist is often seen more favourably than a live one.

It all sounds good on paper. However. There is still the not-so-small matter of my crippling procrastination to deal with.

As a brief aside; I do this a lot don’t I? I recently came across a theory that if you have to make a choice, flipping a coin is a good way to make it. Not as random as it may seem, the theory goes that once you’ve attributed your choices to either heads or tails and while the coin is in the air you instinctively know which way up you want the coin to land. THAT is the option to pick. Forget chance. You just go with that gut feeling.

Hmmm, if only I could find a three sided coin… In the meantime I think I’ll just sit here and procrastinate writing about how good life could be if only.

Oct 182010
 

One of my most admired business models is that of Coffee Cake and Kink in London;

Coffee Cake and Kink online

Partly for the great coffee, partly for the great cake but mostly for their warm greetings, tolerant non-judgemental advice, great customer service, superior product lines, adult art and for creating in London a space where all of the above can be enjoyed by anyone of any gender, mix of gender or sexual persuasion.

Whilst I was still living in London there was nothing better than spending a sunny afternoon, drinking coffee, sat at one of their outside tables, watching the world go by or chatting to other customers about everything from Eastenders on TV the previous night to the best way to bind the breasts of a willing female slave and what rope to use.

If money were no object and I could open a business in Cornwall tomorrow I’d be phoning Alana and asking if I could either franchise or borrow their name and business model to open a similar shop to CCK down here in Cornwall. In fact, had my studio not closed it would have hopefully evolved into something very similar to CCK.

That would have, could have been the social enterprise aspect of my business; to promote safe and healthy sex and tolerance of all sexuality in Cornwall. (You have to remember that Cornwall often seems to lag a little behind the rest of the country and that Truro only held it’s second Gay Pride this year).

Cornwall, at least as far as the Cornwall I have seen, isn’t too big on sexual tolerance. Hence this post.

On the 11th of October this year, St Austell town councillors met to discuss the councils position should it receive an application for a sex shop, cinema or sexual entertainment venue. The result, pending approval by Cornwall Council was that a ‘zero tolerance’ policy should be implemented.

Apparently 90 streets were ‘blacklisted’ (those that contained any thoroughfare for children and stores that children or their parents may use, other entertainment venues or religious meeting places). Councillor John Stocker thought even more streets should have been included on the list.

The deputy Mayor Sandra Heyward (who was responsible for the groundwork prior to the meeting) insisted that the plan for zero tolerance was not decided on a ‘moral basis’.

During the meeting, examples were given citing why a zero tolerance plan was best, including; an Ann Summers store in Cardiff, six doors away from a Disney store, a sex shop in Truro having been granted a license next door to school uniform shop and the fact that a sex shop that opened in St Austell several years ago was forced to close after only six weeks because “concerned parents protested and it became a ‘bit of an embarrassing’ place to go”.

The above was taken from an article by Dominic Howell in the Cornish Guardian dated the 13th October 2010.

Zero tolerance huh? Well, it looks like my plans are scuppered! I wonder how old the councillors are, what businesses they personally represent and what the demographic of the shopping public of St Austell is?

I can (sort of) see the councillors point of view if they were objecting to the sort of sex shop that existed in the 1970’s that only appealed to the ‘dirty Mac’ brigade. But, since the internet that kind of shop has largely vanished. Firms that synonymised that kind of sex shop like ‘Private’ have moved online and there is no longer a need for blacked out windows and screens between the shop door and shop proper. Sex shops by today’s definition are often stores for women who want to experiment with their sexuality actually run by women.

Jacqueline Gold’s clever re-branding of the Ann Summers chain paved the way for this and brought sex to the high street although when they tried to open a shop in Tunbridge Wells they were accused of ‘degrading’ marriage. Perhaps it is fashionable to move to St Austell for retirement from Tunbridge Wells?

Firms like Sh! Harmony, Coco de Mar and Organic Pleasures took Ann Summer’s ball and ran with it, proving that women actually liked sex and that the problem with sex was (probably) the male’s perception of ‘sex’. This was largely typified by shops with blacked out windows, rows and rows of magazines and films featuring big breasted, vacant eyed never-to-be starlets on the covers and blow-up dolls in boxes with a lurid red, gaping hole where the mouth should be and legs akimbo held apart by hard plastic seams that grazed your skin. (Allegedly).

In an area like St Austell that has problems with it’s youth, with drug use and teenage pregnancy is zero tolerance the best policy?

I know for a fact that when I opened my studio for it’s short lived stint in St Austell that people in the LGBT community, the transgender community and the BDSM community were crying out for somewhere they could shop, drink coffee amongst their own and have somewhere to meet on a day-to-day basis.

I know of a schoolgirl lesbian that was bullied into leaving her school when she ‘came out’ even though it is fashionable to be bi-sexual in the same school.

A middle aged lesbian complained that nowhere in Cornwall was there anywhere she could turn to for advice on lesbian pornography or sex toys without being part of the ‘LGBT’ culture, something she felt she didn’t ever want to belong to. Her sexuality she explained, was her own private business and not a statement. She lived alone she told me.

I know that people in both the Transgender and BDSM communities in St Austell didn’t always want to have to travel to Truro for a monthly structured meeting (munch) or have to go to Truro’s ‘gay bar’ for a drink.

On Facebook, there are Ann Summers ‘groups’ (with plenty of members) based in all the major Cornish towns. Ann Summers parties are therefore big business locally which by association would imply that there was a need for sex toys and sexy lingerie. As my own modelling groups on Facebook and these Ann Summers groups often shared the same ‘friends’ I can safely say that the demographic for both was in the age range of 14 years old to around 22.

Councillors and parents in Cornwall. Wise-up! Your children are having sex! Your constituents and shoppers are having sex. Your children and constituents may be gay or not adverse to wearing a little latex while strapped to a St Andrews cross being flogged enthusiastically about the buttocks with a leather riding crop or bamboo cane.

One could argue that given the propensity of ‘online’ shopping there is no need for physical sex shops?

I would say that since the days of the ‘ivory white’, ribbed, nine inch plastic vibrator (sorry; massager) are (mostly) dead and that since sex toys now cost often into the region of hundreds of pounds that physical shopping and sensible, adult advice are completely warranted.

In my opinion a store running with a business model like Coffee Cake and Kink is almost a necessity in all major towns. Cornwall could benefit with a similar shop in Penzance, Truro and St Austell with Plymouth (pun intended) bring up the rear.

Where better for the coffee drinking, cake eating, youth and the sexually diverse to get sensible, non-judgemental advice? Are they going to get advice on safe experimentation in sex education lessons? The family planning clinic? The doctors or from a teenage mum that to supplement her minimum wage income is running Ann Summers parties for her mates? I think not.

Zero tolerance? I think that the councillors of St Austell need to re-think their policies or at the very least have someone on board to play devils advocate and help bring Cornwall (kicking and screaming probably) into the 21st Century.