Patchwork – Trans* lives: digital storytelling series
Thursday 31st July saw me at C4 headquarters in Horseferry Road, London for the launch of the Patchwork: My Genderation project.
I’ve been proud to be involved in the Patchwork project, a collaboration between Lucky Tooth Films and All About Trans* which has been tasked to produce twenty-five mini-documentaries presenting positive images of trans* lives. Fox and Lewis are the creative team behind Lucky Tooth Films and of course are more well known for their involvement in the C4 series My Transsexual Summer. They have set out to create a series of short films showcasing and illustrating a much wider spectrum of transgender lives than many people may be aware of. The Patchwork project films have been done with great sensitivity and will be available via youtube in the near future. (I’ll post a link when they are out).
Patchwork: All About Trans
Fox Fisher and Lewis Hancox from Lucky Tooth Films are well respected within the community. Their own trans* status helps them appreciate the concerns and sensitivities people within the trans* community can have, and their work has always brought humanity and compassion to the presentation of the subject. These well established credentials have helped them enjoy unprecedented access and engagement to a community rightfully cautious of film and documentary makers. And ya know what, they’re lovely guys to work with, really easy going and fun to spend time around.
The Patchwork project has involved a lot of travel for the guys of Lucky Tooth Films. They have wanted to film people in their own homes and local environments rather than drag everyone to a studio in London (which would have been a whole heap easier from a filming perspective!)
So, in May 2014 they came to Wales to be involved with the All About Trans interactions and to work with several of us from the trans* community here. Weather can be unpredictable at the best of times here in Wales and luckily, despite showers, we managed to get some great outdoors footage in Cardiff before driving up to Swansea where I was presenting a workshop on Trans* at BiFest Cymru in Swansea.
Patchwork C4 Launch London
I had the pleasure of travelling across London with Jayne & Sam – two fellow activists from here in South Wales who are also featured in the series.
The evening launch was introduced by the fabulous Paris Lees
It was a really enjoyable night, a chance to catch up with old friends and meet interesting new people. When the films are available for general release I’ll post an update with some links. Here’s a taster…
The Patchwork project has been a collaboration between Lucky Tooth Films, Channel 4 and All About Trans and is supported financially by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Channel 4.
[nb: full res versions of these red squirrel images available on request]
Red Squirrel – Formby Nature Reserve
Last October we had a few days holiday in the North West and visited Formby to visit the Red Squirrel nature reserve there. I’d only seen a red squirrel once before in my whole life so I was really hopeful to not only see one by maybe to actually photograph one. Pulling up at the entrance gate we were amazed and delighted to see one in a nearby tree. The National Trust, who run this site, have set up red squirrel feed boxes in the trees and here, just yards from the entrance gate, a recently re-stocked feeder had enticed our first red squirrel sighting of the day.
We parked up and started walking on the woodland paths. Walking slowly and quietly, and pausing momentarily to look up into the tops of the trees, it wasn’t long before a rustling in the canopy high above us revealed red squirrel activity. Being patient and walking with a fair degree of stealth we were able to enjoy several sightings that day.
We expected to see red squirrels eating pine cones and nuts but what surprised us was to see them enjoying the red capped mushrooms that were growing on the forest floor.
Our visit in October showed us red squirrels in their winter coat which is darker than the summer coat – some of them were almost black in their colouring.
We’d seen at least a dozen red squirrels on that first visit to Formby Nature Reserve. Keen to see them in their bright orange summer coats and hoping for the chance to see some youngsters, (which coincidentally are called ‘kittens’) we planned a return visit in the spring. And so it was, that towards the end of June 2014 we headed back up, this time armed with a 500mm lens. Getting there early for a 9am start gave us the opportunity to see them at the feeders.
When the footpaths are quiet these reasonably shy creatures come out to play and at points we could see eight or more at the same time. By remaining still there were points where we’d have squirrels as close as five or six feet away. Other wildlife also inhabits the area and at one point it felt like we were looking at a scene from Beatrix Potter.
This visit rewarded me with a really successful shoot, the new lens worked really well and with the weather not too hot on the Saturday the squirrels were out to play for most of the day. On Sunday morning we took the opportunity for another hour of early morning shoot as the light was particularly nice. here is a video collection of some images from the shoot:
PostScript: A thanks to the fab coffee guys Caffe Adore who have a concession tent in the car park which fuelled us well with really decent coffee
In this article I will give you an outline of what to expect to pay, explain why cheap photography is a false economy, and why the old adage – “ya pays yer money and ya makes yer choice” is so very true – especially when it comes to wedding photography prices and packages.
There’s a traditional rule of thumb when it comes to considering wedding photography prices – “expect to spend between 10-15% of your budget on the photography” and this still holds true. In an age of modern digital photography one might wonder if that is still necessary. The simple answer is yes – creating good quality images that record and represent your special day in all its glory is not something to skimp on when it comes to managing the budget of your wedding.
In my article “how to choose a wedding photographer” you’ll read more about the things you need to consider when setting budget and making your choice. The three key costs are (1) Labour (2) Equipment (3) Business overheads. Firstly, and most importantly, the photographer you employ must charge enough (or be paid enough) to cover their time to do a fully professional job and not feel under pressure to push images out that lack the attention to detail that your wedding deserves. For every hour taking pictures, the professional photographer will typically spend two or three editing and working on a selection in post production to ensure the best quality images are provided to the customer. Remember too that labour rate is what remains after the costs of the business have been covered (more on that later).
Wedding Photography Prices: Why equipment matters
When it comes to Wedding Photography, good equipment is critical to achieving the best images: and pro equipment is expensive. With wedding photography there are particular challenges that push ordinary digital cameras beyond their abilities – getting good clear images from inside a dark church without graininess will outwit most – and then minutes later being able to capture subtle details on a white dress in bright sunshine requires high specification equipment.
Wedding Photography: Business Overheads
Asides from the normal costs of business, wedding photography prices are impacted by the high cost of marketing a successful wedding photography business and by the cost of professional photography equipment. This season I’ve been able to invest in the newest model camera body from Canon, which offers the latest specification and is particularly well suited to Wedding Photography. But, with any new equipment it’s important to put it through its paces before it goes out on a paid job, not least because I needed an opportunity to familiarise myself with the new positions of the controls. On-going professional development is important too – testing new ideas, trying out new equipment and keeping abreast of developments in the field. About 30% of the fee will go on business overheads.
Wedding Photography Prices: watch out for the Ryan Air deal
When looking at wedding photography prices and packages, If a deal sounds too cheap to be true it’s because it is. A low package deal may draw you in, but then you quickly find by the time you’ve added in all the things classed as ‘extras’ that you’d have expected anyway, suddenly the price isn’t so appealing.
Wedding Photography Prices: match budget to expectations
If you’re researching wedding photography prices and packages, take some time to check with friends to see what they paid and what they got. Look carefully at the quality of the images – in both composition and production. Good photography is an art – do the pictures look like they were taken by an artist or are they just ‘snaps’. A skilled photographer will know how to pose you to get the best out of you on the day, will put you at ease, be helpful and kind to you, and will want your day to be really wonderful so that the images are something you can treasure always. You can’t always choose which relatives come to a wedding but you do get to choose the photographer: find one you like, whose work you love and pay them what it costs. And expect that to be about 10-15% of your total wedding spend or not far off what you’ll spend on that lush dress.
Below is a set of images from a wedding photography training event, hosted by my dear friends Deb & Steve of Tiptop Photography, Birmingham which gave me the perfect opportunity to test my newest equipment and enjoy a day of shooting a wedding in the stunning setting of Birmingham Cathedral. I love this work. 🙂
All About Trans* have been coordinating face to face interactions between trans* (transgender) individuals and media people to promote understanding in a series of informal meetings. Here we are in Coffee #1 in Wood Street Cardiff discussing programming governance issues and helping inform future policy on handling issues and character representation relating to Trans*.
Trans* identity & representation
Coffee #1 offered the perfect informal setting to enjoy coffee and flapjack which discussing the significance and impact of media representations of trans* lives on trans* people. There was a meeting of minds as we shared understanding of the ethical principles underpinning governance (and ultimately programming decisions) at the BBC, and the bigger social responsibility of a world respected broadcaster. A guiding principle in the representation of ideas is that trust in the BBC is maintained as a source of factually correct information, whilst respecting the identities and rights of a diverse audience.
The time flew by as we explored the tensions between reflecting society as it is (accurate portrayal of culture) and social responsibility around the unwitting promotion of hurtful prejudice. I recalled how a television series like ‘Love Thy Neighbour’ in the 1970’s promoted racial prejudice in a way that some recent BBC output has equally promoted trans* prejudice – at what point does a broadcaster have responsibility to pull back from representing an aspect of society that causes injury to a vulnerable minority.
Our input helped the BBC team understand more about the complexity and diversity of ‘transition’ for trans* people and that felt useful. As a group we reflected on the idea that life itself is about endless transition – its just that the Trans* community are at the tangible edge of that.
The event was a great success and it was informative for all concerned: with thanks to All About Trans for co-ordinating the event and to the BBC team for sparing time.
On Monday 10th May 2014 I was proud to attend the launch of the Wales Hate Crime Initiative: Framework for Action, having been very much involved in the consultation process that has informed its development. The Wales Hate Crime Initiative: framework for action has come about through a consultation process which recognised that there are still pockets of prejudiced attitudes and discrimination within our culture and that this doesn’t fit with the vision of a modern and prosperous Wales.
Hate Crime: Identity based hate
Living in fear of assault, or under constant threat because of your identity, harms peoples’ health and cannot be acceptable in a civilised society. Sadly, we do still see people assaulted and picked on because of their race; gender; sexual orientation; faith; ethnicity, age or for having a disability. The framework offers a series of strategies to address the causes of hate crime and empower victims to report and tackle hate based incidents and hate crimes more confidently in the future. The framework offers the potential to create a safer and better Wales for everyone, a place where ‘difference’ does not mean disadvantage or discrimination, where our ultimate aspiration would be that no one would live in fear.
Jeff Cuthbert AM – gave an impassioned speech where he called for “cultural changes so that future generations can live in a Wales that is equal, fair and welcoming to people from different background and cultures”. He made it clear that the intention and expected outcome of the hate crime initiative would be that people could become more confident that “action will be taken” when reporting hate incidents and hate crimes, adding that here in Wales, “A culture where victims feel that they have to suffer in silence will no longer be tolerated”
Setting out the Welsh Assembly’s position on hate based discrimination, he said,
“we want our young people and children to grow up in a Wales where people are accepted for who they are and not judged because of the colour of their skin, their religion their sexual orientation, their gender identity, their disability or their age”
A key part of the initiative has been designed to overcome current blocks to reporting hate incidents and hate crimes. It is recognised that if we are successful in this there will be a sharp increase in the number of recorded incidents initially as we know currently figures for hate incidents are badly underreported and represent only the tip of the iceberg.
A theatre company will be touring a play around schools in Wales to help encourage hate crime reporting.
An important aspect of the new initiative is the introduction of a ‘third party reporting system’ so that people who want to make anonymous reports can do so via Victim Support allowing the data to come forward where previously fear has held people back. Through an increased understanding of where hate incidents and hate crimes occur will come the potential to increase support and resources to address pockets of difficulty.
Gypsy, Roma and Traveller discrimination
The consultation process drew on representatives from a number of disadvantaged groups affected by hate crime: an often overlooked aspect of race based discrimination is that which the Gypsy, Roma and Irish traveller community experience. A short film was presented which gave young people from these communities a chance to talk about some of their experiences of hatred and prejudice. It has been argued that it is the one remaining racism that society tolerates and its time for that to change.
Hate Crime: Intersectionality of Disadvantage.
A speaker from the asylum seeker project talked about intersectionality – the way that sometimes several aspects of a persons identity lead them to be discriminated against – sometimes compounding the prejudice. This was particularly pertinent in the context of their work with asylum seekers, whose asylum seeker status often comes about through discrimination in their home country but where they find that media reporting of their narratives often seems to collude with the idea that it is acceptable to feel hatred towards them. A series of newspaper headlines were shown that illustrated just how harmful and destructive this can get. It’s not just UKIP that has the problem here.
Hate Crime: Give racism the red card
The final speaker was former professional football player, Christian Roberts, who spoke about some of his experiences of both being subject to and witnessing race based discrimination and homophobia in sport including explicit prejudice and bullying by his own team mates.
Caerphilly photographer Alex Drummond aka grrlAlex has a weekend in the big city…
In my other life as a campaigner for LGBT human rights I sometimes get to do the odd conference. This weekend saw me leave Caerphilly and head for London for a two day conference on Transgender health care. Taking the opportunity of being in London I headed for Picadilly and Covent Garden area to see what caught my eye.
The picture above was shot in Picadilly in the evening experimenting with slow shutter and frozen motion – the guy is lost in his phone as the world spins around him. The following day I explored the Covent garden area – here in the centre of a busy city a yacht chandler – established for centuries and somehow still finding a way to survive a changing world.
Another old and established business from an almost bygone era is this umbrella shop – the gold leaf signwriting is a rare sight these days.
In Russell Square, the renowned Hotel Russell is a fine example of victorian architecture with elegant and fine detail – its sister hotel, the Imperial designed and built by the same architect was demolished in the late 1960’s and replaced by a modern building in the 1970’s. Sadly, this one lacks the finesse and timeless elegance – how how its archetecture now looks hideously dated.
The conference went well and the trip to London was a rare treat to catch up with people and do some street photography just for the love of my art. Did a lot of walking and spent a fair amount of time on the underground – here then to close this post is Caerphilly photographer Alex Drummond doing a rare selfie…
A bridal wear commercial photography shoot for Caru Brides, Caerphilly
As a photographer it’s nice to have a balance of work and a range of challenges to stimulate creativity. The opportunity to shoot wedding gowns and bridesmaids without the pressure of a full on wedding is always a joy as it allows me to experiment with ideas which can then inform my wedding photography. A local wedding dress vendor Caru Brides needed some promotional images for their website and so a couple of wedding fairs locally gave us the chance to plan some commercial photography shoots to showcase examples of the stunning gowns they offer.
Doing a commercial photography shoot is also a great opportunity for me to experiment with different lighting techniques. Whilst much of a typical wedding is shot using natural light, it’s important that when I’m working as a wedding photographer I am able to quickly adapt to the varying and different light conditions that are presented throughout the day and to be able to quickly use additional light where appropriate. In the two shoots featured here I used both natural light and flash – using a lighting assistant to make that task easier. As I’ve done here in this commercial photography shoot, I also like to take a lighting assistant with me on a wedding shoot – this way I can have greater flexibility to overcome what might in other ways be quite challenging conditions. In the images in this collection you’ll clearly see some images that have used directional off-camera lighting – what you may not notice is that even in the outdoors shots, in some I have used additional lighting to balance the level of light and shade.
Indeed, what many people won’t realise unless they’re photographers themselves, is that shooting a white wedding dress and being able to capture details is quite a challenge which is why much of the wedding photography you see leaves the dress blown out and detail lost – especially if the bride is outdoors. By being able to add flash or have an assistant use a reflector to throw light into shadow areas means the picture can be more balanced. And yeah, sometimes I’ll deliberately want to blow the details by choice to create a very white high-key image, but other times I can choose to use additional lighting from my assistant to create a range of images. For me its about having artistic choice: and there’s no getting away from the fact that bright sunshine and white dresses are challenge for even the most expensive cameras!
Commercial photography is about showcasing the product and helping potential customers see themselves related to the image. In this commercial photography shoot, I’ve worked with this local business owner to create a selection of images that are predominantly focused on the how the dresses might look in a wedding setting and using models we hope potential clients can relate well to. We like to use natural models rather than the ubiquitous size 8 so that real women with real bodies can see how good the dress can actually look rather than seeing a dress advertised on a size 8 model and feeling excluded. Indeed, it’s a common complaint that even in plus size wedding dress images the models are seldom above a size 12.
So, the thing is I love food. I love photographing food; I love cooking food; I love inventing recipes. So this blog post is mostly me being creative on a day off.
Pomegranate Molasses is a bit of a misnomer – it’s made by boiling down and reducing pomegranate juice until it thickens and goes sticky. So its not really got anything to do with molasses per se except that molasses describes about how thick the juice should end up if you get it right. If you google recipes for “how to make pomegranate molasses” you find the recipes basically follow the same format – pure pomegranate juice, sugar and lemon juice, boiled for about an hour until it is reduced to about one third and starting to go sticky. I’ve put some additional notes below as there are a couple of pitfalls to avoid!
The inspiration for this recipe came from a recipe for white chocolate parfait I’d tried at Christmas and a reference to pomegranate molasses in a fab new book about meringues. Having made the white chocolate parfait recipe a couple of times I’ve concluded there are better ways of doing it so take your pick – my version at the foot of this post or the recipe above in the link.
Pomegranates are a weird fruit really – novel, a bit fiddly and not a common ingredient in UK cuisine. But the juice is rich in antioxidants and vitamins and there are said to be many health benefits from eating pomegranates.
How to make Pomegranate Molasses
You ideally need fresh pomegranate juice which I found in the local supermarket in the chill cabinets. Fresh juice is best because the ‘juice drink’ variety has sugar already added making it hard to know how much it needs to render down.
Pomegranate Molasses Recipe
Take 4 cups of fresh pomegranate juice and put in a stainless steel saute pan.
Add 2/3 cup of white caster sugar
and 1/2 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice (two decent sized lemons well squeezed)
Bring it to the boil stirring gently to dissolve the sugar. When it reaches the boil, reduce the heat to a gentle bubble and stir gently every now and then to help it along.
After about an hour, when it is reduced to about one third of its original volume you’ll notice the liquid starts to coat the spoon. Be aware, when the liquid cools it will be thicker – a lot thicker and the first time I made this I basically ended up with pomegranate toffee when it had cooled! *Oops!*
Tip: When the liquid in the pan is starting to froth you are definitely there so take it off the heat and let it cool. You now have your basic Pomegranate Molasses. At this point, you can use it for any number of recipes – apparently it’s a popular ingredient in Lebanese cooking. When you taste it you’ll think of lots of possible uses – from cocktails to salad dressing, marinades.. the possibilities are endless!
Pomegranate juice has a curious combination of sweet and sharp so for my desert I added a splash of Creme de Cassis (which is a blackcurrant liqueur) to add richness to the flavour and additional sweetness. You should end up with a syrupy liquid the consistency of .. well..er.. molasses.
The white chocolate parfait is a cinch to make. The recipe above suggests putting white chocolate pieces in the blender and chopping until its fine. The noise of this scared me and it leaves little mini-chunks in the finished dessert so I prefer now to melt the chocolate instead.
Melt the chocolate in a bowl suspended over boiling water. Don’t let the bowl touch the water though.
Put the sugar in a separate pan, add four tablespoons of water and bring to the boil. When it reaches boiling point reduce the heat a bit and boil gently for about four mins stirring regularly to create a sugar syrup.
While that’s working away, whip the cream in a bowl to soft peaks – don’t over beat it especially if you’re using an electric beater as it don’t take long to go from ‘soft’ to ‘thick and grainy’. Thick and grainy is not good: useable but less good than soft peaks.
In a large bowl, whisk the three egg yolks until they thicken a bit, add the sugar syrup and the melted chocolate. Now fold in to the cream and pour into freezer proof glasses. I bought some plastic ones (see picture above) and filled five with this mix. Leave about 1/4 inch at the top spare for the sauce bit later!
Put in the freezer and chill for at least three hours. Pull them out of the freezer about 20 mins before you need them (so when you are serving first course get them out – by the time you’ve finished they’ll be just softened slightly).
To serve, pour the Pomegranate molasses over the surface so you have a glossy red layer about 1/8 inch thick covering the parfait. Happy noms.
Taking inspiration from the beautiful patterns and motifs of the vintage china, Mary Mahabir – the proprietor of the VIntage tea room has created a range of iced biscuits and miniature cakes and fancies.
Iced Biscuits: perfect for quirky wedding favours
For a vintage inspired wedding or other special occasion, having beautiful china is a must – but imagine how cool it would be to have iced biscuits and cakes that matched the decorative patterns of the china. I particularly liked the pattern on this Salisbury China tea set by Bradleys of England:
A busy afternoon saw us shoot a selection of table settings and detail shots – it’s always great fun to work with other creative people. Here’s a brief image gallery from the day:
GrrlALex: Commercial Photography for local businesses based in South Wales
Ornately decorated cakes and biscuits: perfect for a bridal tea
Yesterday’s food photography shoot was for the Vintage Tea Room in Pontypool. Mary has been working on some really beautiful design ideas for bridal tea party biscuits, cakes and fancies.
Sadly I didn’t get to eat them as they were needed as samples for a meeting the following day. Usually I get to enjoy the spoils from my food photography shoots.
The tea room in Pontypool offers afternoon tea which would be a lovely way to thank the bridesmaids for their support either before the big day or after the honeymoon, when life is starting to return to normal. A bridal tea party in a vintage tea room with ornate china and lots of cake is a lovely way to spend an afternoon.