Posted on April 18, 2017
I’m delighted to announce that my photograph ‘Arshia Ghorbani, 16, Toxteth, Liverpool’ has won first prize in the inaugural FC Barcelona Photo Awards. The awards were set up to “celebrate the positive intrinsic values common to sport and culture and to communicate the importance and contribution of those values to current society.”
Arshia’s story is an example of the power of sport in society and a testament to the kind of community spirit that I experience all around the world and especially in Liverpool.
It is that spirit of humanity, of welcoming and of togetherness that so enriches our society and must, in the end, prevail over those that spread hate and isolationism.
Arshia is an asylum seeker from Iran now living in Liverpool while he waits for his refugee status to be assessed. As a teenager he has many challenges to face to fit into a new community and new society, not least the challenge of learning a new language and continuing his education in a strange environment. The first thing he did when he came to Liverpool was play football as a way to make new friends and feel accepted. He plays for Kingsley United in Toxteth, known as Liverpool’s ‘most diverse’ football team.
He is sixteen years old and tells his story in his own words: he has written his testimony/caption in his native language: Farsi.
An English translation follows:
My name is Arshia Ghorbani and I was born in 01.02.2000. That means that I am 16 years old now. I’m happy person normally but sometimes I can get angry as well. The only thing that I do cheerfully and lovingly is football. I started playing football with an adult team since I was 8 years old which made me good progress in football.
I have a lot of plans and dreams, too many!!
I like go to school and learning. I really enjoyed of my school and it’s lovely staff and never want to leave the school. I know that all people can’t reach they dreams. It is difficult and hard work to access my dreams. To be a surgeon doctor is one of my main aims.
I am good at learning and understanding in school. My first language is one of my main barriers between me and my dreams. It is now just 3 years that I am living in UK, but even now I can’t understand some of the written words; on the other hand I can speak English very well.
One of my other problems is that we can’t go on holiday, we are not allowed to travel, we can’t buy a car even if we had the money, as my Dad is not allowed to get a licence, and we don’t have permission for work. That all means we can’t make any decision for our future because we are asylum seekers.
That all makes a teenage boy like me to be in desperation and stressful which is not good at my age.
Unfortunately I can’t go to university because I am asylum seeker. I know it’s not the UK government fault, but if we think I had potential to be a doctor in future and I could save hundreds of humans lives. I like to help people and made smile on their face who poor and need help. That is the thing other people do for me when I was in need.
Anyway I keep going on with the hope and the stress. I don’t let any problem keep me away from my dreams.
I can’t and don’t want to make blame on my family or anyone for the situation I have. You must know that nothing is reached easily in the life and you must try hard. If it was easy everyone would be happy and joyful.
This photograph is part of my early work on a group project I am leading with fifteen other photographers all around the UK. The project ‘Sixteen’ looks at the experience, ambitions, dreams, hopes and fears of sixteen year olds from all walks of life all around the country.
A large format C-type print measuring 150cm x 94cm will be unveiled at the awards ceremony and exhibition to be held in Barcelona in June.
Posted on May 19, 2015
There’s certainly some good photography around in the UK just now. Especially if you can get a little bit off the beaten track.
I had the pleasure last week to go to the opening of ‘Landscapes of Murder’ by Antonio Olmos at Rich Mix in London: a poignant and powerful reminder of the problem of violence in London. The work is presented as a series of landscapes of everyday places and street scenes: ordinary, familiar and unremarkable locations that serve only to heighten the tragedy that has happened in each. Reminiscent, of course, of Joel Sternfeld’s work ‘On this site: landscapes in memoriam’, Olmos photographed the site of every one of the 210 murders that took place in London from 1st January 2011 to 31st December 2012. One telling difference between the two series is that as a news and documentary photographer Olmos visited each site very shortly after the murder took place: after the media had left, but whilst emotions were still raw. Here we have lone bunches of withering flowers, torn remnants of ‘Police: do not cross’ tape, groups of once tough looking teenagers drawn together in their grief all amidst shoppers and motorists going about their daily lives. Life goes on in these landscapes, but there is always a disturbing reminder that life has been lost here too.
It is the very ordinariness of each photograph that makes them all the more shocking: a powerful and fitting expression of the senselessness of murder on the streets of London.
At Rich Mix, London until 30th May: http://www.richmix.org.uk/whats-on/event/the-landscape-of-murder/
Book available here.
On a connected theme as part of the Look/15 photography festival in Liverpool is American photographer Richard Ross’s heartbreaking series ‘Juvenile in Justice’: a compassionate and powerful portrayal of a justice system that has gone very, very wrong. Ross has photographed teenagers and young people (as young as ten!) held in detention centres in 31 US states. In each photograph the face of the youngster is blurred, obscured or photographed from behind, magnifying the sense of isolation and fear they must feel. Accompanying texts in the young persons own words are desperate.
Both extraordinary and important bodies of work – documentary photography at it’s very best.
I fear sometimes that photographers can get too obsessed with the ‘idea’ or ‘concept’ of what they are doing or otherwise overplay the process – photography about photography. There seems to be a lot of naval gazing going on these days.
If, as photographers, we want to document and communicate, then surely we want our work to reach and connect with as wide an audience as possible. If we require that the viewer has a degree in visual anthropology or is extraordinarily well informed about the latest movements in contemporary art then we may be doing our subjects a great disservice. This is not to say that documentary, art and conceptualization can’t all work together and there are some fantastic examples of new and innovative approaches to what is essentially documentary photography where the results are challenging, engaging and very rewarding. I’m thinking here of Max Pinckers’ work ‘Will They Sing like Raindrops or Leave me Thirsty’, a small selection of which is at St Georges Hall in Liverpool as part of Look/15. The work is a mesmerising mix of Bollywood theatricality and keenly observed documentary interwoven with old torn newspaper cuttings – all telling the story of the ‘Love Commandos’, a small group of men in New Delhi whose mission is ‘to help India’s lovebirds who want to marry for love’, often against the wishes of family and the tradition of arranged marriage. A fine piece of work and well worth looking out.
Another compelling work that uses differing approaches is the intensely personal series ‘When I was six’ by Phil Toledano which was shown recently at the Format Festival in Derby and is available as a book from Dewi Lewis. The title refers to the death of Toledano’s sister aged nine when the photographer himself was six. Many years later after his parents died, Toledano discovered a box of his sisters possessions that his parents had neatly packed away after her death. The work takes the form of a series of still lives of items from the box and imagined ‘landscapes’ of outer space that occupied the young boys mind in the years after her death. Beautiful!
So, there it is: a very small selection of some great work that’s out there just now. There are myriad ways of making powerful documentary work, but please, please, please, make it both accessible and compelling.
I’ll finish with some words from Michael Craig-Martin, the great cheerleader for conceptual art and the Young British Artists. In his new book ‘On being an Artist‘ he writes:
“I dislike jargon intensely and cannot stand people who think that complex ideas need to be expressed in a way that is obscure or rarefied. I believe the opposite is the case.”
Posted on April 29, 2015
New work for Heathrow Airport, all shot on cold and blustery late winter days in UK! Brrrr. Commissioned by Saatchi Masius London
Many thanks to all the participants who braved the cold, the mud, the wind and the rain: Louis Barnett (Chocolatier), Martin Corr (Sound Moves), Paul Brown (MHI, Bristol), Anna Goodband (Liverpool School of English), Chris Baker-Brian (BBOXX), plus of course my super assistants Wayne Pilgrim, Peter Scarratt, Anderson Lamb.
Art Directors: Ian Otway/Tom Kennedy
Copywriters: Richard Carman/Laura Fullerton
Production: Sharon Daly/Luke Jackson
Post Production: Michel Groot/Craig Easton
For behind the scenes videos by Barney Edwards/Kalectiv please visit:
Posted on November 27, 2014
Posted on September 24, 2014
I’m not sure what’s going on, but I’ve found myself photographing dogs of late. No real plan and no real direction to it, I just seem to be seeing dog pictures everywhere: Paris, Liverpool, New York, Mumbai, Amsterdam…..
…more on the website
Posted on January 6, 2014
Posted on November 13, 2013
It’s been a busy few weeks with the InterContinental Masterclasses, finishing off a large tourism campaign for Mid Wales (weather was so good in the summer, we had to postpone the second half of the shoot – might have been accused of misleading people!) and this big shoot for Liverpool Albert Dock.
Entitled ‘Magic in the Air’ the campaign was devised and art directed by Brigid Benson with the brief ‘to show Liverpool and the Albert Dock in a new light.’ Her concept was beautifully simple, yet inspired: light the dock from the inside.
Now, the Albert Dock is a BIG place – the largest group of Grade 1 listed buildings in the UK. It is beautifully illuminated at night from the outside, but the inner quay with all the bars, restaurants, galleries and museums is dark. Our task was to illuminate the inside to a level where it glowed like a football stadium at night creating the desire for those on the outside to find out about all the excitement on the inside.
Many recce’s, meetings, negotiations, permissions, help from volunteers and crew, setting up 55kW of flood lighting and 700m of festoon lighting later our shoot week arrived. So did the rain!
Now, the Albert Dock and Liverpool Waterfront is a very well known location and an iconic image of the city. It is usually shot from across the River Mersey in Birkenhead (admittedly a shot I have done previously too) but the brief this time was to come up with something new and exciting. Brigid and I crawled across rooftops all over the city looking at various vantage points and we decided on three separate viewpoints to shoot by day and by night.
First up we shot across Salthouse Dock towards Albert Dock with the River Mersey and the Wirral peninsula behind. The daytime shot was ‘animated’ with help from all the staff and volunteers at the Liverpool Watersports Centre who came down to sail boats around and around Salthouse Dock for us.
…and the same view by night with the electric meters going wild on the inner quay!
The second shot incorporated more of the iconic waterfront: The port of Liverpool Building, one of the ‘three graces’ that form the centrepiece of the waterfront (we were shooting from the Liver Building so that’s not in shot!!), the new Museum of Liverpool and the Echo Arena and BT Convention Centre in the background.
and last but not least… ‘The Flagship’ – Brigid’s mad idea was to bring the flagship ZEBU into the middle of the Albert Dock and light it with festoon lighting all around and up and down the masts. Big thanks to all the volunteers and crew and especially the ‘top men’ who scaled the heights to make the vision a reality. Charlie the skipper had to come down from Whitehaven to manoeuvre the ship into position and then did an amazing job trying to hold it there still enough for us to do the shot. Usually in a week of bad weather I’m happy as long as it’s windy. On this occasion of course we weren’t allowed any wind either – needed to hold the ship steady for as long as possible and hopefully get the reflections too. All worked out in the end, but there were a few nervous moments for the client (I remained calm and confident all along – honest!!)