Friday, 25 March 2011
Tuesday, 22 March 2011
Sunday, 20 March 2011
Sometimes it just takes a couple of words or a smile to really get through to people. To break down barriers, to challenge stereotypes and to build relationships. Sometimes it’s about connecting with people on our most basic human level. You never know where these connections will lead us and how they will shape our lives. Simple beginnings often lead to momentous ends. Through my own experiences, I’ve found this to be a valuable truth. I’ve met some truly amazing people out on the streets of London. On buses, tube platforms, in cafes, by the river, in public libraries even! I’ve met people who have challenged my ideas and introduced me to new ones, new stories, new ways of living, cultures, identities and faiths. All of my encounters have enriched and challenged me. They have made me truly appreciate diversity. After all it’s what makes life interesting!
Often brief encounters have grown into lasting friendships. I’ll give you an example. A couple of years ago I was standing in line in the Imperial War museum and a young Latino woman struck up a conversation with me the way people do sometimes. Her name was Jessica, she lived in down-town Brooklyn and was in London visiting her brother. No sooner we got talking we realised we had quite a bit in common! We decided then to go for a long walk by the embankment. As we walked, (and we walked for hours) she told me all about New York gangs, about knowing what to say and how to get by! She told me about her aspirations to join the US marines and about her life in Brooklyn. In return I told her about my life in South London, my experiences and travels. It was amazing, the way in which we connected. The way we both felt as though we had known each other for years! When we’d finally got tired of walking, we exchanged numbers and said our goodbyes. The next few days we met up and did the same, we wandered through the streets of London joking around and talking unremittingly to one another about our beliefs, our ideals and our dreams.
This happens to me a lot, a few words about the weather with someone at the bus stop soon drifts off into a long conversation about global warming. In this way I’ve met some really colourful characters who have really changed my way of thinking. I’ve met Anna, the Russian linguist who works in a Hotel in Bloomsbury, who speaks five different languages and was shot at in Grimsbury (I joke not). I’ve met Alberto the Portuguese giant who used to own a snooker club and who is a devout catholic. I’ve met Alison from Brixton who enjoys kickboxing and dislikes the Suits. Some of these friendships have turned out to be more salient and lasting than others, however they have all helped me to grow as a person. Three years ago I met one of my closest friends out on the streets, Chanmi, a Korean artist who was fascinated by time-travel and conspiracy theories. You wouldn’t believe how well we got on, how much we learnt from each other and how much of a laugh we used to have! Diversity and conversation make life interesting! There’s a magic in sharing with others. A certain warmth.
In Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolf describes the condition of oblivion as intrinsic to the fractured and isolated conditions of life itself in which people drift towards isolation. In the novel Mrs Dalloway expresses this dissatisfaction of not knowing people, not being known. She contemplates ‘But what was this thing she called life? ... Here was so-and-so in South Kensington; someone up in Bayswater; and somebody else, say, in Mayfair. And she felt quite continuously a sense of their existence; and she felt what a waste, and she felt what a pity.’ And it is a pity, it is a waste- how unfortunate the number of people who flit by us in life, the number of stories that go untold, those cycles of isolation that could so easily be broken. Through ending this separation we could become so much more self-aware! Alive even! The other day, I was sat on a bus in Peckham next to an old man who was singing hymns. After a while I told him he had a lovely voice and his face lit up! Just like that his guard was down and the atmosphere was uplifted.
Sometimes I think we forget how important and valuable it is to truly connect with other people, especially in this age of social networking. We can forget how to reach out. To have real conversations. And to be receptive to one another’s needs. Sometimes it just takes a smile. Something we can all do. That one smile you offer might be all it takes to break down barriers and lay down new foundations. And who knows, it might lead to something much bigger!
Thursday, 17 March 2011
Tuesday, 15 March 2011
I've been experimenting with some old photos. These I took on my W800i in Polruan, South Cornwall a couple of years back. When I retire (if I ever live that long) I would love nothing more than to spend the rest of my days here. Painting, writing and going for super long walks! Ah that would be great!
Friday, 11 March 2011
Award-winning photographer Edmund Clark gave a lecture on his project 'Guantanamo: If the Light Goes Out' at Goldsmiths as part of my Art-War-Terror course. The talk was amazing as was his work, (right up my street!) His photographs didn't dehumanize or demonise, rather they sought to bring back such events into our frame of reference. The artist himself was very down to earth and engaging. And nice enough to take a look and comment on my own work.
‘When you are suspended by a rope you can recover but every time I see a rope I remember. If the light goes out unexpectedly in a room, I am back in my cell.’Binyam Mohamed, Prisoner #1458
This is a study of home, of a very particular idea of home at a very particular time in our history, and the lives of people whose paths crossed on 45 square miles of Cuba, cut off from the rest of the world by razor wire and water.
Rather than an attempt to monumentalize the historical fact of the Guantanamo camps, these images illustrate three ideas of home: The naval base at Guantanamo which is home to the American community and of which the prison camps are just a part; the complex of camps where the detainees have been held, and the homes, new and old, where the former detainees now find themselves trying to rebuild their lives.
The narrative of these images aims to evoke the process of disorientation and dislocation central to the techniques of incarceration at Guantanamo, and to explore the legacy of disturbance such experiences have in the minds and memories of these men. The viewer is asked to jump from prison camp detail to domestic still life, from life outside to the naval base and back again. From light to dark.
For more info check out the website: http://www.ifthelightgoesout.com/
Thursday, 10 March 2011
I've decided to start writing a bit more on my blog, I think it might add some substance to my photography. I hope you don't find my ramblings too boring!
I took these shots in Richmond-Upon-Thames today. It was beyond surreal being back by the riverside after nearly four years! Four years! I still can't get my head round it! When I was 17 years old and attending a college in nearby Twickenham I spent most of my time here, writing my novel, Freegan Freedom. It feels like a different life now. The book explored the relationships between a group of dissimilar Londoners living in an abandoned building brought together by fate and connected through shared anti-materialistic and communitarian ethos. It was here I thought up the misfits; Rufus, Sunlyn, Kal-Chi, Jax. Of course Sebastian. And Ez. It was here I jotted down the beginnnings of a narrative, inspired by the view and the very different people who would pass on by. The friends I made and the friends I lost. Simion the Rasta, Betty the artist, Jon the adventurer. It feels like a dream now.
So much has happened since. pottery and BSL, meeting C! Those long and beautiful walks with strangers! Those fleeting connections, apocalyptic landscapes, that peace. Jammin' with the warrior kids of Kings Avenue in Brixton and eating with those resilient upright men and women of St Mary's. Goldsmiths, the projects, the art shows and photography! Becoming a real Muslim! Breaking away from my nomad past, the flitters! The mountains of Damascus and deserts of Arabia. All those failures. And successes. I changed and changed again, a million times over! So much has happened since 17.
Yet today, in Richmond, everything was the same! Same cold, same vacancy, same benches, and sky and river. The same ole' lads building boats, same birds and swans. Same bridge.... I don't know, it's weird. It makes me want to do things again. Live. I just hope I can get through the next few months, keep my head down and nose clean and get through university with a decent degree. Its strange, being back there sure as heck does make me wonder whats round the corner, because I never would have believed I'd be here, where I am now. On a different note, today I met a lovely lady named Mythili!
Saturday, 5 March 2011
'You can hope to accept your illness. You can hope to accept your illness more graciously. You can hope for patience and for growth in those qualities that make us more human, such as wisdom, courage, humility, generosity - qualities that often have adversity as their sources and root. And you can hope for continued growth in peace, self-acceptance, self-appreciation and self-knowledge'
I've been working as a part-time pharmacy assistant for nearly four years now. I love my job, more than anything I like connecting with other people, helping them, albeit in my own small way. In the last couple of years I've made some very good friends. I've met the most inspiring and resilient people; cancer survivors, addicts, those suffering from mental illness. I've met the optimists and the pessimists, the lonely and the loved. The young and the old. From a lot of these people I've learnt more about my own self. My own weaknesses and how better I can deal with them. With that same grace and strength of mind, with that same patience.
Its funny how the people that we meet on this journey called life effect us in such deep and meaningful ways. How we ourselves deal with difficulty and pain. In the last few years I have noticed changes in myself, I've become more receptive. Having suffered from long term physical illness for over a year I have always felt a sense of kinship with my patients, a sense of silent understanding. Of respect. Being connected to those who are suffering I think is very important, it helps us on our own paths. It increases our own sense of mortality. Its strange, I never felt more alive then when I was closest to death.
There are great lessons and truths to be learned from people who are suffering. But a lot of the time we don't want to know, we turn our backs on those who are most in need of our love, acceptance and kindness. Society preaches perfection, anything less is inadequate, unwanted even. Remote. We need to remember that without light there would be no darkness! It's only through looking towards those who may seem more unfortunate to us, in reality whose to say that they're not more enriched, more open and content. More aware! Look to people who you may not normally look to because I'm sure they have something to offer, something real! Those 'bums' on the street who smell funny, who we avoid looking at or accelerate when we see. Listen to them, their silent truths and shattered dreams.
I'm not really sure why I'm bringing this up, maybe its because I've had a tough couple of weeks and it seems like things are once again going awry. The last five years have been so confusing and difficult and intense and right now all I want is peace and simple living. I could do with some simple living. Maybe in the wild. I only have a few months left at Goldsmiths, after that I'd really like nothing more than to disappear, travel the world, maybe by foot! Into the wild. Away from asphalt, the cars and the crowds, that noise! Those wires and screens! These brick and mortar shells we call home....