Thursday, 30 May 2013

The Interview

I was interviewed yesterday by Sky Tyne and Wear about my previous post 'Ice Cream &Aesop and the truth about Jimmy'

 here is a link to the video interview.

The shot below is of Craig the face of new novel 'Ice cream & Aesop' which is available to download via this link now

See the image on my flickr page here © Anthony Dorman

India Adams of Sky Tyne and Wear can just be seen in the background filming me photographing Craig. Before I met with India I had another chance to chat (although I felt like I was interviewing him) with Craig. He is a lovely bloke who could do with a bit of good fortune. If someone would like to take the chance he can paint or work as a labourer. contact me for details. Please don't assume that everyone who is homeless is a threat or has chosen this life. Each and everyone of us is only a few bad decisions/lack of luck away from truly having nothing.

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Monday, 27 May 2013

'Ice cream and Aesop' and the Truth about Jimmy

In 2010 I took a candid photograph of a homeless man known to the folk of Newcastle as 'Homeless Jimmy'. Little did I know at the time the impact this photograph would have on myself and others.

See the original photo on flickr by clicking here  © Anthony Dorman

I have written about my brief experiences with 'Jimmy' since taking that first image in earlier posts including the post I wrote about his reported death. Last summer I took a quick series of photographs of 'Jimmy' whilst walking through Newcastle, shortly after I took these images I went on my honeymoon with my new wife Rachael. On my return I was alerted by a friend that there were numerous reports of 'Jimmy's death circulating around facebook and local forums connected to the daily life of the city. 

See the original image on flickr by clicking here © Anthony Dorman

I posted about his death and was amazed by the kind words of strangers who emailed me with their memories of 'Jimmy', seeing him as one of life's lost and gentle souls . Before long rumours began to circulate mentioning sightings of him back on the streets and doubt spread over me that I had posted something untrue. As mentioned earlier in some of my posts, I took to the streets in search of the truth, speaking with homeless charities and numerous homeless people who knew him. After a few weeks of searching and no concrete evidence of his death I received an email, and then a phone call from 'Jimmy's sister, and the story of this man was told to me. The man known as 'Jimmy' was born Euan McLachlan on 23rd of March 1954, and known to his friends and family as Ian. After a series of sad events in his life as a young man Ian slowly began to turn his back on everything and everyone he knew, suffering from mental illness, he ended up on the streets. I would like to point out that his family and loved ones tried continuously to get him off the streets; concerned about his welfare. As many people in Newcastle will testify Ian simply wanted to be alone, never asking for help from anyone, even the homeless charity workers in Newcastle knew of him, but nothing about him. Ian's family would check a facebook page dedicated to him and communicate with the local police to confirm his whereabouts and well being. When they saw the posts mentioning his death they reported him missing to the police. Ian had been found in Benton suffering after the severe weather the city experienced last summer and was taken to hospital. Sadly his condition was serious and he passed away in hospital on 20th July 2012 as an unknown homeless man. Because of complicated legal issues connected with his identification I have been unable to post this information until now. I have met with Ian's sister and spoken numerous times with her on the phone regarding her brother, his life and tragic passing. I am happy to have discovered that my photographs gave her comfort and have received her blessing to post about her brother.

See my 'Homeless' set on flickr by clicking here © Anthony Dorman

Since taking the initial photographs of Ian I have been described as a 'Homeless Photographer' which is odd, as it is a tiny part of what I do, but does now have some truth in the description. I have met and photographed a number of diverse and, nearly always, friendly homeless people on the streets of Newcastle; many of them now know me by name and as 'the lad with the camera'. My photographs of homeless people were discovered online by author Keir McCabe  who contacted me about producing a cover for his book 'Ice Cream and Aesop'. Keir once homeless himself has managed to turn his life around, no longer homeless he has written his novel based on the hardship's of homeless life. Here is a synopsis of the novel in Keir's words;
"Solomon McGrath is 29 years old, homeless, and living on the former grounds of Jacobs Ice Cream; a haven for the Rough Sleepers and Street Drinkers of a small town. Based on real events, Ice Cream & Aesop is Solomon’s story; the story of one man’s descent into the gutter, told through the fables of Aesop."
Keir asked me if I could provide him with a striking image of a homeless man eating ice cream. 'Yes', I agreed thinking that this could be a great image. The difficulty of the brief soon became apparent; first I have to find someone homeless with a striking face, then they need to willingly have their photograph taken eating an ice cream. Days of searching the streets looking for the right face and person were flying by with no results. Then one day I walked passed Craig sitting near Central Station and I wondered if he could be 'the one'. I explained what I was doing and he agreed to have a test photo taken to send to Keir and that if suitable I would find him again to take the book cover image.

See the original image on flickr by clicking here © Anthony Dorman

 After Keir agreed that Craig was right for the image I spent another couple of days searching for him again, without luck. After chatting with Debbie 'Newcastle's best known Big Issue Seller' she told me where and when to find him. She was spot on, and Craig and I set off to buy an ice cream and take his photo. Craig has been living 'mostly on' and off the streets for the last 20 years, he is quiet and humble, and after chatting told me a bit about his life which echoed Ian's story. For his time, I bought him food and cigarettes as agreed and have promised to look after him whenever I see him.

Here is the link to 'Ice Cream and Aesop' by Keir McCabe featuring my portrait of Craig
The novel is available in Kindle eBook form for free from Monday 27th May 2013 to Friday 31st May 2013.

I believe that I would never have had the opportunity to produce a book cover like this without taking my initial photograph of Ian/'Jimmy'. I also believe that I have made new friends like Joe and Craig who I will look out for on the streets and try and help them the best I can. I know that my photographs of Ian helped his family with their bereavement and find Keir's novel to be a testament to the human spirit, hope and achievement.

To Ian: I hope that you are looking down on all of these positive connections. By being photographed as you were (free, and your own man) you have had a positive impact on my life and how I see the world. You were a gentle soul and our city is a lesser place without you.

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Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Searching For Joe

Over the last few years I have taken a number of photographs of homeless people. Mostly the homeless people of my hometown Newcastle upon Tyne. It was never my intention to document homelessness; it just happened via a mixture of chance encounters with interesting people. One of the most engaging homeless characters I have met recently is Joe. After taking the initial photos below I have seen him a few times and stopped to chat with him and provide him with some food and a warm drink. 

See 'Searching' on flickr here © Anthony Dorman

Due to a set of random contacts I am about to look specifically for a homeless person willing to pose for a book cover for a novel written about an ex-homeless persons experiences of life on the street. Joe may or may not be a suitable face but I will be out again tomorrow searching for him to see if he will help me in my quest. 

Despite his circumstances Joe offered a cheery chat and happily posed for his photograph. He offered to help me locate the homeless people of Newcastle if I wanted and we had a good chat about photography, the weather (as you do when you are British) and other things. I saw strangers look at me with some kind of mixture of shock and disgust when I shook Joe's hand when we finished chatting. I am always amazed by how pathetic and prejudiced people can be towards the homeless. I don't know Joe's full story yet but I do know that he spoke to me with a friendly, gentle and honest manner I wish was more common in the more fortunate population.

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Wednesday, 1 May 2013

In the Beginning....

I first picked up a camera to document a holiday to Thailand. I was so excited to be visiting a new continent and wanted a record of the trip. On my return I realised just how much enjoyment I found in the process of taking photographs. So began a bumpy and interesting journey learning about photography. I used to head out at all times of day looking for anything interesting to photograph including people, places and things. I never had a notion of what I wanted to photograph and felt free to shoot anything without over thinking the process. 

 See this image on flickr here; Blyth © Anthony Dorman

It did not take long to realise that people would be the focus of my photography. I was becoming increasingly drawn to portraiture and street photography and began studying not only the masters of the genre but up and coming photographers showing their images on flickr. Being a natural people watching voyeur this was an instinctive choice of style and theme that has influenced my whole approach to photography. 

Picking a style of work is not always a conscience decision however I think it is all too easy to get stuck in a rut. Whilst looking through my flickr page I have become increasingly aware that I was moving away from my initial interest in documenting everything. Even though I will always love portrait based work I have made the conscience decision to mix things up and get back to basics - shoot everything!   

See this image on flickr here; Untitled © Anthony Dorman

Like many photographers I know I am guilty of being a bit too precious about the images I produce. Being critical about what images you produce is a good thing however being overly critical can prevent you from learning. It can also remove the fun and excitement out of something that is a passion and to some extent defines you. Whats the point of moping around feeling dejected when you see great images by other photographers? There is no point - simply get out with your camera and start shooting. Try something different, a different style, theme or location. I have been guilty of sitting at home watching crap TV instead of heading out to a new location with the enthusiasm of I felt when I first picked my camera up.

See this image on flickr here; West End © Anthony Dorman

These images are not my normal style, people may or may not like them, it does not bother me either way. I am going back to basics because there is something magical about heading into the unknown with a camera and no preconceived notions of what you want to shoot or are expected to shoot by your peers.

One reminder of how much photography has shaped my life occurred shortly after I took the first image. Whilst shooting a family portrait at the beach a while back my tripod ended up being covered in sand. Since then it has been less than steady. The sand and dampness has corroded the bolts that tighten the adjustable legs. Whilst shooting the long exposure image I decided to check out another angle and walked away from my camera. Imagine my horror as I turned back to see the said tripod toppling over with my Canon 5DMKII and f2.8 24-70mm fastened to the top! Having never dropped this camera before I was distraught to hear it crashing onto concrete from about a 5ft height. I was sure the camera, lens or both would be broken. To my amazement it appears to be working just fine. I did have to straighten out my hotshoe (flash mount) and the surround now has a hefty dint! I had been told by a photographer that he dropped his 5DMKII down some stairs twice without a problem but never wanted to test his theory. In the seconds that I watched the camera fall my heart stopped, what would I do - I can't afford to replace this gear! It reminded me that this crazy stupid, expensive maddening passion of mine is also something that brings me great joy and experiences I would not have had otherwise. I will of course continue to produce street portraits but this will not be the sole focus of what I do. I am just a bloke with a camera; I'm not shooting for anyone other than myself now and this idea makes me happy.

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