Irish Travellers Brighton Photo Fringe Exhibition 2016

The Brighton Photo Fringe as part of the Brighton Photo Biennial is nearly upon us.

I’ll be exhibiting much of my work from the last two years travelling to Ireland. There will be sound, stories, text, large graphics and a set of twenty beautiful salt prints. To register you interest please indicate on FaceBook 🙂

See the exhibition write up by Phil Coombes Head of Photography at the BBC, BBC New in Pictures and follow the BBC’s Instagram account for a traveller Instagram story over the week.

I’ve been visiting the travellers around Limerick. A group of people isolated from society, not only physically but also culturally. There is a great sense of feeling forgotten. The elders remember freedom as children of travelling workers. Their grandchildren live behind tall concrete walls, screened from the world, on ill-designed sites. Some have created their own sites, their own worlds and communities.

Their culture revolves around horses, both on the council estates and on the traveller sites. The lack of provision for their horses on council provided sites is an ongoing issue, as is the burgeoning population on some sites.

Horses are central to many peoples lives in Ireland. They live in close proximity to their owners. Many settled (housed) people keep their horses tethered in the street in the day time and are taken through the house to the yard in the evening.

irish traveller exhibition

On the sites they are usually surprised that anyone takes an interest. “Nobody ever comes round here” they often say. Then they start telling stories of their lives, their aspirations and their memories.

Many travellers deal in horses, and the biggest traveller horse fair in Ireland is Ballinasloe, a whole room will be devoted to horse fairs for the exhibition.

Salt Print for Brighton Photo Fringe

One of the Salt Prints for the Brighton Photo Fringe

This year I returned to record the voices and sounds of the travellers. When they talk about themselves they describe their lives in ways that will challenge some common perceptions.

20 of the images in the exhibition are salt prints, expertly created from the original files by traditional wet-process printers Paul Daskarolis and Stuart Kuhn.

brighton photo fringe exhibition traveller salt prints

Brighton photo fringe exhibition traveller salt prints

Each salt print is a one off, a rarity since the digitisation. A Salt print has a distinct quality. They are unique, rough, tactile and real. It’s a traditional technique that’s survived despite technology. The antidote to mass production and speed.

Colour images and text are woven together to tell stories. These will be in abundance. Many pictures will be displayed together to describe families, relationships and culture. You will discover them from the sounds of their voices in their own words, and read about tradition and identity.

An immersive installation of sound, large graphics and salt prints.


Venue: MADE Brighton North Street Brighton

Dates: 1st October until 4th November – Preview: 7th October 2016

British Life Awards and the stories behind the images

I always advocate taking the time to enter some awards, if you win there is usually quite a lot of exposure that goes with it. Many ask an entry fee, so you need to be choosy. Go for ones that get lots of publicity, that way you get more than just a prize, you get yourself out there which is good. Some of those who notice you may become your followers or readers. It can open up channels of communication. Last years RHS photographer of the year award got me a commission to shoot people at Chelsea.

I recently won an award at the British life Awards, I had 4 images in the exhibition at the Mall Galleries in London. There are 12 of my images in the book.

This was the category winner – “Brits on Holiday”

Brits on holiday british life award winner

Brits on holiday british life award winner

It was taken on a camera club day out, I was trying to get another shot but couldn’t get Mehrak to look natural, so I told her she was a ‘ham actor’. Sheema and Mehrak  laughed and I moved the camera up to her face as she leaned in and then took the image blind. It’s good to get into the habit of just shooting blind when the better image is somewhere you can only reach with your hand. With practice you can start to imagine what will be in the frame and it allows you to move the position of the camera very quickly. Had I been looking through the lens I would have missed this shot.

The were three other images in the exhibition and also in the book

This is an image of Sheema, Mehrak’s friend, also in the exhibition, highly commended in the portraiture category.




I noticed one day the great silhouettes that were created by the strip lights in front of the cupboard doors in the garage. I was also thinking of ways to create interesting animations for the Saatchi/Google animated gif competition. I asked Mehrak and Sheema again to come to the rescue dressed up as “working girls”. I had to explain to Mehrak that – No I didn’t mean her pinstripe suit.

I shot it in jpg in burst mode, the idea being to try and capture two almost identical poses in a sequence so that I could create a small stop frame animation or gif. I going to write about this in another post.

The result was loads of jpgs to choose from, too many in fact, but some of them make nice still images so I selected one for the portraiture award.

This image of the Brighton naked bike ride also made it into the exhibition. I did ask this gentleman’s permission and he stood and posed for me for this shot.

Can you see me now? - Brighton Naked Bike Ride

Can you see me now? – Brighton Naked Bike Ride

I’ve been taking pictures at Brighton events for years now and have been honing my event photography skills for very long time. I am planning to offer two event photography workshops in May – working on the outlines and presentation now. If you are interested in booking let them know at Silicon Beach Training 01273 822272, and they will send you the dates as soon as I provide all the paperwork.

I will only be offering 6 places on each of the event photography course so if you were interested the sooner you register your interest the more likely you will be to get a place. Just phone or email Silicon Beach Training.

Another Brighton event image that made it to the exhibition in the portraiture category. This image was taken after the parade on my way back home. He was having a break in the pub and I asked his permission for the shot, persuading him to keep smoking for the image. The effect is enhanced by the wide angle lens used, but you do need to be very close to get this effect when shooting wide.

british life awards Brighton Pride portrait

british life awards Brighton Pride portrait

Another event image that made it into the book is this one taken at the Goodwood Revival. Shooting wide again, I asked this couples permission as I needed to get close with the wide angle lens. I shot the first one blind but didn’t quite hit the spot, so I lay down on the grass and tidied up the area of modern items, and shot using fill flash against the sky. In post process I have darkened the blues and lightened the oranges (skin tones).

Goodwood Revival 2014

Goodwood Revival 2014

Another event image take at Brighton Fringe is in the book. Wide angle again using the sausages and smoke to create that frame, fill flash.

british life awards - Brighton Fringe

british life awards – Brighton Fringe

Five of my Naked Bike ride images made it into the book in the ‘Documentary series and photojournalist category’here are four of them:

Brighton Naked Bike Ride

Brighton Naked Bike Ride

I took a few shots between this mans legs but nothing great, so I showed him the images, asked him to stay a little longer while I waited for the moment, and then it happened 🙂

Brighton Naked Bike Ride 2014

Brighton Naked Bike Ride 2014

Brighton Naked Bike Ride 2014

Brighton Naked Bike Ride 2014

Brighton Naked Bike Ride 2014

This one of my friend Chantal at Birling Gap made it into the book

Birling Gap Teapot

Birling Gap Teapot

That’s about it, don’t forget to contact Silicon Beach Training if you want to reserve a place on the event workshops in May. I haven’t confirmed the dates or finished the outline yet although I plan only two groups of 6 people. Silicon Beach Training 01273 622272




Being Human in a Digital World

Until recently I had been in charge of digital marketing for a business since the beginning of the Internet. I’ve seen many changes in the ways we use online tools to promote a business. It all moves along so fast it barley gives you time to stop and think about what you are doing. Now I am primarily a photographer, I need to apply some of what I’ve learned over the years to my own site, but it’s different, and everything has changed so much.

With Google being the centre of the digital universe, that’s where most businesses will spend their time and money. It’s always been about gaming the system. At first we learned that links equalled ranking, so the world started generating billions of superfluous links from dubious sources. It lead to link rings and microsites, software that enabled you to swap links with others. Google’s reaction was to use its algorithms to identify these pointless links and devalue them. That in turn lead to negative SEO, at Silicon Beach Training we would get them all the time, even now we still get them, cowboy SEO companies who add links to your site from seriously bad sites.

being human in a digital world

All this pointless activity on the Internet needed to be addressed by Google to keep their results relevant to searchers. With time they developed ways of detecting how relevant these links were by the content and quality of sites in which the links were placed. So far so good, but what that lead to was the continuous flood of poor quality, keyword rich content with links to sites. Sites were established for businesses to connect with other business sites that would publish their content with backlinks. The result was lots of pointless, poor quality content. So Google developed ways to detect content for the sake of content, it slammed down hard on these sites and began to penalise the businesses that used them.

Google began to use location as a factor in search too. Google’s local search algorithm update put a lot of people out of business. Local physical businesses with services that cannot be provided over the network, that have (or had) a national or international customer base could no longer appear in search results when searchers were out of their area. This has resulted in many businesses setting up virtual offices and fake Google business locations in areas they want to reach. More pointless activity.

When businesses realised that social media allowed them to connect with the wider world it lead to another wave of Internet activity. Businesses tried to connect with an audience using Social Media, and some did it, and still do it well. But this too opened a can of worms. We are encouraged to get friends and followers; we are still playing the numbers game.

Now the only way really to improve ranking in Google, or even your general online visibility, is to produce content that actually matters enough to others to make them want to engage with it. That should be a good thing, but algorithms are not humans, no matter how clever the engineers are. With almost every business in the world trying to clamber to the top, there are no sure bets anymore, no matter how good your business, your product or content is. You still need to structure your site in an SEO friendly way, to make it load as fast as you can, to use micro data and keep the content quality high. You still need to write content in the right way, with good titles and some keywords. You still need to engage somehow with your clients, using social media and mailing lists, promotions and incentives. Your content must be interesting, useful or entertaining. It should be better, our on-line experience should be relevant, tailored, personal, a joy to use. But it isn’t.

It’s a constant flood of distraction; pointless messages from people we don’t know, spam emails, and spam Facebook posts, endless updates we don’t have the time or energy to sort. We are not physically or mentally capable to connecting to all the (so called) friends and followers we collect. We tend to pick out a few that we recognise, or some that may interest us, but it’s just not possible to take in and respond to the incoming avalanche of messages in a meaningful or human way.

We are bombarded with our own data. What we have liked or looked at online pops up everywhere on our screens. I am constantly unsubscribing to email lists to which I not consciously joined. I friend people on Facebook as I use it for marketing primarily, only to find they put porn on my page at night while I’m sleeping. We spend more time filtering crap than consuming the information we really want. There is just too much data in the world already, and the flow is still accelerating. We spend our lives creating that data. Every purchase, like and comment is collected and used to create more data and content which is then thrust upon us in a never-ending stream.

What about choice? Algorithms decide what we want. In fact ‘decide’ is the wrong word, it suggests humanity. There is nothing human about a machine, it does not make decisions, it makes calculations. We give Google and Facebook endless amounts of data about ourselves and they use this to reconstruct the data to throw back at us weather we like it or not. I read a really heart wrenching article written by a man who lost his young daughter last year. The Facebook machine sent everyone their animated year in pictures. There on the front was his daughters face, he didn’t share it of course, it hurt to even look at it. But even after he had decided not to open the file it was pushed and presented to him every time he logged on with no way of switching it off. A machine is just that, it does not think it merely calculates, and sometimes it gets it very wrong. We are connected or not, and unless we withdraw we have no choice.

By the way, while I’m on the subject of Facebook, I’d like to know who thought it a good idea to allow anyone to add you to a group you are not interested in and let them constantly message you against your will? Are they crazy!

The Internet, built to connect and improve relationships between people and businesses, is consuming us, and nobody can stop it or slow it down.

Where does it leave us? As a business that wishes to connect to consumers we have to take part to compete.

In some ways people subconsciously and consciously filter out the constant noise, I rarely see the ads, I begrudgingly spend time unsubscribing and deleting spam comments, Facebook posts and emails. What the world needs now are human filters.

I want to be a filter. In order to stay sane and engaged, there will be no content for contents sake; I will only write what I might be interested in reading myself. Already I only publish what I consider my best images. I will be more selective with whom I friend. I will not worry if I haven’t updated for a week or two (another of Google’s algorithmic ideas that has backfired is a preference for those who update often). I used to update Google+ once a week because some people use machines to filter out those who do not update so often, but who needs followers that only connect with the constantly connected, using machines not minds to connect. I will endeavour to be the filter that people crave. The one who doesn’t spout for the sake of an update.

Sure I will use these platforms to sell my street photography workshops, where I meet people in person and talk to them, to sell my images, which I constantly create because I love it so much, and to share them online. However, I wish to attract customers, not by pushing, but by pulling them in.

I put my new site out there for critique. The Internet is great for that! I was amazed at how much great advice I received. I posted in creative and marketing circles. The creatives loved it and the marketers kept telling me, I am not a blog, where was my marketing strategy, what was I selling, it is not clear, what about my ROI etc etc. However, right now, I am a blogger and a photographer, I just create, and I believe that that is what people want. Online, I want to create useful and interesting content first and foremost, my writing and my images. When people buy my images and workshops they are buying some of the creative part of me. This is what I want to share online.

Of course for larger businesses and brands, it’s another story, they need to work out how to become perceptibly more human, the ones that achieve this will be most successful. The rest of us need to stop peddling so hard and start enjoying the ride, focus on connecting with genuine people, rather than trying to use the machines to improve numbers.

For me, and self-employed people such as myself, who are providing a craft or service I believe that this is the way forward.

If you got this far, thanks for reading  and if you have anything to say please post here and share your thoughts

Street Photography Workshop in Brighton

The next Street Photography course on Saturday 17th January 2015 has sold out, but I have another on 7th March 2015 (would make a great Christmas present). I’ve created a voucher that can be given as a gift.

I’ve been taking pictures on the streets of Brighton for years. People are my thing, whether candid or street portraits, although sometimes just colours, lines or strong compositions are enough to catch my eye. I have a reputation for coming back with something a bit different whatever the event and I’ll be talking about that.

I take inspiration from many photographers, some contemporary street photographers like Matt Stewart and David Gibson, some photographers who just take simply stunning black and white images like Alain Laboile. I also have my old favorites like Elliott ErwittSergio Larraín and Bruce Gilden. The list is too long to mention here, I’ll leave that for another post.

Bournemouth Oceanarium

Bournemouth Oceanarium – click to purchase image

The day will begin at Silicon Beach Training just minutes from Brighton railway station, where we’ll look at some images, and discuss what makes them great. I’ll talk about the kinds of things to look for. Great images are everywhere. We’ll start thinking about the relationships between people. things and the environment around them. Tricks for creating dynamic compositions and interesting viewpoints. I’ll keep it brief and to the point, I want to inspire you but having been in the training business for 15 years, and been on so many workshops I’ve lost count, I know that the best way to learn is by doing, so not too long, we have all day to chat, I want you to feel energised and to have fun.

We’ll have lunch together in Brighton, it’ll be somewhere nice but simple (you will need to pay for your own lunch but I’ll book the tables and see if I can negotiate a good rate).

If you need advice of where to stay we know all the best places.

Arles Photo Booth

Arles Photo Booth – click to buy image


More shooting after lunch and then back to Silicon Beach Training to review your work. We have enough computers here for everyone with Photoshop and Lightroom, although I almost exclusively use Lightroom for my images now. If you have a laptop and wish to download your images on that ready to take home that’s OK too. I will show you all some of my killer black and white conversion techniques to get really punchy images, as well as some colour tricks I’ve picked up. The rooms are secure so you can leave any kit you don’t want to carry around with you.

Exhibition at the Archbishop's Palace les rencontres des arles

Exhibition at the Archbishop’s Palace les rencontres des arles – click to purchase image

I‘m only going to take on a maximum of 8 people, because I want time to talk to you all during the day. I’ve only just mentioned this workshop on social media so far and have taken bookings in the first few hours, so if you are really interested get back to me quickly. I will, though, be running more of these in the future.

So fill out the contact form if you would like to book and I’ll send you more details, the day is £125.

The workshop is suitable for all abilities and ages. I won’t cover how to use the settings on your camera in the morning brief because many of you will already know. However I will be available to answer any question all day. Any camera will do, I get some of my best shots on my compact. I still go on workshops for fun and I’ve been taking images for decades!


Winning Photography Competitions

I know Iv’e been tweeting, facebooking and google plussing like a trojan about my recent win. My apologies but I do have another reason other than being chuffed to bits.

Entering competitions, and winning them is great for your profile as a photographer.  It gets your images seen by new people, not just your followers and friends. It gives you something to talk about on your blog and social networks. It gets you talked about, shared and mentioned. It gives buyers the confidence that you are good at what you do.

So yes, I’m going to mention it again, sorry, but it’s relevant:)


RHS Photographer of the year

foxgloves and bee RHS Photographer of the year 2014

foxgloves and bee RHS Photographer of the year 2014  – click to purchase image


One month when searching for photography competitions that were ending soon this one came up. Now and again I search for “Photography Competition (put month) 2014” to find current competitions. At first I didn’t think I had anything good enough or appropriate for the theme. It’s important to choose something that really fits the theme, don’t try and squeeze an ambiguous square peg into  a round hole. Then I remembered the foxgloves image. It ticked all the boxes to be a contender, it was a good quality image and it would stand out, few garden images are taken this way, most being macro and few use flash.

It was important to make a reasonably objective decision as to wether your image a chance when there is an entry fee. I only pay to enter after careful consideration otherwise it could become an expensive hobby rather than a means to get exposure, kit or cash.

How can you tell which are the best images to enter?

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