Shooting the Nay Triple Bill

N'da ScreenshotFRIDAY 15th SEPTEMBER —  My JetBlakInk™ SplishSplashy video production team, were scheduled to video record the debut performance from a new prospect; traditional African dancer Mbulelo Ndabeni, and his highly anticipated performance titled: Nay Triple Bill, held at Rich Mix in Shoreditch East London.

This was the first productive works from the newly formed N’da dance company,  and was a collaboration alongside; AkomaAsa dance Academy,  a dance school which my daughter attends, Yamella Maat a female collective of drummers, and Artistry Youth Dance… Big Tingz!

04. IMG_4894We’ve filmed and photographed a lot of AkomaAsa events this year, the usual two-camera job, sometimes three… my boys taking care of shooting the video, while I snap the action for the photographs.

We know the set-up well, which helps, and I’ve even left them to film AkomaAsa dance  performances on their own, while I’ve gone off to another venue, to shoot at the same time on the other side of London. There’s always a conundrum when filming new ventures though; what to bring? I didn’t get a chance to fully check out the venue, but I remembered that I filmed there before some years prior, 05. IMG_4897and it is a proper fully-kitted out stage with lights and everything. So the question I now ask myself: do I film with DSLRs or DVCAMs? (dedicated digital video camera) Each system has it’s benefit and draw-backs, so the deciding factor has to be selecting the right trade-offs to benefit the job.

DSLRs are easy to transport, give the best image quality, and operate better in low light compared to my DVCAMs. The drawbacks are; they lack range, overheat and are prone to suddenly shut down if used for long periods… also the battery life on them is pants.

DVCAMs are the exact opposite! They are huge and heavy, super-reliable, you can shoot from waaaay back of any auditorium and still get those tight close-up shots, 06. IMG_4843but, they are cumbersome to transport around.  It didn’t help when I discovered that the Rich Mix had no parking, so we were going to have to use public transport.

With all that in mind, I still ended up choosing the reliability of those huge and heavy DVCAMs over the DSLRs. Time to start lugging; Yikes!

After packing two cameras, two tripods onto two separate wheelie trolleys like Noah going on vacation, (I also sneaked on one DSLR) we set off for the nearest London underground station, and a world of adventure that awaited.  Luckily, the trip travelling from Brixton, South London over to East London was quite uneventful, thanks largely in part to the fact that it wasn’t rush hour!

08. IMG_4913It’s usually a bloody nightmare down underground at the best of times, what with carriages crammed to over-capacity, and people packed like sardines in a tin, faces unceremoniously pressed up against the glass for the duration! The Central Line is notorious for this; I give Thanks that it wasn’t today (smile)

On arriving at the venue, the stage manager instructed that we couldn’t place any tripods at the front, or sides of the stage; only right at the back in the lighting gantry… Good job I brought the DVCAMs; I thought to myself smiling that knowing smile you do when you get something right; yesssss!

What we were about to film, I’d only seen bits of in a practice session the day before in New Cross, and what I had seen in that session, 03. IMG_4990I have to admit had quite scared me. Not scared: lets run to the hills and not look back scared!… Not AmityVille Horror scared!… more like, gentle unfamiliarity fear!

The little bit of Bro. Mbulelo’s jarring performance at rehearsal which I saw, I can only describe as something from another world… I was properly intrigued… Ahem!

So here we were today at Rich Mix the following day, JetBlakInk™ Productions, armed with primed DVCAMs revved up, and ready to roll, on a performance, albeit not really knowing WHAT to expect! This isn’t the proper way to do video though, as someone ones told me: “proper preparation prevents poor performance!” That said; it was now or never.

The stage set in darkness and this weird audio music track that sounds like something out of the 70’s cult Sci-Fi series UFO ramps up, and automatically puts you on edge. 01. IMG_4822Mbulelo is seated on a bench on stage, facing away and you can just make him out in what is now very dim lighting. It’s all very eerie. He begins to move, and then convulse, shake and struggle… frantic stretching and repetitive sharp pulling movements, somewhat reminiscent of the birth process of a beautiful butterfly from a chrysalis.

He suddenly jumps onto the bench and his body begins to oscillate and gyrate even more in the atmospheric stage lighting provided; a combination guaranteed to send the willies up grown people, which it does… Mbulelo jumps down and crawls under the bench; 02. IMG_4812moves the entire bench along while still underneath it, by somehow pawing his way across the stage. Manages to stand the bench on end, and stick his head out the other end, by which time you really DO WANT TO RUN!… but your arms and legs are immobilised by sheer intrigue… that, and the fact that you don’t want anyone in the auditorium to laugh at you and call you a wuss!

Mbulelo grabs the bench, hugs the bench, loves the bench… I even think he kisses it couple times. Then all of a sudden he drops the bench and it hits the stage with a loud BANG! which of course makes everyone jump! All that stuff I said earlier about it not being like Amityville… I take it back!

I looked to my left where my son codename: SniperSniper™ was positioned filming next to me on Camera One; at the same time that he looked to his right at me on Camera Two… 00. IMG_5130Our eyes met, piercing gazes exchanged notes to no avail. His eyes were huge round saucers,
the look of a bemused young man in full non-verbal-question mode.

Unfortunately I as his father, had no answers, and could only stare back at him devoid of response… I imagine my eyes were the same round wide saucers as his. We both simultaneously and apprehensively turned back to our rolling Canons, as if by remote control, and continued filming in silence…

On reflection the bench to me represented; the System that we grow up on and in. We cannot move without that System being around us, but at some point some of us will try to shake it. We try to kick that System of control, but we have been programmed to love it, even though it might not be good for us; and so letting it go is a real struggle, as represented in the piece. This ties in to the rebirth notion when I mentioned the chrysalis and butterfly. It probably had absolutely nothing to do with that, but that is what I see now thinking about it.

This is not intended to be a review of the show that we filmed, just another log update from the wonderful world of the Life and Times of a MultipleMediaManager™.  At some point though, and once I fully get my thoughts together, I may get around to doing just that.

A few days after filming the event, and I’m still thinking about it. The affect on me has been very strong. It’s taken me to a place I’ve never been, and a spiritual level that must be travelled whilst still on this mortal coil of an existence that we call life. I talked to my son about it later, and we both agreed with one thing… How the Blazes do you put something like that together? We have much to learn.

Well done Bro. Mbulelo, the team, and all involved…

 

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Africa International Day Of Action — Lambeth vs Farrakhan: the good, the bad, and the downright ugly

Screen Shot 2 copyLONDON UK — Africa International Day of Action, AIDA, a joint effort by the Rastafari Movement UK, (RMUK) and the Nation Of Islam, under the guidance of the European Regional Student Minister, Abdul Hakim Muhammad, took place in Kennington Park, south London on July 5, 2017, despite intense pressure from the local Labour run, Lambeth Council, who have been attempting to quash the growing alliance between the two groups, probably at the behest of the Government.

The License to hold the event had been granted by the council, and then withheld, and finally again granted, following concerns that a message from the Honourable Minister Louis Farrakhan would be beamed live to those in attendance. Screen Shot OMHLambeth Council hold the unsubstantiated view, similar to that of the UK Government where Minister Farrakhan is concerned; that view being that the minister’s presence is not conducive to the public good! That said, the event finally got the go-ahead, after a short silent protest outside the offices of the local Council, led by supporters and members of the two groups. [watch the link]

AIDA is an annual international day of healing, reflection, and reparation, and the highlight of the event was to be the message from the Honourable Minister with the title: Reparations: What does the UK, and Europe Owe us? [watch the link] However, at the eleventh hour, after initially agreeing, Lambeth Council, sent a warning declaring that no such message would be delivered, and no representative from the NOI would be allowed to speak, or even read the minister’s message from the stage. Screen Shot flyerFailure to adhere to these last-minute changes would no doubt be reflected in any application from either group for future licenses, which is the obvious implied threat.

As news of this second U-turn by Lambeth started to filter through to those in attendance on the day, a growing sense of betrayal and frustration could be clearly seen and felt by many who had come in search of upliftment and repair. This was further underlined, not only by the presence of police, who were there in good numbers, but also by the caliber of one particularly high-ranking officer, who could be visibly seen strutting around and in command on the ground.

Despite this obvious set-back, Rastafari spiritualists continued to beat drums in anticipation; calling out to Ancestors, smudging with burnt incense, flavouring the air with calm, as the bright colours of IMG_2526Red, Gold, and Green intermingled with those of the Brothers and Sisters of the Nation Of Islam, setting a scene and a family presence which no outside force on the day could easily disturb.

The day was marked with mostly sunshine, but with also intermittent strong downpours of rain, which seemed to match the struggle between the alliance and Lambeth council; none of which seemed to phase those in attendance.

The event, literally took-off, when the divisive document issued by Lambeth Council, amounting to a Gagging Order, was read out over the PA system, by the Sister Sheba, and Sister Stella, lead sisters from Rastafari UK. The NOI European Student Minister, Abdul Hakim, stood impassively on stage as the points were read through one by one. Crowds jeered, ever more loudly as each point was read, and the police watched from the perimeter, by now looking very concerned.

Screen Shot MbandakaSolidarity messages, automatically followed, by a series of community leaders, angry at the sudden turn of events. A powerful rebuttal of Lambeth’s Gagging Order by Brother Ldr Mbandaka of the Alkebulan Revivalist Movement, who made it clear, that he and others aligned on stage, would not be divided by the council, and would not be lectured by them, as to who, and who not to be allowed to address us. Bro. Ldr Mbandaka made it clear in what was a very potent, and impassioned delivery, that HE would speak for the Nation Of Islam if necessary, and “damned be the consequences!… A message, of Solidarity will be seen and sent by our Unity… and Lambeth Council can go to Hell!…” He boomed to loud applause from those in attendance. [watch the link]

IMG_4034Truth is, Brother Abdul Hakim had chosen not to speak, after taking guidance from The Honourable Minister Louis Farrakhan: “The enemy had set a snare, and expected us to fall into it…” He explained later regarding the double-cross. [watch the link]

Other speakers on the day included, RMUK, organizers Sister Sheba, Sister Stella, and Brother Sugar Dread, also Brother Glenroy Watson, Brother Minkah Adopho, Brother Trevor Hakim…

Sister Sheba concluded saying anyone who wanted to hear the message from the Honourable Minister Louis Farrakhan was invited to come to Muhammad Mosque the following day, where the message would be screened uninterrupted, and also, where plans would be made for legal action against Lambeth Council, and the UK Government.

JetBlakInk™ Shooting Events…

_MG_8566THERE ARE TIMES IN WORKING FOR SELF, as a MultipleMedia Manager™ when work is coming through really slowly; at these times even watching tumble weeds blowing through town can seem like a welcome bit of excitement [Ooh eee!]…  and then there are other times when media events are literally coming at you thicker and faster than a hail of Klingon Birds-of-Prey class Battle-crusers, decloaking off your starboard bow with obvious malice aforethought!…  This is something that definitely demands your full attention methinks.

June 2017 has been one of those months, where everything suddenly and inexplicably flies off the “fo shizzle”; from nought-to-sixty-six thousand in 6 seconds!  This boom/bust kind of existence, is obviously not to everyone’s taste, and having to suddenly negotiate “strange new world’s, civilisation…” and any amount of random: “to boldly go-ing” can actually do ones head in.  I, on the other hand, have lived this way for over a decade now,  and one gets, dare I say, sort of used to it.

With a snap General Election being called here in the UK this year, and having close working alliances with the Greens in my area, I automatically flipped into Videography mode, as you do, covering intense campaigning for the candidate standing for MP in the local constituency. IMG_7052Mr Rashid Nix is not only a candidate who has a history of standing in these elections, but is a close colleague and a long time friend, and every few years I am blessed to get to experience the behind-the-scenes of this weird kind of bubble world, which most people recognise, albeit wrongly, as the epitome of politics.  For me the epitome of politics has to be the work that is done in the four years in between an election, but hey, what do I know?… I’m just the video guy. [frown]

Events usually range between political hustings, street canvassing, and conducting “pieces-to-camera” for publish via social media, and other assorted behind-the-scenes stuff.  There is usually a tight schedule, but it almost always goes out the window, and we usually end up “winging it” as time runs out, and polling day draws near.

Screen Shot 2017-06-17 at 14.25.44

This year they allowed us to do some extra BTS at the actual count, which always ends up being a very long night, I guess they are getting used to seeing us there.

There are other various projects that I’ve been working on as of late; some of which are private, so I can’t tell you too much about them at this point.  One major video project basically takes the form of a documentary.  We’ve shot about fifteen hours of footage so far, and it is looking good. It almost entirely consists of head-and-shoulders interviews, with a few location pieces for added aesthetics and dynamism.

Lorna 0458I’ve had to dig deep and use my journalism skills when interviewing to extract hidden nuggets of information buried way below ground zero within each of the interviewees, which has been quite a challenge, as they all have different personalities. It’s like being a kind of video detective.

I haven’t worked on a documentary for a good while, and it is the first one that I’ve shot completely with a DSLR, which has it’s own challenges, as they overheat if you shoot for too long, and the file sizes are huge. Having said that, the quality is really excellent in comparison to the usual DVCam. In a few days time I will begin the edit process to produce a first draught, and we’ll take it from there…

Then there was the Red Carpet Event. These are usually quite straight forward, and once you’ve done one, you’ve done them all. Again I was shooting video, not stills, which can be a bit of a struggle when you’re standing with a load of frustrated photographers in the press area who all seem to hate you. Screen Shot 2017-06-17 at 14.53.25The photographer and the video man are not friends!…  [Cue the song from the movie Oklahoma]…  Photographers hate the video light; Videographers need the video light; something has to give… I ended up doing what I had to do with my light turned down very low in order to accommodate them [ain’t I nice?]

The event was: the British Restaurant Awards, and my main job, after battling angry photographers and filming the arrivals on the red carpet, was to briefly interview the winners of each category after they had received their award. I set up my tripod in a room to the side of the main event, that for some reason I thought I’d have all to myself: WRONG!… 1243The small room quickly filled up with other interviewers, from other channels, video people and a complete online pod-cast set up, and I can tell you, trying to interview someone in a noisy room of other interviewers, where you don’t even have time to think is not fun.  Not only that but I didn’t have a presenter with me this time, so I had to work the camera, the lights, AND ask questions while watching the audio levels on an external Zoom h4n hand recorder!… Intense or what!  I can laugh now, but I wasn’t laughing at the time.

Throughout all of this I have still been maintaining my street photography, which seems to be my main passion right now, and I somehow managed to find time to still go out and take some interesting shots. My library of images is getting a bit crazy, and managing them is something I’m going to have to do a lot better.  1195There’s always something to shoot, and I’m slowly realising that just because of this, doesn’t mean that everything I shoot has to be shared online. Only a tiny percentage of the images I shoot actually make it onto Instagram or Facebook or whatever.

The image displayed here, is one I happened upon on my way to the West End. Some Latin Americans had gathered in Trafalgar Square to highlight some terrible events happening back in their native home under the hashtag #SOSvenezuela. What I gleaned from the protest, people are being heavily abused by government, locked up, and even disappeared. The protesters spoke in their native language which I don’t speak, but I think you can tell from the woman’s expression, lament and general demeanour, that she had lost a very close loved one… it was very moving.

Lastly my MicroWebSeries: The Life&TimesOfaMultipleMediaManager, which is a commemoration of my ten years working for self in all the various disciplines of media, but together as one conglomeration; hence the term MultipleMediaLife&TimesThe idea was to aim at producing two short episodes a week; looking at, basically, my life and times… However, this has reduced down to one a week thanks to how hectic things have suddenly become.  Currently at episode 29, and realistically I can’t see it going past 52 episodes; one for each week of the year, which would still be cool.

The Goldilocks principle though, is messing with my world of MultipleMedia, because of it, things it seems can never be: “Just right.” Either things are slow, like at the beginning of the year, and I look forward to a time when work will pick up, and then when work suddenly picks up, albeit waaay too quickly becoming hectic, I growl for things to slow down again; manz just can’t win!…

Faces in different places…

14. Sarah + mum _MG_7655aTHERE’S SOMETHING MAGICAL ABOUT photographing people’s faces; I’ve learnt that it’s not really about capturing what’s on the surface of the skin that matters, but really what lies beneath it.  Being more of a Street/Event photographer, making individual portraits is not really one of my strengths.

Having said that, Portrait photography is one of the aspects of the art, that illustrates brilliantly the fact that the final product is much more than the sum the individual parts. Get it right, and the end result can literally blow you away.02. Bowie Girls IMG_9097 (1)

When photographing an individual, capturing the unique individuality of the subject, makes the photograph shine.  The trouble is, most people that I’ve attempted to do portraits for, automatically go into pose mode, the minute they get in front of my lens. It’s just what you do; right!… Wrong!

The problem with this is that pose mode masks the person, and instead, presents the made-up persona. I don’t have this problem when I’m shooting Street; most time the subject(s) don’t even know that they are being snapped, which introduces a voyeuristic angle, which makes street photos work.  18. poke tongue IMG_0839

On the other hand, sometimes, the street subjects are aware that they are being snapped, and when that happens, their reaction can often help make the image into a keeper, like this one to your left.  It’s kind of crazy, but fun! I mean; what kind of mad person pulls a face like THAT?…

The images I’ve chosen to share with you today, can all be labelled as Portraits. However, they have all been made using three distinctly different approaches; 1. Studio shots, 2. location shots, and 3. Street photography.  What they all have in common though,  is that the expressions on the faces of the subjects conveys the story. Just looking at what is radiating from the subjects, sparks all kinds of ideas of what is actually happening at the moment the shutter went “Clack!” [7d shutter sound]  I could literally write chapters on each individual image, but I won’t do that. What follows instead, are some brief explanations;10. Wayne +2 IMG_1126

STUDIO: Shooting in a controlled studio is something that I’m finding myself doing more and more. For me, it takes a lot more thought and energy, not only because you have to work to get the subject(s) to be natural, (unless they are professionals) and not freeze up, but there is the small and often frightening matter of lighting to consider.

It takes a good deal of practice, to know how to quickly set up and use Speedlite flashes or Studio Strobes to good effect, and it’s not a good look to keep the subject waiting, because you’re not sure how to get the look you’re after.  Subjects tend to get bored really quickly, and once they see you fumbling with gear, and realise that you are a dummy head, the photoshoot is effectively over!

16. Naka IMG_7617I’ve had a good amount of success attempting to stave off that inevitable: “I think you’re a dummy head!” moment, by continually talking to the subjects with the express intention of keeping them happy; It works. Another good thing about talking, is that you can make them relax… even laugh, which apparently, I’m particularly good at.

LOCATION: For this image (above), I had a lady with the most beautiful smile. She told me that she was nervous, but then I revealed: “so was I…”  We joked about who was more nervous, and who could “out-nervous” who… [yep] As we joked, I clicked the shutter, not sure if she even noticed at the time.  I was very pleased with the result; it’s still one of my all-time favourite portrait shots. So much raw emotion packaged and projected at my lens.  Absolutely every facet, every molecule of her face is beaming sunshine. I call this image: Joy & Pain, are like Sunshine, and Rain…

08. Charlie Phillips IMG_1420STREET: The image on your right; Charlie Phillips AKA Smokey Joe, is a well known photographer that I’ve become acquainted with through my MultipleMedia™ work. It was a quick street/portrait shot that I took when we bumped into each other briefly on Brixton road.

Photographers can be notoriously hard to shoot, for some reason they don’t like it, and in my experience they tend to resist all attempts to be captured by their own medium of choice. So after bumping into Smokey, and speaking briefly for a few moments, I quickly pulled out my camera before he could clock what was going on, told him to: “look this way”, and Clack!…  Because interactions in Street photography tend to be brief, and not really being a people person, I find this method quite easy.

17. Don Dadda IMG_7030STUDIO: I call this next image: Don Dadda…  it’s a kind of caribbean style, rude-boy or god-father type image. This particular image came about at the end of a long shoot. I had to fire off about 300 images just to get just ONE.

It was literally like; “well the photoshoot is over now, so lets just muck around for a bit and try some things…” The subject whipped out a straw hat, cocked it to one side gangsta style, and was about to slide on some cool shades he had in his pocket, and Clack!…  The moral of the story: Sometimes the subject will only relax and be themselves when they think the shoot is over!… It ain’t over till it’s over; Blud! [smile]

LOCATION: This next image was actually taken in a jazz club. The live performance was over, and everyone was sat at tables drinking cocktails and relaxing. The ambient lighting, was provided mainly by candles, which illuminated the subjects face in a pleasing way.  05. LCKwanza IMG_9508 (c)She looked serious!

I decided to enhance what little light was present by using off-camera flash set off to one side. Because it was on location, and the DJ was playing, and the subject was already relaxed, it allowed me time to sort myself out and get the image exactly how I wanted it using trial and error.  When I made this image, I was still at the initial experimental stages with my flash photography, but enjoying the possibilities it afforded me. I give thanks for her patience, and I’m sure her long suffering on the day, contributed to the palpable serious tone of the image. [smile]

I’ve heard that some photographers even use off-camera flash for Street photography; WOW… That’s something I’ll have try one day.  In the meantime, I’ll continue to utilise the little pop-up flash that comes as standard on Canon Crop sensor cameras, which really comes in handy sometimes. 04. Nkechi IMG_5130 It’s one of the reasons I haven’t moved over to full-frame cameras yet, as being professional devices, they do not have an internal pop-up flash, and I’d have to carry one at all times; not good methinks.

STREET: Again, the subject (left) is someone that I know well, and happened across them on the street. Same routine as before; “Hi how’re you doing? Longtime no see; you looking really well; how’s so-and-so?…” Clack! [LOL] The subjects are usually OK with me snapping them, after I’ve taken the picture. However, I find if I ask them before I snap them, they almost always say NO!… What’s that all about?… Don’t they know WHO I AM?… Ron Digsworth! With this image, I had to pop the little flash, as it was quite a grey day, and anyway, the subject was backlit.

06. SniperSniper IMG_0249STUDIO: Tip; Family members are good for practicing on, if nothing else! This image was actually from a series of images I took of one of my sons [codename]; SniperSniper™  whilst attempting to get a good portrait for him to use as a profile picture for future articles I was about to commission him to write for this blog.

I like the dramatic look; the way the brim of his hat casts a shade over his face, yet his eyes seem to illuminate out in that piercing fashion. His expression is quite hard to read; it could be considered sinister, sarcastic, even sadistic… Not sure where he gets THAT from. [ahem]

03. Endy IMG_8702

LOCATION: This image (left), was taken with the subject at a local park on a sunny day. I shot like a bazillion images that day, but I only consider a few of them to be useable. It happens!

It wasn’t like a normal photoshoot, it was more like just a conversation. A full-scale conversation about life, the universe, and everything.
The sun was low in the sky, and slightly behind, and the subject was wearing those cool shades that she hid behind, protecting the windows to her soul, and reflecting and deflecting everything. [You can actually see me aiming the camera in her left lens] Self-conscious of her huge lovely smile, she kept trying to mask it behind her hand. I thought it made quite a sweet innocent sort of image; Clack!… Oh the stories we shared that day…

01. Roots Doctor IMG_3731STREET: Mr Roots Doctor, a local radio host, and someone I know through my MultipleMedia and community circles. I was Bopping down Oxford Street, as you do, and I can see his enigmatic smile coming towards me from one hundred paces.  That day, I was actually on a Street photography mission. Armed with two Canon’s in my side arm bag, my only real problem was to decide which one to shoot him with as he approached. On one camera, I had an 85mm f1.8 prime lens, and on the other, a 35mm f2.0 prime. As we walked closer and closer together, like two bad gun slingers in one of those old wild west movies, where they shoot out at noon, I Gave the greetings, spoke a few words, then Clack!… The rest is documentary.…

09. BlakMadge IMG_6747mAs you can see, most of the portraits that I shoot are of people I already know.  That makes it a whole lot easier; and as interesting as portraits are, I am by no means an expert when it comes to shooting them.  On the contrary, I am but a learner. I’ve read many conflicting things from different schools of thought, throughout the years, on the subject, and from those who claim to be experts, but I guess at the end of the day those differences of opinion are down to personal style, taste and preference. One thing I think all schools all agree on though, is that shooting portraits should be about bringing out what is hidden on the inside.

Shooting people is fun, but hard work; well it is for me… I guess with more practice, it will become easier, just like when I first embarked upon Street Photography years ago. Developing not only your own style, but your own way of getting the subjects out of their shells takes time, but in order to be good at anything, you have to practice, and practice… and practice some more… and then when you think you’re finished… continue to practice.

Why does the Blackbird swing?

01. JenJen IMG_4797I ENJOY SHOOTING BIRDS; no, not that type!… well actually yes that type too. Come to think of it, and I know it’s not PC (not to mention also a bit off topic) but I’m sure this deep down desire has something to do with “birds” being the longtime legitimate slangterm in the UK for “women”

[Ahem] but that’s another topic for another day I guess. What I’m referring to here, are the large variety of feathered winged-creatures, that effortlessly take to the skies at any given moment.

When I was small, birds always used to fascinate me, and I couldn’t resist trying to catch them. A group of pigeons or something would be waddling around in the park, 02. pigeons IMG_0621doing their thang; as they do; scratching and pecking at crumbs on the ground, you know, usual pigeon stuff… and I, being me, would try to sneak up on them.

It’s an ultramagnetic attraction in most small children under 10, you understand. Try as I might, I could never catch one… as you would suspect.

There used to be a cartoon series on tv back in the 1970’s, called: “Catch The Pigeon” or something… where the aim of the show was, you guessed it, catching a carrier pigeon that carried important information in a time of National Security.  No matter what the main characters: Dick Dastardly and his side-kick-dog Muttley, attempted to do, they could never catch that blasted bird! The pigeon would fly through traps, fire, around obstacles, and, to top it off, pull sarcastic faces at them as it flew off into the sunset… 08. flock pigeons IMG_0585and as a result, I guess I developed a deep-seated empathy for poor Dastardly and crew.

I always failed in my many attempts to bag me one; Suffice to say, it never stopped me from trying again and again, and what that show taught me, was not only to expect failure, but how to deal with that failure.  Kee Kee Kee!… [colourful Muttley snigger]

What I also learned from young, is that birds of a feather really do stick together, and specific types of bird have specific characteristics.  I found I could get closer to some groups than others, e.g. Pigeons. Pigeons will eat almost anything, and I quickly realised that I stood a good chance of getting right up alongside them if I fed them.

Crows of the other hand, are shy, aloof, and untrusting. 03. Crow IMG_4927They will take-to-the-sky, on the natural high, if disturbed from as far off as one hundred paces, if they perceive you have an unhealthy interest in their movements. Not that anyone would be trying to get closer to those huge JetBlak [Ahem] crows, especially after all the years of bad press they’ve received in the wake of famous blockbuster movies like Hitcock’s: The Birds, and satanic horror flicks like Richard Donners: The Omen. [any similarities to particular groups of people, living or dead is entirely intentional… #BlackBirdsLivesMatter]

Seagulls on the other-hand had an entirely different rap; completely opposite to Crows (even though they featured in the Birds movie too).  Beautiful, white gleaming outstretched wings, soaring high above, and accompanied by carefree high-pitched calls that seem to carry on the warm breeze… 04. gulls_MG_5142Everything seems to stop when seagulls appear, and even adults would look up smiling to themselves, and point them out to children who were waaay too busy playing with marbles on the drain-hole covers or whatever… [no internet back then]

As I grew up in the 1980’s my view of gulls changed significantly and dramatically when, one day at the seaside, I realised that they had a notorious reputation for being master ice-cream cone thieves… Seaside Gulls were known to  target an unsuspecting individual, then swoop down from on high, usually from behind, and grab that cone right out of your hand: Sky-way robbery at it’s best!  05. gull scrap_MG_4335

Not only that, but Gulls seem to like rubbing salt into the open wound, by then aerial-target-crapping the hell out of their bemused victims afterwards… Somehow these crimes tended to get painted as misdemeanours by the mainstream media, so it hasn’t dented the Seagulls gleamingly likeable persona [Hmmm].

Maybe this is partly the reason why I like to shoot birds; it’s the next best thing to being able to get close to them, and ultimately catch them, and in doing so, quench an innate desire… Whenever I have a bird in my viewfinder, as I’m about to press that shutter, in the back of my mind there’s a little voice that says: This one’s for Dastardly and Muttley!… As for shooting the other type of birds, i.e. women? well… [Ahem] need I say more?

Dandelion whine…

01. IMG_5052 advI TOOK THIS IMAGE OF A SEA OF UN-BLOWN DANDELION SEEDS, as I walked past a local closed-off section of parkland with my soon-to-be eight year old daughter, BlakMadge™ [that’s her codename]. She could hardly contain her little-self when she spotted the field surrounded by a 12 foot fence, hence why they were all mostly still intact.  Little children just cannot contain themselves, much less resist the lure to approach, pick, wish, and blow — what most adults would call weeds — and so in the regular park area, all the remaining visible Dandelions were just stalks, and had already been blown away by said excited children.  Poor BlakMadge™ I thought to myself, as she looked around franticly for a way in… Alas there was none [sad face].

When I was growing up, we used to call Dandelions: “Wet the beds”!  My big sister assured me [grrrr] that if I even touched one, that would result in me wetting the bed, hence the name, and I remember her sharing with glee, that there’d be absolutely NOTHING I could do about it! From that moment on, I stayed as far as I could from them… Having said that, I had no idea at the time, that what we called: “wishing flowers” were actually Dandelion seeds! Duh!… This might answer a few questions looking back (ahem)

02. IMG_8664What’s my point? Well, I’ve been looking at the topic of  Engagement this week. No not the marriage ting!… well, actually come to think of it, it’s all connected…  No, what I’m talking about this time is Engagement in terms of putting out original content online, and the amount of attraction we see back, from the masses around that uploaded content.

In this digital era of online, MultipleMediaManagement™, and constant connectivity, engagement seems to be at an all time low. Content is being created, and uploaded at the greatest rate it ever has, yet the masses seem to only engage with a small percentage of it, while ignoring the majority.  Therefore an interesting parallel is the study of how one weed, the Dandelion, can have children literally running to engage, excitedly blowing the seeds, while the yellow flower of that same Dandelion, because of myth and superstitious belief, [and horrid big sisters] can have those same children running in the opposite direction, screaming with fright. LOL

Likewise with the content online, some of it causes the masses to run toward it excitedly, salivating with intent on “getting stuck in”, while other content, albeit connected to the same root, wouldn’t get touched for love nor money with a twelve-foot onion bhaji-pole. An easy example; the ubiquitous “he-said-she-said male/female” related post, vs the building balanced family, community, and Nation style post. Hmmm Interesting… [said raising a Mr Spock eyebrow while scratching ones chin]

03. IMG_0190I’ve been using the social network site, Linked-in recently, and they sent me a survey to fill in, to rate my experience on the site. [Who told them to do that? Yikes!…] To cut a long story short, I made it plain to them, that my experience on their site was similar to the experience I get when I visit loved ones in a graveyard. [Yikes! No kidding!…] Check it out; You go along to the cemetery apprehensively, and you see all these tombstones displaying information, appearing like content from other people in your Linked-in feed. You might read a few lines as you walk along, but there is little to no engagement. If you look and see a crowd over yonder in the midst of the burial ground, you know instantly that that is a new arrival; a funeral taking place. THAT is the ONLY time you’ll see mass engagement; when someone dies! Someone has to literally DIE!… I find it’s mostly the same on the Social Network platforms I use.

When my wife, Janet, suddenly died in 2013, I immediately got a massive flood of engagement on my FaceBook feed. Prior to that, if I had more than four likes, and three comments, on any given upload, I classed it as a good day and went to bed feeling productive. 04. Janet iChaNo matter how hard I tried, no matter what community issues I posted, no matter how hard I attempted to Engage; Nada!…  It took a death in the family, for people to instantly know where my feed was, and to finally engage, offering what is called “Condolences”.

I sometimes wonder whether one of reasons we appear to engage more at times of death, is because of the lure of Condolence. It’s kind of like a perverse version of an excited child, rushing to blow dandelion seeds, and seeing the effect, all the while knowing how effortless, spontaneous, and brief it will be.

Collins Dictionary, describes condolence as: an expression of sympathy, especially on the occasion of a death. All you have to do is say: “Condolences” and you’re done! You don’t even have to know what condolences are!…  Not only that, but you come across as caring; especially if you get yours in first! You don’t have to know the person who died, or even the person you’re saying it to! Condolence is a Gee! Condolence is win-win!  It’s almost like a magic word, or a get out of jail card. Condolence is an adults version of saying: “veinlights” of “bagsie”… When you utter these made-up words as a child, you can rest assured that from that moment on, you’ll be rolling through the hood with impunity! GwaaanTroughMyoooot!… Sadly, just like saying “veinlights or Bagsie” the effect of saying: “Condolences” is brief, and in terms of engagement, pretty cheap.

Now that we have grown up though, and become adults, I wonder whether these initial ideas from our childhood are the driving force behind our adult ideas around how we engage with one another?…  Uploaded original content today appears to be a cross between; Dandelion flowers, and Dandelion seeds, in an un-trampled corner of the online cemetery; exciting and repulsing the masses in equal measure.  Just a thought [smile]…

[More pondering can be mulled over on my MicroWebSeries Life And Times Of a MultipleMediaManager™ ]

#maexhair: Ten Commandments of Street Photography

01. 10 CommandTWENTY SIXTEEN WAS REALLY THE YEAR of the still image for me.  My MultipleMediaManagement™ hat, as it were, (more like doo-rag) was donned more often than not, in the guise of the maexhair (Media Assassin Extraordinaire crosshair).  This was originally intended to refer to my photography persona; waaay before my journalistic self stepped in and usurped that handle.

This year, twenty-seventeen, has seen me throw myself into the deep-end with Street Photography. It’s one of those areas, that, up until now, I hadn’t really taken too seriously; strangely so, as I studied photography back in school, and street photography is really where I originally cut my teeth; on the cold, concrete, unforgiving streets of Bermondsey Saaaf Laaandan! [Cockney Accent]

07. Violins _MG_5167Photography for me somehow got left behind though, in the wake of the birth of DeskTopPublishing graphic design, and fancy image manipulation software, that marked the advent of affordable home computers in the late 80’s.

DTP then made way for DeskTopVideo in the 90’s, with early titling, and flaming logo graphics, to overlay on Standard definition video via fairly inexpensive genlock cards that ran on the amazing Commodore Amiga. Things progressed throughout the noughties, and my career saw me transition through design, production and Multimedia.  Now, at least for me, with the return to photography the cycle is complete.

I’ve carried at least one of my dslrs (sometimes two) everywhere with me for most of this year; ready for whatever the world has to throw up, and in doing so, have come up with my own Ten Commandments of street photography. Not necessarily hard and fast rules, more like guidelines, that assist me when out on a mission. Every street photographer has his/her own method, and I’m told it’s always good to share, so here goes…

02. Crane IMG_1043Rule 1: ALWAYS have your camera, and make sure you know how to use it, and that it’s ready to SHOOT! CLACK! [sound effects]

Rule 2: If in doubt; SHOOT!… ask questions later… CLACK!

Rule 3: OVERCOME the fear of subjects seeing you shooting them; then SHOOT! CLACK!

Rule 4: THINK while shooting; framing; foreground; background. Be prepared to move if the composition is not right; then SHOOT! CLACK!

Rule 5: SLOW DOWN, use your eyes to see things developing in the scene before you’ve even raise the camera; look for good light, and SHOOT! CLACK!

06. Sing Out IMG_9804Rule 6: REDUCE “Chimping!” as it impacts on shooting time, and you’ll end up missing shots… (chimping means; constantly reviewing images on the back of your camera screen. You can do that in your own time when the session is done) CLACK!

Rule 7: DON’T CHASE SHOTS, make the shots come to you, when it does come to you, thoroughly work the scene! SHOOT! SHOOT! SHOOT! CLACK! CLACK! CLACK!

Rule 8: don’t waste time crying over missed shots; they are gone, and they ain’t coming back! (Actually sometimes they do come back, but when that happens, see that as a bonus and SHOOT! CLACK!)

Rule 9: DEVELOP a style. This will come the more you SHOOT! CLACK! 

03. Wreckless eye IMG_2140Rule 10: ALWAYS SHOOT! RAW… *This last rule is not really a must, but it will help no end, in post processing the hell out of those shots with potential, that somehow got over-exposed.

I carry a small non-descript shoulder bag, that doesn’t look like a camera bag. Inside, is my camera, a spare battery, a lens-cloth, and a second lens so that I can vary it up. The bag goes everywhere with me; shops, meetings, recreation… I carried it so much this year, that I feel strange whenever I decide not to carry it, or forgotten it, and I’ve often turned right around and gone straight back home to get it.

For some of the example shots on this page, I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, fully-strapped with my Canon, and lo and behold, Serendipity-doo-dah decided to do her thang!04. Silhouettes IMG_2501CLACK! Then there are days where I’ve set aside some time specifically to do Street Photography. On those occasions I really am fully-strapped, as I like to go in Jesse James style with two guns blazing!… You know how we do! [smile] CLACKety-CLACK!

Of course I’ve engaged other forms of photography this year; events, portraits, architectural, products, etc… not to mention the usual videography stuff that I’m more known for as JetBlakInk™.  I’ve also launched the MicroSeries Life And Times Of a MultipleMediaManager™, to commemorate ten years of Multiple Media Service, but there’s something about being on the street, in the moment, and quick with the camera; and looking back over some of the many images I’ve made, I’m definitely witnessing my own growth, and unique style develop like an image in the dark room before my eyes.

[A sizeable amount of my favourite images which I have made this year, can be viewed on Instagram, twitter, flickr and other social network sites using the searchtag #maexhair… enjoy]

A Space with Character

IMG_1548s
IT’S FUNNY, I’VE NEVER LIKE THE IDEA of doing the decorating, but once I start, I end up really enjoying the process. I tend to get totally engrossed, as well as covered in sand-filler-dust, paint and wallpaper glue.

It’s the mess! I tend to only see mess as mess when I’m not used to the mess; if that makes sense.  Once I’ve allowed myself to get accustomed to it lying everywhere, mess transitions (in my mind anyway) into just a space with character…  Art if you will.

Art is a funny thing, take this image for instance. There I was covered in paint from decorating my seven year old daughters bed room, when she wanders in with her camera and a cheesy grin. Of course I did what any dad would do in such situation, hence the pose. Voilà! art out of mess. There’s always been an unspoken rule in our house about the correct behaviour, when caught in the crosshairs of a trained camera lens. In this media-savvy House Of iCha, there’s always some photography going on somewhere, and Photographer often quickly becomes the photographed in the twinkle of an eye. as I’m sure you can see from the pic. We’ll have no shying away from lenses round here; “lead by example” I’ve always taught the yooots.

Decorating, Gardening, Cooking, being photographed while taking care of business, AND being a full-time dad is all part and parcel of The Life And Times of a MultipleMediaManager™.  In truth, anything that gets me away from the constant glow of a 27inch iMac editing screen for more than a hot second, can’t all be bad: “Oy! BlakMadge™; pass the roller!…”

[you can catch up with #LifeAndTimesOfaMMM by clicking the link, or by following me on Instagram under maexhair]

JetBlakInk™ Tableau 36: Vested Interests

06. Vested InterestsjbiTABLEAU36 IS AN INTERESTING IDEA that has developed, quite organically in the 345 days since I signed up to the social networking site Instagram. It is an idea that has quickly morphed all by itself, into a way of building upon the famous saying; “a picture speaks a thousand words”.

Building upon this saying has been made possible by the way the Instagram feed is displayed, where each one thousand word chunk (single picture) is arranged as you upload each day, into a whole grid of single pictures.

These single images, when viewed as a grid of images, then take on the likeness of sections or chapters of thousands of words; quite literally an open book.

With my MultipleMediaManager’s graphic designer hat on, I decided to snapshot a grid of 12 images on my Instagram feed: #maexhair; 12 images that I thought worked particularly well together. My thinking was to use that grid of 12 as a desktop image for my operations mac, in my home office that I affectionately call: The SkyLab.  However, one snapshot wasn’t enough; 12 images would only fill one third of the huge 27inch iMac desktop screen that I use. Time to get more images I thought to myself. Two more screen grabs later, and I had a full 36; Tableau 36!
maexhair Tableu 36
Some of the images had to be rearranged on the Tableau using PhotoShop, and switched into the more pleasing locations on the 36 grid, as they either clashed with adjacent images, didn’t complement in the story, relative positions, or they were simply facing the wrong way on the spread [designers will know what I mean]. As you can see from the images in the Tableau36, I try to cover a wide range of styles with my photography, and I love alternating between colour and monochrome with my feed. This is my way of expressing that, to me, each mode and style of photography, is as important, and interesting as the next!…

maexhair Tableu 36bWarning: Instagram gurus advise against mixing styles on your feed! They recommend that you keep your feed focused on just one main style, in order to attract and maximise regular followers of that style, which in turn will increase the number of “likes” on your page.  As a MultipleMediaManager™, I get bored really easily if I try to stick to one mode or style for any length of time.  I’m of the mindset that my feed is for me, and I’ll use it to express myself to the FULL, not just to attract “likes”!…  Each to their own I say!

To me, my images are like my own children, they were conceived from a tiny sparkle in the jet blackness at the centre of my eye; and as JetBlakInk™ TheMotherOfAllColour©, I love them all equally; I can’t afford to play favourites…

Do What You Love

01. maexhairLIFE IS SHORT AND THEN YOU DIE: I used to repeat this mantra everyday to help sift through the lorry-loads of nonsense, and pseudo important stuff taking up valuable space and time in my life. This would enable me to then give one hundred percent focus and attention to what was really important to me; ME!

It seems really odd when you consider the fact that most human beings quantify “normal life”, as an existence where one literally spends the vast majority of our stay here on planet Earth, living that one life for benefit of other people.

When I first started JetBlakInk™ back in 1991, it was a part-time Design Service. I was heavily into; reggae music, imagery, and typography back then, and so naturally I merged the three loves of my life, and the result was: “Dance flyers!”  This little Service slowly grew into designing other stuff; calendars, food packaging, magazines, and assorted print-material for a steady growing client base.

One thing led to another, and then I was suddenly made redundant — FOR THE FOURTH TIME — from my well paying day job. It was only then, that I realised what the Big Man upstairs had been trying to tell me all along: that I should stop trying to fit in, and get on with doing what I love, and doing it FULL TIME. So that’s exactly what I did. It’s been a tough journey, and a fast changing landscape, particularly digital media. 05. Do What You Love

The the internet exploded into mainstream life in the late 90’s, and all the print design started shifting to online. Small local print firms were going out of business, as the whole process of printing suddenly changed. No longer where hard drives being “courier biked” over to print bureaus up in the City, as design firms began sending files via fast phone lines to mega printers with tiny overheads located in the middle of nowhere.

PDF’s were the new thing now, and in my opinion that was a watershed moment. PDF’s helped to signal in the beginning of the end of the fierce Mac v PC media war of the time [remember that?], and even though Macs won in the consumer market, they actually lost in the corporate world as, thanks to inter-platform PDFs, many design departments now began switching to using cheaper PCs.

By 2007, the start of a brave new world, the dawn of a spanking new era was in full swing; the era of the MultipleMediaManager™ had begun. Redundancy can sometimes be a blessing, and in my case(s) it definitely was.  At the time it didn’t feel like a blessing though, because the day I was selected for redundancy, I remember being was marched off company premises like a criminal, flanked by TWO security guard, while carrying what little possessions I had in a cardboard box, as my colleagues watched in absolute disbelief and silence. It was an exact repeat of that infamous scene from the movie: Jerry Maguire!… “Who’s coming with me?… No one?… Streeeeuuups!…”

Looking back though, circumstance was literally yelling at me: “DO WHAT YOU LOVE BRO” The rest, as they say is history… [smile]