Category Archives: Everyday Life

EVERYDAY LIFE: Sleeping Bags & Neon Socks

I’ve been watching the Jays flying in and out of the Holm Oak tree, beaks clasping green acorns that they’ve plucked from the branches ready to push firmly into the lawn. Apparently, they store them there for winter food, but I have a sneaking suspicion that they’re in cahoots with the back-garden moles.

These past few months have possibly been some of the busiest I’ve experienced. It doesn’t feel like I’ve stopped at all. Until last night. We drove to London to take part in the CEO Sleepout and I was forced to be still and just exist, under the stars. The air was cool, the sky was clear, and I even managed an hours sleep. It was no real hardship at all (and so much better than last year!) but an important conversation starter – with people I met last night, and with you. What can we do about such an extensive and overwhelming issue as homelessness? Well, we can make a start with the small things.

Something we are trying to do with Toiletries Amnesty is put an end to hygiene poverty by encouraging community interaction and social engagement. Do you ever feel you’d like to do something, but don’t know where to start? If you don’t already know about Toiletries Amnesty then please do head to the website and find out more – get involved, because you can. Immediately you can do something to improve the lives of others (and your own). We can all make a positive difference, and collectively that can be something pretty special.

If you’re feeling the urge to retrospectively sponsor me for sleeping in a puddle, well, I won’t say no!

So, in all of the other news that I’ve not shared when I perhaps should have…

We went to Ghent, ate the most excellent meal in Cochon de Luxe and saw a great exhibition at the Design Museum. On the way home we got to hang out on the bridge of the ferry and watch the captain reverse park it at Dover. (Read about it here!)

We went to RollHard and saw a lot of cars with nice shiny bits. (Enjoy mostly photos here!)

I spent the best part of two weeks in Rotterdam delivering the STREET / FORM exhibition as part of Pow! Wow! Rotterdam, Europe’s largest Street Art Festival. It was wonderful. I urge you to read about it here and here.

I stayed a night at the Nova Hotel in Amsterdam, with a little Japanese-style garden outside my window, catching all the calm sounds of the rain falling.

I gave portfolio reviews for Photo020 in Amsterdam and took a walk along the canals in the rain.

I bought some fabulous neon socks, got given a super cool Pow! Wow! Spray can, walked 49.7 miles in 7 days, visited a dairy farm on a pontoon, and held a random stranger’s baby on the train home.

We saw 24 horse and traps go by our front window. We live in the middle of nowhere.

Festival Pil’Ours asked if we’d extend the Shutter Hub Time to Think exhibition until the end of November, and we said yes, because we are sensible like that.

I photographed my friend, printmaker Louise Stebbing, in her studio ahead of her retrospective next year, and I also photographed her cat because, well, just because!

Then I went to Wales to install and launch HOME.

HOME is a very beautiful exhibition, created from the generosity of 80 photographers who donated their work to be sold for homelessness charities – Crisis, Shelter and Toiletries Amnesty. Shutter Hub teamed up with Gallery at Home in Usk and together we made something really special (see the full exhibition in photos, here).

I stayed in the Greyhound Inn (didn’t see any greyhounds, did see a shiatsu called Harry though) and it was lovely. Proper old school. Horse brasses, and peas with everything.

There’s a five-page feature about HOME in Be Kind magazine this month. If you want to read the interview with me and see some beautiful images the full PDFs are here on the Shutter Hub site, but really, you could just pick up a print version and read all the other things too.

HOME prints are for sale here until 05 December 2019 for just £35 each. That, in case you need it spelling out, is a mega bargain.

M E G A  B A R G A I N !

And now what am I doing?

I’m working on Now, for the Future, an exhibition for LOOK Photo Biennial with Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool. I’m also working on (and will be for many months) a touring exhibition project called POSTCARDS FROM GREAT BRITAIN (and you can get involved too!) and, one more exhibition for good measure – Everyday Delight. If you’ve spotted the obvious face in your wallpaper, caught sight of an autumn leaf spinning magically in a spiders web, or noticed a finger nail that looks like Paul Daniels (I’ve done them all) then you’ve had a glimpse of ‘everyday delight’ – the joy in the everyday. Keep looking for it.

Shutter Hub will be hosting a Professional Development day on 30 November in London, and if you’ve any interest in photography you should sign up for a free space, it’s going to be a super day. I’ll be there (is that encouraging?!)

I’ll also be talking at LOOK Photo Biennial on Saturday 02 November (book here), and London Institute of Photography on 06 December (book here).

And hopefully, in between these things I am going to find time to walk more, pot plants, stroke cats and get a haircut.

HOLLAND: Pow! Wow! Rotterdam – 2 Weeks in the City

I like the Netherlands. There’s a surprise for you! I’m always happy to have an excuse to spend time there, and after a brief trip to Rotterdam I was keen to find a reason to go back.

The opportunity to curate an exhibition for Europe’s largest street art festival Pow! Wow! Rotterdam and take the work of 70 international photographers to the heart of the city, filling a disused building wall to wall with newspaper prints – now, that’s a reason!

So, in early September I spent the best part of two weeks in Rotterdam, living out of The James hotel, each night – gazing from the 15th  floor window with my supermarket salad propped on the green stone windowsill, and by day – installing the exhibition, riding the metro up and down and across town, attempting to speak Dutch (so badly, but it brought a lot of joy!) and finally opening STREET / FORM to the public on 09 September.

I loved being in Rotterdam. It’s safe, it’s diverse, it’s interesting, and there’s an Albert Heijn supermarket around pretty much every corner! Praise to Albert Heijn for my daily dinner salads and for enabling me to have my first ever Green Tea Kit Kat. Thank you. Fulfilled.

I also ate a small pink cake and my mouth swelled up. Imagine a giant crying over a French Fancy – that’s me.

In the midst of this excitement I spent a couple of rainy days in Amsterdam, and a peaceful night at Nova Hotel. I’ve stayed here before, and although it’s bang in the middle of all the action, I still find it a bit of a haven. Outside the window of my ground-floor room, glazed walls formed a personal Japanese garden where the rain fell and pattered gently on the greenery. A bit like one of those mindfulness apps, but real, and with curtains.

I gave portfolio reviews at the Photo020  event in Amsterdam, in the most lovely location by the water, with good light, a good dinner and welcoming people (my reviews sold out immediately!) Then I popped home for 48 hours, picked up lights, clothes, Jayne, and headed back on the Eurostar.

The exhibition was a massive success. I was always going to be pleased with it, whatever happened, but having other people reinforce how I felt was just really rewarding. So many people commented on the democratic use of newspaper (it’s a Shutter Hub thing now, right!) and most excitingly, a lot of them told us they felt we were doing something that was a bit pioneering. How often have you seen Street Photography included at a Street Art Festival? I might not have been looking hard enough, but all those other people who said it, they felt we were doing something new and pushing the boundaries further, and I liked their opinions very much! (Full exhibition and PV photos here, if you’re interested).

Pow! Wow! Rotterdam was awesome – for us as contributors it was brilliant,  but for the community, the artists, and the 10,000 visitors to the festival, it was equally as excellent and inspiring.

Shutter Hub’s STREET / FORM was printed by Newspaper Club (our best newspaper printing friends) and the launch event drinks were provided by London’s Dalston’s  – best ginger drink ever drunk – according to many Dutch guests (lekker gember!) We held a pre-preview for a bunch of excited kindergarten kids, gave free portfolio reviews to photographers, collaborated on a Street Photography competition with team Pow! Wow! and I gave an exhibition talk to 30 Dutch instagrammers (who showed their appreciation of my language skill through laughter, thank you).

One evening it was raining really heavily as I left the exhibition. An old chap from across the road came rushing over and lent me an umbrella. So kind. Somehow I managed to destroy it on the way back to the hotel. But then, whilst listening to Killswtich Engage in my hotel room (with my Albert Heijn salad and my 15th floor view) I managed to repair it with a travel sewing kit and some electrical tape. Proud.

Another evening, when I was scurrying back to the metro in the low light, two men approached me in the quiet street. They started speaking to me in Dutch, but I didn’t understand, then one of them pointed at my bag and said, ‘Hey, you’re from Shutter Hub. I really want to see that exhibition!’

I love you Rotterdam!

Other moments of Rotterdam joy included:

Lunch at Op het Dak with Iris and Julia. Up amongst the city’s rooftops, eating food from the roof garden whilst hot sun streamed through the windows and small dogs competed for attention (toy poodle vs chihuahua. It was a draw).

Breakfast at Lilith. Eggs Benedict with vegan bacon. Facon. It was like a soggy Frazzle and I’m okay with that.

A good walk around the Katendracht area – docklands and old warehouses, magnificent buildings, and the Fenix Food Factory where the ‘meat’ Bitterballen turned out to be ‘beet’ and very delicious!

Dinner at Bazar with my friend Dagmar.

The Street Dreams exhibition – how Hip Hop took over fashion, with a brilliant film by Victor D. Ponten, and an enlightenment in how designer names were re-appropriated into street style by people who’d previously been excluded from accessing those brands.

Outside the Kunsthal, Solitaire by Joana Vasconcelos, gold rims and whisky glasses.

A man spoke to me in Dutch, and someone translated it for me – ‘If I’d have known she was here all week I’d have brought her some fish!’ 

I made a visit to the world’s first floating farm. I wasn’t convinced. I’m still processing my thoughts. I like cows.

I stopped in at Weelde and had a drink at De Zure Bom, enjoyed their open space and nice flowers.

I saw a black pigeon with a white boufont hairstyle. Like, proper fluffed up and glorious.

I walked 49.7 miles in 7 days.

And I finally found some neon socks.

Street wandering, shop window peering, photo taking, comb finding (yes, tiny comb #combtheory), ginger tea drinking, apple pie eating, Albert Heijn shopping,  hotel sleeping, exhibition speaking, break dance battle watching – in awe.

Thank you Rotterdam!

On the train home I held a random baby whilst his mum took his brother to the bathroom. It was really nice to be trusted (I look approachable) but he gave me a rash on my hands!

With the greatest thanks to Rotterdam Partners and Rotterdam Make It Happen for making this trip possible, and to Pow! Wow! Rotterdam for letting us hang out at their amazing festival. Thank you Nova Hotel and The James for your hospitality and comfortable beds.  As always, my opinions are my own (and my hotel room supermarket salad diet DVD will be out soon!)

Everyday Life: Mrs Pollock & the Dutch Ambassadors Carpet

Het schildpad eeten het boterham.

The more time I spend in the Netherlands, the more I want to learn the language. I am sorry, my Dutch friends, I am trying!

In June I did a mini tour of  Dutch Castles and Country Houses with Visit Holland and DFDS. It was an utterly lovely experience. I learnt so much about the beautiful buildings, ate wonderful meals, saw the most fabulous gardens full of roses, and a dog called Percy tried to put its football in my handbag. Read about it here, you won’t be disappointed!

I’ll be back in The Netherlands again next month for one of the most exciting exhibitions I have ever been lucky enough to curate – STREET / FORM at POW! WOW! Rotterdam, Europe’s leading street art festival. I’ll be spending a couple of weeks in the city and I am really excited about it.

(You can find the STREET / FORM call for entries here, if you’re interested).

I’m also working on an exhibition called HOME, which is a collaboration between Shutter Hub and Gallery at Home in Usk, Wales. (Call for entries, here). We’re raising money for Crisis, Shelter, and Toiletries Amnesty.

Adam and I took part in the annual village yard sale. No one asked for guns this year, but there was an old man with a pro-Trump hat on.

I repotted Mrs Pollock the pelargonium.

I helped judge graduate photography at the Freerange Awards 2019, and Shutter Hub gave prizes to 6 photographers.

I wrote Foodie Finds #19 and #20 for Surf4, ate parma violet flavoured fudge and drank ginger beer.

A lady told me she thought I was very attractive, tall and slim, and about 28 years old. She was also blind. This is not a joke.

I went to the Dutch Ambassador’s residence in London for breakfast (nice carpets). Then I went to Brixton and power chugged hot tea in Van Gogh’s kitchen.

We endured a super hot heatwave day of hell. 38.7°C. The chickens were really sick, we gave them frozen sweetcorn and iced water.

Shutter Hub took an exhibition to Festival Pil’Ours in France. Time to Think includes the work of 145 female photographers from 15 different countries, and a total of 435 images (It runs until 31 August 2019, technically, but the festival organisers have already said they want to extend it).

Jayne and I flew into La Rochelle, picked up a hire car (a Renault Clio with a stoved in door) and took the two hour drive to St Gilles Croix de Vie, stopping for pastries and a packet of mustard and pickle flavoured crisps on the way.

We arrived at our  little seaside chalet. Welcomed by the sea, and a drunk man who wanted Jayne to touch his hair. It did look soft.

Beach front picnic under pink skies. Lapping waves. Sticky sea air.

In the morning we walked to the town, over bridges and through the brocante, for the exhibition launch event. People came from across the region, and beyond – Italy, UK, Ukraine and 14 hours on a bus from Amsterdam. I gave the opening speech, Jayne took photos, I told everyone to eat fish balls. It was fun. There was iced peach tea and a beautiful cat who had a number written in his right ear.

If you want to see lots more photos of the exhibition (and read some lovely words) you can find them all here.

We walked back as the light faded, through the night market, passed the pink neon glow of the fairground. Candy floss, and a massive grey dog that looked like a bear.

A couple of days of sea air and perfect sunsets, interspersed with meetings, project work, and plenty of cheese. Time to think – definitely. 

At home Tutti Biscotti managed to catch two birds in the space of two days. Not bad for a house cat! Kamikaze sparrows were delivering themselves to her through the open windows.

And look! I found my first comb in over two years. #combtheory

Everyday Life: Interviews & Chocolate Crayons

I should write more often, because when I do, I like it. I like sharing stories – the good, the weird and the wonderful. I love to read back old blog posts. Notes to strangers become notes from my past self, and I am always grateful for them.

So, what can I tell you?

I was interviewed by the marvellous Loupe Magazine. I’ve read the article several times. You can read it too, it’s nice, I think so. (Read it here).

I was interviewed by Judith Weik at the Centre of Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, Cambridge University, for their blog. (Read it here).

I made a cake that tasted like play doh smells.

Everything I Ever Learnt was a super success. An exhibition of photography at Cambridge University, a collaboration between Shutter Hub and Art at the ARB, that got some great media coverage, was received by its audience with kindness and intrigue, and had a private view that felt more like an exciting reunion of dear friends. It was so good actually, that we organised a closing event– a symposium of talks, print swaps, and an array of biscuits.

I was a guest on a BBC radio arts and culture show. This involved being wedged into a tiny room with four men and a euphonium. (Google euphonium and offer me sympathy and a free hearing test).

Everyone I know went to Japan (well, maybe not everyone).

I wrote Foodie Finds for Surf4, ate cherry cake and drank peach and elderflower iced tea.

Tutti Biscotti turned 12. She’s lived with us for two years now. We didn’t have a party as she doesn’t like a fuss.

I went to the Netherlands and ate chocolate crayons in my favourite hotel in Haarlem.

I gave a talk about photography in the marble-lined chapel of rest of an old pathology laboratory in Amsterdam. Probably one of the best sentences I’ve ever written.

I peered in windows and car-spotted in Rotterdam.

And I stayed in a mouldy hotel hovel in Amsteelveen.

Read the full story and glorious mouldy hovel low down here.

I signed up for the CEO Sleepout, again. Last year was a real experience and it feels important to be reminded. This year I am fundraising for Toiletries Amnesty and would really appreciate your support. Will you join me? If you don’t fancy sleeping outside on a wintery night, maybe you feel like sponsoring me to do it for you?

I’ll just leave my fundraising page here:

Holland: Return to Haarlem (Rotterdam, & Amsterdam)

The man behind me struggled to open his bottle of drink, knees digging hard into the back of my seat as he strained. ‘Shall we open the smoky bacon or the prawn cocktail?’ his companion asked, whilst rustling away with her grab-bags. Smokey bacon. The crunches and slurps were interspersed with a conversation on whether the pilot might actually be a woman. The consensus, before the slimming world recipes were discussed, was that they couldn’t possibly have a female pilot – because she would have mood swings.

Remind me something for the future – take noise cancelling headphones, even for short flights. Or, alternatively, some kind of appealing snacks laced with sedatives.

From Schiphol – two trains, full – to Haarlem. Lovely, kind and comfortable Haarlem.

Straight out of the station and into the sanctuary of Hotel Lion D’or. Relief. Soft bed, calm tones, clean air, and… what is this? Helma had left me a box of chocolate crayons in my room. Chocolate crayons. Heart eyes.

I chose to have a Tuesday night supermarket dinner – chicken salad, orange, chocomel (Someone had already had a go on my chocomel. Chocolate milk dreams ruined), and get an early night.

I slept well. I’ve been here before (one year and one week ago) and I settled back in nicely. I could live here. Contented hotel room dweller.

Observations on a Wednesday:

Breakfast ring doughnut (with jam inside).
Raining but not raining.
Joyful walking.
Hair clip purchase (in honour of Polly).
Good windows.
Quality pigeons.
Successful meeting (exhibition planning, sticky tape discussions).
Dinner with Ioana in Zandvoort.

On Thursday I took the train to Amsterdam. Last time I was here it was for the Shutter Hub OPEN, I walked past 5&33 Gallery, peeked in the windows at the people installing their exhibition, remembered we’ll be back there with another exhibition, sooner than we know it.

I walked across the city, comfortable with my inner compass, directing me toward my destination, where in just the last half a kilometre I needed my phones map for fine-tuned information. I know Amsterdam better than I know my closest city at home. I could live here – the Netherlands.

I reached the stone steps of LAB111, a cool cinema and restaurant venue, once a pathology laboratory for the university hospital. An art deco delight. We ate sweet potato fries with curry mayonnaise whilst a ginger cat did the rounds of the laps at our table. And then, I gave a talk about photography in the marble-lined former chapel of rest. These are the days.

In the morning we headed over to Rotterdam. Meetings full of excitement and promise, and eggs benedict at La Buvette. To the outskirts of the city to look at empty buildings, and then back to Amsterdam for my evening engagement – a talk at Paper Fetish. Chips and mayonnaise, good chats and hugs.

It was late when we drove out of the city and into the darkness of Amstelveen. Having checked out of the beautiful Hotel Lion d’Or in Haarlem, I’d been booked in at a surprise location.

I was dropped off at my room for the night, in a terraced house owned by Hotel Café Abina. Definitely not a hotel.

Abina hovel was unwelcomingly bleak, with stained carpets, and a stale scent of tobacco. The only thing that settled me was the smell of bread in the street.

In my room, a narrow corridor of two single beds, with a toilet and mouldy shower in the same space, I looked at my watch. Less than 7 hours to daylight. It’ll be fine. I slid the bed in front of the door and ‘slept’ in my clothes. As soon as it was light I was out, wandering the streets, breathing the fresh air, smiling at dogs, queueing for pastries at the French bakery on the corner.

I was relieved when Ioana came to meet me. We drove into Amsterdam and walked through Vondelpark before eating lunch in the sun. She showed me how as a child she would stick blossom petals to her finger nails as ‘nail varnish’, and then we watched two cyclists have an argument – shouting in Dutch, swearing in English. The Dutch swear in English! (I am already part way to speaking the language).

I came home with my brain full, a to-do list as long as my arm, and a great feeling joy and contentment. Lucky to do the work I love.

With the greatest thanks to Hotel Lion d’Or for hosting me for three nights in their beautiful hotel. As always, my opinions are my own (and my excitement over a ring doughnut with jam inside, expressed with absolute understatement).