Jamming, Chutney and Pumpkin Children

So in my efforts to be a fully rounded individual, but with the hurdle of being skint, I’ve decided to fully embrace the new buzz word I keep hearing and reading…… “Upcycling”  that is to say turning something relatively naff into something utterly fabulous in the vein of being an eco-warrior with an awareness of aesthetics and style.
So once again, this year’s Christmas gifts are going to be homemade.  Now although many folks see this as a real cop-out and innately “cheap” I really do disagree.  I think something made from the heart is so much more rewarding for all parties – giving or receiving.  Christmas seems to have begun already, even earlier than the last.  A clever little marketing tactic from all the fat cats to bombard our feeble minds with everything to do with over-spending and taking on the pressure of making it “The best year ever” where “All our Christmas dreams come true”.  I think their rationality behind this is to simply wear us all down despite the nations former preoccupation with being thrifty to help drag ourselves out from the pit of debt we’ve found ourselves in.  This theme and message will no doubt come back with a bloody bite come January when we are all told how disgustingly over the top we were and now it’s time for us all to get on another ridiculous diet and be thin by Valentines day.  Eurgh! 
So with that little rant over with, I have joined forces with my good friend Vikki to combine our upcycling forces this year to produce something really joyous and easy on our moth filled purses.  Now I’m torn between revealing our cleverness here because in turn it shall reveal our nearest and dearests gifts, so instead I will say that we’ve already spent a day on stage one of the gifts.  Vikki had never made jam or chutney before, and I had only done it the once under the watchful eyes and guidance of Mammy Pearman, so we were going for a bit of a challenge taking matters into our own inexperienced hands. 
Having decided we both needed lie-ins, our day began at a very leisurley 1pm, and necessary catch ups took us straight into 2pm.  By this time we had lists of what we needed to purchase and had taken stock of our combined freezer and cupboard supplies.  We were missing giant pots though, and so with a trip to an overly busy supermarket done, we headed to IKEA.
Commencement of operation Jam and chutney did not even begin till 4pm!  But with a steady of supply of Chocolate Milk (a vintage companion in mine and Vikki’s relationship) we began chopping and slicing and weighing and so forth.  Vikki, taking her usual role of hysterical clumsy clown and me taking mine of time-obsessed dictator we had things bubbling nicely in pans within a couple of hours.
After cleaning the decks we go to talking about the world of online dating, and with this headed to my office to explore the net for worthy catches for Vikki.  We were distracted by this for a good couple of hours and Vikki decided to head downstairs to give things a stir.  Moment later I heard her screaming and calling my name.  Our Jam had become so hot it exploded out of the pan and all into my hob top.
This drama aside, we sterilized our vessels and poured remaining contents into jars (hob top debris aside of course).
Stages two and three will feature in future blogs.
On a more photographic note, I have been grappling with an ongoing problem that I’m sure most young photographers have.  That is, a ready access to decent photographic equipment.  In this area I suppose I am lucky enough to have a lovely boyfriend who found his photography calling before meeting me, and therefore has a good range of equipment I am allowed to borrow for projects where needed.  But we are still missing some important tools.  The biggest hole is in Lighting equipment.  Now over the last few months I have managed to work hard at getting a few different freelance jobs lined up, based on the style of work featured on my website.  Of course all of my best work was done whilst I was at college, where I could go and visit Newcastle Colleges Photography store legend – Christian and have a good chat about the effects I wanted to try and achieve, and subsequently rent out necessary equipment needed to make my vision real for no cost whatsoever.  With the curse of the credit crunch trickling into all crevices, it is now impossible for students to loan out equipment from the college overnight, which means it is rather difficult for me to pay off a current student to loan out equipment under their name for me to use for my work.  Although I understand they are fighting this to a successful result, it has forced me to conclude that this is an avenue I shouldn’t really add pressure to.
There are also a couple of wealthier students who I studied alongside of who either used their student loans to purchase their own kits, or are blessed with a better financial situation than most of us.  They too have been known to loan out their gear to fellow photographers for a sly tenner here and there.  These avenues are also futile I’ve learned over the last few weeks.  These people either have richer customers to me and so it makes more business sense for them to rent out equipment for better money than I can provide, or they simply want to use their equipment for themselves only.  Conclusions?  We are definitely not in the happier hippier times of artists scratching each others backs for creative gain.  Creative gain has been covered in commercial gain like a stodgy lumpy gravy glooped over caviar. 
This has left me to deduce that in order to succeed and keep on these jobs I need to put my creativity to good use regarding lighting, keep these jobs to earn the money to save up for my own kit.  And so I’ve rummaged through the drawers of our camera equipment at home and come out with a very old and beautifully clunky Lightgun and a Speedlight.  So far I’ve a poor record with mastering speedlights.  I find it really difficult to control them and nearly always end up becoming so angry at my lack of skills at mastering it I simply lose interest.  But lightguns have proven to be much more fun for me, and the necessary experimentation with them has given me a good enough range of results to be able to understand it’s features more.
It therefore seemed appropriate to give the old girl a try, and what better subject was there on my dining room table than a glorious tower of jam and chutney?
Back-lighting the tower of jars for a lovely silhouette effect.

The true colours of the produce.

I am now in the process of practicing with a speedlight, and I refuse to let the bugger defy me any longer.  I shall master it, and it will become part of my repertoire!
Now along with my goals of having a creative life, I do like everyone else have bills and debts to pay.  This requires me to devote time to the man.  I do this in the most alternative ways I can by working for a large chain of cinema’s (I have signed a declaration to vow I shall never be-smudge it on any social networking site, so revealing it’s brand name would be in breach of that).  I also work for a not so local Photography studio, and have been there since I left college in the summer.  Again, I don’t think it’s necessary to reveal any brand names.
This latter job has really tested me over the last 5-6 months.  It’s been so much harder than I thought it would be.  I have taken to the business side of it fine, and have been able to use corporate skills from my past to help me out in the day to day duties of working with customers, managing diaries, the financial aspects, and so on.  But where I have fallen down the most has been in my photography.  This has naturally been really demoralizing for me.  What kind of photographer will I ever be if I can’t take a good picture?  Learning a lot of additional skills to what I worked on at college is what has been tricky.  Knowing that newborn baby’s will happily wee all over you when it comes to removing the nappy to do the nude shots, was my first lesson.  Having an awareness of how old a baby has to be before it can lift it’s own head is still one I’m trying to get the hang of (seeing baby’s keel over from the weight of their heads and dealing with the result of crying when they whack heads on the floor is always a wince moment).  Then there are the challenges of interacting with toddlers who want to run around and not pose for you, despite how much of a clown you are being.  These trial go on right up through all age groups, featuring the moody teenager, who will not do what you want them to, to the granny who doesn’t want you to show her missing tooth in a shot.  It’s been a real toughie.
Following a review with my boss, I have now agreed to work hard on getting these things right, and although I am uncomfortable shooting on my own with clients I have started to force myself to do this, and am tackling my fears the only way I know how.
I now make notes on each age group and keep these on file at work to refer to so I have a clear list of poses and positions I want to get during the hour long shoot (very different to frittering away a lovely afternoon of messing about in the studio in my student days might I add).  Over the last couple of weeks we’ve been placing babies in to a hollowed out pumpkin to get a Geddes inspired Halloween shot.  Babies hate the feel of slimy cold pumpkin pith on their legs, and I had some shoots which had results of a documentary theme of “Child-struggle” instead of a “Cutsie-pie” picture.  But eventually I think I got the hang of it.
Anne Geddes – Pumpkins.
I remember having a collection of photographic books on a low down book shelf when I was a child, owned by my father when he was into photography before the commitments of owning a house, and keeping a steady job, and being a Dad took over.  This collection was the Life library of Photography books from Time & Life publishers.  
The spines of these books were bleached to varying degrees of grey which I can remember organising into a neat spectrum from light to dark after flicking through them. 

My favourite of these books was the one on

Photographing children. 
It’s pictures are burned into my memory, and I think they have played a part in my getting into photography at this stage of my life.  So in a full circle, I have started actually reading this book, and it’s really been helpful.  I hope with this two-pronged approach, like a Zulu, I will get better at family and baby portraiture.


If I can master this field, shooting a model who knows exactly what to do in front of a camera should be a walk in the park!


Here are some of my favourites from this book:
Boy with Duck & Colander by Arthur Tress 1970
Boy with Root Hands by Arthur Tress 1970
Bashing a Piano by Philip Jones Griffiths 1962
Follow the Leader by Dick Swanson 1961
Polish Girl by David Seymour 1948

2 thoughts on “Jamming, Chutney and Pumpkin Children

  1. I love this, its official my new favourite read …i was cracking up at the visual of you and vikki with an explosion of jamI too have memories of those books on our old shelves in Dorchester CtKeep it coming i cant wait for the next instalment


  2. what an interesting read and Im sure the foodies amongst us appreciate the fun of creating something delicious. Some of those pics of the children are very though provoking and unsettling !keep up the bolgs they are great ! xx


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