Deciding where to fly on my birthday predictably became an obsessive game of pros and cons. After narrowing it down to Iceland and Istanbul I begun the research. Both offered equally opposing possibilities. Exploring a lively, character filled city ridden with history and culture. Istanbul offered a more social option and getting out of the city to hike and explore Cappadocia. Alternatively renting a wagon for myself and spending some much needed time alone to think, breathe, reflect and slow down in Iceland felt like a dream. Settling on Istanbul for the most practical of reasons (time and money) I knew either way it would be an escape which despite all the travelling I’ve been doing felt appealing.
A pleasant 4-hour flight later trying to contemplate how the hell I’ve lived 32 years left me feeling a little numb and anxious.
Other tales will come but the images are from an escape whilst roaming away from Istanbul. This was day two on the motorbike exploring the local towns. I was now used to the speed and joy of zipping along the roads surrounded by beautiful rocks formations and vast landscapes. Realising our initial destination would consume the day we headed elsewhere a little disappointed but enjoying ourselves. We turned onto an alluring woodland path and a dinky elderly man holding a book of weathered tickets asked us for two Liras to pass. Now even more curious we paid and entered what looked like a nature reserve. We soon drove across a dam and saw a few families dotted along a large lake. Steaming bbq’s and children playing lined the ridge of the water. We hopped off to explore. I choose my family. We managed to have a relaxed conversation. They were kind, calm and hospitable. The people I met in general in Istanbul seemed incredibly warm, always eager to help or host.
I asked to shoot a few pictures and focussed mainly on this gent and occasionally turned to capture another family by the waters edge. In between an impromptu game of volleyball with their daughter Nisa, I watched as he tendered the fire with patience. Swamped by the trees and smoke the scene seduced me. After a few frames we sat down to toast the tea he kindly offered us before throwing a bag full of meat onto the bbq and insisting we join.
Despite the last trip to Romania feeling like a failure in terms of photographic results the adventure was still very much alive. These images are from one of my favorite moments. After a few days of T-shirt sporting 24 degrees sunshine the sudden turn in weather caught me off guard. It was a pleasant surprise as the white fluff painted the hills effortlessly. Excited, Andrei insisted we hit a mountain he remembered as a child; I needed no persuasion. There were a few points when the tyres spun at 110% and almost didn't pull through the snow; each time followed by a sigh of relief and a grateful pat on the dashboard as we climbed further.
We reached the summit and continued for a short while by foot. Totally unprepared and wearing every article of clothing in my suitcase I instantly froze. Within 15 minutes my hands were raw red and my nose uncontrollably running. I do still love the refreshing snap of a winter chill.
As we peaked we looked at heroic and tenacious snowdrops that had somehow made it through. The wind was battling as fought against the tide to reach the look out point. I was so cold it hurt.
It was breathtaking. I sucked the view in and felt high. Andrei kindly helped me as I shouted with impatience through the wind desperate to load my film but infuriated with my useless frozen hands. Work fingers, move! The camera backs kept locking; it was too cold for the little one.
I shot all the film I had (2 rolls) and Andrei and I commented on how incredible it was. We smiled whilst trying to keep our balance. Sometimes seeing something so silent, so beautiful is immeasurable. Due to the cold the films didn't quite make it and like any great scene my images don’t do it justice. However the disconnected puzzle of images reminded me how much I wanted to capture that moment and how unattainable it was.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Gregory Crewdson this week and he made a comment that evoked a little bit of calm in me. I was asking him if he ever felt he was wasting time. His meticulous attention to detail and long form process made me wonder.
"It's all part of one big thing. I try not to think of it as separate projects; it's all related."
I adore this forgiving and logical notion that actually in one way or another all of my photographic experiences are in some way connected. No image is a failure because it grants a lesson or motivation for the next time I press the shutter.
The disappointment with the last batch of film has sucked me into a pit of frustration but Gregory's words offer some comfort. This Polaroid was from one of the days shooting that felt more positive than others. I had been planning to return to Lucky's grandfathers' house for a while (one year precisely we discovered). He united all of the clocks from his warehouse that he had either fixed or was in the process of repairing. I was lucky to have a subject that so closely aligned with my narrative and with the patience of a saint. It was like he had all the time in the world.OAO xx
It's a common annoyance that towards the end of any trip I am fishing through my bag of films to find a roll of 400, like sifting through muesli for the raisins. These negatives reached new levels of being underexposed but I recall the immense mission of a drive to arrive at this location. Tired beyond words and near the state of a toddler tantrum Andrei propped me up and dragged me from the car. I was glad too, even just to remove myself from the wagon. We shot a few playful frames and looking at them now I cant imagine them in color.
With eyes dropping I’ll also include this one, as I am indebted for my lack of a post last week. This image is an opposite of those above. The colors define it. We decided to revisit the polluted lake; a location that although famous still offers new inspiration. The murky thick orange waters paint the scene and every time I am there I wonder what lies beneath.
Hopefully more awake and coherent next week
Eerie did not and cannot define this isolated and forgotten town. We cruised around in last light at a snails pace, curb crawling the empty ghostly shells of buildings. The atmosphere was amplified by not a single soul to be seen. What happened here?
The tease of this place was that capturing the buildings would never do the place justice. It was a filmmakers dream and the setting was a perfect backdrop to the tale. However I did not want to stay here; neither of us did. We were hesitant to even spend then night. I can't explain it but something just felt 'wrong'. It was bizarre, as I have never wanted to leave a place so rich in potential yet so heavy in negative ambience.
One night at least, that s what we agreed. With still no one in sight the next day Andrei and I played frustratingly amongst the incredible scenes.
The first exhibition opened tonight in Paris… the big party is tomorrow…
I feel like hotels have become my shell. I have been lucky enough recently to jump from country to country; shooting, working and learning…. so once again a late post …
With such a rationed stock of two cassettes of Polaroid film I was precious. Often when shooting Polaroid it can feel like guessing game as the focal plane never matches up to the viewfinder. The decision to reshoot the same frame based on the inaccuracies of the first are always a decision.
1) Is it worth it? 2) Do I change the exposure?
With such precious extinct film these decisions are laden with guilt, insecurities and often regret.
There was a scene recently in Romania I wish I had re-shot. It nagged me for days. When shooting analogue I always shoot 3 frames to be safe if I feel the scene/subject has potential.
It was a fleeting collide but the boy and his father seemed keen to help. The red popped out like a beacon and without hesitation I approached. The scene wasn't perfect but the harsh light and vivid red were a Polaroid match. Those 60 seconds of waiting to peel the film should have been done in front of them; instead I thanked them as we walked to the car, the unpeeled film resting tucked into my pants to keep warm against my belly.
As soon as it was revealed I lamented, the composition just wasn’t right… it didn't work. The beastly unpredictable nature of Polaroid had played me and won, once again.
Two images for my late post.
Both of these are from the Romanian rolls I recently found myself heartbroken to go through. The last trip felt good. A pure release and a chance to play and push myself; but alas with disappointing results. Perhaps the lack of portraits frustrated me but in general a wave of frustration swept over me as I impatiently scrolled through the scans. The next phase is to analyze why and where I failed.
In the mean time I shall remember some sweet memories that already seem so far away. This glass shop reminded me of being stuck inside an old aquarium. I remember my first fish tank had the vivid forest green foam on the bottom to keep it safe and this little shop was lined with the stuff. I found myself hypnotized as the salesman effortlessly glided the blade through the sheets of glass as if they were silk. They moved quickly and spoke very little. The main gent I was targeting unfortunately declined a portrait and seemed rushed off his feet and eager to hide. Disheartened but in the mood to shoot I caught a few frames as they cut our shapes.
Two sets of living rocks were on the agenda; my preferred option lay in a tiny village off road. As we meandered the windy gravel path we passed what appeared to be a father and son chopping down trees and building a fence. We parked up and wandered back down for a chat. They weren’t in fact related but both had interesting faces and the older man introduced himself as Romeo. We decided to wander the streets for a bit and an hour later we passed our friend Romeo again. He eagerly insisted to accompany us to the rocks but seemed a little more ‘merry’ by now. The confusing hike up made me feel incredibly grateful to have stumbled across a local willing guide. With time not on our side we stopped half way and sucked in the view. As I nestled amongst the UFO shaped stones I shot a few frames of our hero…OAO x
Despite having lots of practice to master to art of traveling I still seem to be epically failing...
I have the complete inability to travel light and every time I prepare a 'to go' bag to grab for my next trip it seems to get raided for emergency shampoo mid week or loaded with 'just in case items' ( exhibit A I just found a spare Nokia 3310 with charger and sim card packed for a 2 night stay in France)
Anyway, somehow myself and my luggage managed to make it here despite arriving at Gatwick an hour and half before take off and realizing Heathrow Terminal 3 was actually on my boarding pass.
So whilst Arles is beautiful I forgot how this old city is the last place on earth to get wifi. My sister has managed to skype me from the depths of South Asia jet picking up a decent wifi signal here is unheard of.
I ve been with Actes Suds today finalizing my book . I have to say that I'm slightly gutted as they seem great and I wish I could be happier with the work and feel it is ready as a book. However I see this book as a kind of comma to review the YWA project and look back over my blog. The book celebrates the award and the experience in itself if fascinating as Im learning the process and how it actually takes me far longer to edit than i anticipated. This book has come in a rush so an escape to Romania to focus my mind away and back to the roots of the work felt essential.
With the teeny window of decent wifi I managed to download the latest scans. Here s one from a few weeks back. With tired eyes Ill leave the stories until next week...bonne nuit oao xx
Which village? Which subject? Shall we move on? Shall we try and make it work? Is it going to rain...
I'm trying to go with the flow but actually somewhat enjoying the pondering questions that revolve around my head with each day of roaming. I vent that I am frustrated by my monkey brain but Andrei argues these questions are important. They infuse maturity in an approach, he comments with certainty. "The ability to make a decision is greater than just trying everything..."
I'm on the fence.
I often lament when leaving a scene to early or arriving too late. I kick myself for a badly composed frame or a badly lit portrait...as Sergi our 4x4 driver comments with a twinkle in his eye: " It is hard being an artist huh?"
I'm loving being on the road and only wish I could do it more. However I'm craving my own bed and being reunited with Pigeon.
Here's a decision I made. After a slight debate we did a U turn so that I could assess the scene. We had whizzed passed an old looking huge wheel of swings in the garden of a restaurant. It immediately felt like a deja vu before I connected that I had dreamt about something very similar a few nights before. Spooked, I walked over and shot a few frames...why not? even just as a reminder...oao x
I just dashed to the car to get my charger and was hit by a wall of snow filled wind. The wet flakes took me by surprise as I returned to the lobby soaked and miffed. I was wearing a t shirt yesterday and coating myself in factor 30...
Today we returned to the 'spot' in the haunted village we felt offered a seductive backdrop for a portrait but yet again it was ghostly empty. After losing our way and our patience we hit the road to Vatra Doreni and searched for the wooden path to the forest.
I'm tired so more stories next time but for now here's a relic from a trip to Romania at least 3 years ago when we spent the day school assisted by a group of patient creative and adorable kids. I’ll never forget the atmosphere of that building and it's cold concrete walls. It was a visual wonder.
Good night from the mountains OAO x
A bag the size of my cat stood neatly beside Alys as she warmly greeted me, soaked by the skylight at Birmingham station.
“Where’s your boat?” I asked
She pointed to her feet. I was curious to see how the Mary Poppins bag transformed into a vehicle.
The toasty sun on our cheeks was a treat for the stroll but a bitch for the shoot. We walked along the canal to find inspiration of where to shoot Alys in the boat.
4 minutes of well-rehearsed boat inflating, a large red dingy emerged. I was impressed.
We shot a few frames but the game of composition, light, angle and engagement was challenged further by a drifting current and a fisherman who would never catch a fish.
She hopped back to land as we headed further towards a dinky and unusual bridge.
Finding our next spot I held my Hasselblad to my face.
The shutter didn’t budge
Dark slide still in?
End of the roll?
I knew this situation a little too well
Digital it was then
The next idea was for me to be in the water too via an island. Taking it in turns to float across we reached a precarious straw filled island. The wind was picking up so we held everything down using rocks as I reluctantly raised my digital camera.
The screen went blank
Really???? 2 cameras?
One last try before I pulled in the back up digital…ok we ‘re alive again
Crossing back to stable land I felt my bum getting soaked. A hole in the boat from the rocksWe really weren’t having much luck.Slightly irritated we both decided a change of scene was essential.
We prowled the perimeter of the industrial wasteland looking for an entrance. Over-confidently we strolled through a car garage to climb over the wall. As soon as I reached the other side I smiled.
It was a stunning wasteland over grown with moss and plants.
Alys modestly explained the vegetation as we weaved through exploring like puppies in a new home.
Despite our tools failing this shoot was a perfect combination of a stunning stroll, a little adventure and great company.
The second image due to my huge slackness is an editorial. I rarely use the word nice. It feels insulting but in this case I mean it in the most positive way possible. Eileen Hogan was warm, gentle and just incredibly…. nice. Chatting to her about similar passions I felt a connection and a sense of calm and enjoyment on this shoot. Her subject matter at the moment is gardens and this felt just like taking a walk with her through some tranquil floral gardens. Relaxing and meditative.
I feel like I spend a lot of time: -In transit
So perhaps it's time for another adventure
A tired post I warn thee. At the moment I am delving through all of my negatives in search of a few for the shows coming up this year for the HSBC award. It's a strange task. Despite being boring most of the time it is also a lovely reminder of moments easily forgotten. This image is from the trip with lucky. Rambling through the forest en route to meet some massive dogs we came across this guy. Lucky warned he might not be too receptive. Baked in light I watched him work and edged closer with caution. We spoke a little and I talked about work in London and looking back the conversation feels like a million years ago. I recall feeling like we talked for about an hour. Chatting whist I danced in between the twigs attempting to compose something, stay upright and not get in his way. This shot makes me want to run back to a forest for a bit.
"Your hair looks glossy Pannack, what conditioner do you use?"
The dictaphone appears in my peripheral as we step off the train into the salty wind of the coast at Southend Central. Dench sports a next generation hyper camera device round his neck like a medallion over his iconic Fila sports top. The tiny camera blinks at me every second recording my movements like a tracking device. What have I let myself into I think?
At this point I don't know Dench that well. I mean I've seen him at PV's and we’ve done a show together but our banter is always lighthearted, sarcastic and enjoyable. I've always just thought..Peter Dench, he's a funny man, I like him. Strangely the first time I was introduced to him was when he tagged me in a video he made at Perpignan years ago. Flattering me with an excited commentary :"Now the party has really begun, Laura Pannack has arrived in Perpignan!". This royal introduction intrigued me and I was eager to meet this humorous charmer.
So today is a chance to go beyond that and really unravel the one they call Dench. I'm surprised and honored he's asked me to be in his book The Dench Dozen where he has selected a mere 10 British photographers and interviewed them in depth. (http://hungryeyemagazine.com/great-britons-of-photography-vol-one-the-dench-dozen/#buy)
This is our interview. I requested a stroll as I think it's the best way to break down barriers and evolve a relationship. I'm also craving a trip to a seaside town.
We decide to hit the pier. It's long. Really long..so long it holds the record as the longest pier.
What's at the end? A bar? A cafe? An arcade? No. Nothing.
When we do arrive at the other end, sweaty and disappointed Dench leans into the sea breeze...snap
So so close...but I usually opt for rest rather than post when my eyes are falling.
“Where would you like to shoot? It needs to be in London and have a relevance to Brexit. “
The mind races...everywhere has a relevance. I google the boroughs that voted to leave in London. There are four: To it is!
Samira flies over and herself and her suitcases of clothing pile into my weeny Kia. As we cruise to Dagenham we formulate a game plan. Ideally we are looking for first time voters. First stop , the colleges . As expected we receive the full on high vis security treatment after 10 mins of loitering. Fair play. Bus stops and curb crawling next. We manage to flag down a few teens and quickly realize that the day has flown by and light is fading. Having just returned back from the sunny Texas light I realize London at 3 pm is dark as a cave.
They flake one by one. Our last option is the only boy we spotted. With only girls clothing we are hesitant but Ryan’s white hair seem like a top option in this fading light and we manage to pull out a CK silver bomber jacket that makes him shine. I call it a day and say that rather than waste too much of his time we will shoot a few frames but return tomorrow...another paid modeling gig..sure he s up for it ...one happy 18 year old returns home.
He’s not picking up? This is so odd. He seemed fine this morning to meet at 11..where is he? Why has he got cold feet. Rhiannon and I are concerned and prepare ourselves for a repeat day of street casting before shooting.
“Hello” “Ryan! I thought you’d bailed” “Sorry the police stopped us. Im here , where are you?”
His baby face coyly greets us and explains that they were questioned for no reason and that this is a common occurrence. We shrug and drive on to our first spot. We leave Ryan to change in the car and return to find him drowning in a pair of jeans. He holds them up like clown trousers and we giggle as we manage to keep them afloat with a belt.
After switching to a few locations, one swimming with odd junk including fridges we decide the greenery was our best shout.
The sun disappears and the fleeting window of light we had vanishes. We drop Ryan off ,as he departs , he gleams and asks if he can model again. I reassure him that he would be an asset to any project, great hair, great attitude and a calm vibe. OAO x
After working off a cracked Iphone screen for a week I can safely say I value the luxury of a Macbook pro more than ever. A double whammy for my lack of tenacity to persist with tiny broken technology.
As many times as we dissect the tale Andrei and I seem to resort to allowing our feet to follow our noses in search of inspiration. It had been a week, and by now my mind is riddled with doubt and over analyzed concepts.
“Look!" he says as I dreamily gaze out of the window.
We stop the car. There are two boys playing with hand made bow and arrows. We exchange a gaze of total amazement. Their sense of adventure, choice of weapon and youthful appearance ...it was all so relevant.
Light was fading and fast. They agreed and played excitedly as I shot. Out of film I turn back to search my bag. Swinging around I see an empty darkening scene. It's silent.They have scampered off in search of more adventure.
The images don't ‘work' , not in the way I had imagined. Too literal? Bad light? Rusty composition... still the moment reminded me how fond I am of coincidences.
“Do you know who owns these puppies? “I say as three beautiful black cute pupps gaze up at me as if I have just given birth to them. They keep their eyes fixed on me as they slalom drunkly between my legs, tripping me up. This game continues for almost 40 minutes until I realize I have consented an adoption.
The tanned boy in baggy clothes cooly looks back and walks towards me. He bends down and pets them.
"No idea, but I think they’re yours now"
We stroll towards his house, speaking of the past and why he lives in a sleepy, secluded, small town miles from entertainment.
The past seems riddled with regret. He speaks of being saved, blessed by good people who accept him.
I meet his cats and dogs and we watch as all of the beasts fight for a munch at the treats. After shooting a few frames I step backwards onto a snoring pile of puppies safely guarding my camera gear.
Their love reaches no limits as they attempt to follow me as I cross the highway, escaping near death, they wait patiently for my return. We have no choice but to distract them with frankfurters before dashing into the car and speeding off. I watch them sadly in the mirror as we head to our next ghost town...oao x
My slackness is becoming more than a bad habit and I need to take a class in time management For my sins two images,
It's an arduous but essential process to painfully revisit everything I've shot from Romania and this neg is one I seem to return to.
In the cold, damp storeroom of the old school, abandoned paraphernalia lined the floor; I delved through the forgotten clutter and stumbled across these globes. It felt like someone had placed them there before I arrived. Looking at the image now I notice details that escaped me at the time; like the sellotape holding the two halves together. I have a huge urge to embark on another adventure right now; my feet are itching.
The second, another from my TIME shoot with Christine & the queens. Shooting black and white has snuck back into my process organically over the past few years and it's becoming a preference lately. It presents an alternative reality; allocating space to see the world more simply- in lines, tones and shades. Switching between colour and black and white is a conscious yet simple decision; it's always nice to have a choice ...
I have a knack for being frivolous and occasionally feel more comfortable firing odd the last few frames to the floor when needing to finish a roll. This is because it relieves the pressure of having to rush and find something ‘’interesting’ to shoot. However I am trying to be more open minded and less precious. I’m trying to see that any shot is better than a blank; it’s a challenging psychology to overcome.
Dad’s leg was hurting and the grey clouds were merging to black. We walked back to my wagon whilst I kept my eyes fresh for something to shoot. I needed to finish off the roll, as our plan was to play with chemicals in the kitchen and see if the dev would show some results this time round.
“I like your shoes” I said smiling at the young girl dancing in the puddles . Her trainers were flashing lights like beacons and creating her own private disco.
“Thanks” she said.
Her mother and I joked how it kept her visible and I asked if she wanted a portrait. “Sure!”
These few frames of an innocent little beauty were totally better than blank film and her intense gaze and killer fur attire make me smile.
Most of the places we hit in Texas we treated badly; disposing of them a little too flippantly before moving onto the next.
If there was one place I would have stayed in longer it would have been Brownsville. A destitute tumble -weed rolling town with Mexican characters roaming the streets; guitars strapped to them like riffles.
I spotted these kids on the street skating and it made me wonder what it would be like to grow up here. There was an air of purgatory. I couldn’t capture what I felt or saw and it’s on my list if I ever find myself in that part of town again.
Nyc swallowed me up and Thursday flew by without me catching it. So now aboard and in the air Ill write the over due post with more than one pic for my neglect
The moon was huge, hanging fat in the purple sky as night crept in. We stopped outside the only shop in the ghost town. A young man in a wheel chair disappeared from view so I walked to the rear of the wooden building to find a table full of deer guts and 2 men laughing as they chopped. The young boy was now seated in the truck peering out the window with a cheeky grin. After some friendly banter, a tour of the shop and an education as to how to gut a deer I explained the light was fading and wondered if I could take their portrait. Generously they agreed and we returned to the front to make the most of the light and include the big old moon.
This father and son were seamless as they digged fun at each other. Their closeness shone through in the uncanny similarity in their personalities. Their voices and demeanour were akin. As they waited for me to load my film I noticed how mirrored their pose was and asked them not to move. Looking at it now, it appears set up, which is odd. The moon looks so much more timid than I remember, like a small perfectly round burn in the negative.
I wish I had more time. As soon as we left Galveston my heart sank with the lack of ability to fulfil the potential of a great opportunity. Still the interaction can’t be replaced and I was lucky to meet Shannon at all.
I strolled straight up to the figure dressed in all white and dived into a chat. Shannon was with a church group working with previous offenders and it seemed the support was not only helpful but also incredibly empowering. We talked about life paths and how the programme was enabling a positive change and an exciting future ahead. The past was dark and troublesome but guidance came in the form of the programme leader with a neat moustache who Shannon clearly adored. Before any pictures were taken permission would need to be granted. I sensed a no and Hin and I worked hard to convince the straight-laced mentor we were wholesome. He eventually he agreed but I had a 5 minute limit. After a fleeting few frames Shannon rushed back to the church with haste. The warm polite goodbye was accompanied by an insistent heads up that we were naively one street away from the projects and to immediately turn on our heels, especially before the sun disappeared.