Category: Personal Work

SCRAPBOOKS ARE NOT CRAP BOOKS

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SCRAPBOOKS & CREATIVE PLAY.


What do you do with your old magazines or newspapers? Or (if like me you’re a photographer) your discarded contact sheets and unused prints that won’t ever see the light of day? Or even random bits of printed matter that catch your eye lying around on the street? Well call me old-fashioned, but I still gather them into what once upon a time we used to call scrapbooks.

I wasn’t even sure if scrapbooks still existed when I began writing this post (although I suppose Pinterest is a digital version of sorts), but a quick search on Amazon threw up a slew of very fancy versions so I guess they are still ‘a thing’.

Anyway, if you don’t know what one is, basically the idea is to collect your scraps and cutouts, get jiggy with glue and/or tape, and paste them into your book how you want. It’s lo-fi curation at it’s most hands on and tactile. But more than that it’s also a great form of creative freewheeling and play.

I tend to cut up a lot of my own work and use it quite brutally. In fact, as you can see from the images above, I often score and scratch the surfaces with a knife and then paint over them. Maybe that’s a healthy form of deconstruction?

I also give vent to verbal imagery and thoughts that don’t follow any logic or might rise as a suggestion from what I’ve pasted together. A kind of automatic writing.

And yes I confess to appropriating some found imagery and using it in contexts that wouldn’t normally be their home, so apologies if anyone out there is offended. I’m not making any money from them but using them because they are usually visually striking or speak to me in some way.

Anyway if cutting things up and sticking them in over-sized books appeals to you, I recommend it as a creative tool. It helps ‘out of the box’ thinking, breaks down ideas that have been stuck, preconceptions, or points to new directions. It also helps remove preciousness or perfectionism which in my case can only be a good thing.

Mostly though the value of a scrapbook is simply in the doing, the cutting and pasting, a form of collecting and ‘doodling’. The joy is enough.

Why am I highlighting this today in terms of my image making?

Well, recently I’ve given myself permission to try to unlearn elements of my practice as a photographer (and my ‘learned’ historic creativity in general) – to try to see again after half a lifetime of believing I was ‘seeing’. I’m hoping this will alter and improve my creative output. The scrapbook process is really helpful here. It’s pure playing. Trying to leap over or around logic and reason. And it often throws up unexpected things: unique juxtapositions, project ideas, a ‘hook’ or theme, who knows. 

One thing I have noticed is that a scrapbook distills the symbols and visual elements that I find appealing. It generates a kind of personal lexicon or dictionary and that is great to mine elsewhere in my work.

So forgive my indulgence in showing some pages here from my scrapbooks, but I hope that this might be impetus enough to send you on a quest to start (or keep going with) your own.

Actually there’s a great book called Photographer’s Sketchbooks published by Thames & Hudson that’s worth checking out – I’m not alone!!

So is there anyone else out there that indulges this passion for scrapbooks? I’d love to hear from you or better still share some of your pages if you can.

All images © James Bellorini 2015

James is a commercial, editorial and documentary photographer. He started shooting professionally in 2013 and has since worked with advertising agencies, design agencies, entrepreneurs, performers, musicians, DJ’s, singers, models, and culture and entertainment organisations/brands. Recent clients include: Siren Design, Glyndebourne Productions Ltd, Sonisphere UK, Stone Nest, The Old Vic etc.  

 


SMALL ACTS OF REBELLION

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ANALOGUE PHOTOGRAPHY & HOW IT HELPS ME CONNECT.


Style. Beauty. Authenticity. The unexpected.

If I’m not playing with at least one of those things in my photography and/or business at least once a week then I get jittery. Seriously. And I’m not talking something like coffee jitters, you know. It’s worse. Like a chunk has been taken out of my soul.

When that happens I need to shake the shackles off and make a stance for my creativity. That’s the way I keep going. So I find ways to experience one or more of those elements I’ve listed above through small acts of rebellion (SARs).

Take this little bunch of pics here. All shot over a month ago on a camera that uses FILM. Remember that stuff?

I think of analogue photography and the photos themselves as SARs.

Why?

Well the image/outcome can’t be the only thing I’m focused on, even though it does take up a huge part of  my attention. It’s the process as well. It has to be. It can’t be product product product all the time. Like the old adage says it’s not the destination, but the journey that’s important. For me, it’s taken a bit of time to understand that.

Which is also happens to be part of my point.

Time. Patience. Slowing down a bit. Breaking out from the digital treadmill. It runs against the grain these days. We’re often made fearful that we might ‘miss’ something or not be cutting edge enough if we haven’t for example sprung something new on social media in the last hour.

It makes sense to my creativity to throw into my photographic mix the discipline of slowness when I need it. Taking my foot off the photographic pedal. Allowing a whole month from the shutter-press to the point of editing and publishing personal photos (good or bad) is a small act of rebellion.

And what does that rebellion lead to? Fruit. Maybe not always immediate or ‘commercial’ fruit. But other kinds. In this here picture-monger it creates excitement, inner space and a greater awareness of the world around me and what I’m doing in it. Which photographically and creatively has to be a good thing.

And in this case there is also the greater appreciation of the medium itself: film, film cameras and all things analogue photography. Go get an old camera and walk out with it. It’s amazing how many conversations start because of this old contraption slung over my shoulder.

Then there’s the film ‘X’ factor.

Maybe you can’t see it in the pictures. I hope you can. Maybe it’s so sublime as to be like a breath of wind across the back of your hand. There is a depth and richness that comes from film (I want to say the word like I might say “ice cream” – playing it round my mouth, tasting it). The images are that much more sensual than the digital equivalent.

I’m often battling on the front between two forces: creativity and commerce. When they’ve signed their peace treaty and are working hand in hand that’s an amazing place to be. More often than not though, they are dividing their territories and building defences. Slowing down in this way actually helps them both come to terms with each other. Plus I have time to learn more about myself and my craft which soothes the creative beast in me and at the same time provides fuel for better photos (my products) for clients.

The business of making and creating is often conducted through a ‘cloud of unknowing’. Walking blindly in the cerebral dark guided by a tiny whisper of light in the guts, with limited conscious understanding of where you’re going. Yet knowing that you have to go, whatever. It’s the kind of place that, like a rebellion, lacks a sense of control. A place I’m hoping will always be a frontier of change.

If you’re interested, my ‘museum pieces’ are a Mamiya C220 TLR with 80mm lens and a Mamiya 7 with a 65mm lens. They help keep me sane.

I think of all of this a bit like this song by Parov Stelar – it’s kind of old and yet at the same time it very much of today as well. Have a listen and you’ll see what I mean.

All photography © James Bellorini 2015. All rights reserved.

James is an editorial and documentary photographer working for the commercial and consumer markets. He started shooting professionally in 2013 and has since worked with advertising agencies, design agencies, entrepreneurs, performers, musicians, DJ’s, singers, models, and culture and entertainment organizations/brands. Recent clients include: Innovision, UKTI, Siren Design, Glyndebourne Productions Ltd, Stone Nest, The Old Vic etc.


LEICA MEET: SELECTION OF EXCELLENCE

Leica Meet Selection Of ExcellenceI’m privileged to have this image chosen in the latest Leica Meet Selection of Excellence. You can see the full selection of images from all the photographers chosen here.

It was taken at Leica Meet Soho in early 2014. It now forms part of my ongoing ‘Polarities’ street project based in and around the Oxford Street/Centrepoint area of London.
 
Leica M with 35mm Summicron Lens.

Edited in Lightroom & Alien Skin Exposure 6.

Image © James Bellorini. All Rights Reserved.

James is an editorial and documentary photographer working for the commercial and consumer markets. He started shooting professionally in 2013 and has since worked with advertising agencies, design agencies, entrepreneurs, performers, musicians, DJ’s, singers, models, and culture and entertainment organizations/brands. Recent clients include: Innovision, UKTI, Siren Design, Glyndebourne Productions Ltd, Stone Nest, The Old Vic etc. In September 2015 he joined the Redeye Network’s Lightbox programme for emerging photographers. 


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