Category Archives: photojournalism

Why I Document The Little Things

Reece Pickering- 8/02/16

As photographers we’re all guilty of it, depicting ‘high-end photoshoots’ in ‘exclusive’ locations on Instagram.

Hashtag, shoot, hashtag, shoot, hashtag, stop.

Instagram channels dedicated to the premise of behind the scene shoots, #BTS #exclusive #studio #location; then we document our refined, edited and post-produced images on all platforms of social media.

I do this myself, every single day as a practicing photographer, but the one thing in learning this is that I’ve discovered this gives little relevancy or personality of the photographer to the viewer.

There is no personality, just other people or whatever might be your area of specialisation.

Yesterday I was speculated by a friend for posting pictures of rooms and anecdotes in my life, images which didn’t conform to the usual aesthetic of my Instagram feed.

But why?

“It isn’t professional”

“It doesn’t fit”

“They don’t fit within the context of your work.”

Time and time again I scour Instagram feeds to follow users with aesthetically interesting compositions, stories, and the more intricate side of their personality.

This doesn’t include selfies, drunken posts tagged from club photographers or hotdog legs taken abroad in two week piss-ups in Mallorca.

But I followe those who are able to narrate their lives visually via their Instagram feed. In a platform which is loud with shout-outs and follow-for-follow hackers; there is nothing more refreshing as a photographer to see users making beautiful compositions with fine details which give a clue as to how they see the world.

This is creating a personality on social media, and as many look past documenting the smaller things; people (more so clients) will look for this personal approach.

So regardless of whether that gum on the bin wasn’t as ‘cool’ (whatever that word means) as a Starbucks cup, shoot it, Rastafarian man stood outside of Mcdonalds? Shoot it. (I still to this day regret not taking that one).

Have a girlfriend?

Photograph her as much as you can, who else would let you do that?

 

Instagram: @reecepickering_

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Behind The Scenes: ‘Scene’ Series.

This past month, I was assigned to fulfil a brief; the brief was specifically to document a subculture. 

But in the society we find ourselves in today, what constitutes a subculture?

Is it because of how we dress, like the good old days of the new romantics, or the teddy boys or the mods?

Or  is it now how we act as people which defines us as a ‘subculture’?

Does a subculture even exist anymore? besides the new age plague of health goths, Kardashian clowns, Vegans or wheat snobs (myself being the latter). I believe they do when you filter out the more ‘ahem’ contemporary subcultures, you just have to look harder.

Looking harder brought me to a point in my photographic career which broadened my aesthetics, my visual language, but most importantly; my perception of our society.

Last year I was commissioned to photograph an outstanding individual, a subject who has since became a good friend to me and my work; so aesthetically interesting with skin like a tattooed tapestry, the kind of human features that interests the likes of a portraitist photographer, but not in a Mickey Rourke kind of way.

But my work on the subcultures brief began with the help of my good friend David. During the last photo shoot, David had mentioned about his personal interests, beliefs and passions; at the top of his list was the subject of BDSM.

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David in One of Many BDSM Uniforms With The Emblem Reading ‘

For those who aren’t in the know, BDSM can be many different things: Bondage & Discipline, Domination & Submission, Sadism & Masochism.

It means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, when David had first mentioned it, it meant nothing of the sorts to me. Until I began to push myself out of my comfort zone. It’s not until creatives begin to do this, that things really start to come to life.

I researched more about BDSM as a subculture, looking into the work of Photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, and his interest in the BDSM scene.

David began to tell me of the empowering qualities that BDSM had brought to his life, how dressing as domineering figures gave him that empowerment and excitement. Experimentation in his early 20’s had now brought David into the wholly into the world of BDSM and as he put it “I’de became part of  both a community, and a family”.

There are thousands upon thousands of people who share this passion with David and his friends, and that’s just in the UK.

It’s just that people like you and I are unknown to this world of leather and rubber. Exposed to it only via mediocre media portrayals and cheap documentaries, not to mention poorly directed movies about it.

Yes, that means fifty shade too; sorry Sam Taylor-Johnson. But it’s films like these which provoke a negative public perception of BDSM in it’s entirety; I wanted to create a series of photographs which could help change this and bring exposure to the true nature of BDSM.

Before I could say oh my, I found myself in my studio space surrounded entirely by custom made leather suits (some of which reaching £700), rubber leggings, and a giant St. Andrews cross.

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Andrew: “It was natural Progression, I liked experimenting and a bit of rope led onto other things”.

Each subject openly stated their interest in BDSM before the shoot, and their interest in doing what they could to expose their passion to the world.

I began with wanting to capture the subjects as individuals, in a series of portraits which would contrast them with their everyday attire, to portraying them as their chosen figure; as the submissive or the domineering.

Some had never spoken to their parents about it, some had openly written best selling books on their ties with BDSM.

But what really began to captivate me during the shoot became both the premise of the shoot, and the title of the series: ‘scene’.

When two partners interested in BDSM come together, whether that may be sexually, intimately or as friends; this can bee deemed as a ‘scene’. Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 19.26.02

“I’m passionate because we are so quick to class things as taboo when they really shouldn’t be. It’s fun, sex and sexuality and nothing to be ashamed of and if we were all a little more open the world would be a better place”.

During the shoot I would ask the subjects what is what about BDSM that attracted them, and keeps them passionate to this day and one word began to reoccur over and over again; trust.

It was clear that BDSM to these guys was all about trust, this became apparent whilst photographing each person, as an individual and as a couple. Both parties depending on who is the most dominant, sacrifices their safety in some scenes, giving everything to those they have chosen to take charge.

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“There is a genuine level of Magic: of power and self-transformation in the exploration of self and archetype – of becoming what we image and desire. That’s empowerment beyond most other experiences in your life.”

After this the series quickly became focused on this interaction between the couples in this case ‘the handler and pup’ (above).

My usual dark and dramatic aesthetics fit well with this series in the sense that the choice of background was lycra, an animalistic element to shoot with the material contorting like skin.

Rustic elements like crates gave hint to a more traditional theme, which was my way of classifying this subculture as one that is not only a big part of our society, whether some may like that or not; but BDSM is one that has been around a whole lot longer. It became much more than a series, but for the BDSM community, it was a statement.

A statement to which as a photographer I’m proud to have help them make.

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See the whole series @ reecepickering.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Quit My Job to Spend a Week With The Refugees of Kos

Reece Pickering- 19/08/15

Swarms, pests, these were just some of the nouns the British government had laid down to describe the plight of the refugees.

I’m still unsure as to which interviews those short sighted cynics in the EU quoted these, but it’s harder to keep track when the crisis isn’t just on the Greek Island of Kos, but in Calais, Australia, Holland, Sweden, and the UK.

The plight of the refugee has became a global emergency.

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May 29th I’de been shown a copy of a British newspaper, sloppily quoted all over the front were the claims from tourists that the Greek Island of Kos had became a ‘hell-hole’.

Allegedly, the island was overturned with refugees taking shelter on iconic tourist spots on the bay; begging for money, filling up the streets whilst they waited for their papers.

Things couldn’t have been more wrong.  

Further research via amateur videos posted online, I found the ownership of those quotes belonged mainly to bloated, sun baked Brits; for a second I was ashamed of my own country for the comments made.

Summer had rolled in, and I hadn’t travelled for more than 5 months, preparation for shooting personal work had started; the timing for this project couldn’t have been more perfect.

There was just to small task of quitting my job.

The bullsh*t behind sellingFH040013 herbal pharmaceuticals had taken it’s toll anyway.

After serving 24 hours of my 7-day work notice that I elegantly scribbled onto a post-it,  I began researching the Greek island of Kos and the refugee crisis. Which brought me to booking the cheapest dive money could buy; and a budget airline ticket from Gatwick.

Before I could say the Ouzo, I was drenched in sweat; lugging the best part of 30kg worth of studio kit on my back; scouring the town of Kos for this ‘hell-hole’.

This was the first one of many instances when I had began to question the media altogether.

There wasn’t a migrant in sight.

On the off chance I’de been given a hint from a local at the scooter hire, stating that the refugees were being accommodated for; living in an abandoned hotel, ‘The Captain Elias’. The entire island was livid with the British newspaper; so much that they had began petitions and online groups ‘Kos is not the hell-hole’.

Friends had tried to deter me from making the trip in fear that I would hit a language barrier, or a fist.

So to counteract the issue, had written model releases for the whole group; along with one watermelon, and a crate of Buxton lodged into the seat of the scooter.

I travelled to the island with the intention of creating a series of portraits of the refugees, documenting each of their stories to accompany the photograph, and of course to give the middle-finger to the media for portraying them in such an inhumane way.

Following the directions of the dodgy salesman at the scooter joint, I arrived at the hotel at 3pm handing out water as I stepped through the masses of people; all were waiting for food. This was the one time in the day that the refugees were given food, which most surprisingly had been donated by restaurants across the island; despite the Greek debt crisis of course.

So stop whining Calais.

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Within minutes I learned my lesson in handling this kind of story, something a photographer who specialised in photographing gangs had told me just days before; the agreement between subject and photographer is that of mutual respect.

I was there to document a personal approach, not facts, or figures.

Basically No bullsh*t.

Translating these intentions onto the model release in Urdu and Arabic, piece by piece of broken English the refugees understood my intentions.

Right after someone had tried to smash my Gopro for filming whilst they were eating that is, although they had sincerely apologised after they knew why I was there.

The ‘Captain Elias Hotel’ may have looked post apocalyptic, but it’s smoke-strewn walls and tent-filled yards allowed me to add visual clues to the narrative that I was trying to tell with my images.

My visual language suited the aesthetic, being more inclined to take images with dramatic lighting; I began to utilise the almost war-torn carcass of the hotel. Room-by-room.

AMMAD_4This suited the sitters, as they wanted to keep their identities hidden, which you’ll see in the images.

Something I began to notice right away was the fear of their own government.

But as the days progressed, this faded away.

As the days progressed, I began to realise that the subjects were mostly young men, the same generation as myself.

So I began to build that narrative, documenting each of their stories, aspirations and struggles living the life they did; what had they risked to get there?

The narrative became so strong that I continued to photograph the younger refugees between the ages 18-30 for the remainder of the week.

Mainly because I felt that the youth had it so much worse during times of war, lives were halved, degrees dropped, and any concept of a future was put on hold.

Some were mechanics in past lives, some wanted to be scientists, studying chemical deployment. The latter being Wael (below left) the first refugee I had photographed. When the others saw this on the LCD they said “hey man you gotta make me look like this guy”. They wanted people to know their stories, they said that they just wanted to look like superheroes.

“…lives were halved, degrees dropped, and any concept of a future was put on hold.”

I wanted to flatter them despite their circumstances. They protested at the concept of being photographed next to tents. So I promised my friends that wouldn’t be the case.

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Tampi (centre) had told me of how he fought Isis, Mohammad (far right) told me the story of how his brother had been shot  times by the Syrian army, simply for leaving it to help his family during the war; he was deemed a traitor for it.

“They wanted people to know their stories, they said that they just wanted to look like superheroes.”

His brother had survived and made it to Turkey, Mohammad just wanted to get back to his side.

JAFFAR_Each person had trusted me not only with their stories and photographs, but also with their only points of contact to their family and friends.

The hotel had no electric, so each night I would take back 5 or 6 phones to charge and bring back the next day. This was fine even though their alarm to be called for prayer had woken me everyday at 5am.

But trust was built, photographs were taken and their stories were captured.

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The letter ‘A’ carved into Hammad’s arm represents the name of his girlfriend, killed by a Syrian sniper, 18-years old.

When I ask Hammad what happened to the sniper he says, “all you need to know is that he’s dead”.

I travelled to the island of Kos in the hopes that not only the UK would look further than the statistics, facts and figures provided by the media around the migrant crisis; but the rest of the world. That they’ll look further into those in the photographs, taking the stories with them.

If I can do this with my images, I hope that I’ve done my part in aiding the migrant crisis.

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For the more in-depth stories of each refugee and the rest of the series, catch them on Instagram: @reecepickering_

You can check out behind the scenes moving image piece on the series below.

https://vimeo.com/136666569