Am I missing something?

In my discussions with students yesterday, the subject of my blog came up and I was asked about how people react to being asked for a photograph.  I replied truthfully about my finding that in general the following rules apply:

  • Men more often than not will agree, and frequently without asking me why I want their photograph
  • Women of other nationalities usually ask what the picture is for and then agree
  • British women are the most reticent.

I’ve tended to assume that the reason for this last category is twofold:

  1. I frequently shoot people when they’re out walking on the beach, when, to their mind, they may not look their best.  Understandable, but why don’t men react similarly?
  2. There may be a degree of caution about a strange man who wants to take your photograph.  I could be a stalker after all!

Yet there must be more to it than this.  This weekend I encountered two young women, Jessie & Laura who were both reluctant to be photographed, yet neither of these reasons could explain their refusal.  Both were beautiful, one whose dark hair provided a frame for the broadest of smiles, the other a slim blue-eyed blond with great bone structure.  Neither was caught unawares or without make-up, and they were in a safe environment where my credentials had been established by the university.

Ironically they were both part of the same team, which emerged as winners of the activity my colleagues and I were running and so were obliged to be part of the team photo at the end.  Even then they each chose to retire to the back row to minimise their presence as you can see above.

I accept that there are some people who just don’t like being photographed, but why does it seem to be disproportionate between the sexes?  I’d be interested in other people’s theories about this, so please leave me a comment below if you have a view to share.

Almost inevitably when I got home this afternoon I went to the beach, approached the first man I spotted and within 30 seconds I had a portrait of Anthony.  QED.


The Thinner Blue Line


After a day of rain, a beautiful evening, but coming too late in the day for many to appreciate it.  Anyone who might have fancied a day by the seaside would have given up long ago, driven away by water from above or by rising tides before.

As I arrived at Roker the tide was just turning and there was beautiful sand aplenty, blue skies, and still a bit of warmth in the sun.  I wasn’t here for that though, and having the beach to yourself is no privilege when you’re looking for a portrait.

No worries today though for my quarry was unmistakable, though when my wife saw them their picture she commented that they looked “too young and bonny to be police officers“.  Technically of course they are not.  They are PCSO’s, Police Community Support Officers, individuals who support the police and carry out a limited range of duties to allow the regular police officer to concentrate on “more appropriate duties”!

Nevertheless they are employed by the police, as women have been for nearly a century, though it wasn’t until 1973 that they were fully integrated into the force rather than treated as a separate service.  The original women’s force was recruited to tackle prostitution, rather than as any sort of parallel to the Met, and it seems to have taken way too long to have closed the gender gap.

I’m sure there are many battles still to be fought for equality in the police force, just as there are in many other walks of life, but we’ve come some way when being “young and bonny” isn’t a barrier to being able to tackle anti social behaviour, and you don’t need to be so tall as to get good leverage with a truncheon either.

I don’t know what the difference in their uniforms signifies, but rank doesn’t matter to me – they are simply Emma and Sarah. 




Time Passages

My adoptive mother was 40 years older than me, and I always remember her as “old”, and even the parents of my school friends, though less mature, seemed to be both out of touch in their attitudes and physically haggard.

Now of course I’m viewing life through the other end of the telescope, yet it seems to me that my generation are very different.  People who I might once have written off with that terrible label “middle-aged” are still very active, healthier and seemingly better looking.

I’m not so pretentious as to claim to be still “down with the kids”, and I’m pleased that I haven’t a clue about We Are Scientists, the band that my youngest daughter is seeing tomorrow.  I have my own musical tastes and preferences, but I know that if I was prepared to put the time aside to listen to more of her music I would still “get it”.  Rock and roll might have differentiated us from our parents, but no longer.  Jagger, McCartney, Dylan and Mitchell are grandparents now, but deities in the pantheon of rock.

One of our friends had a significant birthday earlier this year, and whilst I offered to do a formal portrait shoot for her she was having none of it!  Unfairly then I ambushed her this evening on a girls night out with my wife.  Four women of a certain age and all looking great.  How is that possible?  Better lifestyles, better health, better cosmetics or just a different attitude, a refusal to be old before their time?  I think the latter, but whatever the reason I’m glad to be able to have the opportunity to photograph their beauty.

Thanks E – not just for the portrait, but in deciding on a title for this blog for reminding me about Al Stewart! x

Al Stewart – Time Passages