Back when I was a child, in what was a relatively strange childhood, I found myself at Kingham Hill School. I boarded there for two years. It was the third and last boarding school I attended between the ages of seven and sixteen, and – certainly more than the earlier two – that school had a profound effect on the way I am and the direction I took in life. Kingham Hill was established by Charles Baring-Young of the Barings banking family. He wanted to use his money to establish a means by which underprivileged children from the East End of London could receive a decent education. He established Kingham Hill as a ‘home for wayward and orphaned children’, and – being an orphan – I got in. By that time (1981), it wasn’t just kids from the East End of London that showed up, but kids from all over the world.
During those two years I read voraciously, pursued studies in the trumpet with a great teacher (and there found a passion for Scott Joplin, Louis Prima, Louis Armstrong et al, those things then very swiftly taking me to the blues, to country, to rockabilly and all the other genres of music that I love), and also discovered a fascination for photography. It was not only the stunning images in National Geographic that captured my imagination, but the very physicality of taking pictures – the equipment, the colours to be found in the lenses themselves, the very notion of preserving a fraction of a second in time and holding it for ever.
I was a lonely kid, I guess. I was very shy, struggling to find friends and any kind of anchor in a somewhat confusing world, and books and music and film and photography were my escape from all that I considered banal and mundane. The ads for Nikon cameras in those NG magazines seduced me completely. That’s what I wanted, and that’s what I had to have. I had a family friend, a man we called ‘Uncle Maurice’. He was a merchant seaman, and had been a dear friend of my mother’s. When my mother died in 1971 he continued to visit us when he was on shore leave, and he had a Nikon Photomic. He showed me photos he’d taken all over the world – the Mediterranean, South-East Asia, Hong Kong, Japan, the United States. He made a deal with me. If I wanted a camera, then whatever I managed to save he would double it. And so, at thirteen years of age, I obtained a Fujica ST605N. It was not the one I wanted, but it was a camera, and from that point until now I have always maintained an abiding passion in the subject.
A little while ago I started posting some of the pictures I’ve taken on Facebook. People have messaged me and asked about them, and asked for more. I thought I should put a little gallery of them on-line, and so here we are (www.lonelyeye.net). Some of them were taken with a Nikon F4S, others an FE2. I love film – the uncertainty, the spontaneity, the fact that so often the image you expect is not the one you get. I resisted the advent of digital, but finally I had to succumb. I used an Olympus PEN at first, then a Fuji X100T…and I waited and waited, and finally Nikon produced the digital camera I always wanted, the Df. And so, given the nature of my life, the fact that I am a nomad and a wanderer; given that I will never be desk-bound nor tied to someone else’s schedule; given that I am fortunate enough to be able to travel the world and see some amazing things, it is a joy to be able to capture some of those moments and keep them as reminders.
Why do we take photographs? Well, perhaps we all share the same fear: to walk the earth unseen, unknown, unrecognised, unremembered. Maybe a photograph is a way to remind ourselves that we were there and we had something to contribute. Maybe we take them to remind ourselves of good times, of better times, of times that we shared with people we love, some of whom may no longer be around.
Whatever the reason, it doesn’t really matter. Photo-graphy means ‘writing with light’, and that – just by itself – is magic enough for me.
Trust all’s well with you and yours.
Take care, and speak soon.