16 November 2009

And so....

Yesterday, while walking my dog, I made a decision that filled me with relief but also sadness.
This project has reached its natural end. I think I knew it was coming, but didn’t want to say it out loud.
When I began photographing faces back in February, it was mostly a little experiment. Was I brave enough to ask strangers and could I get a decent picture in a moment? I decided it was good practise and had no idea how long it would go on. I liked the idea of a year, but would have been pleased with a full month of faces!
The project started to change very early on. Rather than just jotting down a first name, I began to chat a little with those I had photographed. The feedback I got was that people liked this. They liked to see the faces with the stories. And so did I.

I am a photographer, but I am also a busy mum of two young children, a wife, and a youth counsellor. I’m living a very ordinary life, apart from those times when I’m pacing the streets in Norfolk, trying to summon up the courage to approach somebody and say the words I’ve said over and over “excuse me…this may sound odd…I’m doing a project about faces in Norfolk…I couldn’t possibly take your photograph..could I?”
Most people said yes, perhaps it helped that I looked as nervous as they did. I was nervous. Approaching strangers has never got easier as time has gone on. The most common response was ‘..my face…?!’
This project has been an extraordinary experience. I am so grateful to every single person that said yes, that stood patiently as I asked them questions and then answered those questions. It’s not every day that somebody stops you on the street, photographs you in front of everybody walking by, and then asks ‘what are you afraid of?’ or ‘what is your earliest memory’. I have been so amused, touched and occasionally humbled by some of the things that have been said, not all of which I could include! One man, a big strong man, 6 ft plus, who welled up when mentioning his divorce. The most important thing was that this project remained respectful. I told people that if they did not like the photograph, or changed their mind, they should let me know. This only happened once.
A highlight for me was receiving a comment on the Visitors’ Book from a doctor at the hospital, telling me “The project gave me pause for thought and reminded me of why I chose to become a doctor: people.” I still feel so touched by this.
And another man who called to say thank you – that he had been noticed before for his music, but never for just him or his face.
I’m so proud of this project. I didn’t get every single photograph looking exactly as I hoped, I had to take what I got in the time that I had – but I still love looking at every single face. I tried to make it as varied as I possibly could. More men said yes than women, and younger women more often said yes than older. Women between 40 and 60 were least keen.

And now, with more demands in my everyday life, not least a new dog that needs walking twice each day, work, and an awareness that going out to find faces has become much more of a pressure, I want to stop the project while I am still happy with it. 250 faces feels like a good number. I hope to have a further exhibition of some of these images in the New Year
The photography of course will continue. Along with the general work, I will be going out and about and exploring more candid street photography. A different sort of challenge, but one I’m excited about! I will begin a new blog for this very soon. Huge thanks to everyone who has dropped by to look or to leave a comment. And huge thanks to those who have become a fan of this project!

2 November 2009


"why would you want to photograph me?

David was perplexed but happy to let me take his picture. He was standing inside a building, it was pouring with rain outside. He was stood at the window waiting for his wife. He had a beautiful sleeping child in a buggy.

"I'm a postman, but not working today due to strike. People have generally been very supportive and understanding"

"...the children being born has to be the highlight of my life"

1 November 2009


"I'm scared of balloons. But this means that it's always me that gets surrounded by children holding balloons at parties, maybe they somehow know I don't like them!"

Ann wasn't at all sure about being photographed. We talked for quite a while before she felt maybe it was okay. I explained about the project and tried to reassure that it is respectful.

"Best moment of my life was my niece being born. My sister's child. Sadly I just missed the actual birth, but it was still incredible

31 October 2009


"You can take my picture yeah, but I'm not from Norfolk"

I told Ranjit that this was fine, this project is about the faces in Norfolk not from Norfolk! He was walking with a friend through a shopping centre on a very rainy day.

"I guess a turning point in my life was getting married very young and having children young. It forced me to be more responsible. This is a good thing! It all turned out well"

"I'm an IT professional. But tonight I'm going to see a rock/metal band called Clutch. An American band, we're going to see them at The Waterfront"

30 October 2009


"I'd like to go back to being 7. I have good memories of that time"

Chris was watching intently as I had photographed Steph. I liked the intensity of his face, so I asked to photograph him. He didn't mind at all and talked easily

"I grew up on a farm for 16 years. I do miss it, but I can go back any time"

"..I'm training to be a football coach now, we go to schools and stuff like that..."

"...I'd really love to go to Australia one day"

29 October 2009


"I remember being 3. I used to like to chew bacon. My grandma would come home and check my mouth for bacon"

I had not initially felt brave enough to approach Ahmed. He was sat on a bench. He was a very tall man and he was sat looking pretty fed up. I felt worried that I would just annoy him if I approached. I passed again a bit later and he was sat with his wife and they were both smiling. I decided to risk it.. He was happy to say yes once he understood what it was for.

"I am visiting here. I teach Africology at The University of Wisconsin. My students are a bit scared of me too...I say 'why didn't you come talk to me about this' and they say 'cos you look too mean'!"

"I tried to stop a man beating up a woman once, but she attacked me, screaming at me 'that's my man!"

28 October 2009


"I had a paper round once. It was the worst job"

Steph had just joined a big group of friends outside The Forum in Norwich. I've photographed here before and the steps outside are often filled with different groups of young people. I've also noticed older people in the cafe outside or the benches near the church muttering or looking disapprovingly at the noise coming from the youngsters or just the look of them. However, I have approached several of these groups and they have always been far from intimidating. Usually very friendly and curious. Many have even tried to help me find more faces or wished me well. Steph also wished me well as we parted.

"I know what I'd love to do. Sea, board (she gestured with her hands, amused by not remembering for a moment)....surfing! Yes, surfing!"

"I'm studying fine art right now. Tonight I'm looking forward to going to a party!"

27 October 2009


"..I worked in a slaughter house for a while. It was horrible"

Alan surprised me by saying yes to being photographed. I spotted his face and passed by twice before asking him. His face had a very serious expression and an edge to it. But he actually had a job keeping a straight face. He wanted to look serious for his photograph, but it took several attempts as his face kept breaking into a laugh.

"I don't think moving to Norwich was the best thing I've done. I lived on the outskirts before. I find Norwich too noisy and violent sometimes"

26 October 2009


"the next thing I have to look forward to is getting married very soon..!"

I spotted Roz leaving a cafe with her partner. It was quite a busy area, but she coped brilliantly with passers-by peering and wondering what was going on.

"..probably the bravest thing I've done is staying alive.." She said this with a laugh, but I remarked that this is probably true for many people

"I am also looking forward to having a baby" - she grinned up at her partner when saying this, and he replied 'well, not quite yet" and she laughed.

25 October 2009


"..If I could back 10 years, I'd tell myself to take up what I'm doing now earlier. I dossed around for a bit too long.."

Josh was with a large crowd, mostly other lads. Always especially nerve wracking to approach a crowd, but once someone says yes and I'm working with the person, it's fine. If they say no, then it's worse, as the whole crowd stand and watch you wander off and you just hear 'what did she want?' as you go!

"I'm studying fine art at the Art School. I want to be a tattooist. I'd love to run my tattoo salon"

24 October 2009


"I've just moved here from Northamptonshire. I love Norwich!"

Josie seemed very relaxed about the whole thing. I was talking with her and Rory at the same time. I asked what was one of the best decisions she'd ever made

"..to be in a band I think. I play the violin and sing too. And the mandolin. It's a kind of folksy band. Rory plays the banjo and the guitar. And sings"

23 October 2009


"..I walked naked around City College one night. Bit drunk. Messing about. But a security guard threatened to call the police.."

Rory was sat on some steps eating with his friend Josie. It was one of those moments when the people I am asking are looking so serious that I'm sure they are about to say no. Instead he replied 'sure!'. I felt Rory had a slight melancholy look about him, but he had a strong sense of humour and fun too.

"..I used to live in Norwich a while back but things changed for me and I made a decision to move away, that was a big decision. Back to Maidenhead. But I have come to see Josie. We're in a band together"

22 October 2009


"I hate spiders. And clowns. Ugh"

Steph made me laugh a lot. She was feisty and sharp. She had friends with her who stared as all this went on, but she kept her cool brilliantly. She often used 'sweet' as a word of approval. When I first asked to photograph she said 'sweet! yeah - do it!'.

"I spilt a fish on a snooker table once. Got into trouble for it. I was crawling about in the rafters of our old garage when I was a kid and I think it was my brother who had stashed a fish in a bucket of water. And tipped over, fell down and landed on the snooker table"

21 October 2009


"..establishing my business is the best thing I've done.."

Clare was with Josh. They were looking at some market goods and she was singing away to some music that was playing. I liked how she seemed unselfconscious. She was a bit taken aback when I asked to photograph her, but then decided to have fun with it and perform a little.

"..I'm a headhunter in architecture. I know the face doesn't fit really but that's what I do.."

"..but I'm also in a band. A ska band. We're called No Doubt Tribute"

20 October 2009


"I'm a musician. I play bass guitar in a band"

Josh was very calm and good humoured throughout. He was walking through a local market with his friend Clare, a band member. He was wearing a hat, but Clare told him to remove it, then he felt concerned that his hair might be messed up. I thought it looked fine, but know nothing about these things of course...

"I was brought up by my mum, a single parent.. she taught me to always be myself. And to respect women. That was a big one"

19 October 2009


"My parents taught me to be conscientious"

Shawn was incredibly calm. He may not have felt it, but he talked with me easily and was easy to photograph quickly.

"I think I'd like to jet ski, it looks like a good thing to do"

"...but I'm scared of injections. Pretty much anything sharp really...anything pinny..!"

18 October 2009


"18th August 1946. The best day of my life. The day I married my wife. She hasn't changed a single little bit"

Clifford and his wife were together at a bus stop. They both talked to me for quite a time, though his wife did not want to be photographed (I was disappointed but understood. She had a wonderful face). As we parted he kissed my hand and gave me a Murray Mint! His wife remarked that he's always giving them to women!

"...and we have a cross word every day. We are both about to turn 80. We argue all the time. How can we not when neither of us ever stop talking!"

"...I wanted to be a sailor. I dreamt of being a sailor. But my father made me join the army.."

"..you have to keep going, keep lively. I hurt my ankle a while back, but I just kept going on it as best I can, and it sorts itself out"

17 October 2009


"I'm now in my GCSE year. I've no idea how it will go. Okay I think"

Sophie was with friends, and she did very well to remain composed while they teased and made remarks. I snapped this quickly as she laughed at one of the remarks

"I swam with dolphins in Florida. And one of them was a famous dolphin - the child of Flipper!"

16 October 2009


"..soon I'll be going to visit a man of 90. He's amazing. Inspiring. So much life in him yet. So much spirit. And he still has an eye for the ladies too"

I asked Alan as he came out of a shop on a high street. He was taken aback, but did agree. He was amused by it.

"...if I could go back to see myself at 16, I'd probably tell myself not to be quite so reckless. But I wouldn't have listened anyway. You can't put a wise head on young shouders"

15 October 2009


"I'd love to do a Bungee Jump. I think I could do it"

Tom was working with Giles and Lynn. He understood the project and was talked into taking part by the others!

"..I'm good with people I suppose. I did work as a van driver here but I do all sorts now. Multi tasking"

"I went to Guatemala. I loved the culture. I loved the edginess of it. People were just walking down the street carrying pistols and guns. I'd be walking along thinking 'that man's walking straight towards me and he has a gun!'. But you had to just blend in and not draw attention to yourself. Avoid eye contact"

14 October 2009


"I just did the three peaks challenge. For the Air Ambulance. we climbed Ben Nevis, Scaffel Pike, but we couldn't climb Snowdon because of the weather, so we did a 9 mile trek instead"

Lynn was great to work with - easy to talk to. She has great determination and an openness to new experiences.

"I'd like to see my 6 year old daughter grow up happy and healthy. In that order"

"..I like to try to live spontaneously. To make the best of our time. I'm going diving soon, something new to try. The other evening, I rode in someone's porsche, it was just light, a very warm evening and the roof was down. And it was just one of those amazing moments you know?"

13 October 2009


"I'd like to travel the world. But by myself"

Laura seemed at first fairly shy but she said herself that she's really not once you know her. It was clear she was pretty confident - self assured.

"..if I travel the world by myself, I can make my own decisions. Much easier"

"...I'm half Malaysian, and I loved visiting there as a child. The freedom and the culture was brilliant. I remember riding fast on my bike down a hill with no brakes"

"..I'd like to be a fashion designer. Or at least something creative like that"

12 October 2009


"We've quite recently moved here from London. We like it here"

Asi was walking with her husband and initially said no to being photographed, but it was because she misunderstood what I was asking. She turned to walk away and then turned back and asked more, and realised she would like to take part after all. I was very grateful. I talked with both of them for a while and also took a photograph of them together to send them.

"..I really want to become a mother. That's the next thing I'd really love to happen"

11 October 2009


"I'm scared of failing. And I'm scared of ants"

Daniella was sat outside on some steps with a camera over her shoulder. She agreed because she thought the project sounded cool!

"Yesterday was one of the best days ever, I spent the whole night singing with a busker outside Costa Coffee..!"
"...when I'm older I'd love to write books, and illustrate them too"

10 October 2009


"my worst job ever was working at Bertram Books. I hated it"

Lester has a really mischevious face. It looked even more so when I told him this. He was very relaxed about the whole process

"I don't know how old I was, but one of my earliest memories was hiding in a cupboard with some glow in the dark crayons"

"..I work as a manager in a mobile phone shop now...dealing with the public isn't always easy"

9 October 2009


"My daughter being born was the best moment of my life"

Mike was in no doubt about that and there was no hesitation.

He was sat in his van in a supermarket carpark - doing his job. He repairs chips in car windscreens - while you wait. On a gloomy wet day, there was a quiet moment, so I approached and asked.

"She's 15 now. They know it all then don't they? And the way things are now...so different...with facebook and all that.... when I was that age it used to be that if there was a problem it was just two or three of you and you'd sort it out face to face kind of thing, now it gets so widespread, with the internet. Much bigger. But that's how it is for them now. No point fighting it...!"

8 October 2009


"..the best thing that ever happened to me was being born"

Manuel worried that he doesn't photograph well, and seemed relieved when I told him he didn't need to smile. He was sat on some steps, staring into space, resting a while and I liked the look of his face, so told him not to change anything

"..my family still live in Portugal. I see them every year....."

"..I work in a bar...I would love to be a scientist"

7 October 2009


"...the best moment of my life ever was getting married to the man I love in Barbados.."

Lisa was sitting on a bench with her two children, who were alternately coming to her for cuddles, so I quickly snapped in between

"..for a large part of the children's lives, we lived in Asia. It was a great experience for them. Really they've travelled all over the world. It felt like everyone knew us!"

6 October 2009


"I love it here, especially since I found a church that I love"

I very much enjoyed Sarah's energy. She was vibrant and positive.

"my parents always taught me that what you put in is what you get out. You have to work at it. That's stayed with me. And my two sisters"

"I'm studying bio-medicine. The university hospital here is great for learning!"

5 October 2009


"I grew up in Swaziland. Didn't move to the UK until I was 17 years old. Yes, it was a culture shock"

Giles was working at a local farm shop and agreed, along with his colleagues to take part in the project, and one by one, they sat around a table outside and let me take their photographs!

"...school was very draconian. One of the biggest things I remember is being beaten just for having untidy handwriting. But I refused to bend over, I just stood and said no. So I got hit on the hand instead.."

"..best decision I ever made was getting married.."