Shoot what you love…

Shoot what you love… That’s what they tell you. Someone told me it when I first started shooting. I’m not sure who told me that, maybe it was one of my lecturers, maybe someone else. Come to think of it, maybe I just read it somewhere. I’m really not sure, but that’s not the point…

In my day to day life, throughout the years I have worked with hundreds of models and actors etc, capturing their portrait. But as much as I have enjoyed every single shoot, my very favourite person to photograph is my wife Emma. I think a lot of it is because, obviously, I now her so well. I already have a connection with and I already know what will work really well and what might not work so well. I think comfort comes into play here too. I’m comfortable enough to ask Emma to do anything for a shoot and she’s comfortable enough with me to do it. It instantly knocks down boundaries. She has seen, and lived with my frustration first hand when I haven’t quite got the “the shot”. She understands how much it plays on my mind, how much it bothers me. That’s why I think she’s always patient with me while I’m shooting her. She understands I have a vision for the aesthetic of the shot, and she’ll work tirelessly to make sure we achieve it.

I bet if I had to pick the favourite 50 portraits I’ve ever taken, at least half (and probably more) would be of Emma. She has soaked herself in fake blood, hung around town centres at 2.00am, got drunk and even pretended to murder me, all for the sake of my photography. The most recent shots I took of her, are the ones above – taken on a rare sunny afternoon. The ‘Model’ t shirt is really apt, as I’m pretty sure she’s probably been photographed a lot more than a lot of professional models.

I already can’t wait for our next shoot…

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An Autopsy of Rural England.

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**A new and ongoing photography project**

Come to Herefordshire and you’ll be surprised by its natural beauty, the green fields, untouched landscapes and the tranquility of the idyllic market towns and villages, where people try desperately to grasp onto a time and period that has all but passed. You will probably fall in love with Herefordshire and remark to your nearest and dearest how it’s such a wonderful place to visit. You may even want to retire here…

But dig a little deeper, cut it open and you might find a very different story. A very different county. You might find a story of the lowest wages in the West Midlands, a story of constant compromise, a story of a Tory seat that has largely been unopposed for the last two decades. Cut deeper and you will see a county that has placed all of its funding into one city centre. A failed regeneration that has left everywhere else behind it, in its murky shadow. You’ll find quiet streets – and I don’t mean in the tranquil way you may think of – but in a way where a lack of true investment, opportunity and a disposable income has emptied the streets until they look like a damaged Hopper painting.

This project is not about the people here. By large, the people here are good, honest and hard working. There are of course people who do not want change. They don’t understand it. There are also plenty of the “love it or leave it” brigade and there are people who undoubtedly deserve better. People who have been let down by a place where social injustice is being pushed into the very forefront.

Herefordshire is of course beautiful too. There are countless books and postcards to demonstrate that. There is an undeniable charm here, but the things and places that will be photographed for this project, unlike other counties, are not hidden. They are not relegated to the back streets, they are on our doorsteps, outside of our houses, in our town centres. Unhidden, unapologetic and in plain view. They are a constant reminder of an unbalanced county and an unbalanced economy. It is compromised and frequent, it is every part of our county. It is in equal measure to the beauty, the charm and the silence.

Look past the natural beauty and the over marketed history and you’ll see it. Clear as day. A political commentary? Perhaps. But it will be a definite and honest autopsy of the place I call home.

– Carl Beebee.

Hotel Nights.

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Every New Year it gets me. Like clockwork, the creative slump drags me down every January. I know some people who enter the New Year full of life and hope. The gyms get busier and the bars get quieter, but historically January has always been a royal pain in the ass for me. I just get a complete block on any creative ideas. Much like authors can suffer for years with writers block, this grabs hold of me and seemingly never wants to let me go.

It’s not that I haven’t tried in the past, but every idea is met with a depressing “what’s the point” attitude. Or a feeling and thought that it wouldn’t be saying anything. It’s a hard chain to break and usually for this month I only ever use my camera for “work”.

This year I was determined to break the slump. I didn’t want to go big but I wanted to feel creative. I wanted to create something that I liked, that interested me, regardless of whether I eventually shared it with an audience.

I came to the conclusion that the best way to do this was to shoot something I’d enjoy, without necessarily worrying about its relevance, context or artistic merit. With that in mind I booked myself and my Wife two nights away in a city centre hotel in Birmingham. I stocked up on Fuji Instax film and decided I’d document our drunken fueled weekend getaway. As soon as we got there and I started I instantly felt good about the project. It was great shooting something for myself rather than a client.

In the end I did share 30 of the of the instant photographs and I’m quietly (or not so much now) pleased with them. (You can view the photos here) Not only are they a great reminder of our time away but they have a feel and a look to them I love. They look like part of a documentary photo essay. Are they saying anything? No. Does that matter? No. Because I returned and felt that the annual creative slump had this year passed me by. Which in fairness, with a book to get finished this year is pretty important.

If you’re creatively suffering, whether you’re a photographer, writer, painter or any other artist my advice would be just to create. Don’t worry about what it’s for or what the point is. Just create. Shoot, write, paint. Anything. The only way I have personally found to defeat the slump is to ‘do’…

The Un-United Kingdom

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‘The Un-United Kingdom – 2003 by Carl Beebee.

I created this photograph 11 years ago and it seems fitting to post it today considering on this day the fate of a nation and a “United Kingdom” will be decided.

This piece of work was originally titled ‘Jack’ but was part of a series for exhibitions called the ‘Un-United Kingdom’.

The majority of people mis-read the concept of the photograph completely. Admittedly this could be my fault for not explaining well enough but lots of people considered it to be unpatriotic – it was even once deemed “racist”. Nothing could be further from the truth. I believed at the time (and still believe) that collectively as a nation we need to reclaim nationalism from the right wing extremists…

I guess if nothing else it serves to remind me that at times it really is best to explain the meaning/concept behind a particular piece or series of work.