Sahaja is the showcase for my photography and other composite creations, but there is a very long history that leads up to it that I thought you may be interested to know.
I decided to be a photographer in 1976 during the second year of a chemistry degree at Reading University near London. I was looking through a friend's "how to" photography book when I saw an image that changed the course of my life. It was a simple photograph of a breaking wave, but it moved me enough to realise that the medium was the perfect mixture of art and science through which I could communicate my ideas. I was super idealistic and politically motivated back then and wanted to make a positive contribution to the world. Well that part hasn't changed much, though it has a significantly different flavour now.
After that lightbulb moment I went headlong into the world of photography. It was the time of Avedon, Penn, Bailey, Snowdon and Arbus who remain iconic, and it was a very creative time of emerging postmodernism. I read everything I could get my hands on and started taking photos on a beautiful Olympus OM1, my first camera. Every roll of transparency film was full of anticipation, excitement and creativity as I started to explore its possibilities. I initially wanted to be a catalyst for social change, enrolling as a local community photographer and participating in awareness campaigns for issues like overcrowding in council housing.
However, London was a hotbed of left wing ideology in the early eighties, and positive discrimination was everywhere. I was made to feel guilty for being a white, male, middle class activist and eventually found it all too claustrophobic and politically correct. After all, I just wanted to make a living as a creative and commercial photographer, but it wasn't until four very hard and frustrating years after graduating from Reading (and many different jobs later) that I managed to get a foot in the door of the commercial photography business. I was a very relieved second assistant to a white shoe wearing car photographer in the dilapidated suburb of Deptford in south east London. It was a glorified car cleaning job, but I didn't care because I was "in", in real photo studios where I could learn quickly and graduate to a better position as a first assistant.
I was on my way and a passion and thirst for knowledge soon took me to working with the crazy, eccentric, big white bearded Anthony Blake, ex World War II fighter pilot and pioneering food photographer. Well that was a baptism of fire, for sure, and despite the laborious way he worked and a year of working on ad campaigns all over Europe, I was eventually catapulted into freelance assisting, the usual precursor to being a fully fledged photographer. I was on a mission because I was driven to do my own creative work as much as make a living and didn't want to spend too many years on the sidelines. I was already 24, considered old to be starting in the profession at that time.
The image was taken during my community photography days. Overcrowding, London, early 80s.
I'll write the second instalment to this story in the next blog post!