Its holiday season once more and the time has come for those humans who celebrate Christmas to do crazy things like buying Christmas puddings (yuk), hanging lots of dangley things (fun) and putting out food for a fictional character in a red jumpsuit (weird)! This time of year means different things to different people and for some its a religious festival, for others its a time for families, and for many its an ordinary day. For those of you who are happy at this time, I wish you every joy and keep smiling. For those who feel sadness or loss, know that you are not alone and the festivities will soon be over so you can resume normal life. For those who are working, caring for people or protecting them from harm, serving them food or keeping the streets clean, thank you for everything you do. From the animals I would say, please be kind to us during this time, don’t pay to watch wild animals do unnatural tricks and remember a kitten or puppy is for life, not just for Christmas. Give a few pennies to the old folks or the rescue centres full of unwanted cats and dogs waiting to be adopted and you will have done a wonderful thing.
As for the New Year, it’s traditionally a time of reflection and resolutions. Some of my favourite memories from this year are feeding the goats at the local farm shop, meeting the elephants rescued from servitude and playing with the red squirrels at a local wildlife sanctuary. Its often the simple things in life that make it worthwhile. Shad and John wish every single one of you a happy, safe and prosperous 2017.
From a pin-point image on a pewter plate with a mix of toxic chemicals, to the invention of Polaroids and into the digital age, the photographic process has undergone a series of radical transformations and improvements. In the early 1800’s, photography was a hobby accessible only to professionals or the very rich, but now it is open to the mass market with modern electronic media allowing both professionals and amateurs the chance to produce high quality images that can be stored and shared at the touch of a button. Many of the photos John and I looked at over the weekend were taken on 35mm film cameras with a small single lens and no focussing adjustment. But their beauty and simplicity helps to keep history alive as I discovered when John told me some tales of the people posing in the portraits.
John’s Mum and Dad
John’s Dad and Grandad
Eddie John’s Dad
John& His Mum
Thomas J Jefferies (John’s great uncle) served in the Royal Navy and spent time aboard a training ship called the HMS Impregnable (launched in 1810). It was a 98 gun 3-decker ship with a wooden hull and I imagine life for the crew was hard. Food was generally boiled by the cook in a large copper pot and weevils were regularly found in the bread. The food must have been of a questionable quality given that the only way of preserving meat was to keep it in salt and most other foodstuffs were supplied dried. Having said that, Thomas J Jefferies probably faced many dangers from life at sea as well as disease and the perils of war, so mealtimes were probably considered one of the highlights of the day.
Photography must be in the blood as John’s great great grandfather William J Cornwill (1861 to 1943) was also a photographer. He must have witnessed some exciting changes in photography because he would have been around when a man called George Eastman started a company called Kodak in the 1880’s. Eastman created a flexible roll film that didn’t require the constant changing of solid plates and created a self-contained box camera that held 100 exposures of film. The user would take pictures and send the whole camera to the factory for the film to be developed, giving rise to the first camera cheap enough for the average person to afford. Strong opinions also run in the family apparently as William J Cornwill was an exponent of reinstating Middlesex as a county and he even appeared in the local Surrey Comet to state his views. For those of you that would appreciate a quick history update at this point, the City of London in the 12th century was able to exert political control over Middlesex and began to expand its boundaries resulting in problems with the administration of local government. Eventually Middlesex became absorbed into Greater London with small sections in other neighbouring counties.
William J Cornwill was married to Fanny Withers, an entertainer on stage, and had several children, as was the trend in those days. Two of his sons, William F Cornwill and Douglas W Cornwill, served in the First World War and one son named Horace Courtland Jason Cornwill was reported missing in action on 7th October 1916. He survived as a prisoner of war in Germany working in the coal mines before being ex-patriated on 15th February 1919. All this information might have been lost if it weren’t for the fragile black and white pictures that John has kept safe all these years and the names and dates written on the back of many of them. Traditional film-based photochemical methods of photography are now a part of its past and new technology does have many practical advantages. But whatever methods you use to store your photos, whether it’s in an album or in a cloud, you should write about them or label them so your history is never forgotten and your memories can be kept alive.
These are taken from the many photo’s passed down to John from members of his family!
04.02.1935 – Return from Gibraltar for repairs.
04.02.1935 As a result of a collision between HMS HOOD and the HMS Renown
A veiw of HMS Courageous over the tail of an aircraft
Did you know that almost half of YouTube’s top 30 most-watched pet videos feature cats. Love them or not, watching them doing crazy things like stalking a shadow, jumping out of a box or playing the piano, is very entertaining. The two talking cats have racked up around 53 million views and I hope that this popularity will go some way towards endearing cats to more people. In fact, there is now an internet video cat festival held every year in the US which attracts thousands of people and supports community projects and charities. Unfortunately there are no plans for the event to come to the UK. So you’ll have to make do with being entertained by my antics and anecdotes.
I can do the box trick very well, although John often gives me boxes that are a little snug for my rather ample tushy resulting in a one particularly embarrassing…
I’ve got ‘the wild’ right on my doorstep in the form of a rather overgrown back garden. John says he’s let it get back to nature, but I suspect this noble sentiment is an excuse for not mowing the lawn! Nevertheless, we both enjoy looking at the garden and all the treasures it holds which is why I like to take a stroll around it from time to time, admiring Mother Nature while I think about my work. In the 2 ½ years that John and I have been running Shadow Photography, I’ve been involved with happy couples planning their wedding day, excited exhausted mothers eager to have pictures of their young baby for the mantelpiece, highly strung horses next to shiny horse boxes and wily creatures who shy away from the camera. You can find stories about my experiences and examples of the colourful and dynamic images I have produced during my work if you look back at https://shadthecat.wordpress.com/.
Weddings are great because people are always happy and the atmosphere is one of romance and optimism. A bit like the mood created by these adorable garden birds who decided to have a splash together in the bath while I was crouching under the shrubbery with my camera. Some of the birds in the garden (like the sparrows, blue tits and great tits featured in the photos) are so small I’m amazed they don’t get blown away by the wind. Don’t worry, I’m not tempted to chase them, I’m far too busy analysing the light and shade in the frame, judging depth of field and generally perfecting my photography skills to be dashing around after my feathered friends. I was really lucky to catch a glimpse of a green woodpecker as you can see from the picture and I would have taken more shots only this worker bee kept buzzing around the flowers right next to me and it really put me off!
I like to take pictures of the flowers because I can play with the focus and emphasise the colour to create some striking shots, like these views of the cherry blossom and bluebell-type plants in the garden. I have produced a number of beautiful prints from these shots as well as more abstract images from the magnificent architecture that lies at the heart of history in this country. They make a lovely gift to yourself or someone you care about so if you’re tempted, check out http://www.shadow-photography.com/. On the website you’ll also discover the portfolio of work that John and I have developed over the last couple of years which gives you a flavour of our style. Please remember us if you want a professional portrait at a preferential rate, or if you have a friend who plays in a band or a family member getting married and you want to capture the fun on film. In the meantime, I’ll continue to share my thoughts and snapshots with you in this blog while I beaver away at building the business. Shadow Photography is there for all your photographic needs and John and I only require a cup of coffee and a saucer of cat milk to keep us happy and working hard!
Every photographer has an arty side and John is no exception. He left the house early the other morning for a solitary stroll along the sea-front to contemplate life. It was 3°c outside which is far too cold for my little paws so I stayed at home keeping the sofa warm whilst John wrapped himself up to meet the brisk early day light. He came back with a smile on his face and a selection of photos full of muted tones and geometric shapes. Oh yes, it was all very ‘organic’ and a big change from the real lifes and landscapes that we often like to shoot. Thank goodness I had a brain-boosting breakfast of mackerel fillets in tomato sauce! Although I noted with interest that John did not have breakfast when he came home and I have a strong suspicion he went for a fry-up without brining me any tit-bits.
We spent a lovely morning rummaging through the arty pictures, discussing the effect of the sea on light and how the contrasting shades are enhanced by printing in black and white. I really like the asymmetric silhouettes of the pier and how the pictures characterise the architecture of the sea-front. The shot of the sea groyne is done in such a way that it changes the scale of the object and look at the lonely barnacle sitting patiently on its side waiting for the sea to bring its supper. While the barnacle waits for his dinner, the birds are busy feeding in the sand amongst the pebbles. I’m not sure if they’re eating worms, crabs or seaweed, but they seem to be enjoying themselves.
New Year’s celebrations often include watching fireworks or singing songs and enjoying meals that invite good luck for the coming year. In some parts of the world, traditional New Year’s dishes feature vegetables that resemble coins to bring future financial success such as lentils in Italy or black-eyed peas in the southern United States or grapes in Spain. Yes I know they’re a fruit not a vegetable! Ring-shaped cakes are popular in some areas of Europe as a sign that the year has come full circle and it is traditional in Sweden and Norway to serve rice pudding with an almond hidden inside. It is said that whoever finds the nut can expect 12 months of good fortune (which they will need to pay for the dentist bills)! My John knows all about dentist bills because he had to spend a few hundred quid last year on me at the vets. I had a bad case of gum disease but I’m fine now and although I’m missing a few teeth, I could easily get my mouth around a bowl of rice pudding (preferably without the nut)! That won’t happen though because us cats are not supposed to have dairy; it tastes yummy but our digestive systems are not designed to handle it.
This weekend John went over to see a friend of his and took me with him so I could hang out with some of my mates. It was a clear crisp sunny morning and while the humans were indoors chatting over coffee, my buddies and I sat in the garden discussing our New Year’s resolutions. My friend Muffin is a 5 year old black girl who I’ve known since she was knee-high to grass-hopper and her resolution for 2015 is to continue her birdwatching hobby. She has her own set of binoculars and a bird book and is getting so knowledgeable about British garden birds that she would probably do well on Mastermind. The only problem is that Magnus Magnusson probably wouldn’t understand her answers!
The practice of making resolutions is said to have originated from the ancient Babylonians who made promises to their gods in order to earn favour such as vowing to pay off debts or return borrowed farm equipment. So my good pal Ginger promised to return my Cats and Dogs in 3D on Blu-Ray that he borrowed from me last Christmas. Ginger’s brother Basil (the chunky black and white 4 year old in the picture) assured his owner that he would keep the neighbours happy but curtailing his naughty behaviour. Basil is often given to bouts of mischief including skidding down the neighbour’s conservatory, stalking the pigeons and chasing butterflies off the fence.
Tiffin (Muffin’s sister) is another black cat with sleek shiny fur like mine and she is calm and reserved. Her New Year’s resolution is to lose some weight because she (also like me) is a bit on the cuddly side and needs to improve her waistline. Unlike the slender and agile Zoukia (the black and white 2 year old with 3 paws) who resolved this year to beat his high-jump record which currently stands at 31 inches from the ground. Here he is getting some practice on the grass today while his owner flicked a feather toy around.
My New Year’s resolution is to build the business and develop Shadow Photography’s portfolio by doing more wedding shoots and bagging the best wildlife shot I’ve ever done. The business is very important to John and me because we love the art of photography and enjoy expressing ourselves through this medium. That’s why I write this blog and share my photos with you and that’s why John dedicates a huge amount of his time trekking around in search of opportunities to capture events and subjects of interest. John and I thank you for your continued support and best wishes to everyone for 2015.
I’m not normally given to dressing up in Christmas jumpers or sporting a pair of bouncy reindeer antlers, although I’m always amused to see them on other people. But never let it be said that this cat doesn’t know when it’s time to let his hair down! So as a special Christmas treat for John I thought I’d wear the silly scarf he bought me this year. Yes that’s me getting into the party spirit! I hope you agree that I pull it off with a certain amount of dignity! The other shots were taken while I was having a nap on one of my favourite blankets. I woke up to the flash and gave John a couple of nice poses before going off in a huff to find a quieter spot. Not that I’m an old humbug or anything! I hope you like the picture of me preparing the camera for our next photo shoot looking professional and debonair!
The New Year is coming and perhaps like me you’ve made a few resolutions that you haven’t quite stuck to in the past. But I’m an eternal optimist and the New Year symbolises a time of re-birth and starting fresh. So whatever it is you want to achieve in 2015, you go for it! I hope you enjoy a relaxing few days, whether you’re with friends or family or on your own. Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year from John and I at Shadow Photography. May you find something to smile about every day.