Madiba and Africa


Not a photography post as such, but last night a true hero died.

My thoughts and emotions have been full to the brim to day. Nelson Mandela has been a big part of mine and other peoples lives. I am surprised as to how I am able to mark my life through the amazing events of his life.

Today I have had lots of thoughts to day about Madiba, but also I have thought about his great influence on the world, on people and on my own life.

Today I have also been thinking of Eileen Mendelsohn my grandmother, and the work she did with the Black Sash in Johannesburg, and the fact she got arrested (as quite an elderly woman). She along with many fought against apartheid, and better conditions for people. She protested about Nelson Mandela being incarcerated, and she taught me a lot about justice and injustice at an early age. As a young child I remember watching the bbc news, and seeing my Gran in a news item about South Africa. I spoke to her about it and she gleefully told me that they had been told they were not allowed to gather in groups to protest, open air meetings were prohibited! So the woman of the Black Sash had a cunning plan, they stood separately 10 metres apart from each other holding banners, and took up the whole of Hill Brow in Joberg.

“When Nelson Mandela eventually walked free from prison in 1990, he made reference to the Black Sash in his first speech, delivered at the Grand Parade in Cape Town. He said ‘the Black Sash was the conscience of white South Africa’ during the dark days of apartheid.”

I remember that speech and felt so proud of my Gran and her fellow Black Sash members.

A true hero in our own lifetimes, who will hopefully have influence for many many years to come.

I have three children, and when each child reached the age of six I have taken them on a road trip to south Africa. To see the country that had so much influence on my life and on other lives. They explored the country with me, they saw poverty and wealth, they spoke to people and played with children who had different lives to them. They saw wild animals in a natural environment. They questioned peoples living conditions, and learnt about differences. All these things I learnt about too, when I was their age. I documented their journeys with them, photographically and on blogs. They all still talk about their journeys, and I hope that they carry with them, the images and experiences throughout their lives.
Mandela lives on in our hearts and minds.

May his legacy live on too.

Glum is the new Black – A new movement in Portraiture.



I find myself thinking back back back to my childhood self.

So, I was small, with short dark hair, and I looked like a boy.

Old men would stop me in shops ( I would have been about 8 ) and call me ‘Sonny’. and tell me to be polite and hold the door open. I was either called ‘Sonny’ or ‘Smiler’. ‘Sonny’ because I looked like a boy – (thanks Mom and Dad for the convenience of the short de rigueur haircut), and ‘Smiler’ because I always had a gap toothed grin or smile. I also had scabby knees and an occasional cheeky/naughty attitude.  Never one of the pretty ones, but then with scabby knees and a gap toothed grin it just wasn’t going to happen. I was painfully aware of this from an early age (having a gorgeous baby sister)  –  It didn’t bother me because I concluded ugliness (read that as quirkiness) was fine because I had that thing called ‘personality’ and ‘it would get me far in life’.


When I was in my teens with longer hair and no longer called ‘Sonny’ or for that matter ‘Smiler’, I would go to parties and clubs, with a well practiced, neutral disinterested look. I remember people (older) saying  – ‘give us a smile – it can’t be that bad’ – Now that always annoyed me, and would take me from a peaceful neutral space to cross in an instant.


SO again I concluded that maybe my smiling habit was a result of truly looking miserable when I was thinking, or dreaming about nothing in-particular. It is because I looked so sad with out trying.


Now I am deviating, but maybe getting onto the heart of this post.

I have a penchant for sad or thoughtful faces – maybe sad is the wrong word to use, but neutral doesn’t work either, and blank really doesn’t cut it. I feel they are so much more telling when taking a portrait of someone. They make me feel something, and hopefully this translates through to the client who has commissioned the portrait. There is beauty there, unforced, natural, thoughtful. A behind the mask look.

The communication is all behind the eyes. Intelligent and thoughtful, no blank stare or crazy photographer smile. Just a moment of thought, focus, concentration and contemplation. 


I like to think that I take a portrait and whilst in the process establish and build a rapport /relationship with my subject. The result being that the photograph (which is after all more commonly nowadays an exercise in pixels ) becomes a portrait, and that one can see behind the smile or the photo-look that people do if they feel selfconcious or uncomfortable.


Sometimes I look at my stream of images and because I am so intent on capturing the neutrality that exposes the character, I look at my images and see a whole lot of glum!


So that where I get to my unique selling point! It was bespoke, emotional, high-end. Now it is capturing the misery of our daily lives, through a series of glum expressions and photographs.

Glum is the new black.

Love to you all on a Tuesday night.

Carolyn x

addendum : I love photographing happiness and natural smiles too! Just attracted to the glum x