Tag Archives: cheltenham

Everyone has a story worth telling…

Because of the nature of my work, I am sometimes asked why biography is important. People sometimes frame biography in terms of what they see as a culture of narcissism in modern society ~ “look at me with my [delete as appropriate] amazing/rubbish/(un)enviable/scary/heroic/nutty/successful/LOL  life”.

Whilst the ‘narcissist’ sticker could well be slapped onto many people, I think the word is essentially an ugly (perhaps even bitchy) one ~ especially when people use it in terms of biography. Biographies exist to communicate, inspire, educate, and entertain. They can connect with part of the core of what makes us human ~ empathy ~ and I believe that if we take time to learn something about the lives of others, our own lives and perspectives can be enriched in some way. I think this is particularly true if we are talking about your own family ~ or people with whom you share deep connections.

This is precisely what LifeBooth is about. I make auto/biographical films for amazing people who are not famous. They are amazing because they are human ~ and because they might be your mum or dad, your granny or granddad, your uncle, aunt, brother, sister, cousin ~ or even you.

Sometimes I think that perhaps we are relentlessly bombarded, and are too comfortable, with being fed by the shrink-wrapped slivers of celebrities familiar yet distant lives. I believe that biography shouldn’t only exist for life’s famous achievers, survivors, or those who have managed to tear off a tiny morsel of fame.

Having said that, whilst many of us might avert our eyes and reach for whichever robustly intellectual text we are reading, as the likes of Chantelle Houghton or Katie Price release their life story to edjumuckate the masses ~ they do still have their place. This is because they are obviously important to those who identify with these individuals; or those few who are able to fight the temptation to mumble “chav”, and look at the wider socio~cultural aspects of their lives, such as to why such celebrity exists ~ and see (if you really squint your eyes) that they are adding a tiny thread to the tapestry of which our whencestors will look back and try to understand our society and culture through the macroscopic lens of the individual.

Call me a big softie if you like… but I believe every life to be precious. This isn’t about comparing good-folk with evil-folk. I think the human condition is much more ambiguous than that ~ even the Darth Vader of the music world (Simon Cowell) has shown increasing signs of being nice! What I mean is that each life ~ each individual ~ from birth to whenever~upon~a~time; hacks, plods, drifts, saunters, and sails upon waves of events, experiences, and decisions that have been made by or for them. And so at any point in our lives ~ whether we are 8 or 80 ~ we have the ability to pause, recollect, and communicate. That’s our story ~ and it is beautiful not only because it is ours ~ but also because it naturally connects with all the important people around us whom we love ~ they are an intrinsic part of it.

With LifeBooth I have a big challenge ~ which is to get the word out that beautiful and meaningful biographical films are for everyone. It’s not easy, because it’s not a service that people know exists ~ so on the one hand I am faced with a big PR challenge (and the need to diversify services); but on the other hand it is about getting people to realize that actually, whether they worked on the shop floor of a factory most of their life ~ ran a million pound company ~ or have spent a large part of their life staying at home and raising their children ~ their life is amazing and worth recording for current and future generations ~ as well as the journey.

It’s all about creating a familial ‘artifact’ really ~ one that connects the past to the present and the future. This is what inspired me to set up LifeBooth. I’ve always had an interest in family photographs (which is why I based my PhD on the subject) ~ but whilst I find them so fascinating and informative, they also have their limitations.

I’ve often found myself staring at old family photographs (either my own or others) and wanting to know more about the people depicted ~ how they spoke, how they moved, their beliefs, passions, experiences, adventures, what they did for a living, what happened immediately after the photograph was taken?

Family photographs are beautiful treasures that can possess an exquisite silence ~ especially if they are of those ancestors with whom you are connected but have no actual living experience of. It is the silence of family photographs that I seek to challenge through my work ~ and that is why family photographs are so central to the films ~ because they become woven through the times, places, people, and experiences that my clients speak of ~ and somehow bring you closer to the past.


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Super~Dooper~8 Home Movie

I’m hoping that gradually this blog will reach out into other forms of home/family media as it grows ~ and so I thought it would be a good opportunity to show a bit more of my own.

I think the camera is actually older than me!

The film below is the result of my first experiment with a new (or should I say “old”) 1970s Nizo Professional Super 8 camera that  I bought for my business (other than visual biographies I am also hoping to film the odd wedding film too ~ once I can find two willing guinea pigs!). Most people will probably recognise the kinds of images that Super 8 produces from seeing it on TV ~ or perhaps you are lucky enough to have some old Super 8 home movies yourself.

To me, Super 8 is such a beautiful medium to work with compared to digital ~ and it is actually seeing something of a revival amongst independent filmmakers who want to work with film but can’t afford to work with larger film sizes such as 35mm. In terms of processing, Super 8 is much more forgiving on the wallet although it’s still not cheap. A 3 1/2 minute roll of film will cost about £13 to buy and about £13 to develop ~ more if you want to have it digitally scanned instead of filming it off your projector screen.

As with film photography there’s no instant results and you can’t alter the image during filming so there’s a bit of guess work. In the footage below for example, there’s a fair bit that is under-exposed. Having said that, Super 8 is a very forgiving medium ~ it is, after all, synonymous with home movies and because of that aspect of visual culture the wobbly cameras and flickering lights kind of adds to the charm! Anyway I’ll keep telling myself that until I’ve learned my way around the camera a bit better! Of course it can be much more refined than that!

(The music in the movie is Bluebirds by Kensington Prairie)

I really enjoyed my first venture into Super~8 though. The whole process was fun (filming with Amy in Stanton Fitzwarren Park, and Cheltenham), full of anticipation (waiting the 2 weeks to get the film back from the developer), and joyous (feeding the film into the projector and then seeing it being beamed onto the nearest available surface I had ~ which was an old cardboard box! I changed it to a piece of paper after checking though!).

Going back to what I said about the visual culture of Super 8 ~ for me it kind of feels like a memory in a sense ~ more than any other kind of media because it is synonymous with old home movies and thus how we have experienced the medium either through TV or our own films. It is retro~cool but I think there is also something familiar and warm and fuzzy about it too. When you see a modern Super 8 film it kind of looks like it’s from the 1960s or 1970s ~ but then you see the ‘signs’ through the clothes people are wearing, or the cars in the background that shifts the context to the present.

For me, the film I made is particularly special though ~ because in each bit of footage with Amy in it, there is also the knowledge that she is carrying our child ~ and so I love that in the future he~or ~she will be able to watch the film and feel connected to a time and a place where even though they were not visible ~ they were very much present.

1973 in the Austrian/Swiss Alps

Whilst I had not yet been conceived, these photographs represent this for me ~ of my Mum and Dad on holiday in the Alps ~ probably a year or so before I was born. For me (even as a child) these images have always felt like my own memory ~ I’m sure they are why I love all things retro!

In some ways I think this emphasises the beauty of family photographs ~ especially as they (and we) age. When I look at the photographs of my grandparents (such as the one in my previous post that I colour~corrected) I too feel connected to it ~ because whilst it was a photograph taken probably 25 years or so before I was born ~ my mum, my aunts, my cousins, second cousins, and myself ~ are all now invested in that single image. It punctuates all of our existence. Perhaps it is the same for you ~ with your own family photographs?

I’m going to write another post on this in the future at some point, but if any readers would like to submit a family photograph that is of special importance to them ~ alongside a few words ~ then I would always be delighted to include it on my blog. It has been something I have been thinking of doing for a while now, but given that I can see from my “hit counter” that more people are reading the blog now I am writing regular posts ~ it would be nice to include a bit more ‘audience participation’. Alternatively, if there is something about family photography that you would like to see written about on the blog please feel free to contact me. My email address is in the “About Me” section.

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