When opportunities arise magic happens

A little while ago I was commissioned to photograph leading rug and textile designer Jennifer Manners at her home in London (read about it here). Part of the job was to capture some of her work in situ, in the rooms of her beautiful home.

When I got to her daughter's room I was amazed at just how beautifully Jennifer had designed it. In my mind it really captured the traditional innocence of childhood, and maybe it was the way the light was streaming in through the window, but there was something quite perfect about it. But it was missing one thing - a child!

Fortunately, with it being the summer holidays, Jennifer's daughter was nearby, and one of her friends was visiting. After a quick phone call to her friend's mother to get approval, the two girls dutifully took on their roles and posed for me, and this image happened. 

There's something magical here. The colours used in the room gave the light a candyfloss quality, and with the toys in place it harks back to the chocolate box scenes that only seem to live in jigsaws these days.

This image was completely unplanned, yet everything fell into place. Sometimes you just need to be there at the right time, in the right place, and magic happens.

Innocence of childhood by Chris Brock

How does it look? How does it feel?

When you're learning about image making you're told a lot of things about what makes a great photo. Composition, the rule of thirds, leading lines, even the golden ratio and the Fibonacci Sequence.

But rarely are you asked about how an image makes you feel. Yet, more than any of the so-called laws of photography, a great image isn't based on looks, it's about how it feels. And when you're making an image, and you're looking through the viewfinder, you're not thinking about leading lines, about the dos and don'ts; you're constructing something emotional.

Feeling is a much bigger part of storytelling than "the rules". You can measure light, but you can't quantify it's emotional worth. Try to put an equation on how the sun feels on your face on a warm Autumn afternoon, and you'll fail. Try to decipher the mathematics of a comforting embrace and you'll fall short.

Image making is about feeling just as much as it is about seeing. And that's why I love this portrait that I shot of photographer Gwen Campbell so much. It tells a story. But what that story is is up to you.

Gwen by Chris Brock

Stories are found before they're told

Not all stories take lots of planning. Sometimes they present themselves to you from nowhere. Sometimes they reveal themselves in the posture of your sitter. Or in their clothes. Or in the sparkle in their eyes.

But sometimes you make a story from all the ingredients that are given to you, and that's exactly what happened with this image, that I shot earlier on in the year.

It was a sunny day, and I was out with my camera and lighting gear, doing an ad-hoc photoshoot with fellow photographer Maggie Railton (read about that here). Her son, Jean-Paul, was standing in for my assistant, making sure nothing blew away in the wind. When I'd finishing shooting Maggie, we had a bit of time left so we asked Jean Paul to jump in front of the lens.

Sometimes the whole is great than the sum of its parts, and while it's great to have a blue sky, an intriguing setting, and a volunteer all able to jump into place, the synergy they all created when combined made the story. And the story presents itself in the tension of the scene. The waiting. The backdrop. The sunlight and the atmosphere. The "what went before".

I love the result, and the story it tells.

Jean-Paul by Chris Brock

Jennifer Manners, Rug and Textile Designer

I was recently commissioned to photograph rug and textile designer Jennifer Manners at her London home for Metro. Jennifer's rugs are each unique, made to bespoke designs that she creates herself for her clients, and which are then turned into reality by artisans working in Nepal and India. 

Each rug combines patterns and motifs that have inspired her from her travels around the world, and are made using techniques and materials that ensure each piece is unique and expertly woven.

Take a closer look at www.jennifermanners.co.uk.

Jennifer Manners by Chris Brock

Walking with Maggie

Another from my series of members of London Independent Photography, this portrait is of photographer Maggie Railton. If you saw the LIP exhibition at the Embassy Tea Rooms last year, you'll recognise Maggie's work from the exhibition poster, and you'll know just what a great artist she is. Her mastery of silhouettes, textures and patterns is astounding, so take a closer look at the link above if you get a moment.

We went outside for this shot, and with the sun beating down into the lens we captured a thoughtful moment in the sunshine.

Maggie Railton by Chris Brock

Eva's Kitchen

Until recently I was a member of London Independent Photography (LIP), a fantastic organisation that regularly brings together photographers young and old, amateur and professional, to talk about photography, collaborate on projects and organise exhibitions.

Because London is big, LIP is split into satellite groups - the one that I attended was the Crouch End group. Over the course of more than two years we met once a month, generally had a good gossip and would even share our work from time to time. 

When I left LIP I decided that my parting shot would be a small project of portraits of some of the other Crouch End LIP members. I've already shot a few of them before, and if you follow my blog you'll have seen them already (though you may not know it).

I'm going to be posting some of the pictures here over the next couple of weeks, starting with Eva, an amazing photographer whose house was until last month the regular venue for our monthly meetings, and who kept us in order when things got out of hand!

Eva Turrell by Chris Brock
Eva Turrell by Chris Brock