Photography studio, gallery and training complex

Archive for September, 2011

An Evening With Emma Belnavis?

I’ve mentioned before the importance of finding the time for shooting personal work in addition to one’s professional work. One such “fun shoot” a month or so ago yielded not only some great shots but also a great discovery in the form of model Emma Belnavis.

I’d spotted Emma on Pure Storm and decided I’d like to work with her even though her portfolio showed mainly glamour work, something I don’t really do. But I felt confident there was much more to her than just glamour and so it proved.

Emma walked in ready to shoot (now that’s a refreshing change) and created quite a first impression. For one thing, she’s tall! In heels, very tall. She has afro-caribbean and polish heritage – an unusual but knockout combination – and an immaculate complexion, which meant that almost no post-production was necessary.

Talking, as you do, mid-shoot, I discovered to my surprise that Emma was quite new to modelling. The words “duck” and “water” spring to mind. There’s no doubt that Emma was designed by God for the glamour photographer, but unlike so many other new (and especially glamour) models, Emma is already utterly confident in front of the camera and has a great range of facial expressions: This lady can “smoulder” for England!

In a spirit of philanthropy for my fellow photographers, I have decided to share my beautiful “discovery” with the world. I’m too good to you, I really am. You can photograph Emma Belnavis at fotofilia on Tuesday 8th November. This “Evening With Emma Belnavis” event is already almost full but I feel sure we will run it again soon if you miss this one. See website for full details –

Pure Storm:

Emma’s profile:






Face Of The City

Following on from “Alternative View“, this is the other half of the “2 Way Trial” competition that we had at THE CLUB this month. This time the theme was “Face of the city“. So here’s the photos…

The winner by new member Simon Healey

Simon Healey’s winning shot was a great combination of light, dust-cart and conveniently placed Pamela Anderson lookalike. There was a joint second place: the first is by Jeff Boston

Joint 2nd place by Jeff Boston

…and the other second place was taken by Mark Cruxton

The other 2nd place by Mark Cruxton

Third place was taken by Cheryl Wilkinson

3rd place: Cheryl Wilkinson

And before you see the rest, THE CLUB is now a year old and a few more membership spaces will become available after 1st October. If you’d like to be considered, email us and we’ll let you know how many spaces are available as soon as we know.

Here’s some other entries…

By Anna Machacek

…and one by Eileen Clews

By Eileen Clews

This one by Ken Hudson, not surprisingly, given the timing of the competition and the proximity to the riots in Birmingham, reflects a rather more sober side of this city.

By Ken Hudson

Paul Machacek also chose to reflect on recent events in Birmingham…

By Paul Machacek

And finally, on a lighter note, Nikki Postings shows us a much sunnier city – Ciutadella in Menorca.

By Nikki Postings



An Alternative View

I thought you might be interested to see how members of THE CLUB interpreted the theme “An Alternative View” for that section of this season’s “2 Way Trial” competition. I’m always surprised (and impressed) by the sheer diversity of ideas that come out of these themed competitions. I think you’ll see what I mean. Firstly, the competition winner by Mark Cruxton

By Mark Cruxton

And the second place went to Peter Shipstone

By Peter Shipstone

And third place went to Eileen Clews

By Eileen Clews

by Keith Goodwin

By Cheryl Wilkinson

By Valeska Hass

By Ken Hudson


I’ll post images from the other half of this competition – “Face of the city” – shortly.

A Little Light And Shade

Ah, it seems like only yesterday…

A gaggle (what exactly is the collective noun for photographers? A click?) of eager photographers, all fresh from my Advanced DSLR course at Birmingham Botanical Gardens, and all at that “what now?” stage, drift into the old fotofilia studio in Vyse St and try to find somewhere to perch while I offer them my suggestion for a new project.

I tell them I’ve taken the liberty of booking the gallery at Birmingham’s Custard Factory for a week long exhibition some eight months later. And their mission, should they choose to accept it, is to show their work there. There is a strange silence. And some bemused expressions. Eventually, they begin asking questions but some also wonder if they’re ready for a public exhibition on this scale.

After some consideration, a few drop out, but others decide to go for it.

From the beginning, one thing is clear: the group members have a wide range of abilities and skills, not to mention photographic styles and interests, to draw upon – which already puts them ahead of some of the artist groups that find themselves drawn together to exhibit. I suggest an organisational framework based upon these skills – they will need money people, IT people, practical people, and PR people, at the very least.

The group has these people. And soon they have a name – Photosynthesis – inspired by the obvious connection between “photo” and their Botanical Gardens “roots” (ahem, if you see what I mean).

The exhibition was a great success on all counts, despite problems with double-booking at the Custard Factory and frantic late night hanging on the eve of the show. At the end I asked a few if they’d do it again. Most said something like, “It’s been amazing – but no”.

But they did. Just a year later and Photosynthesis are back with a bang. Not only another exhibition but at one of the city’s most prestigious venue’s – The Waterhall – adjoining Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery as part of Birmingham’s Artsfest (more about my ideas on this front in a later blog).

The launch of “Light and Shade” (their theme and exhibition title) on Thursday 8th September was suitably impressive, with a surprise appearance by The Gadget Show‘s John Bentley and many many guests.

John Bentley and random stalker in the shape of Photosynthesis member Peter Shipstone.

The group managed to secure Arts Council funding for the show (no mean feat in these straitened times) and also brought in some extra photographic muscle in the shape of the Billesley & Yardley Wood Youth Group and participants in the “Zoom Out” photographic project, whose work can be seen alongside that of Photosynthesis.

A quieter moment

The exhibition continues at the Waterhall until 18th September. I thoroughly recommend a visit.

Photographer Ken Hudson wondering where John Bentley is.

I’d like to express my pride in this great group of people and their exceptional achievements. While I might have played a small part in bringing them together originally, this year’s exhibition has been entirely the result of their own efforts and I think they can be very proud of themselves.

You Are Not A Photographer

Here’s a website that has consistently made me chuckle since I heard about it. I think most photographers will agree with the blog’s strapline – “Just because you own a camera, you are not a photographer. You can’t buy talent”. Here you will find some hilarious but cringe-inducing examples of photographic naffness, nauseating cheesiness and fecal Photoshoppery.

Truly awful or what?

In their own words: “How many people do you know that bought a nice camera, started a Facebook page and called it a photography business? Having a DSLR does not make you a professional photographer. We’re outing these no talents with daily pictures from the worst of the web. We only post pictures that were from a photography “business,” and we use that term lightly. Maybe you are one of those photographers. Have a good laugh at yourself. You submit the photos, and we provide the snark.”

Teach a chimp to Photoshop and...

You get the idea: imagine Harry Hill expressing what you are almost certainly thinking. My students will already know my feelings about “colour-popping” (okay in the right context and when used very sparingly, with taste and skill – but dangerous in the hands of a numpty) so it will be no surprise that these are the shots I find most amusing.

Isn't this child abuse?

I am particularly indebted to this site for introducing me to the wondrous term “fauxtographer“. Follow this link – –  and prepare to be tickled whilst simultaneously feeling smug that at least you’re better than these camera-wielding eejits… Or are you?


What A Difference A Day Makes

Any photographer will tell you that it’s important to continue shooting personal work, even if for no other reason than to flex your creative muscles, try out new ideas, new models, new lighting, new locations, new equipment, or just to inject a bit of excitement into the workaday week. I try to do this at least once every few weeks if my workload allows.

A couple of weeks ago, regular Fotofilia model Katie-May O’Hanlon asked me to provide some different images for her portfolio (I think she felt she needed to try some new directions) and I was happy to oblige. Katie is always a pleasure to work with – a confident look, dancer’s poise, and an inveterate giggler of the first order.

Katie had arranged a make-up artist (MUA) – Shabana (Shabs) Dhadda – and had a number of looks in mind. We’d discussed a couple of these ideas in advance but on these occasions I (perhaps quite strangely) like to be surprised, forcing me to think on the spot. One thing we had agreed on from the beginning was that it should be a mixture of studio and location shots. We decided to start with a very natural look, minimal make-up and subtle lighting. I shot a few images using a simple one-light-plus-reflector studio set-up.

Then, with the same make-up, we moved to the lobby of the studio – the only place where we can access enough natural light – and shot a few “morning” shots with light from the door bounced using a silver reflector.

While Katie and Shabs worked on the next look, a 1940s, Elizabeth Taylor-inspired look, I set about finding a suitable location. I had an idea about again using natural light but this time in a cafe or restaurant setting so I put out an appeal via Twitter for such a venue in the Jewellery Quarter area. Before long a response came back from David and Kate at Brewsmiths cafe, a 5 minute walk away. I could see from their website that this was a venue that was bathed in natural light, and so it proved – but just as importantly, the coffee and cake was excellent!

After shooting inside for a while, we headed back to the studio, stopping off to capitalise on the great light and locations we encountered on the way.

Once back, Katie and Shabs returned to the dressing room for the final transformation, emerging some time later suitably attired for a Nicki Minaj-inspired set. Here, Katie could really let rip with her repertoire of poses. Not especially demanding technically or creatively from my end, but great fun nonetheless, and an ideal way to end the day’s shoot.

I thought you might like to see the range of looks that were achieved in a comparitively short space of time, transforming Katie from fresh-faced beauty to saucy pop diva – all thanks to a great model and talented MUA.

Sincere thanks to Katie and Shabs for a fun shoot, and Dave and Kate at Brewsmiths for their generous hospitality

Katie-May –

May The Square Be With You

From "Square @Birmingham"

After a few weeks of R&R, summery frolics, chilled tinnies by the barbecue, recharging the batteries, soaking up the rays etc, the gallery at fotofilia is all set for the next season of exhibitions…

Who am I kidding? We’re still painting and there’s only a few days to go before the “Square @Birmingham” exhibition launches on Tuesday 6th September. But it will be well worth the inevitable last-minute panic – this is another exhibition of exceptional work.

It’s rather appropriate that it is now just over a year since we launched the new premises with Christophe Dillinger’s “WYSIWIGOTN” exhibition and the exhibition with which we start the next year of exhibition’s is also put together by Christophe. In this case, though, the work is selected from the wealth of wonderful images that appears in Square Magazine, the online magazinededicated to the square format for which Christophe is Editor.

Here’s a bit about the exhibition (and magazine) in his own words:

“Square Magazine is to the square photographic format what FHM is to young lads’ worldly education. We are the corkscrew in the picnic
hamper, the smooth music on the stereo and the unexpected free seat in the Tube on a Friday night all rolled into one refreshing publication.

And Square Magazine is coming to Birmingham. We are coming, more precisely, to fotofilia gallery, in the famous Jewellery Quarter, to show
a collection of nine photographers from across Europe.  From Patricia van de Camp’s challenging conceptual forest shots to Mark Voce’s highly polished coastal landscapes, from Crete to Paris via the Shell polluted beaches of America, Square@Birmingham is a repository of contemporary square greatness. 

It starts on the 6th September, with a private view on this day from 7 till 9, and finishes on the 1st October at fotofilia gallery, Regent
Parade, B1 3NS, Birmingham. More info available from and (email@

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

From "Square @Birmingham"

Down The Steps - Mark Voce