Tales of a Flaneur Newsletter for January 2012. Every month I share a brief note from my travels and provide an update on new work and upcoming exhibitions.
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Journeys end in lovers meeting 

In the airport bar at JFK near New York City in America, I turned the last few pages of my book and occasionally glanced through the slanted, cockpit-like window panes. The massive British Airways jet was dark save for some safety lights around the baggage hold. Two baggage handlers swayed from side to side in their fluorescent yellow safety jackets to warm up or merely to lull themselves into forgetting the bitter cold. The motorway beyond the airport is the same horizontal stream of red and white lights beneath the glow of the ambient amber street lamps.
I was accustomed to the smells of pretzels and steam from the subway, the haphazard black and grey towers that rise vast, cool and unplanned within the city grid, the marvellous juxtaposition of all humanity - and yet I didn't connect. I've had many happy times in New York City, but that Boxing Day night several years ago, I just wanted to go home to London. I wanted to stand on the Jubilee Bridge at night and let my thoughts spread out across the Thames or spend a lazy day on Hampstead Heath with a picnic and friends. So much of London goes unnoticed by the tourists or residents who have retreated to the edges of the metropolis.
All these thoughts were buzzing through my brain when a British middle-aged family of four gathered at a table just behind me. At first I couldn't make out the subject of their conversation, but hen bits of phrases filtered through the white noise of the crowd - De Vere Gardens, Stanley Holloway, Have I Got News For You, watching "Grease" together on Christmas Day. The warmth in their voices distracted my thoughts from the moody winter scene outside, though the staccato pulse of the red and green wing lights soon brought me back to the present moment. It was 20.25 and nearly time to lumber off to the gate and take my place on the plane to Heathrow.
Simpatico. Like many things that shake my soul, I don't think I could ever quite capture why I so love this country, but 2012 finds me simpatico with myself and my life here in England. And I am so grateful that you have been part of my life, too.

- John Matthews

Unique portraits that say something about you

I specialise in creating distinctive, beautiful portrait photographs that capture the individuality of the sitter. Unlike most professional photographers who use digital cameras to take multiple images in pre-defined poses and settings, I use traditional medium format and 35mm film to give each image a truly unique look and feel. 

My approach is to photograph the client in his or her everyday world: at home, in a well-loved place or outside in a place of natural beauty, not in a studio. Typically, my clients and I spend 30 mins over a cup of coffee or tea to make sure we're both clear about what we'd like to achieve before we get started.
I was really flattered by this testimonial from William, a recent client: "As an actor, I usually find photo shoots daunting. You're not hiding behind a character, you're baring your soul. After my shoot with John, I realised it's not so bad to bare a little of your soul." The key to what I do is providing a personal service that gives the client a set of images they will love, so please don't hesitate to drop me a line to book a session.

View Portraits: You are the people

Prints, Custom Work & Licensing

Although you're experiencing my work online, these images look gorgeous on one's desk or wall - tangible objects and mementos of a visceral experience, a keenly felt moment. Every month I change the images in my shop to match the season or to feature new work.
I’ve created a standard print offering: every image is available as an A3 size archival print mounted on a 5mm piece of white foamboard. It’s simple, elegant and ready to hang on your wall or to be framed. Each piece costs £40 plus shipping (it’s roughly £15 to the United States, £6 here in the UK). I also licence my images for television, web sites, blogs, corporate presentations and for printed media.
But I really love making custom pieces that perfectly fit the atmosphere of particular space, so please drop me a line with your requirements.

Notes for January, 2012 - Somewhere South

“Charmingly Southern” describes Elloree on one side of a white promotional coffee mug. My mother, Brenda, and her husband, Michael, moved from their early retirement home in Florida to the outskirts of this well-preserved town in rural South Carolina in the southeast of the United States.
I visited my folks twice: once in October 2005 and again in November 2008 right before they decided to return to the northeast to be near my sister in Massachusetts.
On both visits, Mum and Michael very generously drove me through South Carolina and Georgia to take the measure of the place and explore. We wandered past fields of cotton, both on rising corner plots and across massive plains. These fields stitch the sleepy, half-abandoned towns of wood and concrete together with the countryside.
Cotton is everywhere. The plant is a waist-high shrub with white plumes of lint at the tips of its branches. Dark seeds remain trapped in the fibres and need to be separated out after harvest. White fluff from excess tufts of cotton clogs the gutters by the side of the road.
The state parks trim the edge of a vast lake created for power generation and whose most dangerous inhabitants loiter with intent just beneath the surface of the water. Alligators and the threat of instant, horrible death are omnipresent. Perhaps because the countryside of my childhood had no such danger beyond the odd snake, I feel supremely nervous in a place of such serene beauty as the lakeside in the early morning. My paranoia feels justified when my mother and I see three massive, car-length alligators sunning themselves on a walk through another nearby park.
Despite the culture shock - visiting not just the United States but also a part of the country whose contours are so different to those of rural New Jersey or of London - I remember so many happy things: moments of peace in the mornings, pleasure from discovering abandoned places, humour in the rapidity with which my mum fled from those alligators, kindness from Michael who fixed my camera like a pro and a splendid Thanksgiving dinner.
My family and their peculiar, splendid sensibilities helped create these images.

Copyright © 2012 Tales of a Flaneur, All rights reserved.
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