Tales of a Flaneur Newsletter for December 2011. Every month I share a brief note from my travels and provide an update on new work and upcoming exhibitions.
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Seasonal Business 

"There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say," returned the nephew. "Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round -- apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that -- as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!"

from "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens

We need more days like this throughout "the long calendar of the year". If my art means anything, if there is one effect I fervently wish to create, it is this: stop, see, question, learn something new, love freely and openly, live in fragments no longer.

A very Happy Christmas and Joyous New Year.

- 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 December, 2011 - On the ice at Christmas

I love skating at Christmastime here in London. Although my most memorable time on the ice was spent two years ago at the Tower of London,  I have another, earlier, experience at Somerset House in mind.

I queued up for a drink in the cafe and three women at the table beside me discussed the proper way to brew mulled wine. They freely (and repeatedly) admitted they really didn't how to make it themselves, but each knew someone expert. They all agreed it involved cloves and wine, but "this cheap stuff? Too much clove. It's never as good as fresh, don't you know". "Thank God for mulled wine," said the youngest woman. She quite vocally weighed the effect of another glass on her ability to keep her bottom off the ice against the sheer pleasure of quaffing another one.
A few table-lengths away, an older man shepherded a woman I took to be his daughter into the cafe. She wept freely and without shame in the arms of her father. I'm certain he hadn't seen his daughter cry like that for many years. The woman, in her early 40's and dressed in a natty copper coat that matched her hair, clutched an ice pack to her elbow. The father waited patiently for her to calm down before he left to purchase a couple of hot chocolates. She sat alone for five minutes. Every so often she remembered the pain in her elbow and relived the shock of impact. She shuddered from several heavy sobs and then recovered her composure.
The woman noticed me staring at her ice pack with my photographer's stare. This woman met my gaze and did something extraordinary. This woman who a few seconds ago repeatedly imploded from shock and pain, looked at me and worried. I think she worried that I might be distressed by her ... distress. She expressed neither embarrassment nor self-pity, but concern for how her misfortune might affect others. Whenever I've thought, "Oh God, I hope I don't alarm people" I've either been drunk or bleeding uncontrollably. With a reassuring smile, she held up her ice pack not from embarrassment or in a bid for sympathy, but in concern. She must have broken a bone and been in agony.
I returned a little mock wince and tried to look as tender as I could from across two tables of teenagers slurping up rum punch and mulled wine. Her smooth, pale face picked up the colours of the cafe's pink spotlights, but tears shattered the illusory calm of her cheeks. Her father returned with two steaming paper cups. She sipped the hot chocolate and forgot her pain for awhile.

I needed to go and forget some things myself, so I wrapped up in my winter gear, pocketed the lens cap and went back outside to make some pictures. Ecstatically happy people soared past me. Those that didn't quite soar clung to the railing and inched along.

I neither soared nor clung to the railing that night; I simply observed and recorded what I saw. After the upsetting and elating events of 2011, I feel as though I am doing both during this Christmas season.

Hang on.

Stay tuned.

Come back to me in 2012.

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