Arbroath January 1972 . I was living in the house at 9 East Grimsby. My Dad had died the previous year and I was still struggling with it. But I had a few things going for me: music, a camera and my books. It wasn’t a lot but it helped.
Russ Black, the art teacher at school encouraged me to use its darkroom. I had lost my own a couple of years before when we moved house. This is one of the earliest rolls I still have from then.
The camera was a Leica Model III fitted with a Ross Xtralux 50mm f2, an excellent lens. I used the name ‘Xtralux’ for a band some years later, in Exeter. Film was Ilford FP3.
The Philippines has become very important to me over the last four years. It’s now the focus of much of my life and I want to spend more time there. The winters in France are just too cold for me now.
When you visit a country for longer periods, months at a time, as I do, you can’t do quite what the holiday tourist does. It’s partly to do with budgets but also with burnout. You have to learn to chill and take it easy.
Flying out to the Philippines
Before the start is always the bit that has me in a fankle. I get travel stress a week before The Flight. No matter how long I give myself for preparation the last few days are a nightmare — and I always forget something. (This time it was the sandwiches for the train — but I had time to go back.)
Because I live in rural France, just getting to the airport is a journey. I take the train from Chagny to Charles de Gaulle airport. You can either go direct to Paris Gare de Lyon and then get the RER across to Roissy, or take a direct train. I do the latter. And after nearly missing the flight on a previous trip to the Philippines — because of a train delay — I always leave a lot of time now.
When I find myself on the platform at Chagny, it’s OK. The pressure goes away. I’m in the pipe now, and at the other end of it is the Philippines. All I have to do is get on the right trains and planes and I’ll get there.
Maryhill, the poor part of Glasgow’s West End, in 1974, was a different world. Looking back on these pictures, 45 years later, I am still moved. When I came to the Philippines first, a kind but unaware French friend told me that I would see poverty such as I had never seen before. I had not the heart to tell him; I had seen worse.
Yet on the other hand I have so many memories of Maryhill and most of them are good. I was never robbed, beaten up or threatened there. Nobody ever asked if I was a Catholic or a Protestant — a question I would get used to later. People were poor, yes, many had no shoes; but they had community and mutual respect. I see that today in the Philippines. We lost a great deal when we lost that.
Beach beer and paddling with ladyboys in the Philippines. I wonder what the collective noun would be here? A delight of ladyboys? Pictures made in 2016.
Jelly and I went to the beach to relax and drink beer with some ladyboy friends. Two, Azumi and Icey, paddled around in the water and I photographed them. Icey reminded me of Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’. She had amazing – dyed of course – auburn hair that fell in cascades around her face and adopted a perfect contrapposto, holding a towel over her head to keep off the sun.
We are currently, in 2020, in a crisis in which young Sexual Inverts, sometimes called gender non-conforming children, sex non-conforming children, pre-transsexual children or just transkids, are under a level of attack not seen since the 1980s. This comes largely from a disparate and thoroughly poisonous group calling themselves ‘gender critical’ or ‘gendercrit activists’.
This group appeared about ten years ago and is partly comprised of various flavours of radical feminists who believe, erroneously, that gender is a ‘social construct’. If HSTS is what it is claimed to be, then two things logically must follow. One is that Sexual Inversion is a real thing and the second is that gender must be related to sexuality. It cannot be formed by ‘socialisation’ but instead is the innate means by which an individual expresses and communicates his or her sexuality. This destroys the greater part of feminist dogma and so these feminists would like to see HSTS erased. Prominent in their ranks are Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, aka ‘Posie Parker’, Anne Ruzylo, in the featured picture and Graham Linehan, a television screenwriter. (See HERE)
In 1979 I was living in Exeter, in Devon in England. I had just started Art School, at the old Earl Richards’ Road campus. It was a wild place. I already knew that photojournalism was my thing. The corrosion of Postmodernism had already begun to infect the school, even then and the painting school was collapsing. Even Sculpture was showing signs of infection. Only Photography and Printmaking seemed to be holding up, probably because without at least some craft skill, these areas are off-limits.
The Head of Photography, the late Oscar Mellor, was very kind and helped me. He brought me a book of some nude photographs taken in a ‘domestic setting’. I think it was called ‘ A model in the House’ or something like that. They were all silly, stunted-up, ersatz toss that had no value.
I though, ‘I can do better than that,’ and I did. Nothing posed or stunted, all straight photojournalism.
Bastille Day is a huge celebration in Molinot, the village where I live in France. While the festivities are less impressive than they used to be, it’s still an important day. But in the early years of the century it was a huge affair, and the children from the village school all took part and put on a mime show. As always, willing adults were drafted in to help.
In 2002 the theme was The Wild West — with a very French flavour.
You can read about these in my hilarious French Onion Soup! series of books. The second, Croutons and Cheese! will be launched in September 2017. Meantime why not score a copy of the first, to get all the background detail?
Weddings are a rarity in the village now, but this was nice. It was the last wedding we saw here.
Please feel free to download and use images for your personal projects, including websites. Please to not remove the accreditations. For commercial or print use, please contact me using the Contact form.
If you use or like the images, please consider leaving a donation.
On the 25th of February, we went to Malolos, the capital of Bulacan, to see a ladyboy parade; but it never appeared. Ladyboy levels of disorganisation are, of course, legendary, in addition to which, they were probably working on Filipino time, which makes ‘manana’ sound urgent. Still, a couple of nice cold Red Horses and some good pictures.
All Pix: Rod Fleming
Street photography, long established as an art and a specialist form of photojournalism, requires very similar techniques to those needed to photograph field sports, notably football (soccer, not that American nonsense). You need sharp reactions, complete confidence in technique and total reliance on reflex. As soon as you see an image, it’s gone, so you just have to go with it.
Markets everywhere are wonderful for this sort of thing. They’re very colourful and people are concentrating on selling, not watching the photographer. I was using a DSLR for most of these, with no issues. As usual with digital, you have to watch the exposure. I find using the old tranny technique of underexposing by 2/3 of a stop is useful in holding highlight detail.
Gallery 1: Malolos
Gallery 2: Malolos Palenke
Please feel free to download and use these pictures for your website or personal projects. Commercial licences are available by agreement, please contact me using the contact form below. Please consider donating towards the cost of maintaining this website.