A family is brought to near ruin by a pet python, an Icelandic advertising agency has a problem with a campaign involving a dead seagull, a Chiropodist desperately wants to stop examining people's feet and dreams of becoming a Pirate. In India, a shopping mall owner laments the instillation of a new escalator and in Spain there are several possible reasons for a broken plant pot..... These are just a few of the many situations from SPARKS, a book that imagines the stories behind original street photographs.
I've always tried to take photographs that hint at wider, hidden narratives. I'm more interested in suggestive moments than decisive ones. So SPARKS is a book of photographs taken over the past 20 years that now each have an accompanying story. As far as I know this is something that has never been done before.
None of the pictures in this book were staged but most of the stories are fictional, apart from the ones that are about me. And even then I've almost certainly exaggerated and taken liberties. The great American photographer Joel Sternfeld wrote that 'photography...has gained a currency as truthful but photographs have always been convincing lies'. That's what SPARKS aims to do, match photographs with convincing lies that compliment and, even possibly, explain the images.
I intend the book to appeal both to fans of photography and also to fiction readers in general. Hopefully it will introduce people who don't know much about street photography to the genre while simultaneously allowing aficionados to see how fiction can arise out of street photography.
All of the photographs in the book have been shot on film, both 35mm and medium format. The finished book will be produced to the very highest standards and be a real thing of beauty.
Peter was a trainee chiropodist but what he really wanted to be was a pirate. Last Thursday was meant to be the first time he was allowed to remove an in-growing toenail unassisted and, understandably, he was nervous. To counteract his anxiety he chose to wear his best pirate hat to work, a beautiful custom made felt tricorne that was his pride and joy. Everyone at college knew about Peter's obsession, to most he was simply ' That weird pirate guy' but he didn't understand why it should be any more weird than being a goth or a hipster. The parents of little girls often complain about the tyranny of pink and princesses but the parents of little boys know that dinosaurs or pirates can be just as pernicious. Peter had never really been into large, extinct lizards but the pirates had got their hooks in to him at the age of two and had refused to surrender. They became stuck, like a nail ramming in to the surrounding flesh.
Later on that morning, after he had removed his hat and stowed it carefully in his locker, Peter knew that some stranger would hobble towards him - not (alas) with a wooden leg and a treasure chest but simply with an inflamed, painful big toe. His job would be to carefully perform a partial nail avulsion and then apply phenol to the root to make sure it didn't reoccur. Now though, standing between the public toilets and Sports Direct waiting for the traffic lights to change, Peter realised that no matter how well he performed they would always limp back. There would always be some other toe nail that needed removing or corns, bunions and verrucas requiring his attention.
He felt trapped, an urban pirate without a galleon or crew. All he had was his hat, two full pirate outfits, a reproduction cutlass and a room full of books. His landlady wouldn't let him keep a parrot. Peter started to sweat. He saw the crossing in front of him not as a set of traffic lights but as a plank over an angry sea. He was being forced out on to the plank by conformity, by his parents and by financial need. He could feel it dipping under his weight as he inched closer to the edge. He could hear its creak and even see his shadow jumbled by the waves below. He didn't want to be a chiropodist, he wanted to be a pirate. Peter was terrified of drowning and knew he had to make a decision. The lights changed and the traffic slowly came to a halt.
“No, I thought you had the keys?”
So the book is now slowly being edited, designed and generally whipped in to shape by a small army of dedicated specialists but while all that is going on, I have inexplicably agreed to take part in a local arts festival here in South East London.
On Wednesday the 5th of April at 7:45pm, myself and a number of actors will be performing some of the stories from the book. This…
Shout hallelujah and rejoice heartily, SPARKS is now 85% funded! Thank you so much to everyone who has helped get the book this far. I think I can confidentally beleive that it will get there now and, maybe, that we've even rounded the final corner and have entered the home straight.....
I'm going to carry on promoting and pushing the campaign as much as I can (stuck for something…
In order to celebrate reaching the lofty and significant heights of 70% (actually now 71%) funded, here's a new photograph and story. Hope you enjoy them.
All the best
She has no idea what's going on behind her. That is not to say she is unaware of the two giant, fibre-glass whale tails shadowing her every step. She knows they're there but rather she is ignorant of the dynamic…
I'd just like to say a huge thank you to everybody who has got involved and helped out with SPARKS so far this year and wish you all a very happy and succesful 2017.
I'll be doing everything I can to help get the book up to 100% as speedily as possible, I'm doing more talks (if you happen to be in Norwich in March then you can come and see me at this :
SPARKS has had quite a bit of publicity recently:
It's been in Time Out - http://www.timeout.com/london/blog/a-photographer-is-crowdfunding-to-turn-his-witty-images-of-london-into-a-book-112516
In Huck Magazine - http://www.huckmagazine.com/art-and-culture/photography-2/bringing-street-photography-life-creating-fiction-photos/
and in Dutch Photography magazine GUP - http…
For the weekend of Novemeber 26th - 27th only, I am offering a free, signed 7 x 5 print from SPARKS to anyone who pledges before midnight (GMT) on Sunday 27th.
Just make a pledge as normal, I'll see your name and then be in touch to work out what print you'd like.
What an amazing offer, why not do it now and then have a quick lie down to recover?
All the best
To celebrate SPARKS reaching the 50% funded landmark, I'm holding another competition.
Last time I gave away an Olumpus XA2 camera and a signed print (congratulations Nicky & Dan Bentham), this time I'm giving away an absolutely fantastic, classic photography book - A DAY OFF by Tony Ray Jones.
If you're a fan of street photography then you'll know all about this beautiful…
Just wanted to let you all know that if you're in London next week I'm giving a talk about SPARKS at Photo Forum at the Printspace in Shoreditch.
The talk is on Tuesday, October 11th and starts at 7:30pm. Entry is free but on a first come first served basis, also talking that night will be the fantastic Nick Turpin, founder of IN-PUBLiC, who's got a great new book out with Hoxton Mini…
Just wanted to show you this link to a very popular photography blog by Eric Kim.
He's done a big interview with me about the book and at the end there's one of my favourite stories from the book about a balloon seller who's thinking about getting a vasectomy because he hates children so much.
There's a new article up about SPARKS, featuring a few photographs and an exclusive story that will be in the book.
Take a look here and please pass on - 26% we're getting there.
All the best
To celebrate SPARKS now being 21% funded (but still, crucially needing another 79%) I am (kind of) giving away a classic, cult OLYMPUS XA2 camera, complete with flash unit, box, instructions and even it's original lanyard! And, as if that wasn't enough, I'm also including a limited edition, 12 x 10 print from the book!
"Holy cow Stephen", I hear you say "What do we have to do to win this amazing…
These people are helping to fund Sparks.