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Sparks

Street photography and short stories by Stephen Leslie

  • https://unbound.com/books/sparks

The Synopsis

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.

The Excerpt

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?”

Read more...

The Author

I'm an award winning screenwriter and film director from London.

My first short film, I WAS CATHERINE THE GREAT’S STABLE BOY, focused on bestiality and the Russian royal family. The most recent one, TO LEECH was a comedy about stupid men trying to solve an argument by dueling. Repeatedly.

I've worked for the BBC, Ch4, the BFI and Working Title, writing 15 original screenplays. One of these has been made in to a feature film and several more are currently in production.

As an antidote to the protracted and often frustrating world of British film making I started taking photographs. This rather rapidly became an obsession. I now never go anywhere without a camera and my photographs on Flickr have had over 2 and a half million views. Sparks is my first work of fiction.

To see more of Stephen's photography, featuring several more images that will feature in the book, visit his web-site www.stephenleslie.co.uk

Questions & Answers

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Unbound Unbound replied:

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The Rewards

All supporters get their name printed in every edition of the book. All levels include immediate access to the author's shed.

$15
Digital
Ebook edition, access to the author's shed and your name in the back of the book.
📖 Pledge $15 46 pledges
$45
Hardback
A first edition of the hardback plus the ebook, access to the author's shed and your name in the back of the book.
📖 Pledge $45 81 pledges
$50
Collectable
A signed first edition of the hardback plus the ebook, access to the author's shed and your name in the back of the book.
📖 Pledge $50 123 pledges
$95
Read With A Friend
Two signed first edition of the hardbacks (only pay shipping once) plus the ebook, access to the author's shed and two names in the back of the book.
📖 Pledge $95 5 pledges
$125
Personalised Story
Stephen will write a brand new story based on one of your own photographs delivered to you physically and digitally, plus a signed first edition of the hardback, the ebook, access to the author's shed and your name in the back of the book.
$125
Four 7 x 5 Prints
Any four prints of your choice from the book (7 x 5), plus a signed first edition of the hardback, the ebook, access to the author's shed and your name in the back of the book.
📖 Pledge $125 27 pledges
$190
12 x 8 Print
A limited edition 12 x 8 fine art print of your choice of one of the pictures from the book. A signed first edition of the hardback plus the ebook, access to the author's shed and your name in the back of the book.
📖 Pledge $190 11 pledges
$220
Read with a Friend and Print
A limited edition 12 x 8 print (of one of the pictures from the book, your choice). Two signed first edition of the hardbacks plus the ebook, access to the author's shed and two names in the back of the book.
📖 Pledge $220 1 pledge
$375
Print and Portrait
A print of your choice and a unique, one-off portrait of yourself, your family, your pet (dog or cat) or all of you together. A signed first edition of the hardback plus the ebook, access to the author's shed and your name in the back of the book. (Obviously this reward is dependant on your being based in the UK. If you're not based in the UK but desperately want me to shoot a portrait of you and / or your pet then get in touch and we'll try to work something out)
📖 Pledge $375 5 pledges
$620
Street Photography Masterclass
A day spent hanging out with me, talking about photography and shooting on the street. I have been taking photographs for more than 20 years, I'll try to pass on some tips. We'll probably end up in a pub. A limited edition 12 x 8 fine art print of your choice of one of the pictures from the book, a signed first edition of the hardback plus the ebook, access to the author's shed and your name in the back of the book.
📖 Pledge $620 1 pledge
$930
A Unique Photograph and Story Combination
If you go for this, I will stalk you, try to photograph you without your knowledge and then write a story based on the resulting photograph. This has never been done before, it may take several attempts but you will end up with bespoke reward that most mere mortals can only dream of. Plus a limited edition 12 x 8 fine art print of your choice of one of the pictures from the book, plus twenty signed first editions of the hardback plus the ebook, access to the author's shed and your name in the back of the book.
📖 Pledge $930 2 pledges