Saturday 16 June 2012: Dennis Morris
What a cool day. The Alternative Camera Club at the Whitworth was on for the 1st time in ages. I really enjoyed and was inspired by the last series with Mishka Henner so was really looking forward to it. For some reason, assumed it was going to be part of the We Face Forward West African series going on in Manchester just now.
I was in for a surprise though. Dennis Morris, a photographer famed for his work with Bob Marley and then The Sex Pistols, was the presenter. I was a tiny bit familiar with his work as it had been in BJP a wee bit back and I specifically remembered A young gun in Hackney in 1969.
Morris came to the UK from Jamaica as a 4 year old, and was brought up in the East End of London. He was introduced to photography as a 9 year old at his local church, by philanthropist Donald Patterson, who recognised Morris' "3rd eye" gift almost immediately. The rest is history. Saying that, he better not go down Canal Street talking about his 3rd eye!
I loved the first picture in the presentation, a Jamaican sound system with the MC and selecta looking mean. That bass cone was huge, the type that would vibrate your body and leave the ears ringing for days! I love that feeling. The 3 kettles picture was great too. Where he lived, there was only one cooker for 4 families so the cooking was started off in kettles. Luxury man! I wish I had thought of that in Marseille. We had two electricity rings for about 30 people in good ole Batiment B.
I also liked the sociological/human side to his pictures and the way he talked about life. I related! He was a bit of an outsider but "people are his passion" and he felt things; taking photographs and remembering every sound and smells around when he took them....how everyone is racist in some kind of way....it's just human. It's kinda how I feel too. It's not really about colour or race. It's about people treating others with hostility just because they perceive them to be different or through fear of the unknown. Yeah it's shit but I suspect it's down to some type of evolutionary response that humans use to deal with threat. Well....it's my way to think about it without getting angry.
Bob Marley helped Morris to believe in himself and the Sex Pistols were more of a "kick in the door- take what you want" influence. That could result in arrogance but Morris seems to be blessed with compassion and humility.
I love Marley and always have. Three Little Birds makes me happy, no matter how sad I am and I'm a closet anarchist!! I was bad enough in my Pure days so thankfully I never had the opportunity to hang with Sid Vicious. I'll be checking out Urban Shakedown and Basement 5, in which he was the front-man when he "dabbled" with music!
The top tips for being able to do reportage photography from Morris are:
No camera bag
One lens- preferably a wide-angle
Mess around and act like one of the group, not like a pro (this is how he got the sleeve of the Marianne Faithful album Broken English).
If using digital, try to shoot as if using film....don't keep looking at the LCD.
The irony of the day was that for the first time in a month I had put my zoom lens on rather than the perfect 50mm prime. My fancy camera metering system struggled with the light in the Gallery and I have ended up with slightly abstract images as a result.
Thanks to Ed Watts and The Whitworth for organising such a wonderful speaker! Ed....If you read this, I suspect there is demand for a few social Alternative Camera Clubs! How about an evening where people are given 5 minutes to present on one of their photo's? Power to the People and all that.
So to the rest of the day! Started off with a 3000m swim at Salford Quays! Was passed by a very fast girl and it transpired that she was Olympic open water favourite Kerri-Anne Payne. I took a blood lactate sample from her at the last Olympic Trials, but she didn't remember me. After the Whitworth, It was off to NTP for coffee and then home to put my feet up and snooze!