Originally from Trieste and educated in Venice to masters degree level in arts management, Emma moved to London from Italy last winter 2014. We met by chance when Emma was counting people at UAL for a living. Emma kept passing my office and after we had greeted each other several times I spoke to her in Italian. I had been thinking of developing this project towards an exhibition and possibly a publication, so it seemed as if Emma had been sent me by fate. I told her about all things Freeborn, we became great friends and Emma has been and continues to be a key part of my support team ever since. I now consider Emma an honorary Freeborn!
One of my favourite little Australian sisters Bec, also known as Freeborn Exhibit B in my collection of wonderful people, is on this side of the equator, adventuring through Europe for a few months. I was thrilled to meet her in Dublin recently when we were both travelling in Ireland. Since so much of our friendship is based around folk music and tea drinking it was very fitting that we met at The Cobblestone traditional music pub in Smithfield, Dublin. I arrived to find Bec singing a cappella with the whole session enthralled by her beautiful voice.
I was then honoured to be able to play host to Bec in Brixton, London a few weeks ago and will be doing so again when she arrives back from her current European adventures. I will be making a portrait of Bec when she returns but I wanted to share this, one of my favourite portraits which I took when we were at RiverHawke Festival outside Sydney with friends a few years ago. What a weekend of fun that was!
I can’t wait to hear all about Bec’s adventures in Europe over a pot of something special from T2, the fantastic tea shop she worked in in Sydney for many years. Originally conceived in Melbourne there’s now one in Shoreditch, London, where we will be making a pilgrimage to upon her return. Bec also made me a great Spotify folk music playlist so that will work nicely and I’m hoping we can seek out a traditional Irish folk session in London too.
One of my favourite and most memorable moments from my fortunate adventures around the world so far. A simple exchange took place with this mechanic, as I wandered through the vibrant and colourful local market, in the city of Ben Tre, on the Mekong Delta.
Skipping from one shaded part of the market to the next and I passed by him, smiling and saying hello in Vietnamese… “Chào” (pronounced “jow”). He enjoyed hearing it in my amusing Irish accent. I asked if he was happy for me to make his portrait and this is the result.
Of course I was sure to give thanks in Vietnamese… “Cảm ơn” (pronounced “gam uhhn”). It’s wonderful to think what you can fit into less time than it takes to smoke a cigarette…a human connection that’s imprinted on your mind forever! An openness of spirit and the effort to learn a few words and phrases of a new language can go a long way. One day I hope to see Vietnam again. Who knows maybe we’ll cross paths again one day!
I first met Nell Bryden years ago when she played at WuFest @ Dr Wu’s Bar in Leeds, organised by our mutual friend and superwoman Emma Tate nee McPartland whose wedding I had the pleasure of shooting a few years after. From the moment I first saw and heard Nell perform I knew there was just something about her. Nell and I met at Wufest a few years running when she was over from New York and we would have our annual catch up sitting by the mesmerising silver ball fountain sculpture on Calls Landing near the river Aire. A year would have gone by and we would hear each others news on life, love and lots more.
Time passed and for various reasons we didn’t cross paths both being busy in our own lives. I was out of the country a few times when Nell played Leeds again, although I was aware she had been making waves in the UK music scene with six playlisted singles on BBC Radio 2. The Irish broadcasting legend Sir Terry Wogan is a big fan! So when I was searching gig listings in London recently and found Nell was playing the Roundhouse in Camden, I was super excited to catch up with an old friend. Then I read news of Nell’s experience with battle with hair loss through alopecia which was detailed in her feature in the Daily Mail.
Nell full life story can be read here. It really is a truly unique and wonderful story showing how life shapes people. Through being a highly sociable person I meet a lot of folk and I feel very lucky to have happened upon such a talented strong and inspirational human being. Nell grew up on Brooklyn and was there when the 9/11 attack devastated her home city of New York. It took her a long time to write about it but when she did she really did! Every time I listen to this track Sirens it brings me close to tears. In my opinion President Barack Obama should have this song as the unofficial national anthem of the United States of America…what would fit better for a nation who are pushing to improve themselves and stay strong in times of uncertainty?
Nell is starting her new tour in May so don’t miss out if you get the chance the voice of this Pure Legend of a Woman.
Looking forward to seeing you again soon Nell.
So…I’ve been in the Irish countryside working on the farm, chopping wood, growing a beard and working in the garden. Now I’m back in London and I wanted to share more of the interesting experiences I had when I travelled the world and expanded my mind. I have a host of images in my “bank” that I’d like the world to have the opportunity to see….and here are some more of them…
As we say in Ireland…”What’s the story?”…..Well, my younger brother Stuart (Disco Stu) and I travelled to eastern europe for a week last June, from Budapest out to Lake Balaton to visit some family and then up to Bratislava, across to Vienna, down to Gyor in northwest Hungary and back to Budapest. It was quite the spin!
We had 24hrs in the Slovakian capital of Bratislava which we found very charming. Arriving at a Couchsurfing social with our bags on our backs (or wheels because it’s the way to go these days) we offered two lucky leprechauns to the highest social bidder! Well it was a fun night and we ended up staying with top bloke called Anton Cernak who we had lots in common with and had a right laugh.
We only visited the Tourist Information Office once, preferring to find our own way around, but when we did the gruff lady who “received” us…gave us the wrong time for the bus to Vienna. I always do my best to turn a negative into a positive and found myself enjoying the funky artistically decorated graffiti of Bratislava’s bus station. When I went to the toilet and stood at the urinal this shaved headed guy walked in and at first I put my hand to my pocket in case of being pick-pocketed (I shouldn’t have judged so quick) only to find that the guy was working as the toilet attendant. He was fixing the soap in a net that hung above the wash hand basin to avoid the soap getting dropped on the floor. I commented “that’s clever” and smiled at him (not something most straight guys do in toilets considering that even making eye contact with another guy is a real no-no…and women actually accompany each other to the toilet…???).
He then came out of the toilet and lit a cigarette as I was leaving. I couldn’t resist capturing the image of such a striking character, of course introducing myself first and asking his permission.
He told me his name was Vladimir…
I then ran for the bus to find that it wasn’t coming for another hour so I popped back to chat with him a little more and take this photo as I wanted to get a little closer and see some more of his great character.
The moral of the story is that as much as I try not to stereotype it’s slightly engrained. The above photo is of Vladimir holding my business card after we had a broken English/Slovakian (I had a handful of words)…and he was an absolute gent.
It’s amazing where you can meet real characters in this world and how wrong you can be when jumping to stereotypical conclusions. I’m just glad I observed who Vladimir really was, spent a little time with him and gave him a coin for keeping the Bratislavan capital’s bus station toilet clean and presentable.
So I’ve been travelling at a fairly rapid pace these past few months, through Japan, Singapore, England, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria and Ireland. I’ve been zipping across the British Isles visiting family and friends. Of course, throughout this time I have continued to take quite a few photographs which I will be blogging here retrospectively.
Japan was a phenomenal cultural experience, a truly alien experience and yet wonderful! I made some fantastic friends for life there and hope to return one day. I’m working on a photo essay of Japan which I will post a link to soon.
Eastern Europe was great but my time there was short, taking in three countries in one week with my younger brother Stu who I absolutely love travelling with. We spent two months travelling SE Asia together at the very start of this blog. You can look back to the archives for November and December if you haven’t already seen this.
It’s been quite the experience returning to the UK and Ireland with refreshed spirit and eyes. I have some beautiful moments to share from this time too.
I’m currently staying on Amhurst Road, Hackney in a friend’s apartment for three weeks whilst she’s on holiday. I’m living on a 44p reduced IKG Sourdough bread and using my friend’s girls vintage Olympics bicycle to explore the creative and edgy East End with a view to living here for a while.
The other evening I cycled up to Homerton Hospital to the NHS walk-in centre to see a doctor as my recent chest infection morphed into a sinus infection (all part of travelling fatigue..typically you get sick as soon as you rest for a while)…afterwards I cycled through Clapton, Stamford Hill, Stoke Newington, Church Street, Clissold Park and Dalston and it’s certainly quite the neighbourhood here!
As I was cycling round Dalston I spotted a characterful old lady and stopped to chat with her. During the hour I spent in the bus shelter with 86yr old Marjorie (my new girlfriend) we talked about her life here over the past 50yrs in London, travelling from Trinidad on a boat and living in a basement with 20 people, pregnant and in her early twenties during the race riots, going dancing in Stoke Newington Town Hall and watching shows in the famous Hackney Empire Theatre, plus raising a family throughout all of this!
I had stopped and asked if I could make Marjorie’s portrait using Instagram on my iPhone and was pleasantly surprised when she suggested we sit down and have that chat. Afterwards I asked if I could return to make Marjorie’s portrait with my SLR camera one day and next time I intend to do her full justice with a fully professional image which I will share here and hope to make part of The Freeborn Travelling Portrait exhibition one day.
Although I am back in England and some would say I have finished travelling however I would disagree because I feel I can continue to travel every day. It’s people like Marjorie who are the reason I started this blog and the reason the project will continue now that I have wifi and I’m “a little” more settled.
So watch this space and pass on my blog to everyone you think might be interested. I intend to share my travels retrospectively and give you highlights of London’s most interesting people, places and culture!