Femi: Egyptian for Love … Southbank Skatepark

It’s been quite a while since I’ve blogged on here as I’ve been fully integrating into my new life in London, settling into and blogging daily for work, in an exciting job in marketing and communications at Chelsea College of Arts, part of University of Arts London (UAL). I have an extensive body of work from my travels and early days in London, which I haven’t blogged but recently showed some of it in a staff exhibition at Chelsea. I felt a sense of achievement from a professional hang such as this. Anyhow…there will be more posting in the near future hopefully now that I am more settled…living in the awesome neighbourhood of Brixton

Today I was in town to see a few exhibitions with a friend. I wandered by the River Thames past the colourful South Bank Skatepark which has been threatened with closure recently by the development of a commercial development. The Long Live Southbank (LLSB) campaign was created and has had support from everyone from Thom Yorke from Radiohead to Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, who The Guardian explains has halted the £120m development plan by saying that the skatepark should be left in place.

As we arrived to spectate the skaters entertain, I spotted a real character, who I asked if I could make his portrait. He said a number of people had asked and he’d said no to them…but for some reason I got a yes!

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Originally born in Manchester but now living in London, he is called Femi, which after research I see is a unisex name of African origin, meaning “Love Me” or “Love” in Egyptian.

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The Colour of Love and the upcoming Valentine’s Day of course is often seen as red, which Femi is currently sporting in his very own way. It’s also the colour of the famous Manchester United football team coincidentally…always a great colour on these crisp days…crimson against the grey of London’s current climate. London is full of fabulous characters to photograph so I hope you enjoy Femi.

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Josh

Josh (Joshua), is Don’s unofficially adopted son. They were brought together through the world’s kinder forces when Josh was around 14yrs old. Don was working in the social arena and wanted Josh to have the best chance in life. I have to admit that anyone coming into contact with Donald Clark will most likely end up with a better chance in life…because he’s an inspirational man! If you are ever near Sydney please don’t be shy to ask me for Don’s contact details and he will gladly have a Chai with you and his dog Cobber (and whomever might be staying with him from Couchsurfing at the time).

It took a few days for me to get to know Josh a little. He’s not the most talkative at first but as soon as we understood each other I was very pleased we got on well. As a portrait photographer I am always very sensitive to people’s different characteristics. Some people want their photo taken, others don’t and then there are some who just take a little time to gain their trust. I’m glad I had the time to gain Josh’s trust as I was and am very interested in his cultural and heritage.

I took this photo that evening when he came home from work and the kitchen was full with Don cooking, Sambath taking film footage, Sam Brown sitting with us and me as usual with camera in hand. For those of you who don’t know the tattoo on Josh’s arm is the Aboriginal Flag. I had to be a little cheeky to ask him if I could photograph it when I noticed it peeking out from under his t-shirt…but that sensitive audaciousness of mine worked out well…resulting in one of my favourite portraits from my time in Sydney. By the way the rabbit behind is from the rugby football team Sydney Rabbitohs.

Thanks for sharing your home with me brother Josh 🙂

Sam Brown

Samantha Brown (Sam), is a friend from Leeds where I used to live. When we both found out we’d be in Sydney at the same time as she was relocating to work as an Accountant, we’d said that we’d catch up for a drink. Little did we know that she would be living less than a minutes walk from where I happened to be staying with Don. She came round and I made us all Chai and Don cooked the most wonderful curry…photos to follow. It was lovely to be able to introduce Sam to one of her new neighbours so she’d have a friendly face in the area.

Vegemite in a roll anyone??