Project 28 Latvia

08 November 16

Posted at 1:19

The fourth country I visited was Latvia and my chosen town was Riga. Another capital city although it is not my intent to concentrate on capitals it just worked out that for all three Baltic States I visited the capital. I arrived in Riga by bus from Tallinn and gained the impression that, other than Riga, Latvia consists of acres of forest.

The Freedom MonumentThe Freedom Monument, Riga

As I walked into the town in the late afternoon the first thing that struck me was this magnificent monument. The monument honours the fallen soldiers in the Latvian War of Independence (1918-20). The monument was lucky to survive the second occupation by the Soviet Union in 1940.

Latvia joined the EU on 1st May 2004 and the eurozone on 1st January 2014.

The Market, River Daugava, Telecom Tower and beyondCentral Market, River Daugava and Telecom Tower

View from St Peter's ChurchVansu bridge from St Peters Church Tower

St Peter's Church Tower offers an excellent view of the city in all directions and for once without having to climb two or three hundred steps to see it. There is a lift, mind you the entrance fee is a bit steep as I found many things in Riga were expensive compared with Lithuania and Estonia.

Central MarketCentral Market, Riga.

 The central market consists of a large open air area along with five pavilions made from Zeppelin Hangers which when moved to Riga had their height reduced to 20.5m (from 37.4m). The original height made them too susceptible to temperature change. The market covers 72.3 thousand square meters with over 3,000 stalls.

Inside a Market HangerInside a pavillion at central market

 

Latvian Riflemen MonumentLatvian Riflemen Memorial

 

George ArmitsteadGeorge Armitstead

In the garden's of the Riga Opera House is this bronze of George Armitstead, his wife and chao-chao dog. George Armistead presided as Mayor from 1902 to 1912 and surprisingly he hailed from Yorkshire! Armitstead was responsible for the modernisation and transformation of Riga in terms of architecture and elegance in the city outside of the old town. Queen Elizabeth II unveiled this statue in 2006.

Whilst in Riga I read about the Salaspils Concentration Camp  which is located just beyond the boundary of Riga. The concentration camp was run by the Nazis during WW2. The camp housed thousands of German Jews, Soviet POWs and left wing Latvians. The Salaspils Memorial on the site of the concentration camp can be reached by train to Darzini and then a walk of two or three kilometres. I took the train to Darzini and disembarked on to a lonely platform with a brick shelter and nothing else in sight apart from trees. many paths led in all directions through the woods. It took me a while to spot a tiny sign on a tree identifying the correct path to take. After a walk through the dense woods with just a couple of small signs confirming I was on the correct route I came a cross Salaspils and it was quite a shock.

Salaspils - MotherSalaspils Memorial - Mother

At the entrance there is a concrete block housing a walkway it is a 100 metre long ramp signifying a stairway to heaven. On the front of it are inscribed the words in Latvian “AIZ SIEM VARTIEM VAID ZEME” English translation “Beyond this Gate, the Earth Moans”. As you proceed passed the ramp to the left is a large black marble block which houses a metronome, the block is called the "Reminding Heart", the constant heart beat from the metronome breaks the eery silence, echoing throughout the vast area of the memorial. Ahead is a vast clearing in the forest, around the edges stone memorials and concreted slabs. In the centre there are massive stone sculptures built and left by the Soviets as a memorial. They stand in groups, square-jawed and arms outstretched, holding each other up in support, kneeling or stretching out in exhaustion across the grass.

Salaspils - SolidaritySalaspils - Solidarity

 

Salaspils - The HumiliatedSalaspils - The Humiliated

 

I have visited many war memorials around the world but have seen nothing on this scale. Being there alone with the heartbeat constantly booming is quite daunting. It creates an atmosphere provoking thoughts of what this camp meant to those imprisoned and in many cases dying there.

 

 

 

 

 

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Year One As A Professional Photographer

22 June 16

Posted at 10:40

On Thursday evening I will visit the private view of the University of Westminster Undergraduate Degree Show Photography at the Truman Brewery

The Cohort BA Photography and Photographic Arts

Courtesy John Wallace

It is perhaps appropriate to reflect on the year, my first year as a professional photographer. During the last two years of my four year degree course it became clear that documentary photography would become my favoured practice. The combination of research, understanding and immersion in a given subject and then communicating primarily through images and or video is a process that gives me immense satisfaction. Having decided that would be my prime photographic activity (prime but not sole) it also became clear to me that I must accept I was not about to earn a fortune as a documentary photographer. I am in the fortunate position not to have to depend on my photography for a living equally, at least for now, I don't have to take on a job that would no doubt distract me from and intrude on my documentary projects. So I am in a privileged position not enjoyed by many of my peers. I was also clear in my mind that a) I could not simply keep on self funding projects (I'm not that privileged) and b) to be regarded as a 'professional' my work must be credible enough for others to commission me. Having done possibly more than OK in my degree and having reluctantly accepted that my projects so far had been credible I decided my first objective must be to build a reputation as a competent documentary photographer and to achieve that in a cost effective way. I acknowledged that it would be a slow process and would require a lot of hard work and a little luck.

My major project for my degree had been successful on many levels.

The Book

Gravette The Heart of Hometown America

The output had been a photo book, a documentary on a community in North West Arkansas. A measure of my success was coverage in the British Journal of Photography Gravette BJP article

I had started the year with the kind of exposure I was looking for. I figured if I was the only one of 50 or so exhibitors covered in such a magazine it could only be good.

I already had a good idea of my next project. I was going to follow up on the progress of aid agencies and charities six months after the earthquake that struck Nepal on 25th April 2015. I applied for a bursary to part fund the project. I had no doubt that I would be successful so when I wasn't it dawned on me that rejection was also likely to be a common theme of my photography career and something I should get used to.

I went to Nepal in November 2015 spending time with three charities. I also spent time independently meeting those affected by the earthquake. By the end of the year I had the task of editing a massive portfolio of images. I also had the task of planning how to use my work.

So fast forward to today and I ask myself what progress have I made? Well my initial project objective was to document the progress of aid agencies six months after the earthquake. I expected to be focussing on rebuilding and infrastructure but what I found is that the real damage caused by earthquakes is the accentuation of the problems that Nepalese people live with - chronic poverty, child labour, human trafficking, gender disparity, abuse etc. I became close to the charities I spent time with. As a result I offered to put on an exhibition in conjunction with and in aid of Kidasha a London based charity specialising in supporting children and families in Nepal. I did this in the knowledge that I was also collaborating with two other photographers in an exhibition in June. I soon found that I had bitten off quite a lot putting on two exhibitions in the space of about six weeks. Really it boiled down to me working on nothing else from March until today. It's been worth it. Although not in the plan I am proud that my first exhibition raised over £3000 for Kidasha and also provided awareness of both the charity and their work but also exposure of my work to a new audience. In early June Yesterday's News an immersive multi media event proved to be a rewarding experience working not only with two other photographers but also set designers, a film maker, a sound engineer, a poet, journalists and documentary film producers. This was a high profile event at Platform Southwark, again my work reached a new audience. Also almost a year to the date my work was again featured in BJP Yesterday's News

Whilst at the exhibition I received a visit from a guy who is selecting work from Photo Book projects for a RPS exhibition later this year. He came to advise me that work from Gravette The Heart of Hometown America has been selected.

In twelve short months I have funded and part completed a project that has not only given me exposure but has raised money for a good cause. That and my previous project have featured in BJP and also in FAD Magazine 

I have made some progress with my objective of establishing a reputation as a documentary photograher as I said earlier it will involve hard work and a little luck. It's fair to say in year one I've experienced both.

Durbar Square

 Durbar Square

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