For anyone in and around London, or visiting London before the end of October, check out this provocative exhibition.
Public viewing at the London Lighthouse Gallery: exhibition ‘CAN YOU SEE ME NOW? By Brunel Johnson.
DOCUMENTARY PHOTOGRAPHER / FILMMAKER / HUMANITARIAN Brunel Johnson is a candid street and commercial sports, lifestyle, and documentary photographer who hails from North West London. Shortly after studying Mathematics at university, Brunel picked up the camera or as Brunel recalls “It chose me, it all happened by accident.” He hasn’t looked back since! Brunel draws inspiration from every and anywhere, capturing mundane moments and heightening its depth by increasing the intensity of the moment captured. Buses, shop windows, London underground, playgrounds, orphanages, landscapes and the streets are Brunel’s canvas. About The Exhibition In celebration of Black History Month this exhibition tells the story of so many. While empowering Black and Minority groups to express their struggles, feelings and experiences of living in Britain this exhibition also offers an insight into the young lives impacted by negative stereotypes within our society. Brunel Johnson photograph’s capture the intimate moments where young volunteers face the external projections that inform their everyday existence. This exhibition includes photography stills and short films. All prints are for sale with proceeds going to three very special charities that continue to help, support and celebrate Black lives within our community. (RE:SOLE, RISE 365, United Borders) With the exhibition being solely curated by Sokari Higgwe the founder of London Lighthouse Gallery & Studio the Private Viewing will be the first time that Brunel sees this project come to life and we hope to share this moment with you. Showing through October, during Black History Month. Tickets can be purchased via the studio’s website: London Lighthouse Gallery & Studio. www.londonlighthousegallery.com
Can you see me now? | PORT Magazine www.port-magazine.com › art-photography › ca…
July 2021 Brunel Johnson’s four-part series provides a necessary platform for Black and minority ethnic groups
Many of Brunel Johnson’s ideas tend to formulate in the shower – it’s where he devises some of his best work. In the past, there’s been Dream, a project documenting the Pembury Estate in Hackney, photographing and videoing young women playing estate football. There’s also the countless sports, commercial, lifestyle and documentary photography projects, that each depict his notably candid style of image-making and, more importantly, his view of the world. It’s my Hair is another fine example, an ongoing project that aims to show the time, effort and skill that goes into maintaining Afro hair. Whether it’s a still or moving image, Brunel’s shower-formed concoctions are deeply powerful just as much as they are empathetic. And Brunel’s most recent endeavour is a fine paragon of his goals as a self-taught, documentary photographer-turned-filmmaker. Titled Can you see me now?, the project is a four-part series produced and directed by Brunel himself, that aims to provide a space for Black and minority ethnic groups to tell their stories. For him, creativity is an apt tool for telling these narratives and to ultimately steer change. So by working with a solid team – including Milo Van Giap as the DOP, plus charities Rise.365 and Re:Sole and United Borders – Brunel has cast an array of real-life people with lived experiences to share, heightened by his artful use of mixed-media and 1:1 format. The result of which is a compilation of four films, Young Black Man, The Beauty Of The Hijab, Black Girl Magic and CHiNK. Below, I chat to Brunel to hear more about his impactful series.
First, tell me about your ethos as a photographer. I strive to capture the mundane moments of daily life in an authentic and raw way. If I’m working on a project, I’ll always try to draw out the moments that tell the story I want the audience to see best. My goal as a photographer is to change the narrative that surrounds Black and minority ethic communities. I want to change how we’re shown in the media and how our stories are told. So I strive to bring out the stories that I believe the world needs to hear and see without tainting it from a biased gaze. When did the idea arise for Can you see me now? Why tell this story? It actually came about while I was in the shower (a lot of my ideas happen there). Being a Black creative in this industry can be frustrating, as not only do you have to deal with basic day-to-day struggles of life, you also have to deal with the stereotypes, your work being deemed irrelevant, being labelled unprofessional for stating your mind and making a stand for what you believe in, being randomly stopped and searched because of a vague police description as you walk out your front door. All these things and many more make you realise that you’re in a constant upward struggle to achieve a basic human right – to just live. And this can really take a toll on you mentally. Simply screaming, complaining and protesting gets you easily labelled and tossed aside. So how do you tell your pain, struggles and experiences while making those who wouldn’t normally listen, listen? It has to be done creatively. In my opinion, anyway. I believe these stories are important and need to be told, especially with how the world is right now. The mic isn’t being given to those who are truly affected and that needs to change. How will people understand what is happening in these communities if it’s always the white gaze of the media telling us what they think we feel?
What are your reasons for incorporating mixed-media, and what does this add to the narrative? While planning this project, I wanted the message to be delivered in a way that hits the viewer from multiple angles. I’ve seen this format done many times before, but I wanted to do it differently. Sometimes the visuals are dope but the poem is a bit meh, other times it’s the visuals that are meh but the poem is dope; I wanted to create something that was both visually and audibly dope yet still digestible. As a documentary photographer, I know the face and eyes tell a story and are probably the most captivating part of the human body. I saw the face as a blank canvas that I could use to tell the story with words, and would visually have the viewer spending more time staring at the photo. I didn’t want the viewer to come up with their own interruptions. The monochrome palette and 1:1 format were important for me. I acknowledged that, for some reason, whenever we talk about race, despite its complexities, it always somehow boils down to Black and White, so why not have visuals like that too. The 1:1 format was to create a box, symbolising the stereotypical box many of us have had to live our lives in, but now we were taking control of this box and using it to our benefit, to tell our stories. I made the subjects stare directly into the lens to prevent the viewer from looking elsewhere. The subject is in front of them and there’s no escape; it’s time to listen, read and see what they have to say.
How did you land on the subject matter, and what do these topics mean to you? I decided that I wanted each piece to be direct and unapologetic of how these communities really feel. For the young Black man part of the series, I drew upon my personal experiences and had a friend who is a poet write it out as a spoken word. With the other parts of the series, I spent time speaking to people from those communities to educate me on their experiences, their feelings and what they’d like to say if given the platform to. I really enjoyed this process because, for example, with Black Girl Magic I was going down the lines of Maya Angelou and the strong Black woman narrative. However, after speaking with Black women, many said that the era of the strong Black woman had passed and that they wanted the world to know that they experience other feelings too; that they cried, laughed, felt anxious, scared, fatigue and more. So making this a reality was incredible. It was the same situation with CHiNK and The Beauty of The Hijab. One thing I made sure of was that each poem was written by someone from their respective community. This is why I decided to call the series Can You See Me Now? I do what I do so I can learn more about humanity. Each topic for me is an opportunity to learn, to find common ground and build bridges. What’s the main message with this powerful series, what can the audience learn? Can you see me now? Am I visible now? Can you feel and understand my pain, struggles and experiences? It’s to be visible. I hope the audience can relate to the series and feel a sense of relief that maybe how they’ve felt is finally being put across, and those who haven’t experienced the things said in the series become more understanding and accepting to the fact that they do exist and are happening.
I hope people find this article interesting and attend the exhibition. Thanks, Tony.
Translated from the original newspaper article in Danish language by Google Translate. 43-year-old Tony Giles from England and his Greek girlfriend Tatiana visited Odense this weekend, where the author of this article took them around HC Andersen’s House. It became an educational morning for everyone. 26 Sep. 2021 at 09:00 Simon Staun email@example.com Odense: I would otherwise have sworn that I would never use the HC Andersen phrase “To travel is to live” again. But in the case of Tony Giles, it is impossible not to dust off the cliché. The 43-year-old Briton is 100 percent blind and 80 percent deaf, yet has managed to visit an impressive 125 countries. For him, travel is both about living and staying alive. Many blind people spend most of their lives on a couch or in bed. My mission is, among other things, to show that you can easily travel, even if you are blind and almost deaf. It’s about using his other senses instead. That is why it is absolutely fantastic to be able to feel statues and busts of HC Andersen, says Tony Giles, who was born in Weston-super-Mare near Bristol.
He was born with a visual impairment that made him almost blind. As a child, he could see black letters on white paper if the letters were 4-5 inches. This meant that he both learned to read and get a feel for many forms and things before completely losing sight as a 10-year-old. He finished elementary school at a school with other blind children. 2/5 – Waaaaauw, is it really the door to his birth home, Tony Giles exclaimed when he and his girlfriend Tatiana felt most of the facade of Hans Christian Andersen’s birth home. Photo: Simon Staun – I went to a class where we were only three students in math classes. This meant that the teachers had much better time for the individual student. Therefore, I was able to read on, so I actually studied American studies at the University of Northampton before moving to the United States to study in South Carolina, says Tony Giles, who hears fine with the help of his hearing aids. However, he ended up partying more than he studied, and in the following years he began to travel more and more around the world. However, he had to stay calm when he had a kidney transplant 13 years ago. – I had travelled almost nonstop for six or seven years when I got a new kidney. At that time, I had probably visited 50 countries. When I was healthy enough to fly, I started traveling again. Among other places to Greece, where I met Tatiana. She had read some of my travelogues and invited me to dinner. It was the first time in my life that a woman paid for me, says Tony Giles and laughs. He does not mind me holding her hand while I guide them around the museum. In fact, it is a necessity. For them quite common, but for me extremely borderline the first 10 minutes. Forced to trust others The couple is especially fond of the many statues and busts of Hans Christian Andersen in the mirror room. They feel and comment on everything from his nose to the hairstyle and attire. They spend several minutes on each of the statues they can reach on the mirror podiums. The nightingale and the many mattresses from the fairy tale about the princess on the pea are also a success, because they can feel the nightingale’s cage and the fabric on the different mattresses. 3/5 Tony Giles and Tatiana did not know the fairy tale about the princess on the pea, but promised that they would read it after the visit to Hans Christian Andersen’s House. Photo: Simon Staun While we find the stairs up to the reception, the couple says that as a blind person you are forced to trust your fellow human beings. Tony and Tatiana need help crossing roads, help ordering food, help finding their seats on a bus, and help raising money. – You have to have an enormous trust in your fellow human beings as a blind person. We need help withdrawing money when we are outside the UK, so you have to hand over your debit card and code to a stranger. (inserted text from Tony: I never actually give anyone my debit card or pin code). I have actually never seen anyone run away with my card, but it was close to a single time in Senegal, says Tony Giles. When we walk around together, we especially use our sense of hearing and sense of touch to sense the spaces, while you make great use of your sight. When we combine all our senses, I think we create a more holistic picture of what it is we are experiencing TONY GILES, BLIND TRAVELLER He has once been close to losing his passport when he took off his belt bag on a train in South Africa when he was going to the toilet. A conductor returned the bag with the passport in, but without cash. – There was only the equivalent of 300-400 kroner. It was not a disaster. I’ve actually been spared many of the kinds of mishaps that most travellers encounter, says Tony Giles. He acknowledges that trusting complete strangers may seem naive. But the reward is palpable. – If you trust your fellow human beings, you often end up making new friends and unexpected experiences. It also has the side effect that sighted people may gain a greater insight into life as a blind person. And become a little less prejudiced towards the disabled. Love waterfalls The highlight for Tony and Tatiana is Hans Christian Andersen’s birthplace and memorial hall, which makes them sing to feel the acoustics. – It sounds like a cathedral. I would guess that the room is about 20 feet wide, says Tony Giles. I tell them what all the paintings represent and mention as many years as I can think of. A few times Tony corrects me. – It was not in 1865 that he became the first honorary citizen in Odense. It was 1867, says Tony Giles, who to that extent has control over the year, number and everything from street names to names of parks and statues in the city. 4/5 After the visit to HC Andersen’s House, Tatiana and Tony Giles would like to pass the Radisson Blu HC Andersen Hotel with the large statue at the main entrance. Photo: Simon Staun Although the visit to Odense and the museum has long been on the wish list, it is not quite at the top of Tony Giles’ list. One thing he loves above all else: waterfalls. – I have visited the world’s four largest waterfalls. Iguazu in Argentina and Brazil, Angel Falls in Venezuela, Niagara Falls between the USA and Canada and Victoria Falls between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Standing at the foot or above a roaring waterfall and feeling the water on your face is the best I know. The energy is enormous and you can really feel the forces of nature when all the senses are stimulated, says Tony Giles. Most things are possible As a sighted person, it is an eye opener of the rank of following a blind couple around a museum. How do you describe the spaces, the architecture, the effects and the materials? – When we walk around together, we especially use our sense of hearing and sense of touch to sense the spaces, while you greatly use your sight. When we combine all our senses, I think we create a more cohesive picture of what it is we are experiencing, says Tony Giles. 5/5 Tony Giles lives in Birmingham, England (inserted text by Tony: I actually live in Devon, England), , while Tatiana lives in Athens, Greece. Photo: Simon Staun He not only has a goal of visiting all the countries of the world. He has set himself the goal of visiting the 60 largest uninhabited islands in Denmark and the same in Greece. – My hope is that I can inspire others with disabilities to throw themselves into things that may seem unmanageable. For a blind person, making a cup of coffee or shopping can be a big challenge. If I can motivate them by showing that you can do more than you think, it would mean a lot. Most things are possible if you believe in yourself. Read more about Tony Giles Tony Giles has written the two travel books: “Seeing The Americas My Way” and “Seeing The World My Way” Website: www.tonythetraveller.com Facebook: www.facebook.com/theblindbackpacker YouTube: www.youtube.com/c/TonyGilesTraveller
— Tony Giles blind solo traveller and public speaker. Author of new eBook: Seeing a Slice of Southern Africa My Way ISBN 9781839781544 https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08RWLRC2F/ I’m Fund raising for Galloway’s Society for the Blind, a charity that supports blind and visually impaired people throughout the northwest of England. my challenge: to raise £3,850 or more. Half for Galloway’s to support their fine work and half to send me to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Peru in April or October 2022 and show what blind people can do. My Go fund me page: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/tony-giles4
Hi everyone. Had a nice, relaxing weekend. Now about to head off north, well, northeast to be exact! Tomorrow afternoon I’m travelling by train all the way to Kingston Upon Hull, in the far northeast of England. East Yorkshire in fact. and the Hull and Humber rivers. Why? To do a little exploring and stay in a delightful, independent hostel. Oh, and yes, for a base to travel to Leeds on Wednesday, for day one of the third cricket test match between England and India. India won a dramatic match at Lords in London to win on the final afternoon as England experienced yet another batting collapse! Nothing new, I’m afraid. Hopefully the match at Headingley, Leeds, West Yorkshire, will have a better outcome. However, I will only experience the first day, as I’m off down to London on the Wednesday evening before flying to sunny Athens, Greece Thursday lunchtime to be with my beloved Tatiana :). Happy days everyone. Keep following. Cheers. More photos from Devon and Cornwall coming soon. Stay safe, thanks, Tony :).
— Tony Giles blind solo traveller and public speaker. Author of new eBook: Seeing a Slice of Southern Africa My Way ISBN 9781839781544 https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08RWLRC2F/ I’m Fund raising for Galloway’s Society for the Blind, a charity that supports blind and visually impaired people throughout the northwest of England. my challenge: to raise £3,850 or more. Half for Galloway’s to support their fine work and half to send me to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Peru in April or October 2022 and show what blind people can do. My Go fund me page: uk.virginmoneygiving.com/TonyGiles1 Author of eBooks:
*Seeing The Americas My Way* An emotional journey (2016) Available from Amazon – http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01M14JY50 Kobo – store.kobobooks.com/en-ca/ebook/seeing-the-americas-my-way
*Seeing The World My Way* A totally blind and partially deaf guy’s global adventures (2010, repub 2016) The first eBook in the trilogy. Second edition is available from all Ebook sites. Amazon – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01NAMEO2B
Website: www.tonythetraveller.com Facebook: www.facebook.com/theblindbackpacker YouTube: www.youtube.com/c/TonyGilesTraveller