Monday, December 29, 2008

Light on

A cold, post Christmas Sunday had me itching to go out and take some photographs. I had been ogling lots of other photographers' websites and was inspired. I didn't have time to travel far, so I decided once again to walk from home and see what I could dig out. I thought I'd pay close attention to how the light works on objects and see what I could come up with...

Pavement: Into the Light
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative
Click to enlarge

A Wife-Beater Meets an Appropriate End
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative
Click to enlarge

Slow Dance
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative
Click to enlarge

Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative
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West London Sunset
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative
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Hot Cross
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative
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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Boxing Day Walk...

St Katherine Dock, London
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

Eems. She has stolen my heart. I want this little warship.
St Katherine Dock, London
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

Tower Bridge
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

Tower Bridge Pier, London
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

Tower Bridge
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

Last Kiss
St Saviour's Dock, London
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

Ice Wharf, London
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

Ice Wharf, London
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative

Saturday, December 13, 2008

NO to FIFA World Cup in South Africa!

As thousands of Zimbabweans lie dying of cholera in various provinces around the country - and now in neighbouring countries too - the world is at last starting to take notice. Yes, the unfolding humanitarian disaster that has been happening for ten long years is finally being taken seriously.

How so? Well, Mr Brown, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom has said Mugabe is very naughty or something similar. Mr Obama has been quiet, but I expect some words post-inauguration. Mr Bush has said Mugabe is very naughty too, probably after Ms Condi Rice told him who Mugabe was and showed him this place called Africa, an island off the coast of Florida.

But yes, its been ten years of agonised cries for help by a population suffering terribly at the hands of one of the most evil people to ever walk the surface of the planet.

South Africa, the regional powerhouse has for the last ten years led the 'mediation' between Mugabe's ZanuPF and Tsvangirai's MDC. Mbeki's "quiet diplomacy" has for ten years failed. For ten years we have all been pointing out the absolutely, totallly and irrefutably obvious, that "quiet diplomacy" is the very LAST thing needed to remove a recognised genocidal butcher from power.

In fact, I believe "quiet diplomacy" is the carefully and deliberately applied slow-death torture that Thabo Mbeki has enjoyed inflicting, together with his cohort Mugabe on Zimbabweans. They have acted in collusion. After ten years, that is obvious. Mbeki has reinforced Mugabe's position time and time again. He feels and the ANC feels, that they owe Mugabe a favour; that his loyalty to the ANC during the Apartheid era must now be repaid at all costs.

The truth is, Mugabe did not help the ANC. It was us, the people of Zimbabwe who all helped the ANC. The very same people who are now suffering at the inactive hands of the ANC. Mugabe put our country at the ANC's disposal. Our country, not his country.

And this is the basic fault with African politics. History has shown time and time again, right across Africa, that most of the leaders never seem to realise that they lead a people. They look at only themselves as important, and see only counterparts as important. And the reason is simple. They help each other to subvert freedoms, to keep democracy at arms length. Mugabe helped Mbeki; Mbeki's quiet diplomacy has helped Mugabe. Mugabe helped Mobuto Sese Seko of Zaire, then rapidly switched to helping his replacement, Laurent Kabila. He helped Marxist President Samora Machel bring Mozambique to its knees, fighting off the pesky concept of democracy. He mollycoddled the utterly useless President Kaunda of Zambia... there are more... the club of incompetents all wrecking Africa in a circle-jerk of self -importance, greed and corruption.

But it is South Africa where the spotlight falls. South Africa has the regional influence to dramatically change the course of history in any of its neighbouring countries. It should have used its influence in 2000, nipping in the bud what was a very nasty situation even then. Instead, it chose to side with the Mugabe rather than with Zimbabwe.

Now, when South Africa prepares to pose and preen on the world stage as World Cup hosts, its neighbour has to suffer the dreadful consequences of its inaction. Any firm action taken by South Africa now would be welcomed, but it will have been too late. Mugabe should have been dealt with in 2000. There is simply no excuse.

African leaders, very wrongly, enjoy a lot of leeway when it comes to their governance and moral conduct. They are forgiven a lot (just look at Mugabe's genocide which everyone swept under the carpet). And because they are forgiven for one thing, they carry on and do something worse until they are all behaving like... like... ummm well, African Leaders.

Time to stop it. South Africa must be made to utiliuse its influence. What possible harm can be done over and above that which is already being done by Mugabe? South Africa must act as it did years ago to bring the Rhodesian crisis to an end or if it would rather carry on supporting Mugabe and his (really quite small) band of thugs, then it must lose the right to host the World Cup. There are other more deserving, more democratically free countries, to host the tournament. Let voting South Africans suffer the consequences of their leaders' inaction, the consquences of electing to power a party that would rather support a dictator than his desperate people, and let it be an example to the rest of the swine that rule in Africa. This is no misdemeanour we're talking of. Its a crime against humanity. All 13 million of us Zimbabweans. South Africa could have, should have helped avert it.


I have little doubt that many South Africans will feel I'm being rather unfair. Let me just offer a word of caution: I have seen Zimbabwe squander its freedom. Our voters allowed our leaders to ride roughshod, first over tiny freedoms, then later (when it was too late) anything they chose. Right Now South Africans need to get a grip of their freedom because I see the signs of it being wasted. You've set your standards too low. Expect better from your leaders, expect better from your ANC - and watch them like a hawk! They are way too powerful - just like ZanuPF.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Ghosts in the Tunnel, the Poet and the Boxer

Self Portrait
A shot of my shadow, tweaked in Lightroom and Photoshop. Click to enlarge.
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative. All rights reserved.

Sunday was one of those perfect winter days when the sky is crystal clear and the deepest possible blue, especially in the north. It was cold, so suited and booted in my arctic gear, (that's my normal clothes with an extra jersey) I decided to pop out for a day's shooting.

The plan was to head for Hackney Wick which looked splendidly grungy when I passed through on Saturday on my way to a client shoot. However, the North London Overground line was not operating so I headed by bus for Baker Street where I then picked up the Jubilee Line for Stratford. At the last minute however, I decided to get off at Greenwich North (North Greenwich?), the stop for the O2 Dome.

Click to enlarge.
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative. All rights reserved.

I thought it would be cool to walk back up river, photographing whatever came my way. So that's what I did.

The Thames turns through almost 180 degrees, wrapping round the dome before heading down to the barrier and and beyond. I started on the east side of the arc and wandered round towards the west. The tide was out and there was not a breath of wind. The foreshore looked very inviting, with streams of water meandering through exposed sandbanks where gulls picked through the debris for tasty morsels. The light was silvery and I felt immensely happy just to be there.

Wave Dance
I like exposing for harsh highlights, almost killing the other tones.
It strips the image of unnecessary detail and allows simple visual purity. Click to enlarge.

Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative. All rights reserved.

For whatever reasons, I very often find myself alone. I tend to do so many things on my own and have, to be honest, often felt lonely. However, I have come to value my time on my own. I set the pace. I set the topic. I do what I want. And, you know what? I quite like having myself for company. I can, if I choose, spend ages in one place fiddling with lenses, composition etc without worrying about whether I'm boring anyone who is in my company. It allows me to be a photographer rather than a companion. It allows me to focus ('scuse the pun) on each image; to distill what I see in the viewfinder. To take my time - although I still think I rush my photographs. No, I know I rush them.

Click to enlarge.
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative. All rights reserved.

Continuing round the Dome, I was stopped by two ladies. They had been peering through the security fencing into the Dome and were I could tell, pretty fascinated. They asked me if I knew what entrance the stars used. "I have no idea", I replied. "I presume they come by bus". They looked a little taken aback at this and one said "Oh don't be silly!"

"Tour Bus", I replied. "Or Limo"

"Ohhhh! Do you know what entrance they use?"

"No Idea. Who are you wanting to see?"

"Barry Manilow." (they said this in unison). I smirked.

"We've seen him on all three nights, but whenever we go to see him, we like to wave him off at the end."

Fans. Gotta love 'em.

Click to enlarge.
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative. All rights reserved.

Continuing along the river, I came to a slipway covered in frosty driftwood and slippery green algae, leading to the river's foreshore. I skied/skated down the concrete ramp and the picked my way through the debris and finally made it to the 'beach'. The low angle light and the textures of the sand, the pebbles, boulder and the debris were all in perfect combination and I spent a while there, taking less shots than I should have.

The Thames Path then continued upstream through some derelict docks (well, construction sites now) with Canary wharf slightly obscured by haze on the other side of the river. I noted that many of the puddles still had a thin layer of ice on them (it was getting on for 2pm) and that there were the occasional bits of black ice on the pavement. I was wearing my expensive (75 quid) "UK Running" cross country running (no, I don't) shoes which, naturally, have bugger-all grip. (Quick! Call the Design Police!!!) Fortunately, I managed to beat Gravity & Slippery 1-0.

Click to enlarge.
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative. All rights reserved.

As I got nearer Greenwich the riverside becomes more industrial and the Thames path passes large grain elevator (or sugar?) past what I think might be a Tate & Lyle factory. There were several fine opportunities to shoot nice 'industrial decay' type shots which I grabbed with both hands. Eventually the path ended up at the Cutty Sark, which I just managed to avoid going into, lured as I was by the smell of hot chips... The sun was getting low and across the river, Canary Wharf was shining like burnished gold. Once again, as I have previously done, I radically underexposed and got a pretty dramatic shot of Docklands.

Click to enlarge.
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative. All rights reserved.

Ballast Quay.
Click to enlarge.
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative. All rights reserved.

Anxious to find a Nurofen purveyor, I decided to cross the river via the Greenwich foot tunnel and then take the DLR to the Land of Plenty. Once inside the tunnel, I knew it was essential that I took some photographs, so I had a bit of a play with time exposures and post-sync flash, getting some nice, ghostly images of people walking towards me.

Ghosts in Greenwich Foot Tunnel.
Click to enlarge.
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative. All rights reserved.

Took the DLR from Island Gardens to Shadwell. It was packed and I stood amongst a bushel of New Zealand kids on a school trip, listening to them discussing the names of various stops on the line: Mudchute, Heron Quays etc. Quite amusing. The teachers chaperoning them looked exhausted.

I Got off the DLR and walked through the sunset towards The Captain Kidd to meet my buddy Ian for a small pint of fizzy beer. On the way I got in some fine shots of vapour trails scratched across the sky, lit by the last rays of the sun.

Click to enlarge.
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative. All rights reserved.

On arriving at the Captain Kidd, I saw a large table at which was seated only one man, so I chose that to dump my gear on and to strip down and pack away my camera. The gentleman sitting there was very friendly (and a bit pissed) and we struck up a conversation. He was, it turned out, a commercial eel fisherman - an Eeler - who fished the river from Tower Bridge all the way down to the barrier. Now that was enough for me. I was fascinated immediately. I asked him if I can accompany him when he goes eeling and he said any time.

Bruce Pope.
Bruce is a poet,. And he catches eels for a living. Click to enlarge.
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative. All rights reserved.

He 's a fascinating character. Apart from being an eel catching person, he's a poet, a painter and a sculptor too. Amazing! I'd say something and he'd reply with poetry. Proper poetry, not just rhyming words. He thinks in poems. And he wrote me a poem too, in his lovely semi calligraphic long hand.

His name is Bruce Pope and he is a fine person! The kind of person I always hope I will meet.

With my head ramping up for a mighty headache, I thought it best that I get on my way home and so headed for Tower Bridge tube station. Unable to resist, I diverted the quay where I photographed the benches a few weeks back. There was a dude shadow boxing. So I shot him. With my camera. He was a Lithuanian and was training for a tournament. He told me his name, but its slipped my mind.
Click to enlarge.
Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative. All rights reserved.

Passing through St Katherine's Dock I got a few time exposures of Tower Bridge and the river before being overcome by my need to find Nurofen. I'd left it too late. The headache arrived with suitable fanfare and I spent a grim (KIP 7-8) journey on the tube to Embankment where I got off to try and find an open chemist. No such luck. I got on the Bakerloo and headed for Queens Park where I managed to find a corner shop that actually sold the Migraine Strength Nurofen, that I MUST take every four hours. I nearly wept with relief.

How Bright the Light?

How Bright the light?
The glow that has no flame,
The colours yet,
That have no name
Where rigid mode
Yet still it will remain

Bruce Pope

Photograph Copyright 2008 Paul Davey Creative. All rights reserved.
Poem by kind permission of Bruce Pope, Copyright Bruce Pope 2008

Oh, did I tell you I got a new battery (£69.99) for my camera? It lasted the whole day. Bee-yoo-ti-ful!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Zimbabwe: Too little, too late.

On Thursday, one of the world's most respected moral authorities, Bishop Desmond Tutu at last, at long, long last said what has been needed to be said for many many years: "Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe must resign or be sent to The Hague for the "gross violations" he has committed..."

Well done, Des, you're the man!

Now to be fair, Bishop Desmond Tutu has spoken out against Mugabe before, but his words were tempered with the hopeless, 100%-ineffectual-in-Africa, "diplomacy". Diplomacy has no place in a continent where, with a few exceptions, brutality seems to be first law.

On this occasion, he was blunt and to the point. And very quickly, the voice of the other (more self-appointed) moral authority, the United States, chimed in (jumped on the band wagon?) via the vocal chords of Ms Condileezza Rice who said, "it is "well past time" for Mr Mugabe to go, saying a "sham election" has been followed by a "sham process of power-sharing talks".


Saint Desmond and the Angel Condi need to learn that whilst we now appreciate their words of condemnation for Mugabe, they should have been said many years ago.

Africa's gravestone should bear those words: "Too little, Too Late". For that is how it has always been.

The Developed world has a duty to protect the citizens of Africa. They should be protected from both the developed world and the highly exploitative 'emerging' world - that's you, China. Most of all though, Africa needs to be protected from Africans.

This vast continent of 934,283,426 people living in 54 states has known nothing but exploitation either as victims of the rest of the world or by their own leaders whose promise was always to deliver them from evil.

From north to south, Afrca has seen a continual sequence of civil wars, military coups, uprisings, genocides, disease and brutality. The whole world sees Africa as a mineral free-for-all, robbing the continent of wealth in collusion with its leaders. Disease, unrest and turmoil are the tools of the exploiters. The meagre income from the exploitation funds yet more violence as arms dealing scum wrest cash from the hands of the regimes. (Stop violence, shoot an arms dealer?)

And when the people of Africa say, "enough!" all it gets is useless, hopeless, pointless "diplomacy". Stillborn UN resolutions and verbose, but toothless statements of condemnation from the EU and other 'blocs'. Late, as ever.

Use Force!

Britain, the EU and the United States along with all other G20 countries have the power - more than eough power - to force sanity back into Africa. Yes, I said it: FORCE sanity back into Africa. Force accountability into its leadership. Punish the punishable! The Hague would be the busiest place in the world!

Darfur, Somalia, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone... all are cases of completely avoidable crises. That they eventually resolve themselves is not thanks to anyone; that they were allowed to escalate to what they became, is down to those who say they know better but who refused to act, preferring the band-aid of diplomacy.

Diplomacy is just talk. Africa needs action. Immediate, authorative action the minute a crisis looks likely.

If the developed world forces sanity back into Africa the right way, they can give the continent a genuine rebirth, a genuine rennaisance. They can convert a market of a billion penniless people into one that has enormous wealth from exports and more importantly, cash to spend on imports. From the developed world! Everyone will win.

And now, some reading for you:

This woman deserves a Pulitzer Prize for saying it how it is. She is in my view, the best writer on the Zimbabwean situation. If you want to understand what it is like in Zimbabwe, subscribe to her website and spread her words.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Empire Building - Dangerous to Start-ups

Today, a word of advice to start-ups who have dreams of private helicopters, sports cars and skyscrapers that bear their names.

Many years ago, I did a fourteen month stint as a "Farm Assistant". It was a junior management role for me to get some experience before attending agricultural college. Which I never did. Farming wasn't for me.

The farm I worked on was pretty vast and we grew a lot of different crops - mainly tobacco and maize and we raised cattle. Baboons and bush pigs were a particular problem. Both could lay waste to a significant portion of a field of maize in just a few hours. So we were at war with them, constantly. I used to sit concealed on the side of a small 'kopje' overlooking one of our maize lands armed with an FN rifle, tasked with shooting the thieving animals on sight. To be honest, shooting animals is not my cup of tea. For sure, over time I shot many, but I found it was almost as effective to just fire off a couple of rounds and watch the baboons hastily scarper, the youngsters riding on their mothers backs like comical little jockeys. (The bushpigs, by the way, were delicious, slow roasted in a dixie by the "Rhodesian Boiler's" fire.)

But I also used to watch in disbelief as baboons raided the field. It was a mixture of pure comedy and mindless destruction. The adult baboons, instead of pulling off a single cob of maize (ear of corn) and eating the whole thing, would pull one off, perhaps take a bite and then stuff it under their arm, desperate to move on to the next plant where they would pull off another cob and perhaps take a bite before stuffing that tasty treat too, under their arm. The previous under-arm-stuffed cob would then fall wastefully onto the ground. And so it would continue, with a single baboon thinking he was gathering up lots of maize to enjoy at his leisure, later. Baboons are very greedy. Careless too. - and probably quite disappointed when they see that their collection of cobs is in fact, errr.... one.

How does this baboonery translate into wisdom for small businesses?

I quite often notice the same sort of behaviour demonstrated by the baboons, in start-up businesses. What happens is this: an individual, or more often a pair of partners decide to open a business. Its a very exciting time and usually there's a lot of energy. Things get done. Bank accounts are opened, good intentions are listed, the company name is debated and established, domain names are registered etc. Splendid. They are doing everything right. So far.

But then they get carried away in their excitement and start having too many visions of expansion. Of empire building. When they should be focused on the original concept of the buisness, they get carried away with their vision of the future: a wide ranging group of companies that offers a whole array of complementary services. And that's where the maize cobs start slipping from their grasp.

I have seen this happen so often. A great, singleminded business idea, usually right at the core of the entrepreneurs' knowledge, becomes distracted and diluted as they try to paint themselves into the picture of their now over-complicated vision. I partly blame beer for this, as again, I have so often seen the expansion of the empire plotted in pubs. But its fair to say that it happens wherever two start-up mavericks dare to dream.

First, consolidate your position .

I have nothing against dreams and I have nothing against start-ups aspiring to offer a whole plethora of services that go beyond the scope of the initial business. I do, however, strongly believe that if the energy and imagination that went into plotting the growth of the corporate behemoth went instead into perfecting the original business plan, there would be a far greater chance of eventually having an empire. A strong, respected empire.

As a branding and marketing person, I come across so many brand new "Groups of Companies" that are in fact more of a collection of half thought-out ideas lying partially tasted and semi wasted on the field of dreams. These are weak businesses. They seldom gather momentum and they usually fade away. Why?

Its dead simple: After the exciting dreaming phase, the cold, bony hand of reality firmly grips the shoulders of the entrepreneurs. Bills have to be paid - amongst them, mine (instead of designing one brand identity I have now designed several) . What then happens is that the half formed, poorly nurtured complementary businesses are left out in the cold as the entrepreneurs start frantically doing what they set out to do in the first place. They are forced to focus on their core business. Sadly, quite often, they are also forced to focus on the reality of what their expansionist dreams have delivered: Boxes of unused stationery for this company and that. Logo designs, brochures, uniforms etc. Bills, bills, bills....

What then happens is this: The dreamers find the debt rather alarming, blame me, blame everyone else but themselves and close down. Another needless stillbirth.

Empire building: Don't do it. Not yet.

I think the key to success for all start-ups is to keep it simple. Don't complicate your ideas. Make your dream manageable and focus, focus, focus. Be one thing!

Here are a few rules for start ups that I think should be folllowed. This list is by no means definitive, its what I can think of now. I might add to it, so come back and check:
  1. In one sentence write out what your new business will do.
  2. In as few as possible bullet points, demonstrate your business process (how you will do what you do and how you will make a profit from your customers)
  3. In one sentence, write out how you intend to grow in the first 6 months
  4. Make a list of 10 objectives to be achieved within the first 6 months
  5. Prioritise the list above
  6. Think like your client: make a list of 10 things your client/customers will expect from you/your product
  7. Prioritise that list
  8. Make a list of 10 things that will make your company/product more attractive to your target market than your competitors
  9. Prioritise that list
  10. In ten bullet points, outline your marketing plan. Prioritise them.
  11. In ten or less bullet points outline your sales plan. Prioritise them.
Take the above once completed and display it prominently in several places where you will often look. Fridge doors work for me because I am an eating machine.

I think that with the global economy as it is right now, it is a great time for entrepreneurs to start up businesses, But it is a time for realists, not fantasists. Go forth and multiply, but do it slowly and carefully.


In other news, this article was written in several short stints between my monstrous headaches. KIP 7-9s. Feel sorry for me. I know I do!


Monday, December 1, 2008

Working alone

I have come to the conclusion that I don't like working alone any more. Its lonely and sometimes its hard to be disciplined.

I'm usually pretty good on my own but I really do miss having other people around. I miss the banter . I miss hearing others' opinions of my work and I miss offering mine to colleagues. Problem solving is easier in company, as is building up a head of steam to keep the business's momentum going. I need to feed off other people.

I think that in the new year, I will look for an office and the company of other creatives - maybe a nice little symbiotic (such and eighties word) relationship where perhaps my skills complement that of the other creative(s).

In other news, My bloody headaches are back. Boo!