Birmingham's People 6 – The Gruffalo


“Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.”
Oscar Wilde

Liz has handled the Birmingham’s People posts up until now so I thought it was about time I wrote one. I photographed the majority of the portraits over the weekend and it was both an incredibly intense couple of days and an immensely rewarding time meeting so many different people. It completely threw me out of my comfort zone, something which every photographer needs from time to time.

The ‘Gruffalo’ here is sporting wonderful makeup and was having a great time at Artsfest. His image, in a very direct way, reminds me of the masks that so many people adopt when faced with an annoying photographer trying to capture their image.

The photographic portraiture that I love, and attempted to explore with this project, is that which attempts to break through the mask, to show something human and real away from stock poses that are practised and stale. It’s an ambitious goal to have and made much easier by subjects like this who was incredibly at ease and calm with the camera, unlike many of the adults!





Birmingham's People 5 – Mike and Gareth

One of the best things about writing these blog posts is occasionally being able to write about my friends.

The chap on the left is indeed a friend of mine, but more than that he’s a very talented bassist. Mike plays bass for a local band named Urge but also for spoken word events like the Blue City Project – a group of poets and spoken word artists who I’ve had the pleasure of seeing perform at the Yardbird.

Gareth, the chap on the right is one of those spoken word performers. By turns funny and angry and anarchic, his work is always thought-provoking and engaging. They had just performed as part of Artsfest and came down to visit us and support Photospace. They even very kindly bought a print of this photo.

This photo was fun to take – like a lot of people Mike didn’t seem too comfortable having his photo taken. I was assisting the photographer for this one, so I got them to stand back-to-back, square up to each other, and only finally when Gareth practically wrestled Mike to the floor did we get an interesting photo.

It was great to see them both. Nice to know you can always rely on your friends to come along to your events. Thanks, Mike!

Birmingham's people – 4 Debra

Debra came to Artsfest with her kids and was a huge amount of fun to work with.

One of the features of our studio system was to link every sitter with a number, so we could match them with their name (and make these posts easier to write!)

The first photo for all of our sitters was them holding up their number to the camera. When it came to choosing a photo for our Artsfest weekend exhibition, Debra was the only one of our sitters who chose the image holding the board.

I think it sums her up – she was creative, funny and charming – and our photographer was able to capture all of that in a candid image. I look at this image and it brings back wonderful memories of the weekend. Her teenage daughters may not agree – like many ladies of their age I think they found mum a bit ’embarrassing’ – though I bet they’d be terrifically proud of her in this image.

Birmingham's People 3 – Irina

Irina was a visitor to Artsfest where she and her son appeared to be really enjoying themselves.
I like this portrait as I think our photographer has captured some of Irina’s spark and enthusiam, which is hard to do when your subject isn’t looking directly at the camera. I liked her earrings too, and asked our photographer to get a few shots up close so you could see her individuality and style.

Following her photo, Irina spent some time with our videographers:

Birmingham’s People: Irina from Birmingham Photospace on Vimeo.

Watch the video – now you’ve seen Irina talk – how well do you think the portrait captures her personality?

Birmingham's People No 2 – Mrs Kaur

Mrs Kaur is a very beautiful woman – that much is evident from the photo.
What you can’t tell from the photo is that Mrs Kaur is an incredibly talented craftsperson, who has spent her life promoting rangoli and textile art and encouraging people’s creativity. Rangoli is the art of creating floor paintings with coloured sand – or flowers, or other objects.

During Artsfest, Mrs Kaur occupied the space next to ours and encouraged participants to make beautiful printed fabric pieces. We encouraged her to come and have her photo taken. Happily she obliged.

Posted in: Birmingham, photographers, photography by Liz Garlinge No Comments

Introducing Birmingham's people – 1 – Saxophone Choir of Great Britain

Our photographers took so many great images over the weekend that we can’t wait for our exhibition at The Drum later in the year to show them off. Instead we’re planning to introduce you to a few of the people we met and the portraits we took on our blog. These are portraits almost straight out the camera – we’ve not done a whole lot of editing – and they are a pale imitation of how good they’ll look when we finally print them, frame them, and hang them in the exhibition – but, we hope you’ll agree that they’re still worth seeing.

The first image then –


Some of the liveliest people we met over the weekend were from the National Saxophone Choir of Great Britain a group of over twenty people who came to perform at Artsfest. Sadly, our small studio was too small to hold the full choir, so we invited a small group of them to come and make a portrait with us. The instruments themselves were amazing – one so large we could only just fit it in under the ceiling of our studio. We had to get them to squeeeeeeeze up together just to get them all in shot. Fortunately they took our direction with good grace and we were able to capture a shot or two.

I couldn’t resist asking them for a quick burst of music – and one of the guys obliged with an amazing version of Careless Whisper – played just for me (and all the people walking by at the time). Tremendous.

An incredibly talented bunch of musicians – and lovely people too. I’m rather hoping Artsfest won’t be the last we see of them