Zak Dimitrov, 'Branches of a Tree in Winter' zine and photobook

We have two brand new items in the Photograd shop. A riso print, one colour zine and a hardcover, velvet bound photobook with free print, both by 2019 MA graduate Zak Dimitrov.


University: MA Photographic Arts – University of Westminster 2019. BA (Hons) Photography – Arts University Bournemouth 2015

Website: www.zakdimitrov.com

Photography is a medium of love and loss. As Carol Mavor suggests, the photograph is an amorous catastrophe, severed from time, yet loved for holding time, umbilically connected to its referent. A picture of a lover is stolen from the original like a thin layer of skin. Having been on over 100 dates since I moved to London 4 years ago, I decided to reconnect with my former lovers. We spoke about our time together, why things between us unraveled and how life has been since then. A melancholic journey, the project empowered me to finally come out to my parents after a decade of unspoken truths. The work combines portraits of the men I once desired, stills from LGBT films with typewritten quotes from my partner at the time and relics I have saved as mementos. Branches of a Tree in Winter touches upon nostalgia and retrospect, lost love and times forever gone, but it is also hopeful. After all, these men agreed to collaborate, expecting nothing in return.

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TitleBranches of a Tree in Winter

Artist: Zak Dimitrov

Publication date and place: 2019, UK

Format, binding: Softcover, staple binding

Printing: Riso print, one colour

Number of pages and images: 24 pages, 20 images + 1 cover image

£8 + p&p, available to purchase here in the Photograd shop.


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TitleBranches of a Tree in Winter

Artist: Zak Dimitrov

Publication date and place: 2019, UK

Edition: 25

Format, binding: Hardcover concertina, velvet bound. Paper debossed wrapper and a tipped-in print with an envelope and letter on the back inside.

Number of pages and images: 33 pages, 30 images

This book comes with a signed 10x8” print of choice by Zak.

Price on request, but also available through the Photograd shop here.

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Photograd interviews Matt MacPake

To accompany the new edition of PGZ, we have interviewed some photography graduates from the submissions received for the Photograd blog. Here we have an interview with University of Hertfordshire graduate Matt MacPake.


This body of work has been in the making for quite some time. Can you tell us why? Is this your usual way of working? Well it does feel like Brexit has been going on forever, and I feel this project for me at least, began further back than the 2016 referendum.

I started taking photographs at the end of a previous project, To & From the North Circular. Unsurprisingly walking the A406 had left me jaded and I needed a change. So, just for fun I altered my process. I started to work in the opposite way: posed, digital colour portraits became black and white, 120mm film and I started to photograph people from a distance as they walked through my viewfinder. Pretty simple things - but it’s always better to start that way and see how the work progresses. Posed portraits came later but the observational images are still part of this project. That was in 2014-15 and in the beginning I was photographing around Euston and St Pancras, purely because they are busy commuter areas but looking back now perhaps I was drawn to the transport link to Europe.. who knows. 

Image from the series  Whisper City Bones

Image from the series Whisper City Bones

In early 2016, the project started to grow in my mind and by now I had been wandering into various different areas and parts of London. For a while I was just trying little experiments, playing around and seeing where it would take me. Lots of these tests didn’t amount to anything but it was nice to not have the pressure of any deadline and I spent long periods just making pictures. I enjoy working on long form documentary projects but I also enjoy short assignments and often work on a number of separate projects at once. There are more short projects to come. For now, this project remains unfinished although I do feel it’s coming towards an end. Either way, I’m sure many of us will be photographing Brexit and its impact upon Britain & the EU for generations to come. 

Image from the series  Whisper City Bones

Image from the series Whisper City Bones

How do you think London and your series has changed since the vote on Brexit? What sort of differences are you seeing when out making images? I think the whole country has been seeing the effects of Tory lead austerity for years now - homelessness and child poverty numbers are increasing and it’s worrying to think what the future will look like. 

When I first moved to London in 2010 it was an exciting time, I felt like anything was possible and London was a celebration of multicultural society. Most of us got happily swept up in the spirit of the 2012 Olympics, and although I’ve never considered myself patriotic, there was a huge sense of pride and ownership in the country at this time.

Like a lot of people many of my family and relatives outside of London voted to leave the EU, where as I voted Remain. It was and still is a strange time, with the country divided like I’ve never known before. I’ll never forget the awful feeling the morning of the result – a sick feeling in your gut. 

Image from the series  Whisper City Bones

Image from the series Whisper City Bones

This project captures a mood and atmosphere that occurred through this period. I personally feel we’re moving back in time, not forwards. There’s a great sense of uncertainty about our impending future. It wasn’t about who voted which way, that seemed to simplify this idea of what Brexit it is, of course it’s a lot more complex than a yes/no debate. Although we know Brexit is about the UK leaving the EU, no one has any idea of the impact it will have on future generations, and I’m fearful of that. Maybe for me, this feeling is part of becoming a dad for the first time – there’s a tendency to worry more about things you once took for granted. 

You've produced work in colour before but we're curious to know why you've chosen black and white for this work? What equipment have you been using? The world in black and white is a distinctive place - it’s not the world we live in and I like that. It’s a completely new environment where we can record a place we inhabit, but see it with new eyes - this adds a layer of tone that I find intriguing as the images can be more emotive. 

I’ll continue to work in colour but because of this project I believe I’ll always take black and white images too. I’ve made a connection with black & white photography I didn’t have previously. The project may carry on for a while yet, we will have to wait and see. I’m making a dummy of what I have so far but I’d also like to make new work about Brexit that deals with people & their stories in a more intimate and collaborative way. 

Image from the series  Whisper City Bones

Image from the series Whisper City Bones

At the beginning, I started testing with a Hasselblad 503CX, then used a Mamiya RB. But most of the final images from the project are made with either a Makina Plaubel 67 or a Mamiya 7. The Mamiya 7, was my dream camera, this was a birthday present from my wife, who I must say a huge thanks you too not only for this but also her advice & support with my photography! 

I had to use what I could get my hands on. I borrowed from friends and on occasion the loan store from the university where I teach. I’m not really a big kit, tech, type of person I’m more about the images and how I make them, but obliviously I love cameras! The best option for anyone is to use what you have. Limitations in what you have available can be a blessing not a curse.  

What would you like for your viewer to take from your images? I don’t want to tell the viewer what to take away from my project, I’m more interested in what different people see within it themselves. Some may think that sounds like a cop-out, but I hope there’s enough in the images to lead people certain ways and leave the audience to bring something to work. I hope that the work demonstrates a tone and atmosphere that’s of the time, but what this is will depend on who you are. There’s a fantastic quote by Todd Hido

“it’s not my job to create meaning, but only to charge the air so that meaning can occur”

Image from the series  Whisper City Bones

Image from the series Whisper City Bones

Brexit has certainly ‘charged the air’ for the last 3-4 years, so I hope that my project has captured some of this in its own way. I used this quote for inspiration throughout the start of the work and it’s something I go back to when looking for new visual approaches. 

I’ve always struggled with words it’s maybe why I was drawn to photography to begin with, although you soon realise that the two go hand in hand. Now I see that photography helps develop my language and understanding

This project has the working title Whisper City Bones, which comes from a quote by Iain Sinclair, which begins “London is a city that sleeps too much.” This appealed to me as it challenges the positive idea of cities being alive and thriving. We all know that London is too successful for its own good and that has a negative impact across the rest of the country. I feel the UK has been asleep for years - we’ve let austerity happen and now Brexit. There’s nothing nice you can add on the end of this is there…

Image from the series  Whisper City Bones

Image from the series Whisper City Bones

There is hope and it’s in the next generation, look at the school kids marching for climate change, so inspiring, they are all heroes! That’s hope & that’s something to believe in!

Introducing Peak Imaging - film processing, digital printing, photobooks, and more.

 
 
 

Peak Imaging is an independent photographic laboratory and print company based in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. Vastly experienced in both traditional film and the digital arena, their dedicated workforce has an amazing, average service time of 22 years.

Working alongside some very famous household names across the UK and Europe and more recently the Far East, producing wall art products and prints for museums, boardrooms, homes and photographers in general, Peak Imaging’s reputation is well documented and long established. 

Co-director Cathrine Lee has seen the company adapt and re-shape to the ever changing marketplace. “Customer service and product involvement is key to our success and we firmly believe that time invested in project development and consultation is vital for end result satisfaction. Our clients usually know what they want to achieve but often, not how to achieve it or more commonly, what is possible. From straight reprints of digital media or film to large format displays on PVC and acrylic, we cover a vast array of display products and services, working to strict guidelines and tolerances”.

Processing film through C41, E6 and Black and White lines all day, 5 days a week, all machinery is the best dip and dunk technology for a scratch-free environment. Slide mounting and film scanning still play a big part in photographic projects whilst the emailing of images from film is becoming very popular too.

Cathrine continues “As a laboratory of some 43 years in the business, we have always invested heavily in new machinery and ideas and currently employ both photographic and giclee printing techniques. We find that both have a place in domestic and commercial display forums and that it is sometimes wise to allow the subject matter of a piece to dictate the media and print format. Metallic and high gloss papers are very popular at the moment but much of the traditional photographic work pieces still demand rag papers and fine art materials”.

Photobooks are currently a favourite format for family enjoyment and advertising and Peak Imaging’s LifeBook product comes in many shapes and sizes to suit the project in hand. From weddings and world trips to coffee table promotions and antique collections. All stories can be told and cherished in the pages of a “LifeBook”.  Explore the possibilities and creation software at peak-imaging.com.

10,000 sq. ft. of production space has been carefully designed to create efficient workflow whilst housing darkrooms, conference facilities and design studios.  All of this and full product display can be visited at the Holbrook Avenue site.


Find out more about Peak Imaging and what they do here. You can even give them a follow on Facebook or Twitter.

An interview with Photograd Open 2018 exhibiting photographer Lottie Wilson

Photography students at London Metropolitan University supported in the curation of our very first open exhibition and also selected a number of exhibiting photographers to interview about their work.

Here we have an interview with Lottie Wilson.


Why do you still use film? Is there a reason? I started using film in my first year at university. Initially it was something new and exciting (we hadn’t used film at my sixth form) so I enjoyed learning about a new process. However, now it is integral to my practice.  As an artist I believe that the working process is just as important as the images, and the beauty of analogue is that there are so many different opportunities for the final image. When working with digital all of the editing happens post production, however, the analogue process is totally organic. The process can go wrong at any minute – you can over expose or under develop – and this is the magic for me. The final image has always felt like a collaboration between the darkroom and myself. I can never quite predict what is going to happen.

From the series  Observing

From the series Observing

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Your work shows a lot of experimenting in the darkroom, what was your best ‘Mistake’? My best mistake was made out of forgetfulness! With images that no longer have any meaning for me I like to disrupt them and alter the memory past recognition. There’s no science with the experimentation that I do – it’s simply a case of trial and error. One particular image was not reacting to my chemical solution so I decided to leave it for another few days. Fast forward ten days and the whole image had disappeared. Whilst this was never my intention it was a real learning process for me. I really began to understand my medium. By leaving the image for too long I broke down the layers of the negative until there was pretty much the bare film left. Whilst a photograph distils a single single moment forever, this photochemical process allowed me to change history. It was as if that captured moment had never happened. This is my favourite image to date.

How was your university experience? I loved going to university and am missing it so much. My university journey wasn’t easy though. My school encouraged academic subjects, so originally I applied to study English Literature leaving Photography as a well loved hobby. Once being accepted into the another university I realised that this was not what I truly wanted. I decided to take a year out to fully consider my options and decide whether further education would be the right choice for me. After visiting the University of Brighton there was no other option, this was where I needed to be. Throughout my three years at University I met an eclectic mix of individuals who encouraged both creative and personal growth. I’ve never looked back. Going to university made me a better photographer in every respect, yet the most important lesson was finally understanding and accepting myself.  

From the series  Observing

From the series Observing

What photographers help inspire your work? I am a huge fan of Miho Kajioka. Whilst very different in concept (Kajioka’s work discusses natural disasters), I particularly like Kajioka’s printing style. The images appear so delicate and whimsical. I am also greatly inspired by her working style. Kajioka draws off the Japanese tradition of “wabi-sabi” – the appreciation of beauty in imperfection and transience. This appreciation allows for mistakes and even encourages them. As an artist I constantly re-evaluate my work and my belief in “wabi-sabi” underpins my whole practice. I love that my work is always changing and may not always be as I first planned, it gives me confidence to make work without any concern.

From the series  Observing

From the series Observing

Your work will be on display at the Cass as part of Photograd Open 2018. The Cass has a great darkroom- what would you say to students or any photographers thinking about working with film or in the darkroom? I’d say just go for it! I spent so long being scared of the darkroom but it’s the most magical place - I still get excited watching an image develop in the wet trays. Whilst you will be taught traditional darkroom processes you do not have to stick to them. There is never just one fool-proof way to make work, and this notion definitely applies in the darkroom. Experiment with exposure times and chemical reactions and see what happens to the original image. The darkroom is full of endless creative opportunities and all you need is the confidence to try something new. 

From the series  Observing

From the series Observing

Do you have any plans for your photography in the future? Any current ideas for this project or any new ones? Since graduating this summer I have spent a lot of time contemplating what it means to be a photographer. For me, it is the opportunity to capture a single moment and the power to change it. Much like memories, images are pliable and I am fascinated how their meanings are constantly adapting. 

I have just joined a community darkroom so am excited to start my next project. I am planning to further explore the transitional elements of a photograph - of course with my “wabi-sabi” beliefs fully in tact. I am excited to see what comes next. 

An interview with Photograd Open 2018 exhibiting photographer Joel Biddle

Photography students at London Metropolitan University supported in the curation of our very first open exhibition and also selected a number of exhibiting photographers to interview about their work.

Here we have an interview with Joel Biddle.


Images from the series  Tectonic

Images from the series Tectonic

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Which photographers inspire you? I find my inspirations come from a mixture of landscape photographers and conceptual artists. The simplicity that some conceptual art can have has always been a draw for me, and a lot of the time that kind of work is more about only showing what is absolutely necessary and simplifying the message. I think one of my earliest influencers was Michael Kenna, whose work was a huge inspiration for me to create and experiment in the darkroom. The minimalist aesthetic and his approach to a mixture of geometric, manmade shapes and the shapes of the natural world has always been impactful. Hiroshi Sugimoto’s work was introduced to me just prior to university and has since been influencing my approach to my work as well. I think these photographer’s work changed my mindset about photography and made me take more time with my work. 

What do you find interesting in landscape photography? The possibilities involved in landscape photography are the reason I’m drawn to it, and the challenge of finding somewhere that connects with you is very rewarding. It can be a timeless for of photography, and you can create a landscape that can be very hard to place location wise, leading to an image that is very open to interpretation.  

From the series  Tectonic

From the series Tectonic

The juxtaposition between the smooth, changing shape and texture of water against ancient and seemingly permanent and harsh shapes of rock structures in the sea fascinates me and I try to highlight this. It’s almost an instinctual thing for me to photograph the landscape, and I sometimes don’t even see my work as landscape, as it can be broken down into a shapes and textures very easily and become abstract. 

Do you prefer using digital or analogue camera? Why? I’m in the process of moving to 100% analogue photography for a few reasons, one is the look of film grain has a lot of character to it, its quite organic. There is no instant gratification involved in analogue photography, which I find very motivational to get out and work more and concentrate on capturing what is in front of me. Film suits me very well as I found myself shooting a handful of images a day with a digital camera, which almost seemed like a waste of the potential of a camera that could easily shoot a thousand images a day, so it seemed obvious to move to a slower medium. The hand made element of a print produced in the darkroom is very appealing to me as well, and it’s a very expressive way of doing things. 

From the series  Tectonic

From the series Tectonic

What do you want to transmit with your photography? I want a calming sense of tranquillity to be found from my photography, and a sense of quiet that reflects the locations I photograph. There are no people in my work landscapes and very rarely any buildings, which leads to a sense of isolation, but its not a bleak isolation, its more of a break from chaos, and a choice rather than something forced.  

I don’t seek dramatic imagery when I choose my subject, and this is reflected in what I’m trying to say with my landscapes, and the feeling I hope to generate within the viewer.  

What did you try to achieve with this project? I started this project as a way of experimenting with the contrast between hard, rugged element, hence the use of the aggressive title ‘Tectonic’, and the flowing of glassy waters, with a focus on attempting to avoid any stereotypical landscape. This is why I was opposed to using vivid colour, avoided the golden hour and used telephoto lenses instead of wide-angle lenses and I find it very natural to photograph in portrait orientation, something that is somewhat ironic about my landscape photography. 

From the series  Tectonic

From the series Tectonic

I wanted to create something that had staying power, something that I wouldn’t get bored of looking at. A lot of the images I was taking before I wasn’t even printing, I was leaving them as digital files and looking at maybe once or twice. I had a different mindset when I started to create work for ‘Tectonic’, which was to work towards a body of work rather than a standalone image.  

Have you worked on other photographic project that are not landscape-based? I have been working on and am continuing to work on an astrophotography based project that involves photographing starlight with expired film that equals the age of the light of the star, for example I photographed Capella, a star that is 42 light years away with film that was produced 42 years ago. The idea that the film and the light were produced simultaneously but it takes decades for the light to reach the destination is fascinating and I hope to move the project on to use expired photographic paper to capture starlight and create one of a kind works, though this has many technical challenges. I have a broad interest in conceptual based photography and alternative processes, and may apply this to my landscape work at some point. 

Darren O'Brien - Hanoi

We recently invited Darren O'Brien to be a regular blog contributor at Photograd as he travels to Singapore and Vietnam as part of his MA Photography course at Falmouth University. You can catch up on his other posts here.

Darren writes here in his final post about his trip to Hanoi. Enjoy!


Sadly this is my last blog post which means my trip has come to an end. For the final few days I spent time in the chaotic capital of Vietnam, Hanoi.

Image from Hanoi

Image from Hanoi

I felt at home in the city and enjoyed wandering the streets and capturing life going on around me. Hanoi is a busy and exciting place. The old quarter is a warren of narrow streets lined with shops, restaurants and cafes. So much of daily life takes place on the streets and that makes it great for street photography.

Image from Hanoi

Image from Hanoi

Vietnam is the third largest exporter of coffee in the world and there are cafes everywhere. Iced coffee with condensed milk is their specialty, perfect for hot days when you've been pounding the pavements. Hanoi also has some excellent street food. Bun Cha was my favourite; it’s a tasty combo of grilled pork slices and meatballs, broth, herbs and noodles.

I spent a little time doing touristy things, but I was really there to enjoy and capture the atmosphere of the city. The city has a great vibe, it feels hectic and relaxed at the same time. Even just crossing the street through streams of scooters feels like a challenge and you feel happy to be alive when you reach the other side.

Image from Hanoi

Image from Hanoi

The Train Street was interesting to see. People going about their lives right beside the tracks. The train comes through about twice a day and when it's due everyone clears off the tracks and disappears into their homes. Unfortunately the arrival of the train brings a lot of tourists which does slightly ruin the magic of the moment, but hey I was one of them.

Hoan Kiem Lake is a great area for people watching and street photography. This is the main hub for people to get together. In the mornings people jog, do Tai Chi and dance in big groups. On Friday and Saturday evenings all the roads around the lake are closed and the place fills with thousands of people, playing games, watching street entertainers, singing ad hoc karaoke, and walking their fancy dogs.

Image from Hanoi

Image from Hanoi

Apart from all the interesting sights and scenes, the main thing that made shooting in Vietnam a pleasure was how friendly and accommodating the people are. As long as I was respectful and flashed a smile most people were happy to be photographed. I would definitely have liked a bit more time to get to know Hanoi and dig a bit deeper. I was there for 3 full days but a month would be ideal to really get beneath the surface. I’d also like to spend more time in the newer parts of the city.

Overall the trip was an excellent experience and I have some solid work to go towards my MA portfolio. Now I just have to go through the thousands of images, edit them down and relive the memories.

Image from Hanoi

Image from Hanoi

I would recommend Vietnam, particularly Hanoi, for any photographer. The mix of dramatic landscapes and buzzing street scenes will test all aspects of your practice.

Thank you for reading and thanks to Photograd for asking me to blog during my trip. Any questions about travelling in Vietnam or my work then get in touch via my website or on one of my social media channels. Bye for now.

Darren O'Brien - Vietnam

We recently invited Darren O'Brien to be a regular blog contributor at Photograd as he travels to Singapore and Vietnam as part of his MA Photography course at Falmouth University. You can catch up on his other posts here.

Darren writes here about his trip to Sapa and Ta Van. Enjoy!


The Road from Lao Cai to Sapa winds its way steeply through the mountains. The hairpin corners are tight and the traffic is chaotic.  Huge trucks trek up the mountains delivering supplies to the villages and resources for the construction boom currently overtaking Sapa. On more than one occasion our driver attempted to overtake a lorry that was overtaking another lorry, whilst dodging vehicles and/or buffalo coming the other way.

Image from Ta Van, Vietnam

Image from Ta Van, Vietnam

After 5 hours in the minibus we arrived in Sapa.  On first impressions the town itself appears a strange mix of Vietnamese town and a European alpine resort. There is even an old alpine-style church in the main square. We didn't hang about as we grabbed a taxi to take us 10km to the village of Ta Van.

Image from Ta Van, Vietnam

Image from Ta Van, Vietnam

Roads, distances and timings are a loose concept in this part of Vietnam, especially when you are using google maps to find your home stay. Some of the roads marked on the map are little more than paths wide enough for a motorbike (definitely the best way to get around). As such our taxi driver kindly drove around in circles trying to find our accommodation before realising that the road shown on the map was a footpath. After a couple of phone calls to our host we were dropped off and they came to meet us and showed us the rest of the way.

Image from Ta Van, Vietnam

Image from Ta Van, Vietnam

If traveling in this area I would recommend staying at least one night in a home stay in one of the villages. There are quite a few in Ta Van village. The principle is that you stay with a local family in their home, although some of them operate more like b&bs. They are a good additional source of income alongside growing rice, rearing livestock and making handicrafts. Our home stay, Lazy Crazy Homestay, run by John and his friends, was a quirky place, with great views over Ta Van, rice fields and bamboo forests. It was a great place to begin exploring the local villages and countryside.

In Ta Van there are plenty of local guides that will take you on a hike, and most homestays and hotels will organise them too. We decided to walk without a guide to the next village and explore the small paths that led through the rice fields and village outskirts. The H’Mong tribes that live in this area are really friendly and as long as you are respectful, no area is off limits. Some of the tracks we followed led directly to people's homes but nobody bothered that we were there and there would always be a friendly face to point us in the right direction.

Image from Sapa, Vietnam

Image from Sapa, Vietnam

Whilst in Ta Van I worked on a project exploring the Vietnamese legend “Why Ducks Sleep Standing on One Leg”.  The legend goes that in the beginning there were four ducks who only had one leg. They were jealous of the other animals with two legs so reasoned with the creator to give them a precious extra leg. To prevent their new legs from being stolen they hid them from view at night and all the other ducks followed this believing it to be the way it should be. The legend speaks of the Vietnamese attitudes to the land and agriculture, which I am hoping the project will also reflect.

Image from Sapa, Vietnam

Image from Sapa, Vietnam

After Ta Van we spent a couple of days in and around Sapa town. The town is often covered in cloud and mist which makes for some interesting images. At night the fog, the building work and the neon lit signage lends the town an eerie feel.

I have one more post to come in this series, when I will be exploring the streets of Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. After my brief encounters earlier in the trip I am really looking forward to it…...

Darren O'Brien - Ha Long Bay

We recently invited Darren O'Brien to be a regular blog contributor at Photograd as he travels to Singapore and Vietnam as part of his MA Photography course at Falmouth University. You can read his other posts here.

Darren writes here about his trip to Ha Long Bay. Enjoy!


I am sitting at a local home stay in the village of Tavan, looking out over the rice terraces of Northern Vietnam. It is a magical and tranquil environment to be writing this post in.

Image from Ha Long Bay

Image from Ha Long Bay

I will write about my experience of Tavan later, but for now this is a short post about my trip to Ha Long Bay. Located 3 hours drive North East of Hanoi, the bay consists of around 2,500 limestone islands protruding from the ocean. I will confess that I organised this trip through a tour company (Indochina Junk) and it was all about rest and relaxation. I don’t usually book onto tours as I prefer to do my own thing but it is the easiest way to visit the bay. It felt strange to have everything looked after, from pick up from the hotel to boarding the boat with eight strangers, but it definitely met the relaxing brief.

Image from Ha Long Bay

Image from Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay is incredible, beautiful and breathtaking. It is also incredibly touristy. Our tour tried to find the less touristy areas, but that means you are surrounded by 15 other boats rather than 50. The tour included kayaking, beaches, caves and lots of food and beer!

Image from Ha Long Bay

Image from Ha Long Bay

Photographically it didn't do much for me, I am not a landscape photographer and it is often hazy at sunrise and sunset. I would love to do a project on the local fishing vessels and how the fishing trade and environment is changing, but that would need more organisation.

Image from Ha Long Bay

Image from Ha Long Bay

I didn't make much work that will feature in my MA project, but that didn't stop me having a good time.

Image from Hanoi

Image from Hanoi

Now I am working on a small project whilst in Tavan and Sapa. I have also already spent a couple of nights in Hanoi, either side of the boat trip, and all I can say is that I am looking forward to spending time exploring the streets in that buzzing city later in the trip. Until next time…..

Darren O'Brien - Singapore

We recently invited Darren O'Brien to be a regular blog contributor at Photograd as he travels to Singapore and Vietnam as part of his MA Photography course at Falmouth University. You can read his introductory post here.

Darren writes here about his 3 day stopover in Singapore. Enjoy!


I’m sitting in a hotel in Hanoi and have just had an amazing first meal of Bun Cha. I arrived this afternoon following a 3 day stopover in Singapore. We stopped in Singapore because my partner Sian lived there for 6 years when she was younger and it was her first time back in 20 years. It was my first time visiting the country so it was interesting to see the sights and share the memories. 

Images of Singapore from an ongoing untitled project by  Darren O'Brien

Images of Singapore from an ongoing untitled project by Darren O'Brien

Driving in from the airport the first thing I noticed was how clean and orderly the city is. Everything has its place and is signposted. We later realised, while watching people clean the river with a boat that scoops up trash, that there is a massive workforce employed to keep Singapore looking pristine. Singapore is one of the most expensive cities in the world and it needs to keep up appearances.

Images of Singapore from an ongoing untitled project by  Darren O'Brien

Images of Singapore from an ongoing untitled project by Darren O'Brien

After the 15 hour flight and crossing time zones my main aim was not to succumb to jet lag. So after dumping the bags at the hotel it was straight out to explore. Despite being in South East Asia, some areas of Singapore feel like a European city. Drinking a (very expensive) beer by the river at Clarke Quay, surrounded by an international crowd, I could have been in Amsterdam.

Images of Singapore from an ongoing untitled project by  Darren O'Brien

Images of Singapore from an ongoing untitled project by Darren O'Brien

In the evening I headed to the Gardens by the Bay complex. This awe-inspiring feat of architecture, sculpture and nature consists of garden domes (similar to the Eden Project biomes) and the Supertree Grove, a group of massive tree-like sculptures that are studded with plants and light up spectacularly at dusk.

Images of Singapore from an ongoing untitled project by  Darren O'Brien

Images of Singapore from an ongoing untitled project by Darren O'Brien

Nearly everything in Singapore is geared up for either entertainment, shopping or eating.  Every block has at least one shopping mall, in some areas there were two malls opposite each other.  Food plays a big part in Singapore culture and there are many restaurants and cafes, but the best food I ate was at the many food courts. There are some purpose built ones around and most malls have one too. I enjoyed well priced food from all across South East Asia and China. Chicken Rice is one of the local specialties and Sian’s favourite dish, although I am personally not convinced, she ate four plates in 3 days.

Images of Singapore from an ongoing untitled project by  Darren O'Brien

Images of Singapore from an ongoing untitled project by Darren O'Brien

Whilst in Singapore I was shooting work for my Masters project and found the city a very easy place to shoot in. Though it lacks the bustle and energy of some cities, the architecture and cityscapes are excellent. The people are friendly and you can work in close proximity to people and they are generally happy to be photographed. On the second day we headed to Little India and Chinatown and these were my two favourite places to photograph as there was a little more going on on the streets. The food courts were also good value for photo opportunities.  Surprisingly the MRT trains were also quite fun to work on, again people paid no notice of the camera and if I was noticed people often responded with a simile and a nod of the head, a refreshing change from the UK streets. 

Images of Singapore from an ongoing untitled project by  Darren O'Brien

Images of Singapore from an ongoing untitled project by Darren O'Brien

Now our Vietnam adventure begins and in the few hours we've been here I can see this going to be a completely different challenge. Until next time……