Saturday, 31 October 2015

Personal Project


Final year is now literally happening…and although my initial plan was to document the San Fermin Bull Running held annually in Pamplona, España. I found myself frustrated with the logistical difficulties, which happened early on in my trip.  Losing ones luggage at the airport was one such occurrence that had slowed my efforts down a little; another was losing the actual press pass in the process. Admittedly I did not let this hold me back, I thought they’re other possibilities, other stories I can find.

And find I did, I met up one day immediately before the run on an early morning saunter around the old town of Pamplona, with an animal rights activist namely ‘Paulo’, he was slight in build and had dreads and feral in appearance, but a strong belief in the welfare of animals. He was posting bills around the small cobbled streets that seem to turn every corner in the old town.

I thought, “Wow, this is radical!” Someone, who is resident to the location of my shoot and story, but wholly against the idea of this festival of the Saint Fermin, and the running of the bulls. I found this refreshing and at the same time recognised the opportunity for a story, thinking this is the angle that would appeal to a wider audience especially those of us who are strictly vegan.

So I introduced myself in Spanish, and then came a retort in English, which lead me somewhat relieved but not really surprised as the education system in many European schools teach English as a secondary language, in fact many Europeans are bilingual or speak a multitude of languages these days.

However, I wasn’t here to brush up on my Spanish, I was here to gain some story and a factual documentation of an event that has happened since the 14th Century A.D. and highlighted in the novel The Sun Also Rises (Hemingway, 1926)

My plan was to capture the essence of the event, and to some extent documentation of the San Fermin Bull run, was seemingly a very much the same every day story. If I had not met Paulo, then it would not have seemed a really feasible idea. However, the meeting was brief and so too was the story.

On my return to London, I began to shoot the streets but with very little enthusiasm. Had the trip to Spain and its unsuccessful conclusion given myself a photographer’s block? It seemed as though the creative process had dried up until I realised that my earlier encounter with an old friend, seemed much more realistic.

So with renewed vigour, I decided to opt for Plan ‘B’; which was to document a natural supplements bodybuilder, namely a guy I knew I could trust and certainly have no problem with access. This now was definitely my aim; after all if this was my major personal project, I could leave a benchmark so to speak.

So after our one to one tutorials and receiving much needed and invaluable advice regarding my new project, my tutor had really liked the idea of me shooting this story. He gave me a few pointers; one was to watch the Rocky Balboa films of the 1980s era, to get an idea of how to document such a local hero.

The other was to draw a shooting script; this would enable me to get some idea of how to make the story not just the photographs. It’s a very important practice as documentary photographers to get some idea of how you wish the story to go, after all this story focuses on bodybuilding, with that in mind there are some issues, some very controversial to say the least.

Narcissism plays a part in the art of bodybuilding, as does the factor of anabolic steroids, natural supplements and the term ‘reverse anorexia’ or ‘bigorexia’ as it is also known.

Testosterone Male enhancement bodybuilding: Supplements versus Steroids


Testosterone is a natural anabolic steroid. Both Testosterone and Human Growth Hormone circulate naturally in your body. Testosterone is an anabolic steroid—a hormone that contributes to male characteristics, including increased muscle mass. HGH is produced in the pituitary gland, activating receptors that signal muscle growth. Upping your levels of testosterone and HGH can have benefits that range from increased energy and libido to muscle mass and athletic performance. But in synthetic form, both testosterone and HGH set off alarms in drug tests, as both are banned in pro sports for their potential to give the user an unfair competitive advantage.

Over the last few decades many athletes Ben Johnson (Canadian), Floyd Landis (American) Lance Armstrong (American) and many others besides across many sporting platforms, have been banned for drug use in their sport. The question of amateurs now ‘emulating the pros’ realises that cheating is endemic in our society.

The investigative story will focus on the backdrop of a Northern industrial town namely Barnsley and a key individual Paul. Paul works in a gym on a daily basis, and has gained success through a program, which focuses mainly on the dietary supplements to increase male enhancement rather than the use of drugs.

His background of being a family man, and receiving many accolades has shone through and through his success has gained him much recognition among his peers, however he knows that doping is prevalent in his chosen sport and wishes to promote anti-drug use within the field of body building. Many of his awards / trophies have a symbolic view of a ‘warrior’, this warrior is depicted as a “Spartan’. The Spartan program is a program that utilises natural dietary ingredients and sheer hard work, thus giving a perspective that ‘real men’ make the best of what they have without the use of drugs.

Paul is entering another competition namely the National Amateur Body Builders Association. Having placing third and first in his last two competitions, documenting his approach and gaining insight in to his world through his preparation will be the key to the story.

Shooting script

Images captured will be between 30 – 50 respectively though a short 3 – 5 minute film is an option in order for the story to come across from the subject’s own viewpoint.

Back story images of Paul, and his home life, will be establishing images to gain a sense of the character, photographs of him and his family will gain a sense of relationships to enable to show facets of his home life. Further documentation of his work life / preparation will enable one to closer scrutinise the integrity of the character, and what they’re setting out to prove.

Detail shots will investigate the products used in the subject’s preparation, and will look for legality in their approach, and question the ethics of which he represents.
The backstory will envisage an outline, to which we can view the character of this modern day ‘Spartan’, to capture a viewpoint and possibly raise awareness of a more discerning issue, that which focuses on diet.

Dietary concerns have been raised in recent years with many woman’s and men’s health magazines seeking to promote a healthier lifestyle and targeting obesity, however many are concerned that bodybuilding also hides an undeniable truth that just like those who are anorexic, so too are bodybuilders suffering from an eating disorder, reverse anorexia, muscle dysmorphia and that constant impact on the body is actually a negative effect rather than positive.


The story is a valid argument, which raises concerns about many aspects of society, the use of drugs in sport and the concerns of dietary manipulation on the body and the effects from a physiological and psychological perspective. Visually the story should portray these concerns within the viewer, many questions and topics should ensue among those who have a key interest in this field.


The key research has been from the magazines themselves as well as key medical journals, which have been focused on nutrition and physical enhancement through dietary supplements, speaking with other bodybuilders and gaining access to a support group for sufferers of reverse anorexia and bigorexia / muscle dysmorphia.

A number of organisations are also based in Yorkshire, which support sufferers of bulimia nervosa. Initial contact has been made with the B-eat organisation, a charity that helps those sufferers of the aforementioned to gain a better lifestyle, through mental health support.

Looking at key photo-stories of the same subject and viewing documentaries on eating disorders will gain a greater understanding of those who manipulate the physiological aspect of their bodies and how it relates to mental health.

One in particular is the long running series produced by Channel Four, ‘Body Shock’. Perhaps viewing a couple of these episodes would enrich my thought process, and give me greater depth to the outcome of the story, I am documenting.

Another aspect is to keep a diary; this will help with my dissertation too, as writing will give practice, and a wider vocabulary will ensue whilst keeping this blog up to date.

Let creative juices flow…

Friday, 29 May 2015

Rest in Peace, Mary Ellen Mark

It’s hard to believe that one of the finest and most notable female photographers of Americas’ photographic history has passed away. Mary Ellen Mark had established herself and defined her enigmatic style of photojournalism, documentary photography, and portraiture and advertising photographic prowess.

She had remarkable resilience and her work shows us great depth to her as a human being, her photographs documenting the world in which women live, stories ranging from Ward 81 a woman’s ward in an asylum, girl prostitutes in Bombay, Tiny (a lifelong project), a homeless child/woman, Mother Theresa, high school Proms, even the Indian circuses, all talk about life and death in our world.

The works have spanned over a collection of books and many exhibitions showcasing her incredible photographic perspective of the world. Admittedly I had not really looked at the works until viewing a film entitled ‘Everybody Street’ produced by Lucy Cooper and directed by Cheryl Dunn.

I was in awe of her then, and still am to this day, it is saddening to hear of her passing. However, I feel my life is greatly enriched for her being born and pursuing the art of photography, her works will continue to inspire many to come who will choose a similar path and pursue a career as wonderful and magical as hers.

Her accolades include the Cornell Capa Award by the International Center of Photography, the Infinity Award forJournalism, an Erna & Victor Hasselblad Foundation Grant, and a Walter Annenberg Grant. Among her other awards are the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, the Matrix Award for outstanding woman in the field of film/photography, and the Dr. Erich Salomon Award for outstanding merits in the field of journalistic photography.

Mary Ellen Mark, was also presented with honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees from her Alma Mater, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of the Arts; three fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts; the Photographer of the Year Award from the Friends of Photography; the World Press Award for Outstanding Body of Work Throughout the Years; the Victor Hasselblad Cover Award; two Robert F. Kennedy Awards; and the Creative Arts Award Citation for Photography at Brandeis University.

Outstanding contribution to the field of photography and film, and I am sure thousands of tributes will be pouring out to highlight such a marvelous career.

Rest in Peace Mary Ellen Mark, you will be sadly missed.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

So here is the latest story, I covered just to give you all out there an idea of what I enjoy shooting, when in London. 

I have been gaining trust of two or more individuals when covering the recent demonstrations in London. I have captured images from the housing crisis in London, and those who represent Network Rail; whom are trying to gentrify Brixton by outpacing the market traders, criminal!

Brixton, is a marvelous community in London, the people who come from such a diverse range of ethnic groups really struck a chord with myself as you can see on my website under reclaim Brixton.

These recent shots are from the post GE2015 Election and the opposition of the incoming Tory government.


More to come soon…

Monday, 8 December 2014

Christmas is coming...

Wow such a long, long time since I've been seems too long. Things have changed for sure...I seem to be taking more pictures focused on actual happenings and events than the normal street photography I have done previously.

Since moving to a new University, things have gotten a lot better, the 'better' is the being able to photograph a true representation of life in the UK, it made me reminisce of the possibility of life being a student in the north of Britain, well Scotland actually to be a photographer there, rather than the hustle and the bustle of living in London.

However living in London does have its benefits I am much closer to mainland Europe, so only a forty minute flight to go and see family in France, (a real bonus) for photography of a different kind, or rather I should say photography of a different arena.

The one bonus of travelling there would be not just the French cuisine, but to see how my family are, especially since its coming up towards the end of another year, everybody is more or less a year older and yes the shape of things to come seems to increase ones size in more ways than one…yes it’s fucking Christmas (again)…I don’t want to come across as a party pooper, but it seems the older I get the novelty really does wear off...which is why hopefully so should the weight.

Yes, I can hear you screaming out who ate all the pies! Well err, surprisingly not me, I do like a mince pie…its just it gets too much. Same old, same old every year without fail, exuberant items going on sale in some dark hour that seemingly brings out the worst would be post apocalyptic shopper, there could ever be, Black Friday WTF!

My point entirely, why oh why do we have to be subjected to scenes such as this when they’re people around the world needing clothing, needing food, and needing shelter? Instead the beast of consumerism rears its ugly head and compels you buy in to the nightmare that is only a celebration of capitalism.

Christmas is a time for giving, not just having the latest gadget to exfoliate your hairier than your dog showpiece. I was stood outside the store United Colors of Benetton on Oxford Circus, Saturday. A protest against animal cruelty was being aimed at the London store, I know some of the items they sell are made of wait for it Eco-friendly fur…as opposed to non Eco-friendly fur?

Just what is Eco-friendly fur? Here’s a quote from a website pertaining to promote fur as a recyclable choice this winter:

I find it ironic that a store would claim to sell an Eco-friendly product; that does not contribute towards a sustainable green future, what I mean by that statement is the product does not directly affect the renewable energy supplies and therefore cannot be green? Secondly what furs do you know of that are abundant, a troublesome wolf perhaps, or a herd of Buffalo.

I think not, it just seems too far fetched to actually claim a product which has been slaughtered then justify its death by claiming it is green to do so.

Humanity has failed. 
Fur Trade Protest
© David Rothwell Photography

The other gripe this week came from a well known hotel, in fact Claridge’s where all the best dressed breasts can be seen 'literally' feeding their offspring, in a world that suggests breast is best (especially for baby) it seems that a mother Louise Burns actually, was told to cover up! Surely covering a child’s air space is tantamount to suffocating? How could such a perfectly natural act be offensive to human beings whom, themselves who have been borne of a mother, when such an act is taking place, whilst they’re feeding as well?

The mind boggles, none-the-less, Saturday it seems brought about a quiet protest of thirty something mothers and infants in tow to stage a ‘quiet’ protest outside Claridge’s. Female Police officers were in attendance, were by I was told by one such WPC that I was in the way, I was on the road were parking was available because I felt that standing on the pavement, I was in the way of the mothers and infants. I digress; their protest was however fairly quiet it was like looking at a newborns ward monthly reunion party, ironically. 
Breast is Best Campaign
© David Rothwell Photography

So Christmas is coming…just be careful you don’t buy any gifts a family member may take offence to and for the families sake cover the Turkey breast…when the Neighbours come round on Boxing Day.