love is to give

love is to give,
not to get,
patience and understanding.

life is all joy,
life is all service.

sharing and caring.

serve and recognise,
that service is joy.

noble and gallant.

share and recognise,
that giving is joy.

love is to give,
not to receive.

sad eyes

with sad eyes a philanthropist looks back through his present life.

breathing deeply with strong lungs, enduring the misery and poverty of life surrounding him.

consoling words of wisdom and sympathy bestowed on those around him, however, the spoken word was never his specialty.

a man of action, systematically processing problems.

a wish for security his driving force.

all this, combined with the deep understanding of others, clouded, bit by bit, his feelings poisoned his mind and made his heart heavy.

it all started to ail.

is there then, no justice in this world?

with doubt in his mind he asks himself,

was my application free of charge?


to hold the breath,
till it’s more than one can take.

to close the eyes,
and dream that one’s awake.

to fight so hard,
on an endless lonely road.

to live a rotten promise,
already murdered by the system.

barely a woman,
still wearing hair in pigtails.

a human in chains,
but a third eye to see.

vision needs self-love

joy without regret,
shines on my caring heart in concealment,
the touch of pain in once darker hours,
gone but memories remain.

restless eyes get tired,
a place of effort or even tears?
responsibility needs no vision,
only energy to give and share,
until it fades away,
a vision needs responsibility,
for yourself,
to gain strength for the long path to travel.

tied around my soul

tied around my soul,
are chains of duty and sorrow,
stealing my joy of life.

no time for restlessness,
i’m burning inside,
do i deserve to suffer?

a question remains unanswered,
salt sprinkled in the wound,
of a youth that ages fast.

send a meaningful reply,
help untie my soul,
freeing me from ageing.

i can't move forward,
when i’m constantly held back,
by the shackles of my present & past.

leaving me torn,
break these chains of obligation,
before I’m broken myself.

reliability & leadership

fighting spirit, he has always shown,
to lead, one must first face hardship,
too oneself and to others. 

many storms weathered,
loved ones always protected. 

creative power, he always has to prove.
to lead, one must provide security and order.
thus, always reliable. 

to triumph in the face of adversity,
one must endure and persevere.
whatever it is, things are brought to a close.

voyager of the soul

in certain moments,
deep in stillness,
you may hear it,
a faint melody,
a call of destiny,

the sore tunes,
softly drifting into your mind,
reaching out to your heart,
remaining in the back room,
left open in your soul.

to be on a voyage,
when the path is wild,
but ocean calm,
and no wind to sail,
to a destination within.

voyager, keep sailing,
to seek and find,
what’s already deep inside,
hidden in plain sight,
the purpose of your life.

strength of Character

load on battered shoulders,
not too weak to bear,
the weight was never known,
until freedoms were visible. 

it takes personal strength to leave,
with head held high,
but strength of character to remain,
with head held with pride. 

not requesting a lighter burden,
but insisting on broader shoulders,
to continue the path,
the journey deep within. 

remaining in the moment,
keeps the heart strong,
safe in the knowledge,
one is where one belongs…

hidden heart on a journey

life is a journey, freedom the cherished element.
routines limiting,
variety the answer. 

deep inside is the desire to help.
immense, often overpowering,
an affliction on an aching back. 

how can someone be there for others,
without actually being there?
brooding, logical thinking.
nothing tangible gained.

a path in a life that offers retreats.
heart and soul want to see daylight,
vulnerability is the price. 

the most difficult journey has already begun,
the 18 inches from head to heart.

the puppeteer

always in the shadows,
quiet, calm and invisible,
forever watching and listening,
looking at people.

wherever he is , aware,
noticing the little details,
the sound, the smell,
how humans move, how individuals talk.

living in two worlds,
one as a participant,
one behind the scene,
it’s his way.

in his cave, he’s on his own,
though the stage is never far,
is observing a passive act?
not if strings are around the fingers.

January 3rd, 2009, The day I met my guardian angel, the portrait that changed the course of my life in 2009.

The winter of 2008 I took a 2 month trip to India to gain perspective on my work, with a view to return with a clear vision for my future within fashion industry.

Arriving in mid December for a few days rest and relaxation after the whistle stop tour of  Rajasthan, with a plan to head North once again to be in Agra for Christmas. Captivated by the tranquil beauty of the secluded beaches, lazy days wandering the rice fields and interacting with the villages, those few days quickly became weeks…

Gokarna, is a small temple town, with a divine village feel, in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, the name meaning cow’s ear. Legend has it that Lord Shiva emerged from the ear of a cow at the confluence of the Gangavali and Aghanashini rivers. A village filled with charm, inhabited by warm and diligent villagers, frequented by the more discerning traveller and a constant steady flow of pilgrims. Somewhere I felt at peace.

Compelled by the people, the local villagers, the gregarious, attentive, tireless individuals who stop at nothing to ensure the task is completed and the western tourist. A stark contrast to their local counterpart, those escaping the trials and tribulations of western society, most of whom stay up to six months. A world away from anything we, in the west, have come to appreciate, with four walls, electricity for a few hours a day, an outdoor shower and the sound of the sea crashing on the sand a few meters away…

It’s a beautiful feeling being completely disconnected from those material possessions that own us back home, a total paradise…

I wanted to create a lasting memory, to look back on with fondness, little did I know the significance this would have on my journey. I decided to capture essence of the village through the eyes of the people, I had a vision, the light was stunning, the people fascinating and soulful, so I decided to build a studio on the beach. With no studio rental company in sight, I began planning, collecting all I needed locally; my guest house, Shiva Shanti, arranged the bamboo poles for the main structure, from the cloth merchants, N G Ganeyan, making hammocks on Main Road, came the two 20 meter2 sheets of fabric. Direct sunlight for portraits are not flattering casting harsh shadows, and makes people squint so it’s always good to create some sort of shade or diffusion for them to feel more at ease. The hardware store next door to the cloth merchants supplied the sickle for cutting the materials down to size and from the market came the rice sacks which were filled with sand to keep everything from blowing away.

The alarm sounded at 05:30, not that I needed it as I’d been up for hours excitedly anticipating the day ahead, scenarios running through in my mind. I began dragging all the equipment down to the beach, as you can imagine, it was pretty much deserted. By 08:00 I had an army of helpers, a dozen locals and a fellow traveller, Sam. It wasn’t long until everything was ready. The first roll was loaded and I began shooting, the boys were all fighting to be first, exchanging t-shirts to look their best. I was, and still am, fascinated by their gaze and demeanour.

It was a slow start, life was beginning and the village waking up, conversing with the few people I would meet, taking a few portraits, and one inquisitive swimmer swimming the length of the beach intrigued by the structure he could see in the distance. A few hours in this man approached, now affectionally known as Sad Eyes,  with no way of communicating, verbally, and no understanding of what I was doing or why, he waited and presented himself. I took 3 frames and away he went - never to be seen again. I still remember so vividly watching him disappear into the distance, unbeknown to me the importance of that moment, that portrait, that awakening.

As he faded into the hazy distance, I continued. On a beach in a village where very little happens, where there is a lot of structure in the nothingness of the lazy days, I became the highlight, the talk of the town. So much so, that one of the guest houses called down to Bola, the owner of Shiva Shanti, threatening to call in the police… I had acquired the curiosity of the people, interacting with fascinating individuals gaining real insight in to what made this place so unique and alluring. 

With my skin tone changing rapidly, increasing through the red colour palate with every portrait and the film set aside for the day quickly running out. I set my camera down, and ordered a sweet lemon soda - a soda water with a squeeze of lemon and a mountain of sugar. The day was over and I felt such a sense of gratification, I was exhilarated, and burnt.

Back in England, I had a call from the lab, the film and contacts were ready for collection, impatiently running to the lab with an intense yearning to relive the memories of India. Although I’d shot around 50 rolls on this trip, it was the 15 rolls from Gokarna I was eager to see, the whole project had punctuated my thoughts for the last 6 weeks. Sad eyes, who he has become know as, was this first image that caught my attention, his gaze inspired me, I felt a sense of knowing, a connection that seemed to penetrate deeply. It was a portrait I needed to sit with, allow myself to journey, to gain understanding from, so I headed to the lab for a print - I couldn’t take my eyes off him. 

I sought council on my dilemma from a couple of photographers I was working for at the time, they also saw a depth to this, and the other portraits from the project, a certain charm that came from the Westerners and the poise of the locals. The realisation came, I was a portrait photographer and I needed to follow this path, I quit everything, I rang the photographers I was working with at the time, who were very understanding. I conversed with clients, I was able to keep a couple of clients that enabled me to continue the journey, I bought some film, packed my bags and headed back out to Asia… 

Since that auspicious day at the beginning of 2009, I have been back to Gokarna 6 or 7 times, adding to the body of work with every visit, traveling with prints from past sessions, and always with Sad Eyes in hand. In a local village, where everyone knows everyone, no one has ever seen him, a ghost wandering the earth. To me, he is my guardian angel, he is watching over me, he presented himself showing me my path and I am working on making him proud… 

My dear friend and creative collaborator, Eric Standop, read his face and wrote this poem from deep within his soul, thus spawning, 'Portraits of a Soul - Face Reading Poems'

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