Exactly a year ago today the lovely Ms Donna Grimaldi invited me into her little flat in Brighton to take the very first shots for the project.
"What the hell were you doing working on your birthday?!" I hear you cry. Well for me this wasn't really work, it was a personal project and it was important to me for many reasons (detailed below)... plus, you know, I would always remember it's anniversary! ;-)
The project itself had been rattling around in my head for a while but it took a few 'well-oiled' conversations on nights out with friends I'd met in the retro scene before I'd properly worked out what it was I wanted to do:- A series of portraits featuring fellow retro enthusiasts.
I suppose my reasons for doing the project we're two-fold;
- I wanted to show the world that I and other people like me were serious about their interests and that it wasn't a fad or the latest fashion trend, they weren't playing 'dress-up' or going off to a themed fancy dress party, this was a lifestyle choice and they were passionate and committed to it.
- Rather selfishly I also wanted to use it as a way to meet new people who were just like me. I'd been skirting around the fringes of the scene for a while, but none of my long-term friends had the same passion for it as I did and although they graciously indulged me sometimes by dressing up and coming along to nights with me, I was the one who wanted to go further and initially I had to do it alone.
|My friend Sam & I during the early years|
I'd met Donna a few years ago when we had both attended the beginners Jive classes run by Brighton Jive but hadn't seen her in a while as I'd gone a bit underground and the scene in Brighton was still building at the time. Then a chance meeting at a 'Stay Sick' night led to the idea for the project formulating itself in my head.
So I floated the idea around a few people, most notably Donna and a mutual friend Lucy Wells (who became the second person in the collection), and they were enthusiastic and willing to sit for me, so the idea became a possibility, then (after six months on hold for the birth of my little girl) a reality.
The strange thing is that even as I approached Donna's front door I still had no idea of how the portraits would be shot, if they were going to come out right, and even fears that the project wouldn't work out at all and that people wouldn't be interested in it.
From the very first shot all my fears fell away, in fact here is that first shot so see for yourself:
|The very first shot taken for Southern Retro|
Thankfully Donna had a lot of experience modelling for other photographers and on catwalks so she held my hand quite a lot during the shoot, and made it a very pleasant experience. I knew for a fact after I'd packed up and left her that I'd got the shots that I wanted and they were special and would really shaped the way the project would look and work.
Over the last year i've met some amazing people, made some lovely new friends. Everyone has been so enthusiastic and friendly, and I've had a great time.
|Getting Kessie to crack a smile|
The collection is already 16 people strong and I have at least that number already lined up to shoot in the next two months so my hope is that the project will be at least four times this size by the time this anniversary comes around again if not more!
|Justin & Lauren|
So I'd like to say a massive "Thank You" to Donna, Lucy, Simon, Tarquin, Jo-ann, Emma, David, Georgie, Sam, Kessie, Oli, Justin, Lauren, Caroline, Alex & Betty for inviting me into their homes and their lives and for making Southern Retro the document it is to date.