At The Kitchen Table

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This week, Olive sat in her shiny new high chair and took her first chomps of avocado, carrot and sweet potato. Although we don’t want to wish time away, this is one thing me and Suzi have been really looking forward to. Sitting down at the table in the kitchen and eating our food together.

I’ve been creating a body of work ‘At the Kitchen Table’. I’m not sure yet if it might be a chapter in our book or an exhibition in the future, i just felt it was the right time to start talking about it, and to ask you for your stories, and if you’d like to take part?

It all started a couple of years ago when I did a shoot with jeweller Toby Cotterill and he told me about the history of his work bench. His Dad is a furniture maker, and he made their childhood kitchen table. It became the centre of their family life, as it is to many families. But this kitchen table evolved, and after some alterations, Toby now uses this table as his work bench.

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It felt very poignant as my Mum and Dad were just moving out of our childhood home, and I remembered all those times sitting at the table. We had a set time for tea every night. While Mum cooked, me and my sister laid the table and Dad hovered. After tea, we’d clear the plates, and I’d sit down back at the table to do my homework, and Dad would read the paper.

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Since doing our family shoots, I’ve noticed how many photos I take of families there. It is so central to life. We usually start shoots at the table, having a chat and a cup of tea before the camera comes out of my bag. It’s good to see the family interacting around the space. I guess I’ve become a bit fascinated by them, these places where we’re nourished both in food and conversation. Since chatting about it on Instagram, I’ve had people sending me stories of their kitchen tables. A common theme are the rules of the table. No phones, all sitting down at the same time to eat, chatting about our days. Family feasts where spare tables are brought down from the loft. This reminded me of our own family get togethers at Grandma & Grandad’s house. The adults would sit at the big table, and the children would sit at the kiddies table. As the oldest cousin, I was still sitting at the kiddies table until I was around 18!

I’d love to hear from you if you’d like to be involved in my project (Yorkshire area for now but there may be a table tour later this year!). What do you use your table for? Is it a place you sit and watch the world go by? Have your tea, work, read? Plan big adventures? Play table tennis, look at your family photographs? Have arm wrestles, play board games, craft, chat? If you’re in the Yorkshire area, I’d love to add to the collection of images I have. Would you like to be a part of the project?

Here are a collection of shots and ideas so far.

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The tables themselves also have a story to tell. The grains and stains, the chips, the marker pen that doesn’t quite rub off. We swapped our kitchen table with our friends, and on there are felt tip marks from drawings and crafting projects, we don’t want to get rid of them.

These tables are where we eat together, talk together, take time to be alone. Laugh, play and plan. Would you like to be a part of it? We’d love to hear about you and your table.

Photographing Family - Ethel & Mabel

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Ethel and her sister Mabel, have such a sense of old world charm and style. I started documenting their life, (well actually at the time it was just Ethel), back in early 2015. I’d heard Ethel liked a cup of tea, and I wanted to record a Saturday morning with her at her house. If you’ve been following my new project on Instagram, I guess she was my first Tea For Two! And then, a year later, Mabel came into the world. Spending a morning with them was the first step into filmmaking for me, and the film I made still has such a special place in my heart. Roll on three years, and I went back up to document their morning together recently. I hope they’ll cherish these photos of them in their childhood home as much as I’ve loved documenting their life there. My style and edit choices might have changed a bit, but the sentiment remains the same. Here’s Ethel and Mabel, a story in mornings, so far.

It starts with Ethel. When I first arrived at her house, she took me by the hand, sat me down, and started to recount stories about her summer holiday. Her morning unfolded - reading books, dunking buttery biscuits into steaming cups of tea, all to the soundtrack of Saturday morning tunes on the record player.  

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And then, along came Mabel….

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And our latest shoot together…

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This is what we love about our portrait shoots, documenting these moments in life that may feel insignificant at the time, but looking back, are so poignant.  Beauty in the small things, beauty in the everyday.

If you’d like us to document your family life, we’ve just added some new packages. If you’d like to take a look, just click on the photo link below. We’d love to tell your story.





You Can't Please Everyone.

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I often think back to an incident that happened quite a few years ago now. I had been asked by a wedding venue in the area to take photos for their new brochure. The shoot had gone well, and I was really pleased with the photos, so I went to the venue for a meeting to show the wedding coordinator my images. As I was waiting, one of the volunteers at the venue came up to me. He had seen the shoot unfold and was curious about my images. He asked if he could have a quick look at the photos before the coordinator arrived, so I took my laptop out of my bag and started to scroll through the images I'd taken. At first there was no response as I clicked through images of the couple, the details of the bride's dress, and the flowers. And then came a long 'Mmmmm', I knew it wasn't a satisfied retort, that long drawn out consonant was low in tone. 'Well you missed the focus on that' came the next line. The photo was one of the bride in the foreground and the groom in the background, I'd used a shallow depth of field to get this effect deliberately. 'Oh, you cut their heads off' came the next grumble, it was a photo of the couple holding hands, and I'd decided to focus on that. It carried on for a few more minutes, 'I wouldn't have taken it like that', 'why did you take it just of their shoes?'. It really knocked me for six. I started to feel really uncomfortable, my stomach churned, palms were a little sweaty, and then the coordinator walked in. Convinced I had absolutely missed the mark, I was really nervous showing her the photos. At the end of the viewing came the reassuring response 'these are exactly what we've been looking for'.

I know taste is such a personal thing, and I'm sure everyone has had similar experiences in their lives. In that moment I was really worried, but I am for ever grateful to this man at the venue. I've talked about this incident in our photography retreats as we chat about finding our voice as photographers. It's such a vivid moment for me still. I'm grateful to him as it absolutely made me realise that I couldn't please everyone with my images, and if I tried to do this, it would dilute any style I was trying to build. In that same week when I was showing the venue their photos, I was getting passport photos ready for a family and taking photos of some guttering for a couple who were having a dispute with their builder. I was trying to do so many things, to please everyone, and actually to the detriment of where and who I wanted to be.

I'm writing this now as I had an exchange at the weekend that took me right back to that nervy time of me showing the venue those wedding photos. We opened our doors for Hebden Bridge Open Studios. It was great to see so many new faces and to get a chance to talk about our work. Late on Sunday afternoon, just before we closed, a man walked in with a slightly quizzical look. He reminded me so much of the volunteer at the venue I actually felt my stomach lurch a little. He looked round in silence and then just stopped in front of one photo. 'This is my favourite'.

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Out of all the frames on our wall, I was really surprised, and I had a word with myself for being judgmental. 'I love the feeling, the light, the memory it evokes, there's something almost ethereal about it'. I quickly scribbled his words down after our exchange. I've been wanting to push myself a little further to take more images like this. Like most photographers, artists, makers, I guess our work is always evolving, developing. I almost never want to feel too comfortable, there's always an itch to scratch. I guess if our heart is truly in our work, people will come on this journey with us as they can feel something too. I just know that taking photos like this really excites me, and I think back to myself in that wedding venue all those years ago and I want to be true to that voice.

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