Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Musing in fashion's working world

Musing in fashion’s working world..

As I began to embark upon my Indian expedition, I was filled with worry and anxiety for I knew that throughout the entirety of my time I had to uphold a cool and collected persona. At any given time my cover could be blown and all that I had strived to achieve could come to a grinding halt. All those helpless civilians that surrounded would be in jeopardy and there would be nothing that I could do. So armed with conviction I slowly edged closer to one of Kolkata’s most deprived working environments.  I had arranged previously to meet with Phoolendu Vagish, the founder of Kolkata’s largest ‘sweatshop’. On first impressions Phoolendu appeared warm and welcoming, but it soon become apparent that this charming exterior was part of his tactics to lure me in. Eventually I was to become subjected to the catastrophic experiences that his already existing workers were undergoing.  Lost and helpless I found myself lost in my thoughts, wondering how I could possibly survive the rest of the afternoon let alone the rest of the week under his orders. Conscious that I set out to complete my task, to reveal this man as exploiting his employee’s my mind had to stay focused.

This new life that been bestowed upon me seems to be forever expanding, and I revel in the rewards. An overwhelming sense of gladness for all the persecution that I had once become accustomed to has now been taken away from me. All the tears that I once cried, running down my withered face has now been wiped away. Sadness has merged into happiness. Yet I still feel confused; why me? Why have I become the one to experience a world of happiness when my loved ones are still battling in a brutal world?

Although I knew what I was doing for was for the good of others, I still had a feeling of despondency about me. Why had I willingly let myself become part of this industry? As I stood there, feet bare on the cold hard cobbles, I witnessed for myself just how much suffering actually went into the production of the garments that we call fashion. What I noticed is that what I could see around me was also ‘fashionable’, a form of survival, the only way of existence.  As I peered into the midnight blackness, I knew the time had come. The time to seize all the lifeless bodies, that were hurled together acting as their only measure of warmth. I was about to take them into a whole new world.

As these thoughts race through my mind, I am gripped with a sudden sense of euphoria.  Momentarily I delve deep into my old existence and I can see that the feelings I am experiencing is slowly being passed onto my loved ones. They too are filled with light, and finally my sorrow starts to lift. I can now venture on into my new life, content that there is an element of righteousness in the world. I am incredibly grateful to that one night where a fellow person could see beyond the world of poverty and see us as the individuals that we are. Provide us with the life that we have longed to live.

As to be expected, my presence initially ignited the room with fear. But on closer inspection they soon realised that I had in fact become on of them.  I wasn’t after them for their labour, nor was I there to abuse them of their rights.  Instead, I was going to use them to regenerate the fashion industry; provide them with a new beginning. I was to take them out of their mundane life, and show them that they could provide for their families without fear of being whipped for missing deadlines. Deep within the depths of India it was settled, I was going to remove them from this harsh world they were currently occupying and show them a snapshot of what life outside could be. Show them a different kind of culture and regenerate their working world. A culture filled with equality and fairness: a moment.

Words by Danielle Baskerville

Monday, 23 February 2015

‘Je suis gallois’

We all have our bucket lists. Mine seems like it is continuously growing, thriving off new visionary spaces, combined with the conviction of retreating to a world of adventure and experiencing different cultures along the way. The last few years I have seen myself collecting valuable experiences and being fortunate enough to encounter just some of these places that were once on my ‘bucket list’; with memories to last a lifetime (as cliché as that may sound).  But through the conversations I have had with the locals alike, one thing that I have discovered is that not every individual shares the same thought process and elation that I have found myself immersed within. Taken back by the different lifestyles that people I would come across on my travels would lead, and how they would go about their daily tasks, the phrase “each to their own” never seemed to be so true!

My most recent of trips was to the City of Paris. Instantly immersed in the Parisian culture, a sense of blissfulness was ever present.  Aware that the French are perpetually dubbed for their rudeness, the expression ‘Je suis gallois’ mixed with laughter soon lifted the mood.  An internationally diverse city, with works of art scattered across the streets in graffiti like manner would seem to follow you around. It came as no surprise to find never-ending amount of galleries, offering work from some of the most inspiring artists. And Art seemed to follow through into Parisian’s fashion, which offered a subdued take on the visuals, which would greet you once inside those galleries.   

Trying to fit in an entire list of ‘to-do’ whilst on a tight timescale did prove a little difficult, and it wasn’t until my very last night in the city, did it really hit me just how beautiful the city is.  Sat at the window of my hotel room, looking out unto the urban landscape that surrounded, I was found myself in ore of the individuals that could call Paris home.  Although they were probably used to tourists alike flocking the city, they still would greet you with a smile and even the odd hello every now and then. Immersed within their own culture, they still seemed intrigued by others, even the unofficial venders that would try and sell you merchandise at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, to the happy go lucky young gentlemen who would perform for money on the Metro.  Asking questions, trying to figure out where Wales was, even at one point arguing that the place I call home doesn’t exist, it all made me realise that all this was just a snapshot of life within another culture for both myself and those asking the questions. We find ourselves so wrapped up in our culture that its not until you find yourself living within someone else’s that you really appreciate what you have.

Words By Danielle Baskerville

Monday, 2 February 2015

The Creative Collective - Introducing Mike Harvey

Each week at Platfform we are delving into the workspaces of a series of creative individuals, discovering their unique talents, and providing you with an exclusive insight into their journey. 
Watch this space..

Mike Harvey - Honest 

Image credit - Mike Harvey 
TAXI portrait '£3.06'

Last Tuesday myself and the editorial team at Platfform had the exciting opportunity to interview
Mike Harvey for the forth coming edition of the Vignette edition to be released in March 2015.

Mike, a self taught photographer from Swansea in South Wales who became a taxi driver for four years to fund his love of travel, hailed a small storm of media interest upon release of his TAXI photography project, which was taken over a six month period in 2010. The unusual but fascinating and powerful series of portraits that Harvey, now a teacher, took of his passengers explore the real communities behind people's assumptions, providing a snapshot in time of people's journeys and documenting a small snippet of welsh history and culture.

As Harvey's warm, reassuring welsh accent filled the room, the nerves of four excited but anxious Fashion Promotion students quickly dissipated, giving us an insight in to why so many of his passengers felt completely at ease and natural in opening up and relaxing in to conversation on their journey with him.

It was a philosophical fair ground really. People would bring topics in to the cab with them, or it was a natural progression of the journey....there was no limit as to the inspiration that would start a conversation in a Taxi. Nothing was off bounds”

Harvey's natural interest and fascination in people started as a young child. Naturally inquisitive and wanting to understand people, he went on to study Human Geography in University, and began the profession of Taxi driving to fund his love of travel to places such as Egypt, Brazil, India and Nepal. Looking under the touristic facade at the culture and the real communities of these fascinating countries, he began to compare it to what he was witnessing at home in Neath and Swansea. His interest in the journeys and stories of his passengers fascinated him, and it became a natural progression to start documenting the journeys; and the TAXI photography project was born.

As the conversation progressed, the four of us became more drawn in to Harvey's compelling, unique story of his photography journey, his easy going and charming manner inviting us to ask questions off scope of the interview. There is something distinctive about a taxi that is synonymous with anonymity and comfort, that makes many of us leave our inhibitions at the curb and divulge our inner most thoughts, secrets and worries with free abandon, to what is, in essence, a total stranger. The spontaneity of the situation in which these characters are placed enables their photographs to exude authenticity and honesty - something Mike consistently reinforces.
You do see so many different little social nuances.... there were so many inspiring moments being in the cab....it gives you a wider appreciation of things!”

What makes Harvey's portraits so poignant is his ability when the shutter goes down, to capture that visual representation of his passengers portraying a small part of their journey, making us attempt to breakdown our assumptions of a certain stereotype.

Harvey has learnt over the years to take photographs with the motivation to achieve something, rather than taking a photograph for the sake of preserving a frame that should be enjoyed through the eye. In todays social media obsessed society, photography can take on an element of delusion, detracting us from the moment and experience that really matters. “There's a sense of a modern day keeping up with the Jones” Harvey contemplates. “If you're to busy looking at others peoples drive, then you're not concentrating on your own journey”

Read our interview with Mike Harvey in the new edition of the Platfform magazine out end of March 

Visit Mike Harvey's website to see more of the TAXI photography project here

Words Angharad Selway