'Unrest' Review

Monday, 17 September 2018

“Sickness doesn’t terrify me and death doesn’t terrify me. What terrifies me is that you can disappear because someone’s telling the wrong story about you”. Each time director Jennifer Brea speaks, her words are meticulously chosen, steely and unwavering, spoken softly but without apology—asking us to lean in close and listen carefully. In her 2017 film Unrest she takes the camera into her own hands to film her struggle with the sorely misunderstood Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, making sure to tell her story right. I know this, because it’s my story too.

Aged eighteen and starry-eyed, I set off for university, salivating at the thought of instant noodles and all-nighters, itching to experience all the magical and mundane things I’d seen students do on screen. But my body had other ideas. My legs gave in first, then my arms, and then my head became wrapped in a dizzying, nauseous haze. When my speech became too slurred to express anything, I could be myself only in my imagination.

“I stayed sane because I can do lots of things with my mind” says Jessica, one of Brea’s subjects; a young woman who has been acutely ill with CFS since the age of fifteen. From her dark bedroom she fantasises of scuba diving in distant Australia. In a moving, inventive sequence, P.O.V footage from the aquamarine waters of a colourful coral reef is synced with Jessica’s imagined sensory impressions (“my body moving but no sound”). Usually, documentaries capture people as and where they are, not as or where they’d like to be; they hold a mirror to our day-jobs, not our daydreams. But who is to say that the places we go with our minds are any less real than those we go with our feet? 

“It’s mental” says Jessica, when her feet touch the floor for the first time in eight years. She says this with the impassioned zeal of a sixteen-year-old convinced he’s just spotted Christ in the crowd at Reading Festival—through watery eyes, you have to laugh.

Unrest is a revelation. It shines light on an invisible community, but transcends its “activist” label by practising the compassion it preaches. Brea is not a director who barks orders; she speaks to her noise-sensitive subjects in whispers. But she need not shout to say that if our beds are our battlefields, then that’s a fair place to start a revolution.

When I left the cinema and got carried into the technicolour hustle and drum of Shaftesbury Avenue, the sky —now nearly night— was darker but my legs, somehow, felt a little lighter. I couldn’t walk more than a hundred metres, but I swear, I might have run. 

London Fashion Week 2016 - Part 2

Sunday, 30 October 2016

I should have posted these ages ago. I'd like to say that I did it deliberately, to show, um, you know, that while fashions fade, style is timeless. But the truth is that little life hiccups happened and both my scanner and my laptop died. I was truly trapped in a technological nightmare! Anyway, I hope you'll forgive the delay and agree with me that this bunch below express that rare charm and individuality that doesn't go stale just like that: not from one season to the next, and certainly not in the time it took for my laptop to peg it. 

                                                                    Raheem                                                                           Starboi
Ty & Trevor
Mikita & Kouki

Find some of them on Instagram:
- Raheem @earinthe.streets
- Reece @rjtheangel
- Ty @tyty.alexander
- Mikita @mkt19960320

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London Fashion Week 2016 - Part 1

Friday, 30 September 2016

Last Tuesday, I woke up with start and spent a while scrolling mindlessly through Twitter and Instagram. Comatose and horizontal, my laptop blazing on my chest and my neck folded into a series of chins, I peered through bleary eyes at the pretty people on my screen. Sure, social media is a bit synonymous with models and catwalks, dark glasses and fur coats, but this time the shiny, fancy people looked somehow familiar. This time they stood against a backdrop of pubs, Victorian houses, exposed brick and graffiti - a city that looked a lot like my own. It was London Fashion Week, and though I'd been plotting to go for a while, I'd got the dates all mixed up and it only lasted a few days and Tuesday was the last day and now it was Tuesday. 

Justin, Oscar, Alex, and Adriel

I texted my friend Celine, partly because she's a great photographer but mainly because she considers people-watching a sport, and she was game to go. After a bit of detective work, we concluded that Soho was probably the best place to meet as there were a bunch of shows there that afternoon. All I knew about fashion was that I was too much of a peasant to have tickets to the shows. But we suspected that the most interesting people would be the ones who loitered outside, soaking up the vibes, having their photos taken and enjoying this strange, brief and blissful stardom.

Lena, Aoibhe, Courtney, Chloe, and Christen

 I don't know if any of these people actually had tickets, or if they cared that they did or they didn't. They were there, like us, to absorb the atmosphere. Some came with friends but most were alone, and I wondered if they felt lonely in the crowd or just happy to be a part of something bigger. London's social code must have been temporarily suspended because strangers were swapping Instagrams and nobody was not worth talking to. An age-old truth was confirmed: that  nothing beats an outfit for an icebreaker. Or so I thought. A few days later I got on a bus and sat across from the only other passenger, a girl who did a double-take as I walked past, because oh- my god, we were wearing the exact same blue linen coat. First I was horrified that I wasn't quite the Original I'd thought, then I was tempted to spout out something awkward like 'Nice coat!' but the moment had passed and it wasn't Fashion Week anymore: initiating conversation in public spaces was -once again- unacceptable. So I'm glad I got out of bed last Tuesday. This wasn't the front-row Fashion Week of identical genes and jeans, but a shared kind of kinship between individuals with nothing in common - but everything for a bit. 

Marley @therealdonlimon

Mare @merlinmorlo
Kala Kala
Best Nkhoma
Elodie @fromelo
Chiara @chiarahmichellegellar
Roibys @royroybowdown

Part Two coming soon.

The Place of Polaroids in a Digital World

Monday, 23 May 2016

So, I wrote a piece and it's been published in a magazine and you can buy it and touch it and hold it! Here's a heavily-edited snippet from my four-page feature (!) in issue 8 of Blogosphere Magazine. In it, I also share some practical tips for taking polaroids - but if you want to read the whole thing, you're going to have get off your arse and go buy it! It's sold online, in WHSmith's, and in lots of indie newsagents across the U.K.

My first camera was a lump of plastic with a bright yellow button. It was 2000; I was five; I’d just started school; I was growing out my hair to make sure I wasn’t mistaken for a boy. Anything was possible. I don’t know if it was the new millennium or the fact that I was five, but I was pretty sure that my Polaroid i-Zone was witchcraft. Like my Game Boy Color, it was made of the semi- transparent blue plastic that screams TOY. It was shaped like a submarine and weighed way too little for an actual camera; I knew that much. But with a click of a shutter, out would pop a one-inch photo on a strip of colourful paper. So began my love affair with Polaroid. 

It’s easy to believe in magic when you’re little and you’ve not yet seen enough to be cynical. Like Father Christmas and flashing trainers, an instant camera made no sense - and I loved it. I guess I was the right age: there are only a few years when you’re old enough to question, but young enough to take that leap of faith. Life is too short - and too much fun - to waste precious toddler-time on scepticism. My instant camera took an instant photo and that was that. 

But I’m twenty now and the magic hasn’t gone. If anything, the form has even more mystique and allure today. I love the physicality of a polaroid and the immediacy of a blog. Stories take time to tell, but an instant photo is, well, instant. Sometimes the story is all in the photo and it doesn’t need to be elaborated by words. Sometimes the photo is abstract and the story is all in the words. It’s an easy way to build rapport with readers as they eavesdrop on intimate conversations and see snapshots from my travels. Instant photography is an old form revived by new media and I’m excited to see how it evolves.

Today, we’re living in the age of Snapchat, where spontaneity is staple. If you didn’t take a photo of that coffee, I’m sorry — it just didn’t happen. It’s the first cardinal rule; do you know anything? Scott Hardy, CEO, recently described Polaroid as the first social network. And it kind of was. We all want to share stuff, and whether that’s through art or social media, most of the ways we record our experiences are online. By the late 2000s, our digital photo albums had reached saturation point. In the last few years, I’ve taken so many thousands of iPhone photos that each individual one has little meaning. In a sea of images, a single photo is a drop in the ocean; and the memories it holds are diluted, too. A polaroid, on the other hand, is a concentrate: you take only a few and they end up in breast pockets and wallets. We’re a generation of over-sharers and polaroids are refreshingly private (it’s no coincidence that early instant photography was mostly pornographic - so I’m told). They’re spontaneous - like Snapchat - but they also stay around for more than ten seconds. It’s a happy marriage of a satisfying physicality with twenty-first century instant gratification. I’m sold — can you tell?
So apparently that’s The Place of Polaroid in the Digital World. If it were easy to quantify its magic, it might not be so magical at all. But as our memories fade and our photos float in cyberspace, it’s a comfort to be able to reach out and touch something tangible that says, I lived that! I was there in that place at that time and I remember it now with this picture in my hand! So let’s live and let’s share because there’ll come a time when Snapchat’s not around and neither are we.

Instant Stories x Local Wolves

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Hello! It's been a while. Today I'm interrupting our normal schedule with a long-overdue update. By overdue, I mean really overdue. My life has changed irrevocably in the months since, and I haven't quite yet found the words to talk about it. I know I will, eventually. But for now, please kindly indulge me in some shameless self-promo.
Instant Stories has recently made a couple of appearances elsewhere; the first of which I want to share with you today. Last November, I was interviewed by Local Wolves Magazine. You what? You heard! I didn't shut up about it on social media but in all my excitement it somehow slipped my mind to share the news on my actual blog.

Local Wolves is an online and print publication founded and EIC'd by superwoman Cathrine Khom. Based in Southern California but with a talented team spread all over the world, Local Wolves aims to "delve into the most creative minds from the world of entertainment, arts and culture." It's beautifully-produced, and a treat to dip in and out of or, to do as I do and binge in a single sitting. 

I met up with their photographer Mila Austin in Southwark, and thankfully she was lovely, because she needed the patience of a saint to drag me out of my camera-shy shell. Then I answered a bunch of questions about writing, instant photography, and invisible illness: click here to read the whole interview.

I'll be back soon with normal posts!

Find the whole interview here: localwolves.com/celestine-fraser
Check out Local Wolves: localwolves.com

Meet Ana Marta

Monday, 21 March 2016

On a drizzly December day, I sheltered under Waterloo Bridge and met Ana Marta. Squinting and windswept, we wandered around the Southbank Christmas market in hot pursuit of hot chocolate. Ana wished the milk was a bit more vegan. I wished my gloves were a little less fingerless. We went indoors.

Suddenly conscious that there was a roof over my head, I asked Ana, where is home? She comes from Porto, a city on the coast of north-west Portugal, but she’s studying abroad in London for the year. She’s in her third year of graphic design at university, so she’s pretty proficient in design-that-is-graphic, though she does point out that ‘it’s not necessarily the thing I want to be doing for the rest of my life’.

Same, Ana, same. If I had a penny for every time I heard ‘Oh, English - so you’re going to teach?’, then I’d do whatever I like because I’d have a trust fund. I’m an optimist: I like to think that studying is a springboard into finding the thing that gets you out of bed in the morning, rather than a vortex into inevitable bankruptcy and homelessness. And it gives you the time to find passions and soulmates and to screw up and start all over again. Ana explains that it was only through trial and error that she realised that animation and motion graphics are what she likes best.

“I totally understand that I probably won’t make a lot of money, but I’m fine with making enough to have a place to live, and get food. I don’t need anything else!”, she continues. “And usually when you’re good at something, it eventually pays off?’, she adds, a little tentatively. 

If that’s the case then she needn’t worry. She is quite "good at something", and that's YouTube - if 22,000 subscribers mean anything! Her self-titled channel, Ana Marta, is a hub of vlogs and short films about her life: she'll talk about anything and everything, but university, travel, and graphic design feature most prominently. Scattered with whimsy illustrations, extremely-pleasing fonts, and colours that say everything's sweet in the world, her videos are short and sweet and always charming. 

She started uploading at around the same time she started university, “it was like a parallel thing”. Making videos was a way to get thoughts off her chest; sharing them with a receptive audience, a way to bounce off ideas: “I think video is a way for me to convey what goes through my head in a more effective way than through words. With video, you can use song, type, illustration, and colour to set the tone.”

Since November she’s poured her every spare drop of creative juice into weekly uploads to a collaboration channel called New Age Creators, the brainchild of Orin Willis, a fellow YouTuber. Ana says “the week after I got to London we went for coffee and it all went from there”. Now, it’s a hive for five young filmmakers from all across the globe to gather and brainstorm: the UK, Spain, Portugal, Germany (previously, Australia), and New Zealand. They upload Monday to Friday and each week is loosely themed. Sometimes a special guest will upload at the weekend. It’s YouTube, with heart.

As a graphic designer, Ana knows only too well the power of packaging. You know the designer has done their job, she says, when "the product is sucky, but they can make you feel like it’s the hottest thing around". No one does branding better than the super-vloggers into whose laps we fall limp, flailing their wristbands and cradling their memoirs. But the thing about packaging, she says, is it's transient. What was hot one minute is quite quickly... not. Take Comic Sans: it was funny and approachable and popular and everywhere, until it got tired and over-used and ironic and old.

And sometimes the best things come unpackaged: one of my favourite videos she's made is also the simplest. In "Finding Your Essence", she discusses the difficulty of trying to convey your truest self in a foreign language: 'Sometimes my essence and my little spark gets crowded with my insecurities, as in "Am I saying the right words, am I saying the right thing?". Style sparkles, but soul stays; Ana will be here for the long-haul.

“Plans? I don't think I have plans. I just want to enjoy myself and see what comes up and just go with it. The main plan I had was to come to London for a year, and now that that’s happened, I’m happy.” Is it the vegans? I think it's the vegans. Whatever it is they’re feeding her, I want some.

Follow her on YouTube: youtube.com/user/AMDSLD

Follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/amdsld
Follow her on Instagram: instagram.com/ana_marta_dias

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A Day in Eastbourne

Monday, 29 February 2016

On the last day of August, when our skin still sparkled with summer and we thought the world was ours, we jumped in the car and drove down to the south coast. We ambled around Eastbourne, my camera at the ready and mum, dad, brother and labradoodle in tow. The English seaside is a strange place and Eastbourne is no exception. Palm trees line its promenade, like a lazy drumroll to the pier and pebble beach. Elderly couples who’ve long run out of things to say sit on shiny white benches and stare out to sea. A bag lady with a bigger bag of pennies bangs and curses at the windows of an arcade game; if she makes enough noise, the burly bouncer might even escort her off the premises! Garish typography and pastel paint make up for lost sunshine. It’s so ordinary that it’s actually sort of exotic; so naff that it’s charming. Really, it’s Brighton: only less eccentric, more geriatric, with fewer gay couples and more mobility scooters. But it’s the kind of place that can convince you that fish and chips, slush puppies, and candyfloss constitute a balanced diet, and that’s good enough for me.

eastbourne polaroid


eastbourne polaroid

eastbourne polaroid

polaroid of eastbourne pier

Meet Ross King

Friday, 15 January 2016

Back in September, before winter had stolen all that is sunny and good, I met up with singer-songwriter-student Ross King. Back from a year in Jordan and a summer in India and Hong Kong, he was spending a last few days in London before returning to Oxford for university.
We walk down from Holborn to Somerset House and sit in its vast courtyard, empty and almost eerie. A nearby church strikes 8pm and its bells bounce off the walls of the quad.

"I'm going to clam up", he laughs. At twenty-two, he's only now reaching the point where he feels "okay enough about myself as a person" to give music a real shot. He launches into the topic, ardent and unprompted:

"It’s the easiest thing in the world to be a cynic. It takes so much more strength to actually create something."

He gets heated; his message heartfelt: "There are so many naysayers in the world. Your music 
should speak for itself, really. Just because you wrote one folk song, it doesn't mean you're a folk singer, it doesn't mean that's who you are".

Ross grew up in France and moved to the UK aged sixteen. On arrival, he was badly bullied: "I arrived as an outsider and unfortunately one of the things that made me stand out was my music". If to survive at school is to keep your head down, then music means shouting from the rooftops. "People are quick to make judgments, to spread things about you that aren't true. I arrived singing Jason Mraz and throwing myself into everything and unfortunately people misconstrued that as arrogance". He pauses and shrugs, adding: "Perhaps they still do".

Burning with shame, he deleted his page, his Soundcloud, everything. Slowly he started to re-upload songs under the guise of different names, always with the nagging thought that people from his past might find his music and "drag him back down to the mud". Now, he uses his real name.

Though his family "aren't musical at all", he learnt the piano young, and then the saxophone, falling for music by happy accident. Literally. He was "super into rugby" but tore a ligament aged twelve so couldn't play any sport for two years, until he was old enough to have surgery. He needed something to do - so in stepped music. He moved onto the bass at fourteen, and then the guitar. "I can play anything really and I want to play everything".

I ask him about inspiration. Recent loves include Leon Bridges, Jacob Banks, PHOX, and the Arctic Monkeys: "There's a reason great bands are considered great bands and go mainstream. I think maybe I'd overlooked the Arctic Monkeys, but there's an art and a skill to making good pop songs." Indeed. It's very easy to define yourself by negation, by the people you don't like and the songs that you hate (that everyone loves). Snobbery usually comes from a place of insecurity and music snobs, if you ask me, are the worst snobs.

Noticing that he writes his best songs when "it's for someone else", he admits that it's hard to be open and "easy to be a bit awkward about your own feelings". He wrote 'See You On The Other Side' for a friend who was going through a terrible break-up, and found the experience gratifying, more so than getting lots of listens on Soundcloud. Another he wrote on a beach: we agree that travel is a stimulus and an escape from the everyday distractions of Wi-Fi and phone signal. Technology spares us from boredom, yes, but with it comes procrastination, mindless scrolling and the Voldemort of creativity: auto-pilot.

I press him for the master-plan. When he's in Oxford he sings and plays the sax in Millie Is A Boy, a band taking the city's music scene by storm with an eclectic blend of funk and hip hop. "At the moment I've got dreams of renting a studio for a weekend and getting some of my own stuff down", he says. A few months have since passed and this weekend, he was in the studio.

"If there's one thing I've learnt about songwriting, it's that you don't say anything unless you mean it", he says. Bullies have the cheap jokes, but never the last laugh - and I mean it. Because there's one thing Ross can't do, and that's idle.

Follow him on Soundcloud: soundcloud.com/rosskingmusic
  Follow him on Facebook: facebook.com/Ross-King

Oh Wonder

Sunday, 6 December 2015

A year ago, Oh Wonder was formed. Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West came together first as a couple and then as a musical duo, birthing Oh Wonder like their prodigal first born. I don't want to jump the gun or anything, but whatever they "create", I'll embrace. No pressure.

On the 24th of November, I saw them play at Village Underground in Shoreditch. Their music was electronic and the atmosphere electric. 

Last September, they resolved to release a new song every month for a year, and they've done just that. By the new year, with only a few songs to their name, they had spread across social media like wildfire. They compiled their first fifteen songs into a self-titled debut album in September. Only now have they actually played a gig. 

In the music business, their model is innovative; create hype by dropping tracks in instalments, come the first of each month. But if their songs are stories, then they're hardly revolutionaries. Dickens' novels were serialised in newspapers; published a chapter at a time. Now, TV shows like Breaking Bad release episodes in instalments. The entertainment industry teases us, dangling new content under our noses and then pulling the rug from under our feet as we lurch in to catch it. Oh Wonder plays hard to get - and we like it. 

Light a candle. Loop the album. You won't really be able to distinguish between songs but you won't really care. They can credit their success to singles, but the irony is that they work best as an album. Their breezy ballads never reach a climax, but in succession, their crisp, clear sound feels almost cinematic. They could be more adventurous, but then they don't strive for escapism. They blissfully blend male-female harmonies with electronic pop to lull you into your surroundings. You don't want to go anywhere else when this is what you've got.

Autumn Playlist + A Little Update

Monday, 2 November 2015

So it's been a while. Call the cops! Someone sue me!
In all honesty, I've been overwhelmed by the kind response to my previous post: thank you so much. Hiding my health from the Internet had become almost as exhausting as the illness itself. If chronic illness is climbing a mountain, then hiding it is the 75L backpack digging into your shoulders. When I finally pressed publish, I was able to shed that load: I finally feel this blog is my own, a space where I can shine light on people and places, but also share bits and bobs of my own life. "What's in the pipelines?", I hear you cry. Lots coming your way this month, don't fret! Expect an interview, a touch of travel, and a very exciting announcement.
I know it's a silly month that limbos between all the good stuff, but happy November. Chin up, hit play on my autumn mix, and walk to the beat of those crunchy-looking leaves. Click here to hear the playlist on Spotify.

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