We Should All Know Of A Place So Pure

La Crueize

I have a secret place. Hidden in plain sight, tucked away from the happenings of the world is a place I call home. La Crueize.

La Crueize rests on the southern slopes of the Cevennes, at approximately 50 miles North-West of Avignon, but light-years apart from ‘civilization’.

La Crueize is a place like no other I’ve known, except for perhaps the place where I grew up back in Wrightsville, Arkansas.

Augustine and I enjoying a rustic lunch together in 2008

I first came to La Crueize as a volunteer WWOOF‘er (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) back in 2004. To be honest, what most appealed to me at the time was in the description. It exclaimed that meals were meat based here on this pig and sheep farm, while many of the other farms touted catchwords like, “Raw Vegetable” and “Vegan”. But I’m sure I’m not the first man to blindly follow his stomach. And on this occasion, it led me to the perfect place.

View of the front pasture from the porch of the farmhouse

Agroforestry

Augustine is a believer in the concepts of agroforestry and has continued to create a sustainable environment which promotes the symbiosis of agriculture and farming alongside and intertwined with thriving forestry .

Much of my time at La Crueize was spent clearing invasive pine trees to allow for the reforestation of the native Chestnut trees. A blight brought to the area by way of diseased ammunition crates imported to Europe by American forces in WWII (according to Augustine) had decimated the Chestnut population over the decades and this, coupled with the introduction of fast-growing pine trees for use in the growing mining industry resulted in a drastic change to the natural habitat of the surrounding forest.

Each visit I spend a bit of time walking around the forest with Augustine.

Setting off to do a few chores and enjoy our daily walk

He tells me about the exotic trees that he’s planted all over this vast estate in his efforts to regenerate and diversify the forest. He’s worked tirelessly over the years to revitalise the area and I marvelled at his achievements during my visit this past summer.

This video is from my visit in 2018.

From my first visit back in 2004, the forest now appears completely anew. Where there was once large voids and the expanse left by scores of pines, there is now a lush green canopy of regenerated Chestnuts. And to this forest, he must be a patron saint of sorts, aptly Augustine, all the same.

Augustine

The owner of La Crueize, Dutch linguist Augustine Thyssen moved to the site back in 1972 or so. The site itself dates back to the 11th century and was a small community of around 17 individual stone “huts” with a small temple at the pinnacle of the mountain. When he first moved here with his pregnant wife, the site was an accumulation of ruins. There was no running water and the area was a complete wilderness. Arriving in late summer, Augustine restored the initial structure just before the first snow and named the building “The Oasis”, as the fresh water source, a natural spring well was just outside the door.


L’oasis is a simple stone-built gite (hut) with a small wood burning stove behind the main farmhous
The restored Broken Chapel at the top of La Crueize

A few years back, I dropped by La Crueize for an impromptu visit. I was in the area on a last minute road trip and I gave Augustine a shout to see if he was up for a bit of company. He was actually hosting a family of holidaymakers at the time (Augustine operates a holiday let when availability allows at a price of 300 Euro per week, with July and August being 450 Euro per week) and although it was inconvenient, he welcomed me just the same.

This family has actually spent every summer at La Crueize since 2004 and Augustine considers them more family than guests. Their patriarch, Erik, is a guitar maker, a photographer, engineer and is quite simply remarkable. He has captured some amazing 360-degree views of La Crueize which you can find here.

Moritz

That summer I became dear friends with the young master of the family, Moritz. Moritz is an excellent photographer in his own right and we bonded instantly over our mutual love for creating images – not to mention that this kind soul exuded a rare quality of maturity and thoughtfulness for such a young age. He actually made me quite jealous in that he captured a magnificent photo of a hanging spearfish (soon to be fed to Augustine’s pigs), the likes of which I simply could not recreate!

Moritz would always say to me “no paparazzi”! I hope he doesn’t mind this candid photo.

Moritz’s older brother, the equally bright and brilliant Lauren was the first to teach me a bit about coding. The family was gracious enough to invite me to their following visit at La Crueize in 2017. I can’t say enough how grateful I am to be a part of this extended La Crueize family.

Skipping stones and bathing in La Cèze 

Augustine, Joe & Kevan

This past year, my very best friend in this world (professor Joseph Allen) came through Europe on a working tour. I’d sent him to work on Augustine’s farm back in 2008 and he likewise became part of La Crueize family. We were blessed to spend a bit of quality time with Guus and the opportunity to spend time together with the closest members of my chosen family is one that I will always cherish.

My two best friends – Young Guus and Old Joe

I could go on, telling dozens of stories, but ultimately La Crueize is a magical sentiment that’s best experienced firsthand. In the absence of opportunity, I will leave you for with a few images from this sacred place and encourage you to fill your mind, body and spirit by getting in touch with Augustine in hopes that he might be able to host you in creating some magical memories of your own.

A summer’s view from the porch of the farmhouse
A sacred trophy, the likes of which litter the forest
A spring sunrise near the Bell of the Broken Chapel
One of many magical moments
From my sunrise adventure with Moritz
“No paparazzi”! 😂!!
Another sunrise from the Broken Chapel
From our trip to the market in Saint-Ambroix
Descending from the Broken Chapel, the farmhouse in view
Part of the magic of La Crueize
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These examples of professional property photography compared to non-professional images of interior and property photography highlight why you should invest in pro images.

The Professional Edge: Why You Should Invest In Your Image

CONTENT, Content, content:

Content is such a buzzword these days. We’re all encouraged to create “Content” with very little insight into what exactly qualifies as valuable content. And likewise, there is very little concrete information on how we can make content work for our businesses.

I’m actually in the middle of a video series on Content, with my first video entitled, “What is content and why should I (or my business) be creating it?” In short, content is information, entertainment or inspiration that you deliver through media to someone of interest. Whether they are prospective clients or collaborators, the fundamental thing to remember is that content is about providing something useful for the sake of building a relationship between you. My second video, “How to create business content that your audience wants to see” takes things a step further by clarifying that content should be formatted natively to the platform on which it will appear, whilst being engaging at the same time. This article will focus on part of the engaging aspect of content; the visual interest.

Visual Appeal

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In addition to commercial/corporate photography, I also photograph properties. This past week, a homeowner contacted me with an interest in having her home re-photographed. Her estate agents had been by on three separate occasions to photograph her home, but she didn’t feel like they captured the value and appeal of her home in the best possible way. For me, this has provided a perfect opportunity for comparison in how content that is comprised of high-quality, professional elements is not only more attractive but how it also can add value to the project.

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To breathe, or not to breathe

As a professional photographer, my job is to add value to a project through influencing perception. This home is on offer in excess of £500,000. In particular, there is nothing “wrong” with the photos provided by the estate agent. And I have also not used any photoshop tricks or any other forms of deception in making the first photo appear as having more value. It is simply the professional edge. And while the home would likely still have interest at or around the asking price, having content that makes the property more appealing increases the likelihood that it will resonate with buyers who appreciate quality. The photo on top sells a standard and people are more inclined to pay a premium for quality. There is life and feeling in the above photo and this is part of the emotional connection that is needed for engaging content.

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The devil is in the detail

Again, the second photo is not in any way awful. But the first photo has been taken with care for precise angles and greater balance in terms of the lighting. One is good while the other is “good enough”. When we’re seeking a professional edge, “good enough” will never suffice.

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Perception is reality

I hope these have been some fairly straightforward examples of how a higher degree of visual appeal can add value to your content and thus your projects. Here are a few more examples which will hopefully inspire you to create (or invest in) visual media to help increase the value and impact of your next piece of content.

Let’s add value to your content

I would love to discuss ways in which I could possibly help to add value to your upcoming projects, even if that’s by simply providing a few free pointers for you to consider. I would love to hear from you by phone on +44 7766 661 253 or via email at kevan@smithstudios.co.uk.

Also, if you found this article to be useful, I would also be grateful for you to “like”, leave a comment or even better for you to share it with your network.

What is Content and why should I (or my business) be creating it?

Do you ever wonder what everyone means when they talk about content? Do you sometimes doubt the effectiveness of content and whether you should invest your time and resources into creating content? In this video, I discuss some of the basics of how content has evolved over the decades and what makes “good” content in this social media-driven era. I list some of the do’s and don’ts about creating content and this video is the foundation for my upcoming series where I’ll go further into topics like how to make content that your audience wants to watch, and how to integrate your content strategy into your everyday life. After watching this video, you’ll be more familiar with the purpose of content and how it can help you or your business to achieve your online goals.

Here are some of my own content sites as well:

Instagram: https://goo.gl/sYWfND

Twitter: https://goo.gl/HvpW5x

Website: https://goo.gl/qps5an

collage of corporate images

The business of creating an industry-leading image

“I would never have had the audacity to recommend to every business, especially a small mom-and-pop shop, that they should hire a professional photographer to take pictures of their product for social media content, because of the tremendous overhead it would represent, but secretly that’s exactly what I wish every business would do.” – Tim Ferriss Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook

The look of an industry leader

Martello Building Consultancy
Martello Building Consultancy

My clients come from a broad spectrum, but the one thing that they have in common is that they aspire to have an industry leading presence. What are some of the keys to having a presence that says industry leader?

1. Originality

As a commercial photographer, my main competition comes from stock imagery. This, in tandem with a never-ending parade of average or below photographers, has made it difficult for business owners to access high-quality bespoke images. My advantage here is that stock photography is the quintessence of “good enough”.

young man organising large drawings in a creative studio office.
To help my client connect with greater funding streams and a broader audience, I created this image and added some light elements of design to establish a standard and to show the planning and meticulous execution that goes into their projects.

2. Quality

Perception is a reality. It’s why we dress for the job and why we put our best foot forward in situations of consequence. But it’s easy to forget that we are likewise being assessed in terms of our digital identities. It’s why stock images cause us to drown in a sea of “good enough” and why using an average or below photographer will result in a muddled message in terms of your brand. Quality and consistency are key and it’s an underlier for the importance of a strategist or a brand consultant whilst establishing your online presence.

Television studio set featuring scenic pieces, a fake tree, lighting and design
Much of my work comes through the film and television industry, where detail and originality are key.

3. Aesthetics

In this sea of “good enough”, a business has to be seen as outstanding to rise above the fray. No different from an ill-fitting suit, generic content will never truly match a client.

A young man dressed in business casual attire stands in front of a fleet of commercial vans
This director of a large property service company chose to invest in bespoke images to help set their business apart from the competition.

But for times when a client does need a ubiquitous look to help them “blend in”, having a unique way of doing so ensures that they won’t be copied in the process.

intricate detail of classical architecture in a building restoration project
Martello Building Consultancy carries out restoration and refurbishment projects here in Kent and abroad. In this case, I’ve created a bespoke stock image for their use. This image was made to mock the standard professionalism of a traditional stock image, whilst being unique to the company and organic in search results.

4. Content Management

One thing to note is that while it is important to create content which adheres to the above points, it is in many ways pointless without established platforms and systems to make effective use of your content. This means referring your content to an excellent copywriter, connecting with a great web developer, establishing a social media strategy and taking advantage of a credible SEO & PPC authority to promote your platforms and content.

Building-Market-Leaders-presentation
An industry-leading presence is the result of an effective strategy coupled with the cohesion of a dynamic creative team.

5. Team Effort

One of the critical factors in establishing an industry-leading image is the team behind your vision. Over the years, I’ve found that while many groups and agencies are more than capable at executing a great vision, only a select few have seemed to resonate with my understanding of what it takes to be seen as an industry leader.

If you feel like your business has industry-leading potential, get in touch by emailing me at kevan@smithstudios.co.uk or by phone at +44 77 6666 1253 and my collaborative group will be happy to consult with you on building your own industry-leading image.

Kevan Smith, Kent commercial photographer with Smith Studios Ltd.
Kevan Smith of Smith Studios Ltd.

Creating Professional Looking Images for Social Media

When using social media, there’s no better way to communicate professionalism than by using professional images. However, many growing businesses forego the expense of professional photography and look to create their own images. As such, I’ve compiled a few tips for creating your own professional looking images, which will hopefully hold you over until you can afford to give me a call!

Include your Directors, Managers and Staff

Perhaps the most important point in creating your own images is to introduce your customers to the faces of the business. This is your opportunity to bring a personable touch to your business, and you should leave customers with a feel for the way that you operate.

Always leave space for branding and copy

Your actual photos should be a feeling/concept as opposed to a thing. Make sure to leave space for branding and copy, which will help to create the emotion/feeling which will compel your customers to act. Also, make sure to include the company logo or colour scheme when possible for added impact.

A consistent look and feel is key

Company headshots and stock images should reflect the company’s brand. A consistent set of images communicates quality and it helps instil trust and brand recognition.

It’s all about the Light!

Amateur lighting is perhaps the most obvious tell when a company chooses to create their own images.

Lighting is also the most difficult pointer to give without going into extensive detail. The simplest way to describe it is that a bigger light source will produce a softer image with less contrast. Almost all commercial images look better with soft gradients and less contrast. A flashlight is a small and contrasty light source. A grey, cloudy day is a very large and soft light source with little contrast. A bright, sunny day at high noon counts for a small light source. Look to create your images in spaces that offer large, balanced light sources for higher quality images.

The Devil is in the Detail

Soft, uniformed lighting is the key to capturing greater detail in your images. Appropriate lighting will allow your camera to focus properly, especially when using a mobile device. Along with appropriate lighting, a good photographic technique will minimize camera shake; another telltale sign (blurred image) of amateur image craft.

Get Creative

This image to the left is EXACTLY what the client requested. The client wanted a minimal, original stock image that depicted one of their typical clients. Whilst there are many things that are positive about this concept and potential application, I felt that a little creativity would add impact and flexibility to their set of images.

I suggested that we change the generic magazine to a branded booklet. I also asked the client to bring in one of their signs which I simply sat balancing on the chair to the left. Having already placed a branded cup in the frame, the end result was a highly impactful image that could easily endure as a signature image for the company.

Hire A Pro

Images and content are essential for most businesses in terms of growing the business online. Whilst it is possible to create your own high-quality images for your business, there is simply no substitute for the quality and consistency of using professional images.

If you would like to grow your business by investing in professional bespoke stock photography, email me at kevan@smithstudios.co.uk for more details.

And if you’ve found this article to be of interest I would be grateful if you could please “like” & “share” this article with your network.

8 Tips For Creating Content on LinkedIn

Social media has grown to become an indispensable tool in today’s world of business. Our online identities are a currency all their own and a lack of value driven content is a bane for many entrepreneurs.

As a corporate photographer and videographer, I enjoy the benefit of having a diverse collection of media from which to create content. Having an abundance of professional images allows me to start a nearly unlimited number of dialogues across any social media platform. Yet in still, I’ve often found it intimidating to create content specifically for LinkedIn.

Over the years, I’ve experimented with a number of ways of publishing content on LinkedIn. Yet in still, It was only recently that I began to feel comfortable creating content for this platform and I would like to share some of my tips to hopefully encourage you to publish more engaging content.

1. Bespoke Images Can Be Key

One of the pitfalls that many entrepreneurs face is a lack of bespoke imagery. While it’s not critical to have organic content, it is nearly impossible to generate a “buzz” with stock imagery. Stock images will never feature a company’s directors and they will never incorporate your business’ branding. Organic content is created to tell your story. Social media is about engaging in one another’s stories and when we create content based on generic images it communicates a less than inspiring narrative. Stock images have their place and for business aiming to simply look “professional” they can be key. But if you want to come across as anything beyond competent, investing in bespoke images and video are essential.

2. Keep Your Content Native

Creating “native” content has become my primary area of focus in terms of my social media marketing. A trusted friend and colleague recently recommended I read “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook” by Gary Vaynerchuk and it has been pivotal in how I approach creating content. What I’ve taken from Vaynerchuk is simply that “while content is key, context is God”. LinkedIn has a certain look and feel that distinguish the platform from Facebook, Twitter, etc. As such, here are examples of how I would vary the title of a post using the image above on different platforms:

Facebook – “I had the most amazing stroll this morning along the coast of Broadstairs”

Twitter – “We were looking for the perfect scenic environment for our business’ quarterly retreat and Broadstairs was a real hit with our clients!”

LinkedIn – “Broadstairs offers the best breakfast networking opportunities in Kent.”

Sharing a post across platforms can be useful, but often times it can leave you looking out of touch with potential customers. Keep in mind that LinkedIn is about business relationships and your content should reflect how you handle your business.

3. Serving Useful Information

While attractive imagery and brand recognition are crucial, one of the more overlooked points that I see on LinkedIn is a tendency towards self-promotion. To be fair, we’re all guilty of the same. “Hey, look at this great image I created!”, “How awesome was this project we just completed!”. Like I mentioned above, LinkedIn is about building business relationships, and just like any other relationship, the exchange should be reciprocal. In fact, we should be creating content that consistently adds value to those within our network instead of consistently asking others to come and applaud us for being fantastic. Creating content that asks others to take note without offering anything in return says something very specific about your business. One thing about the image above is that it doesn’t need a bunch of self-promotion to tell how great their brand is. A strong, interesting image can communicate a great deal without being off-putting. An article with the title “Clean Eating: 6 Tips for Dining Out” sells your own standard while also adding value to your network.

4. Create Content For Your Network, Not For Yourself

There are four very important points that I believe every article on LinkedIn should adhere to. First, the content should be simple. Whilst we can’t all write copy, most of us can appreciate clear, concise communication. I am expected to be an expert in my field but I expect the opposite out of my customers and my network. Creating content is an opportunity to connect with those around us and we should always be mindful of communicating without alienating the people in our network.

Secondly, we should be creating memorable content. A great metric is that if it’s original it’s more likely to be memorable.

Third of all, our content should be inviting to look at. In many ways, this goes back to the section on bespoke imagery. It is nearly impossible to communicate a unique selling point using generic imagery. Unique and impactful images are paramount in creating distinguished content.

Last of all, our content should be fun to read. Look, we’re can’t all be astronauts and race car drivers, but there’s always a human side to how we do business. Social media is an opportunity to connect with the sentient side of our businesses and there’s always something relatable in our supply chain, morning briefings, commute from home, etc. If you think about your content in terms of a flowing conversation, few of us prefer to sit around spatting facts all day. While focusing on business, LinkedIn is still a “social” platform and the content that we create and share should reflect this.

5. Maintain A Tone Consistent That’s True To Your Business

One of the areas that I struggled with in learning to create content was this concept of sharing my “story”. I couldn’t buy into the need for sharing my life history nor how I came to be a commercial photographer with the people in my network. But once I made a commitment to creating content based on my experiences and the principles that my business is built upon, the story suddenly appeared. My story wasn’t some projection or a deduction based on how I wanted my business to be perceived. Instead, my story unfurled as the history of my completed projects and the way that I presented those projects in terms of content. The colour of my story is painted in different hues and vibrancies across differing platforms, but the brushstrokes come from the same pallet. In many ways, this notion is tied closely to the need for “native” content, but beyond ensuring that the content is formatted for success on this platform, it’s also necessary to ensure that that content speaks from the true voice of your business. If your business were a person, that person would use different jargon when speaking to colleagues than it would when speaking to their great Aunt Carol, but the dialogue would be true to their nature in both cases. And again, simply communicate to be understood. Avoid getting caught up in how you would like to be perceived

6. Arrange Your Content In A Way That Your Network Will Find Familiar

One nuance that I noticed recently with LinkedIn was the different layouts that LinkedIn assigns to content created within its platform versus content that is created and shared from another platform. LinkedIn gives a huge visual advantage to articles that are created natively and displayed on the LinkedIn wall as opposed to a post generated on WordPress per say. It’s the reason that I’ve chosen to write this article through LinkedIn as opposed to through my blog. While it is possible to receive strong engagement for content created outside of LinkedIn, their native content is formatted in such a way that it looks more authoritative, in essence.

7. Be Analytical In Terms Of The Format Of Your Content

Here is a checklist that I stumbled across recently that includes more detailed particulars on arranging your LinkedIn content:

  • Your title should be 40-49 characters long.
  • Include 8 images in your post.
  • Don’t embed multimedia such as YouTube videos into your blog post.
  • Write How-to posts. They perform the best. You may also write a List post, but they don’t perform nearly as well as How-to posts. Don’t write a question post.
  • Divide your post into 5 sections with headings (h1, h2, h3, etc.)
  • Write between 1,900 to 2,000 words.
  • Your writing should have a neutral tone.
  • Write your post so it can easily be understood by the masses, preferably with in an “Easy” readability score of 80-89 which is easily read by an 11-year-old.
  • Publish your post on Thursday for maximum number of views.
  • Cross-promote your LinkedIn posts on Twitter.
  • LinkedIn post likes are the common denominator between the other LinkedIn metrics. More post likes should also get you LinkedIn shares, post views, and comments according to correlation data. You can encourage people to like your post with a call to action.

8. Get On With It

While generating content is key to growing your business, it shouldn’t be seen as overwhelming nor should it discourage you to create. One of the most disappointing things about LinkedIn is how little the majority of its users engage one another. LinkedIn shouldn’t be just another platform to collect contacts. It’s potentially a powerful tool for connecting and sharing and it’s only as useful as the people using the service. Start small, by sharing an update or a photo, but try to add value to your network in doing so. You may need to formulate an effective marketing strategy is first, and a good business strategist can help you focus on this along with your business’ vision. As I mentioned earlier, an invaluable tool lies in professional media, which can give you the flexibility of engaging in a number of different narratives. Using anything less than bespoke, high-quality media risks your business looking “good enough” at best, and more often gives the appearance of being generic or even cheap. But ultimately, what could prove even more damaging is simply being too afraid to let you network know who you are and what your business stands for.

If you found this article to be of use, I would be grateful for you to “like” it or “share” it to your network.

Charivari 2017: Community Participation Art by Strange Cargo

This past July, I enjoyed the privilege of capturing a truly unique and inspiring project in Charivari Day 2017. A crowning jewel in the works of arts charity Strange Cargo, Charivari underpins many of the values that drive its artists and volunteers to commit their time and talent year after year.

Brigitte Orasinski director of Strange Cargo
Meet Brigitte Orasinski, Artistic Director of Strange Cargo. I had the pleasure of spending time with Brigitte for the first time this past May when she contacted me about photographing this year’s Charivari festival. This photo from our initial meeting is about as telling as any I’ve taken. Brigitte’s gregarious and magnanimous manner is perhaps only overshadowed by her tireless work ethic and sense of commitment to the community.

After getting to know Brigitte and learning more about Strange Cargo and the world of participatory arts, one thing became evident. It was clear that this kind of community-based initiative could never receive enough publicity. As she detailed the remnants of some of their past projects, I was left with a sense that someone should take the time to highlight the amazing impact that these projects have on the local community. Hence, as part of our agreement, it is my pleasure to tell you all a bit more about Charivari and to show how much it means to the town of Folkestone and the greater Shepway area.

Behind the scenes, working with local students
Charivari Day is the result of countless hours of planning, coordination, and cooperation by event organisers, artists, teachers and students. Each year a different theme inspires the costumes, with 2017 partner the Folkestone Triennial, lending its theme double edge to this years preceding.

“The whole Charivari process is energised by the incredible enthusiasm of the community and school groups who, along with the talented Strange Cargo carnival artist team, will be making this year’s event a huge success. More than 700 fabulously extravagant costumed revelers will parade through the streets. The compelling music and rhythms in the procession will be provided by streetbands and musicians from across the UK.”  Strange Cargo wants people to be thrilled by the event and the music is a large part of the day.

Students preparing for Charivari Day
The work leading up to Charivari Day gives students an opportunity to create and share, to express ideas and vision, and perhaps, more importantly, it gives them the chance to work together to achieve those visions. The carnival workshop programme at Strange Cargo also teaches the students many new skills and all in a professional, creative environment.

Learning new skills
While Charivari Day is an amazing celebration that students and parents alike look forward to, it’s also many students’ first opportunity to participate in a large-scale community art project. The creative skills that the students learn are ones that they carry on through life and the experience seems to be as cherished as much as the celebration itself.

Strange Cargo is funded entirely through public donations and grants. Without such funding, these amazing community participatory arts projects would never happen. On Strange Cargo’s website, Brigitte sends a “huge thanks goes to Lewis Biggs, the curator of the 2017 Folkestone Triennial and all the generous funders whose support enables Strange Cargo to continue to offer this event free of charge to the participants. Funders include Arts Council England, Creative Foundation, 2017 Folkestone Triennial, Roger De Haan Charitable Trust, Shepway District Council, Kent County Council, Folkestone Town Council, Rotary Club of Folkestone Channel, Folkestone Rotary Club, Councillors Rodica Wheeler, Carol Sacre and Mary Lawes.”

Brigitte Orasinski and Lewis Biggs
Whilst out gathering footage to document a different project Brigitte and I fortuitously ran into Lewis Biggs, the curator of the 2017 Folkestone Triennial and one of the charity’s most dependable supporters and a major partner in this year’s Charivari Day.

Here’s a short video giving a brief overview of what Charivari stands for:

I met up with Brigitte and her team at The Bandstand on The Leas where they were making final preparations for the day. I was surprised how at ease everyone was, which I imagine was the result of proper preparation.

Brigitte Orasinski of Strange Cargo Arts
Brigitte and some of Strange Cargo’s event team out on The Leas making final preparations for the day.

From The Leas, I next met with the team as they were readying the big costumes held in store at The Glassworks. Here, I also met up with James Eldridge who was the primary photographer on the day (I was mostly focused on capturing video from the day, while James was tasked with the creating still images). This was the first occasion that I had to hire a second photographer for a project and James was at the top of a very short list. I’d been a fan of James’ work since relocating to Kent five years ago and I was thrilled over the opportunity to work with him.

Preparing the big costumes
James has always been one of my favourite photographers, bar none. I am extremely grateful that James was able to join us on this project and his talented eye, professionalism, and warm compassionate demeanor would be a huge compliment to any project.

With the people
James has a unique talent for capturing what’s natural and true in his subjects. His photos seem to always show a sensitive connection with his subjects as if they know each other well enough to simply be themselves.

A master of candids
Not only does James do amazing portraiture, but he is also a master of candids. I knew he would be the perfect compliment on this project and he truly exceeded my biggest hopes.

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Here’s a little tit-bit about the inspiration for these amazing creations: all of this year’s costumes were inspired by sponsors Folkestone Triennials’ theme double edge, with the students and artists taking the idea of bringing two different things together to make a hybrid creature, or a carnival ‘build’ based on wordplay, such as Rat-race, or other costumes such as the Dog and Bone, drawn from  cockney rhyming slang.

And as everyone finished getting clipped into their costumes, it was time to make our way towards The Stade where the festival was to commence.

Pure gold
Pure gold, courtesy of James Eldridge.

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Down by The Stade, Batala Portsmouth was in full swing and preparing to lead the festival through the streets of Folkestone.

Batala Portsmouth, UK
The UK based Batala Portsmouth are a samba band playing authentic Afro Brazilian Samba Reggae music.

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Here’s a quick video to give you an idea of just how big Charivari is and just how much it means to Folkestone and the local community.

And here are some highlights from the truly spectacular Charivari 2017: double edge.

The weight of inspiration
Here you can see Brigitte Orasinski, presumably weighted down by the generosity of Folkestone’s residents giving liberally to ensure that Charivari Day lives on.

A sea of excitement and creativity
A sea of excitement and creativity

As the parade makes its way beyond The Stade, gathering in energy and preparing to ascended The Old High Street, you get a sense of just how massive the festival is and just how much it means to the local community with schools from right across the Shepway district.

The energy of Charivari
The energy of Charivari Day was both invigorating and inspiring. It was my first opportunity to take part in a town celebrating its own sense of community and it was an experience that I won’t soon forget.

All welcome
Moving up the Old High Street, one thing that I noticed was how inclusive the celebrations were. The day was to belong to all Folkestonians from students to local businesses like Big Boys Fine Burger Co.

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Brilliance
A really brilliant image by James Eldridge, really encapsulating the spirit of Charivari Day.

The general vibe
The spirit of Charivari Day

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A powerful image
Another powerful image by James.

I had my wide angle lens
I couldn’t let James capture all of the action though. You can see him to the left of the image after I’d chased him off so’s I could grab this wide angle view!

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Massive Charivari Day 2017
The crowd collecting near at the finale site and the brilliantly energetic costume wearers, who danced the whole way from the fish market to The Leas Bandstand, finally able to shed their loads.

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Councillor Mrs Ann Berry looking on just like the rest of us, in admiration of Brigitte Orasinski.
Deputy Mayor of Folkestone, Councillor Mrs. Ann Berry sharing a moment of appreciation overlooking the wonderful sight of Folkestone celebrating as a community.

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Councillor Mrs Ann Berry addressing her constituents.
Deputy Mayor of Folkestone, Councillor Mrs. Ann Berry addressing the crowd from The Bandstand.

Thanks James
One of my favourite photos from the day, this capture really shows the respect, admiration, and compassion that I have for Brigitte and Strange Cargo. I’m not sure that I’ve ever looked so far up to someone, whilst simultaneously towering over them, lol!

Just a reminder of the scale of Charivari Day and the impact that it has on the local community.

One big day
Charivari Day means so much to so many people in the Shepway area and its become a local tradition with lots more people from outside the area coming along for the day to enjoy this free, family friendly day out. It’s a hugely positive event that brings people together in celebration of themselves.

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Bringing together generations

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“Strange Cargo employs a small, experienced core team (including artistic and administrative personnel) under the leadership of Brigitte Orasinski, and draws on a versatile pool of talented and committed artists. Working in collaboration with communities, participants and funding partners Strange Cargo has delivered some extraordinary and distinctive projects.

You can commission us, work with us, learn with us, support us or take part in one of our projects.”

At the heart of it
At the heart of Charivari Day are its artists and volunteers.

Without public donations and grants, Strange Cargo wouldn’t be able to put on such amazing community arts projects like Charivari Day. If you would like more information on organizing a participatory arts projects in your local community through Strange Cargo, click >here<.

If you appreciate how much events like Charivari Day bring to the Shepway Community then please head over to donate in any way available to you by clicking >here<.