Stand Up For Human Rights

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The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was conceived by the international community 70 years ago as a way to avoid the atrocities of the Second World War from ever happening again. Its adoption in 1948 by the then newly created United Nations meant that, from that day forward, the concept of individuality was declared universally and every individual everywhere would have a set of rights assigned at birth that must be guaranteed at all times. The Human Rights concept is very recent and very fragile, and that is why upholding and protecting them is a matter of priority for all of us.

The proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was one of the biggest achievements in the history of humankind, and its significance has no parallel. Hernán Santa Cruz of Chile, member of the drafting sub-Committee, wrote that on the day the declaration was adopted “there was an atmosphere of genuine solidarity and brotherhood among men and women from all latitudes, the like of which I have not seen again in any international setting.”

Today, those who are born in countries where their Human Rights are protected can’t imagine a world where they never existed in the first place. Before the concept of Human Rights was conceived, states had ownership over their citizens’ rights and their power over individuals was absolute. Still today, there are nations in the world where the fight to have your most basic rights as a human guaranteed is an ongoing feat. What’s even worse is that some of the nations that voted in favour of the declaration back in 1948, like the United States, China or the United Kingdom, seem to be abdicating on that system that they gave us.

Human Rights are the roots of justice and freedom, of peace and inclusion, and their main restriction is fear: fear of others, fear of what’s different. Fear makes humans do the most horrific things to themselves. We need to stand up for our rights and for the rights of others and put an end to the toxic tide of hatred that is rising around us. I know that if we all join forces, we can do it. In the words of my friend and fantastic poet, Dean Garland: “in the brazen heat of fire and hate, hope trickles down like fresh water.”

That is why I have joined the #Standup4humanrights campaign, and I have pledged that:

  • I will respect your rights regardless of who you are. I will uphold your rights even when I disagree with you.

  • When anyone’s human rights are denied, everyone's rights are undermined, so I will stand up.

  • I will raise my voice. I will take action. I will use my rights to stand up for your rights.

Visit www.standup4humanrights.org and take the pledge today!

Photo credit: portrait taken by Dan Clarke.

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De-Stress, A Photography Project

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Ansel Adams is often credited with saying “We don’t take photographs, we make them”, and this phrase has never been more accurate than in my latest photography project in collaboration with The Trampery. I took portraits of members of their community and explored how working in a creative environment surrounded by a supportive group contributes to the success rate of entrepreneurs and their well-being. I shot the portraits on film and distressed them using household chemicals. The project title is a play on words, "distress" being the technique used to create the images about the "de-stressing" offered in the supportive environment created by the co-working space.

Before becoming part of The Trampery community, I had been working from home since I launched my business. Working from home offered me all the comfort that working in your pyjamas can give you, but it also came with a high price to pay in the form of isolation. I had been considering working from a shared space for almost a year, but I was never able to make up my mind about it. I was under the impression that working from a co-working space would decrease my productivity. I believed that these type of spaces lacked privacy and were crowded, noisy and full of distractions. However, the experience at The Trampery has been the complete opposite and, like most of the participants in the project expressed, being part of a creative community like this one keeps me inspired and has made me grow both personally and professionally.

When you have a group of highly creative and motivated people in the same space, the synergies between the members of the group produce an environment where they can thrive. When interviewed, the majority of the participants in the project agreed that the combination of a supportive community with a space in which the primary purpose is to make great work contributes to keeping them motivated and energised throughout the day. Being in contact with people from diverse cultures and backgrounds working in different ventures and industries, with whom you can bounce ideas around, gives you a different perspective on your challenges, expands your way of thinking and refreshes your work. As one member pointed out, the worst thing about starting a business on your own in your bedroom is that you've started a business alone and in your bedroom. Creative communities like this one provide members with the right environment to realise their entrepreneurial ambitions.

If you want to learn more about my De-Stress project and read extracts of the interviews with The Trampery members, visit this link.

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Life In De-Stress

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Over the last few weeks, I have been working on a personal project in collaboration with The Trampery in which I have photographed members of their community and explored the effect that working in co-working spaces has on their ventures. The Trampery is a London-based social enterprise, specialising in shared workspace and support for entrepreneurs and creative businesses.

The project is called “De-Stress” because I am taking the portraits with my film camera and once the film is developed I dip the negatives in household chemicals to “distress” the images of these people who work in supportive communities that contribute to relieving their stress.

I visited all the sites that The Trampery has in London and photographed members of their different communities who volunteered for the project. After the portraits were taken, the participants were interviewed and asked questions like how do they think a creative environment like The Trampery contributes to the success rate of their business.

As soon as the film came back from the lab, I started the distressing phase. But, before dipping the negatives in the household chemicals, I blocked the eyes with a gel so that they were the only part of the image that was not affected by this technique. By doing this, the portraits were distressed except for the eyes in an attempt to convey that, even though the life of an entrepreneur is surrounded by uncertainty and stress, working in a supportive community helps them keep clarity and stay focused.

You can learn more about the project and see the resulting images, interviews and behind the scenes on The Trampery’s Instagram account @thetrampery.

Photo credit: behind the scenes by Tori Dance from The Trampery.

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Making Bad Decisions Is Better Than Not Deciding At All

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Last weekend, I was having a conversation with my photographer friend and collaborator Andrzej Gruszka about making decisions and how some people freeze when they have to make one. Admittedly, there are easier decisions to make than others, especially if the stakes are high, but not deciding at all is even worse than making the wrong decision. If all the decisions that you’ve made in your life brought you here, to this moment when you are reading this blog post, then you haven’t made too many bad choices, after all, have you?

I know that some people who are reading this post might not be going through the happiest moments of their lives, and probably some of them are due to their past choices. However, making a series of bad choices doesn’t necessarily mean that you will never be able to make the right decision again in your life. Besides, no one is capable of making great decisions 100% of the times. All of our current circumstances are the result of both our good and our bad choices.

I used to have a boss who would tell me that she liked delegating on me some of her tasks because I wasn’t afraid to make decisions. For her, it didn’t matter if I made the right or the wrong choice; what was important was that I always found a way not to stagnate the projects in which I was involved.

When I am faced with a challenging decision, I try to make as much research as I can to make an informed choice. Most of the times, the outcome of your decision is not as important as the process that you took to arrive at said decision. This is particularly true when all of your options will have a positive outcome, even if the paths forward might be completely different.

Another strategy that works for me, whenever possible, is delaying the decision. Gather all the information that you need to make your choice but sit on it for a while. Some people say that procrastinating can be some sort of decision-making process. There are decisions that don’t need to be made right away.

Whichever your decision-making process is, don’t avoid making them because if you don’t make the decision, someone else will make it for you and you won’t have a voice in it. If you make the right decision, you will move forward; if you make the wrong decision, you will learn from your mistake; but, if you don’t do anything, you will never grow.

Photo credit: behind the scenes by Andrzej Gruzska.

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There Is Freedom In Letting Go

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The other day, I heard someone say the phrase “the worst thing in my life never happened” and I couldn’t have related more. Maybe not so much at this age (the perks of growing older and becoming wiser), but at some point in my life that was me. I used to date someone who would tell me all the time “don’t worry about what hasn’t happened yet” but, I used to think that they were just talking nonsense. I was always under the impression that, if you wanted to properly manage your projects, your career or your life you’d have to be constantly worrying about all the possible things that could go wrong so that you could prevent them. But, the reality is that one thing is doing a proper risk assessment, and a completely different thing is living with the anxiety and paranoia that everything could go wrong at any minute. It’s not healthy and is very counterproductive.

The future that we imagine is not real. You can plan your whole life in advance, and I can assure you that nothing will turn out the way that you expected. When you are a worrier, and you are continually planning for the future, you become some sort of mental time traveller. Your body is in the present, but your mind is in the future. You end up missing out on what is going on in your present life for worrying so much about what could happen in a hypothetical future.

Thoughts are not reality, and this is a tough lesson to learn. Whatever you imagine that could go wrong, or whatever is causing you anxiety and preventing you from moving forward, is only in your mind. It doesn’t exist because it hasn’t happened. And you certainly can’t predict the future.

The best way to combat those negative thoughts is to remember that life is not a performance, it’s just a long rehearsal, a draft. All our lives are only works in progress. I’m not saying here that you mustn’t have an idea of where you want your career or your project to go, but give yourself some room for improvisation. Learn to surf the metaphorical wave that life is and enjoy the ride.

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Notes From The Fashion Debates On Mental Health

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A massive thanks to everyone who came to the latest edition of the Fashion Debates at The Trampery Republic in London. We had an outstanding discussion about the mental health problem that we face in the Fashion and Creative Industries, with a panel led by Olivia Pinnock in conversation with designer Charli Cohen, Dr Jonathan Gander from The Haven + London and business consultant and facilitator Fabian Hirose.

Employees in creative careers such as fashion are 25% more likely to experience mental illness. Dr Jonathan Gander started the discussion by saying that “young people are amazing, that’s why I like working in a university. But I do see vulnerability. The cost of [the creative industries] production is often hidden. It’s not the money, it’s often someone”.

Designer Charli Cohen said that “the creative industry will either help with someone’s mental health issues or actually worsen them” and “you can’t complain about it, [because] everyone [else] is stressed. In fashion, it’s [seen as] ‘normal’”.

Fabian Hirose added that “we [designers] need to give meaning to existence. We are trying to solve the problem for others, and we do so at the expense of ourselves”. Cohen agreed by adding that “as a designer, you’re expected to draw inspiration from your lowest low to create, and it’s a lot of time to spend there.”

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For Dr Gander, the problem lies at the top levels of the industry: “when I meet successful people, what I often experience is the attitude that ‘I went through this, I struggled, you have to struggle for it too’”.

So, what can we do about it? How can we take better care of ourselves? As Olivia Pinnock explained, freelancers make up a significant portion of the workers in the creative industries. Without a support network, creatives can feel isolated and lonely, which contributes to developing mental health issues. But the problem does not only lie in the freelance community, almost 95% of creative industries businesses are micro-businesses (less than 10 employees), according to figures from The Creative Industries Federation.

“As a freelance, you need to set your own boundaries, even if it sounds counterintuitive”, Cohen said. And Hirose added that “even if you’re a company professional offering independent services, communities are very important. We need to form [supporting] communities to survive”.

Apart from joining or creating supporting communities yourself, what other things can be done? “Keep the conversation going on every forum you can”, Cohen responded. Dr Gander said that “professional help is available, don’t be afraid to take it”. And, everyone agreed with Hirose when he added that “it’s an individual journey, there is no linear solution”.

During the Q&A part of the discussion, the audience asked what can we do to detect if someone is struggling with mental health issues and, if so, how can we offer support? Dr Gander explained that “it’s not something you can catch early and just treat it there and then. When you recognise it in someone, just be prepared for whatever can happen next, but don’t force it”. Hirose finished the discussion by saying “Vocabulary is very important”, you have to be very careful with what you say to someone who you suspect is going through a rough time.

Thank you so much to everyone who came to be part of this discussion. Like Cohen said, we need to keep this conversation going. This is an industry formed by people who really love what they do, sometimes at the expense of themselves, as Hirose taught us. That is a high price to pay to keep businesses running, and it’s the most expensive cost that the industry faces, paraphrasing Dr Gander.

Thanks to Olivia Pinnock for allowing me to be part of this beautiful event! If you haven’t been to one of these discussions yet, learn more about The Fashion Debates on their website.

About The Fashion Debates

The Fashion Debates is a London-based event series run by fashion journalist Olivia Pinnock that explores ethical issues affecting the fashion industry. From sustainability, to diversity, to animal rights, and workers’ rights, their aim is to make the industry as beautiful as the clothes it produces.

Photo credit: behind the scenes by Andrzej Gruszka.

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Panel Discussion And Networking

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Last chance to get your tickets for tomorrow’s edition of the Fashion Debates at The Trampery Republic in London. Olivia Pinnock will be leading the conversation with the panel formed by Charli Cohen, Dr. Jonathan Gander from The Haven + London and Fabian Hirose.

We will be discussing the state of mental health in the fashion industry, how to deal with the pressures of our jobs, how to take care of ourselves but also how to support those who are going through a rough patch.

Get your tickets here.

Event information

  • Date: May 30th, 2019

  • Time: 7 pm to 10 pm

  • Location: The Trampery Republic, Import Building, 2 Clove Crescent, East India, London E14 2BE

The evening

  • 7 pm Complimentary welcome drinks

  • 7:30 pm Panel debate

  • 8 pm Questions from the audience

  • 8:30 pm Networking

The panel

  • Charli Cohen: Founder of Charli Cohen tech-wear and mental health awareness initiative Shades of Blue.

  • Dr Jonathan Gander: Associate Professor for Creative Industries, Kingston University, and Chair of The Haven + London, the only UK charity solely dedicated to supporting the emotional, spiritual and mental well-being of the creative community.

  • Fabian Hirose: Business Coach who runs workshops on Fashion Burnout designed to answer the question “Why do Businesses & Individuals within Fashion Systems Collapse?”

About The Fashion Debates

The Fashion Debates is a London-based event series run by fashion journalist Olivia Pinnock that explores ethical issues affecting the fashion industry. From sustainability, to diversity, to animal rights, and workers’ rights, their aim is to make the industry as beautiful as the clothes it produces.

Photo credit: taken by Anna Klepikova during one of the previous debates.

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A World That Others Can't See... with Erik Jimenez

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Our role as photographers is to capture a world that others can't see, and in this process, we leave a little bit of us in every photo that we take. In a way, every single one of our photographs is also a portrait of ourselves.

In this series, A World That Others Can't See, I ask fellow photographers to talk about an image from their portfolios in order to discover the stories behind their work and to learn about the person behind the lens.

For the fifth post of the series, Miami-based beauty, fashion and lifestyle photographer Erik Jimenez talks about his gorgeous portrait of Timothy Reyna.

Erik says: “This portrait is of Timothy Reyna, a model based out of NYC. I was very excited to photograph Timothy because when the agency sent me his comp card I immediately loved his facial features, amazing cheekbone structure and fun tattoos. But most of all, I was excited because Timothy had been photographed by David LaChapelle! LaChappelle was one of my favorite artists when I started photography, and I remember just staring at his amazing photography books for hours at the book store.

It’s an untitled image (at the moment) and this photoshoot was for a model agency in NYC called Hello. The inspiration for this shoot was Cirque Du Soleil - Kurios. Beautiful and mysterious. The styling was done by Pedro Guilloty and Johny Quesada, who is the owner of Hello Models but very much an artist himself.

'Untitled' © Erik Jimenez

'Untitled' © Erik Jimenez

I lit this image with a single light source, a strobe attached to a 60 x 60 cm softbox. It was placed very close to Timothy and up at camera right. No reflectors or fill light so I could achieve drama and mood. Although this particular image wasn’t used by the agency, it’s personally one of my favorites. I absolutely love it in black and white for the mood it creates, but really it’s the subject’s pose with his face profile and the tattoo on the back of his head aligned in such a way that speaks to our inner voices of good vs evil. I would love to print, frame and exhibit this image someday!

Tech & specs:

Aperture: f/4.0

Speed: 1/125 sec

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III

Lens: EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM

Focal length: 40 mm”

Erik, thank you so much for sharing this gorgeous portrait with me. J’adore! If you want to see more of Erik’s work, go to his Instagram profile now!


If you haven't read the previous posts of this series, you can check the whole series here. I hope you liked this new post and stay tuned for a different photographer each month!

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I Wish I Had Known... About Painting!

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This is the nineteenth post in my series of posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

In today’s post, I have the honour of chatting with London-based Canadian-born figurative painter Andrew Salgado about his work, the state of the art industry these days and how being humble and grateful can go a long way in the art world:

1. How do you become a painter? Is it something that you go to school for or are you born with the talent?

Well, I think that you are inherently born with a talent, but that talent can definitely be honed. I don't think school is necessarily a determining factor. It’s also a mindset, a mentality. It takes a lot of drive, whereas most people think it’s quite a wishy-washy process, it’s actually quite the opposite.

2. Did you always know that you wanted to be a painter or did you try a different industry before becoming an artist?

I was always interested in the arts; originally I thought I was going to perhaps go into architecture or even dabbled in film; but ultimately I realized that my passion was in art - as in studio art, which is very self-directed and allows me full control of my life and creativity.

3. While doing my research for this interview, I came across many interviews of yours that go back to almost a decade ago, and the Andrew in every one of them sounded like a different person, a different artist. Has your growing up as a person influenced your art or the other way around?

Oh wow. Well, I think that the person I was around 2008 and the years after being victimized in a hate-crime, I was a very wounded person. I was angry and rattled; I had also just moved to the UK. I was uncertain. I've grown a lot. I've learned a lot. I think I have learned a lot from art, but also personal experience. I don't think you can have one without the other. I've become more of a business-minded person, but I've also become a bit more disillusioned with the art world. That sounds like a bad thing, I don't know that it is, it’s a reality of the industry. I'm quite well adjusted right now; I feel like a complete person.

4. How would you describe your style as a painter and how would you explain it to those of us who don’t understand about art?

I'm figurative, as in, I 'paint people'; but I embrace a lot of abstract techniques.

5. Do you think artists must have an unmistakable style or must they follow a movement or the trends of the art world?

I think it’s important to create your own inimitable style, but I also feel like style is always in flux. I think it’s also foolish to not at least be cognizant of the art-world movements; art moves in trends (which itself is such an ugly word, but it’s true) and it would be absolutely ignorant to think that anyone is operative above these trends. A trend by its nature is a reaction to the status quo or at least some sort of acknowledgement of it; art does precisely the same. My work has changed with the time in a desire to stay relevant. Nobody wants to be left behind, and the art world moves in large steps.

6. One of the hardest things to accept for artists who live from their work is that they are running a business and that there are invoices to send, bills to pay and taxes to file. Was that ever an issue for you?

Well, thankfully my gallery does it all for me. I hate paperwork. And it takes up a lot of time. Emailing takes up a lot of time. But yes, you are running a small business, and it’s imperative to consider the business-side with wide-open-eyes.

7. Did you ever have a day job to pay for your living while you painted and if so how long did it take you to be able to live from your work?

Yeah, growing up I always had jobs; until my mid-20s I worked as a lifeguard and a waiter. I have been working professionally from my art for about 10 years now.

8. To make a living as an artist nowadays do you need to be represented by a gallery or can you sell directly to collectors yourself?

I think somewhere there exists a happy medium, where the new modes of art-showing and the traditional modes of art-showing find a sort of equilibrium. The art world has stark divides, large egos, and plenty of gate-keeping. As in, in order to be respected, you need to achieve certain goals or reach certain standards that you simply cannot achieve on your own. Like, sure you can sell a bunch on Instagram, but if you ever want to get serious peer and industry recognition, and career credibility, you need to go through the relevant channels. Like, I can unclog your toilet, but that doesn’t mean I'm a plumber, right?

9. How does a starting painter know how to find their audience? How can they reach collectors?

There’s an idea with young artists that they're doing something that 'nobody has ever done before' or this bullshit 'my art is gonna change the world’ rhetoric or 'I invented said technique…’ Firstly, get your head out your ass. You're not special; learn from history and your peers. Educate yourself. Learn about the industry you're entering. Don't expect people to fawn over you, because there are hundreds of people doing what you're doing - and frankly, doing it better.

One thing my gallery (Beers London) asks artists (if and when) they actually get a meeting with the gallery, is 'why do you think you're a fit with the gallery' and 'which of our artists do you most like?' usually to a response of a blank stare. Learn about the industry before you expect it to bend over backwards for you. Be humble. Accept that you have more to learn. Check your ego at the door.

The faster you learn these things, the more approachable you and your art will become. The best artists I know are the most grateful, humble, and approachable. Well, that was a bit of a tangent. But you can also use Instagram or start something grass-roots with your friends. Don't expect too much too soon. It’s a long, long, long road.

10. What do you consider is the key to a successful artist career in today’s art world?

This is a really tricky question. There are a lot of factors for success. Are you happy? Can you pay your bills? That’s a good start.

11. When do you know that it’s time to start a new painting? How do you know when the work is done?

I think this is different for everyone. I work in 'bodies' of work and the story reveals itself, like chapters. I know when it’s done like heat, I can feel it warming up, and then eventually it’s too hot to touch.

12. What do you do when you finish a painting? Do you take some time or do you paint more?

I usually take a little holiday to recalibrate...but ironically I just finished a body last week and I'm beginning new works tomorrow. I suppose like life, it’s always different, isn’t it?

13. How do you deal with artist’s block?

Does that exist? I find I don't have the time to get it all out, so I have to edit the ideas down. I suppose you need to look to little things and stop expecting the world to bless you with divine inspiration. What are the small things that inspire you? What gets you out of bed? What song is in your head? What memory do you go back to? A conversation? A trinket? Something you're grateful for or bothered by? Think small, execute big.

14. And lastly, have you ever painted yourself?

Yeah, a few times. I find it a bit masturbatory, to be honest.

15. Thanks so much, Andrew, for being so kind and letting me interview you. Where can we learn more about you and about your work?

You can follow me on Instagram at @andrew.salgado.art or at www.beerslondon.com or my own website www.andrewsalgado.com.


If you haven't read the previous posts of this series, you can check the whole series here. I hope you liked this new post and stay tuned for a different creative each month!

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Mental Health Awareness Month

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As I explained in my previous post, May is Mental Health Awareness Month. We are very aware of the need to take care of our bodies to live healthier lives. But, feeling better and living a healthier life is not only about taking care of our bodies. We must also learn how to take care of our minds. If you are in London this May 30th, 2019, join me as I host a panel debate on Mental Health in the Fashion Industry where we will explore the relationship between creativity and mental health.

The discussion will be led by Fashion Journalist Olivia Pinnock with a panel formed by:

  • Dr Jonathan Gander - Associate Professor for Creative Industries, Kingston University, and Chair of The Haven + London, the only UK charity solely dedicated to supporting the emotional, spiritual and mental well-being of the creative community;

  • Charli Cohen - Founder of Charli Cohen tech-wear and mental health awareness initiative Shades of Blue;

  • And Fabian Hirose, a business coach who runs workshops on Fashion Burnout designed to answer the question “Why do Businesses & Individuals within Fashion Systems Collapse?”

Get your tickets here.

Photo credit: behind the scenes by Andrzej Gruzska.

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Fashion Debates On Mental Health

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Since 1949, Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed in May to raise awareness and educate the public about mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, panic attacks, body image, anger, eating disorders and loneliness, among others. This year, I will be co-hosting an edition of The Fashion Debates dedicated to Mental Health in the Fashion Industry with fashion journalist Olivia Pinnock that will take place at The Trampery Republic on May 30th. Join me and fellow professionals passionate about this topic as we explore the complex relationship between creativity and mental health.

Does the way the industry operate lead to mental health problems in its workers, or are creative people more pre-disposed to mental health problems? How can we look after ourselves and our colleagues better to ensure a healthier relationship with our work?

We’ll be discussing these issues and more with our expert panel followed by a chance to network with the rest of the attendees. I look forward to welcoming you!

Get your tickets here.

Event information

  • Date: May 30th, 2019

  • Time: 7 pm to 10 pm

  • Location: The Trampery Republic, Import Building, 2 Clove Crescent, East India, London E14 2BE

The evening

  • 7 pm Complimentary welcome drinks

  • 7:30 pm Panel debate

  • 8 pm Questions from the audience

  • 8:30 pm Networking

The panel

  • Charli Cohen: Founder of Charli Cohen tech-wear and mental health awareness initiative Shades of Blue.

  • Dr Jonathan Gander: Associate Professor for Creative Industries, Kingston University, and Chair of The Haven + London, the only UK charity solely dedicated to supporting the emotional, spiritual and mental well-being of the creative community.

  • Fabian Hirose: Business Coach who runs workshops on Fashion Burnout designed to answer the question “Why do Businesses & Individuals within Fashion Systems Collapse?”

About The Fashion Debates

The Fashion Debates is a London-based event series run by fashion journalist Olivia Pinnock that explores ethical issues affecting the fashion industry. From sustainability, to diversity, to animal rights, and workers’ rights, their aim is to make the industry as beautiful as the clothes it produces.

Photo credit: Fish © 2018 Photography by JC Candanedo.

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I Wish I Had Known... About Twerking!

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This is the eighteenth post in my series of posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

Today, I have a chat with the power-machine that is Bami Kuteyi, founder of Bam Bam Boogie, a London-based Nigerian-Canadian fitness instructor who turned her fitness frustrations into a global movement:

1. You and I share a common past because we both worked in corporate before becoming freelance creatives. What made you quit your job and embark on this journey?

I knew that I had something bigger that I could give to the world - I never wanted my dreams to die at my desk, so I took the leap of faith to leave my job and start my own business.

2. How was the transition from financial security to freelancing?

I started working full-time at 22, so I was never really financially secure [she laughs], even though I was making a lot of money I would spend it frivolously on holidays and partying in order to escape the reality that was working full-time in a role I was not passionate about... Nevertheless, not having a monthly pay-cheque didn't affect me as much as I thought it would.

I planned to leave for some time, so I saved enough money to last me for a whole year, after which my business started to pick up enough for me to live. I read somewhere that after the basic necessities of life are met any income above that only increases happiness marginally. I really learned that this was the truth when leaving my full-time job.

3. Your business is not just a regular fitness business like others because you also aim to have a social impact. Why was that important for you when you came up with the concept?

Yes, 100%! It's always been top of my priority list to give back to my community. That was important for me because I didn’t come from a particularly wealthy family growing up but was around other children who did. Seeing that difference, I knew I wanted to give back to those who had less than me in any way, shape or form.

Apart from empowering people via twerking, I've been involved with supporting refugee children and fighting period poverty here in the UK and Africa. Also, in the future, I would like to have my own social enterprise which focuses solely on helping young girls from low-income homes with high potential to get into the creative industries from a young age.

4. It seems to me that you are trying to fill the inclusiveness and empowerment gap that exists in the fitness industry. Have you found any resistance?

To be honest, not really. I truly believe that your vibe attracts your tribe... and everything always works out in the end. Even if I have ever encountered resistance, it hasn't impacted me or my business enough to remember it! My business is growing and glowing with all the right people joining and supporting this movement.

5. What has been the most challenging aspect of running a creative business?

The most challenging aspect for me is doing the stuff that I really don't like doing or want to do. When you sign up to run a business, no matter how much you love the craft, creativity and freedom, there will always be parts that are needed but aren't so interesting. For me, some of these things are admin, sales and accounting, so I find those areas the most challenging and I’m planning to outsource them sometime in the near future.

6. What made you choose twerking as your focus?

Twerking, as it's called now, is and has always been a part of my culture. I'm Nigerian, so I remember my Grandma "twerking" as a child at parties, and I always loved it and thought it was so much fun. As I grew older, I realised that there really is something so empowering for women to twerk and move their bodies in this way.

7. What inspires you when you create your routines?

I think it really depends on what I'm going through at the time I create them. I tell stories through my routines, so it depends on what I'm feeling or what I feel like the girls really need at that point in time. For example, during International Women’s Month, all my routines were really strong and powerful.

8. Who is twerking for?

For everybody! Literally, everyone can twerk! They just need to embrace their body moving in ways it hasn't before.

9. Where do you see Bam Bam Boogie going in the future?

WORLD DOMINATION ... I See it being surpassing Zumba one day, with everyone knowing a BBB Instructor or having tried a class before.

10. How can people learn more about you, about twerking and about Bam Bam Boogie?

They can pop to my website bambamboogie.com or follow my crazy twerk adventures on Instagram @bambam_boogie.

Bami, you rock! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions about what twerking is all about. It is everything that I Wish I Had Known! Keep inspiring!

Thanks a mil for this JC!


If you haven't read the previous posts of this series, you can check the whole series here. I hope you liked this new post and stay tuned for a different creative each month!

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Exhibition at One Canada Square

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From the 15th of April to the 31st of May, the AOP (Association of Photographers) will take over the main foyer of One Canada Square in Canary Wharf where over 250 finalist images of the AOP Awards 2019 will be exhibited for a period of seven weeks, including my image "Warrior" from the Distressed series. The exhibition is open to the public and entry is free of charge.

Every Thursday members of AOP staff will lead a tour of the exhibition, commencing at 4pm. No booking necessary, just turn up. Meeting place by Wall 5.

The AOP was formed in 1968 and is one of the most prestigious professional photographers’ associations in the world.

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Something Borrowed

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I read on the news a while ago that Victoria Beckham borrowed money from her husband to keep her business alive. After reading the article, I thought to myself: why is this even news? Some people run their businesses as a side gig while keeping their day jobs to secure an income. Others, use their life savings or borrow money from family, friends or financial institutions. There is not just one right way to run a business, the same way that there is not only one path to success.

There are things that nobody tells you when you start your own business. Everyone gives you advice on taxes, cash flow or how to calculate your cost of doing business, but nobody tells you that when you become a freelancer, especially in the creative industries, there will be times when you won’t get paid-jobs or the jobs that you do get won’t even cover your expenses. Nobody tells you that it is perfectly fine, that it happens to everyone, that even big brands and big companies are drowning in debt and are struggling to make a profit in this economy.

We should talk more about this and give entrepreneurs a little break instead of forcing them to turn a profit before their business idea has even been put to the test. Last week, during a Pathways by The Trampery panel discussion, Tahlia Gray - founder of Sheer Chemistry - shared with us that one of the things that she wished she had been told when she started her brand was that there is no shame in taking on side gigs during the early stages of your business. You gotta do what you gotta do to keep the business running!

Sadly, we don’t hear stories of people starting businesses in their parents’ garages anymore or of people becoming successful after going bankrupt seven times. Those dreamers who persevered until they made it are not role models anymore. Now everyone has to turn a profit in less than two years or risk having their idea thrown in the rubbish bin.

For twenty years I worked in an industry that helped me live more than comfortably but made me feel like an outsider. It just wasn’t my cup of tea. Nowadays, I’m doing the job that I should have chosen for myself out of college, and I have never been happier in my life, even if at times it’s hard to make ends meet. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. Success is feeling happy with what you do; the rest is secondary.

Photo credit: behind the scenes taken by Emma Steventon.

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The Path To Diversity Can Be Painful

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Promoting inclusiveness and trying to make all the projects that you work on as diverse as possible is no easy feat. You encounter a lot of resistance, not only from people who oppose diversity but also from people whose levels of inclusiveness are not the same as yours. However, if the aim is trying to create an inclusive society, we must accept the fact that people who don’t think like us should also have their place in society in order for our communities to be truly diverse. In terms of equality, the term diversity means “the inclusion of different types of people in a group or organization.” But, where do we draw the line?

I used to think that the line was easily drawn on anything that attempted against human rights. Any form of hatred is inadmissible. But as simple of a rule as it might seem, the nuances make it more complicated. When trying to explain to certain people that words can kill and that a comment that might seem innocent can be very hurtful or can even lead to someone taking their own life, I’ve been told that I don’t have a thick enough skin. Referring to someone or a group of people with derogatory terms, not only has implications for the affected person but also sends the wrong message to those who might find the support they crave for their discriminatory practices.

At times, promoting diversity and calling out on inequality can hurt. Especially when the people with opposite opinions to yours are family members or close friends. You just can’t understand how someone who has your own blood or whom you love so much would not be as concerned for human rights as you are. This reality has sent me down a spiral of disappointment and rage many times in my life. Even in the present, it is sometimes really hard to breathe deeply and have patience whenever a person close to my heart says something really awful against women or against a specific ethnic group.

Personally, the reason why it hurts so much is that I have also been affected by discrimination myself. I’m a gay-forty-something-year-old-atheist-immigrant, so I’m constantly facing homophobia, ageism, anti-atheist discrimination and xenophobia. What’s even worse, I am also a very empathetic person so whenever I see someone facing discrimination I can completely relate to the pain.

But, I can’t let the pain cloud my judgement. I believe that the biggest mistake of the political correctness era of the ‘80s and ‘90s was to ostracize anyone who didn’t think like us because what happened was that they all united forces and came back fighting stronger than ever in the recent years. I believe now that if you have been a victim of discrimination, or if you are an ally of any group affected by discrimination, you cannot discriminate against others yourself. Even if that means that you have to include those who think completely different to you. You can’t fight hatred with hatred.

I’m not saying that we should condone discriminatory practices or allow space for hate speech. All I’m saying is that if we really want to be inclusive, everyone must be welcomed. Otherwise, we risk becoming hypocrites by doing exactly the opposite of what we preach.

Besides, we are in desperate need of allies and if we want the support from groups that have never been marginalized, we can’t start our request for help with rage. We must fight discrimination and be very angry about inequality, but we must use that anger to fuel our fight and not to rule out possible allies. I know it’s easier said than done, but being someone who has felt discriminated by those close to me many times while growing up I can tell you that, had I let my rage inform my relationship with them, I would probably be all alone now.

Photo credit: behind the scenes taken by Andrzej Gruszka.

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A World That Others Can't See... with Simon Leach

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Our role as photographers is to capture a world that others can't see, and in this process we leave a little bit of us in every photo that we take. In a way, every single one of our photographs is also a portrait of ourselves.

In this series, A World That Others Can't See, I ask fellow photographers to talk about an image from their portfolios in order to discover the stories behind their work and to learn about the person behind the lens.

For the fourth post of the series, lifestyle advertising photographer Simon Leach talks about his personal work, the importance of collaboration and how to know when you are being asked to work for free.

Simon says: “I have selected my ‘Gymnasium’ series. In selecting this series I hope to highlight the importance of personal work – something I consider to be a vital ingredient in any photographer’s portfolio.

There is currently much talk and publicity about the ‘#NOFREEWORK’ campaign (initiated largely by The Freelancer Club) and its underpinning ethos that creatives should not provide their services for free, under any circumstances. Whilst I wholly support and am signed up to this initiative (promises of exposure or future work should not replace appropriate remuneration), it is important not to lose sight of the need for creative individuals to explore ideas and concepts.

There is a difference between ‘personal work’ and ‘free work’ - the latter ultimately benefiting an individual, business or service, not just yourself and your creative team. With personal work there is complete freedom to explore a joint vision. With ‘free work’ the ‘client’ requires specific content that has to take priority.

The Gymnasium series was ‘personal work’ and with it, as with other such projects, I have been extremely lucky to collaborate with some incredibly talented, creative and trusting people. For me personally, it is within such a collaborative environment that I feel challenged to bring my A-game. The images showcased here came from such a process, working initially with one of the models, Rob, later with the make-up artist, Vickie, and second model, Tanya, to develop my ideas. I was assisted by Jon Cooney.

The series of images were shot at my old secondary school weeks before the old gymnasium was scheduled to undergo modernisation. Windows dominated the length of the room and presented me with a brilliant opportunity to mix controlled studio light with natural light for ambiance – a technique I’m particularly fond of using. This series features a couple of Profoto studio heads, used to light the shot, which were manually balanced with the available light - evident on the back wall.

The result: a warm, relaxed and natural looking image.”

That is brilliant, Simon! Thank you so much for sharing with me this gorgeous series! You can see more work from this very talented photographer at www.simonrleach.com.


If you haven't read the previous posts of this series, you can check the whole series here. I hope you liked this new post and stay tuned for a different photographer each month!

Photo credit: portrait of Simon Leach © 2019 JC Candanedo

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We All Have This Superpower

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Last night, I was having a conversation with a very good friend of mine and we were talking about how being friendly opens so many doors. A smile doesn’t necessarily get you everything that you want, but it goes a long way. Ironically, a peer once told me that in some cultures, like in France or some Asian countries, for instance, smiling too much is associated with having a lower level of intelligence. Well, I don’t know if I’m perceived as dumb to some people, but I am a happy person and I smile a lot. And I don’t intend to change that any time soon.

When I used to work in corporate, my friendly and outgoing personality was always perceived as a weakness. I was too nice. Maybe they thought that I was easy to take advantage of, or maybe they were just jealous that I live a happy life. But, even if that always played against me, I never considered for a second smiling less or being less friendly.

I like to surround myself with friendly people, especially when I work. I think that we have enough stress in our lives and jobs to have to put up with the crankiness or bad moods of others. I don’t necessarily think that you have to act like a clown or try to make people happy all the time, but just being friendly and accepting of others really doesn’t cost that much and it makes all the difference.

Admittedly, we are here to work, not to make friends. But, let’s try to make work an enjoyable experience. When I have to put teams together, I obviously look for the best that my budget permits, but someone who is the next best thing but is nice to work with will always be chosen over someone who’s a diva or makes people around them uncomfortable. Life is short, let’s try to enjoy ourselves while we can.

A smile is such a powerful thing to share. Being able to make someone else feel better with just a smile, albeit for a few seconds, should be considered a superpower. So, if we have that power, why not use it more often?

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"The Warrior" Is A Finalist!

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I am happy to announce that my image “The Warrior” has been selected as a finalist for this year’s AOP Open Awards stills category. The AOP Open Awards is run by the Association of Photographers and it has been running for 13 years, each year attracting approximately 1500 entries from around the world. The image will be exhibited in April alongside the rest of the finalists and will be included in The Awards Book 2019.

The 2019 AOP Awards exhibition will take place at One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, tor 7 weeks in the main public lobby of the building. The exhibition will be free and open to the public from 15 April – 31 May 2019. The winners will be announced on the 14th of May, 2019.

“The Warrior” was created by experimenting with distressing negatives. I shot the image on film and then dipped the negative in various household cleaning chemicals. After that, I let it drip dry and once dried I scanned the negative, revealing the final image.

I started experimenting with this technique a year ago, after I went to a portfolio review where the reviewer told me that my work didn’t have a soul, that it lacked personality, that it was too cold and that I should consider doing something else instead of photography.

At the time, I did my best to not let their words affect me because I knew that it was only one person’s opinion about my work. But the following day, while I was at home going through the negatives of a recent shoot, I remembered their words and I took all the negatives that I was handling and soaked them bleach in the sink. After I scanned the negatives, I found the resulting images really beautiful. Since then I’ve been working on this technique.

Save the date and if you can come visit the exhibition in April. And wish me luck!

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The Women In My Blog

Photo by Sania Saleh

Photo by Sania Saleh

This coming March 8 is International Women’s Day, a day that has been celebrated for more than 100 years, since 1911. International Women’s Day is not a day to be celebrated only by women for women, it is a day that should be celebrated by any person who cares about equality and human rights. This year’s theme is #BalanceforBetter because a gender-balanced world is a better world.

In honour of International Women’s Day 2019, below you will find posts from some of the amazing women who have contributed to my blog over these last 4 years.

If you want to find out more about the events taking place in your area during International Women’s Day 2019, go to the IWD Website. From concerts and conferences to fun runs and festivals - celebrate International Women's Day with friends, family or colleagues. Raise awareness, celebrate achievement or rally for change. Help forge a more gender-balanced world.

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I Wish I Had Known... About Writing A Cookbook!

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This is the seventeenth post in my series of monthly posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.

On this post I speak with the fabulous Dina Begum, a Bangladeshi-born/East London-bred food writer about her passion for Bangladeshi food traditions and stories and her book Brick Lane Cookbook, in which she celebrates the diverse cultures and flavours of this much-loved area of London:

1. Where does your love for cooking come from?

My mother. I grew up seeing her prepare delicious meals from scratch almost every single day, using fresh produce. It seemed magical to me that she created feasts out of a few bags of groceries - that made me fall in love with cooking. My extended family are huge foodies and my maternal grandmother is also an amazing cook and this further inspired me, as I spent time with her during school holidays while growing up.

2. How does one go from writing down recipes on a notebook to actually writing a cookbook? Did you ever see yourself as an author?

I wanted to be an author before I even knew what an author was. I remember writing my first poem at the age of eight or nine and receiving a compliment from my teachers. In fact, my writing career began with fiction, poetry and narrative non-fiction including an essay on the shipbreaking trade in Chittagong, Bangladesh. While I loved to cook and write down recipes from a very young age I actually began focusing on food writing about five years ago. The two things I love are words and food, so I decided to combine the two!

3. What challenges did you face when you set yourself to writing the book?

Writing my debut cookbook was a tremendous learning curve for me. I learned how to write and format recipes properly, create delicious sounding yet relevant headnotes to accompany the recipes – which are crucial as they not only describe the dish but give helpful hints and tips. As a Bangladeshi cook, I learned through observing and helping. My mother and grandmother, like the majority of women of those generations never used measures, or wrote things down. It’s a very intuitive way of cooking. This made recipe testing a challenge at first as it was all new for me to measure ingredients exactly and time things. It’s so much easier now!

4. Did you work with a publisher or did you self-publish?

I was lucky enough to find a publisher through a friend who loved my blog and forwarded it to my publisher Kitchen Press. They’re an award-winning independent publisher and specialise in market cookbooks so it was a perfect fit for Brick Lane Cookbook. A blog is a wonderful way to highlight food writing, especially if you’re in the early stages.

5. How difficult is it to promote and sell a book? Where do you sell them?

My book is sold via my publisher and a distributor who deal with the business side of things. There’s also a PR to handle a lot of the promotional side. It’s available on Amazon, Waterstones, Foyles, Oliver Bonas and independent bookshops – one of which is the fabulous Brick Lane Bookshop on Brick Lane. As an author, I also consider it my responsibility to promote the book and I do this via social media posts, where I engage with my audience with regards to cooking and also promote any events I do. I also welcome press and promotional interest and do interviews where possible.

6. It has been said that people publish books nowadays for self-promotion rather than for profit? Is that your case?

I believe writing is a part of me and my life’s main purpose. Since my teens, I’ve published poetry, short fiction and wrote and edited articles for a magazine. This gave me a real sense of what it feels like to write for a living. To me being recognised for writing something interesting and producing good work is key. Self-promotion and profit is, and can be superfluous. Of course, if what you love can help you earn a living that’s a real bonus! My freelance food work is an essential part of my life and I try and connect it to my book as well as long term career goals.

7. Are there any other books in the pipeline?

Nothing concrete at the moment but I am working on a second book with more of a focus on Bangladesh. My book is split into Bangladeshi recipes and other cuisines which reflect the lovely diversity of Brick Lane, but it would be amazing to give Bangladeshi food 100% of my attention for my next project.

8. In your book, you publish recipes from your own kitchen but also from restaurants in Brick Lane. How did you get them to agree for you to publish them for all to see? How did you get their trust in the first place? Were they protective or happy to share their knowledge?

Through sheer power of persuasion and perseverance! Many businesses were easily convinced and keen to include their recipes in my book as they could envision how important it was to document the diversity in the food of Brick Lane. I think people love sharing their food stories. Some were protective of their recipes, especially ones they’d spent years perfecting or family recipes. I totally understood that as these are treasured recipes. I made it clear from the onset that they would be given credit and I would love to share the stories behind their dishes so they were happy to come on board and loved the process of chatting to me and showing me how to cook certain items, which was a real treat.

9. Have you ever worked in a restaurant? Have you thought about opening your own restaurant?

I haven’t worked in a restaurant as such, however, I have worked in them to host supper clubs and pop-ups, most recently at Darjeeling Express, which gave me a little taste of how restaurants operate. I also have some knowledge of them from family members who run their own restaurants. I would love to open some sort of eatery one day serving Bangladeshi food, with my own spin on it.

10. What are your thoughts on cooking robots like the Thermomix? Have you heard about the MIT robot restaurant that just opened in Boston last month?

I’ve literally just googled Thermomix! And to be absolutely honest this kind of cooking has never appealed to me. I’m sure it works for many people and it has its benefits but I just couldn’t imagine cooking this way. I’ve not heard about the robot MIT restaurant and find that very bizarre. I’m an old fashioned cook and not a huge gadgets person either.

11. On the day that we met, you were doing a demo on how to make one of your recipes using what you already have around in your kitchen. Do you try to apply the same concept to all of your recipes?

I believe in zero waste as a basic life philosophy, especially when it comes to food. So I strongly believe in utilising what you have lying around in the fridge or pantry first before buying more groceries. I love to create most of my recipes with that in mind. Use what you have and try and use substitutes. For particular recipes, substitutes don’t work but so many recipes are flexible. It’s all about adaptation.

12. Apart from the book, I know that you have also had your recipes published in many publications and that you host brunches where you share your delicious cooking with your guests. Have you ever considered giving cooking classes?

I love cooking for people and hosting pop-ups and demos. My teaching is currently available on Yodomo.co for whom I’ve filmed a Bangladeshi spice blend and recipe series. However, I’d love to give cooking classes and it’s something that’s on my list of things to do.

13. Where can we find out more about your book and your recipes?

You can find out more about my book and my recipes on my website (which has a recipes blog) and also follow me on Twitter & Instagram @dinasfoodstory to see what I’m cooking and eating and also find out about upcoming events.

This is wonderful, Dina! I really appreciate you sharing with me your tasty recipes and what being a food writer is all about. It is everything that I Wish I Had Known!


If you haven't read the previous posts of this series, you can check the whole series here. I hope you liked this new post and stay tuned for a different creative each month!

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