Photography: Jordi Ruiz Cirera

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Bolivian Mennonites

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My friend Claire sent me a link to London-based Spanish photographer Jordi Ruiz Cirera’s website, because she knew I would love his photographs.  She was right – they are beautiful – and I’m particularly taken with his portraits of Mennonite families in Bolivia. One of the images, a camera shy lady sitting at a table, won Ruiz Cirera the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize in 2012.

The pictures form part of the photographer’s long-term project to document the daily life of this religious community. The project was particularly challenging, as the Mennonite religion forbids the creation of images and many members were reluctant to appear in photographs. However, having travelled to their villages in South America on two occasions, he gradually won the trust of several families living south of Santa Cruz.

The Mennonites’ uneasy relationship with the camera is reflected in the winning portrait of Margarita Teichroeb at her table; “She seems to be afraid of the photographer, unwilling to expose herself to our gaze. Her awkward expression says a lot about the tradition, isolation and lifestyle of this community,” says Ruiz Cirera.

Tim Coulson: The Nursery

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I didn’t post much last week as I was away in London. While I was there I was lucky enough to attend a photography workshop with Tim Coulson called The Nursery. Although I had lost my voice and had to speak in croaks and whispers, the workshop was brilliant. In one day, Tim explained so many things that had previously confused me about taking pictures and his advice will definitely help me to use my camera properly.
In the morning, Tim discussed the emotional and technical aspects of photography in a very down-to-earth and common sense way. Then, following a leisurely lunch we stepped outside to practice what we had learned. My pictures above are of Tim’s wife Kesh and their lovely son Roo. The Nursery is a real family affair and I am delighted that I was able to be a part of it. Thanks Tim and Kesh!

Inspiration: Barbara Hepworth’s Garden

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Last week I took a trip to St Ives and visited the Barbara Hepworth Museum & Sculpture Garden. This is one of my favourite things to do in St Ives as it always seems like a little oasis of calm in the middle of the busy seaside town. The museum and garden are based at Barbara’s own home, the delightful Trewyn Studios, so you can see the sculptures in the environment in which they were created and nosy around her former studio. It is a magical place with huge modernist pieces in bronze, stone and wood as well as smaller paintings, drawings and archive material on display. It’s a great place to take kids but also somewhere you could happily spend a quiet afternoon alone, reading a good book and soaking up the atmosphere. I thoroughly recommend a visit if you are ever in the area…

Cloth Books: Ex Libris Handmade

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I love these handmade cloth books by Victoria van der Laan. Victoria has been making things since 1976 and has an etsy shop selling her charming custom-made books for babies, kids and adults. I’m very impressed with her range of topics – there are books on science, dinosaurs, woodland creatures, musical instruments, fruit, mammals and transport to name just a few! Each book features interesting and non-traditional applique images as well as having a stylish typographic front cover. If you want a personalised book, Victoria can also embroider a child’s (or adult’s) name on the front, making a wonderful and very unique gift.

www.etsy.com/shop/exlibrishandmade