The blog of Tokyo based photographer and photojournalist, Damon Coulter

In safe hands

Ivan with Spirit level

Been doing a little bit of corporate work recently: with a Jam company in Australia among others and also some work for family and friends where my skills with a camera are better put than anything else I can do to actively help them.

I wish I was good at helping in other, more practical ways but I just live here at the edges of usefullness; I know only about words and pictures; my wife changes the light bulbs in my house!

The pic above is my very good friend, Ivan Waldren, with whom I have spent many years climbing the peaks and crags of the World. When you climb with someone you trust them completely: they hold the rope and that rope, if it all goes wrong on the actual rock face, is what saves your life. Ivan was always good with his hands, whether it was holding a rope; scaling a cliff or cooking up a surprise Christmas dinner for myself and my flatmates when I lived in Manchester. He is also pretty handy at building houses I`ve since discovered.

I was impressed because I can`t do that and neither, the last time we met, could he. But since that time he`s studied and now it`s his job. I think the last structure I built from scratch was made of Lego and I really hate decorating yet as I shot pics of Ivan putting up a wall in a house he is converting to flats I was in awe. He made it all look so effortless and suddenly there, where there had not been one before, was a wall; a real, proper wall which will later become a bathroom wall and will be used by real people in a real house in a real life. I`d love for something I create to have such a reality to it; a use that all can see and easily understand and I would love to enjoy the good feeling that comes from looking back at what you`ve just done and seeing something you made that wasn`t there before. This picture or ones like it will be on Ivan`s website soon, but they will change as he does and my style does, because they are just a collection of pixals. The wall Ivan built will remain for years and years to come.

Maybe it`s digital photography, where you don`t even have actual pictures to hold anymore that makes me feel this way, or maybe not but all of a sudden I wish I could build a wall. I`m pretty practical in the pursuits of travel, climbing, photography and other non-essential skills but I can`t, for the life of me, build a wall and if I could I feel that the answers to many of life`s other problems could be answered. With the jam shoot I had to worry about midday light and reflectors; getting the crowds to blur around the subject, making the crowds in Shibuya actually come close enough around we three strange gaijin playing with jam jars and big cameras (I mean wouldn`t you avoid us if your saw that?) plus all the usual worries and stresses of a shoot. But it`s not a wall is it? And at the end of the day, though it went well and paid well, it is a page in a newspaper; a fond memory and above all just a collection of pixals.



3 responses


    A little study for you.
    (P.S That’s a very nicely lit photo! Don’t give up the photography quite yet (-0-)V )

    May 15, 2008 at 11:37 am

  2. tomo

    nice pic and interesting story. I would like to hear about climing from you further.

    By the way, Can I see you on this Saturday? Did you read a message I sent to your yahoo address?


    May 16, 2008 at 1:33 pm

  3. Thanks Nick, yes it was difficult lighting: backlit, bright window, dull room and lots of shadows from these wooden beams that my friend was building his wall with. But it came out well. Just wish I`d posed him doing something more active, this was a shot about three quarters of the way through the wall and it was the concentration and professionalism in his eye as he checked the spirit level i wanted to catch. But I knew it would be great light if I worked the flash well and just wish I`d repeated it with a drill, hammer, screwdriver or whatever for slightly more “drama”.
    Tomo san, I could talk about climbing until the cows come home (there`s a idiom for you) and will try and make sometime this saturday to catch up.

    May 16, 2008 at 4:55 pm

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