Bellerby & Co.
– London –
Why do we travel? What could possibly convince us to leave the comforts of home for the inhospitable messes we call airports? On the other side of the long lines, tiny bathrooms, and screaming children (both infant and adults) we find ourselves transported to places where our imaginations can run wild. Whether it’s an exotic island or a cosmopolitan hub, travel affords us a chance to step outside of the virtual reality where everything fits into a 1920 x 1080 pixelated world.
Last year I came across a workshop in London which was reshaping the globe as we know it. No, they were not reshaping the actual world; rather Peter Bellerby has resurrected the nearly dead art of hand-making globes. Bellerby & Co Globemakers handcrafts, custom fits and individually paints globes, from sizes that will fit on your desk to 50” in diameter.
Given the utility of tools like Google Maps, why would anyone need a desk globe when every street in every city can be found on the computer? I’d say that the globe isn’t just for finding places, it’s better used to discover yourself. Imagine yourself in a relaxing chair, in the company of your favorite drink, with the assurance that you could go anywhere in the world. Where would it be and how would you imagine it?
The world at large
When I was a kid, we had a large globe in the public library. At the time it seemed life size, because my best efforts to reach around it proved useless. The world, its contents, and its mapping were bigger than I could handle. As I spun the tri-axis world with delusions of megalomaniacal grandeur, all I wanted to do was go from where I was, to way over THERE! I hardly cared where THERE was, as long as it was far from the smell of card catalogs and overly-bleached library bathrooms.
I would sneak moments alone with the globe, pretending there was no one else to impede upon my childhood fantasies of exploration. Running my hands over the curved horizon of the globe, I was free to imagine the plains of Africa, the frozen tundras of Siberia and the impossible notion that people actually lived on the green sprinkles of islands across the South Pacific. With a globe in hand, everything was possible.
The British are coming
If the Egyptians invented the pyramids and the Greeks invented the Classics, the English invented the globe. Why? Well, because unlike the early astronomers of mainland Europe, no one invaded the world and plotted their findings with quite the enthusiasm of the British. Like educator Ken Robinson said in a recent TED talk, “It’s one of those cultural myths, like ‘The British are reserved.’ I don’t know why people think this. We’ve invaded every country we’ve encountered.” For better or worse, this is true. In fact, we owe most of our early global mapping to the British. But while the British Empire has eased up on their global invasion tactics and handed the reins of poor foreign policy to the Americans (go us!), it has opened up a space to re-imagine the globe and focus on its artistic roots.
This year for the London Workshop, we will be visiting the studio of Bellerby & Co. Globemakers in the Shoreditch area of London for a private shoot. Why visit a globe maker? I always encourage photographers to shoot something specific when they travel. It’s something I’ve found enormously rewarding, because when I shoot people whom I seek out, it gives me a deeper insight into the place, its history and what makes this place so special. That’s not to say we can’t just wander around the world without a plan, we absolutely can. But when you travel to a place, to capture a sense of that location, it helps if you know why you are there and what you are shooting. That level of specificity allows successful work to stand out. And if you don’t know what that process looks like, a workshop can be a great place to experiment.
How it started
I came across Peter Bellerby last year and found his story compelling. The original motivation to make his first globe came when he wanted to buy a globe for his father. He soon discovered that many of the handmade globe makers around England were out of business. So, he set out to do what any non-rational, innovative thinker would do. He would learn how to make a globe himself. (see how in the video below)
Over the next few years, Peter’s successes would outgrow his dining room table and require a space dedicated to casting, mapping and hand-finishing these extraordinary globes. For the photographers who are joining the workshop, this will be a unique opportunity to have an insiders view of a team of artisans at work. Oh and did I mention that one photographer had to cancel, so there is ONE SPACE LEFT?
The opportunity to travel is something that should not be missed. One consistent piece of advice I’ve gotten from those many years my senior is, travel when you are young, travel when you are old, but never miss an opportunity because it might not come back around. Three years ago, when I started with workshops, I looked at them as a sort of school on the road. Now I see them in a completely different light. There is plenty of learning, but the things we learn are only secondary to the experiences we have together. I, for one, am really looking forward to seeing what Peter and his team have in store for us. Beyond the photographs, we will also have a chance to see what happens when lost traditions come back to life. Part of the past, mixed up in the present, will define an entirely new future and hopefully reshape the globe and how we think about it.
To read more about Bellerby & Co. Globemakers: http://www.bellerbyandco.com/index.php/
and if you are interested in the last available spot for the London Workshop, please email here: firstname.lastname@example.org