5

Children's prison, Mongolia, 2001. ©J. Sutton-Hibbert 2001.

(Photographs of Mongolia children’s prison).

I was in Mongolia for a month, and I’d done some preparation, made some contacts via a client I had. Trying to figure out how I could get access to some places, find some images my clients would have need for.
I found out there was a prison for children and I tried hard to get access. A contact made calls for me, and it seemed it may work. We would have to go see the Governor, take some paperwork, letters of introduction, and explain why we needed in. Somehow it worked.
As expected it wasn’t a cheerful place. I was shown a classroom where children were having lessons. A bathtub sat in the room, catching drips I think. A few minutes there and I’m ushered onwards on the tour.
I see children in their dorms, doing work, or writing letters I forget. There’s a guitar and one child plays it a little. The dorms are extremely basic. I photograph one angelic looking young boy, blond hair, then I get told he is in because he raped a girl.
There is a room in the corridor, closed off by a door with a peep hole. Inside is basically a cell, no furniture, nothing, 4 walls, a ceiling and a floor. And one boy. I try to photograph through the peep hole, but I get it wrong, it doesn’t work. I remember the boy is excited, animated, like a caged animal.
In the corridor lots of furniture is piled up, there are children crouched, some sort of roll call. I try to shoot, but the guy taking me round, my colleague who helped me get inside, is getting nervous. We’ve been there less than 30 minutes. He wants me to keep moving.
Everyone is nervous by my presence.

(Photographs of Mongolia children’s prison).

4

Albania, 1992. ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 1992.

(Photographs of Albania 1992, and 1994 Albania photographs).

We’d spent the night in a home near the lake. Most of the night we hadn’t slept, myself and the journalist. Instead we’d been made welcome with a meal late into the night, and unending rounds of cognac drunk from small glasses. Everyone at the table wanted to make a toast, a toast to what we had no idea, we didn’t speak Albanian. But with every speech we’d have to drink, again raising the small glasses to the ceiling then to our mouths. We were getting drunk. One woman motioned to us to just put it to our lips, not to drink. But perhaps by then it was too late.
At some point during the evening or night it was mentioned that some men were going fishing the next morning, and somehow we were roped into the scheme, caught in a tangled net of half baked drunken plans.
Dawn crept around, hitting us on the back of the head, the taste of cognac all too fresh and alive on our lips. We went down to the lake shore, in the half light of dawn. Paul, the journalist still carrying his bag and within it his laptop. “Do you not want to leave that in the house?” I asked, but no, it seemed not. And by this time he was having trouble answering me. He was doubled over on the ground, throwing up all the speeches and cognac.
But we went fishing. Into a row boat, a couple of the men, and a net with holes – not regular square shaped holes too small for a fish to pass between, but large ripped, ungainly, irregular sized holes, big enough for a man to swim through. Above us many dark clouds rumbled, in front of us dark ominous waves. And off out into Lake Ohrit we went. Rub a dub dub, stupid men in a tub.

(Photographs of Albania 1992, and 1994 Albania photographs).

3

Three generations, of one family, of coal miners, Scotland, 2001. ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 2001

(See my photographs of coal mining in Longannet colliery, Scotland)

It was a magazine assignment. I was in Scotland, every week I’d find a story and propose it to one or so of the magazines I’d work for, the newspaper’s weekend supplement magazines. It was easier then. Those were the days. I could literally pick a topic, get an ‘in’, a lead, go shoot it on black and white on the Leicas and sell it. Four, five, six pages, practically every Sunday or so in the magazines.

Coal mining. Now there’s a topic. Scotland has only one working pit remaining (now gone). I’m in. Phone calls are made to the pit, phone calls are made to picture editors. Commissioned. Sorted. Game on.

I turn up at Longannet colliery, and I meet George- he’s been designated tour guide to the snapper, he shows me round, tells me about mining. I shoot at the colliery, in the changing rooms, naked coal miners in showers. I hear stories of “scabs” from the coal miner’s strike of 1984, and the fact that to this day they have to shower alone.
I shoot at the pit head, men coming and going from shift, up and down in little trains. But I’m not allowed down the pit. I’m given a reason, flash and dust etc, but then they show me the camera they use. Their reason does not stand up to scrutiny.

George tells me his father was a miner, and his father’s father before him. Three generations. I tactfully ask are they all still alive ? They are. The picture is in my head already, three generations of Scottish coal miners, and here we are at the last Scottish working coal mine. It’s a picture which may soon not be possible to shoot. I ask can we arrange it, can we get the three generations together for a photo. George says he’ll try.

I have to phone him. And phone him again. His grandfather is a little shy. I tell him how great it’ll be. I tell him I’ll of course do him nice prints for the family. He keeps trying. Then it’s a yes, but only if we can go to a certain pub in a certain town, it’s a “miners pub”. His grandfather would be comfortable there. I agree.

I turn up, and we meet. I buy three pints and they sit together, back to the window. They light up their cigarettes and start talking, of what I don’t remember. The smoke begins to hang in the air, as my breath does within me. They’re not even half way through their pints and the picture is coming together. I’m shooting on the Leicas, black and white memories of a dying industry.

(See my photographs of coal mining in Longannet colliery, Scotland)

2

Kalyan Medrassa, Bukhara, Uzbekistan. ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 2001.

(see my photographs of Uzbekistan)

Bukhara. We’d driven through the night to get there. A scary drive, a tired driver, a nervous driver. We saw one dead body in a traffic accident. We pulled over for coffees at the next roadside café.
And then we arrived in Bukhara. Two out of the three of us had never been there. We wandered the lanes, in the heat, the bleaching sun. We soaked up the history, the dust on our shoes telling a hundred stories of the Silk Road and merchants, of the Great Game and spies.
We ambled past quiet little street markets selling famous Bukhara rugs and carpets, we perused and perhaps asked prices. No one gave us hassle, no other tourists were around.
We rounded a corner into the heart of the city, and before us was the Kalyan Mosque and minaret. We read aloud from the guide book, the Doctor (as we knew him) telling us the history in his heavily accented voice. “But Jeremy, you see, the dates of history are the bones of the body of history. If we know the dates, we can know the story. We will know the facts. Now, you see, in 1785, in Bukhara, the Emir of the land…”. We’d stroll and listen.
We climbed the steps of the minaret, we marvelled at the unspoilt history below us.
We descend again and our legs wobbled with the strain.

(see my photographs of Samarkand, Tashkent, Bukhara in Uzbekistan)

1

portrait photograph of Michael Caine, London, UK
Michael Caine, London, UK. ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 1992.

(See my portrait photographs of Michael Caine. )

Not a lot of people know I photographed Michael Caine. It was many years ago, early 1990s and I was working freelance shifts at The Sunday Times in London. It was a Saturday I believe and I was given the task of heading over to some ol’ London hospital I forget the name of to go to the set of the movie ‘Blue Ice’ and get a stand alone type pic for the next days paper.
It was probably the first time I’d photographed on a film set. I had no blimp for the cameras to cut the noise, but I did have my Leica MP4 with me, as well as my Nikons.
I had to report to the PR guy for the film, he told me where I could go and when. I asked if I could have a one-on-one portrait session, even for a minute, with Michael Caine. I was told absolutely not. I pleaded, “it’s for the Sunday Times”. But his answer was no. I think I may have asked a few times, probably pissed him off.
I remember I hid behind a tree and photographed as Michael Caine and Sean Young walked along the embankment talking, the film camera on a dolly going with them. My Leica was quiet enough, I shot a few frames.
Then it was a cut, and there he was, full length, half length, close up, Michael Caine walking in my direction. I took my chance, young, brash and arrogant that I was. So I step out, stick out my hand, “Sir, hello, I’m Jeremy, from the Sunday Times and I’ve been asked to come along and do a picture today. Would you have a minute at all to let me shoot a portrait?”. “Well,” he said, “that guy over there is going to interview me (for some American mag), if he doesn’t mind you can come with us”. So I asked the journalist he’d pointed at, he didn’t mind, very decent of him.
And off we went, into Michael’s trailer. The journalist and I sit down one side of the table in the trailer, Michael Caine asks for a minute or two, he combs his hair with a brush. No make-up ladies, no stylist. The interview begins and I sit quietly, jammed up against the wall and window, shooting a few frames. Ever-the-professional Michael would occasionally glance my way, hold the look for a second until I shot my pic, then he’d look back at the journo.
During the interview the door opens, outside is the PR guy. He looks straight at me, I probably smiled or waved knowing my arrogance. He looks straight at the interview situation and closes the door. Michael is still talking, he turns and pushes the bowl of fruit towards me, “Want a plum ?”.

(See my portrait photographs of Michael Caine. )