Christmas is a great time to be in St Moritz and its not just for skiing. So often I have been to ski resorts just to ski and eat well. Don’t get me wrong the skiing in Sankt Moritz is fantastic and world beating. There is also more sunshine there than just about any other ski resort which is very welcome after weeks of grey skies in Zurich. But some times the smallest things are the best. Simply going for a walk in the snow is glorious. I got up early to take these pictures and had a pleasant walk on the half Island of Silsersee in Sils. It was a truly mindful experience. Walking on snow at minus 9 you can hear the crunch of snow under your boots. If you stop you can experience true silence as the surrounding snow absorbs all the sound. Just looking out across the lake to the sides of the great mountains is breathtaking. Slowly watching the sun come up over the mountains gives a great sense of anticipation. The early morning light is so subtle and has many different colours that normal daylight does not hold. But there is a small window of less than half an hour to literally see the world in a different light, with soft purple pink light reflects off the water and then it’s gone.
I also love the transitional nature of the water on the lake as small patches of ice float on the mirror surface of the lake. Most of the lakes in St Moritz are already frozen but here it’s like watching a giant slowly going to sleep. Even just watching the snow-covered trees is mesmerising. What I love is see the tree from a distance then slowly approach it observing how the ice and snow form on its delicate branches. Ice crystals refract the light in a way that no lights on a Christmas tree can.
On the white snow if you look carefully you can see the footsteps of animals. At the edge of the lake ice is forming in skirts. But the thickness of the ice is not yet strong enough to support the weight of human, the footprints show a daily traffic of smaller creatures that have discovered a new path to travel. Being there alone is like deep meditation, the chaotic world of the city disappears and the chatting monkey is silenced. I said to a friend the thing I love about being in the mountains is this sense that there is a much bigger force that will be around a lot longer than me. The question is though in what state will this beautiful place be in the future?
Many years from now, will these photographs be a distant memory of something that no longer exists?
This is the focus of my project Water the Essential. The goal is to raise awareness of water issues around the world. What exists now may not exist in the way we know it in the future. We have a responsibility for the next generation to preserve what we have and also to carefully manage our water resources. We also need to think of water as a universal key to our very existence and indeed everything that lives on this planet.
Thanks to the Hotel Hauser who are supporting the Water the Essential project
You can see my Photographic light boxes near the end of January at the Hotel Hauser. We are also supporting the Water Survival Box Charity, which provided clean drinking water and shelter in the immediate aftermath of natural disasters.
If you have a chance I highly recommend visiting St Moritz. The more I go there the more I want to stay and explore.
What should I cook, a Turkey or a Goose?
How many people are coming for Christmas day?
"Would you like another glass of Champagne darling?"
"Thank you yes, this wrapping paper is simply divine."
Everyone is running around buying stuff for Christmas. It’s exciting and be honest, you know that after the holiday period, half of it will be in a landfill. May be the most exciting thing is just the buying of it, because after its unwrapped it sits on the floor and gets thrown in a cupboard or a box. Many of us also have financial pressure to keep up the pretence of Christmas, so the very thing that is supposed to make us happy is making us more stressed out. So less is maybe more. Less consumption and more genuinely trying to help others.
Its sounds a bit cynical but the best part of Christmas is sharing good times with friends and family. Unfortunately we aren’t all so lucky. Some people have absolutely nothing and they don’t have the means to drag themselves out of this situation. So if you have a chance, help a little, give a little and make it better for those who have less.
I started these two photo series a long time ago but some how they relate to each other. Think of it as my Christmas cards. The first series was of homeless people around the world. It started in 1991 in Los Angeles where I noticed homeless people everywhere. However the longer I lived there the people became invisible as if they didn’t exist. The irony is that no one wants to exhibit these pictures either. But what is truly sad is, that these people were once like you and me, but events and circumstances led them to this place on the street.
The other series is La Dolce Vita, which is a sarcastic statement on the ideals of fashion and consumption. I was in Paris in 2014 and was amazed by the exquisite shop windows of the great fashion houses. They use mannequins that represent bodies and people that don’t exist in the real world. It was like the famous Greek sculptures of men raised from the seabed over 2000 years ago. Something we could aspire to but never be. Also the dream to be part of it and never succeeding leads to unhappiness. Just as the homeless didn’t meet their dreams, whatever they may be.
Our friends Shannon and Alex organised a fantastic Charity Christmas concert with the children in the neighbourhood singing and playing music. At the same time they raised a significant amount of money for Room to Read, which is a fantastic charity whose goal is to educate girls in poor countries. Everyone had a good time and we all contributed and it brought our community together in a genuine way. The charity I am working with the Water Survival Box is providing immediate shelter and drinking water to people in the aftermath of a natural disaster. This is something hopefully we never need, but let’s face it no one is immune to natural disaster.
So buying less and giving more at Christmas may be more fulfilling and you have the opportunity to genuinely help. You can also make a donation, but often the most valuable thing is your time to help others. Merry Christmas and may it be merry for others who need it.
Here are some charities to look at but there are many more
I am getting ready for yet another exhibition that opens tomorrow night and I am always nervous. Maybe it is the curse of an artist. Creating work is one thing but presenting it to the public is another. I am lucky to have these first world problems. Meanwhile the people that the Water Survival Charity helps have absolutely nothing. Most have lost everything due to a natural disaster and don’t have shelter or clean drinking water. They are merely trying to survive.
One of the first things that happens, after a natural disaster is that people get sick from a lack of clean drinking water. We only have to look at the recent hurricanes in the Caribbean to see the suffering and challenges they face. In Puerto Rico alone thousands of people are drinking unsafe water causing outbreaks of Diarrhoea and other water born diseases. Thankfully with the water filter in the survival box, families can have access to clean drinking water immediately.
If you have a chance come and see the exhibition. Get an understanding of what the Water Survival Box Charity does and if you can, support the charity. Whether
You make a small donation or get involved everything helps. You only have to raise 200 francs and you can make a meaningful long lasting difference. You can provide clean drinking water for a family of 5 for up to five years.
Its at Photobastei from the 16th till the 26th of November.
Sihlquai 125 8005 Zurich
Open from Wednesday till Saturday 12 to 21om and Sunday from 12 till 18 pm
I had the privilege of being invited to St Moritz to discuss the Water the Essential and the Water Survival Box charity exhibition at the Hauser Hotel over the winter. Of course it was also the school holidays so I had to take my two assistants William and Oliver down with me. St Moritz is normally a winter destination or in the middle of summer. I never really thought about going there in October, but I was pleasantly surprised. It’s the low season so the town was very quite but the weather was amazing. The rich autumn colours paired with the beautiful clean air and soft light made it perfect for taking photos. Through the thoughtful guidance of the staff at the Hauser hotel, I was directed to some of the most special places in St Moritz and the surrounding countryside. With both boys in tow, we set out to explore some of the small lakes that litter the landscape. We took a pleasant walk through the forest that lead us to the first lake Lej Nair. It was like being in a fantasy novel, with the mirror beauty of the small lake. We were almost expecting to see a white unicorn. The second prize was that my 8 year old saw a dear darting through the forest. It doesn’t matter where you go in St Moritz you can always take a stunning picture. Just waking up in the morning and looking out the hotel window was breath taking.
Markus Hauser took time out of his busy schedule to show me some of the less known places that are absolutely stunning. In particular is the Cascata da Bernina in Morteratsch, which flows down from the mountains to the valley. At every stage there are small waterfalls and exquisite aqua and emerald pools, filled with some of the cleanest water in Europe.
The irony of the trip is that looking at the pictures afterwards was somehow disappointing. Actually being there and experiencing it was the most important thing. Anyway I will keep you posted about the Water the Essential exhibition in December and I would strongly encourage you to stay at the Hauser Hotel and experience their warmth and hospitality.
Through Rotary Switzerland a new charity has been launched to support the work of the Water Survival Box Charity which is currently based in the United Kingdom. I had the privilege of being invited to be one of the founding members of the charity.
It was a beautiful sunny evening last Thursday in Luzern when Rotary founded the Swiss Water Survival Box. It was somewhat ironic, considering the suffering of the victims of the hurricane in the Caribbean.
Thanks to the hard work of their members they have raised enough money to send 220 boxes to Hurricane victims in the Caribbean. Already plans are being made to dispatch 500 boxes which will be flown into the island of St Croix and then distributed to Tortola, St Martins, St Barth, Turks and Caicos and Anguilla. These boxes can’t come soon enough as access to clean drinking water and shelter is very limited or nonexistent. It is with the help of the Rotary and the donations from the public that we can help these people. Please check out the Water Survival Box Charity and see how you can help by making a donation.
Lets face it none of us are immune to natural disasters.
I am getting reading for the opening of my show next week at Shapero Modern. We are working together with the Water Survival box, which provides relief for people immediately after a natural disaster. Nothing could be more timely, as a series of hurricanes hits the coast of America and devastates the Caribbean Islands. Please think about these people suffering and try to help them.
One of the most important things after a major event is clean drinking water.
With the water filter in the survival box, a family can have immediate access to clean drinking water. It is also much easier to distribute a water filter than bottled water which is merely a short term solution. They also have the equipment to build a basic shelter.
Here is the link to the Water Survival Box Charity and ways that you can help and donate money. Please be generous, none of us are immune from natural disasters.
I have just spent the last five days in London organising a Solo show with Shapero Modern in Mayfair and the Water Survival Box charity that is supported by Rotary. The intention of the exhibition is raise awareness of how important water is and to help the Water Survival Box to raise money, so that they can immediately expedite these boxes to disaster zones when natural disasters strike.
Through the leadership of Hugo Pike, The Water Survival box and the support of Rotary volunteers has already delivered over 16000 boxes to people in a number of countries. People have already been helped following the Boxing Day Tsunami in the Indian Ocean and the Haiti Earthquake. The Water Survival box is already working with key aid partners such as Oxfam, Save the Children, UNICEF the Red Cross and World Vision. Up until now the key driver of this project has been the voluntary work carried out by The Rotary Districts and Clubs.
The Water Survival Box is a Rapid Response solution to people suffering from the aftermath of a disaster. Each box costs only 150 pounds GBP and provides immediate relief for a family of five. The water filter in the box can provide clean drinking water for a significant number of people. One of the biggest killers after a disaster is water born diseases due to a break down in clean drinking water.
The box can be sent via airfreight and through the various organisations to the disaster zones immediately. This is one of the most immediate and cost effective ways to help people in a disaster zone and alleviate their suffering.
The exhibition is in partnership with the Water-Survival Box, a charity which is extremely important for the work it does in disaster zones internationally. The primary goal of the exhibition is to help The Water Survival Box raise money for their work and to encourage the public to help with this fantastic project. The opening of the show is on the Tuesday the 12th of September from 6pm till 8pm. We are also working with the Ultimate Library to help the Water Survival Box Charity Please RSVP and also please share this post.
Shooting pictures with an iPhone for some photographers seems to be unprofessional. But in the end its the idea that counts. I often use my cell phone for reference pictures for work I will shoot properly later. But sometimes the phone picture is the final picture for two reasons. The first is the instantaneous nature of being able to pull out a camera immediately. The second is the fact that it is so discreet. Lets face it, when you are in a crowd there are a million people on their phone anyway so the fact that you are doing some street photography goes completely unnoticed. Often in the past I have taken my clunky 35mm out to take pictures and immediately I am asked why am I taking pictures. Once in fact I got chased onto a bus full of people by a man covered in tattoos. He wanted to physically rip the film out of the camera. Another time I photographed some Hell Angels gang members on their Motorcycles only to be told to "F... Off! or I will smash your camera."
But now with social media the flow of photos is so intense that we view the world now more as a stop frame animation, than a series single discerning images. So anyway I just entered the Saatchi Gallery iPhone Self Expression photo competition. There is no surprise that the competion is sponsored by Huwei Cellphones, who surprise surprise make an apparently amazing phone camera that is built by Leica.
The final winner will have a solo show at the Gallery and the pictures will have to taken on their new phone. So fingers crossed and here are a few of my photos, which are part of my Water the Essential series which is no surprise. Check them out and if you have a chance enter.
I am pleased to announce that Leica Switzerland have done a blog on my work. It has been a real pleasure working with Leica equipment and the staff at Leica Switzerland. Here is the link below for those whose read German and for those that don't you can look at the pictures.
Vaughan James is a photographer and writer based in Zurich Switzerland