Other Product Projects

Retrospective: ọkọ̀ Product shoot for Setovilla

While I am away resting and relaxing, I am also enjoying dusting off some older photo collections I had good fun shooting, including this great shoot from around a year ago. Enjoy!

One of the best things to find in work is something you love doing, and something that works to better the world at the same time. For me, working with the wonderful Setovilla on their new range of ọkọ̀ hibiscus drinks was just that.

Bottles of OKO by Setovilla Sitting in an ice bucket with lemons

A few years ago, when I was just starting my business, I worked with Temi on getting some portrait photographs in a mixture of different styles, and we stayed in touch. Since then, she has gone on to help develop a non-profit organisation Setovilla to support the people who need it most.

OKO hibiscus drink by Setovilla in a bottle and a glass, with lemons, Yerba Mate, a jar of hibiscus, and a pineapple in the background

In the early stages of my business I worked with Temi, getting a variety of portrait shots for professional and personal use, and we stayed in touch! She has been busy working with Setovilla to support children and young people who need the support most. (This was my favourite shot, taken in a lift on the way to the actual planned location, naturally).

In the words of Setovilla:

We are on a mission to help children and young people succeed! We sell ọkọ̀ drinks online and in-store, pledging 60% of our profits to improve education and employability skills for young people from low socio- economic backgrounds. We launched in July 2021 and in the next 5 years, we aspire to distribute 500 Setobags (educational kits, each valued at £50) to children in need around the world. Also, we aspire to engage an additional 250 young adults to support their pathways into work through CV clinics and workshops. We exist to make education and employment more attainable for disadvantaged children by giving them the basic tools to excel.’

After sending over some sample drinks, and looking at some branding and colour ideas, I raided about 30 charity shops for small interesting things to add to the shoot and matched what we had in mind, alongside some of the key ingredients of ọkọ̀.

An overhead view of a glass of OKO by Setovilla with ice and ingredients nearby on a wooden board

After finding everything I needed, I started to build the set and the lighting. Working with real ice under hot lights is always an interesting experience, giving you a suprisingly short time frame before it melts. As a result, it was a process of setting up the shots just right, and then running to the freezer, grabbing some ice, and trying to fit it all together before it melted completely.

A close up on the zero sugar OKO drink surrounded by cinnamon sticks, lemons, and a glass of the drink

Using a mixture of the core ingredients (Hibiscus, Yerba Mate, Cinnamon, Mints, and loads more), some of the parts found in charity shops, and other items I already had from previous projects, it all came together, and I am really happy with how the images turned out.

The best part, afterwards I had about 6 bottles of ọkọ̀ to drink in the middle of summer, which kept me going for a few weeks! If they sound good to you, check them out here.


On the value of rest

The past three years, like for most people, have been a bit of a journey for me. I have lost a parent to cancer, I have separated from my partner of six years, I have realised a lot of things about who I am, and who I am not.

On top of this, the pandemic complely destabilised my sense of normalcy, and the buisiness I spent several years building had to nearly completely go on standstill, throwing me into a position of financial insecurity, something which I am only starting to recover from now.

In January, I spent the majority of the month paring down my possessions and moving them piece by piece to my new flat, and was lucky enough to be given space by friends while I sorted out a lot of complex issues.

It was around this time my stepfather Rob told me he was moving to France for a while. He had bought a piece of land with a house on it in various states of disrepair, and planned on spending a few months living in it, and getting it back into a liveable condition. After five whole minutes of thinking, I decided to go with him, and help with the work.

And so, at the end of January, we took off in a car, and drove to Central France, and thats where I have been living and working for the last two months. I have been breaking through walls, chipping away at floors, cleaning decades old mold, painting, heavy lifting, and taking our dog Teddy for walks.

At times, it has been pretty brutal. For the first two weeks the heating was broken, so work was often in sub zero temperatures with six layers of clothing on, and sleeping wasnt much better. Right now, I am writing this a few days from leaving, in the sunny spring weather, wearing shorts outside. There is still a chill in the air, but feeling the sun directly on your skin more than makes up for it.

Being far away from my routine, from my home, from my work, and in many ways from myself, has given me a lot of time and space to reflect. It has given me an opportunity to work hard physically, but to rest mentally, and prepare myself for where I want to go in the future, as a person, and with regard to my creative work, and my business.

By resting the parts of my brain that are normally active, and by engaging in things I normally dont spend much time on, I have the opportunity to reflect and change, and be more honest with myself.

I have a few reasons for sharing all this. The first, and most important, is that I want to take down many of the boundaries I have put around myself, both personally and professionally. I want to create artistic work that reflects me honestly, and I cannot do that without making myself vulnerable.

For me, that has meant opening up myself to a lot of complicated feelings about myself. About loss, queer identity, body image, personhood, and trying to process a lot of the past few years. Part of that process, I am sure, will be creative projects, part of it will be less explicitly visible.

I am not the same person I used to be, and I am sure that will reflect in my work, and my relationships with other artists, clients, and the business as a whole. However, I feel a lot happier, and a lot healthier, than I have done in a while.

The second, is that if you are reading this, I want to encourage you to take a break, if you can. Maybe reflect on something important to you, maybe just relax, and enjoy the moment you are in.

I love a lot of the work I do, and I find it artistically satisfying. I enjoy spending time working hard on projects. However, it is important to differentiate that, to me, from the need to produce labour. None of us exist first and foremost for the purpose of selling our labour. Especially with increasing economic precarity, political instability, and a climate crisis already unfolding, it is even more important to remember the importance of community and care, familial and social bonds. These things are older than the current economic system, things older than the divine right of kings, and older than organised civilisation.

Take care of yourself, and of others. Working as a photographer, as programmer, a day labourer, an accountant, may be a means to an end, but it is not as important as resting, taking care of yourself, and taking care of each other.

Other Wedding

My First Orkney Wedding!

Last summer I had the great honour of photographing the wedding of one of my oldest friends. Jack is my former bandmate, co-conspirator, business partner, and about a dozen other things. It was incredible to photography his wedding to his wonderful now wife, India, up in the far reaches of Orkney!

It was an interesting trip, as I made the decision to try to get from Edinburgh to Orkney using a combination of public transport, biking, camping, and the ferry. This involved lots of taking apart my bike frantically at stations, very nearly missing the ferry both ways, and generally being incredibly stressed. I wouldn’t change it for the world. 

Part 1: Getting to Orkney

After managing to get to the ferry across,  I arrived in late evening into Stromness. My perception of Orkney was one of vast beaches, wide open fields, and easy camping, which it definitely was not. 

Picture of Northlink Ferries Terminal

I spent about two hours trying to navigate side roads and fences to find somewhere near the beach to camp, eventually ending up very close to cows, and very close to the sea, sleeping on hard rock.

Camping with Feet in Stromness Shore, Orkney

After a rough sleep, and some breakfast, I spent two hours fixing my bike, because the hasty assembly and disassembly had left it pretty loose and barely working. Loading my tent, bags, food, camera equipment, and myself onto the bike, I set off. I took a break about every 30 minutes to rest, take a photo or two, and wonder why my bike was making strange noises. 

Jacob, Looking Tired, Cycling Across Orkney

As the weather turned, I ended up in hard side winds, cycling down a main road, heavily weighed down, with lorries passing frequently both ways, leading to near fatal situations quite often. Thankfully I managed to get out of this section within an hour, and was back on my way. 

In Orkney, at the height of summer, night is more of a suggestion than a reality. This meant I could, in theory, go on indefinitely. I went to see the Standing stones of Stenness, and eventually, by late evening, found myself at the place I wanted to be, and set up for camp. 

The darkest part of night, in Orkney Summer

The next few days were a bit less gruelling. Lots of sightseeing, visits to Kirkwall, helping prepare the venue, and catching up with Jack. I did get really horrible sunburn on my legs cycling to Kirkwall, which didn’t help, and was entirely my fault. 

Part 2: The Orkney Wedding

Finally, the day of the wedding came. I had properly showered and cleaned up the night before to make sure I was presentable, and got to work! 

It was a beautiful day from start to finish, and I was incredibly happy to be part of it, as well as to immortalise the occasion for the future. 

Part 3: The Aftermath

After helping set down the venue, I headed on my way, meeting up with my friends and Prometheus Circus Group Co-Performers Camilla & Kacper. Travelling in the wonderful van Coco (RIP Coco, we miss you!), we travelled across Orkney.

We spent two days walking across the island of Hoy, visited the Old Man of Hoy, and scrambled up to the peak of the mountain.

We saw some incredible sights, got bitten by a lot of midges, had good fun and eventually I headed back over the water to mainland Scotland.

Trail walking on the Isle of Hoy, Orkney Islands, Scotland

Across nearly a week of camping, I was incredibly lucky that it didn’t rain a drop the entire time. Especially considering I learned a few weeks later, my tent was absolutely not waterproof, and would have been completely destroyed. I promise I am more forward thinking in my work than in my own time, and will probably take an easier route for my next Orkney Wedding.

Thanks for Reading!



First Proper Post!

There is definitely something at least a little intimidating about writing the first proper post for the site, but exciting as well! Its not been an easy year for anyone, including me, and my business has suffered a lot under lockdown. With a new strain of Covid-19, the run up to Christmas now looking increasingly bleak, and spending the start of the new year in lockdown, it does feel like the challenge of this year is likely to follow us into the next.

That said, there is also a lot to look forward to as well. On a personal level, we have finally put down a deposit on our engagement ring, and hopefully will be able to start wedding planning in earnest next year. On a business level, I have a few exciting projects in mind (more to come on those soon!) and a few collaborations which will be paying off in 2021. On a wider scale, with the days getting lighter, vaccinations underway and the promise of warmer weather and sunnier days, it does feel like there is something to look towards, even if it is a while off for the time being.

So while there is plenty of challenges ahead, there is also plenty of good times as well hopefully in 2021, for now we just have to see.

All the best and merry christmas!

Jacob Forsyth-Davies