Extreme Harping

Early evening, December, and I’m on a Birmingham rooftop photographing mega-talented harpist/tutor/entrepreneur Fran Barsby (of PoppyHarp) for a CD with a working title of (I think) “At the edge”. There’s a cold breeze and occasional spots of wintry rain. And it’s freezing!!!! Myself and my glamorous assistant Alastair Barnsley are wrapped up in thick coats, scarves, and wherever possible, gloves. Fran, however, is wearing what you can see in these images apart from brief moments in a coat as we walk between locations. I’m shivering just typing this. So just to make Fran REALLY uncomfortable, I persuaded her to climb onto various barriers and fences with her harp and try to balance. Easypeasy.


A Swift Harp

I’ve photographed the multi-talented Fran “Poppy Harp” Barsby quite a few times over the last couple of years and last week I had the opportunity to see the performing “harpist” and “event organiser” aspect of her very diverse range of talents.

Fran had organised a harp music event in Digbeth, Birmingham entitled Hidden Gem by The Future Blend Project and I (along with a couple of intrepid members of FOTO-CLUB) went along to record the event photographically.

The guys who arrived early were able to get some great shots of the setting up of the event as well as non-performers trying out some of the fantastic range of harps that were being prepared for the show.

However,  I arrived rather later (don’t ask) but was in plenty of time for the start of the show. What I hadn’t reckoned on, however, was that the concert was being recorded too which meant that our noisy DSLR shutters were messing up the sound recordings even from some distance away. This meant that I didn’t get as many shots of the performance as I would have liked but it was a very enjoyable evening and we were treated to some simply beautiful new compositions and performances. Here are a few shots from the event…

The lady herself - Fran Barsby

The lady herself – Fran Barsby

Maximum Harpist

An iconic image of The Who‘s Pete Townshend and his trademark “windmilling” guitar-playing style might seem like an odd starting point for promotional photographs of a harpist, now I come to think of it…

But Fran of “Poppy Harp” is no ordinary harpist (as you might have seen in previous posts). She’s the total antithesis of the traditional image of a classical harpist – you know, hair in a bun, twin-set, pearls, sensible shoes… She’s definitely on the rock and roll end of the harp-playing spectrum and I wanted to try a photograph which reflected that. So inspired by this classic mid-sixties promo poster for The Who…

…I came up with these…


Great fun. Many thanks to Fran for being such a great sport. See her website here

Harping On

When I was asked to do some promo photographs for a harpist, I felt compelled to warn her that my studio is at the bottom of two flights of stairs – I had imagined a huge harp of the sort you see on TV. It was quite a surprise then when she said she’d be bringing two of them. Thankfully, they didn’t quite measure up to my mental image of them, and the harpist wasn’t built like a Russian hammer thrower with one huge harp slung under each arm. Far from it. This is just a small selection from a very productive shoot…

Nope, definitely not quite what I was expecting. But a great fun shoot with a very talented and photogenic subject.

Find out more about Fran and Poppy Harp here