It’s a great job.
I created this blog to keep my friends, clients and prospective clients up to date on what I have been doing.
I hope to share with you all some of my images and stories and perhaps some tips for other photographers who are prepared to listen to a grumpy old pro.
And, yes, there will be some opinionated nonsense too.
I started in photography when I was about 12, assisting a friend of mine who was working in a black and white darkroom off Regents St. (London). I’d go along on Saturday mornings and just help out … smell the hypo, and watch the magic of prints coming up in the developer.
The work wasn’t that interesting but there was a magic about capturing images that got to me.
I was hooked.
My parents were persuaded to buy me a camera – I think it was an Ilford Retina – so long ago now.
This was my constant companion and I loved tinkering with its very limited controls and wondering what they did.
Many failed pictures later I started to get the hang of it.
At that time I hadn’t imagined that it would become my career and passion for the rest of my life. Oh no, I was going to be a fighter pilot.
As my photography improved my dear parents indulged me and bought me better cameras and I found myself winning some competitions. Nothing spectacular – pix of cats, flowers trees etc.
I hadn’t really discovered girls yet so that treat was yet to come.
My education was steering me towards a career in the sciences; my mother envisaged “her son, the doctor”.
My art master however kept my eyes open and I managed to get an Art A level along with the science stuff, so I hadn’t been lost to the world of the visual.
Upon leaving school I found myself slightly at a loose end. What to do ?
I didn’t really fancy medical school and they probably wouldn’t have had me with my poor grades – I really was an awful student.
My parents in desperation to see me get a “proper job”, ushered me off to a position in the City.
It was dreadful but at least I quickly discovered that a job in London’s Stock Exchange was not my preferred path.
I left – just walked out one day and never returned.
A couple of fill in jobs followed before it dawned on me.
I want to be a photographer !
I applied to a couple of colleges that were offering a degree course in photography and was accepted for them but I chose Blackpool.
Yes, I know Blackpool doesn’t sound like the most promising location but it was away from London (I wanted to see the World) and it’s by the sea (I like the sea).
It was a good choice.
There was almost no equipment and the studio space was in a PortaKabin but the staff were sympathetic and knowledgeable.
We had fun.
I did learn a lot: but much of the technical stuff is now totally irrelevant to what I do now – digital capture has changed so many of the rules..
To cut a long story shorter, after three years they produced “a photographer” but in name only.
I knew the techniques and had really nailed down what all the knobs and buttons did but I needed a proper job to put all that information to work and get my head around what it really means to be a professional photographer.
For those of you who haven’t grasped the concept, that is someone who is paid by someone else to produce a two dimensional representation of a three dimensional object.
On budget, on time. To the clients brief !
I think I’ve always regarded photography as an informative medium: show people things they haven’t seen, tell stories and inform.
I didn’t consider it an art form in itself.
Taking photographs is a means of telling a story or communicating an idea.
If this turns out as ART, well then, so be it.
Naturally this led me towards what was called photo journalism.
Fortunately my first job was at a local newspaper, in Slough.
(My word, I am living the high life: Blackpool to Slough)
Working for a fearsome editor called Lesley Tunks, I was slowly licked into shape as somebody they could send out to a Women’s Institute garden party and come back with the goods. And the “goods” were not just some arty-farty student interpretation.
There’s so much more to taking pictures for someone else and in this case the someone else was Tunks and his readers.
After a year on the streets of Slough I felt I knew everything there was to learn about press photography (!!!) so set out for a new challenge.
Why Paris ?
Well, it is the spiritual home of photography – and it’s not too far away.
What young photographer, pouring over the images of Cartier Bresson, has not thought to him/herself, “If I went to France I could take pictures like that”.
And so it proved to be and when I get my archives back from Paris (!!) I hope to showcase some pictures from the happy and exciting time we had in Paris.
Working with a great guy, now sadly dead, called Goksin Sipahioglu, we (my future wife, Di, and I) were in at the start of one of the best picture agencies in Paris: SIPA PRESS.
Di ran the Black and White laboratory and I was out taking pictures.
Never enough money and always living hand to mouth we were never the less enjoying the last fading glimmers of the age of real photo-journalism.
Days when Paris Match was the news magazine, and didn’t specialise in celebrity profiles.
Days when Newsweek could call in the morning and you’d be on a plane by lunchtime, laden down with Tri-X film and a change of underwear.
Days when Leica made rugged, workmen’s tools and not rich men’s toys.
I wouldn’t have changed a thing.
Five wonderful years on the frontline of photography.
Perhaps mistakenly we returned to London, to settle a bit and raise a family.
Could never regret the family, who have been an utter joy from beginning to end, but I do feel we drew a line under our lives at that point, never to return.
Worked briefly in the UK with Terry Fincher, one of the truly great British press photographers, who had set up a picture agency called Photographers International in a disused railway station in Surrey.
Now no longer with us, Terry left his daughter Jayne to carry the flag and she specialised in the Royals and built a very good relationship with Princess Diana.
In 1980 I joined the BBC and quickly moved into the current affairs unit at Lime Grove – a hotbed of “lefty pinkos” according to Margaret Thatcher’s husband Dennis !
Great – I settled in very happily.
Worked with some cutting edge programmes; Tonight, Newsnight, Panorama, Money programme and all sorts of “specials”.
But I eventually lodged with Nationwide.
Ah dear old Nationwide – home of so many fatuous items and yet still managing to cover some good journalistic events.
Whilst there I moved into film direction and spent a couple of happy years bossing film crews around, who I think were rather pleased to have somebody on the team who actually appreciated good visuals as a means of telling stories.
With the demise of Nationwide I found myself a bit rudderless and moved more towards the graphic design department where I could meet with other like minded image freaks.
Spent a lot of time as director of photography on programme title shoots where my ability with light, lenses and film could be put to good use.
During this time I wrote an extensive lighting guidebook for graphic designers on how to shoot live action.
I was later commissioned to write an investigative report for the BBC, looking at the possible impact of digital capture and storage.
Now that was good ! : In at the start of the digital photography age – I got to meet all the movers and shakers who were enthusing about what the new means of capture would mean.
Nobody had a camera worthy of the name, but it didn’t take much imagination to see where this was going.
I burbled on about it to anyone who would listen, until I could see their eyes grow dim.
But I was on borrowed time.
The writing was on the wall. Still officially called a “photographer” on my contract of employment, the dear old Beeb under the control of Director General John Birt was shedding staff left and right and I managed to secure myself a redundancy package with which I could buy my own digital equipment.
Well the cameras were pretty flakey to start with so I continued using film and a scanner until an affordable camera came along and for me that was the Fuji S1. The Nikon’s pro digital cameras were pricier and had better build quality but the Fuji (built into a Nikon F60 body) images were really quite good. Not quite up to film but very usable.
However if you overexposed an image forget it ! Highlights would just go never to re-appear.
But life’s too short to give a breakdown of the advances that the digital cameras have made during the last ten years and that’s not what this blog’s about.
Suffice to say that a modern digital camera is more than equal to anything I have ever used with film.
Many students rush off and buy a film camera because they want “that quality that only film can give”.
What, and turn your back on the possibilities that digital capture gives you ?
You must be mad.
Oooh … I can hear some hissing and booing on the sidelines, but I’m sticking by what I say.
It’s my blog.
Anyhow I’ve wandered around too much in this “about me” page and if you read the actual “blog” entries you will get to hear some of my other contentious thoughts about cameras and bloody photographers.
See you there.