Sunday, 22 November 2015

Own your mistakes - John and Jackie Newman for The Sunday Times Magazine


I have never moved that quickly in my life. All the careful planning, the early start, the precise placement of lights hours before, the deep discussion of ideas over the past few days - it was all for nothing because John Newman and his mum weren’t at this location, they were at another one 10 minutes down the road...

A few days before The Sunday Times Magazine had called and asked if I was free to photograph a feature for them. The prospect was both exciting and nerve-wracking: I really wanted to do well on my first Relative Values piece for them*. My sitters were going to be John and Jacquie Newman. You have all heard John’s “Love me Again” and probably a good few more. John seems like a bubble of energy with his impressive dance moves, stunning singing and a great style to match his stage persona. This was going to be great!

I scouted the location before online and looked at loads of it on the web. We were shooting in a country pub and I wanted to get everything right. I spoke to John’s agent a number of times just to check the details of the shoot. I arranged for an area of the pub to be available just for us. I had all the mad ideas in my head. On the day myself and my assistant arrived hours before, we set everything up and tested the lights a number of times. I felt nervous but prepared, the best way to be before a shoot. Then I waited. A few minutes into the agreed time I got an impatient phone call asking me where exactly I was and how late was I going to be.

Who names two pubs in a small town exactly the same?! I mean how many Prince of Wales pubs can there be in Herne Bay? Would you have checked? Would you? Don’t tell me you would.

I have never moved that quickly in my life. All the planning, all the setting up - all for nothing because John and his mum had very little time, especially as I ended up arriving late for my carefully planned shoot. At least I had John’s extroversion to rely on. I mean a guy who dances like this can only be bursting to be photographed. 

John, as it turns out gets it all out on stage. When he is off stage he is a calm, reserved, and quiet guy. And … slightly camera-shy. Here is when Jacquie Newman, John’s mum came in to save the day. Jacquie is one of the loveliest people I have photographed.The fact that they both were. Separately they were slightly nervous, possibly of doing a photoshoot together, but together they supported one another and started laughing. They giggled away. In fact they giggled so much I found myself joining in. So much fun to shoot. A pub, a great mother and son relationship and some good laughter. What more could I want for a successful photoshoot?

The photograph of John and Jacquie Newman is out today in The Sunday Times Magazine. Lessons learnt? Don’t give up when it has all gone wrong - own your failures and you might just end up giggling at them as I did.

Find out more about John’s music:


Thursday, 19 November 2015

Featured in the Portrait Salon Exhibition


My photograph Juliette and her family is today going on show as part of the Portrait Salon 2015 exhibition. Bringing together a huge array of prints this exhibition will show the true depth and variety of portraiture in photography today. It a great honour to be amongst so many brilliant works.  

It is open from 6:30pm on Thursday the 19th of November in the Embassy Tea Gallery. 378 prints will be on display until the 22nd of November.

You can find out more here:

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Challenge Everything - Global ad campaign for AXA Graduate Recruitment


Do you like your photo taken? I know for a fact that only few people actually enjoy being in front of the camera. Most either actively dislike it or, if work requires them to, train themselves to be at ease when they would much rather not be photographed or filmed. Hats off to anyone who volunteers particularly if they are not comfortable with the experience. People are the biggest challenge in my job, but they are a challenge I relish.

When I was asked by Thirty Three to photograph a global advertising campaign for AXA’s graduate recruitment I was really glad to hear we would be working with AXA’s own employees. AXA wanted to highlight the energetic personalities working for them and the global nature of their work. Real employees, loads of energy and plenty of travel it was then. I worked alongside director Joe Morgan to show the energy and fun working for AXA can bring a fresh grad. We shot in three cities - London, Paris and Hong Kong, each time featuring a new team of AXA’s employees. I wanted to show the energy these people have for their work, the readiness for a challenge and the spark in their eyes.

Alas! When you throw people who’ve never been photographed before in front of a camera they tend to just freeze, with no clue what to do. I needed to let the model out of each of them and onto the streets of our great locations.

If you throw enough energy at your sitter, they will throw it back, and AXA’s recruits all did. I abandon all shame for the best photo - we danced to disco on London Bridge, sprinted up the Rue Foyatier in Montmartre and gesticulated wildly in the Hong Kong’s wet markets. I guess if the photographer does it and enjoys it, then the rest of the team also thinks it’s ok. Plus, your non-model models get distracted by your behaviour - AXA’s people were all a bit surprised by my antics to start with and loved it by the end of the photoshoot.

Thank you to Thirty Three and to AXA for a fun challenge and for all the models for overcoming the initial reserve and giving it all to the idea. I could not agree with the campaign’s slogan more - do remember to CHALLENGE EVERYTHING!


Sunday, 8 November 2015

Life after the the forces - Remembrance for The Sunday Times Magazine

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Today is Remembrance Sunday. People have been sporting the poppies on their lapels and wreaths have been laid by the Cenotaph. We spare a thought for the soldiers who have fought in wars for Britain. We can all see them: army people, dressed in uniform, standing tall, armed and fighting the enemy as well as the elements.

If you open the Sunday Times Magazine today you will see soldiers standing to attention in their regimental hats, but not in their military uniforms. These men and women are in their new uniforms. The classic uniform of the city job - a suit and tie.

This recent commission opened my eyes to a whole new world of post-military life. I was invited to photograph ex-servicemen who have gone on to have successful careers in the city for firms like Deloitte and Barclays. Maybe a lifetime focused on warfare is not the best preparation for office politics, but it certainly does make you a determined and formidable person. The city banks and big businesses are starting to pay more attention to these people when seeking for employees.

Every military person I’ve met has always been a friendly, polite and great person to be around. There is a presence within someone who’s been through such experiences and I enjoy trying to capture that. It was a pleasure to do so for the magazine and help look upon life after the forces from a new angle.
Massive thanks to Russ O'Connell for the commission and Matt Rudd for his insightful article. You can read the feature online here: LINK

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STM Ex-Forces Tear sheet

Monday, 2 November 2015

Go-karting down the streets of Westminster - Lord and Nell Butler for the Sunday Times Magazine

Sir Robin and Nell Butler for the Sunday Times Magazine

What do you imagine the head of the civil service to be like? Would the word “fun” feature in your top ten adjectives? My girlfriend, a civil servant, would not be too happy to read that even on my short-list “fun” would not make it too high… Oh, how wrong have I been and how glad I am that this view came tobogganing down a hill in London the other week.

The great team at The Sunday Times Magazine asked me to photograph another “Relative Values” feature - I was to capture the relationship between Nell and Robin Butler. Nell is the brain behind Come Dine with Me (and a number of other TV shows). Her father, Lord Butler served five Prime Ministers and headed the British Civil Service for a decade. Unlike with Ruth and Dennis Wilson the other week, this time I had the opportunity to speak to Nell before the photoshoot and it was one of the best things to do. As you will read in the article in yesterday’s The Sunday Times Magazine, Nell is the sort of person who lights up the room and I could not agree more - she was enthusiastic and happy to share stories over the phone. Among many she mentioned how much she enjoyed tobogganing down a hill near their family home with her dad. This instantly gave me an idea - a go-cart down a London street.

Guess what was Lord Butler’s reaction to my go-cart? He loved it. What a great family these two are. We shot, we talked, we laughed and I heard my fair share of civil service stories. The morals of this shoot are twofold: “fun” should be on your list of adjectives describing a civil servant and more importantly: always do your research. Had I not talked to Nell beforehand, I would never have taken a go-kart with me to the photoshoot. And what a great shame would that be!

Thanks to Lord Butler and Nell Butler for a fun morning and The Sunday Times team for such a great commission!