Friday 23rd April – Tears and cheers . .

Friday 23rd was a strange day. A call from the photo agency said simply..”funeral in Totton at 1300, cruise liner in Southampton at 1630 – can you cover both ?”

The funeral was for mother and daughter murder victims, 24 year old Stephanie Bellinger and her eight month old daughter Lilli, who had been stabbed to death by Ms Bellinger’s partner on February 27th. The press corp stayed at a respectful distance as the hearse arrived bearing a single pink coffin. Very quiet. Very dignified. Very sad.

No decent 3G signal so I had to abandon plans to transmit the pictures back from the car and drive 33 miles back to the agency to download my cards. This was a nuisance, but by the time I left at 3.15 my shots were already up on the live wire feed. Quick stop for a sandwich and then back down to Southampton Docks to await the arrival of Celebrity Eclipse, the cruise liner bringing stranded Brits back from Bilbao. Cruise PR people very sweet but wouldn’t allow any of us shoreside to shoot. Much grumbling ensued then 10 ‘togs headed off in different directions looking for vantage points. I found a bulldozer which provided some convenient extra height for a good shot of the ship, before spotting a very excited husband talking on the phone and waving to his wife on board – shot two in the can.
Ship alongside and the task of shooting directly up and into the sun at waving passengers 6o feet above us. Knocked off a few frames but nothing newsworthy. Last shots of the day were outside the Arrivals area were we were able to catch the joy and excitement of those who had finally got home – a complete contrast to the earlier events of the day.

How Domino’s Pizza can ruin your day . .

A very special thank you to the pond-life driving this Domino’s truck, who parked in front of our camera position (on double yellow lines) in Maidenhead for over an hour and a half today. This meant we lost the light we had been waiting for on the building development over the road. I hope the council and food safety police get you next time …

Patrick Stewart, photographers and decisive moments…

Off to the press photocall for Edward Bond’s “Bingo” at the Chichester FestivalTheatre this morning. A stunning drive over the South Downs followed by coffee and biccies, and then into the intimate Minerva auditorium for our three scene set-ups. The actors were delightful and the tech staff obligingly adjusted lighting states for us (often essential as what looks good from your seat doesn’t always work for the camera). Patrick Stewart plays an imposing William Shakespeare in the last days of his life, faced with the prospect of losing the land he bought with money made from his plays.And so with the stage set, we all take our positions . .
Now, coming from the film generation I am no great fan of the “spray and pray” technique used by so many news photographers today. Ten years ago you might at best run through a couple of 36 exposure rolls, but nowadays the availability of endless gigabytes of storage seems to have induced an almost manic obsession to over-shoot. At points the actor’s speech was almost overwhelmed by the staccato clatter of Nikons and Canons firing at 9 frames per second -and to what end ? They are all working within the same space, yet they huddle together as if their lives depended on it – all taking virtually the same shot. Whatever happened to Cartier-Bresson’s famous “decisive moment” that we are all supposed to aspire to ? For my part I step back – I work around and behind the pack looking for a different angle – a different fall of light – a different feel.

“the decisive moment, it is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as the precise organization of forms which gives that event its proper expression.” Henri Cartier-Bresson

Bringing the Rose to life

As the Rose Theatre in Kingston is now just over two years old, I thought it would be interesting to go back and see how things looked when we were first commissioned to photograph the main auditorium in August 2006. Channel 4 had been due to come in and film, but the director had taken one look at the dark concrete shell (lit only by four 60 watt bulbs) and said it was far too much work to light for TV ! Undaunted, Karen and I turned up a week later with a car load of lighting and several hundred feet of cable and set to work. It took three hours to place and set all the light heads before we discovered that each time they were triggered they tripped what turned out to be a very rudimentary electric circuit. Undaunted we made a few subtle modifications to the electrics and finally managed to get all ten flash heads firing at once without setting the building’s alarms off !

In September 2007 we returned to photograph the installation of the supporting metalwork frame for the (unique) lozenge-shaped stage.

In December 2007 we finally captured the heart of the Rose as it blossomed to it’s full glory. It’s an inspiring, yet surprisingly intimate, 900 seat space that has given the South a brilliant new theatre, and as house photographer I’m fortunate to visit the Rose regularly to shoot both publicity and production images.
It continues to grow and flourish, drawing some of the country’s finest directors and actors to it’s unique charms . .

To discover more about the Rose visit

To The Manor Born

A few weeks ago we found ourselves back at the Lemonade Factory Studios in Battersea, awaiting the arrival of Penelope Keith and Peter Bowles. We were briefed to shoot the pre-publicity image for a revival of Sheridan’s satire “The Rivals” at the Theatre Royal Bath I shot Peter last year for “The Browning Version” and he is the very essence of charm, but we’d not worked with Penelope before. The pair had not appeared together since the final Christmas special of “To The Manor Born” in 2007, so we had no idea if the old chemistry between Audrey Fforbes-Hamilton and Richard DeVere was still alive. Needless to say we weren’t disappointed. Penny is the very essence of her on-screen character and I spent a lot of time with her in make-up discussing everything from the appalling state of Surrey’s roads to the benefits of rail travel for pensioners ! The shoot itself positively flew by and we had everything canned and finals approved within an hour of shooting the first frame. True professionals – and a joy to work with !

The (real) Lynx Effect

Sorting and uploading more images to the library this evening, including stock shot on my trip back from Gibraltar to the UK on HMS Portland last year. I was lucky enough to get a flight in the ship’s Mk8 Lynx helicopter, which resulted in the pictures above. Thanks to the pilot for holding (slightly nerve-wracking) wing-overs above the ship, allowing me to get these great overhead shots of Portland heading back to England after her eight month deployment to the Gulf.

Let’s start at the very beginning . . .

As this is my first blog it seems only good manners to start with a little background. Born so long ago I can barely remember it, my dad bought me my first camera – a Kodak Brownie 127 – on a family holiday in Cornwall when I was 10 years old. By the age of 14 a fascination had become an obsession and the school darkroom became a second home. Escaping formal education at the tender age of 16, I joined a small commercial studio in Ewell, Surrey, where I learned everything I’ve never forgotten about wet printing. From there I moved on to join Mike Patrick working on Speedway Star magazine and followed that by a stint with Tony Duffy and John Starr at the (then) fledgling AllSport agency, elegantly located behind a loan-shark’s offices in darkest Croydon. Eighteen months shooting basketball, grass-skiing, skateboarding and motorcycle racing soon lost its appeal and I moved into the commercial sector joining Frank Wood’s Pictorial Publicity in Surbiton as their second photographer. Here I refined my studio and location lighting skills, photographing everything from breweries to cosmetics. My boss left, taking half our clients with him, and six months later I set up on my own with the remainder forming my first client base. The rest as they say, is history. Over 38 years in the business I’ve shot everything from Formula 1 for BMW to jewellery for Marks and Spencer. Professional photography remains my life and I hope future posts will give some interesting insights into that world…