For the first time in a wee while, I’ve been fortunate enough to get a little bit of awards love from the wonderful people at Applied Arts magazine. And wouldn’t you know, it was for a cycling shoot. Not that I am The World’s Leading Cycling Photographer, but I do know my Bianchi from my Sturmey Archer. And that matters a lot, not my bike mechanic bona fides, but that most days now I shoot what I know. What I love. Where I can make a difference.
My mentor at photo school had a great story about how he graduated full of piss & vinegar and, like many of his ilk, was destined for fame and fortune photographing supermodels & fashion. Thing was he had no idea where the hems were at that year, didn’t know his a-line from his asshole and generally was headed for starvation. Only a timely intervention from his mentor saved the day. You see, he realised he could wax lyrical about the colours, shape & texture of a tomato. The lines of a car & finest details of furniture could occupy him for hours. He belonged by a tabletop, not a runway. And by all accounts he had a pretty stellar career in product & automotive photography.
Bottom line, there are shoots anyone can do, shoots one can do well and then there are the ones the client would be nuts to give to anybody else. I aim for as much of doors 2 & 3 as possible please. I’d like to think that’s one of the reasons the Vellow images hit the spot for the judges at Applied Arts – I was doing that thing I do and doing it well with my people. Give me athletes over scrawny models any day. Big ticks too in the boxes next to wrinkly faces, farmers and anything with snow on it.
The measure of a great shoot to me is not the budget or the travel or the profile (although I am OK with all of the above) but simply the power of the images and the depth of the story. And how much fun I have on location & during the endless hours in the edit suite!
If I were OK with being well paid but miserable I’d still be back doing the engineer thing at Shell. So, what follows below is a totally unscientific survey of what’s made my day and the client’s day recently because I cared passionately about what I was doing and had a blast along the way. Just like when I ride my bike…
Especially when video comes into the mix, the job can quickly enter “client would be nuts to give to anybody else” territory. Small cameras with big sensors in the hands of a guy with a photographic eye and the heart of a storyteller are a potent combination. It doesn’t have to be a big production to have a huge impact.
So shooting ads, brand stories & documentaries are a very natural fit.
I guess it’s not too big a revelation that in work, as in play, I’m happiest and most fulfilled when I’m doing the stuff I love with people I respect in places that make my day. It’s one of the great perks of this job that I get to stick my nose in all kinds of places and hang out with people from all walks of life. I guess it’s true – I shoot people, happily.