Imagine getting to your 40’s before taking part in your first triathlon, winning it and then going on to represent Team GB in the age group triathlon. That’s what happened to Thalia Hessey, who Surrey Life Magazine commissioned me to create an environmental portrait of for their feature on her and her achievements.
I met Thalia and the editor on location at Buckland Park Lake where Thalia arrived with her Team GB kit already on. We were shooting in the middle of the day and the sun was out and high, so not ideal lighting conditions for a portrait. I also had to photograph her by the lake where there was no cover to mask her from the sun, but luckily my Elinchrom Ranger battery powered lights had enough power to open up the shadows and reduce their harshness.
With more places opening up as a result of the easing of lockdown restrictions I thought I should write about Brooklands, a local museum that is on the site of the former Brooklands Motor Racing Circuit, which regular readers will know is a place where I have spent many an hour, usually late at night, and for those of you who don’t know you can check out the photos here or search using the Brooklands tag on the right.
I’m often asked where I find my subjects for some of my personal portraits; the answer is simple – if I see someone interesting I go up and ask them! Take Chas for instance; I have regularly cycled past his long boat on the Wey Navigation just underneath the M25 motorway bridge, and often thought he would probably make a great subject, but the problem was his boat was on the other side of the canal so it was difficult to make contact with him.
I am very excited to announce that not one but two of my photos have been chosen as Winners in this years Portrait Of Britain competition. The Portrait Of Britain is a photography exhibition run by the British Journal Of Photography which, in their own words, celebrates the rich tapestry of people that make up Great Britain.
I sometimes question myself and my reasoning when I am out and about shooting personal work (that’s work I shoot just for myself with no third party brief and, no pay). It usually involves people I’ve met or approached who I think would make for an interesting portrait. My self doubt arises, usually when it’s cold, dark, wet and miserable and I’m lugging my gear around on my own (which I do for most of my personal work – it keeps me grounded by reminding me what it’s like to be an assistant again). It’s often further exacerbated when my subject asks me why I want to take their photo and what am I going to do with it? The very lovely Mrs Griffiths even went as far as to say that I couldn’t be a very busy photographer as nobody would want to buy her picture!
Now I’m used to photographing in very small places, as my project on bellringers will attest, but when I agreed to photograph artist Mr Mr Pearce in his studio on Johnson’s Island, I didn’t realise that it wasn’t much bigger than a desk, and had all the usual artist paraphernalia inside including a lot of his artworks (obviously).
How brave are you? Would you recommend that someone attend an anger management course? What if that someone was holding an axe? That’s what a former boss suggested to my latest subject Clay – before he left and set up his own business – as a tree surgeon, hence the axe. His leaving was more to do with paperwork and the safety ‘elf than anger management though.
Despite how that sounds Clay is a remarkably mild mannered man and a bell ringer at the local church in his spare time. He also lives in this beautiful old listed cottage in the heart of Surrey.
Why would grown ups get up at 4am, strap some bells to their shins, and head to a hill in Surrey to wave hankies and bash sticks? Probably because they were members of the Ewell St Mary’s Morris Men and were participating in their annual dance event to “Greet The Sun” on May Day morning. It was a mixture of intrigue, and a rash promise to a magazine editor, that made me get up even earlier and head to Box Hill to capture some portraits of the Morris Men as the sun came up at 5:34!
It was pitch black when I arrived to set up my gear, but I had packed a head torch and had done a reccé of the hillside a couple of days before to work out the best spot for the portraits. Initially I was alone but then I heard what I thought were goats, only to realise that it was the bell clad Morris Men making their way down from the car park!
It was very misty on the day and we were on the shadow side of the hill so the sunlight wasn’t around for long but there were some interesting skies and I was able to get these portraits.
It’s amazing what you find on little islands. I met Max A Hatter on Johnson’s Island in West London; he makes hats in a very small studio, at the top of a spiral staircase (I seem to be sending a lot of time in small rooms at the top of spiral staircases!) Max was introduced to me by Tim at Clement Knives, who I photographed on a nearby island making chef’s knives.
Max’s hats are really quite unique; based on a bowler style but with influences from Sapeurs and Yardies, and with a Turbanesque – a detachable padding or turban, which is used for position and comfort.