Case Study: The Case Study

While most of my work now falls into the corporate photography category, shooting pictures for websites, brochures, press releases and the like, I do still have some editorial clients.

Among them is the Institute of Directors who publish a rather swish magazine called Director. It’s a monthly title aimed, unsurprisingly, at directors and I’m always happy to hear from them because although I know I need to meet certain criteria within the brief, I also know they appreciate my own creative input which always makes a shoot more fun.

On this occasion I was sent to Penarth Amateur Boxing Club to meet Allan Meek of SCS Group in Cardiff and his boxing trainer Neil Munn, who runs the gym. I was especially excited by this commission because I knew it would give me the chance to work in a very different environment – at least something other than an office!

The article, which has now appeared in the July/August issue of the magazine, features case studies of company directors who use sport or fitness training to help them in their professional lives.

Of the three directors featured Allan got the biggest show in the magazine. I’d like to think that was something to do with the photos I took, but perhaps it would be more modest to say it was Allan’s photogenic looks and the lovely light in the gym that made the spread work.

Featured below are a few of the frames from the shoot, including some that didn’t make the pages of Director. I hope you enjoy them!

Company director Allan Meek boxing in Cardiff, Wales.

Allan Meek works at the speedball.

Company director Allan Meek and trainer Neil Munn in the ring

Allan Meek (left) training in the ring with gym owner Neil Munn.

Company director Allan Meek training in the gym with Neil Munn (background)

Allan starts to feel the burn in the gym.

Portrait of company director Allan Meek, Cardiff, Wales

An environmental portrait of Allan captures the theme as an alternative to the action shots.

The Screws terminally screwed up.

Sunday Times Collumn

Kuttner has questions to answer

In my article The Screws Becomes the News I speculated that phone-hacking was more widely known about than News International were letting on, and that compensation payments to hacked victims were a way of trying to insulate executives above editor level from the burgeoning wave of controversy and official investigation.

Last week, I needn’t tell you, the fan was set to overdrive and the proverbial brown stuff made contact with such force that we could all smell the resulting mess, and The Screws is now no more.

Hacking the phones of victims (and their relatives) of murder, terrorism, military action and illicit payments to police officers, a Royal Protection Officer; the allegations have come so thick and fast that Murdoch has been caught uncharacteristically and spectacularly off-guard. It’s looking like his son can’t cope, his BSkyB ambitions have been put on hold and the share value of News Corp is under attack.

If Rupe thought he could rescue the main body of News International by amputating the sceptic arm that was the News of the World, it seems he’s going to have to lose more, or get a better surgeon involved.

The gangrene may yet spread wider as further allegations come to light, and we haven’t even seen the start of official investigations, reviews and legal proceedings.

What can we expect in the coming days, weeks and months? Well, a mixture the expected, unexpected and probably downright bizarre. Rebecca Brooks is seriously damaged. If Murdoch cuts her free, she’ll not find work easily. Her CV will do her no favours.

More seriously for her, for the former editor Andy Coulson and the managing editor at the height of the hacking years, Stuart Kuttner, there must be a very high risk of criminal implication.

I’ve asked before, and I’ll ask again: How is it possible that executives who were hell bent on keeping the expenses of their freelancers trimmed to the minimum didn’t know they were signing off huge payments for phone hacking and police bribes? It simply isn’t feasible and it wouldn’t be acceptable if investigations didn’t get right to the heart of who knew what and when, and didn’t bring the culprits to justice.

I for one will be watching with great interest as events unfold, but in the meantime and again as I said in my previous NotW article, I do have sympathy for the talented staff who have finally lost their jobs over this.

Leaving the scandals, enquiries and investigations to one side, it’s interesting to consider what this almighty mess actually means for the Political future.

Politicians (with the bruising inflicted by the MPs’ expenses scandal) will be keen to end the influence newspapers have on their views, actions, policies and likely political success. They will be happy to declare themselves free of and uninterested by the influence of the print media.

In parallel, newspaper publishers have witnessed the loosening of their influence from well before this scandal as the internet started to accelerate the decline in circulations and advertising revenues, and it is the internet which is starting to flex its political influence. We see this in David Cameron’s increasing coziness with the likes of Google. He tried to keep print press close by employing Andy Coulson, but that backfired spectacularly.

Will the internet be a better friend to the politician? I’m doubtful, but one thing is clear. Politicians thought the print media were powerful long after it was obvious to everyone else that readerships had declined to a point that only a tiny minority of people actually read newspapers. But at least politicians had a chance of “herding” information and controlling the message to some degree. They could see who was writing about them and they could cozy up to a limited number of political corespondents.

From here on, it’s all going to get a lot more complicated and harder to control. Tighter regulation might reign in Fleet Street, but the digital world is a completely different proposition.

UPDATE: No point updating. By the time I’ve written the update, someone else will have resigned, been arrested, extradited, a business deal will have collapsed, another scandal will have been unearthed and I simply can’t type fast enough to keep this current.

Second update: 02.08.2011 Stuart Kuttner has now been arrested. Finally.

Thistle hurt!

Isn’t Facebook wonderful? One minute you’re merrily promoting your fashion/corporate hospitality/events/recruitment/Nigerian food business, building up follows and likes, the next it looks like Jack Nicholson a-la “Here’s Johnny!” has been at your page with an axe.

Exactly this scenario befell Eagle & Thistle, who apparently run a fashion/corporate hospitality/events/recruitment/Nigerian food business (clearly wishing not to be pigeonholed into one sector).

All was going well until they sent a letter out to some (a?) photographer asking if they would be interested in working for free. What an opportunity! Of course the opportunity was too good to miss. The opportunity, that is, to expose Eagle & Thistle as gouging scroungers who thought photographers would love to work for a commercial business for nothing.

Here’s the letter they apparently sent:

“I am contacting you regarding two small shoots that we have coming up at Eagle and Thistle for images we require for our up and coming website. (Please see our facebook page for more info on the company

We need four images to represent each area of the company; Fashion, Food, The Eye and Recruitment.

We are hoping to do one of the shoots on Monday the 4th July in a studio for three images; one for fashion, one for food and one for the eye.

The second is for the recruitment section which will be held in an office/meeting room. If you are happy with moving location on the same day we can do that or if not Tuesday or Wednesday would be great. 

We would also like retouching done within two-three days if that would be suitable for you. 

Unfortunately this job would be unpaid but it would provide great experience and images for your portfolio to work with a huge up and coming company. 

More details of the shoot such as moodboards and briefs will be available should be you interested in working with us. 

Thanks so much for your time and if you are available please get back to me” 

Before you could say “let’s do some really bad PR today” photographers had exchanged the tempting offer across a number of social networking sites, and the Likes and comments on E&T’s Facebook page went into overdrive.

Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t as a result of photographers stumbling over each other to get the unpaid commission. The red mist had descended and E&T’s PR went a bit spoggley. Not only were they getting vitriolic comments from angry photographers (yours truly included), but they didn’t realise what was going wrong for several hours. According to a E&T statement, they were made aware of the situation on their FB page via a phone call. Since Facebook is currently their only real marketing tool at the moment, you’d think they would have been monitoring it a little more closely.

Once they spotted the mess they were in they were quick to apologise, closely followed by disengaging from all their Likers and deleting comments that didn’t quite fit the E&T image. Then removing the apology, because with all the comments gone it no longer made sense. Nice way to do PR.

As for the shoot which should have happened today, presumably the results will soon appear on this holding page, replacing the photos which E&T are already using, for which you might hope they’ve paid or got permission.

In the meantime, enjoy the embedded video, which I think really sets the quality benchmark for this “huge up and coming company” who apparently are helping fashion label Bunmi Koko (no sniggering) with forthcoming events. Good luck, BK, but keep an eye on your Facebook page…

As a bonus treat for you all, I’m including some of the choicest comments from the Facebook page as well as the apology, because I know E&T would be mortified to think they’d permanently deleted them all. Just click to view:


Following the publication of the above blog article, I was contacted by Anthony, general manager for Eagle & Thistle to discuss the background of the original request for free images, and the resulting backlash through Facebook and other forums.

Having spoken to Anthony it seems clear that the original request was made more as a result of inexperience than out of malice, and I’ve explained to Anthony why so many photographers (myself included) were so angered by yet another request for free imagery.

According to Anthony, some comments made directly to him were extremely aggressive and included racist comments and death threats. I would like to assure Anthony that such comments would not be condoned by myself nor by the vast majority of professional photographers, in fact I hope not by anyone, photographer or not. Race isn’t what this blog article is about and racism has no place in our industry.

I have advised Anthony that if such threats have been made that these should be notified to the police. If anyone attempts to make threats via the comments section of this blog they will be blocked.

Furthermore, Anthony would like to make the following statement on behalf of Eagle & Thistle:

“Eagle & Thistle is a startup business finding its feet and learning as we go.

Last week we sent an email to a photographer asking if he would be able to undertake a photo shoot for our website, but with no resources at our disposal we couldn’t offer payment. And though the content of the email wasn’t meant for wider consumption, it never-the-less became public and resulted in a backlash against us.

We realise now that this request was naive and ill-considered, that photographers also have to make a living, and that quality photography is what helps businesses to establish and grow their reputations.

In light of this we wish to make it clear that from now on we will endeavor to work ethically with all our suppliers, in the same way we hope our clients would work with us.

We apologise for having thought that photographers should offer services for free, and hope that in future we can build good working relationships with all our suppliers, including creative professionals.”