My Personal Plain

Casual visitors to my website might be a bit confused if they read my blog. I’m supposed to be all Mr Corporate Headshot, Mr Corporate Comms and so on, yet my blog is often about my personal work.

Certainly SEO “experts” would have a thing or two to say about the fact that I’m not plugging the corporate work week-in, week-out, but I’m not sure they understand photography (or people), which in my view is a bit of a shortcoming.

Those experts will presumably have some understanding of search engine algorithms, but I’m more interested in posting material which allows potential clients a more three-dimensional view of my practice.

Which is why this week I am posting pictures from Salisbury Plain*, my current personal project.

After months of barely leaving the house, I was so pleased to be able to get back on the project and I’m happy to share a few of the latest results with you. Some, if not all of these, will be made available as fine art prints via my takeagander website where you can see more images from this project which I made before lockdown.

But given that this blog often veers away from the pure business of corporate communications work, how does a project like this help potential clients choose me over the next photographer? Why do I post personal work here? Let’s turn that around and ask, “What kind of photographer would I be if I didn’t do personal projects?”

Go to a dozen photographer websites and the majority will tell you at some point just how passionate they are about photography. All too often this doesn’t show through their work. I believe they are passionate about being a photographer, but mostly because they like having, or being seen with, cameras. There’s a chasm of distinction between being genuinely passionate about photography, and liking taking pictures (or liking owning nice camera gear).

My personal work is mostly shot on film using a variety of relatively low-tech, often un-glamorous cameras, because photography is the important part to me, not owning the gear or being seen to have the latest equipment. Working this way is also part of my “keep fit” regime in that it keeps my photographic eye honed even during quieter periods (lockdown being an extreme example).

In a world where “everyone’s a photographer” my passion isn’t just about being a photographer, it extends to the purpose of photography, its purpose and value to society. Getting heavy now, huh? Sorry, that’s really a whole other blog post there.

Perhaps next time you’re looking to book a photographer other than myself for a job (yes, I do know this happens!), take a look to see what personal projects they’re working on. If there are none, ask yourself if they’re genuinely as passionate as they say they are.

*I haven’t yet settled on a permanent title. I’m passionate about finding a good one.

Latest Covid Update for Clients

15th June 2020.

Welcome to the new Covid Updates post (replacing the article published 30th March which you can still see here if you wish).

This post is designed to give you the latest information on where I am with regards my trading position and more importantly, my approach to working with clients as more businesses look to re-engage and get their corporate photography and video organised.

My Trading Position.

I’m still solvent and trading and looking stable for the foreseeable future. I’ve added a video service (please enquire), which means I can help you in more ways than before. All my image delivery systems are paid-up and fully functioning, so you can continue to access your online photo libraries with confidence.


Of course I’m looking forward to working with high-quality clients once again, but this has to be safe for all involved.

Photography and video sessions will require a greater level of planning than before, which will probably require greater lead times. It’s possible some styles and types of photography will remain difficult, even impossible, for a while yet. Speak to me about what you’re hoping to achieve and we’ll work it through together.

Before attending your place of work I will need to be briefed on your safety measures and procedures.

Please bear in mind that carrying photographic equipment along with backdrops, lighting and stands can result in many more touch-points than might normally be expected. Where in the past clients have helped carry bags, this may not be appropriate. More comprehensive planning will allow me to do this safely. In some cases I will recommend a change in approach, which might mean your pictures won’t match with previously-taken sets. We’ll have to work and think differently for a while.

Set-up times will be extended and we will need to build this into the timings.

I will be using face coverings while working. They are not medical-grade, but will reduce the risk of me spreading coronavirus (assuming I have it and am asymptomatic – please see below for more on this).

I will bring my own alcohol hand gel, but please ensure there is ample access to hand washing facilities and hand gel and make sure I know where these facilities are.

If I feel I am starting to show symptoms of coronavirus prior to a job, I will do everything I can to ensure your event is covered by an alternative photographer, or we can re-arrange the date. Of course this virus can develop symptoms quickly and last-minute changes may be unavoidable. Likewise, if you or anyone in your team starts to show symptoms, please do not hesitate to let me know.

Postponements and cancellations.

I will work closely with you in the run-up to the photo session. If a cancellation or postponement becomes necessary for either party, we can discuss and agree the best way forward. I will do all I can to help. As a rule I charge the full assignment fee on jobs cancelled less than 24 hours prior to commencement, but I will take a view of this on a case-by-case basis.

My clients are my priority.

I will do everything I can to help you through this weird and challenging time and to get the imagery you need for all your visual communications, but I can help in other ways too. I’m here to help if you need to kick ideas around, or with reviewing your current imagery to see where improvements might be necessary. Steps such as this can mean that once you’re ready to go ahead with your next project, we’ve already done the groundwork.

In the meantime, keep well, stay safe and I look forward to working with you soon.



Because History Matters

Last Sunday there was a Black Lives Matter rally in my home town and I felt a strange compulsion to cover it as a photographer. Strange because I normally shy away from large gatherings for personal work.

However I support the aims of the BLM cause, and I also felt that since this movement had resonated all the way to the relatively small, rural town of Frome in Somerset, the local story should be told too.

Because no one was paying me to go I decided I would shoot black and white film. There was another motivation for this – given that in 100 years’ time it’s possible that digital images of today will be inaccessible, perhaps shooting on film would present an insurance against digital degradation. Future generations would be able to see us, in protest, working to change the future.

I approached the rally as if I had been commissioned by my local paper, creating a mini series of images suitable for a double page spread. That would give me a structure to work to beyond just taking a random set of pictures, so I prepared my kit, loaded film and set off.

At first I didn’t think many people would be there. The weather was cold and wet, social distancing is still in place, and I hadn’t seen much publicity for the event. However as the start time approached, people arrived in reassuringly high numbers.

There was one particular shot I knew I needed to get to justify my un-commissioned intrusion and it’s the photo I had in mind from the moment I decided to attend. It’s the final shot in this gallery and I was the only photographer with the foresight to capture it.

After the event I decided to turn the pictures around as fast as I could and I posted that last frame to the Frome Facebook page. To say the reaction was intense is an understatement. I don’t think I’ve ever had an image be so widely liked and shared online ever.

Perhaps it is a shame I wasn’t commissioned to go, but I’m glad I did because if such big stories are left to random photos on individuals’ iPhones, there is a risk no permanent record will exist for future historians and generations to refer back to.

In fact I bought this week’s local paper to see how they covered the story.

They didn’t.

On Being a Photographer

“Never Too Old to Learn” is the title of one of the assignments from the newspaper photography course I attended back in 1992.

I remember it particularly well because I ended up contriving a story in which a grandmother was learning to fly helicopters. Of course she wasn’t actually learning to fly helicopters, but since this was just an exercise in illustration it didn’t have to be a true story.

I found a suitably elderly model and a suitably cooperative helicopter pilot, put the two together and took some shots which worked pretty well. All lies, but it fulfilled the purpose of the assignment and the grandmother had a blast.

The reason I’m reminded of this particular college assignment now is because I’ve just bought a copy of “On Being A Photographer” by David Hurn and Bill Jay. Even as a photographer with 30+ years in his back pocket, I still expect to learn a great deal from reading this book.

The other college-days connection here is that David Hurn founded the School of Documentary Photography in Newport. I went to Stradbroke college in Sheffield because that was where budding newspaper photographers went if they wanted to get into the industry. Us Stradbrokers would scoff at the Newport photographers because they had a reputation for swanning about in desert boots while carrying Billingham bags and dreams of shooting for National Geographic.

We were “the real photographers” who would all go on to work for The Independent or Observer magazine, covering conflict and strife around the globe. In reality Newport was a very fine college (the very best for photo-documentary training) and we had as much chance of fulfilling our perceived destinies as those who went to Newport. In other words, not much chance at all.

Actually, most of us did at least make it on to local and regional papers and one or two of us worked with national titles. Even now, one or two of our cohort are still working (albeit occasionally) for international titles.

But Stradbroke for me was 28 years ago. So why have I gone back to the books? In particular one written by the founder of a course I disparaged at the time? Simple; I’ve grown up. I’ve changed and I continue to change. I’m always looking at new sources of inspiration and solid foundations for new knowledge. I slightly wish I’d been able to go to Newport, even better go to Newport AND Stradbroke; that would have been incredible, but it wasn’t possible.

On Being A Photographer has a particular focus on the kind of work I do in my personal projects now and in this regard it will prove invaluable. I know I’ll learn new, better approaches and I’ll have a clearer understanding of how a photo essay should be approached.

It might take me another 30 years, but I hope this book will put me on the path to being a better documentary photographer. I’ll have to let you know how it goes.