Latest on Routes

Screen grab of the archive thumbnail images from the Faces of Routes exhibition.

The brilliant people who sat for the Faces of Routes photo session.

Great news! Frome’s best and only youth drop-in centre, Routes, has been saved for at least another year following a concerted campaign to raise awareness and funds.

Local businesses have run various fund-raising schemes and events and these, along with my Faces of Routes project and exhibition, have raised over £60,000 in donations with a few more bits and pieces still coming in, plus the outcome of a National Lottery application which was started before the appeal was made.

Routes manager Sarah Stobbart assures me the bulk of the money was raised as a result of the exhibition, with a very large chunk being donated by an individual who saw the pictures during a visit to Cafe La Strada in the town centre. I don’t know much detail about who, but I believe the sum was £30,000, which is brilliant and I’m thrilled to know that the service has gained valuable breathing space.

Of course this isn’t the end of the story, but with such a lot of good will and awareness raised this will make future funding applications that little bit easier. I still believe Routes should be properly funded by responsible organisations such as local government, but perhaps this stay of execution will allow these avenues to be explored further.

Sarah got in touch to say, “I truly think that the portraits, the use of them and the associated press has contributed massively to the fundraising campaign for Routes being successful – you’ve no idea how glad I am that you got in touch to begin with!”

In the meantime it’s fantastic to know that youngsters from Frome and the surrounding villages have somewhere they can seek help, guidance and a listening ear. I’ll be keeping an eye on things and will update here whenever there is significant news.

To all my blog readers who donated, a very heartfelt thank you. This has been the best personal project I’ve ever undertaken and without so much support it could have been a very futile gesture.

Thank you.

Routes Update

The launch of the Routes exhibition inches nearer, slowly. We’ve been working hard to find sponsors for the printing and framing because even though we’ve been offered a fantastic deal on the printing by Mount Art in Frome, exhibitions aren’t cheap to do.

The exhibition is important because it will spread the message far and wide to those who need to consider funding for services such as Routes (the local MP, councillors and so on), so if you feel you’d like to donate to the costs of the exhibition or to help Routes continue its work, please text MEND41 £AMOUNT (between £1 and £10) to 70070, or donate via the website

In the meantime I’ve launched the Faces of Routes portfolio page on my website which gives you a broad preview of the exhibition itself. There will be additional images on show at La Strada Cafe in Frome, so if you’re in the area, do pop in for a lovely coffee, a piece of cake or an ice cream and take the time to view the prints and read the stories of the youngsters featured.

I’ll update you all once the exhibition goes live!

Paws for Thought

Sourcing photos for a local charity fundraiser is the kind of thing which all too easily falls into the “an iPhone snap will do” category, but when you’re aiming to gain PR exposure across a range of publications, there’s no point wasting good public relations effort with poor imagery.

That’s also the view of Jennie Wood of Avalanche PR, so I was delighted when she came to me for this particular project.

On Friday June 10th 2016, the fifth annual Kennel Break Challenge will be hosted at the Bath Cats and Dogs Home and Jennie was tasked with getting the word out to local business people encouraging them to get involved.

The idea is that participants get locked in a kennel with nothing but a laptop and mobile phone, which they use to raise pledges from their contacts. Once they reach £1,000 in donations they get released, ideally in under an hour, but up to a maximum of three.

For the press release photo session at Bath Cats and Dogs Home, ambassador for the home and former Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies MBE, came to the Claverton Down centre so we could get a series of photos of her in kennels with rescue dogs.

Jennie and I arrived ahead of schedule so we could work out the best angles and options for the photos. I also wanted to ensure we had a choice of larger and smaller dogs to work with, so I liaised with senior fundraiser at the home Zena Jones who checked which dogs would be suitable.

Sharron arrived promptly and after introductions, and a few moments discussing what I was after in terms of photos, we got on with the task in hand.

In true April style the weather was a mixture of sunshine and heavy showers and bitingly cold, so I had to work fairly fast to ensure Sharron didn’t leave with hyperthermia. Even so, within half an hour we’d generated a selection of upright and landscape-oriented photos, with and without dogs and with a choice of large and smaller dogs (which created a choice of tighter and looser compositions). Job done!

This week’s gallery includes one of the cutest photos I’ve taken in a long time as well as some of the cuttings showing how the photos got used in both local and national publications, helping to raise the profile of this great cause.


A little while back I told you about the zip wire challenge that I and some of my office colleagues were to undertake in aid of SOS Africa, a Somerset-based charity which helps children in African townships get a proper education. Well we did it! And in the process we raised (as of writing this post) £645, which beats our group target by £45. And if you feel inclined, you can still donate here: SOS Africa

As to doing the challenge itself, it really was good fun. The wire wasn’t as high up as we’d hoped due to insurance/practical considerations, but plenty high enough for most people. Climbing over the balcony rail was a little dicey, but once settled onto the other side and ready to go, the actual zip run was over all to quickly. I squealed a little at the start I must confess, but a couple of “WOOHOOs” later and I was at the end of the line being unbuckled. Quite an adrenaline rush and I would have done it again had the opportunity arisen.

My son Joe even took part, taking advantage of a spare slot which became available, and his run was a little more fraught as his line went too fast and he overshot the end and kind of bounced off the tree to which the line was secured. He’s ok though, but he might not do another challenge like that for a while…

Everyone who took part seemed to enjoy themselves, and given the opportunity to do another zip wire challenge I’d take it. And of course, I took a few photos which I hope convey some of the fun of the day.

I leave the tower, screaming and sobbing for my mum

I leave the tower, screaming and sobbing for my mum

I arrive at ground level, hero-like n'all

I arrive at ground level, hero-like n’all

Gavin Eddie says it tickles

Gavin Eddy says it tickles

A wave of support from TOCS folk

A wave of support from TOCS folk

Joe sets off on his crash horror run, as the papers would have called it

Joe sets off on his crash horror run, as the papers would have called it


Cranmore Tower, Somerset

Cranmore Tower, off which I shall be jumping for charidee

A bank holiday week means no one will be reading this, so I thought I’d sneak in a bit of a charity appeal.

On September 15th myself and a number of colleagues from The Old Church School offices where I’m based will be taking a zip wire challenge off the top of Cranmore Tower, a 19th Century Victorian folly. It’ll be a 100 metre long wire from a height of 148 feet (the wire is metric, the tower is imperial). A reasonable height then.

Money raised through sponsorship will go to SOS Africa, which is “a small, non-profit, UK registered, predominantly volunteer-run Somerset charity, which funds the education and care of underprivileged African township children.”

I’m paying to jump off the tower, but anything I can raise from you good folk will help the chillun (less justgiving’s cut I guess). It beats climbing Mount Kilimanjaro which requires huge amounts of sponsorship, a comparatively large carbon footprint and just means I get a free holiday and a smug glow. This way I just get the smug glow, though that might be cancelled out if I spend the entire 100 metres screaming like a big girl’s blouse.

If you would like to chuck some money in the pot, go here. You never know, if you raise enough money I might do it naked. Raise even more, I’ll keep my clothes on.

View from the top of Cranmore Tower

Spectacular views from the top of the tower. Slightly stomach-churning when you look down.

If you’re good at your job, you should be paid properly

That sentence, unremarkable in its state-the-bleedin’-obvious sort of way, came from the mouth of Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations. Suddenly, knowing who uttered that sentence makes it rather more remarkable because in many cases the charities which his organisation represents believe that photographers should be made to feel less of themselves if they refuse to work or supply pictures for free. Pictures which would help the charities raise funds far greater than the cost of paying someone to take or supply them.

Sir Stephen was on the BBC defending the high salaries paid to some charity chief executives. Salaries which in some cases are over £180,000 per annum. He was rather cross, putting it mildly, that The Telegraph had made a story of these high sums and said categorically that the charity CEOs should not be expected to work for free. Why, then, are photographers so often expected to work for free? Are they not professionals too? Do they not have families to support? Mortgages to pay? (Voluntary) charitable donations to make?

It goes without saying (usually a prequel to “I’ll say it anyway”) that I do believe charities, on the whole, do a good job. It’s also fair to say not all professionals working for charities get large salaries, even at chief executive level, but this story is extremely timely as I was chatting to an old photographer friend the other day who told me that, yet again, he had been asked to take photos for a charity for free. When he checked on that charity’s website and discovered that they did indeed have paid staff he declined on the basis that he shouldn’t be the only professional working for free for that organisation.

And his story isn’t an isolated incident. Charities tapping up photographers for freebies is a regular gripe on forums. I’ve also been asked to work for free or been told that my fees far outstripped the budget. Quite who sets the budgets is never clear; presumably a monkey with a broken abacus, because the budgets never make any sense.

The Telegraph story raises a serious question for charities: Do high CEO salaries damage the credibility of the charities they work for? Could this damage donations? I’ll answer one question for any charity which cares to listen and that is you already do a great deal of damage amongst large groups of photographers by constantly rattling your tin for free, highly skilled professional services by people who often live precarious lives themselves.

It does a charity no favours to make a photographer feel guilty for turning them away or by making them feel they’re being arm-twisted into making a donation often worth hundreds if not thousands of pounds in the form of free work.

And I’ll add that it upsets me that I even have to speak up on this issue because many do difficult and good work, but good images should not be expected for free and asking for them does very much harm the credibility of a charity.

Back to my roots

With my roots firmly set in newspaper photography, it’s always a pleasure to get a commission to shoot pictures for a client that require that newspaper style. It’s not the same as shooting for a corporate website or brochure which generally requires a bit less story telling and tends to be more polished. For a newspaper style you can work faster and produce a wider range of image options. It’s ok to pull in props from what’s around you if it helps, and you’re not looking for a totally slick look, which can leave a photo looking less genuine when it’s for a news context.

A good recent example is a job I shot for Positive Outcomes, a national training company, who offer a range of training and apprenticeship services to companies and organisations and training to help a whole range of people looking to improve their work skills.

In this example two people, Holly Drew and Alistair Johnstone, completed their on-the-job training while volunteering at the St Peter’s Hospice charity shop in Westbury on Trym, Bristol and I was asked to produce a set of images suitable for local press and web use to help tell their story.

After about an hour on site I had a good selection of images, both upright and landscape orientations to suit picture desk requirements. I thought perhaps you’d like to see a selection of the results.

Showing Holly and Alistair interacting as they work adds an extra layer to the picture story

Offering a vertical alternative reduces the risk of a photo being ditched just because it doesn’t fit the page design

Showing Holly and Alistair at work in the stock room is another opportunity to show them at work