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Sofa Portraits now available for pre-order

  1.          Sofa Portraits is now available for pre-order from my website (orders will deliver in October/November)   The pric...

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Robert Frank in Wales and David Bailey Eyes

This is Robert Frank in the Valleys. Fantastic! He's smiling!

And this is a David Bailey poster which is part of the Valleys Archive. Fantastic also.

Very JR, but 25 years earlier and different - it's always interesting how ideas go around and come around, and get pushed to the outer limits. I still don't see the point of JR - but it looks exciting! And that's the point.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Lothringen and the Valleys

A few weeks back, I went to the Winding House in New Tredegar with the Documentary Photography students of the University of South Wales (Newport Division).

This was the eastern end of the Valleys, mining communities that are not mining communities any longer, that are becoming satellite towns for the Cardiff area. We saw the pictures from “Coalfaces: a mining community in photos – Bargoed in the 1970s.” This featured featured a series photographs taken around the Bargoed area in the 1970s by a young Swedish photographer, Kjell-Åke Andersson.

Those were great, but what was even more interesting was hearing a talk by Paul Cabuts on the history of the valleys explored through images, seeing how layers of geology, migration, exploitation, transport and housing mixed into the social and cultural make-up of the valleys.

It's a stunning landscape, but faded, with nature disguising the old industrial focal points, with new developments and transport links adding an anonymous edge to what was once a dynamic, cosmopolitan community of people who worked in some of the more dangerous environments the world has to offer.

Then I received Anders Pascal's book, Lothringen in the post and it struck a chord - faded industrial, landscapes mixing with new build roads and infrastructure, overlaid with an air of cultural stagnation. There's even a supermarket across a main road. It's a small book, self-published, a perfectly-formed example of the modest photo-book/zine, but with the added bonus of being free if you fire off an email in Pascal's direction.

There's not much information on Pascal's website, except for this ironic quote from former President Mitterand (and a translation of sorts is below).

 L'espoir de la Lorraine, ce doit être aussi l'espoir de toute la France, celui d'une nation qui se retrouve, qui refuse le déclin, décidée à se hisser à la pointe des nations industrielles.

The hope of the Lorraine region, this must also be the hope of all France, is that of a nation that finds itself and refuses decline, that is determined to reach the cutting edge of industrial nations.

Order Lothringen free here.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Mothers, Death and Macquenoise

The French TV series, The Returned is about people who had died, who had been mourned and were gone -  suddenly returning to life. It was quiet and still and filled with expressive faces and hidden truths and simmering resentments. Amidst all the stillness there was envy, lust and rage. Much of that rage came from a pair of brothers who lived with their mother in a secluded farmhouse on the southern edge of the French Alps; a home from which both brothers would hunt and kill from. Sometimes it would be animals they would kill, sometimes people.

Macquenoise by Pierre Liebaert reminds me of the Returned. It's a series of pictures focussing on the life of a mother and son living in an isolated town on the French/Belgian border. There's hunting and killing and expressive faces peeking out from behind trees or sleeping in raggedy armchairs. The sensation of viewing the pictures is of remoteness and isolation, of a basic existence tempered by ever-present reminders of the participants' own mortality. The pictures are printed on newsprint - which is stitched down one side and merges with the accompanying gatefold sleeve which wraps around it. This is just beautiful, with a graphically printed image of a dead rabbit (that also appears in the newspaper) staring out of you in red, black and white colours.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Remembering What you See: Rein Jelle Terpstra

pictures by Rein Jelle Terpstra

A break from dos and don'ts now.

So what would you want to remember seeing if you were going blind, if you were never going to see again?

‘Blindness is like a giant vacuum cleaner that takes over your life and sucks up almost everything. Your memories, your interests, your idea of time and how you would like to spend it, the places themselves, even the world; everything is hoovered away. Your consciousness is being emptied.’

John Hull in Touching the Rock (1990), the book in which he describes how all images gradually disappeared from his head after he went blind. Within just a couple of years, Hull had forgotten what his family or his house looked like .

That text (and the initial question) comes from Rein Jelle Terpstra's project and book on blindness, Retracing. It's a complex project about seeing, remembering, forgetting and losing one's sight (and with it one's visual memory) - and then relating this in book and exhibition form.

It's a thought-provoking and really engaging project which is collaborative in much that way that Anouk Kruithof's Happy Birthday was.

This is how Terpstra describes the project on his website.

InRetracing I am working with people who are about to lose their eyesight. I have asked them about images that are valuable to them. How would they like to remember these images and how can they do this? In a sense, I am looking over their shoulders to photograph the things they point out: the things they see, but also the things they still think they see or would like to see.

These images include the sea, someone's handwriting, the reflection in a mirror of a young woman applying make-up to her eyes, the view from the window, the studio of decorative painter, and much more.

All the images were shot on Kodachrome slides in 2010. Besides having special colours and sharpness, Kodachrome is known to last long. These images of light outlast human memory, which after all lasts only one lifetime.

I was able to have the films developed just in time in America, at the only place that still provided the service. They stopped developing this famous stock for good on 31 December 2010.

I will present this – analogue – series as a slideshow installation with multiple projectors.

For the people I work with in this project this is an urgent theme. For them, perception is no longer a given and has become a precious thing. Photography’s role of preserving images here becomes an ambivalent one.

Two human motives for photography – the wish the document certain moments and show the results to others – now have a different effect. For that reason I want to follow up this project and document it.

I keep in touch with these people. I give them prints of the slides and in a couple of years I will tell them about these prints. I will describe the photographs carefully in words, in an iconographic way, so that the images can be invoked in their heads through language.

So when you open the book you know you are seeing pictures of things that people want to remember. On the whole, the people featured in the book ordinary things that  have a tactile quality to them; a view from a window, a shiny length of piping, a paint splatted floor, an hand rubbing on eyeshadow, a trail of animal prints in the snow. Part of the reason for this is the gradual realisation on the part of the subjects that though they won't have a visual sense of the things that Terpstra is photographing, they will have other sensory experiences of those objects - the visual is being remembered through the auditory, the tactile, the olfactory senses.

Half of the book is filled with these pictures of ordinary things, with Terpstra photographing them in the service of his subjects.

The other half of the book is filled with pictures of the slide show in which the images were exhibited, with each one fading in and out rather like the blindness that will come to the people who chose those images. These are printed on a different paper stock and the background is black. Terpstra is running with a theme here, elevating the everyday into something that is to be savoured. The pictures are banal - they're not 'good' pictures, but the ideas around them elevate them into something altogether different,  something that is part of another person's experience, something that is about to be lost, something that extends beyond the picture on the page.

Terpstra says that he takes "...pictures of what they see, or think they see, and what they don't want to forget. The project is about farewell and loss, about almost anything that runs through your fingers... These people know exactly what images they will lose. One of the participants wanted me to record the insignificant, everyday images. "Those are the ones you will forget about first," she said."

Buy the book here. 

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Reach Out/Ask Questions: Jim Mortram's Dos and Don'ts

pictures by Jim Mortram

More Dos and Don'ts, this time from Jim Mortram. If you are at all unsure of where Jim is coming from, go and have a look at Small Town Inertia.


Don't underestimate anything. Ever. Be it yourself, the community around you or your peers. It’s easy to fall back on sayings like ‘From small acorns’… but there’s always a seed of truth in such gestures. If you have a need to find a truth, no matter what obstacles there are, you will find a path to uncover them, to report them and ultimately to be able to share them. To communicate them.

Everyone has a story. You spend 10 minutes, ask the right questions and listen more than you talk. Everyone’s had an amazing life. Do not underestimate anyone. Ever. You can be in a room of strangers and in an hour have the making of a community. This may sound idealistic but ask questions, listen, listen harder and through the exchange trust flourishes, bonds knit and fuse together, common ground is discovered. These are the very building blocks of a community. At least, that’s the community I want to be a part of!.

These actions of enquiring, asking, listening, not judging, showing and sharing empathy and a genuine interest in those around you will always be the greatest tools any photographer can have. Without communicating, without asking questions & without listening you may as well leave your lens cap on. 

Don't be scared to reach out and ask questions, there is an ever expanding community of people, willing and ready to share information, advice, support.

Don't keep that which you have learned for yourself. If you teach 100 people to use a chisel, you'll find a hundred different sculptures will be made as a result of learing to use that tool, it's the same with photography, you can share techniques, ways of shooting, unravel and de-mystify processes, it's good to share, to pass it on, we're talking photography, not being a member of the 'skull and bones', let all you know flow through like a river, those waters will irrigate future minds, their ideas will blossom, you'll have played a vital, sustaining part in that growth. 

Don't seek an aesthetic by merely observing other photographers, all the arts are there for you, literature, cinema, theatre, painting, be a sponge and soak it all up and allow other elements over the visual affect you, be it admiring anothers morality, approach. An Aesthetic will evolve naturally, don't ever be scared to make a mistake, there are no mistakes, merely learning something that you can, for now, discount. 

Don't ever think photography is dead, or does not count, every image you make (Not take) will out live us all, shoot for the now, and shoot for those that will come after us, share for us all, and for those of us yet to be.


Learn to surf. 

Obviously, I can't surf but what I'm suggesting is riding the waves that will come crashing towards you in life as life is never a mill pond, it's always going to be up's and downs, the trick is to find a balance through it all. So, learn to surf!.

Make your interest in the person you are photographing more visible than your camera, this will render your camera invisible. If you render your camera invisible, you can take all the images, in any circumstance you require to best communicate them and their story. 

Be genuine to yourselves. Go for stories that you care for. No matter what confronts you, you’ll find a way past it. 

Lastly and the most important part of the equation is always whom you’re pointing your camera at. Those whom you ask questions of, those whom you photograph for without those people in front of you and their trust and selflessness you’re forever all alone with nothing to photograph and nothing to communicate.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Don't Give Up: Brian David Stevens' Dos and Don'ts


all pictures by Brian David Stevens

Today we have Brian David Stevens giving us the Dos and Don'ts of Personal work. Be yourself! is the message here.


Ok? Ready? Let's do it.

Just who the hell are you? 

Answer this first before you start, if you don't know, find out. You're not McCullin, Parr, Norfolk or any of your heroes.

Being yourself is your calling card, no-one else will think like you, see like you. When starting out it's the one thing you have in your favour. Exploit it.

If you want to produce personal work you have to work out how to pay for it, there's a good chance this money won't all come from photography, it will come from bar work, waiting tables, carrying bricks on construction sites, bank jobs, selling blood, living with your parents, living in squats. If that gets too much you could try crowdfunding, then when you're truly in the gutter, grants.

Why should you do this

Production of personal work is important, it's the pictures you want to make, it's why you are doing this.

These are the pictures that will stick in art directors minds
These are the pictures that you will talk passionately about in meetings
These are the pictures that will get you work.

Make sure you've got cards with a least some personal work on, producing cards has never been cheaper so get lots and give people a choice of images to take away, this also works as free market research, see which images are the most popular, and tailor your portfolio accordingly.
Make sure this work is well represented on your website (you do have a website don't you?)

These days more often or not you'll be asked to send PDF portfolios, tailor make these for each client, it costs you nothing and only takes a small amount of time. 
keep blogs up to date, show your thinking, show your working methods, let people into your head

There's only one thing that you shouldn't do and that's give up


Brian David Stevens

web: http://briandavidstevens.com/

blog: http://driftingcamera.blogspot.com/

twitter: http://twitter.com/driftingcamera

Monday, 21 October 2013

You want to be a photographer, then be a photographer! Owen Harvey's Dos and Don'ts

above pictures from Owen Harvey's Mod UK 

Today on the blog, just-graduated photographer Owen Harvey is giving his dos and don'ts of being a photographer seeking his way in the world. 

You can see Owen's work on exhibition at Mother Advertising agency in London ( supported by Magnum Photos and IdeasTap).

As a recent graduate this year and a relatively young photographer, I’m going to mainly aim the following at those of you who are soon to be in that horrible situation of finishing Uni yourselves. So, you will probably be skint, jobless and thinking about what on earth to do with yourself. I’ve realised in my short time out of Uni, that there are a lot of things you should do and definitely a few you most probably shouldn’t…

If you want to be a photographer, then be a photographer. Shoot, shoot, shoot. In fact there’s a lot more to it than that. If you aren’t out shooting pictures, you should be planning projects. If you aren’t planning projects, go to exhibitions and events. If you aren’t at exhibitions or events, then you should most probably be out shooting again. It sounds simple, but if you want it to be a job, treat it like one, a fun one.

On the other hand…

Don’t burn yourself out. If you have a little bit of an obsessive personality like I do, then it’s important to remember you can’t work 24 hours a day. If you overwork yourself all the time, you’ll end up like a zombie and have to go to photographic rehab. Don’t be afraid to work hard and play hard. No one wants to talk purely about photography constantly. You’ll end up boring everyone to death; sometimes it’s good to just talk rubbish over a pint. Also, as tempting as it is, don’t go the other way and drink 24 hours a day either I should add.  

Do be proud of your work!  All artists go through a lot of sacrifices for good projects and nothing comes easy. If your work is being well received then great! Don’t get complacent though. Remember your next project has to be on par or probably even better than your last.

Don’t rush getting your work out in every corner of the world. Sometimes it’s good to sit on a project for a while. If you can’t wait for people to see your project because you honestly think you need it out there that much, then at least hold back some images. I’ve got a lot of images from projects that I really like, but I haven’t done anything with. The reason is that if you want to make a book etc. you are going to want fresh images in it. If everyone’s seen the whole project in print already or online, then who is going to want to buy the book or go to the exhibition with nothing fresh in it?

Another Don’t
This is probably the most important point and the most obvious. Make work you are passionate about! (This also translates to being in honest in what you do). Before you go out shooting, ask yourself ‘Do I really care about this?’ If you don’t, then take your shoes off and don’t waste your time. If you don’t care about the work, no one else will and if you do care, it will show.

One of the most important points I was passed down by any photographer was always do carry a snickers (this translates to Mars Bar, Twix, and Kit-Kat etc.). If you are shooting people all night, or trekking through fields looking for the perfect landscape shot, or whatever you are choosing to do, sometimes you need a snack. Don’t get caught out, out of energy, in a food mood and nothing to solve the problem. Take a snack on a shoot. Also make sure you do a checklist before you leave. I once turned up to a shoot and forgot a singular piece of kit that meant I couldn’t shoot all night. A mistake you don’t make twice.

I think this one is pretty much common sense as well, but basically don’t be an arsehole. Help people out, be supportive of other people’s projects, and don’t see everyone and everything as competition. Remember the circles in photography are small and what goes around comes around in life. I’ve heard many of stories of photographers doing dumb things to try and climb the ladder of success and where has it got them? A bad name at best. Be honest with people, be yourself and most importantly have fun. Photography should be fun, it’s the reason we all do it because we enjoy it. Don’t lose sight of that.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Just GO: Dos and Don'ts of Anastasia Taylor-Lind

above from Siberian Supermodels by Anastasia Taylor-Lind

Today on Dos and Don'ts,  Anastasia Taylor-Lind of VII and National Geographic gives her Dos and Don'ts of starting a personal project. 

Anastasia is just about to start a road trip to photograph the population shrinkage in Europe. The project is called Negative Zero. She's got the van and she's about to go. Follow her progress here

above from the National Womb


1. Have a stable of friends and colleagues that you can run project ideas by in the very early research stages. It is always easier to hear that your idea is shit from someone you like. If it's a good idea these people can give you enough encouragement, motivation and self-belief to plough on and develop the idea. Mine are (among others) Giulio Di Sturco (photog) Camilla Neprous (Stunt rider) Guy Martin (photog and old uni friend) Nick Papadopoulos (acting CEO of VII) and Eleonore Lind (Psychotherapist, mediator and my mum). 

2. Brain storm ideas and research projects using hand-drawn multi-coloured spider diagrams on huge pieces of paper stuck to your apartment wall (see attached picture) Trust me.. this works.

3. GO 

4. Trust yourself.


1. Be motivated by money and don't be afraid if being broke. It's not that bad and once you have experienced it you won't be afraid to invest every last penny and piece of time into personal work. Sometimes we have to take financial risks in order to create our own work. It's always a balance between feeding your bank balance and feeding your soul, for everyone. If you pick a story because you think it will sell editorially, it rarely will. Follow your heart and do what you love and the money will follow. 

2. Relinquish editorial control to anyone else during production (a magazine, commissioning festival or award that funded the project). I think the best stories are the ones where photographers just go and see what they can see, with as few preconceived ideas as possible.

3. Be afraid to fail :-)

Negative Zero is a photographic project by Anastasia Taylor-Lind about Europe’s declining populations. To join her on her roadtrip from London to Georgia and back, and find out more about the project please follow her on facebook bit.ly/negativezero

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Say Thank You: Ciara Leeming 's Dos and Don'ts

Kindness yesterday, politeness today. Who imagined photographers were such a lovely bunch. Well,that's the general idea of this series of posts; Be lovely and leave the shittiness to the shitty people.

Here is Luca Sage's original dos and don'ts and a great perspective from Anonymous that is a little different. Be lovely, be yourself!

Next up being lovely in the dos and don'ts series is Ciara Leeming. The pictures are from her Roma Project.

As a still relatively new photographer, my experience so far is largely in personal documentary projects. I work in editorial with another hat on – as a freelance newspaper and magazine journalist – and consequently my dealings so far have tended to be with commissioning editors rather than photo editors, of whom I still know very few.

Do look in your own metaphorical backyard for stories. I started on local newspapers but always hoped to work internationally. Sudden redundancy after just two years left me freelance and having to fund all my own work. It costs money to report well from abroad and for many of us in the lower echelons of the industry it would be struggle to pay fixers and other such costs for personal projects. 

This, combined with the frustration of parachuting into situations I understood little on the few foreign jobs I have done, led me to make a conscious choice to find projects on my own beat – on which I can work more slowly. This doesn’t mean you have to be parochial. My work with Roma migrants began a few streets away from my home in Manchester and yet it’s a big international issue. 

Do follow your nose. I believe a journalist’s job is to focus on what they think matters, irrespective of whether or not the masses – or indeed the mainstream media – are interested. I happen to cover issues which are quite niche anyway and my approach is often uncommercial, but I’m happy to do it anyway. 

I’ve covered urban regeneration in the north since 2006 and travelled all over the region to gather audio interviews from more than 30 residents fighting to keep their homes, work which I largely disseminated myself online. I just think it’s important and that is my job – whether anyone else cares or not.

Do find subjects which fascinate you. If you want to work on longer-term projects you need to look for stories you can fall in love with – this passion will shine through to all who see the work.

Don’t worry about making it pay. Of course we all have to make a living, but some work can become a loss leader. My Roma work began as a self-funded MA project produced on a shoestring with the main investment being lots of my time, but it has led directly to other funding and work. 

I successfully applied for an Arts Council grant and a Side Gallery commission off the back of it and The Big Issue in the North’s sister charity sponsored a print run the Blurb book I produced. This in turn brought me a visiting lecturer’s position at a local uni, and led to workshops and talks at various other colleges and universities. I was also employed to lead a participatory project and am working with a new NGO client after they saw this work. This is what I mean about passion for a subject shining through.

Don’t be afraid to get close. Over the past few years I have begun working quite collaboratively with participants in my Roma project, and initially I spent a lot of time worrying about journalistic integrity and whether I was crossing some invisible boundaries by becoming so emotionally invested in their lives. Now, however, I have come to see this as a strength. Yes I’m subjective but I’m also fair, balanced and open about my methods, and the resulting work is far stronger for it.     

Don’t give up when you feel down about your work. All documentary projects have their ups and downs – a friend and I have dubbed this the ‘project rollercoaster’. Everyone experiences doubts and frustrations and lows along the way – I think what sets some people apart is the ability to keep the faith, pick themselves up, find new ways forward and move on. 

Do live and work in the regions. Yes the media industry is based in London, and yes I know being there and knowing people can help freelancers find work and commissions. But there is also life outside the capital, and many stories which desperately need covering. I have lived in Manchester for 14 years and while my journalism career undoubtedly had a slower start than some of my London colleagues, being based here also has many advantages. My costs are much lower and I’m increasingly finding that newspapers and NGOs want locals for certain jobs.     

Don’t wait for the phone to ring. This may be different for editorial photographers but I have found that it’s rare for an editor to contact me with a commission brief. Perhaps it’s just the way I’ve constructed my own career but I have tended to work up my own stories – traveling to places, conducting interviews etc – and then sell the ideas in to newspapers and magazines. In journalism you are only as good as your current ideas, so get out and develop those ideas into something of your own. 

Don’t take it personally when you’re ignored. Editors still ignore me probably at least 85 per cent of the time. I found this very hard to take when I first went freelance as I am quite over-sensitive. Now I’ve learned that they do it to everyone – including often their own staff colleagues on the same publications. Don’t bombard people with repeat emails but do keep contacting them. In print journalism, I find that emails are generally preferred to phone calls. Be persistent but not too pushy.  

Do be polite. I go through phases where I receive a lot of emails from student journalists and photographers and because I know what it’s like to be ignored (see above) I always take the time to respond – and to respond thoughtfully. What infuriates me though is that perhaps nine out of ten of these people don’t even reply to say thank you, even when I’ve spent an hour or more answering their queries. This is not cool – manners and karma will get you far in this industry. 

Don’t worry about awards. I’m not convinced by this foible of the photography industry as I think it simply fosters ego and insecurity – I personally think people should focus on stories.

All pictures above are from  www.theromaproject.com  

and check out Ciara's collaborative book:

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Kalpesh Lathigra's Dos and Don'ts of Photography: Be Kind

Pictures by Kalpesh Lathigra, from his Lost in the Wilderness project

Next up is Kalpesh Lathigra who very kindly gave me his thoughts on the dos and don'ts of the photography industry after reading Luca Sage's original post. This is what he said.

I sat thinking about this for sometime in between editing work , invoicing, chasing invoices and researching for ideas and cups of tea.!

I regularly get emails from students and assistants wanting to either get work experience possibly assisting me on commissions or the holy grail of how do you get into the industry and get work.

I thought I would start there


Do contact photographers whose work you like , but please don’t get offended if they do not offer you a chance straight away. Photographers like to work with people they know and have a hierarchy in place with assistants who get a first look in. This isn’t because they only want to use them but more to the fact that if they are assigned they need to be with people who know the way they operate. They know their skill base and when time is short need people who can be relied upon. Having said that  I certainly do try new people and if it works it work and they form part of my list of trusted colleagues and the team. If a photographer has replied to you please take the time to reply even if they cannot use you straight away. Simple courtesies go a long way.
Keep in touch with them an email once a month to say hello goes along way.
Also If I cant use them and they stick in my mind I will always pass on their details to my fellow photographers.


Challenge yourself……..you are not going to like every job you get but challenging yourself and treating every job with the same respect and effort is vital. It’s a cliché but you really are good as your last pic.
I didn’t shoot celebrity portraiture 5 years ago. Today it forms a strong part of my practice alongside Documentary. How ..? Don’t knock a gift horse in the mouth….I was offered the opportunity to shoot an actor I decided that I would use techniques that were alien to me. I was a natural light person… I taught myself lighting. I surprised the client in as much as they felt I went beyond their expectations.  Be yourself when you make photographs, yes we are all influenced by our peers but the people who commission you commission you because they see your authorship.

 Do Make Work.

What do I mean by this is, well, I still shoot my personal work and I used to think I was in some sort of race. But it's not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Make good work, research your ideas, then see if you can get someone on board to help finance it; where there is a will there is a way. Don’t think short term gain think long term gain; great personal work always attracts new work. But Do set Deadlines for the projects otherwise you're chasing your tail.

Do make sure when you present your work that it looks great, bad printing bad presentation all stick out like a sore thumb. You want to make the right impression with the clients are investing money and their reputation in you.

If they commission you, it's their neck on the line. I want to add that when you are on assignment you are not just representing yourself but also the client. You mess up once you're forgiven, do it twice and maybe they give you the benefit of the doubt - after that you're on your own.

Do Be confident, not arrogant; theres a difference….a fine line!

Do extend your skills base!

Clients want people who they are confident can deal with any issues bar an emergency. And honestly nobody likes a show off!

Do go and see people. Don't be rude/pushy , listen, learn. A client may not commission you straight away but make the right impression and if they like your work they will commission you. Open your eyes to the variety in the industry. There are lots of different practices and you have got to eat and pay the bills.
Work is work. Go do it.

Do use emails, calls and marketing but do it wisely. Nobody wants to be bombarded.

Do have a good network of  real friends inside and outside the industry who are trustworthy, loyal and not fair weathered. Good friends will tell you how it is honestly, you can share your ideas without worrying they will nick them. Unfortunately, just like in life you do get bad apples

Do enter competitions and awards but be strategic. Not everything is worth it. Sort the wheat from the chaff.

Do  Be Kind. It is a great attribute, Not being an Operator. By this I think most photographers know what I mean; treat people as you would expect yourself to be treated.

I always recommend friends or people I admire for jobs I cannot do. I always tell my editors of people whose work I love or if they are just great people. Honestly!
Being a Good Human Being really does count. A Bad Rep sticks in a community. Sooner or later it will impact on you. It’s a small intense community; you work it out!

Do have something outside of Photography. I read a lot. I LOVE to BOX!
These other things give you balance and if anything make you a better photographer....

Do go to openings, exhibitions and meet new people but not to the opening of every damn thing. It gets boring talking to and meeting the same people!

Do extend your network beyond the UK. I have clients Worldwide.


Don’t be an arsehole, show off, be untrustworthy and up yourself.
Of course everyone has an ego; keep it in check!
Winning an award doesn’t make you the greatest thing since sliced bread or an excuse to treat others like they are below you. Honestly I know one photographer who only acknowledges me when it’s a full moon.

In all seriousness if in doubt go back to my point about being a good human being!

Don’t Whine all the time. We all can go on how bad things are, but try and be positive.

Don’t be late on a job or not prepared. It’s the same as not having film or a card in the camera. It doesn’t work!  Organisation and Preparation are vital.
I have worked in dangerous situations to others where you're cracking up with the talent.What ties these two is prep. Know what you have to do.!

Don’t spend your time on Facebook / Twitter or whatever is the latest trend. Use Social media wisely, .and understand it. I only tweet what is relevant to me and if I like something. I don’t get into too many conversations not because I am rude but honestly my time is better spent. For sure have a presence but it shouldn’t be your life.

Don’t beat yourself up by thinking such and such photographer is doing so well because all you see is their tweets. It will harm your confidence, increase self doubt and be unproductive.

Don’t treat your assistants like they are your servants they are not!  You're part of a team!

Don’t show bad work. Seriously. Get a second honest opinion from someone you can trust. Better honest with yourself then BS; people see it a mile away.

Don’t be pushy. Everyone has a life. Picture desks are working desks. Know what days you can contact people. Bombarding picture editors with calls and emails will not get you work.

Don’t Give Up. I have been shooting in this industry for 20 years from being a Newspaper Photographer to Magazines and Contemporary Documentary and Commercial. I have been low and high on success I keep going, challenging myself, making new work and putting aside disappointments. It's tough out there. Those who you see getting the work are because they are out there making it happen - and working hard

Don’t undercut fees and give away your copyright. You are shooting yourself in the foot and everyone else. Understand the issues of copyright, licencing etc

For all those photographers who don’t know my work here's the link

Yes I am a multi award winning photographer …..Yes I have exhibited and Yes I contribute to a lot of great magazines…..!

But you wouldn't know it…..as I keep my head down….! Tweet a bit …! Those who know me know me !  I have been told I am too serious!

In my next life I will be a Boxer.!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Ethics Shmethics! Anonymous and the Dos and Don'ts of Photography

by Anonymous

or go here for the not-anonymous Anonymous

Following on from Luca Sage in the Dos and Don'ts is Anonymous. Always good is Anonymous.

My first job working as a photographer was in the world of journalism: a small weekly paper liked my simple black and white photographs, as well as my eager attitude, and hired me to shoot simple assignments for them. I was newly out of college where I mainly studied art…I never did take one journalism class, but here I was, now a working journalist.

More than in any realm of photography, photojournalism has a long history of rules and regulations, all in an attempt to level the playling field and allow the practice to have some form of legitimacy and credibility.

I was aware of none of these rules.

Over the course of the job, I broke every rule imaginable:

Mis-represented myself to various law enforcement and security officials to gain access to a property

Used drugs and alcohol to gain access and acceptance to a wide variety of subjects, both high brow and low brow.

Experimented with in-camera and darkroom multiple exposure techniques to cover a full range of stories.

Befriended and regulary socialized with the subjects I was supposed to keep at a journalistic distance

Ignored courtroom restrictions on when one could and could not make a photograph

The list could really just go on and on, and never did I really think to ask of any of this behavior was un-acceptable. Only when caught, and I was caught on a regular basis, where these actions explained to be gross violations of the rules. I just kind of shrugged and promised not to do it again.

The positives of this behavior? I think it allowed my work to have a raw energy and sense of intimacy that people responded to greatly. The photographs created at the time consistently dominated the local journalism competitions and appeared in national anthologies as well. For the first time, I thought I was a local photographic rockstar. These photographs kicked ass.

The negatives of this behavior? Let me list them here:

I successfully ostracized myself from every working photojournalist in the town, people who I had a great deal of respect for.

I consistently was excluded from any photojournalism convention on a local level.

I endured outlandish tales of misinformation bubbling up from the local university, about how I created my work, always trickling down third hand, and always being wildly off base.

A formal hearing led by the local press association, proposing that a local journalism award I had won be taken away from me due to the use of darkroom compositing. Somehow I retained the award.

And this was from the journalistic community.

From the world at large? My attempt to befriend and party with some sketchy characters in a sketchy part of town led to me being held at gunpoint as all my gear was ceremoniously taken from me. All of this going down in a neighborhood that was so challenged, the cops had long ago stopped responding to calls.

The question is…did the work benefit from ignoring of these rules? Absolutely. Even my outsider status amongst my peers fueled me, as disappointing as it was. I wanted to prove that these photographs were important, and these rules were simply speedbumps on the path to making fascinating photographs. I was young and hungry and it wasn’t my time to be generous….I didn’t even know what that was. But as I left that job, left that town, packed in a U Haul, I did hope for the ability to find, or create, the community I never had in journalism. And the first step for that, was to create my own rules.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Luca Sage and the Dos and Don'ts of the Contemporary Photography Industry

A few weeks back I saw Luca Sage post on his blog about how to get work shown and what not to do in photography. He writes about how he was reading another blog, which had a post on...

...how many students write and ask for tips on how to ‘make it’ in the photography World. I get a few of these, not many, which is good as I don’t feel I have actually “made it” in any sense. I’ve had some highlights for sure but do I actually really feel like I can fully support myself and my son with absolute certainty? Hm, that’s still something that I’m striving for. I’m sure many photographers out there would agree with me though so I’m definitely not alone. The work is still out there though, you just have to adjust to what is happening with both the editorial and commercial Worlds of photography.

So what do I say to people who ask me for tips on succeeding in the contemporary photography industry? Usually I tell them where I went wrong and to learn from there. The thing I wished I done more of is getting out there and showing my work to people. Make appointments and get your work seen.

So I thought I'd Luca about what not to do, as well as what to do.

For me, one of the things to do is to DO. Don't whine, produce, show work, meet people, greet people, contact people. Don't make excuses. If somebody wants to see your work and you don't have the train fare, don't tell them you don't have the train fare... Well, I've said too much already.

Here are Luca's thoughts...

All pictures by Luca Sage, from his Ghana and Street Fighter projects.


A few years ago when I left Brighton Uni I went to show my work to a picture editor at the Observer. He was and still is a great picture editor and I'd had twenty minutes with him after he came to talk to us in the 3rd year. He liked my work and told me to come and see him after I graduated. Later that year we had a meeting at the Observer, I showed him my finished final year projects from Serbia and also my Mother portraits.

The key thing about this story is that he loved my work and asked me what I was going to do. I said "what do you mean?"

"Well where do you want to go?"

"Well I've been wanting to go back to India, it's a fascinating time right now. They have one foot in their ancient traditions and one foot at the forefront of the global economy."

"Well, what ever you do will be good"

"But it's the money, I haven't got the funds to go"

"Well we can fund half before you go and then pay you the rest when you deliver the story"

"Really? Right, wow."

"Send in 5 or 6 ideas and I'll show your work to the editor and then we can take it from there"

Going down in the lift I was a tad happy to say the least, being paid by the Observer to shoot in India, it was like a dream come true? I grabbed a quick celebratory gin in a local pub and phoned my parents to tell them my good news. A few days later I got the flu and didn't get out of bed for a week. I found it difficult to research and develop 5 or 6 ideas, especially having the flu but I knew I needed to get back to him as soon as possible. I did my research and emailed him my five project ideas. He emailed me back a few days later and said he'd forwarded one onto the sports editor,  2 or 3 he liked but the last one had already been shot so that was a no go.

I rang his office twice to speak with him but was told he was busy. It was at this point I lost confidence. It's crazy looking back but for some reason I thought that he was no longer interested in my work. It's at this point I wish I had a time machine, to go back and ring him again. I remember him saying that he would sometimes have to sift through 5000 images, this was a busy man and not just somebody trying to avoid my calls. But I left it drift, I'm not sure exactly why because it seems crazy now not to have phoned back again and again. Photographers are just normal people, some are ballsy, some are not. Grow some and don't let opportunities fall by the roadside.


When you get called into an agency to show your book...make sure you have a book to show. I've been called in a couple of times and the first time I had to turn up with a few test prints. Complete and utter fail. I went out and bought a £300 book after that, something I should have done as soon as I left Uni, not 7 years later.


25,000 tweets. Don't spend your time on twitter like I did. Sure it's a great distraction but the last thing I needed was another distraction. Be sparing with the amount of time you spend on twitter. Look towards people like Simon Roberts and Nadav Kandar for how to use twitter sparingly. Both highly successful and both disciplined professionals, there might just be a correlation there?

Studio desk:

If you can at all spare the money, get a desk in a studio. Only if you are a disciplined human machine can you save money by working from home, otherwise it may well be a false economy.

Deadlines for Personal Projects

In my opinion by far and away the best aspect about University is the imposition of deadlines, that you have to meet. When you're a student you know exactly when you have to start, carry out and finish a project. They might even give you a nice brief for your personal project. There are no excuses, you just have to shoot the work and present it on time. Now, I'm pretty confident that some people are exactly like me in the sense that life seems to get in the way of many projects even getting started, let alone finished. Self imposed deadlines are not just good, they are necessary for any photographer to make new work. Everything and anything will get in your way, be it facebook, jobs, the flu or of course the photographer's pet: self doubt.

Just Do It

The biggest difference between you and the photographer's images that you see before you in this magazine or that blog, is the fact they have done it, rather than just thought about it. Just do it.


You should occasionally shop in Waitrose whether you can afford it or not. A chance meeting in there led to my finest series of well paid commissions. I think it was next to the wine section. It was a fashion client based in Brighton and when I said I was a photographer she said "oh! Brilliant, we like keeping our shoots local if we can.." And 5 seasons later


Even though picture editors are very busy people and often write very short one liners as if they are your best mates texting you, it doesn't mean you have to join in with the short answers. You don't have to go overboard and sign off with 'yours sincerely' but everybodyappreciates a little courtesy.


If you get the chance, live in London. You'll see what I mean if you do. Or Berlin. Or New York. Just make sure you move back out of London. 


When shooting editorial don't think your job is to be nice to the writer who is taking 80% of your time. They are writers because they talk constantly and want to get the job done. You also need to get the job done, so you need to stand your ground and insist they be quiet and leave the 'talent' to have their portrait taken. Picture editors don't care about the writers, they only want to see the right picture on their desk.


Don't keep checking your to see if you've been left a message about a commission. You'll only end up believing your phone is broken because it hasn't rung for weeks.


Don't book themselves.