EXCELLENCE AS STANDARD : THOUGHTS ON MY PHOTOGRAPHY BUSINESS ETHOS

 

Recording fellow pilgrims, for a living,  in their various sports in the pursuit of excellence is often the subject of my photography business activities  but a common threat carried through all my work whatever the context or subject is the constant pursuit of excellence doing whatever it takes to meet my clients  needs .  Just as winning is a habit in sport , so too for the committed professional photographer. are  focus , practice and persistence , perseverance and above all hard work.

As with athletes , this  is the  nature of the job, the unglamorous nitty gritty nuts and bolts of it  and  any success you achieve is through those essential virtues  on top of any years of  experience and technical competencies. ( This is my fortieth serious year behind an slr camera first film and now exclusively digital ) Champions  make their  own “luck”   as talent without sweat never truly bears the richest fruit and with photography where people are paying for consistent high quality lady luck rarely has a hand in it. There is no satisfaction in just doing enough for me, and that sort of cavalier  attitude is fatally flawed  if you want to stand out from a hugely competitive market , with professionals (and now many competent amateurs) vying for paid work . For me ,not doing the best you can or under achieving is not an option .  It is about PB, measured  against yourself. Giving it my personal best. the job doesn’t end when i leave a location or venue, it begins and continues until everything is edited and ready to present to the client. They are not going to pay to have a shoot redone so  you have to get it right first time!

 

Always going the extra mile(s) 5 day Marathon of Briton following endurance runners & carrying water to them. This shot at the top of a peak i stood on for six hours (took me 40 minutes to climb with my gear.)

Always an optimistic, maybe even a romantic in the original sense of the word , a lover of life ,  of people and born with a compulsion ( doing it my way, ridiculed or not)  to go the extra mile professionally and in my private life in whatever task evokes my passionate interest.

 

Anthony (Tony) Wilson, right, presenting me with an award for excellence and innovation in Modern Language(French) and European awareness teaching at Old Trafford MUFC.

 

Can’t quite remember the date but this press release shot was taken in one of the executive function suites at Old Trafford, home of Premiership club, Manchester United whilst  I was still a professional special school educator. Guest of honour was local music entrepreneur  and television presenter , the late great Anthony  Wilson. A confirmed Francophile and Europhile. respecter of all global cultures, faiths  and language  I taught myself French when the Blair government made Modern Languages a compulsory element in  the National Curriculum and where my inner City special school  for kids with learning difficulties had no modern Languages specialist where all the graduates worked in mainstream schools.

Kids , especially those additionally  disadvantaged by emotional , physical, social, mental and medical problems , and the resultant huge void in their self-esteem  deserve equal respect but also nothing less than our absolute best. I was being awarded a national award for outstanding work in language teaching and for my innovative approach to teaching the subject. I have a range of practical skills (had an acclaimed  “how to book” published internationally in 1987 having made some fifty or so wooden learning toys for my own kids. (Sterling Publications , New York)

My toy making book, 1987 original designs , my drawings and texts and all items hand made by me. Today I use simialr desk top skills to make creative use of some photos for marketing and PR purposes for clients

 

 

I got a ECC grant to go to Paris for a week  where I used my photography skills to record key shop signs, street furniture etc and then used them as reference tools to make full scale handmade  facsimiles to transform my classroom base to give the impression , to kids who had no concept of foreign , of being in a French town.  I spent weeks beavering away with hand tools to make it happen.

InPR/Press mode but on one of my classroom table in my self style French Cafe base welcoming a delegation from our Twin Town , having organised school exchanges and been involved in the City’s international relations initiatives.

Later a chum of mine, who was a graphic designer at Granada TV , Keith , who’d seen my hand cut classroom French shop fascias, (each letter printed out as an A4 font letter , traced on to plywood,  and hand cut out with a fret saw , painted in authentic colours ) called me to see if I could hit a production deadline and produce a series of signs using the same technique in one weekend for the recording of a World In Action programme on the follies of railway privatisation. He gave me reference photographs he had taken on of genuine railway signage , all I had to do was convert them to cash amounts in numbers  to satirise  the money wasted the government and to flag up who actually profited from the privatization. It was to be shot at the Poynton Garden Centre which had a miniature railway giving  rides to visitors and with authentic railway paraphernalia decorating the site.

One of a handful of hand made “distressed looking ” replica railway signs from my work for Granada TV’s World in Action programme on privatisation of the railways.n

 

In a sense I have a benevolent version of OCD /obsessive compulsive disorder undertaking all photography jobs with equal passion, bringing to it a crazy amount of energy, stamina , enthusiasm and self-discipline simply because people who commission me deserve nothing but my complete attention and the very best whether  they are an elite athlete, a sports company or just an ordinary  Joe  who has entrusted  me to document his wedding.

 

Official photographer for  Sallford City hosts of ITU World Cup Triathlon. 10 hour shift in constant rain, 900 images presented to my client.

 

My role as a photographer often involves long hours , can be demanding physically having to maintain focus, concentration, discipline for sustained periods in sometimes  awkward and uncomfrotable place and patience sometimes waiting hours for the subject rto come into shot . It can  place hurdles in  front of me ,  challenges in  actually getting myself and my bag of gear on foot closer  to locations to do the  shoot. It can   can involve days without much sleep, discomfort and the odd calculated  risk now and again.  you have to be able to think creatively on the hoof and be inventive in trying to find ways to get dramatic shots when they are needed by the client. How about blagging permission having signed a waiver of  indemnity, lying on the ground under this jump with half a ton of mare coming at me ? In fact don’t try this at home folks, it was my partner’s daughter, a (very competent horsewoman )and my/our horse  Sky and both respected me just enough not to do me any damage!

Am always game to try and gget a new angle on a subject, this one laying on the floor and shooting upwards , timing it so that the horse was at the peak of its jump.

 

Anyone can take photographs but when it really matters  capturing the moment when you only get one chance ,hire a professional like myself  who can guarantee consistently high professional standards. I am no monkey and don’t work for peanuts but I’ll do everything I can to meet your needs and give you value for your hard earned.

Isle of Man Hockey Festival , at ease with the players at the airport after hectic weekend reviewing the shots I got with them- nasty injury to both knees, hazard of the job, hence the shorts.

 

(photo courtesy Kelvin Briggs )

 

Foot note : Hockey Access all areas,  well usually some !

I am probably , when it comes to sport , most often seen, possibly well known,   for my interest and involvement in field hockey at all levels living in the north West of England where there is  an active and vibrant community and many clubs. We have just a couple of dedicated magazines , quite a few hockey media websites  and growing interest from the national press but in most cases all bases are covered and they have their own staff or favoured specialists. As a free lance i am self  employed , independent  but have to be very selective in what I cover , although  in the absence , say at a spare weekend of a booking of any other in the diary I’d probably look for a game to go to , not with a stick but with my camera bag.

From time to  time I attend international events having sought before hand and then  been granted media accreditation which gives the professional privilege access to areas including parts of the pitch behind the touchline. This is  subject to some restrictions and I am always mindful of professional courtesies and responsibilities not to obstruct the view of the spectators there are, match  officials or pose any risk to them or the players. At such events accredited photographers are often given identifying high visibility or coloured bibs as in this case with the organisers logo on it. The bib also serves so that there is no clash with the colours of the players kits or the on field umpires.

 

A straightforward high quality image can be put to a variety of media uses  to get a  message across.

I have never had the privilege of working for my countries national governing body, EHB  although some website and other use has been made by them of  some of my images gifted to them with my compliments.  The official photographer employed at sports and other events is part of the same supportive media system that freelancers and other accredited, bona fide  photographers supply to and support the promoting  sports like hockey in a variety of ways in differennt media and contexts. We are all behind the  touch line, keen to do our best for our various clients and united to  show a sport at its best and accreditation is usually only given to those with a proven track record in producing work or a consistent standard and reflecting an empathy and understanding of the game.

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