Supermarket Dogs


 
Amidst a supposed tidal wave of Baltic immigrants hitting our shores in January, out East, Latvia reticently prepared its self to join the Euro. My rudimentary fiscal understanding is that the Eurozone isn’t actually the best gang to be in any more. That was certainly the vibe I got from the locals as I landed in Riga with a fist-full of euros.
 

 
I was in Latvia to document their transition from LAT’s to €’s for Bloomberg News. I was aided on my trip by my valiant driver Arnus, a 70 year old, former priest who whizzed me over cobbles and ice more like a teen with an ASBO.
 

 
First stop for Arnus and I was a local market (an old Zepplin hanger) where he helped by fending off a scary looking old women who was brandishing a herring and far from keen on having her picture taken. I put the hostility down to the impending currency change. In December they were accepting both Euro’s and LAT’s.
 
A far more cordial environment was in the supermarket next door. Now, I can’t explain it and it certainly wasn’t set up but… people, yes more than one… were pushing their pets around in shopping trollies. Baffled, I left.
 

 
My packed itinerary also included a press conference with a Mr Valdis Dombrovskis… who was in a state of no mans land himself… he had just stepped down as PM after a Supermarket roof collapsed and killed 54 people. He was now being subjected to a weekly press conference to the assembled media (myself and two others). Having watched a man deliver a speech in fluent Latvian for a hour, I asked him to pose for a quick portrait, which to my surprise he did. Albeit in the very serious manor his position dictated.
 

 
Having slid and shivered for 3 days in equal measure, I blew my remaining LAT’s on cheap Vodka at the airport. Surely the most fitting way for my crumpled notes to end their days.
 

 
All images in this post are available from Bloomberg News or their partner Getty Images

February 4, 2014   No Comments

Christmas shopping in the Vineyard


 
Port always makes me think of Christmas. It brings back memories of my Dad’s annual glass whilst watching Laurence of Arabia on TV for the umpteenth time. I never really understood the journey that the drink took to our table and knew even less of the tradition and importance it holds for the people who make it.
 
During this years harvest in September, I accompanied writer Will Lyons to the Douro Valley, in Portugal to both photograph and make a video for The Wall Street Journal. Watch the video below.
 

 
Riding in on a gorgeous train ride from Porto our stop in Vesuvio was remote but that made it all the more special. High in the Valley local families come together just like we do at Xmas for a their annual harvest in a tradition that has lasted generations. Starting early on the steep terraces they methodically work collecting the grapes.
 

 
After the harvest, the grapes are put in large stone tanks called “lagares” where the workers use their feet to squash them to release the liquid that will eventually produce wine. While some tread the grapes, others sing along to the accordion. The night that I attended with Will was particularly raucous; FC Porto had won in the Champions League which added to the atmosphere.
 

 
At the airport, whilst rushing through duty free a bottle of Grahams port wine made it’s way into my luggage. The bottle is now waiting for my parents arrival at Chez Jason this Christmas, following in the footsteps of my father and literally in the footsteps of the people who made it we’ll enjoy it over a game of Monopoly.
 
It was a real pleasure working with Will on this; I leant allot from the best in the business. Read his piece here.
 

 

December 27, 2013   No Comments

Less Clogs, more Stilettos


 
As clients go hotel chains are pretty good, combine that with a trip to one of my favourite Cities and I was on to a winner.
 
Last month I was commissioned to shoot a set of lifestyle images for Park Plaza Hotels at their latest hipster hangout; Art O’tel in the fabulous Amsterdam. When we arrived the hotel actually hadn’t opened… even turning on the shower made the nylon seals creak on their introduction to water.
 

 
We met our models the affable Diane, Suzanne and Simon who very much had the look of a young Dolf Lungren circa Rocky III and slowly worked our way thorough the various locations on our shot list. We started in the bedroom… social graces tend to disappear pretty quickly on these shoots and reckon it took about two hours before Dolf was photographed being fed grapes in bed! (and I thought I had a good job). Once he was full/I had got my picture, Suzanne then obliged with some sexy silhouettes.
 

 
The team worked quickly to swap duvets for evening gowns as we relocated our equipment. As is normal in modern contemporary hotel design (apparently) the lights are very dim, so it was my challenge to light our talent and maintain that super cool and likely expensive ambience.
 

 
I’ve worked with Park Plaza for a while and have a great relationship with them which is a real asset when trying to be creative. Over drinks on the first night… we hatched a plan. Taking the shoot away from the hotel we explored some of Amsterdam, culminating in a boat ride through the canals, ducking lights down at the last minute to scrape under the low bridges.
 

 
Big thanks to Jillian Sanchez who ably assisted me with the light ducking; check her out here.

December 6, 2013   2 Comments

Money in the Air


 
Halls filled with men touting the latest missiles like they were video recorders, sheiks indulging in a few new business jets and fake replicas of Big Ben… Dubai is odd.
 
Rising out of the desert, the city stands with it’s bright lights and towering structures, a magnificent symbol of it’s own prosperity. I was in Dubai this week for Bloomberg News covering the International airshow.
 

 
“Five Thousand Dirham a night” exclaims my taxi driver. The cost of a night in the new Armani hotel, at the start of my ride/his guided tour by cost (I wasn’t staying there). All this glitz and glamour contrasts with it’s strict Islamic routes and conservative customs. At the show, men and yes I mean predominantly men, walked around exhibits and had their pictures taken with what are essentially war machines as announcements were made that companies were buying hundreds of airliners.
 

 
The part of the trip that I was looking forward to the most was the air display, I’d never shot one before and with F-15‘s flying at close to the speed of sound I was expecting a challenge. That challenge came but not in the way I’d expected; the perfect blue skies gave way to a sand storm that blew off the desert and swept over everybody in the crowd. It quickly became apparent that the show would be cancelled for the day and I retreated to the media centre to clean my cameras. The next day was far more successful, and the fast jets came out to play… as did I.
 

 
My efforts were rewarded with a front page on The Financial Times, see it here.
 
I’ve done allot of traveling and wasn’t expecting any surprises on this trip, but I was very wrong. The Arabic culture is fascinating and something I hope to explore again.
 

November 22, 2013   No Comments

Business Photographer of The Year (part II, featuring Nigel Farage..?)

 
12 months ago, I had a very good night out. I drank a fair amount of champagne and felt quite delicate the day after. I’d just won Bloomberg, Business Photographer of the year; my first Picture Editors Guild Award after entering the same competition at every opportunity since I was at college.
 
Last week, I attended the same event and to my surprise…. I managed to do it again. This year I had stiff competition with nominations for 3 of the best news photographers that are currently working in the U.K; Anthony Devlin, my friend the exceptionally talented Leon Neal and Stefan Wermuth from Reuters. My reward was a handshake with Nigel Farage… and a lovely shiny trophy to put alongside last years in our front room.
 
It was an absolute honor to be recognised for what I do within the industry, but it really wouldn’t be possible without the support the Bloomberg picture desk, a great team who I love working for.
 
I was also nominated as British Airways, Entertainment and Fashion Photographer of the year for the images I have been shooting with the Independent and was highly commended in this category.
 
Images in this post were shot for Bloomberg News and won the business category. An exhibition featuring images from all nominees of this years awards is currently on display at The Museum of London.
 

 
Mark Carney arrives for his first day as the new Governor of The Bank of England
 

November 10, 2013   No Comments

33.5 C… in a furnace, dressed like a sheep

Ginger lads don’t do well in the heat. It’s a fact that I’m reminded of on every African trip or even in a barmy July in the U.K.
 

 
The Met Office put out a warning for a sustained 2 week heatwave but as most of the country basked in heat, some were dealing with far hotter conditions. In Sheffield, the home of British steel, molten crucibles of steel swing from chains, while men with arms like tree trunks weald iron presses to create monstrous castings that dwarf even their own significant frames.
 
I was visiting, The Forgemasters, a heavy engineering firm, which can produce anything from oil rigs to nuclear reactors. The company can trace it’s heritage back to the start of the steel industry in Sheffield in the 18th century.
 
Arriving for my press tour; laden in camera’s (3 of them…) I was issued with a thick, woolen protective suit to go over my clothes. News that day said that the temperature was at a 7-year high… Great! perfect day to go into something akin to hell.
 
As the press officer who was escorting me grew tired and I wasn’t far behind him, I saw the picture above, it was just there waiting to be taken, I did nothing clever, needed no filters, nor lights. It was just simply there.
 
Heaving myself back on the air conditioned, 16:05 to St Pancras, ecstatic with my picture (if not a bit smelly), I thought again of those tree-trunk men, a world away in the “cold” of the North.
 
Assignment for Bloomberg News

October 12, 2013   1 Comment

Cam on Cam

A painting of the late Baroness Thatcher hangs over a meeting room in Number 10 Downing Street, patterned carpet and locked book cases add to a memory of a place I have been before.
 

 
I once had a paltry 8 seconds or… 3 frames to photograph former Prime-minister, Gordon Brown in this very room. Two years later; we have a Conservative government and I am back, this time waiting for our current PM, David Cameron. Usually, in my world knowledge is power but this time I feared the same fate and enough pressure to make diamonds!
 
As the PM was being interviewed by Bloomberg, I rolled around on the floor looking for angles as he spoke. After a few minutes his press officer asked me to stop, so I picked myself up and went back to the light I had set up for a portrait at the end of the interview.
 
When the interview finished; Cameron stood, buttoned his jacket and made for the exit. I dashed to his press officer and thankfully she ushered him back in for what turned out to be a leisurely 12 second photo-shoot. After I directed him slightly we talked (briefly) when I mentioned that I’d just driven back into town from another job in Whitney, Oxfordshire, which is his constituency.
 

 
Once he had made his farewells and left the room, it was my first real chance to see what I had got. I looked at the back of my camera… It was sharp… It was well exposed… It was actually pretty good.
 
So, what can we gleam from the extra 4 seconds I was allowed with Mr Cameron… not a great deal, but he was certainly more comfortable being photographed than his predecessor.
 
All Images are available for editorial use via Bloomberg.
 

June 20, 2013   No Comments

Skin Vs Newspaper

First a confession, as a foolish 19 year-old I was “inked”. My tattoo was ill thought out and slightly wonky, it’s only redeeming feature is that as a flighty teen I was accompanied to the backstreet parlor by the future Mrs. Jason. Its faded design now serves as a memory of that day.
 

 
If I’d only known how much better it could have been. On Saturday I went to ‘The Great British Tattoo Show’ and found out just what works of art can be created with a needle. The artists at work were just that, creating painterly images, intricate and visually articulate.
 
The designs however, did vary… from Captain Kirk and Dr. Spok to one girl who had a portrait of herself as a zombie tattooed on her own arm.
 

 
What I really enjoyed was how much participants relished being photographed. Funnily enough, most of the attendees were exhibitionists and didn’t disappoint when I set up a few portraits before a quick edit.
 
The images were used really well in the paper, taking their place as ‘light news’ on page 3.
 

 
The paper and my pictures will be replaced in the newsagents tomorrow, not like the more permanent canvasses on display at the show.
 
For the talented Sarah Morrison’s story on the event click here.
 

May 26, 2013   No Comments

Fashion, The Final Frontier


 
January can be a tough month for freelance photographers, the nights close in early and generally the work is thin on the ground with budgets exhausted towards year end. With extra time on my hands last month I decided to pack up my kit and head to the studio for a test shoot.
 
In the fashion industry a ‘test” refers to photographers, models, make-up and stylists working together for the common good, to make something beautiful. In this instance I just wanted the opportunity to practice some new techniques that I could apply to the editorial portraits that make up the majority of my work.
 
My first step was to assemble a team for the day, I already knew a friend who has a start up fashion label and I contacted a makeup artist that I had been working with last year. Models however were a different matter, I had no idea where to source them so I took to twitter and Facebook in search of beautiful women, like buses they all came at the last minute. Eventually securing the services of Abitha and Giada, both whom had a great deal more fashion experience than me.
 

 
Ably assisted by the legend that is Tim Bowditch, we started with a lighting technique that I’ve wanted to emulate for some time. Nadev Kander, lights subjects in this way regularly but he generally does it in a studio with a couple of assistants, my plan was to develop a method for achieving a similar result with 10 minutes in a hotel room!
 
While Tim and I messed around with yards of coloured gel and giant pieces of polystyrene the girls rattled through different looks with their range, carefully keeping an eye on their strategically positioned tape.
 

 
With my winter blues remedied, I was pleased to have worked with some honest creatives trying to be the best they can. I’ll be using more of these ideas this year, so come back and see them here.
 

 
Big thanks on this shoot to:-
 
Giada Combusti
Abitha Pallett
Kate Littlejohn -makeup
Marie-Claire de Sachy (de Sachy-Brown) clothes and styling
Tim Bowditch – Assisting (see his superb photography here)

February 14, 2013   1 Comment

Very Big, Swiss Cheese


 
Last week I rode a train through the Swiss mountains, hanging out of a window, whilst ducking back in to avoid cartoon style decapitation. I was on my way to Davos for the World Economic Forum or WEF.
 

 
The WEF is an annual conference for corporate big wigs and financial leaders, where they discuss the economy and schmooze each other in equal measure. The venue for this meeting of minds is Davos; not a Greek island but a ski resort a couple of hours away from Zurich.
 
On my first day at the forum I found myself searching for these various luminaries in the main communal hall, it was like shooting fish in a barrel, a very dark barrel!
 
Within 20 minutes I had headshots of the CEO’s of Coca Cola, JP Morgan and Britains richest man Lakshmi Mittal. Everywhere you looked pinstriped millionaires either sipped their coffees or fended off eager journalists.
 
As you can imagine security was tight, and that dictated the brief for one of my first images. I was asked to recreate an image that had been shot in previous years; a sniper standing next to a “DAVOS” sign on top of a hotel. To achieve this we brought over a Canon 500mm F4 lens which gave me the perfect crop. That only meant that I had to wait in the freezing cold for my balaclava clad model to do his stuff… 2 hours later, I had my picture.
 

 
On the second day of the conference, Prime-minister David Cameron arrived. Having already made his now famous European referendum statement and dominating the front pages, he was big news; especially if he met with the German Chancellor, Angela Merkal, who’d likely give him a good dressing down. Publicly the two were still “allies” but the closed meeting was made away from the cameras. Cameron made his address to the WEF with the charisma of a breakfast TV host, stylish but contrived.
 

 
If Davos was a frenetic place for me, it’s hard to imagine what it’s like for some of those attending officially. One day I was also tasked with following Irish billionaire Denis O’Brien with reporter Matt Miller as part of his Day in The Life series of interviews.
 

 
Having flown on his private jet to Zurich from Boston the night before O’Brien blustered through meetings as I struggled to keep pace, eventually losing Matt who was needed elsewhere I jumped into his chauffeur driven Lexus while he chatted away on a conference call. Having already taken a punt by getting in the car I didn’t have a clue where I was going; hopefully not back to Zurich. Next thing I knew we had been ushured into a hotel room to meet The President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, where I was faced with the terrible “grip and grin”. They shook hands for what felt like forever as I fumbled for my flash and managed a couple of frames before being ejected back into the snow. Read the full story here.
 

(L to R) Chris Ratcliffe, Me and Simon Dawson at WEF2013


 
The days were long and hard but fortunately I was with a great team from Bloomberg who are as talented as much as they are brilliant company. Collectively under the supervision of Bryn Colton, our onsite Editor and fondue connoisseur; we survived the week, despite my colleague Simon Dawson’s hatred of dairy products and my propensity to fall over in the snow (because of the ice or otherwise).
 
Images from this post are available from www.bloomberg.com.

January 30, 2013   No Comments