I make a pretty decent cup of tea, I always remove the bag before adding milk and I regularly get compliments. Yesterday my skills were put to the test when I made a cuppa for Leader of The Labour Party, Ed Miliband.
I received a call on Saturday morning and was sent to Central London with a very odd challenge. I had to illustrate a concept that came from the newsroom. They wanted to run with the headline “What have they been putting in Ed’s tea?”. Miliband had just ended a successful period, with his party making gains at the local elections and with his opposite number David Cameron getting battered at the Leveson Inquiry.
The paper had already cleared the idea with him. Surprising after they compared him to the plasticine star of Wallace and Grommit just a few weeks earlier. It’s worth a read too; here.
My very specific challenge was directed to the point I needed to find the right cup. A quick hunt on Putney High Street and I’d found some mugs, whittling it down to a choice of two, I eventually plumped for a classic, institutional white cup. Better still, I found it in a pound shop, so I was quid’s in.
Having set up my lights and shot a few test frames, Ed arrived and I prepared his tea so we could get down to taking some pictures. We mostly talked about… Tea! and my choice of mug as opposed to the blue ones available at the venue. I only had about 5 minutes but that was plenty to pose him up differently and make sure I had what I needed.
Aside for some shifting cloud cover which forced me to relight him, the shoot went well and is in today’s paper. Read the story for The Independent on Sunday by Paul Vallely here.
So, with my status as a quality tea maker upheld, I can now confirm the Leader of the Opposition takes “A dash of milk, no sugar” and more importantly noted “It’s a lovely cup”. He drank the lot!
May 13, 2012 2 Comments
Trudging through hoards of tourists along Piccadilly, laden with a studios worth of equipment I arrive at the Mayfair hotel to be greeted by reporter Genevieve Roberts who was interviewing actor Sean Bean for the Independent on Sunday.
Whilst we both eye up a collection of cakes Genevieve tells me her plan.
“You might want to go first… They want me to ask about his wives… all 4 of them, I’m going to slip it in at the end but I don’t think he’ll be happy” she informs me.
That’s a good heads-up. I head to Sean’s people and see how long we’ve got before it’s our turn. We had five minutes, which once I’d finished my cake wouldn’t have given me enough time to set up. I would just have to rely on my charm and the likelihood that a man whose been married and divorced 4 times will have developed a thick skin.
Half an hour later, I’m all set and have shot a few test frames of the overtly chatty make-up lady (They are all the same).
Sean’s PA enters the room: “Sean needs a belt, I’ll go to the concierge” she flaps
Thinking that this might endear me to my charge I risk potential humiliation and offer my own. Sure enough Sean returns sporting the latest fashion, well, my cheap GAP belt!
The shoot sailed by as we chatted about Sheffield, where he grew up and how I used to run around the back garden pretending to be Sergeant Sharpe (a character he played in my childhood)
When my 15 minutes were up we shook hands and he headed for the door.
“Oi Bean, belt!!”
He gave it back; and now the article is in the paper; you can read the full story here. Not sure if it’ll be one for me but he’s just released his new film Cleanskin, which is in the cinemas now.
March 11, 2012 3 Comments
Working as a Press Photographer January has never been my favourite month. Generally outside, with little “news” coming from PR’s who are generally still considering their budgets and waistlines post Christmas. Thankfully, my workload is changing from long days outside of courtrooms to, in this case, jaunts around Europe staying in some luxury hotels.
In January I shot a commercial project for Park Plaza Hotels. They wanted a set of pictures showing their staff doing various jobs for use in marketing and annual reports. The plan was to shoot in three cities; Berlin, Amsterdam and London; the shot list was massive and I didn’t have budget for an assistant. This meant I needed all my skills as a Press Photographer to organise and make things happen fast.
Park Plaza’s presence in Germany is massive. In fact it took a ten minute conversation with my client to work out that we had been put in separate hotels, owned by the same company, on the same street! It was like monopoly!
Next stop was Holland and a typically relaxed Dutch approach, I think I had more coffee that day than I’d ever had in my life. The marketing staff on the ground were so laid back it made for a really fun day, travelling between venues in a tiny Audi, pumping out European trance. The whole premise of the shoot was to use real staff, which when you are strapped for time can be a nightmare but not in Holland. Literally every person I met, wasn’t just good looking they were really keen to be involved.
The final leg in London was at Park Plaza’s gigantic Westminster Bridge Hotel opposite the Houses of Parliament.
It was a great week and really made me think about the direction I’m taking. An old Snapper at a local paper once said to me “Some people take them, some people make them” I think I’m somewhere between the two, but the need for creativity in the commercial world is calling loud and clear.
February 23, 2012 No Comments
Starter for 10: Where is Burundi?
No, don’t feel alone most people don’t even get the continent right. It borders The Congo, Rwanda, and Tanzania in East Africa (here).
I went to Burundi in partnership with Emerge Poverty Free. The idea was to follow their work across the country and document it for fundraising campaigns and potentially for an exhibition back in the U.K.
One of the most exciting projects that the charity is running works with the Batwa (Pygmys) that have always lived rurally but have been displaced in recent years. The Batwa, are generally seen by other ethnic groups (Hutu/Tutsi) as inferior. This has as much to do with their traditional way of life as with their size.
Peri-Peri (above), who interestingly named himself after the popular hot-sauce, was kind enough to show us the home he shares with his wife and four children.
The depth of poverty in the country really hit home when we visited some of the street children in Gitega. Homeless children in Burundi are extremely vulnerable to exploitation; some are even abducted by truck drivers and become slaves on the long-haul routes to neighboring Tanzania. This was always going to be hard to shoot, the children are naturally suspicious and reluctant to talk with anyone they don’t know. But, because the charity forges such close links with the local people we were led around the market in Gitega by a man who the children trusted and I had the opportunity to photograph a few of the least wary kids.
I chose to work on a medium format film camera; which delivers amazing quality, but is more risky especially when you have only 3 or 4 frames with each subject . It forced me to think about composition and light on every shot, whilst I had one eye on the cost of processing back in the U.K!
The trip opened my eyes to appreciate the work of the charity, whose emphasis on sustainability and working with communities is so localized and intelligently planned rather than just throwing money at persistent issues.
I am now working on a series of portraits with a view to exhibiting them in London later this year, stay tuned for updates. For more information on Emerge Poverty Free their website is available here; www.emergepovertyfree.org
January 18, 2012 1 Comment
In an attempt at catharsis, which only lead to sifting through hundreds of pictures. Here are my selected highlights of 2011.
It’s been an interesting year which has seen my workload shift from news to features and commercial work. The selection of pictures here are the ones I’m proud of and that stood out to me either because of their subject matter or the environment in which they were shot.
I chose not to include the soul destroying wait outside News International for Rupert Murdoch during the hacking scandal; mainly because I doubt you would be interested in a wrinkly old man!
I did include a picture from the centre of the track at Epsom Derby; I shot this for the Independent. It’s was a completely different take on the toffs in hats synonymous with race days and a bit closer to origional idea of the Derby, which was open to “the people”.
Looking back through these, I really appreciate the opportunities I’ve had this year. I’ve traveled to 12 countries and met some truly inspirational people. The job that stands out to me is meeting the Batwa and Street children of Burundi which will stay with me forever.
I’d seen a couple of other Photographers do similar retrospectives of the year which prompted me to do mine. Here are posts from AFP Photographer Leon Neal and The Telegraphs Christopher Pledger.
Thanks for looking and stay tuned again for next year.
December 31, 2011 1 Comment
As a Photographer I find good pictures come in waves and like a Premiership Footballer (without the Ferrari) I suffer from spikes in form. A picture Editor friend of mine said that she found Photographers often take pictures that mirror their personality… what that says about Anreas Gursky I don’t know but in my case I’d like to think it means my pictures are fun.
One day in early October; while everybody in England basked in paranormal heat I was sat in a car with broken air conditioning in heavy traffic. I was on my way to Brighton Beach, the home of the great British weather picture, it was the hottest October day on record and I was asked to shoot a front page picture for The Independent on Sunday.
By the time I arrived and managed to find a parking space outside a bingo hall 15 minutes away, I was in a foul mood. A foul mood, with about an hour to get something shot. I retrospect there were probably pictures everywhere but I just couldn’t see them. Despite my impending deadline, I decided that I wasn’t getting anywhere and I went for an ice-cream and a sulk.
If I’m honest the ice-cream didn’t save me, I was still a bit stressed when found this but it was the first thing I shot that afternoon and everything fell into place once I had this one in the bag. The couple in question were sitting on the beach and a family came by and rested their dingy against the side, I quickly shot a few pictures. The couple noticed, asked me what I was doing and the moment was gone… sort of. Sometimes pictures need a bit of “helping along” so after explaining myself I hung around a bit longer and they thought it funny to put on a bit of a show. They kissed, which totally made a picture that I’m very proud of, and reminds me of one of my favourite photographers, Martin Parr.
I shot a few more pictures after this up and down the beach but this was the clear winner, so I rushed back to send it in. Thwarted only for a few minutes because my laptop was dead and I had to join Gala bingo to use their power; I made the deadline. The next day the picture was on the front page, I hope the couple saw it.
November 22, 2011 2 Comments
Here’s my tragic, 1070’s idea of a motor show: Glamorous cars… Exotic women… excessive motor company schmoozing… That’s about it; and I’m pleased to report that it’s alive, well and happens biannually in Frankfurt.
The whole event was about excess, the exhibition centre took about 30minutes to cross at a brisk pace, German manufacturer Audi had even constructed their own test track. I was at The Frankfurt Motorshow for Bloomberg, covering it as a business news event and was sent out with an experienced Editor called Rob whose job it was to take my cards and get the pictures out to the world media ahead of the competition (and drink with me in the bar).
My glamorous preconception, true as it might be for the general media, for me transpired to be a relentless slog photographing the 100 or so new models dotted around the massive complex. After the first day I was pretty much broken; Nissans were merging into Bugatti’s as we ended up getting out around 100 pictures on the wire, occasionally getting my cards back to Rob who had his own problems in a “press centre” that consisted of well… nothing.
There isn’t a gulf of difference between the U.K and German press circuit, the egoes always come out on the big jobs like when Chancellor Mekel visited. One particular German photographer, lets call him “Jugen” got off to a really bad start with me. Like a tourist with a sunlounger; he demanded I moved from his patch of carpet. It’s amazing how little a language barrier effects these situations and after a bit of a chat Jurgen saw the error of his ways, in fact by the end of the week I’d engraciated myself enough with him that he introduced me to his mates… Dad’s Army soundtrack fades out
October 23, 2011 No Comments
A few weeks ago I found myself on a Eurostar desperately trying to trick my 3G connections into loading a video of a band I’d never heard of. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised at the first link… They had just been on Letterman!
I was on my way to Paris for The Independent on Sunday, to shoot “the next big thing” an American band called Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zero’s, a massive 11 piece folk group who are really big across the pond. They were performing at the Rock on the Seine festival in the French capital and I had a backstage pass to shoot them before they continued on their tour.
Dusting off my GCSE level French it took me two hours to negotiate my way past security, then trek across a massive swamp ridden site before I arrived at their stage, just in time for their sound check. It was all a bit fraught, but I’d never been down the whole – I want to be a music photographer route and just put it down to rock and roll exuberance.
Like a hunter stalking prey, I looked for a band member to ingratiate myself with and managed to find a shy trumpet player called Stuart with a love for photography. It was he who turned out to be my “in”.
Just as they were about to come on stage they had a group huddle, and it was my newfound friend Stuart who invited me to join in, amongst some harmonised, tantric humming I took my chance and snapped away.
All went well during the gig, I’ve done a few of these before and after a few songs, I decided that I had it nailed and I slipped backstage to wait for them to come off.
The next plan was to shoot a nice big group portrait, I’d scouted an autumnal corridor of trees but the problem was getting them there. After the show they scattered like the leaves in my would-be picture, so I had to make myself content with shooting Alex, the lead singer.
He turned out to be a nice guy and we chatted about where to go in Montmartre, while I put together a decent set of pictures of him.
The piece was used really well in the paper (Read it here). I’ve already bought a couple of their CD’s. I passed one of them to a friend, like one of those enlightened mortals who know what’s cool, the other one is in my CD player and they are great so it might be for some time.
September 17, 2011 1 Comment
I’m tired… very tired… a month on the move, across 5 different time zones will do that to a man.
It was that time of year again,through agency OneRedEye; SAB Miller had to publish some corporate communications material and I was the man to shoot it. The Plan was to visit, Mozambique, Tanzania, China, Hong Kong and a big chunk of The USA in this time…. which is crazy, but lets face it quite exciting too.
Now, I’ve been to Africa before and because of that I arrived in Mozambique’s capital Maputo, with some pretty standard preconceptions of poverty and a struggling economy. But what I actually found was a charming, cosmopolitan, bustling city whose Portuguese heritage gave it a very South American feel. Whilst I’m sure 2 hrs outside of Maputo is a very different story, I’ve got a feeling that the people, food and laid back lifestyle will make this place very popular in the next 5 years.
One of the highlights was on the beach of the main city, where we proved very popular with the local fishermen, turning up with a few cases of beer. After helping us drag a load of equipment across the sand we spent a couple of hours shooting and talking about football… Strangely, Victor in the picture below supported Newcastle United, odd behaviour anywhere if you ask me.
Next stop Tanzania, which proved to be a very different story. A “Red” zone in terms of Malaria, Tanzania, which in most ways is more developed that Mozambique seems to be struggling with it’s own emergence. My brief stay gave me a glimpse of the Africa that I’m accustomed to, travelling though beautiful and diverse country on red, dusty roads. Although sometimes these roads became non-existent and we managed to get our rather poorly equipped van stuck in mud only to be rescued by some Massai women.
Please note that I have no photos of them because when that started pushing the van I would have felt a bit guilty just taking pictures. I often miss out on the iconic sights in these countries but this time we had a trip to Kilimanjaro pencilled in, the largest mountain in the African continent, unfortunately for the two days we were there it was shrouded in clouds.
Nearly… A cloudy Kilimanjaro.
The 23rd of April has, in the past few years become very important to me, get it right and I’m a king, get it wrong and I’d be reminded all year… It’s Mrs.Jason’s Birthday, and this year it meant commuting from Africa for a couple of days of R&R, I needed it and it turned out well as I returned laden with duty free perfume and gin.
Those 2 days went very quickly and before long thoughts of my own bed had become a distant memory, as I was on my way to China. Shenzen, is a predominantly industrial area in The South not far from Hong Kong. It was very humid but the light was very similar to the UK, really overcast and flat which is good when you are under pressure working on an ambitious brief.
Now I’ve seen a lot of really big breweries but this place was off the scale. Hoards of workers scurried around a massive site with typical Chinese efficiency.
After a ridiculously long, 32 hour, journey from Hong Kong, which was plagued by cancellations I got to Illinois. We also went to Chicago, but the fun didn’t really start until we hit Texas. I’ve been before and loved it, the people are great and they really know how to have fun; for those that don’t know me I do have a bit of a penchant for The wild west and the visit to the Fort Worth Stockyards was brilliant, these guys are seriously cool, I expected John Wayne to jump out and invite me to “Get on your horse”. Sufficed to say I left with a case full of cowboy shirts which I will be mostly sprucing about London in for Summer 2011!!
So… I’m still tired! Jet lag wasn’t really a problem anymore, nor was sleeping on planes, partially because of my amazing Chinese sleeping tablets and also because I was ready to drop. Mrs.Jason suggested a holiday but; sometimes there’s no place like home!
July 7, 2011 No Comments
A 2000 mile round trip for 15 minutes with a CEO and enough pressure to make diamonds. That says something about a man whose is one of TIME magazines top 100 most influential people and is on Barack Obama’s Christmas card list.
Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat and now Chrysler since the Italians bought them out, is a bit of an enigma. He is rumoured to work around the clock, only sleeping for a few hours at a time on his private jet as he flies between the U.S and Italy. At one time, he carried a backpack with six phones in it, one for each corporation he managed.
The week before the shoot with Marchionne I went to Turin to shoot some other Fiat execs and have a recce for the main event… It should’ve been so easy, wine, pasta, nice hotel… a few pictures between espressos then back home.
Sadly not. This was the sight that awaited me in Turin Airport. No lights!!!
What makes it worse is that Turin shuts down on a Monday morning, so there was nowhere I could get replacements. I ended up having to get some pretty big guys to pose up against window’s and do just my best. It was a nightmare, if you know me, you know I love my lights. Apparently I got away with it, not that I’d be happy to share the results on here… Dammed Lufthansa!!
Thankfully the Italians didn’t think any the less of me and I arrived a week later, leaden with technology and in much more buoyant mood.
I always try to approach portrait jobs without any predetermined ideas but when there is no room for error, planning is the only way. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been more prepared, my kit was in place 2hrs before the shoot and I’d even checked the position of the sun with this nifty iPad app.
When Mr Marchionne arrived he was instantly at ease, laughing and joking that the last photographer who came to the office was awful (He was also from Canada, now that’s a trip). Stereotypically when in conversation with an Italian; conversation flowed between football and women as we worked through several locations.
Next we moved into his office where he was being interviewed for Business Week. I had a look around his office for other interesting paraphernalia, It kind of reminded me of my bedroom when I was 14, I knew I shouldn’t have this stuff in there but I just didn’t want to let it go.
Looking at all this and thinking about the conversation we just had between lens changes, really made me appreciate a photographic portrait. A man that had been so built up by all those around him, that I’d traveled across Europe for; was… believe it or not… still human.
In the first few seconds of meeting someone, so much happens. You both make decisions about each other, if you add to that dynamic, that one of those people has to capture the others very essence and it gets really interesting. That’s the situation that I enjoy the most, meeting people and working them out.
All pictures for Bloomberg News
May 19, 2011 No Comments