Friday, 14 March 2014

Tony Benn 1925 - 2014

Well today is a sad but inevitable day, the great and memorable Tony Benn has passed away. And as with every 'celebrity' passing these days his name is being posted all over the internet on its many social media platforms with people writing their messages of farewell and sadness.
I know this get's some peoples backs up and starts the whole "people are dying all over the world every day, women and children, but no one cares about them!" etc etc. Well yes sadly that is true, people die every day and no one bats an eye lid. But that does not mean they were not important or anything like that, they just haven't been there and visible for you to be able to recognise their death. If they were, I suspect you would morn them too. But if you refuse to acknowledge the importance of one persons life because of that then you are no better.

My grandparents recently passed away. They were amazing people and did so much for others through out their life. They did their part in fighting the Nazi's during World War II, my grandmother worked with the fire brigade and my grandfather survived a POW camp in Poland.
They were great.
The internet did not morn their passing.
I didn't expect it to.

Well Tony Benn was a man that everyone knew or at least had heard of, a man of the people, a fighter for rights and someone who drew attention to conflicts and problems around the globe, many of which were being fuelled by our own government. The people who you say are dying every day with out being mentioned or noticed are the people Tony Benn would often mention and morn. Just one example is his hijacking of his own BBC interview to publicise the Gaza appeal and accuse the BBC of supporting the Israeli oppression of those people. Tony was truly a man of the people, loved and vilified across the country and the world. A strong supporter of workers rights and workers unions, he fought against the privatisation of the country and the sacrificing of the working men and women who keep the wheels turning.
If there was ever a politician you could like it would have been Tony, far from a saint I'm sure but we all have that side to us.
To not acknowledge his passing is as much a crime as it is to not acknowledge the people you say are forgotten.

As the first world wept at the passing of Steve Jobs, creator of their beloved Apple devices I had to cringe a little and question humanity. But if every single person on my timeline today, including the people who never post anything meaningful, post a tribute to Tony Benn I will question NOTHING!

A few years back I had the pleasure of meeting Tony on the world's oldest continuously operating sound stage at Ealing Studios in London. I was shooting unit stills on the film/documentary being made about his life and I got to sit there during the long takes and listen to Tony just talking about his life, his journey and adventures, all the things he had seen and the things he had fought for and against. It was a truly amazing 3 days.

I met him again very recently at Abbey Road as the score was being recorded for the film. It must have been a very surreal experience to be so close to the end of your life, sitting in Abbey Road studios watching old footage from your life with your own personal orchestra playing a soundtrack to it. I can only begin to imagine what was going on inside his head that day. But still, he was so very kind as to sign two of his portraits that we had shot back at Ealing. They shall live on my wall from today.

Tony Benn 
1925 - 2014

Rebell in peace


You can find out more about the film over at 

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

The Naked Courier Calendar shoot

So last Friday marked the 5th anniversary of the LCEF. It also marked the LCEF annual christmas party and the latest instalment of the highly successful naked courier calendar.

The LCEF is an organisation that was found by couriers to help out their fellow riders when injured in the line of duty. With no sick pay or insurance, an accident whilst working can really wipe you off the map when it comes to paying your bills. Since it's creation the LCEF has grown tremendously, going from strength to strength. It's many avenues of fund raising are always very successful and the annual naked calendar is no exception.

This year I was very kindly given the opportunity to shoot for it and joined the group of 8 London based photographers who would be putting their heads together to create the calendar. A general meeting was held and topics, themes, formats etc etc were discussed (and argued about) until a final decision was made.

The theme was to be 'motion' and 'community', shot in colour on location (no white studios) and in a square format.

So with that in my head and a deadline set for the next meeting, off I went to panic about coming up with a good idea.

For me, the cycle courier community is the embodiment of family and that is reflected by it's support for every family member, looking out for one another wherever they may be.
The job of the cycle courier can be a solitary and lonely one at times. Out there on the road you are alone, just you and the bike. Your only connection to others is via the radio strapped to your bag over which you can hear what everyone else is up to at the same time. In some ways you are alone and yet not so, traveling in that little bubble of radio waves and voices.
Hearing what another rider is getting up to, maybe stuck at a problem delivery or having a joke with the controller can often be just enough to bring a little grin to your face as you fly along an empty and cold road, rain lashing down and the sound of engines approaching from behind.

I wanted to capture that some how in my image, that sense of family, support, always being part of a larger presence in some way, shape or form. You are never alone!

Along with a few other ideas, the main one that jumped out at me was based around a lone rider on the road with couriers in the back ground looking over them (like guardian angels if you like) . To help carry the message I wanted a very cold and scary road, the sort where you really are on your own 100% of the time. First to mind came Lower Thames/Victoria Embankment, an icrdeibly busy duel carriageway that lets traffic flow from east to west across the city with out having to pass through the middle. It claimed the life of one of our friends many years ago and has since always instilled the fear of death in me when using it.
There was a perfect spot with a wall in the back ground for people to stand on but with the nature of that road and the layout of the section in question, getting a herd of naked couriers into position and having a rider down on the road was NOT going to happen.
The second spot that I came across, which must have slipped my mind, was Archway Road, up beneath the infamous 'suicide bridge'. It's a busy duel carriageway with concrete either side and a long way from anywhere, so I went to scout it.

The spot was perfect.
I planned to shoot from one side of the road, directly across at the opposite side where the naked couriers would be lined up. There is a raised footpath that climbs parallel to the road up to suicide bridge. This would put the people in the back ground way up above the rider and give an extra sense of  watching over them. Plus the footpath had a small wall running along it at foot level that would give the  naked bodies somewhere to drop their robes, not have them in shot and yet still have super easy access if they wanted to cover up.
So I found the exact spot that I wanted to shoot from. Found the camera angle which was about 20cm off the floor and then proceeded to figure out how it would crop.
Beautifully is how it would crop.......... as long as I could find 20 couriers to get naked. At the same time. In Archway. Very early in the morning. Easier said than done.
Why 20? Well I wanted to fill the frame side to side to create an illusion of infinity, a never ending line of couriers. They are supposed to be suggestive, not so much a physical presence but an almost spiritual presence of the courier community watching down over the lone rider.
The spot in Archway was perfect to portray this image as the raised walkway gave separation from road level and the green foliage in the background gave even more separation from the cold concrete where the rider would be. I also decided to keep the rider clothed to further create a distinction between the 'real' and the 'metaphorically' there.

The camera angle posed a problem as I wanted to shoot with the camera locked off to later enable me to make a composite of frames if needs be. A busy duel carriageway is not the sort of place that you can just ask someone to 'move a little to the right' while you get another frame. I wanted to cover my bases and mounting the camera would do this for me. Sadly I had railings, 20 cm of hight and a gutter on the pavement making any sort of tripod useless.
That is how I discovered Magic Arm's. The most amazing device ever!!!! Whack it on a super clamp and you can lock off the camera where ever you need it. After a week of theorising, it solved all the problems.

I settled on an f stop (I think we had it at f.11) that would get me enough depth to hold the rider in front and the couriers in the background and at the same time get me a decent ISO (between 400 and 640) and speed to capture a little blur, and then went away to muster up the troops.

By the skin of my teeth and the help of my fellow couriers (mainly Polish Nick) I managed to pull together the 20 faces that I needed. I lost and gained a few along the way as we desperately tried to pin down a date for shooting.
And then the day came.

6am wake up, 7am up in Archway if I recall correctly (I have since blocked it from my mind). It had to be early so as not to scare the locals, attract the local police and have too much traffic on the road for a safe shoot. Some people had not gone to bed, some people where just climbing out of theirs when we arrived at the bridge, most were still pissed or just starting to get so. Hey, what else you gonna do when someone asks you to be in Archway at the crack of dawn on a saturday morning to get naked. But slowly and surely they arrived. As did the sun.......

By 8am we had 15 people and the sun was starting to climb. My test shots had been on an overcast day and it looked perfect but with that sun raising I could see major highlights popping up on the trees further down the road. If we did not start shooting soon it was going to be a contrast nightmare. We started to ring around the missing 5 and started to collect the excuses (don't worry, you are all forgiven now). Slept through the alarm, didn't set the alarm, thought it was the next day etc etc. I realised it was either wait and loose the shot that I had had in my mind for the last few month or settle for the 16 we had and just shoot it now.

So with the sun creeping up bit by bit the couriers made their way to the other side and started to ascend the footpath, surprisingly stripping quite eagerly as they went.

With the camera tethered to the laptop for fine focus checking and everyone in place it was time to drop the robes and shoot. I had a few variation that I wanted to cover with the group. Static poses, very straight, arms by their sides for a uniform, bowler-hat-wearing suits style shot, then a more casual one, like a courier social club and a few other little tweaks.
We had two-way radios so that I didn't have to keep shouting across the road and one of couriers who is also a film maker (cheers JT) was keeping an eye on the increasing light levels from their side of the road.

The rest as they say is history. At 7fps I got all the coverage I needed of the models and the passing rider in the fore front. The people on the passing busses got a nice giggle to start their day, and the sun? well we beat it just in time before the trees in the back ground were completely washed out and the scene lost.

All in all it was a huge success, everyone had fun and in some little way appreciated the extra few hours they had that saturday that would normally have been spent sleeping.
A huge thanks to everyone that made the shot possible, everyone that offered to lend me bits of equipment, everyone that got naked and not, Steph for helping me pull in the numbers and for printing the shot with all those willies on show (the brief was no full frontal nudity).

These are my two favourite frames. They are composites using the same image of the rider but with two variations for the onlookers.

And..... The final image, cropped to a square for print.

The only thing I would change? Just a few more bodies to fill the frame, but to be honest I think it still works just as well as it is.

Now for the important bit, GO AND BUY A CALENDAR!!!!

You can get it here

and you can find the LCEF here

Saturday, 2 November 2013

A New Chapter

This week, our family made a final trip up to York.

I have been going there ever since I was a child as that is where our mum is from and where our grandparents lived. Well as life goes, sadly, Grandpa passed away two years ago and a few weeks ago Grandma also passed away. It was expected and peaceful which is a positive note but none the less a sad time for everyone. After Grandpa died, she often spoke about how she was ready to go and that she had lived an amazing and fun filled life (she was 94). She had seen the second world war come and go, working as a fire woman through it. She was reunited with Grandpa after he spent the war as a POW in Poland and spent the rest of her life with him. She saw her grandchildren grow up as well as watching both of her great grandchildren start out their little lives in this world. Unlike many people in this world today, she was content with what she had.

She had seen it all, seen enough and was very tired as she liked to put it.

Well one thing her and Grandpa loved to do was go on car journeys, and one thing Grandpa loved to do was take photos. But now they are not here and our little family has their car parked outside so I felt it a fitting tribute to take it on it's first road trip with it's new generation. Grandma and Grandpa would take my mum and her sister to all sorts of places in the car with it packed up to eyeballs. In comparison this was nothing, but for me it was what it was. The start of our children's many adventures on the road, a torch passed down from their great grandparents for our family to now hold.

I can just see Grandma and Grandpa and the smiles on their faces as the children hurled stones into the sea today.

Ellis and Joan Jackson - May you spend the rest of eternity happily together x x x

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Anouck video shoot

Well the blog has been rather quiet for a while now. I have been getting quite busy on the work front as well as the family side of life, and all that combined has left me struggling a bit with the blog. Allot of the work that I shoot is quiet sensitive and it can be months before I am allowed to share anything with you. Also as I have been struggling to put together the 'Pic of the Week' post's, I don't want to just post up some random photo for the sake of posting something. For me that's not what it's about. Quality over quality as far as I am concerned.

Anyway, I have a few things backlogged now so here is post number one.


If you haven't heard of Anouck then you need to go and check her out. I first saw her perform a few months back at a nightclub in Mayfair after being invited along by her cousin, a family friend of ours.
The music was great and the band was great but the thing that grabbed me was her on stage personality. Very down to earth, humble and not at full of herself. Not what you would expect as she is an amazing singer and songwriter who is brilliant at what she dose and has been doing it for a long time. It's always nice to meet artists who still keep them selfs grounded.

So we had a little meeting to chat about music and photography and possible shooing some press images in the future. Those are still being planned and soon to come I hope but for now here are some BTS stills from one of her video shoots.

So head over and check her out on twitter 
and have a listen over on her Soundcloud 

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

The "He took his skin off for me" and how to feel young on your birthday post

Last weekend was my birthday and I'm getting old now......

Nah only joking! I'm not one of those people that moans on about getting old, I still feel like I'm 23 and that's what counts. It also helped that I spent my birthday taking pictures or a skinless, bloody arm and then spent the next day checking out the cosplay action at the London Comic and Manga convention. Those are guaranteed win's to help you feel young.

But what about the skinless, bloody arm I hear you cry?

If you follow me over on Twitter and Instagram then you probably know what I am on about but if not then let me enlighten you.

The director of 'Dinner and a Movie' Ben Aston is now working on his LFS grad film, starting with a test shoot for makeup. The film is an adaption of the short story 'He took his skin off for me', written by Maria Hummer and heavily features (yup, you guessed it) a skinless body.

The test shoot was in a disused old peoples home in west London with plenty of space for the makeup team to do their work and camera crew to get busy as well. Most of the day was spent applying the fake skin (well, mussels and tendons actually) and getting it to look right. The filming it's self only took about an hour with the aim being to see how convincing the flesh would look on camera.

Let's just say that it looks convincing enough OFF camera. Just see for your self........

Stay tuned in to this film over on the Facebook page because it is going to look amazing.

If you like the amazing makeup work then check out the amazing people who made it happen bellow 

There will be a Kickstarter campaign launching very soon so you can go and show your support for new film talent.