Chris Floyd: Clean Living Under Difficult Circumstances.

Rule Britannia

Posted in Commissioned Work, Editorial, Inspiration, Lighting, Me Myself & I by Chris Floyd on August 19, 2012

Laura Trott, Spring Studios, London. 11th August 2012

On Wednesday 8th August 2012 I was on holiday, staying in a rented cottage, down in the New Forest, a place of childhood memories, one of my favourite places in the world. The phone signal in the cottage was non existent but there was a wireless connection in the pub over the road. I’d got into the habit of wandering over there a few times a day, like the typically connection addicted citizen I am, to check my emails. Truth be told it was also an opportunity to get away from the tyranny of spending every minute of the day with my 2 small children, an escape from the incessant noise and brain mashing claustrophobia of it all, to enjoy a quiet 20 minutes alone in the company of half a cider and the Olympics on the pub’s megatron HD telly. A day earlier I’d sat in there and watched 20 year old Laura Trott win a fabulous gold medal in the women’s omnium event in the cycling.

On my final swerve of the day I went out the door and over the road about 10pm. An email plopped into my inbox from Monica Allende, picture editor at The Sunday Times Magazine.

“What are you up to on Friday? Trying to put a v. last minute shoot together and checking your availability.”

It was clearly urgent but there’s two kinds of urgent. There’s the urgent that can make this job the best thing in the world, where all the cards fall into place at the perfect moment, where you get to meet and have an intense one to one with someone brilliant or world changing. Then there’s the other urgent. The other urgent is the one that is brought about by a relentlessly negative chain of events. They wanted somebody else for the job, the subject changed the date, the chosen photographer couldn’t do the new date, a better story has fallen through and they need something to fill the gap. It’s the urgent that’s brought about by a series of failures. Your role in it, if not handled carefully, could forever associate you with those failures, despite the fact that you were not even involved at the point that they took place. No matter how good a job you may do you will always be thought of as the person to call when the person they want is not available. Best to try and avoid those if you can.

Aside from the perception of urgency generated by Monica’s email, Friday was also the last full day of our idyllic week in Hampshire. We were planning to hand back the keys to the cottage around 11am and go a few miles along the coast to see some friends who have a boat, where we would spend the day with them, messing about in the Solent and even, perhaps, make land at the Isle of Wight for an ice cream before heading back to the mainland for the drive home to London and it’s strange McEwanesque August atmosphere.

The Idyllic Cottage

I mulled it over for about 10 minutes before hitting the ‘reply’ button. Stay here and enjoy the last day of a truly memorable and classic English holiday, with the promise of a jump into the Solent off the side of a boat? Or take the risk with a different kind of leap that this was the right kind of urgent? I tapped the reply button on my phone and typed a response to Monica.

“I am totally around. What’s the job?”

I stayed in the pub for about half an hour but she never replied.

The next morning, though, everything started to happen. Monica emailed around 11.30am and came clean with the facts.

“The idea was to shoot Laura Trott as Britannia for the STM Olympics special. It was almost confirmed last night, but she is a bit freaked out this morning after all the media coverage. I won’t know for an hour but even if they confirm I am not sure we can put such a demanding shoot together. See attached the idea I have in mind. If it was to happen tomorrow afternoon I would still like to meet in the morning to prepare it all , but as we stand I haven’t got a team in place yet.

How do you see it?”

These screen grabs were attached to her email, which were a great help in making me realise a) how we should do it and b) how we should not do it.

Immediately I knew how it had to look and how it could be done. It was actually pretty simple. I replied to Monica.

“I thought it might be something Olympic! It can be done. As long as we have Laura, a studio and the props/clothes it is totally possible. As with anything else like this, the key to it is to make it modern and stylish, otherwise there’s a danger of it looking naff and cheesy. The way to do it is to keep it extremely simple. The lion might be a problem though.

Other than that I am confident it can be done.”

In any photographic situation where there is a danger that it might go all wrong, where the execution can be way too literal, I always try to steer it back towards the one element that is the most important: spirit. In this case, Laura Trott is a 20 year old girl from Hertfordshire. A week earlier no one, including me, outside of the world of track cycling had heard of her. In seven days she, among several others, had come to embody an ideal of how we would like our country to be. Hard working, modest, humorous, good at stuff and very much alive. Binding her up with spears, shields, togas and chariots would drag her down more than anything. How to make it work?

I close my eyes and I think of the canon. The canon are the photographers I draw on in times of doubt. They give me comfort, solace and inspiration. They include Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton, Bruce Weber, Lee Friedlander, Sally Mann, Corrine Day, Glen Luchford, Erwin Blumenfeld, Harry Callahan and, in this case, Irving Penn. I close my eyes and I go through the rolodex in my head thinking of them all until I find the one that instinctively feels like the inspirational match for the task at hand. That’s not to say I set about slavishly ripping them off. I use them as my starting point, my jumping off point. They are my photographic moral compass. They show me the light, guide the way and keep me company. Once I push off and get underway I’m then going forward under my own steam. By the time I get to the other side I will have, hopefully, added enough of my own ingredients to the dish for it to taste new and different. To understand what I mean then check this out:

Bad Penny Blues by Humphrey Lyttleton (1956).

then this:

Lady Madonna by The Beatles (1968).

Each of them are great but one was a jumping off point for the other. I love it. You can hear the lineage right there.

Anyway, back to Irving Penn. It took me about 0.5 seconds to ask myself ‘What would Irving Penn do?’ It just seemed so obvious. I called Monica up and we had a great talk about what to do. I said this is an Irving Penn picture. She replied that they wanted the backdrop behind her to be a Union Flag but the flag, she thought, should be very faded, as if it has been hanging out in the wind for 50 years. I agreed totally but there was no way we would be able to find a flag big enough with one day’s notice that is also the right texture. It would need to be about 30 feet by 20 feet big. Going back to my earlier mention of instinctively knowing how we should/should not do it. I want to hint at Britannia, not hammer her into the role. The Union Jack is the main element. Then maybe the shield. Definitely not the helmet. Please God not the helmet. Besides, she has those plaits that have instantly become her trademark. It must be a modern picture but with nothing brash or shiny about it. No forced heroism or shot from below constructivist nonsense with added clip lights. It should be elegant, chic, classic and classical. I want to do it like that but with the help of a little bit of modern technology.

What did I mean by ‘modern technology’?

This was the part where I would have to convince her.

“Ok. We’ll get a big canvas, battered, old, frayed, worn, grey, grim. I know where we can get one of those. We shoot her on that and then we add the Union Jack in afterwards with CGI.”

I had tried something like this a couple of years ago on a shoot I’d done with N-Dubz, Tinchy Stryder, Chipmunk & Taio Cruz. That one had been shot on a white studio cove and I had used CGI to add in a monochromatic Union Flag afterwards. Three years further on, though, I thought that both the technology and skills of the person I had in mind to do it would have advanced enough to be able to make the flag look not only convincing but properly fantastic. Having this earlier example to show Monica was helpful in convincing that this was a way better option than trying to project a Union Jack on to a backcloth. All I had to do was explain that this was shot on a flat white/grey background and the flag was constructed digitally. What you do with that flag is entirely subjective. If we took that idea and put it onto a canvas, a fabric with motion and life in it, rather than a dead wall, then we could make it work so much better.

N-Dubz, Chipmunk, Tinchy Stryder, Taio Cruz. London 2009

At some point on the Thursday it was decided that Friday was just too short notice and Laura was persuaded to make the trip to the studio on Saturday instead. This meant that I got to have that last full day of holiday and we did indeed spend a gorgeous day on a boat bobbing around the Solent.

Somewhere in The Solent. Friday August 10th 2012.

My time at sea was periodically interrupted by emails from Georgia Lacey, the prop stylist, with questions about Britannia related matters, the best one being:

Morning Chris. Do you have any preference on spear?”

Call time for crew was 7am at Spring Studios in Kentish Town, London, on Saturday 11th August, four days after Laura had won her second gold medal and three full days after the shoot had first been proposed to Laura. Having worked for magazines for almost 20 years, I had never known a shoot or story come together so fast and at such short notice. Laura was due to arrive at 9am and we would have her for two hours. One hour would be taken up with hair and make up, so that would mean an hour of shooting time. In theory that is plenty but we had also agreed to try the shot in several different ways, with variations on props, hair and medals. I have always felt that less is more ever since I heard Michael Caine tell a story about how director John Huston told him “Do less Michael, do less. I can see you acting.” However, Monica thought it important to give the art director at the magazine plenty of options. We had several Britannia style shields to hand but Monica had the best idea of all; to use a wheel from Laura’s bike.

The first thing for my assistants to do was get the canvas backdrop up. Much of Penn’s greatest portraiture was done using natural light. I couldn’t do that here, the studio’s daylight source was in the wrong place and it’s just not strong enough to give me what I wanted. I set about trying to replicate Penn style daylight with artificial lights. I do this by building a replica window from 12 foot by 4 ft polystyrene flats (polyboards) – which forms a three sided room with the open side bound by layers and layers of thick diffusion material. I use all sorts of things – silks, rolls of spun glass, trace, plastic bags, anything that impedes the light from travelling in a straight line. The lights then go inside that room and the diffusion hopefully acts in the same way that thick cloud does on the sun.

Canvas going up. Lighting and diffusion on right.

We shoot a lot of test pictures and I can get incredibly fussy about whether or not light looks right. To me it either looks right or it looks fake, it just looks wrong. Sometimes the journey there is quick and everything falls into place and other times it seems to take forever, with detours and wrong turns but when it feels right it just, well, feels right.

By the time Laura arrived we were pretty much ready. I was genuinely moved to meet someone who had done something so special at such a young age and, whatsmore, who really did seem to wear it so well. I asked her who had presented her with her medals.

“I dunno really. Just a couple of randomers.”

Double Gold Toes

Once she came out of hair and make up (incredible job by Hamilton Stansfield) and through wardrobe I could tell that all Monica’s worries about not pulling this off were just that, worries. Everyone had done their part perfectly. All we needed now was to get the right shot. And after trying several permutations of prop and pose we settled on this. The movement in the canvas was provided by my 2 assistants, Andras & Phil, rippling it from each side.

Once Monica had selected the image it was sent over to Rick Carter at Paperhat FTP who put Lee Rouse to work on creating a Union Flag from the blank canvas behind her. We had to provide him with a whole slew of measurements from the lens to different points in the shot so that the computer could work out angles and plot points that would allow it to overlay the image of the flag on to the ripples and folds of the blank canvas. He spent all of Saturday night working on it. By lunchtime on Sunday the finished image at the top of this post was completed and sent to The Sunday Times. They had held back printing for four days to accommodate this as the cover of their Olympics special issue, which is out today, seven days later.

Laura Trott, Spring Studios, London. 11th August 2012.

So, after all that, why do I feel this is right? The right way to have done it, not the wrong way. I’ve said before that twenty years of experience adds up to a lot of mistakes. These come back to you in the form of wisdom. This doesn’t mean that you become complacent though. As I’ve got older I’ve realised that the only way to not become complacent is to stay paranoid.

It’s all there. It feels true, even though it’s a constructed image. It has honesty at it’s core. The colours, the tones of her skin, the strength, the quiet confidence, ready but not offensively aggressive, not an ounce of empty bombast. Who wouldn’t want her on their side? She should be on town hall walls all over the country.

It has the one ingredient I mentioned at the start of the process. It has spirit.

With about ten minutes left before she was due to leave, I took her over to a separate set up we’d prepared earlier and took a portrait of her as herself. We barely spoke. I didn’t need to say anything. Everything she is was right there in her face.

Laura Trott, Spring Studios, London. 11th August 2012.

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The Four Minute Mile Stopwatch

Posted in Commissioned Work, Editorial, Inspiration, Lighting by Chris Floyd on July 29, 2012

One of three stopwatches used to record the time of Roger Bannister’s sub-4 minute mile on the 6th May 1954.

Last year I was commissioned by ESPN Magazine in New York to go to Iffley Road sports ground at the University of Oxford, where, in a glass case, is the stopwatch that was used to record the time of Roger Bannister’s record breaking mile on the 6th May 1954.  This was the first time the mile had been run under four minutes.

ESPN were preparing a photographic feature on great pieces of sporting memorabilia and my shoot with the watch was one of many others they had arranged.

There were actually three watches used that day, in the event of a breakdown or doubt.  You could call it belt, braces and glue. The other two are now in private hands and this one is still the property of the club.  The other interesting thing about the watches is that they are 30 seconds to a revolution, so the hand had to travel just short of eight complete circuits to do it’s job that day.

In the excitement, joy and pandemonium immediately after the race the watch was knocked from the timekeeper’s hands and  the glass on the front cracked on impact.  Part of it is forever missing and you can see that in the picture above.  Bannister’s record breaking time is preserved though – 3 minutes 59.4 seconds.

The club secretary took the key to the glass cabinet that the stopwatch lives in out of his desk drawer, unlocked the door and handed the watch over to me.  History in my hands, reassuringly heavy too, a wonderful thing.  I set up my lighting and table top backdrop in an empty squash court and spent a lovely afternoon messing about with light, shadows and time.

After the story ran I was asked by the magazine’s then photo editor, Catriona Ni Aolain, if I could make a large print of it for the editor in chief.  Of all the items they had photographed for the story, this was the one he wanted to hang framed in his office.

Seven Days With Sebastian Coe

Posted in Commissioned Work, Editorial, Inspiration, Me Myself & I by Chris Floyd on July 27, 2012

Seb Coe making his case to members of the Greater London Authority in a portakabin at the Olympic Stadium site, 2008. Note the detailed diagram beside him.

Now seems like a good time to post these pictures. Tonight is the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games and this story is a long way in the past indeed. In 2008 I was commissioned by The Observer to spend a week with Sebastian Coe while he carried out his business as the man in charge of London’s bid.

Seb Coe making his case to members of the Greater London Authority in a portakabin at the Olympic Stadium site, 2008.

For 7 days, journalist Tim Adams and I went everywhere he went. We didn’t speak too much but he never tried to stop me photographing anything. I sat in on sensitive meetings and he was always welcoming whenever I arrived anywhere to shadow him. The part that had the biggest impact on me, however, was the realisation that every place he went he had to deal with doubt, cynicism and scrutiny. I know that as we approach the start of the games there has been some anger at some of the cock-ups that have happened but I honestly believe from watching Coe, over the course of one week in 2008, his entire drive and motivation came from a desire to pull off something fantastic. I hope he does and I wish him and everyone involved the best of luck.

Seb Coe making his case to members of the Greater London Authority in a portakabin at the Olympic Stadium site, 2008.

My favourite pictures from this story are those above, taken at a meeting with the members of the Greater London Authority in a portakabin at the site of the stadium, at that time a pile of rubble and earth. Coe had been summoned by the GLA to justify certain budgetary matters. The item at which the members were most indignant was a line allowing for provision of several thousand car parking spaces for ‘media’. Coe explained patiently that ‘media’ carry a lot of heavy stuff – cameras, sound equipment, tripods, lights and if they were made to carry it in then they just would not turn up. I stood behind him nodding fervently, whilst indicating my lighting set up. He had told me before we went in what this was about, so in the short time I had to prepare I decided to try and light the room as a scene from the Henry Fonda movie, ‘Twelve Angry Men’ – which is set almost entirely in a jury room as the verdict of a case is debated and Fonda passionately argues his view to the other eleven members. The pictures here do seem like the countdown to an execution and Coe came out of the meeting quite depleted.

Talking to the BBC Olympic correspondent, Adrian Warner.

What I want the viewer to see in these photographs is a glimpse of the sheer relentless mountain climb of a task the man has before him. Remember that this is an extract from one week in his life, four years ago. It was like this every day for the the four years before that and it has been like this, probably more so, every day for the four years since. What was obvious from observing him was the way he paced himself through the day. Really, truly fascinating to watch.

Read Tim Adams’ original 2008 piece from The Observer here
.

Fundraiser at Windsor Racecourse

Meeting at LOCOG offices in Canary Wharf

Q & A

Press Conference at The ICA with Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.

Meet & Greet in Gateshead

Meet & Greet in Gateshead

;

;

Train to Newcastle

Competition Winners

Looking towards the stadium

Sebastian Coe, 2008

Guess Who?

Posted in Commissioned Work, Editorial, Me Myself & I by Chris Floyd on April 16, 2012

I must give the man some kudos here.  With most of the people that I photograph it’s a ‘that’ll do’ attitude that carries them through the process.  A collaboration is what I’m looking for but, often, what I get is a muted co-operation.  Yeah…go on then, just do it quick.  I know one Hollywood publicist whose number one criteria when approving photographers for shoots involving his clients is ‘How quick are you?’

Ricky Gervais, photographed for the American edition of Mens Health on 5th December 2011.

I have photographed Ricky Gervais 5 times and, unlike most, he gives much more.  He can be tentative initially, a little wary, but once he has committed to an idea he’s up for it in all it’s forms.

I once photographed him for a Christmas related story, in the middle of July, which involved a terrible sweater and Kermit the Frog.  We were trying to make it look like Ricky & Kermit were sharing a laugh together in an old skool Christmas Radio Times kind of way.  We shot hundreds of frames and were really struggling with it.  He persisted with the inanimate frog for much longer than one would have expected until, at last, he decared, “Wait!  I’ve got it, I’ve got it!  Whattabout like this?……”

The second time I photographed him was at the Dorchester Hotel in London.  I was told I had 3 minutes and when he came in he acknowledged how little time we had been given, so offered to do whatever he could to make it work.  I said I was going to recite a list of 1970’s sitcom actors and would photograph his reaction on hearing the name of each one.  Number 8 was ‘On The Buses’ star Reg Varney, who I think looks like Gervais in a sort of lackadaisical 1970’s way.  Evidently, Reg’s name had it’s own effect on him because it yielded this reaction…

This time we were doing a shoot to illustrate his recent heavy weight loss, brought on by boxing and running.  It needed some energy and he really did bring it. He battered that punchball for as long as I exhorted him to keep at it and after each kick he would come to the computer, examine it carefully and then insist on giving it another go until he felt the image looked right.  Here’s what we got…..

Remembrance Of Things Past: Elizabeth Jagger & Bodybuilder, 2002.

Posted in Commissioned Work, Editorial, Inspiration, Me Myself & I by Chris Floyd on January 9, 2012

Elizabeth Jagger & Bodybuilder 1. New York City, 2002

I have been digitizsing a lot of my archive in the last year.  Well, I say ‘a lot’ but really I’ve bagged up maybe 5%, something like that.  I worked on film for 16 years before I switched to digital photography, so I dread to think what it would be like for someone 30 years older than me whose entire career is on film.  When I contemplate the magnitude of the task, I close my eyes and picture myself standing there, all little, with a dull eyed Charlie Brown look of puzzlement, anxiety and fear on my face.  In this imagined tableau, there is, in front of me,  the most enormous fucking mountain you’ve ever seen.  Far bigger than Everest.  In this scenario Everest would fit on to a cereal box.

However, to alleviate this fear of the big task, I should spend more time reminding myself about the forgotten work I trip over and re-discover every time I submit myself to the process. I’m not afraid to admit this but I’m getting to the point where I enjoy the process of looking back as equally as I do the process of looking forward.  I suppose it could be considered the opposite of a midlife crisis, in that I have reached a point where I’ve grown into myself and have come to accept what I am with magnanimity and gratitude.  I know what my faults are and I know what my strengths are.  I know how to deploy one in the suppression of the other.  Looking at old work causes me to confront the mistakes I made in arriving at this juncture.  After all, wisdom is, I believe, nothing more than the accumulative lessons learned from a lifetime of mistakes.

Elizabeth Jagger & Bodybuilder 2. New York City, 2002

This series of fashion portraits of Elizabeth Jagger I was commissioned to do in 2002 by Steven Baillie for Surface Magazine is a good example of the simple pleasure to be had from rummaging around in the crates of my past.  I had utterly forgotten that I had done them until I found a set of 11″x14″ black & white selenium toned fibre prints in a box in the storage unit where I keep it all.  The storage unit is a 24 hour, remote access kind of place.  It’s cold, it’s desolately eerie and I don’t like going there.  There’s always something banging and clanging out of sight.  I worry that bad stuff could happen.

Of course as soon as I had spent a few minutes rediscovering the pictures it began to meander back.  Milk, the big New York studio, gave me one of their spaces for virtually nothing.  There was a casting call for a very old school type of bodybuilder.  We really wanted a pre-steroids era kind of guy. I had just bought an iPod, they had only been around for a few months. It was set to random shuffle.  Early in the day it threw up ‘Miss You’ by The Rolling Stones.  I remember being mortifyingly embarrassed in the presence of the daughter of a Rolling Stone.

As for what I said earlier about confronting the mistakes of the past in the endeavour to build a better future, I’m slightly embarrassed to say that, looking at these images now, there is nothing about them that I would have done differently.  There is nothing they can teach me.  I just like looking at them, I’m not ashamed of them. Writing about them here is an indulgence. But that’s ok, there’s loads of other crap in my rear view mirror that I can learn from.  But it can also be said that it’s possible to turn a good career into a great career merely by employing the services of a brilliant editor.

I searched for all the negatives from the shoot but I couldn’t find them.  Maybe they got lost when I moved back to London from New York in 2006.  Is that bad?  Or does it make me value these 3 perfectly flat and preserved fibre prints even more?  I like to think that it really does.

Elizabeth Jagger & Bodybuilder 3. New York City, 2002

Paddy Considine & Peter Mullan Aren’t Dinosaurs

Posted in Commissioned Work, Editorial, Me Myself & I by Chris Floyd on October 11, 2011

Peter Mullan (L) & Paddy Considine (R)

This was one of those ones where you just want to hang around with them all day and listen in to what they’re talking about.  Paddy Considine & Peter Mullan, both fantastic actors and, it seems, human beings too, but wholly uncomfortable when it comes to having to do the kind of thing that they think an encounter with someone like me entails.  This was taken for The Daily Telegraph on a junket – a day of publicity in a London hotel suite.  Interview after interview.  Blah blah blah.  Having to promote and talk about the film that they have just made together, in this case it’s ‘Tyrannosaur’, Considine’s first film as a director.  He also wrote it.  I haven’t seen it yet but I will.

I was the last one of  the day which makes it dodecahedrally worse.  They were not at all into ‘posing up’ and all that.  What kind of pictures did I want?  I explained that the way I view a situation of this nature  is to regard it as an encounter, a conversation, and the photograph that comes from it is merely the record of the conversation.  I told Considine that I learned that from a photographer called Steve Pyke, at which point he said, “Yeah? Steve’s a mate of mine.”  I also told him that an image of mine that was used on a single release by The Verve (Lucky Man) had been ripped off and blown up into a huge poster which appeared on the wall of  a flat in ‘Dead Man’s Shoes’, the Shane Meadows film in which Considine plays a former soldier returning to reap revenge on those who killed his brother.  He asked me if they’d asked my permission and I said no.  Then it wasn’t all so bad and I just encouraged both men to stand in front of me and continue the conversation that they had been having as they walked into the room together.  I began to take pictures and the frame above is one of them.

For me to get the kind of pictures that I want, I try to create an environment that allows the subject(s) to forget where they are.  Fundamentally, I am trying to reveal intimacy and some kind of a truth from a scenario that is innately artificial and demonstrably false.  Some people thrive in this situation.  I have photographed Hollywood actresses who have no problem doing anything you ask in front of 20 people.  With Considine & Mullan though, it was clear that less was once again more.  As they talked and seemed to relax into the scene I had no trouble just reaching in and quietly pulling one of them away so I could then concentrate on capturing them individually.  By now everything in each of them had relaxed and all was right with the world for the rest of the day.

Funny Lady, Just Now, On Television

Posted in Commissioned Work, Editorial, Me Myself & I by Chris Floyd on June 14, 2011

Kristen Wiig - Stylist cover - 14th June 2011

This portrait of Kristen Wiig was shot less than a week ago in the bar of The Connaught Hotel in London’s deluxe Mayfair.  All around us, the streets were awash and teaming with dreadfully attired hedge fund types who, despite their fabulous wealth, refuse to ever wear ties, thus reducing themselves to the level of Match of the Day pundits.

In the old days, pre-branding, a photographer would go to a location and lob up a backdrop.  Not anymore.  Today we create pop up studios.

Through the haze of this smoke and mirror malarkey came this very funny lady, who you may or may not know from being on telly and that, Stateside.

She’s in a film that’s coming out here soon.  It’s called ‘Bridesmaids’.  I haven’t seen it yet but everyone who has tells me it is very funny and they are all ‘super-excited’ about it’s imminent release.

I hope they’re right.  I’m sure they are.  She’s a lovely lady with a whole lot of laughs in her.

The Chuppa Chups bubblegum is best for doing this. Hubba Bubba's rubbish.

It’s All About The Countenance Of The Bull

Posted in Commissioned Work, Editorial, Me Myself & I by Chris Floyd on May 26, 2011
Esquire opening spread: The cold room at Tim Wilson’s farm in Yorkshire, The Ginger Pig

It’s been quite busy here at Clean Living Towers recently so I’m a little bit late putting this up.  In February of this year I travelled up to Malton in northest North Yorkshire with Tom Parker Bowles to work with him on a story for British Esquire about the work of Tim Wilson, a farmer with the reputation of producing the most wonderful beef, as well as pork, lamb and chicken too.  The steaks from Tim’s livestock sit briefly on the tables of some of London’s most sought after restauarants, including the mighty Hawksmoor of Covent Garden.

Tim Wilson

Tim also owns four butcher’s shops, all called The Ginger Pig and all in tactical parts of London (Hackney, Marylebone, Waterloo & Borough Market) that sell his produce, as well as sausage rolls and a whole range of pies that are all made by hand on the farm.  The man is a walking advert for the old school and proper way of doing things, combined with modern ideas about marketing and branding.  While things today often have the patina of sizzle about them, the reality often contains very little actual steak.  The Ginger Pig, on the other hand, produces a range of foods that are very much all steak as equally as all sizzle. And I know because he gave me an absolutely massive bag of meat to take home and eat in the days following my visit.

I made the journey up from London the night before I was due to meet Tom PB and stayed in a B&B nearby. Tim met me the following morning at 6.30am, to give me the chance to head out on the morning feed with one of his shepherds.  Yes, shepherds do still exist. Strapped to the back of a quad bike we lurched off down the freezing lanes around the farm, with random ninety degree turns into fields guarded by gates that would cause equally sudden and forced halts, whereupon I would clamber off and open them up.

Yorkshire from a quadbike. At dawn. In February.

As the quad whizzed past me I’d be required to shut the gate again and leap back on it as it chundered past.  We’d do a lap of the field with the entire animal population chasing us, while I hung off the back photographing them, as the feed bin on the back dropped measures of nourishment all over the place before exiting the field in the exact same manner as we entered. The thing it’s important to bear in mind is that some of these animals have horns. And it was bloody freezing.

Being chased by animals that have horns

Back at the farmyard we met some beautiful little additions to the population.  Not being sure if the destiny of these creatures was the provision of wool for cloth or of meat for the pot, I asked the shepherd’s wife, who was feeding them warm milk from a bottle, what the future looked like for the lambs.  She looked over at them, then back at me.  Her face dropped and she said quietly, “Not good.”

Actual Ginger Pigs

Tom PB had arrived by now and the first thing Tim wanted him to see was the one creature that he says makes the whole thing possible.  Without it, all this meat that surrounded us would be for nowt.  That animal is known as The Bull. The Bull, Tim believes, is the number one reason for the quality of all beef.  If you do not start with the right bull then all his progeny will only ever produce ‘adequate’ beef, not great beef. The countenance of The Bull is everything. Consequently, The Bull resides at a secret location that only Dick Cheney knows the address of.

The Bull

Having met The Bull, however, I feel that the following sentences expresses his impact and awe sufficiently. There are several hundred female bovines on that farm and one single, solitary male, The Bull. When you’re in the presence of The Bull you can literally inhale the testosterone right out of the air around him and use it to help you in a fight in which you could single handedly take on and probably beat 15 Russian sailors.

After that, everything else is downhill so we took the best option available, which was to return to Tim’s farmhouse for a slap up lunch of pies, rolls, pickles, breads and all the stuff that put the ‘Great’ into Great Britain.

Before

After

Read the full story by Tom Parker Bowles in the June issue of Esquire.

How They Get Dressed: Charlie Davies

Posted in Commissioned Work, Editorial, Film, Me Myself & I, Video by Chris Floyd on October 26, 2010
  Charlie Davies

This is Charlie Davies, a football player from Boston, and a strong fixture in the United States world cup squad prior to the tournament in South Africa.  He plays for F.C. Sochaux, a French team from near the Swiss border.  The club was originally founded by Peugeot factory workers in the nineteen twenties.  On October 13 2009 Charlie was smashed up pretty badly in a car accident in Washington D.C., whilst back there for a world cup qualifying game against Costa Rica.  A 22 year old girl, who was a passenger in the car with him died at the scene.

Scarring from work done to relieve brain swelling

I was sent to France to photograph some of his scars for  ESPN The Magazine’s annual ‘The Body Issue.’  He gave me far more time than was required and, in the day we spent together, he showed no signs of any of the behaviour that we have come to expect from some of our native football players here in England.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say that Charlie was an out and out gentleman.  For a start, he only had one phone, as opposed to the usual two that most other players I’ve met seem to possess – one for the wife and one for their life, as the saying goes.  And secondly, he seemed positively thrillled that his girlfriend, Nina, who he met in college, spent the whole day with him on the shoot.

Scarring from the repairs to lacerated bladder

At the end of the shoot we had half an hour spare, which just about gave me the time to shoehorn in a quick go at making something for my “How I Get Dressed” series that would allow to Charlie show us that he’s ready to get back out there and start scoring goals  – 28 in 78 appearances prior to the crash.  And what better way to do it than to ask him to put his kit back on.  There was not the time, however, to get him to do a voiceover for me so I’ve gone a bit off piste here and done one myself, so as to explain the story behind the film.

The link to the film is underneath the picture below.

What Has Chris Albrecht Ever Done For You?

Posted in Commissioned Work, Editorial, Inspiration, Lighting, Me Myself & I by Chris Floyd on October 22, 2010

Chris Albrecht and Jamie Campbell-Bower as 'Arthur'

This the story of a shoot I’ve just done for American GQ and while we’re here, I’ll tell you straight what Chris Albrecht has done for you.  Once upon a time, Chris was the chairman and CEO of an American cable television outfit called Home Box Office that you have to pay a monthly fee to get access to.  I seem to remember that 15 years ago about the only thing that was on that channel that was worth paying for was the odd heavyweight championship boxing fight. But then Chris came along and during his tenure he brought you these:

Sex & The City, The Wire, Band of Brothers, The Sopranos, From The Earth To The Moon, Extras, Deadwood & Curb Your Enthusiasm, among others.

Quite a feat.  Wait though.  There’s more.

He once told his friend Robin Williams that he called his Sicilian grandparents his nana and his nanu.  Hence “Nanu Nanu” from Mork & Mindy.

He co-founded the American arm of Comic Relief.

And he more or less discovered Chris Rock.  From the piece in GQ by Amy Wallace: “In 1989, when Rock was a 24-year-old no-name comic with crooked teeth and “a fucking weird haircut,” he says Albrecht gave him a development deal at HBO. The reason: He’d heard that Rock’s father had died, leaving the family in debt. “This guy figured out a legit way to put some money in my pocket. He really took a chance on me,” Rock recalls. “Shit, we still ended up losing the house, but God bless him.” ”

Quite some guy.  However, Chris then went and did a bad thing. In May 2007, outside the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, he tried to choke his then girlfriend in the middle of a drunken row.  He was arrested.  After he was bailed he sent an email to all of HBO’s staff to apologise for what he’d done and that he would be taking a 6 month leave of absence to seek help from Alcoholics Anonymous.  Not long after that, the Los Angeles Times reported that 16 years earlier he’d had an affair with an HBO employee that finished up with some behind closed doors physicality and a payoff settlement to the woman herself.  Almost immediately, the Chairman & CEO who had turned the channel into the most consistently brilliant producer of original, quality programmes was fired.

He has since spent a couple of years in the wilderness and last year quietly raised his head from beneath the parapet to take over a smaller and far less well known rival of HBO’s, called Starz, where it is hoped he will be able to do for this channel what he did at HBO.

I was commissioned by Justin O’Neill at American GQ to photograph Chris in Dublin, where he was visiting the set of the first production he’s given the green light to since taking over the helm at Starz.  The show is called ‘Camelot’.  I don’t want to give too much away but I can reveal that it stars Eva Green, Joseph Fiennes, a lot of swords and an hombre named Arthur, who becomes some sort of king.

I’d wanted to work for American GQ for a long time and the call from Justin came totally out of the blue.  When I lived in New York he worked at New York Magazine and we had worked together a couple of times then, so it was peachy to hear from him now that he’s at GQ.  To get to Dublin for the shoot, however, would entail my assistant and me having to travel directly from another assignment I was doing in Switzerland the day before this one.  It seemed to be no problem.  We planned to leave Basel after that job and fly to London Gatwick, where we would stay in an airport hotel for the night before climbing onto a plane bound for Dublin at the crack of dawn the next day.  What I didn’t take into account though, was the capability of the French public to drop everything at a moment’s notice and shove it’s hands in it’s pockets for a snidey little 24 hour national strike.  As we walked into the airport check-in area we actually saw the departures info board go from everything showing as being on time and whatever the Swiss German is for ‘tickety boo’ to “cancelled cancelled cancelled cancelled…..”  Included in the strike was the French air traffic control.  Nothing can get from Switzerland to London without flying over France.

Ten years I’ve aspired to work for GQ and here I am, about to head off on the job, so the first thought that entered my head was not “oh, I’m so totally on the side of the French citizenry in their day of protest regarding President Sarkozy’s proposal to raise the national retirement age from 60 to 62.”  It was actually a whole different thought entirely.  The shoot was scheduled to take place at 11am the following morning in Dublin.  Here we were, in Basel, 14 hours to get there, with 1600 miles and two bodies of water between us. Two words: no chance.

I called Justin in New York and gave it to him straight. I was out of the game before I’d had a chance to get in it.  His reaction, however, was that which only an American is capable of.

“There’s no other flights?”

“Justin, nothing is getting out.  There are no planes, no trains and we have a Swiss automobile that we have to return to a Swiss company.”

“Could you fly from there to Dublin directly in the morning if I can persuade Albrecht’s people to put back the start time?”

“I don’t know.  I can have a look on the internet and try and find something.”

“Great!  Then you do that and I’ll get our travel people here to look too.  Lets talk in a while.”

This stuff was only made possible by the internet.  Ten years ago we really would have been stuffed but there we sat, in the Swiss half of Basel Airport (half the airport is in France and the other half is in Switzerland, each side has it’s own customs posts etc) working it out on a laptop while a few yards away the French half of the place sat inert, sullen & moody.  Incredibly, we found a Swiss flight from Zurich to Dublin at 9am the following morning, with seats available.  Arriving at 10.30 in Dublin, we’d need an hour to get to the set and an hour to rig up our lighting etc. Conceivably we could be ready to go by 12.30 at a push. My assistant, Ben, and I left Justin to set about enacting the plan in New York while we jumped back in the rental car and started out for Zurich, an hour’s drive away.

Justin put the call in and Albrecht’s PR came back with a willingness to co-operate which is, honestly, not particularly common when dealing with PR people, who often seem to think that their role in life is to self generate a crisis which they can then rescue their client from, thus making themselves appear to be indispensable.  This time though, they couldn’t have been more accommodating.

Ben and I bedded down for the night in a Zurich hotel room and got about 5 hours sleep before exiting the city of discreet banking practices and assisted suicide clinics via its airport and onwards, to the more earthly pleasures of Dublin.

After hightailing it all the way round the city’s ring road, the M50, to the set at Ardmore Studios, south of Dublin, with an extra assistant that we picked up on the way, we arrived to find the place swarming with hundreds of extras dressed and made up as the dregs of 6th Century Arthurian legend.  Mostly sitting around they were, doing nothing but sudoku, crosswords, sleeping and tweeting.  It was exactly like how it looks in ‘Extras’, another one from the HBO canon..  The production is using three enormous sound stages, one of which they had set aside exclusively for our shoot.  This set is known as ‘The Great Hall’ and was built entirely from scratch.  I’m sure you can imagine the scenario.  Flaming torches, moss, a throne, even the stone floor was shipped in from somewhere else. Our plan was to make a portrait of Albrecht on the Great Hall set and have him surrounded by some of the cast.  It wasn’t made clear which ones it would be until we arrived, though they were quick to tell me that it was to be Jamie Campbell-Bower who plays Arthur and the six hail fellows who form his gang of knights.

After the co-operation of Albrecht’s PR, the next best thing to happen was that the producer of the series gave me full loan of the Best Boy to help with lighting the set.  The Best Boy is number two to the Gaffer.  The Gaffer is the head of the electrical department on a film set and is responsible for the execution of the lighting plan, under the command of the D.O.P. (Director of Photography). I had thousand and thousands of pounds worth of lighting equipment at my immediate disposal with a Best Boy who was  not only willing to help but positively game on for the idea of making the frame we wanted to construct rivetingly glowy.  He then called on half a dozen other sparks and together we began to light up this 6th Century, Arthurian construct.

The Rejection Shot

Primarily I wanted to employ the heavy, warm tungsten lights, that they are using across the production, to light the set and the characters of Arthur & Co.  I would then pick the spot where I wanted Albrecht to stand and mask that area off from all the red/orange light that was illuminating everywhere else.  For the lighting of my main subject I would be using 3 or 4 Profoto flash heads that give out a much cooler, daylight balanced light.  We had had these delivered first thing from a rental company in Dublin.  So, visually, the warm, soft, diffused, continuous light that bathes the set & characters is completely different in tone and colour to the icy, crisp, sharpness of the electronic flash that is directed onto Chris Albrecht.  A man from the 21st century inside the world of the 6th century that he has been fundamental in instigating.

We did all that in about an hour.  Chris Albrecht strolled in, followed by a retinue of courtiers and the only thing he asked me was “Do you think this tie?  Or something less lilac?”  The lilac is fine.

We shot the whole thing in maybe 20-30 minutes.  To be honest, the time goes by in a blur.  I’ve written about this before in a post on the subject of photographing Andrew Lloyd Webber. Everything that my assistants and I have worked towards is concentrated into this one machine gun burst of intensity where you spray the target with everything you have in the way of energy, focus, determination, chutzpah, charm and chat in order to nail the subject to the cross.  Anything to prevent him from wandering off, literally and metaphorically, to somewhere else.  “Someone call 999, this place is on fire!”  I seem to remember bellowing at one point.  When I ask them all to sing the theme tune from Dirty Dancing, ‘I’ve Had The Time Of My Life’, which I often do, it’s not because I necessarily want them to actually sing it.  It’s because I want to see what kind of reaction I get from asking them to sing it, and from that reaction will come something that will be it’s own unique thing.  That is about throwing them off balance, but in a creative way, a way that causes them to realise that they need to be in the here and now in all it’s forms, not physically here but mentally on a beach.  And all the while I am doing this there are about 20 people standing behind me, watching the images float in on a computer screen and they are saying things like, “Meh, his mouth isn’t quite right in this one, you’ll have to fix that in post.” If you let it, that stuff will eat up your confidence in seconds.  We are working towards a peak, a mountain top here.  Don’t get halfway up and tell me you don’t like the view.

After about 350 frames I can feel that we’ve topped this one out and I should let these guys get out of all that iron and leather, just leaving me with a few minutes to grab what I call the ‘rejection shot.’  The rejection shot is the one that I give to the client that allows them to believe that I have enabled them to make a choice, rather than forcing them into a corner with no option but to go with the one and only set-up that I presented.  In this case it was a tight, half length portrait of Mr. Albrecht tying his tie, whilst looking all mogulish.

The risk with this smart political move, however, is that in the words of the late, great Bob Richardson, “You give ’em  a choice of two photographs and you KNOW they’re gonna pick the wrong one.  Fuck that!  They get one and one only.”

The Republicans, Getty Images & Me.

Posted in Copyright, Editorial, Me Myself & I by Chris Floyd on October 20, 2010

Especially for You

“The thing that concerns me the most is that because we now live in a world where we know that political campaigns are big, high profile, professionally-run operations, people might also then assume that the same thoroughness has been applied to the acquisition of promotional and advertising materials, including campaign imagery. If you follow that assumption to it’s natural conclusion, then you might include in it the thought that someone like me has given his full and informed approval to the use of the image because who would be mad enough to run an extensive television advertising campaign without actually clearing the imagery used in it? Now, those same observers could then think, ‘well that guy is quite clearly not an informed and impartial journalist at all.  He’s covering everything from the position of what could, subjectively be termed, an extremist agenda.’ And, suffice to say, included in that smattering of observers of the situation would be the kind of people who previously thought that they could commission me to cover a story for them and, in the process, be impartial enough to photograph/report both sides of it in, ironically enough, a way that could be termed ‘Fair and Balanced’”.

Above is a quote from an interview I recently gave  to Olivier Laurent from the British Journal of Photography on the subject of Getty Images ongoing tussle, on my behalf, with the Republican Party over a portrait I made in 2006 of three young Mexican gentlemen in the town of Altar, Mexico.  For those of you who don’t know, the photograph appears to have been acquired questionably by the Republicans.  What there is no doubt about, however, is the corruption of the facts behind the image once the campaigns of Sharron Angle in Nevada and David Vitter in Louisiana inserted it into different political TV ad campaigns.  Angle stated that the men were illegal aliens and Vitter implied such.  I also discussed with Olivier my sincere hope that Getty Images will do the right thing and defend the editorial integrity of the image in the light of these perceived violations, as their corporate editorial policy implies that they would:

“We believe that photographs are the visual communication of a story and should be held to an equal level of accountability, responsibility and integrity as the written word in journalism. Images illustrate and reflect the events of our world today and therefore have a responsibility to be delivered to the customer with accuracy and impartiality.”

I’m looking forward to Getty utilising the moral and legal high ground, that it seems to occupy in this case, to bring to bear a satisfactory conclusion, not only for me but for the honour and dignity of the three men in the photograph.

Stay tuned for a gripping and righteous conclusion to this tale, with Getty Images acting as the symbolic knight in shining armour, fighting for small and insignificant copyright holders, wherever they may rest.

When in doubt always, always, always defer to simplicity

Posted in Commissioned Work, Editorial, Me Myself & I by Chris Floyd on October 17, 2010

 

Amanda Foreman

 

This is the second week in a row that I’m gracing the cover of the Sunday Times Magazine.  I know how it looks but it’s one of those things where perception and actuality are quite different.  Last week’s Michael McIntyre cover was shot a couple of months ago before this one of Amanda Foreman and through the whim of the editor they’ve ended up running on consecutive Sundays.  I am not down at Wapping every week, on my knees behind The Paywall, begging for all they can give me.

Amanda Foreman is a historical biographer.  In 1999 she published the book ‘Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire’ and this went on to sell in the millions.  Subsequently, the film rights were sold and it was turned into a film -‘The Duchess’ starring Keira Knightley & Ralph Fiennes.  Amanda is now about to publish a new book, on a subject that I’m particularly drawn to, the American Civil War.  However, she’s tackling it from an angle that I have not much considered before; Britain’s role in it.  Bear in mind that the years the war lasted , 1861-1865, was also the period when Britain could be considered at the absolute peak of it’s empirical power.  Consequently, we literally had our industrial and political fingers in every facet of the conflict’s pie.  I’m yet to read the book but in a nutshell we seemed to be selling guns to one side (The Enfield Rifle Co. sold over a million) and bullets to the other. The most obvious facet is how inextricably linked the British cotton industry was to the cotton based slave trade of the American south.  Why do you think they’re called ‘dark satanic mills’?

Anyway, back to the photography.  The idea was originally pitched to me by Monica Allende from the Magazine.  It was not, she emphasised, her idea. It had come from higher up and she was unsure of from where.   The concept involved sourcing the three flags of the book’s main actors and wrapping each one of them around Amanda Foreman’s naked torso.  I’ll be honest and say that I was doubtful it would work.  The concept of trying to make a portrait of a woman in her early forties, wrapped in the three flags that represent the participants in her book, struck me as the classic end product of the thought processes of an old school, Fleet Street, male newspaper type of bloke.  Frankly, it sounded like a terrible idea.  Would they have done this to Simon Schama?  Niall Ferguson?  David Starkey?  No, definitely not David Starkey.  I thought it was a quagmire of old school, Fleet Street sexist and flesh obsessed juvenility.

Somewhere between the idea and the execution the woman was going to get separated from her dignity.

The problem for me was that I had already said yes to the assignment.  They hit me with the concept later.  I could have reacted in two ways.  My emotional instinct was to throw a complete hissy fit and pull out there and then, claiming ‘artistic differences.’  Believe me, we don’t do these jobs for the money.  We do them for exposure and credibility.  As soon as you realise that you’ve become committed  to something that threatens that credibility then you better understand what’s personally at stake.  A million people will see this and I can’t afford to allow one of them to look at the end result and say “Wow, that’s a bit shit.”

Alternatively, I could take the whole thing as a challenge and draw upon my technical experience as much as my aesthetic instincts to try and pull it off. So in my head I started to break down the components I’d need to make it work and allow Amanda to not only keep her dignity but, also, to acquire some photographic nobility.

The easiest place to start was to write down a list of what I didn’t want.  That began with the names of half a dozen photographers who might have done a job like this in the past and who would, I believed, make a right hash of this one.  Then came the flags.  They had to be old, knackered, proper, thick cotton ones.  They just look better, feel better and are better.  They represent longevity and authenticity over disposability and fakery.  If I see a single fibre of polyester then I’m walking.  Finally, Amanda herself.  Here’s my tip to anyone reading this of how to get through a potential nightmare of naffness such as this; always, always, always defer to simplicity.  When in doubt, simplify.  Take things away, don’t add more.  Less lights, less mess, less fuss, less ostentatious, less fancy, less showy, less make up, less wind machines, less funny angles, less less less.  In other words, just let a pine cone be a pine cone.  It’s beautiful as nature made it.  It doesn’t need any glitter.

Next thing is to formally ask myself why we are doing this.  Here’s why.  This woman is a historian.  She writes books.  The reason she’s here today is because of a book she’s written on the British role in the American Civil War.  The magazine, as they have for a long time, like the literal approach to a photograph.  The editor’s decision is final and the editor likes the picture to serve as a form of visual affadavit to the words that accompany it.  The image serves the words, not vice versa, and neither is there a mutuality of service between words and pictures.  The words hover over the images in a coat made of haughty, detached superiority complex.  I think it’s because, in a magazine, the words are actually deeply insecure.  They know they need the picture but they hate that reliance.  So they behave in a way that says “Make sure the reader looks at me too.  You’ve got to tell them about me !”  It’s as if they’ve lost the confidence in themselves to trust the reader to go there without the thuggish, strong arming attitude of the accompanying photograph.  Hence, in a situation such as this, subtlety is not the watchword.

Therefore, a cover image of a female historian who’s written a book about Britain and the American Civil War must feature the following:

1) The woman as attractive and desirable.  Clever and pretty.  A boy’s subject presented by a girl.  Wow! A treat for the thinking man on a Sunday.

2) Some form of symbol depicting the book’s subject, just so he doesn’t need to ask.

3) A representation of the fact that the woman was immersed in the subject for over ten years which means she really knows her stuff.

And that is how we ended up with the picture above.  Once all the elements were in the frame it then became a question of arranging and organising them in a way that went back to what I said earlier about deferring to simplicity. I didn’t ask her to do anything silly or be hammy in any way. The slash of red lipstick is enough. The three flags tell us what it’s about.  There was also an interesting little consideration that popped up on the day of the shoot concerning the fact that the American people  have quite a deeply held dislike of their flag ever touching the ground.  I’m not sure but it may even be illegal in the U.S.  Thus, not wanting to upset 300 million people on a Sunday morning we sacrificed ourselves and just let the Union Flag do the dirty work on the floor, not inappropriately, bearing in mind some of the skullduggerous things Britain engaged in during the Civil War.  And finally, the fact that she is utterly wrapped inside them tells us that this is a subject she knows about from the inside out.

What’s more, none of this would have been possible at all without the complicit cooperation of Amanda Foreman herself.  In fact, I rarely speak to a subject before meeting them but in her case I decided to call her the day before the shoot and check with her to see if she  (a) knew about the concept in advance and (b) was willing to do it.  Her answer to both questions was not only yes but a complete jolly hockey sticks kind of a  yes.

The end product is the result of following a narrow path, surrounded by booby traps and man traps, that requires the satisfaction of the client that I have made a commitment to, perhaps initially unwisely, and also the fulfillment of my own need to produce something that I can put up on here, believing that it works because I also know that I’m self aware enough to be able to realise when something I’ve done’s a bit shit.

Mandatory Fun

Posted in Commissioned Work, Editorial, Me Myself & I by Chris Floyd on October 10, 2010

 

 

Michael McIntyre

 

Michael McIntyre

If you’re that way inclined then today’s Sunday Times features my portrait of Michael McIntyre, Britain’s ‘current King of Comedy’  (Lynn Barber), on the cover of the magazine.  The opening spread inside the mag also hosts this exercise in digital manipulation, expertly performed by James & John at FTP Digital in London.

The Sunday Times is available from all news stockists and is priced, I believe, at £2.00 £2.20.

 

From left: Michael McIntyre, Michael McIntyre, Michael McIntyre, Michael McIntyre, Michael McIntyre and Michael McIntyre,

 

Undocumented Illegal Aliens & The Republican Party Campaign Ads.

Posted in Commissioned Work, Editorial, Me Myself & I by Chris Floyd on October 8, 2010

 

 

 

Anonymous Mexican Men photographed in Altar, Mexico, 2006

 

About 6.30 this morning, a series of persistent pings on my iphone woke me up. It was  half a dozen emails from friends in America every one of which had a link attached. Each link took me to a different website but it was the same story each time. One of the e-mails was from Sanjiv Battacharya, a British journalist based in LA who I have worked with several times. He was convinced that a photo I took on a story we did together for British GQ in 2006 on The Minutemen, a citizen group concerned about the proliferation of illegal immigrants in the United States, had been used in two different Republican Party TV ad campaigns. The photo (above) is of three young Mexican men in a town square in Altar, Mexico. The TV ads, which are for the senatorial campaigns of Sharron Angle in Nevada and Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, claim that these men are aliens illegally living in the United States. The fact that these men were Mexican citizens photographed in Mexico kind of negates their claims.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/10/06/sharron-angle-david-vitte_n_752892.html

The picture was one of several used in the story that ran in British GQ in October 2006. Since then all of the pictures from that trip have resided in the Getty Images News Archive. I know that pictures from the story have been republished elsewhere from time to time but at this stage I do not know for sure if this particular one has been used anywhere else. I also do not know if the two Republican campaigns acquired the picture by legal means from the Getty site (we’re still waiting to find that out) or if they both just lifted it from somewhere else, maybe another magazine, or even my own website which has had the picture on in the past, but I think that is unlikely. Nevertheless, the issue that is bothering me is that the availability of the image via Getty, was supposed to be restricted to editorial use only. I would not classify the usage in these advertisements as editorial.

 

The opening spread of the story as it appeared in British GQ, October 2006

 

At this early stage the legal and usage issues are still too uncertain because the facts on how the photo was acquired are not yet known. My feelings on how the picture has been used, however, are quite clear.  Fundamentally, a portrait of three Mexican men taken in Mexico, admittedly in the midst of a story about the Arizona Minutemen and their role in the illegal alien issue has been ripped away from the context of that story and used to portray the men in it as almost satanic modern day reds under the bed.

And to assuage any confusion about the picture, the caption on the Getty website that accompanies the image clearly states that these men were Mexican citizens photographed in their own country.  Nowhere does it say that these men are illegal immigrants in the U.S.  So even if the Republicans downloaded it from Getty they could have seen there and then that the purpose for which they intended to use it was off the mark.

Here’s the caption:

“ALTAR, MEXICO: Mexicans pose for a portrait whilst gathered in the town square of Altar, Mexico. Altar is located 40 miles from the US border and is the last major town that Mexicans reach before the dangerous crossing. Much of its economy is dependant upon these congregated Mexicans who can purchase numerous necessary provisions. The Minutemen, most of whom are white, retired, armed citizens devote much of their time to musters or vigilante border watches in the Arizona desert, preventing Mexican illegal immigrants flooding into the US. These Minutemen, who claim to simply watch and report to the border police, have received criticism for being a cover for white supremacists whilst others hail them as heroes. Either way, they have struck a cord with many Americans who sympathise with their mission to make an impact on the illegal immigrants that are flooding across the Mexican border at a faster rate than ever. It is estimated that around 750,000 illegal immigrants entered America in 2005, amounting to more than 2000 per day, joining the 12 million that already live there. (Photo by Chris Floyd/Getty Images)”

The men I met that morning in the Altar town square told me that they were farmers from the far south of Mexico and that that season’s crop had failed, leaving them with nothing to sell and no option, they felt, but to make the journey north to America to seek work. At the point that photograph was taken not one of them had ever set foot in America, and I have no idea if they ever did.

 

The picture as it appeared in the original layout

 

 

Minuteman, Arizona

 

What would be great to discover now is that one or all of those dudes are working as gardeners for the Governors of Nevada or Louisiana.

The Washington Post have now written about this after calling me earlier today

I will try to update more on this as the facts are established.

22.24 BST – The news so far on the question of the licence of the image has become a little clearer, if not crystal clear.  I just spoke to Aidan Sullivan a Senior VP at Getty Images and so far they have established that the picture has been licensed twice via the online system in the last 2 years. Once by AOL for a tiny news item and very recently indeed in 2008 by a design firm in Washington DC that do a lot of work for the Republican Party.  However, we only know that the licence they purchased was an editorial one.  For them to acquire a licence allowing usage in a TV ad of this nature they would have had to have contacted a real life human.  Apparently, Getty do have someone in DC who deals exclusively with the political parties and they are looking into the question of whether or not anyone contacted this person for the rights to use it in a TV ad or if that licence was granted.  The question of whether or not I was asked if I had any objections to this kind of usage cannot be raised until we are certain that the firm who licensed the image for editorial use did, in fact, make the right legal moves in gaining an advertising licence.

I’ve now added a wide selection of photographs from the original story, many previously unpublished, to my website.

 

13 Oct 2010:  Woken up to discover that the Sharron Angle campaign has taken down her ad from youtube.  Not sure about Vitter’s one yet.

Sharron Angle's "Thanks, Pal" ad is now off the internet.

 

Anonymous Mexican man & son, Altar, Mexico

 

 

Illegal migrant just picked up by the Border Patrol, Nogales, Arizona.

 

 

Border Patrol agent calls in a sighting of a breach in the fence

 

How They Get Dressed

Posted in Commissioned Work, Editorial, Film, Me Myself & I, Video by Chris Floyd on October 3, 2010

Patrick Grant (left) & Theo Hutchcraft (right)

This is my first post for about 2 months and like an unpaid bill or bank statement, I’ve really been putting off opening it.  This blog business moves so fast and there’s so much coming at you that it often feels like you need to be out there showing off some shiny new project every damned day.  The simple fact of it all is, however, that sometimes, in fact, for weeks at a time I don’t really have all that much to say at all.  Like everybody else I’m just trying to get by, earn a living and stop the bank from getting too curious about what  I’m up to. After that, I try to find the time to produce interesting things.

It’s now the first week of October and this post can trace it’s roots back to mid July when I was commissioned by The Sunday Times Style Magazine to photograph three men for the Mens Fashion Special.  They were Patrick Grant, director of Norton & Sons and E.Tautz, a pair of Savile Row tailors; Joseph Corre, founder of Agent Provocateur and now the driving force behind A Child of the Jago; Theo Hutchcraft & Adam Anderson, who make up the duo, Hurts.

The original call was to simply produce a portrait of each man depicting his personal approach to the daily ritual of dressing.  However, I had also been recently asked by Kate Suiter, the photography director of Style, to give some thought to the possibility of producing some short films for the Sunday Times website.

This story seemed to lend itself not just to the moving format more than the still one, but also to the audio format.  I’m very aware, as a photographer, that if I want to make the move into film then it’s extremely important that I pay attention to the narrative and the sound, as much as, if not more so, the imagery.  The mantra has to be ‘no story, no film’.

Kate and I agreed that I would photograph each of the men and also make a short film on the theme of “How I get dressed.”   Apart from that, she had the grace and confidence to let me get on with it without questioning or dictating my methods and, remarkably, did not even ask to see anything until the deadline day, which was the Thursday before the Sunday of publication.  I really do believe that it’s possible to do your best work when the client gives you the space to do the very thing that they hired you to do for the very reason that they hired you to do it, and Kate has done that consistently throughout the years of our working relationship.  So, big ups to her.

Joe Corre

Each of the men was scheduled to be photographed/filmed on a different day and in a different place and this threw up the most difficult part of the series, with the emphasis on the word ‘series’.  I wanted all of it – the photographs and the films – to be of a piece.  I wanted them all lit the same and shot on the same background and I wanted the men isolated from their daily environment and put into a neutral space.

I approached each of the three days in the same way.  I and my assistants, Ben & Sarah, would arrive and while they loaded the equipment in, I would find the biggest/best space to work in and then leave them to get the lighting ready.  While they were doing that I would spend the time talking to the subject and explain the idea behind our visit.  I was looking to film a quiet, dignified study of a gentleman at the most contemplative part of his day – the time he spends dressing and preparing to face the world – and not, as Joe Corre put it, “poke around in my sock drawer.”  The photographic portraits would come first and, if the truth be told, I felt that I could get those in the bag not necessarily with my eyes closed, but certainly much quicker than the time it would take for each of the films.

In the course of shooting each of the films, I felt that I was riding a learning curve that seemed to increase at a phenomenally exponential rate.  Stills and movies are not the same thing but they certainly share a lot of the same genes, so after nearly 20 years as a photographer I have found that film making, for me, is like arriving on a planet with a lot of very familiar landmarks.

Patrick Grant

As filming progressed I realised that not only did the films need to be stylistically similar with regard to lighting and background, but also similar in composition, angle and speed/rate of cuts between shots.  All of these were edited in iMovie, the main reason being that I don’t even possess a copy of Final Cut Pro and, also, speaking honestly, I find FCP scarily complicated.  It’s a whole other kettle of fish to get into and I’m sure I will, in the same way that I did with Photoshop, organically and over a good many years so that it becomes something that I absorb by osmosis rather than in a concentrated, intense classroom way.

Once we had all the film in the can – well, digital footage shot on the 5D backed up in triplicate – we then spent about one day per film editing and then went back to each of the guys to show them their film and sit down to record their voiceovers.  Patrick Grant recorded his in his basement studio at Savile Row by speaking it off the top of his head in sync with the film.  Joe Corre watched his film in his office and used it as a visual springboard to express his thoughts on style, fashion and the power of make up, while Theo Hutchcraft and Adam Anderson, who make up the band Hurts, emailed me their monologues on the great white shirt and the importance of polishing your shoes from somewhere on the road, as they were touring and unavailable to meet me for a sit down. This is the weakest of the three.  The voiceover they gave me, despite probably being the most romantic and evocative, was also too short for the film I’d cut so I had to stretch it out by inserting silences between each of their monologues.  I’d like to have done it with them in person and teased out a bit more than what they gave me, I think it would have been stronger.

Adam Anderson & Theo Hutchcraft

The final trio of films and series of portraits is, I hope, a good start for me in the world of the moving image.  Documentary is what interests me and it’s the story that I want.  I am not a conceptual photographer so why would I be a conceptual film maker?  As ever, this is a conduit through which I can ask questions and learn about what makes people tick.  From them, hopefully, I can discover something about myself on the way.

Lang Lang: Royal Academy of Music Tutorial

Posted in Commissioned Work, Editorial, Me Myself & I by Chris Floyd on June 17, 2010

Lang Lang gives a masterclass at the Royal College of Music

Photographed this on a 5×4 Zone V1 field camera on Thursday 20th May 2010.  You should see the 40×30″ print I made of it.  Delicious.

The Fittest Men In The World

Posted in Commissioned Work, Editorial, Me Myself & I by Chris Floyd on May 22, 2010

Tim Howard

A couple of months ago I got one of those calls that will, if you thrive on being commissioned, lift your mood and keep it high for the rest of the day. It came from Brenda Mills at the American edition of Mens Health Magazine in New York. I have to admit I did not know Brenda at all, but what she had to offer was exactly the kind of thing that makes it all worthwhile.

She told me she had been aware of my work for a couple of years and had been looking for an opportunity to give me an assignment ever since. However, as they don’t commission much of anything in Europe, it had taken this long for the opportunity to present itself.

This Is How we Roll

The story was to focus on 4 members of the United States world cup football team – yes, football football, not American football. One, Oguchi Onyewu, is at AC Milan and the other three, Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore and Tim Howard are at English Premier League clubs, respectively, Fulham, Hull City (on loan from Villareal) and Everton.

Milanello - The AC Milan Training Camp

Milan Dressing Room

Of course, the buzz of the call doesn’t last long because we are then into the considerable grind of dealing with the players’ reps, agents, sponsors and clubs. It’s at this point that you become acutely aware of the percentage factor in these stories. All of these people are not only major actors in the lives of the players, they are the main actors, and as such, they have a percentage stake in them. What we get, in both time and committment, is what’s left after they have all taken their percentage multiplied by the player’s interest and committment to the picture and then divided by their fitness level on the day of the shoot. If anyone out there wants to devise a mathematical formula that could encapsulate this, where:

Q=quality of photo, P=Player’s level of committment, F=Fitness level, A=Agent, S=Sponsor, C=Club then I’d love to have it because I could apply it to a whole load of people I have to deal with as a photographer .

Oguchi Onyewu

First stop was Milanello, literally ‘Little Milan’, the training camp of AC Milan – although Stalag Luft would be a better description.  Located about 40 miles north of Milan it had been snowing  continuously for 24 hours prior to our arrival and when we finally found our way to the world’s remotest sports centre we were greeted by an armed guard at the gate and ordered to wait in a holding area until the director of the facility appeared, who, in a classically understated Italian way encouraged us to avail ourselves of the venue’s gourmet hospitality, which we did, tucking into a good three courses of beautifully presented, fit for the young kings to whom it’s normally served food, at the end of which we were presented with a bill. €10 each, cash only, no receipt.

Oguchi himself, however, was an utter gentleman and gave over 2 hours of his highly paid spare and injured time whilst his fit and healthy team mates, including David Beckham, were over in Manchester preparing to get battered 4-0 by United. So we got the run of the place and to see the stultifying ordinariness of the lockers of people like Beckham and Ronaldinho was fascinating. Beckham, I can tell you, keeps 2 pairs of trainers in his locker along with a toothbrush, toothpaste, some deodorent and Go 24/7 hair wax. All lined up in an orderly manner. Ronaldinho’s locker, by comparison, was an absolute tip. Boots everywhere and just a lot of piled up dross and magazines. A one man favella in the midst of a Milanese obsessive compulsive convention.

Oguchi In The Physio Pool

If we return to that equation for a minute I can tell you that the one factor that blew it apart was indeed Oguchi’s fitness.  He was returning from a bad knee injury and refused, point blank, to do anything for our picture that might jeapordise it.  No jumping, no running, no ball work.  In the end I got him to play the part of central defender with me, the camera, as the predatory attacking player and he agreed to do that – track me and shut me down as I tried to get past him. You can see it in the video here.

With a full stomach and snow in our cords we left him alone in the northern Italian wilderness to return to the suburbs of south London for some face time with Clint Dempsey of Fulham – which was a shocking encounter, as his face had actually been mashed up by somebody else’s elbow the day before, in his first game back after a 7 week absence from injury. So, stuck with another reluctant thoroughbred, we pulled in a gang of kids from the school next to Fulham’s training ground to take him on in a friendly game of eleven eleven year olds against one big, bad Yank.  First kick of the game though, an eleven year old schoolboy totally made Clint’s day by booting the ball directly into the meat of his American Heartland.

Clint Dempsey

Hammer Time

Two visits up north followed Clint, and at last we got a couple of players who were not only fully fit, but willing to give us a full committment to the images we wanted to try and get. First, Jozy Altidore, who is signed to Villareal of Spain but has spent this season on loan to Hull City, took us to a local park which was bathed in the most perfect English late afternoon spring light. He then let me photograph him doing scissor kick after scissor kick while I lay on the ground shooting from below and betting him that he couldn’t hit various targets in the park.

Jozy Altidore

The final player, Tim Howard, the Everton goalkeeper was the only one we couldn’t shoot outdoors. It had rained so much up there that we we had no choice but to go into the huge indoor training pitch that Everton have and photograph him in there. Again and again he dived for the balls that we lobbed at him, while he endured Phil Neville making sarcastic comments from the sidelines and then, to cap it all, he took off his shirt. Beefy.

Tim Howard

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Trying To Keep It Real

Posted in Commissioned Work, Editorial, Lighting, Me Myself & I by Chris Floyd on March 4, 2010

Looking idly through some photo agency websites yesterday, it really hit me how normal it is now to see the level of retouching that is being carried out on photographs of women today.  Not just models and movie stars but plain old, decent, ordinary modern women.  I don’t believe that 10 or 15 years ago photographers, as a group, decided to set out on a path that would, in 2010, consistently and regularly portray women in the published sphere as poreless and flawless to such an extent that often they now look not much different from an egg with features but, somehow, that is frequently where we find ourselves.

Today, then, I’d like to put up a feature I recently shot for Psychologies magazine on five different women and their personal approach to dress.  All five are what they call in Magazine Land ‘Real People’ which means that they were all unused to being photographed and were, therefore, quite nervous about the whole thing.  They are not models or actresses. They do normal jobs, like everybody else.

My job is to make them feel good, make them feel special, to keep telling them that what they are giving me is just exactly what we need today and do it all at a pace that allows us to shoot all 5 inside one 8 hour day.  Go over the 6pm location deadline and we’re into overtime, which they – the client – really, really do not like.

If you’re going to accept an assignment like this then I think it’s important that you acknowledge the ‘real’ in ‘Real People’.  This means that you must quickly find a way to hone in on the best attributes of each woman.  Continuously flatter them and make them feel good and, sure enough, for a few moments each of them will forget where they are and shed their self consciousness for long enough to show you something that elevates them, for that time, into something special, which is, after all, how I feel about all women.  They give birth to us and now that I have a wife and children of my own, I am far enough away from trying to impress them for my own ego’s sake that it actually allows me to flirt to high heaven with them in the most liberated way you could imagine.  Let a woman see that you wear a wedding ring and have children and she will laugh so much longer and harder at your lame, rubbishy jokes, more in sympathy with the woman that lives with you than anything else.

What you see here, apart from what is possible in a traditional photographic darkroom – colour, contrast, light & shade, has not been cosmetically altered in anyway.  I’ve just used lighting, good hair & make up artists and the most important tool a photographer has – an awareness of one’s subject that allows a connection to take place.

For Sale: One Newly Shot And Immediately Killed Portrait Commission

Posted in Awkward Intervention of Facts, Commissioned Work, Editorial, Me Myself & I by Chris Floyd on February 19, 2010

These portraits of Andrew Lloyd Webber were shot last week at the Jerwood Space in London.  They were commissioned by a British magazine but for reasons I’m not sure of, the feature has been dropped.

So, here they are, available for purchase.  First world rights, first UK rights, first, first, first.  All up for grabs. If anyone out there wants to pick them up then you know where we are.

Now, let’s get on to the subject of photographing this man.  I’ve been working as a professional photographer since 1993 and I’m not sure that I have ever photographed anyone who was as uncomfortable and awkward in his skin as Lord Lloyd Webber was last week.

When we arrived at the Jerwood they gave us a big empty rehearsal room to use as the shoot location.  For anyone that doesn’t know about it, the Jerwood is a fantastic rehearsal space for theatre and dance companies.  I think he was there overseeing the rehearsal of a new show, Love Never Dies, it was never established.

The room was empty, save for a wall of mirrors at one end and a piano.  I had brought a 9 foot colorama with me and on sight of the piano I decided to put up the white backdrop and wheel the piano on to it.  I had no idea if he would be into it but I had the idea of getting him to play it like an old school pub/music hall singer.  Back half turned to the audience and with a lot of look backs over the shoulder while camping it up, I thought it’d be funny to get him to play it like one of those old fellas.  It might also loosen him up for the portrait I wanted to do later.  I always like to do something that will loosen the subject up first.  It helps me to relax and find my feet while the boiling cauldron of fire inside plays chicken with my confidence

A friend who is the features editor at Britain’s biggest selling monthly men’s magazine knows how all this works.  He swears the biggest compliment you can ever be paid as a photographer by any celebrity PR person is if you are referred to as ‘quick’.  “Oh yeah.  He’s great.  He’s quick.”

We’d been told that we had him for 45 minutes but it NEVER turns out like that.  Whatever time they tell you can have– take that figure, divide it by 2 and then subtract 15% of the originally allotted time period.  Thus 45 minutes becomes 15 minutes.  The way to deal with these inevitabilities is to come with enough equipment for 3 set-ups ready to go simultaneously.  That way you wheel them through it, spending 5 minutes on each one and at the end it looks like you’ve had half a day or more with the subject.  And when they see the finished results and all the great shots you pulled off they say, “Wow!  That guy was great.  So quick!”  This means that, as long as you’re not unpleasant, they’ll invite you back.

The man enters at the allotted time of 12.15.  We shake hands.  It is perfunctory.  He asks me what kind of picture I want.  Our discussion on this proceeds thus:

CF:         “Well, I’d like to produce something that conveys some sense of intimacy but I’m also acutely aware, bearing in mind our actual levels of intimacy are zero, based on the immutable fact that we have never met before and that we have several people with an overly sensitive awareness of time and it’s passing standing immediately behind me, that this may be unlikely.”

ALW: “Where shall I stand?  Here?”

CF: “Well, I’ve put a piano there for you.  Why don’t you sit at the piano”

ALW sat at the piano and remained still.

CF: “I thought you might play for us.  It would be nice.  While we’ve got you here I might as well get a private performance out of you.  You know they’ve been paying us the same rates since 1992.  We need a bit extra these days to, you know, make it worthwhile, so a piano recital might just do the trick today”

ALW places his fingers on the keys of the piano and leaves them there.

CF: “Actually, what I thought would be REALLY, REALLY GREAT is to get you to play it like an old pub singer.  Would you play with your back to the camera and bash out ‘Knees Up Mother Brown’ whilst looking back over your shoulder at us, the audience.”

ALW: “No, I’m not going to do that.”

ALW’s PA: “Actually you should really see Andrew’s rock n’ roll party trick playing.”

CF: “Brilliant!  Can you play like Little Richard?”

ALW (quietly): “No, not here.”

So ALW played the piano quite inaudibly and half heartedly while I buzzed around him like an irritant.  A grit of sand inside the shell of an oyster, with an extremely low chance of ever becoming a pearl.

However, as I buzzed, I became highly aware of how uncomfortable he was.  He appeared as if he literally could not settle inside himself.  I noticed that he wasn’t even playing a tune.  He seemed to just be playing scales.  I began to focus on what I call ‘the moments between the moments’ and that’s where I found my groove with him.  I always know when I’ve hit it, my stride, my groove.  I know when it’s peaking.  It’s a wave and you ride it for as long as you can.  You feel an external energy take you over but it comes from the inside, you can’t help it, you’re buzzing on it.  And the thing is this:  what you’re buzzing on is never the thing you thought you had come there to get.  It’s always something you didn’t know there was until it showed itself to you.  In this case, I had come hoping to unleash Andrew Lloyd Webber’s inner pub singer but instead, I found a man who, despite all those accolades and success, seemed unsure, nervous, awkward and most of all, fragile.

We soon left the piano and I put him by a window, which had it’s moments.  Finally I gave him the forensic treatment.  18 inches from the lights.  Camera as close as it could go and still stay in focus.  20 frames, talking all the time, cajoling, teasing, flattering, looking for a reactive flash in the eyes.

All the while, the PA is pushing me to “End it.  Now.”

“It’s ok,” I say.  “We’ve peaked.”

Last frame.

CF: “Say ‘Lesbian’”

ALW: “No.”

Done.  Look at my watch.  12.32pm.  17 minutes.

Andrew Lloyd Webber gathers his things and as he heads for the door:

“Thank you!  Thank you so much for doing this so quickly. Bye bye.”

I love you. I’m just not in love with you.

Posted in Awkward Intervention of Facts, Editorial, Future of Magazines, Inspiration by Chris Floyd on February 8, 2010

Shot on actual film.

Further down this post is an email reply to somebody I know in New York who used to work at some very big American magazines as a photo editor and decided to jack it all in and pursue other photography related activities. My reference to the greyhound is in response to an alcoholic beverage she has offered to make me if I ever visit her in California.

Bearing in mind the total feeding frenzy of vitriol that rained down on me the last time I got into a public discussion of this sort – the January 2008 back & forth with Andrew Hetherington on What’s The Jackanory? over the state of the UK editorial market – it would probably be wise of me to shut my damn mouth and look away right now.  But, that’s never really been my nature and it does go someway to explaining why during my life I’ve been involved in public physical altercations more often than I would have liked.

So, having recently launched this blog, I feel it important to say it how I see it under my own banner.  Considering that, as of this morning, I still do work for a considerable number of esteemed publications I would like to state here and now that I love you all.  I just wish that the people who owned you loved you a fraction as much as the contributors who you have paid the same day rates to for the last 20 years do.  And I only say this stuff because I love you.  Unfortuantely, because this love has gone for so long now unrequited, I’m no longer in love with you.  You (emphasis on publishers, not editorial staff) do not love the people that create your products or the people that buy your products.  You’ve made the fatal political mistake of ignoring your base, which is now leaving you for other parties.

Dear  ***********,

It sounds good that you got out from under the 9 to 5 cosh.  Magazines as a species are dying and they are not doing it in a dignified way.  They are hanging around like an unwanted guest at a party.  With a few excellent exceptions, they’re not even trying to make themselves into something that can compete with free internet content.  They have no USP.  I don’t blame the editorial staff.  These are all talented and commited people.  It’s the paucity of investment, belief and cojones within managements that is the problem.  They did not man the f*** up when they should have and as a result we are left with content that has been parlayed by fear into inoffensiveness.   This was, for a while, the cause of a great deal of lachrymosity on my part.  But now I have realised that the relationship between us is over I feel ok about it.  I’m no longer in love and I’m in the market for a new girlfriend and I’m really really enjoying being single.  How the future might pan out, I don’t know, who the hell ever did….but I’m actually very excited.  It’s made me think a lot more deeply and laterally about my photography and about what it is I should be doing and it sounds like you are doing the same.

Save me a greyhound.

Keep on keeping on.

Chris x

I also have no wish for this blog to radiate negativity, whch is why I leave at the end of this post an image of Donald Sutherland as Oddball in Kelly’s Heroes – arguably the world’s first hippy and whose cathphrase “So many positive waves, maybe we can’t lose” is a pointer by which to approach the future as a photographer.  Or anything else for that matter.