Another shoot from almost a year ago (August 2019 in fact – where did that year go?). Jess is a fabulous model I’ve worked with a few times and she returned for a workshop event at Strangetown Studio on a warm but windy summer’s day.
I think I first met Jess when she was modelling for a fashion designer and her fashion experience is very evident here, I think. But she’s much more than a fashion model – with that face, hair and figure, she could do pretty much anything! An absolute joy to photograph, as I hope these images convey.
Since coronageddon kicked off, and my usual photography bookings became rarer than truths from a government adviser, I’ve been filling my time with lots of online tutorials, walks, trying new recipes, and roughly 40% of the time, looking after my 13 year-old daughter – which largely involves making sure she gets on with her allotted schoolwork and regularly shovelling food to within arm’s reach. In addition, it’s been nice (for us both) to introduce her to some new creative activities such as music recording, digital art and editing photographs using Lightroom.
I confess there may be a longer term dream that she’ll one day take over the editing side of my photography business (when she’s not at university or becoming a massive success in whatever “proper” career direction she chooses) while I do the bit I enjoy most – taking pictures. Editing, to me, is a means to an end. Unlike many other photographers, I really don’t enjoy the editing process. However, predictably, my daughter has taken to Lightroom like a duck to water and within an hour of my initial guidance, was using functions that I rarely if ever use myself.
And so here are a few of my photographs as edited on Lightroom by “my young apprentice”. She chose to work on these images from a “Urban Ballet” themed shoot at my Strangetown Studio featuring the wonderful Emilie Walt. Not necessarily how I’d have done them – but that’s the whole point. I’m rather chuffed with her results…
Like many other self-employed peeps, the enforced lockdown has had a humungous and devastating effect on my photography business. For one reason or another, I was one of the many who “fell between the cracks” of the various governmental aid packages for the self-employed and small businesses and so with nothing coming in and still home/studio rent to pay, it’s been a pretty stressful time.
I tell you this not because I am about to announce a link to my JustBegging page or would like you to send me toilet roll and tins of baked beans at your earliest opportunity, but because there have been some actual positives to the time spent here alone. Here are a few…
- Professional Development: I have spent time reading a wide range of material and watching hours of tutorials (some good, many very bad) to consolidate – or learn for the first time – methods and techniques to improve the standard and range of my photographic understanding.
- Equipment: I have begun using my Holga (120) and Olympus Trip (35mm) to record some of my activities during lockdown on film, cameras that I haven’t taken out of my bag for a year or two. I’ve also had time to investigate potential new equipment purchases for when the work situation improves.
- Time Apart: Not HAVING to use my camera on a regular basis has meant that I’m now itching to get back to using it as soon as possible. The same could be said about my studio – I’m regularly buzzing with ideas about new shoots I’d like to realise.
- Worth: Seeing more and more work by my contemporaries, going through old images, remembering difficult shoots/clients has (without wishing to beat around a bush while blowing my own trumpet) made me realise that I am good at what I do and that my experience and skills should come at an appropriate price. I have sometimes accepted difficult jobs and put up with rude, unrealistic, unappreciative, and goalpost-shifting clients, sometimes for lower rates than I should accept and then had to expend a lot of time and effort to chase even those payments. A year or so ago I started saying “no” to clients who had taken advantage of my good nature (yes, it is generally good) consistently, whether through brief-stretching, late/non-payment, unreliability, dropping me for a cheaper photographer only to return when they didn’t get what they needed etc, and it’s been very cathartic. Lockdown has made me even more determined to continue this ethos – if it feels like it’s going to be more trouble than it’s worth, it usually is.
- Appreciation: This a lonely old trade sometimes, even moreso since I stopped teaching, but over the years I have made some true friends through photography. Whether other pro photographers, models, clients, former students, club members or studio residents, I am very fortunate to know some wonderful people. It’s worth mentioning here that several of my current studio residents offered to continue paying rent (or at least some of it) to help me continue to pay my landlord during lockdown. I declined but the offer meant a lot to me.
- Futureproofing: The only thing that is certain as we start to emerge from these dark days of lockdown is that nothing is certain. I personally doubt the industry will ever be quite the same – it has changed so much in recent years and I suspect the post-virus recession will prompt some recently redundant enthusiasts to join the ranks of us shutter-monkeys-for-hire (I know people who are doing this) as we scramble for fewer scraps of work for lower reward. But this is a constantly evolving business and twas ever thus. As some areas of photography become obsolete, others spring up. Photographers have always been adaptable or they weren’t photographers for very long. Some aspects of my business will continue to provide revenue, I’m sure, while others will need to be replaced. As someone who accepted his first professional commission 35 years ago, I am not particularly concerned with having to adapt. However, I increasingy recognise the necessity to consider an additional form of income as many of my colleagues have done.
As lockdown restrictions are gradually relaxed, Strangetown Studio is now able to be used again and I’m happy to say my first couple of shoot enquiries have trickled in. Here’s to a rapid and continued return to normality, whatever that is.
Anyway, enough of that serious stuff, here’s a nice photo of the ever-wonderful Cally…