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This is very much a case of do as I say, not as I do.
We are all well aware of the dangers of travel photography. I often like a wingman/wingwoman/wingperson to watch my back in a strange place whenever Im concentrating on camera stuff and actually taking photos. Its either that or the one setting get the camera out take the photo and put it back again which never really does the job properly.
Having been brought up in a rough area I like to pride myself on seeing and recognising a hood/crook/criminal no matter where I am in the world but it always pays to be careful. The less time an expensive camera is on show the better. One advantage of being rather scruffy in general is that people tend not to bother you. Its particularly good when you look like you havent eaten in a while.
My dad told me about how he went into London one night and won a lot of money on the dogs, he was standing in the underground early in the morning on a deserted platform with the money in his pocket. A group of guys arrived and my dad having worked in a bookies for a long time knew these guys would be up to no good. So he put 10 pence in his hand and walked across to one of the litter bins on the platform. He bent down and pretended to pick it up off the floor then proceded to go to the nearby chocolate bar machine and buy a bar. He shoved it into his mouth as if he hadnt eaten all day. He looked around and the guys had left, probably thinking he wasnt worth the bother. Theres definitely a lesson there.
If you are travelling on your own try to blend in, not get noticed (which is difficult when you are carrying a great big camera), look as if you belong there and you know what you are doing.
Dont associate with idiots and canon fodder. What do I mean by that? Well I was travelling with friends by train once through the south of france. It was early in the morning and as we waited to get off the train we were approached by a guy wearing just his socks, boxers and t-shirt.
‘Do you speak english?’
‘No we dont’
‘Ok ok, do you know anyone who does’
‘we are only kidding you’
‘oh ok, do you know where the rest of the train is?’
‘the rest of the train, I woke up during the night, went to the toilet, fell asleep in the toilet, woke up, went back and the rest of the train wasnt there’
‘Oh you mean the back half of the train that was on its way to Madrid’
‘Its probably in Madrid’
‘where is this part going?’
‘Milan we think but we are getting off here’
‘If I get off here do you think my mate will know where to come and get me, hes got the passports, money, clothes, rucksacks’
Now at some point you have to feel immense pity, you feel like helping the guy out and taking him under your wing. Alternatively you can just run away and remind yourself of Darwins theories.
One other time I was on a bus in Rome and this girl was giving her what I assume was a boyfriend such earache at such a high volume it wasnt hard to be nosey. To cut the long story short they had been walking down this backstreet in Rome which they shouldnt really have been on when he was approached by a beautiful early 20s woman. She walked right up to him with a big kiss and started to fondle his nuts (and I dont mean peanuts). The guy of course was just happy to go along for the ride but suddenly she walked off when another female friend appeared.
The girlfriend at the time was too gobsmacked to say anything and our hero was in no fit state to argue. That was until he discovered that his bumbag (fannypack) was empty and hed lost their money, passports, room keys, everything.
So for the entire bus journey back to the centre of town he and the rest of the bus was reminded about how stupid he’d been. I cant really describe the look on his face, he was taking a lot of abuse and whilst he showed shame and embarrassment there was still a trace of a smile on his face.
So let that be a lesson to you all, either hide your valuables or buy a shedload of cheap wallets from china on ebay, fill them with newspaper cuttings and get a cheap flight to Rome and have the week of your life.
So what has all this got to do with photography? Well I did say at the start, do as I say, not as I do.
I’ll go back to a recent trip to Rome. On the last night it was a clear evening so I thought I’d head to the Vatican and get some late night shots of St Peters Square with maybe a few people ghosting through the shots but try to get most without people.
So I got to St Peters Square and as I was travelling light I’d no tripod, so just put my backpack on the ground and put the camera on the top. It was a still night so wind movement wouldnt be a problem so I just attached the cable release to the camera and lay down behind it all to see through the viewfinder to line it all up.
At this point I heard some footsteps behind me and thought, oh crap Ive really set myself up as a target here, no way to get up quickly and no-one watching my back.
So peered under my arm to see two sets of heavy boots walking towards me. Crap.
I then noticed the blue light bouncing off the back of the camera.
Suddenly the penny dropped and the next couple of seconds were spent trying not to let my bowels evacuate themselves.
Here was me, boots, black combats, black coat, lying on the ground in front of the vatican with a black rucksack in front of me with something sitting on the top of it with a wire trailing to a trigger in my right hand.
Hmmm, whatever I was going to do it had to be done slowly…..
So if you ever do see me out and about, come up and say hello but it might be worth your while saying it from a distance.
To see a set of photos from Rome click here
Well I said when I started this blog that it would be updated once a week, possibly with two subjects, one topical and one in depth but I doubt theres an Irishman on the planet who doesnt have a word to say about Thierry Henry. Let me start by adding some good words about Thierry Henry. I think hes one of the coolest mofos on the planet, not a title I give out willy nilly, just watching him play for Arsenal was watching poetry in motion, lots of Va Va Voom and Je Ne Sais Quoi.
Of course that was before last Wednesday and now hes just a dirty cheating .
Now as with most people I would like to think what I would do in the same situation but I do realise that what we do do when faced with a certain set of circumstances aint necessarily what we would like to do or should do. I’ve played football (mainly as a goalkeeper) and I’ve told the ref when I’ve tipped the ball over the bar for a corner when hes asked, then again I’ve also threw myself on top of a ball as its crossed the line so as to hide it from the ref and then stand up as if I’ve stopped it on the line. Problem with me though is that Im pretty much an honest sod and if asked I wouldve told the truth. Its because of no sense of goodness or maybe it is but if I lie my face goes red and I could never be sure the ref didnt see it and was asking to send me off for unsportsmanslike conduct!
The France Ireland game is over, France are going to the world cup, noone in their right mind is going to jeopardise the financial windfall a place in the World Cup will bring to a nation particularly in the middle of a recession. Its time to suck it up, take it on the chin, boycott Gillette until they dump Henry and dont buy any Renault Clios in Ireland. Of course I’ve never had any intention of buying a Renault Clio and indeed would not like to see the Renault company or any car dealership in Ireland suffer financially (particularly as I was a photo tutor for their Renault Experiences programme ) but in this day in age of Mega sponsorship, any player should be clean cut (if you excuse the expression). This is where Thierry Henry will and should be hit hard. Hes a cheat. End of. I know I’ve bought my last Gillette razor and shaving gel and I know others who feel the same.
I cant really tell anyone to ‘get over it’ without mentioning the other clown of the week, Roy Keane. I agreed with a lot of what Roy Keane said but can I just say that I spent every last penny I had in 2002, after having had a horrendous year, to go to the World Cup in Japan. People have called Keane a judas and a traitor but who am I to argue, theres the old saying about the name on the front being more important than the name on the back and Keane should have remembered this. How many kids out there dream of pulling on their nations jersey and stepping out onto the turf at a World Cup. Now how many actually get the chance?
Of course before the tournament in 2002 I’d made arrangements with a major tv company to follow me and my mate Des around Japan and when the Keane thing blew up they disappeared off to Japan to cover that instead. Ah who needs the loan of an expenses account anyway
Sorry Roy, you had a fight with the FAI 7 years ago, build a bridge and get over it.
So what on earth has any of this to do with photography?
Well about 6 years ago I did a craft fair to help out raise money for my nephews school. Its the one and only of these that I’ve ever done because it was for charity and at my own cost. I did out a few framed photos, footballers, ice hockey players, scenery, that sort of thing and put them up for reasonable prices. One young lad came up to me and had a look through all the primarily Northern and Republic of Ireland footballers then stood around with that ‘talk to me’ look that only 10 year old boys have when they are too scared to talk to the scary man behind the desk.
‘Can I help you’
‘Yes Mister, is that all the football photos you have?’
‘No, I have other players, who are you looking for?’
‘Sorry son, I dont have a premiership license so I dont have any photos of Arsenal.’
‘Ahh ok, hes brilliant, Ive posters of him all around my room, if you get any let me know.’
‘Ok I will’.
I wonder if he thinks the same now?
On another photography related note when I do training courses or just in general people ask various photography questions. Different audiences ask different things, can you photoshop a third eye into the middle of my head (nursery and primary school photo training) – yes, who is most famous person you have photographed – Russell Crowe? Mel Gibson? and whats the most you have got for one picture -10,000 dollars.
All of the answers above usually get a wow from the respective audiences and people ask what type of photo gets the most money. I usually answer that if I knew that I wouldnt be talking to them, writing a blog on a cold wet rainy night in Northern Ireland but I would be buying all my new friends a drink on a beach in the Carribean.
I’ll tell you one thing though, if youd got a clean frame of that handball incident by Henry you would be eagerly awaiting your monthly agency statement.
Oh and I’ll take which photo earned 10k to my grave with me
Back when I was a kid we were poor, living in an old victorian 2 up 2 down, outside toilet mill terraced house in central Belfast. This wasnt in the dark ages but mid to late 70s.
One of those places were even if you were busting to go to the loo you waited until someone else went outside to warm the toilet seat up first
A classic memory I have is of my dad pushing me across the flooded backyard in our plastic bath holding a candle to get me to the toilet. Ahhh memories…
Anyway I did have a point, back then every day we had meat, potatoes and some sort of tinned veg like peas or carrots or beans. The potatoes came from St Georges Market in Belfast and the meat came from the local butchers at the top of the street (Slate Street in the lower Falls and our butcher was Raymond). He would let us watch him make the mince and make the sausages, yes make the sausages. Every day we went in myself and my wee sister would watch them grind real meat into the sausage machine and it would ooze out into the sausage skins and they would twist them into links.
Somewhere in the last 20-30 years that seems to have been lost, like most in their mid to late thirties I’m putting on the beef which euphemistically means fat or getting overweight. Having watched all the scary programmes on TV about what goes in, or what doesnt go in to our processed supermarket foods I though it was time to see if the lethargy, sore joints, headaches, getting fat were products of old age or diet.
A few months ago BBC Northern Ireland showed a series of programmes in the Northern Exposure series featuring Gary Lineker and his missus. Now due to the Radharc Images project these interested me and one of the places they visited was Forthill Farm down near Tandragee in Co. Armagh. Its only the past couple of weeks Ive had the chance to get down and get some of the meat there. I’ll not go into all the details but you can read them for yourselves at the link above. I got some chump steak and some of their pork sausages as well as loads of other good stuff (venison sausages I havent tried yet).
First impressions were good, the sausages, steak and bacon were all the same size after they were cooked as they were before. That led to problems with putting a packet of bacon on for a series of bacon butties, one slice of bacon did one butty whereas it usually takes 2 or 3 slices from supermarket packets to do the same. That counters the idea that good food is more expensive. Yes on a like for like basis it is but you need less of it and it sure tastes a hell of a lot better than the supermarket stuff.
Now this isnt necessarily an advert for Forthill, I’ve only been there once and I’ll be back in to stock up the next time I’m passing (or in the last case, passing within 20 miles). Its funny though you mention one place to people and you get the names of other places people go to such as jacksons in ballynure (where I get all my big bbq stuff) and O’Dohertys in Enniskillen where I’ll call in the next time I’m heading to Castlebar.
So find out where your local good butchers is and give them a go.
So as the well used internet saying goes ‘This post is nothing without pictures’. Which gives me the excuse to include this sort of post in my blog.
If you are vegetarian, look away now.
Forthill Chump steak – cooked medium
Forthill Bacon – between slices of crusty loaf
So the first post on the Radharc Images site blog so I’d better explain how and why I’ve reached this point.
The beginnings of my agency work go back to events after a riot in Belfast in July 2005. Up until this particular evening I had always self marketed my photos, digital photography and delivery was still growing so there were mechanisms for individuals to send images to publications and get published with enough frequency to earn a living from it.
It was my first real big job back after spending a year out after suffering an infection in my leg injury which caused a 2 month spell in hospital and a year learning to walk again. I’d missed a lot in that time.
What I’d missed was the increase in agency work and the faster turnaround time for images. During the riot I watched a couple of colleagues sit down and get the laptop out and wire the pictures in. Most of the rest of us were still taking photos and didnt want to be burdened down with the heavy laptops of the time particularly in a riot situation.
I got home, edited and sent out my pictures and got a lot of ‘sorry we’ve already had a set in from x agency’ from people I already knew.
Time to start making those phone calls and sending out emails. I sent my portfolio out to a contact I had in London and after a few phone calls and emails had a telephone interview with a US agency with a London base (Wireimage). They sent me out on an initial test job and the rest is history. 2 years later Wireimage were taken over by Gettyimages and it looked like this was a good move. 2 years after that contract issues with Getty and the decreasing editorial market and increased use of account subscriptions made it virtually impossible to earn a living from certain jobs here in Ireland. It was time to re-evaluate what I was doing.
In the interim 4 years things had almost gone full circle, the opportunities for photographers to self market on the web has almost reached the point it was at 5 years ago where a phone call with ‘photos on their way in’ was enough. Now I dont think they even have switchboards.
So the idea of starting an agency with like minded individuals was formed but in the myriad of websites and photo sites out there what was the USP? (unique selling point)
Back I went to an evening after the IFTA film and television awards in Dublin in 2008. It was a late finish so I thought I’d head across country to stay with friends in Galway rather than head home to Belfast. Now this does sound stupid as Belfast is closer than Galway but ignore the logic. I left the press room starving (as usual I was wiring photos in whilst my colleagues scoffed all the free nosh) and thought I’d just stop off in a wee village somewhere on the road, get a burger, get a pee and take my time. Not having driven that road in years I didnt realise it was all straight motorway and dual carriageway. After about 2 hours I was busting and still hungry. Where was the old Ireland that we all cursed as it took 7 hours to drive anywhere but where you could get fed and watered at any time of the day or night.
Old Ireland is dissapearing fast and many things have changed beyond recognition in a very short space of time. This isnt good or bad, just different but I thought now in 2009 that some things should be documented before they disappear forever. Of course a lot has disappeared but things are continually cycling so it would be a lifetime project. Theres the USP, use my formal grammar school education, delve deep into the irish history, folklore, legends and geography and do my best to capture as much of it as possible. I originally thought it would be a 2 year project and I laugh now 10 months on having only really covered Northern Ireland in the depth I thought I’d do everything in the first year.
I’ve lived here for almost 40 years and in the last 10 months I’ve seen many places I’ve never seen in my life, despite being only 1/2 an hour up the road, so in a way its more of a series of pilgrimages than a project.
So do I only include photos of Ireland? Well yes initially but I was on a job in Spain a couple of years ago and produced a set of photos and one of the people reviewing them said ‘oh thats very Irish’. I didnt really get it, it was a spanish model, spanish site, everything about it to me said Spanish but it was explained a spanish photographer wouldnt have taken that shot. Interesting. I suppose one way of explaining it is to illustrate a recent trip to Cyprus, because I’m from Belfast we have an unnatural fascination with conflict and divided cities, so I spent an entire day going up and down the Green Line in Cyprus taking photos. They may never sell but talking to people either side of the border it was easy to emphasise with people and easy to see that people are the same all over the world and if left alone will generally get on together. So I think thats where the Irish Eye comes into it. Well thats what I tell people and if you believe that you will believe anything Of course it could just be me being greedy and wanting to add all the photos in, I’ll let you decide
So OK, Its basically all my stock photos with a heavy emphasis on Ireland and very tenuous links to places that you can travel to from Ireland, all I had to do was pick a name.
Names. Northern Ireland. Names. People have died in this country over names.
Do I include an Irish aspect and risk alienating half the population of Northern Ireland, do I risk alienating potential employers by using the Irish language? Do I play it safe and come up with some PC bland euphemism that noone gets?
Well sort of, halfway between the two.
I wanted something both Irish and British, something that means something yet nothing. So decided on a gaelic word and an english word. Photos is too bland, too ‘blah’. Images conjures up ideas of it being a whole thing rather than just a 2D photo of a whole thing. Images means more than just recording a scene without going into the whole idea of a word representing misty mountains and flame haired coleens running through the barley wearing aran jumpers because thats not Ireland, dont think it ever was except in the Quiet Man. So that was the english side sorted, what about Irish?
I wanted a word in Irish that had a hard translation into English, preferably one that didnt have a direct translation but had multiple meanings depending on how and when its used. Plus it had to be pronouncable in English even if it was mispronounced. Its not rad harc but depending on dialect (see we cant even agree) its ra arc or raa irk. It can mean sight or vision or view or scene but in its purest form means a way of seeing which can mean the actual act of seeing or the way something is interpreted. See I told you it mean little in english!
So thats it, job done, well thats the easy part, the hard part is doing all of the above justice, and taking the photos, captioning, uploading, displaying etc etc. Which leads me on to the blog. The blog will be more about the way of seeing than the actual photos, how I get to the point I take the photos and this is just the start of it….