Belfast photographer – review of my 2014 – part 2
I started in photography by working for a local photographer and early on one of the best pieces of advice I received was to make sure I had at least one non-photography project on the go. There are other pearls of wisdom I occasionally dip into on my blog and in my training sessions but this is one I really did implement this July.
July is normally a quiet time on the local commercial photography front although when I did news it was one of the busier times of the year! Normally I head off somewhere and work away from ‘holiday’ season in Northern Ireland. Last year I was in London working for and meeting with regular clients there but this year with the studio rebuild, the World Cup and a few other things that needed tidied up at home (website rebuild and the like) I thought Id turn my hand to another long running idea of mine.
I have always fancied doing up an old car, watching too many wheeler dealers programmes and the like, and Id been on the lookout for ages for something to do up. I originally thought about an early 80s ford fiesta as that was the first car I owned and it sort of seemed appropriate. Finding a needle in a haystack would probably be easier to do but then then one night a friend suggested that I already had an ‘old’ car, my old alfa 156. It was the first new car that I bought, the first joys of actually specifying what I wanted on my car rather than just buying whatever was in front of me. The car had remained neglected for the last few years and was in a sorry state. The last good burnout it had was when a music producer I had met in Nashville just happened to be in Belfast and he was a big Top Gear and Alfa fan and had never driven one. Over pizza and more than one bottle of wine in Nashville I told him to give me a call if he ever made it to Belfast and sure enough I got the call one night. Now Im not saying they arranged the gig just to be in Belfast so he could drive the Alfa, but I wouldn’t put it past him. I photographed the gig for them here then we took the car out for a spin up the M1 and back through the backroads around Lisburn. He was offering me stupid money for the car but I’m not kidding when I say you would have to prise the keys to that car out of my cold dead hands. Shame it was in such a state.
July was surprisingly warm, dry and the downtime over the 12th week gave me time to get to grips with the car. Full blog post is here so I’ll leave all the details to that.
After Id finished most of the work I took it up to Ballintoy Harbour for a bit of a photoshoot…
At the start of August the dates and flight details for the Canada tour came through for September/October and then it was a case of planning the studio finish, MOTs for the company van and the campervan and tidying up all the projects and client shoots in advance of the trip.
The trip would be a short one this time (3 weeks) due to local workload and other ongoing projects with an end of October deadline.
The weather was still being kind to us here and it made a change from the past few years rain, rain and more rain.
A welcome return to meeting clients on the grass in front of City Hall with a sandwich and an orange juice. If only it could be like this all the time!
Just before heading off to Canada I had one of the most energetic jobs of the year, photographing the Les Mills Event in Bangor. This was one of a series of nationwide events featuring a day of full on hard core workouts. One of those 6am to 10pm days that needed the full double camera harness, water bladder backpack, comfortable shoes and boundless energy! As with a lot of the dance productions, the energy is the easy part when you are associated with as many dedicated people pushing themselves to the limit. The enthusiasm is infectious and although there is a detailed brief, its all the little details on the day, all the personal stories, the little cameos and the failures as well as the triumphs that make a great photo essay and allow the creative side of photography to flow.
2 days before I was due to leave for Canada I got a phone call. ‘Joe, on the mobile so this is costing a fortune, its 26 centigrade here, see you next week’. Better unpack some of those thermal trousers and make room for a couple of pairs of shorts.
Full blog post of the start of the trip here.
As soon as I got back from Canada it was straight into Arts work, mostly related to the Belfast festival. I was honoured to chair a discussion on the work of Belfast photographer, Vincent Dargan, an old family friend and Ive written a blog post about it here.
There was also some Dance and Arts PR work associated with some upcoming productions, more details in next month…
Ive been working with DUDance for over 12 years and every time I work on a production it feels more like a honour and privilege to be associated with them than call it work. It varies from project to project but in most cases they take a group of people who have never danced before and choreograph them in a contemporary dance piece over a number of weeks or months in preparation for a premiere performance in a local theatre or amazing location. The piece this November was an intergenerational project called ‘Fallen’ based on the First World War and with performances in the days leading up to an including armistice day.
The location for this piece was both Harland and Wolff drawing rooms down in Titanic quarter. This stunning location was one of the most challenging we had ever worked in. Its a historic building with certain preservation orders which limited what we could do with stages and lighting etc. It also didn’t have enough power to run a full show performance and limited space to put an external generator. It also had no heating or toilets. I cant say which of those two options caused me the most hassle but my Antarctic clothes came in handy for the first and the campervan came in handy for the 2nd. As well as being the company photographer, I also arranged the photographic exhibition as part of the overall production, something we hope to expand in 2015 with a larger scale exhibition of my wider portfolio and not just my arts photography but that’s for next year…
Whilst the photos of the production are the ones that have made the papers, press releases and social media, my favourite photograph of the lot was late one day in rehearsals. I was sorting out positioning of some of the old photographs supplied by PRONI as part of the exhibition when the clouds cleared and the setting sun lit up the whole of the drawing room office with this beautiful warm pink light.
I ran around like a man possessed dragging the entire cast and crew into the room just to see how beautiful the light was and how it lit up the whole space, the only time over the 5 days that it did so.
The start of December is usually quite busy and this year was no exception with the usual mix of PR photography, event launches, conferences, actor and model headshots and a couple of custom stock shoots.
The custom stock shoots are something I do regularly and its where a client requests some stock imagery which is custom or specific to them. They might want a series of photos for their website (such as the headline image of a date wallchart in this blog) right up to tailored full product photography using models of my choosing and everything in between. It ranges from web product shots to just below full advertising shoots. Normally these aren’t to a tight deadline with target dates set throughout the year. Which is why I am shooting Easter photos in the studio over Christmas and working to the US financial year deadline on 31st December once all the local and UK businesses shut up for Christmas around the 2nd or 3rd week in December. It was one of these shoots that prompted me moving to an apartment in Buenos Aires 5 years ago for January and why I used to have a business in Tenerife during Jan/Feb here. A lot easier to shoot summer photos with models in places that its actually summer in January! Its a hard life I know and I say that only part in jest. When you hire and apartment in Buenos Aires for a month and pay to have you and your gear shipped out with all that that involves you pretty much make sure you are working almost 24/7 to get the most out of it.
I generally work with a couple of models I know and have been working with them for a number of years. Its one of those things that people can overlook, having a team of creatives around who know each other and work together on a regular basis can prove very cost effective in terms of output.
The props can come from local businesses, agencies in the UK/Ireland and even shipped in from North America and China.
Food props are always welcome but then again I remember photographing apple pies for a business networking photo presentation I was giving. At the end of the shoot I had 10 boxes of 6 pies in various stages of sectioning, cream application, heated, cold, mashed. If only the following days shoot had been for indigestion tablets I would have been on to a winner!
Most of my images from December are embargoed until early in the New Year and with this blog post planned to go out early in January I’ll leave you with a couple of the out-takes from one of the custom stock shoots. Whilst chatting between setups we got talking about how rubbish some of the upcoming TV was over Christmas and I mentioned I might do a re-run of the whole breaking bad end to end. It just so happened that… well.. here’s the photo…
and of course one thing led to another which led to raiding the props cupboards…
All that remains of 2014 is to back up everything, do the end of year financials, send out invoices and start forming travel plans for 2015. The list for next year includes 8 countries/cities of which a surprisingly high number (7) are places Ive never been before and the 8th is somewhere I haven’t been in 10 years.
Aside from travel, three major productions including one exhibition are to be confirmed in January and that will dictate the scheduling of the travel plans and if indeed any or all of it is feasible.
Who knows 2015 might be the year I actually get round to sorting out my garden. Then again, life is too short, although this years non photography project might be a garden pizza/bread oven. The final photos from that would definitely be worth it! Another tip my old boss gave me, never do food photography on an empty stomach!
All that remains is for me to wish you all a Happy New Year!