Which explains why Im sitting in a hotel room at 6am in rainy Vancouver catching up on blog posts from earlier on in the year. When I say Jet Lag its probably more to do with not knowing what time zone im in and if I do get to grips with it by tomorrow, I’ll be changing time zones again. More of that later.
For now I’ll skip back to May this year and I trip I took to Scotland.
I cant say Ive had a love/hate relationship with Scotland as I used to go with a girl from Glasgow and spent some time there and did come to genuinely hate the place. Except for trips with my football team (playing not watching) before that time and trips to see the ice hockey after that time, I honestly dont have any good memories of the place. That does say more about me than the place so with trepidation I booked a few days in Glasgow on the way up to the highlands to join a stag weekend in Glencoe. Yes, I know, I should know better but it seemed a good idea at the time….
The trip didnt start the greatest as in an effort to save a few quid I thought Id book the 3am ferry. Yes I know now how stupid that was and yes I really should have tried it out before booking the same ferry on the trip to the wedding later in August….
..but you see my plans made sense, if only in my own head, I’d drive over, find the first parking space, pull in , get the sleeping bag out, kip down in the van and the jobs a good one.
Well thats the theory….
and relied on finding a parking space handy, away from the road, away from people walking their dogs and away from primary schools, police stations, no stopping zones, car parks and laybys with ‘no overnight parking signs’ etc. As you probably have already gathered it wasnt the easiest task in the world. So after two hours of driving, an hour of which was busting for a piss….
…so a couple of hours later I woke up in a car park where the local womens group had decided to descend to take part in a sponsored walk. Now my van does have blacked out windows but I thought Id wait until they set off before climbing out of my sleeping bag, wearing only my boxers. FFS ladies, get a move on!
By this stage I was all ready for the heart attack on a plate that is the scottish breakfast. Its a bit like an Irish breakfast but with even more cholesterol.
On to Glasgow and parked up at the hotel. The hotel was reasonably cheap and just across the river from the financial district, somewhere I wouldnt even have stopped the car 15 years ago when I used to frequent the place, never mind walk alone, day or night.
Oh how Glasgow has changed, I thought as I walked across the hotel car park, then again maybe not as I saw clothes and broke open suitcases strewn about the hedges outside the hotel. I thought Id just go back and recheck nothing could be seen in the car.
The rest of the day was a bit of a blur to be honest, that fear of being recognised by relatives of the previous ‘next ex-mrs fox’ was tempered by that ‘Im too tired to give a shit’ feeling. That and the continuous drizzle reinforced my record of never being in Glasgow when the sun shines. If indeed it ever does shine on it. Any wonder Ive long thought of Glasgow as a dirty dreary hole of a place.
3 days in Glasgow in the rain now seemed like an eternity (unlike the last 3 days in the rain in Vancouver but again more later).
Photographically very poor so the best idea was to wait until check in, get back to the hotel and get some sleep and see if the mood changes with a good nights rest.
It didnt… well not really.
Rain was heavier in the morning but it did clear up in the afternoon and the sun even came out at times. What a difference it made, lightened the mood and gave me the opportunity to walk around the city centre in the redeveloped areas.
Im bring unfair on Glasgow, yes I still think its a dirty hole but like Belfast, like Liverpool, its a victorian industrial city and you have to expect that. Its not an Edinburgh or Rome or Paris and you cant expect that, but like Belfast, Liverpool etc its the people that really make the city. People have time to talk and will generally help out strangers. Thats not to say the city doesnt have its share of problems, like every big city but people will share a laugh and take an interest. Give me that over beautiful sites every time.
That night I did something which wasnt even conceivable the last time I regularly visited Glasgow. I set out at night with tripod to go down and take some photos by the river Clyde. 15 years ago walking along the river through the Gorbals and Govan would have been a death sentence back then, only marginally less so now. A lot of the area has been redeveloped including some private areas which restrict access to the river walkway. Not that that would put me off but I have to apologise to the lovely young lady lying on her sofa in her pyjamas eating ice cream when I just walked past her window. Now I have to elaborate on that a bit, I hadnt just walked past her window but stalked past it. I had noticed as I left the hotel (other than being followed by the biggest urban fox I had ever seen) that people crossed the road before coming up to me. I didnt pay it much attention until I caught a glimpse of myself in the previously mentioned young ladys window. Black combat boots, black combat trousers, puffa bomber jacket (black), black stealth rucksack and carrying a tripod bag which the way I had the strap looked more like a rifle bag. I dont think I need to add in the black hat and gloves. Im sure shes stopped screaming by now…
The only thing that would have rescued the situation was probably a box of milk tray.
Expecting sirens, helicopter searchlights and a full armed response team at any minute I thought Id better just get a few photos and get out of there… just as they turned a lot of the lights out. Brilliant!
The next morning I saw something Id never seen before, Glasgow in full sunshine, so it was a bit of a mad scramble to drive around and get as many photos as I could in the time left before driving North to Glencoe. It does look a very different city in sunshine but I think the tourism board still have their work cut out for them. It has changed significantly with more upmarket shopping, good range of galleries and theatres but I think they are still being sold short by pitching themselves as 2nd only to London in terms of x or y. So why go to Glasgow, if London isnt full?
As usual, on the drive North the words of my good mate Peter were ringing in my head ‘lets get the fuck out of dodge’.
I drove up loch lomond and was meeting a friend in Fortwilliam before a night in Glencoe and then back to Fortwilliam. In all the time Id spent in Scotland previously, Id never really spent any time in what I now refer to as ‘real Scotland’, the highlands. Id been to Loch Lomond for an afternoon once and briefly drove through Glencoe on the way to one night on the Isle of Skye so what a missed opportunity.
I think somewhere on the road past Loch Lomond, my love affair with Scotland began…
I spent the night drinking with an old friend in Fortwilliam, the rest of the night is a haze. We then moved to the Clachaig Inn in Glencoe and realised that Id seen the place before on a lot of tv programmes. The guys had picked it for the stag night because they were going to go on a hike around Glencoe to work up a thirst. My hiking days are long gone so I had a couple of hours to drive around the Glen and get some photos. It was one of those mad days where the sun split the trees then there was a snow blizzard then rain and then sunshine again. Magical!
The Inn is famous because it is near the site of the Glencoe massacre where the British led by Campbells massacred 38 of the MacDonald clan who had accepted them in and gave them hospitality. All to do with allegiance to the new king or lack of it, although as usual miscommunication and inter clan rivalry played more of part than any plan or design. The entrance to the inn still has a ‘No hawkers or Campbells’ sign.
The bar apparently has a selection of over 200 scotch whiskeys. I dont think I went through them all but bearing in mind I went to bed that night with the light on so that when I did open my eyes I could focus on something and stop the room spinning. I wish I could say I dont remember a lot of the night but I do remember promising my friend I was there for him on his stag night before escorting two ladies from Liverpool off the premises with not so much as a backward glance.
I could leave the story there but as usual there is more to the story. Thinking I was on to a sure thing I made the fatal mistake of asking ‘how do you know each other?’. The straight out of a bad porno film line came back ‘shes my daughter’. Now, not that Im familiar with porno films you understand but Im told that usually leads to exploits that for me anyway would induce a number of muscle strains, ligament tears and perhaps the possibility of a light bone fracture. In this particular instance it was more like that needle scraping across the record moment when everything goes silent. Better rejoin the guys in the bar then.
The next day is a bit of a blur as I returned to the same hotel in Fortwilliam Id left the previous morning. They didnt recognise me returning but to be fair by this stage I was a pale shadow of my former self.
The next day I took the opportunity to visit an old photographer friend down near Oban. He lives in a Castle. No really, he does. On the phone the driving directions were, turn left at the castle, go through the archway of the courtyard and park next to the stables, I’ll meet you there and we can go out for a tour of the estate in the landrover…
..I hate him.
That night it was off to Stirling and a walk round the old city before retiring to the bar to befriend some chinese students watching a champions league football match. Weird.
I like Stirling, Id actually been to a wedding in the castle a couple of years ago. A really posh do with a lot of society type folk at the table I was at. No I was invited, I didnt just sneak in. During the meal one of the gentlemen at the table asked why I wasnt wearing a kilt. Who would have guessed that not being Scottish wasnt a valid enough excuse! Looking back years later I sort of see the point, it would have been good, more getting into the spirit of the thing to get kilted up. So would I be wearing a dress to the wedding in August, hell no!
After the meal at the wedding another gent remarked on how good the champagne was. I said it wasnt champagne it was sparkling chardonnay. It was another one of those needle across the record moments, with noone more incredulous than my date for the night, who just stared at me with a mixture of ‘what the f*** and shut the f*** up’ looks that women learn in primary school. I of course took it a step further, tasted the wine and said ‘If I had to guess it would be 1991 or 1992′. So someone decided to call my bluff and call the waiter over and show him the bottle. The bottle was unwrapped and to everyones surprise it was sparking chardonnay 1992. Silence. I didnt even gloat.
Later that evening my date did say she was impressed but knew I must have had some sort of angle. Maybe she knew me quite well after all. After some bullshit about how you can tell the difference by the size of the bubbles, I said it also helps if you take a nosey wander through the castle and see them unloading the crates from the van!
Back to present time and it was time to go home, well it wasnt really but I decided not to wait for the late ferry home and race for the early evening one. Certainly sir but that would be an extra 50 quid. Hmmm let me think about that, 7 hours in Cairnryan or 50 quid. Shit, 150 quid would still have been a bargain!
So my first extended trip to Scotland in over 5 years had come to an end, I still dont like Glasgow and probably wont be back, but I exorcised some demons there and now have neutral rather than bad memories of the place and I’ll take that all day long. What this did introduce me to was the Scottish Highlands, a harsh, bleak, remote environment which is a truly magical place, filled with friendly welcoming people. Its a beautiful place to spend any amount of time and if you can manage to spend time with magical people there, theres very few better places on earth.
That is all! Well not quite – would be the shortest blog post ever.
Its taken quite a while to get the archive up to the site and I’ve also included some of my old Getty editorial photo sets for info purposes – I’ll finish off uploading the older sets over the next couple of days.
The most of the Ireland archive is now online and Ive made the conscious decision not to upload some photos and come counties as I’d like more complete coverage before making them go live so the plan for the rest of the ‘summer’ is to get a lot more coverage up of places and spread out into people and festivals. Oh and local food as well
I just have to go back through all the old blog posts and update the posts with the links to the new site. The smugmug version will be turned off in a fortnight.
So have a play with the new site, register online and let me know what you think. The main function at the minute is an online search with the ability to supply clients lightboxes of images I think they are interested in, as well as highlighting current image sets.
I’ll announce and describe the image sets here on the blog.
The website currently contains an archive of over 16k images and is in the process of google indexing every one of them so might be a bit slow whilst all that is getting done.
Normal lengthy blog service will soon be resumed!
Its been a while since my last blog but in my defence Ive been busy and its been a bit of a career landmark.
In my previous life I was a software engineer and I studied at Queens University Belfast for four years, first doing a BEng (batchelor of engineering) degree and then an MSc (Master of Science) degree.
My first job was in a local software company and I then went on to work in 2 more software companies before a change in circumstances brought about a change in Career after 9 years as an Engineer. In 2001 I took my first photography job working for a local photographer before going it alone a year or so later.
So in late September 2010 I am now a photographer longer than I ever was a Software Engineer yet I have just completed part of a commission for companies involved in Software Engineering. Not quite poacher turned gamekeeper and yet not quite a busmans holiday either. It was good to catch up with old colleagues and catch up quickly, far too quickly, with the old profession and its current issues.
Deep down Im still an engineer, I’ve always been an engineer which is a strange thing to say in this profession, but Ive always had an artistic side as well. That was never able to manifest itself fully in my previous career yet the era of digital photography, website generation, online marketing, email, ftp, image editing and distribution and all those good things keep the engineer in me happy.
Ive always been a problem solver and one of my first jobs in software was in a team tasked with ‘firefighting’ the ‘hot issues’ of the day. Now I dont miss the management speak, particularly as since then I’ve taken photos of real firefighters and whilst Im not wishing to denigrate my previous profession, the words used are incongruous with the job.
Through my later jobs I got involved in recruitment, customer bids and processes, corporate training, writing specifications, interpreting client briefs, investigating client issues and dealing with clients across the globe. I cant really say my job as a photographer is any different to that with all those skills being very portable indeed and just applied to different areas.
Perhaps thats why I have grown and progressed the business, because I brought those skills with me and adapted them. Maybe its just coincidence but either way it didnt do me any harm.
The access all areas press, red carpet and general swanning around with the gorgeous people isnt really the image you think of sitting outside a hotel in dublin in the snow at 1am as you try to wire your photos into an office on the west coast of the states.
Bit like my last couple of software jobs were we had US offices and you were on call until 2am in case any problems arose. Of course in one job we also had offices in the Phillipines and Australia. What do you mean you arent available 24/7? No different to now when people from all across the globe who are on deadlines and who want photos asap dont really care what timezone you are in. ‘Im just ringing to see if you are in?’ ‘yes its 4am, where else would I be’. ‘Can you email me this photo?’, ‘Yes, as soon as I get my eyes open I’ll be on to it – oh and you will need to pay in advance by paypal’. Sounds very glamourous indeed
When I tell people what I do, particularly those in IT professions they say they long for a job where they arent sitting in front of a computer all day and dont have to pull all nighters. Wishing away the long winter nights sitting at 2am trying to find a pizza place open in Belfast…
Well sorry folks I have news for you, I was up at 8am and its 12am now and Im still at the computer, writing a blog no less During that time I had to run to the doctors as I did ankle ligaments in at the weekend. Sorry, no sick leave or sick pay here its put up or shut up.
One of the biggest wrenches for me was the leaving a very well paid, stable job with holidays, and sick pay and healthcare and overtime and… …and then I remember being paid to take photos of naked women on a beach in Tenerife mid January…. …money isnt everything.
I love my job and I hope that shows. I loved being an engineer, I just didnt particularly enjoy the environment but looking back on it I had had my time and it was time for something different. Im now at the same stage in my photography career but I dont have the same urges. Maybe its got to do with reinvention and changing business approach every few years.
Some photographers try to blame the GWC idea – guy with camera. It appears that anyone with a camera can call themselves a professional photographer, couple of hundred quid on a camera, 6 quid for printable business cards and 30 quid for a cheap website and away you go, you are doing weddings but I remember people who had a home computer calling themselves computer programmers and asking if I could sort them out with a job. No different and that doesnt give any credit to clients who should be able to look at a photographers website, look at the images, the craft in the photos and the message behind the photography to differentiate between the chancers and the people who will build a relationship.
I learned that in my IT days when dealing with clients, it was about building relationships, getting a bond of mutual trust instead of trying to sell them something. Yes you are still selling but you are selling them something that will benefit them, which in turn will benefit you, everyones happy. I try to do that with the photography and that has been borne out by the number of long term clients I have and equally the long term relationship they have with me. They know they can ring me at 11pm and that I will take their calls because its probably important, important to them, their business and ultimately their families and lifestyle. You do go the extra mile for people you have a relationship with and its that closer bond I like with being self employed rather than working for a large corporation. Of course I could have got that within the IT industry by setting up myself there, but then again Ive seen people in tears holding their daughters wedding photos or getting their baby to smile on camera or a public relations person ringing me to thank me for getting their company in the paper with a good photo. No-one ever congratulated me on a line of C code, or a good subroutine in COBOL or sorting out a java error.
I started radharcimages because it interested me, right at the start of a recession when the market for the type of photos I was producing for it had started drying up, so its on hold, not cancelled. It will be resurrected occasionally although if climate change has its way all the pictures will have to be retaken to reflect our monsoon seasons.
Ive no idea what the next 9 weeks will bring never mind the next 9 years. In 9 years time if Im still here I’ll be approaching 50 and who knows I might have bought myself a pair of braces, grown a big belly and taken up wedding photography full time. Maybe I’ll actually buy a euro millions rollover ticket next week, win it and then head off round the world in a very big boat.
It really is up to me, its about trying to predict the future, I will live or die by my own decisions and I have no-one to blame but myself. Perhaps thats the key, thats the reason why Im still up writing a blog at 12am, or maybe Im just nuts.
Either way its going to be interesting…
…and isnt that what its all about.
No-one living in Belfast can fail to recognise that the city is built around the river. The city is built on the river and even in the river. The vast majority of the city centre is built on about 50 metres deep of mud flat sludge over the sandstone bedrock. Like all old major cities it grew up around the river and the river has been its lifeblood and so Belfast Lough is the approach to the city that many a visitor, immigrant, emigrant has seen. Perhaps its most famous product the Titanic was born on the river and there are markers still to this day in the Lough used to judge its speed.
In my lifetime Ive never been low down for any length of time in the lough, the ferries to Liverpool, Scotland and the Isle of Man usually have great height and so you have a distinct birds eye view of what is going on. Similarly for the approaches to the harbour airport, its all below you.
Mooring my boat in Carrickfergus and doing some initial exploration of the lough from the water has given a different view of the approaches and with a little imagination gives an idea of what it was like for early settlers and invaders arriving, both early and late.
The limit of The Port of Belfast is the fairway channel marker buoy. Beyond this point you are under the control of Belfast Harbour and navigation is controlled and not a place for me to wander at random. Entrance to the Harbour itself is tightly controlled and photography restricted so no view there folks.
The marker buoy sits on an imaginary line between Grey Point and Carrickfergus Castle, two historic locations which guard the entrance to the approaches to Belfast.
Many people know Carrickfergus Castle, built by the Norman John De Courcy in 1177 it has dominated the entrance to Belfast for over 800 years. It has been attached, besieged by many nations and used as a military outpost right up to World War Two. Normally visitors have a view like this, the view of the castle from the harbour..
However any attacker seeing this view, probably first had to see this view…
Coming up the lough in small boats, when the mist clears the cannonballs start raining down on you, getting to the harbour area is some achievement. Leaving the outer harbour walls aside and the buildings behind, this view has changed little in that 800 years. 700 odd years ago as you rowed up the lough, armour at the ready then this looms out of the mist you have to wonder who’s bright idea was this? Probably not one of the people doing the rowing around you.
At the opposite side of the lough is Grey Point and this has a more modern defensive outpost in Grey Point Fort. The fort was built between 1904 and 1907 and housed naval guns for naval defence of the lough. The original searchlight positions are still on the shoreline and even the white markings are still visible on the rocks of nearby shorelines which gave distance markings to the gunners. The current guns are a recent installment, bought from a similar battery in Cork after the grey point guns were sold for scrap in the 50s. It doesnt say anywhere in the history if this sale involved a metal merchant transaction or they were loaded onto the back of a big lorry.
Grey Point Fort never saw any true action during either war, well not strictly true, shortly after war was declared the over eager gunners fired a shot across the bows of a merchant ship who was yet unaware that war had been declared. Hmmm.
Just up from Carrickfergus Castle is Kilroot Power station which is a giant of a building on its own. It can supply up to a third of the electricity in Northern Ireland. Its a dual coal and oil fired power station, both of which are supplied from deep water berths in the sea. The coal loading area is close to the station and the Cloghan Point oil jetty is over a kilometre long about 3km up the coast. Its a massive impressive structure, particularly when up close in a small boat. Although the fishing near it isnt bad at all!
Between the coal and oil terminals theres another small nondescript insignificant jetty. It belongs to the equally blandly named Irish Salt Mining and Exploration company. Deep below the surface is a massive salt mine which taps into the underground salt seam which streches under the atlantic, all the way to Russia. If you have driven on gritted snow bound roads in Ireland, England, Wales, Scotland and parts of the East coast of the USA then some or all of the salt probably came from this small jetty.
During the bad conditions last winter I tried to get access to the mine to photograph it as the UK was running out of Salt and the Kilroot Mine was working 24/7 to try and supply enough to keep the roads gritted. The road to the mine was just nose to tail with lorries taking the salt throughout Ireland. Now a very well known (and probably affluent) news agency had secured the rights to photos in the mine, so like the local tv stations I was stuck with taking photos of the road or looking around for old aerial stock photos. So heres the photo for next winter as viewed from the sea!
A little past the Cloghan point jetty is the town of whitehead and then the Blackhead lighthouse which is the point where the County Antrim Coastline leaves Belfast Lough and reaches the Irish Sea. As somebody scared of heights I went to the edge of the clifftop a few years ago for some photos and it looked like a long way down. From the sea the cliffs dont look half as scary, nor does the famous coastal path. Although I wouldnt like to be on either in anything more than a breeze.
As with Dance Photography Music photography is another passion of mine.
Its very similar to dance photographically technically, you have a few people on a stage moving at times quite quickly under mixed lighting with no scope to say ‘here hold on a minute, can you go back a sec and repeat those lines’.
With larger bands/acts you tend to get better lighting but not always the case and in recent years the move towards led lighting which seems to be just above candle power in output has meant that gig and band photography remains technically challenging. Saying that of course the latest range of digital cameras almost turn nighttime into day and if they have a live view mode you could almost use them as night vision cameras. It makes sure that any student with a half decent camera and half decent lens will get a useable concert photo. Saying that at todays current prices for gig photos, even students with high street off the shelf equipment would still find the prices too low.
So you have two options, get smarter and shoot better pics, or give up. Well I have sort of done both. The market isnt enough now to sustain top of the range kit, ability to wire in onsite within seconds etc etc. Occasionally you do get ‘big’ events (Id the first UK pictures of the Arctic Monkeys after they hit it big and Id shots of Boyzones first night comeback) but in general theres someone beside you who will be happy to see their name in print and a willingness with most mags to be happy to accept a straight up and down shot because they dont have to pay a penny (or very little in subscription).
It means that the majority of shots arent by specialists any more and those that do submit have little or no imagination compared to those shooting every day. It was always going to be a hard sell anyway in Ireland because you can spend your life shooting every upcoming band for none of them to ever make it or get that middle of the tour shots, which unless stand way out from the crowd wont be much different from the 20 photographers in 10 countries before you.
Thats not to say there isnt merit in it or indeed money to be made but promoters dont really want photographers to cherry pick who they will shoot and theres always some give and take to help promote new acts in return for inclusion on the wish list for lady gaga or whoever is hot at the minute.
Add into that the current recession in the UK and theres less gigs about, people cant afford the 50-70 quid for a concert ticket that they used to spend only 2 years ago maybe once a month or in concert season, once a week.
People also have this glamourous idea that gig and concert photography is one of the best jobs in the world. Well the realities are somewhat different. The three songs and you are out rule applies. In some cases you dont get three songs, you might get 2 or one. One group came out recently to a video as their first song. So that leaves about 6 minutes to get the banker shots and try to get a good folio of shots that will spread across a range of publications. Quite tight going. Then after that theres the mad dash to get 3G or wifi connection to get your edits into the agency before everyone else does. Thats a lot of adrenaline and quite often it can be totally exhausting.
Try shooting a festival where its shoot, edit, wire, shoot, edit, wire, etc etc for maybe 6 or 8 hours. Add that over 2 days and just give me a sleeping bag in the corner.
Having said that some of my most loved shots come from this type of environment. Often you are in a pit of 4 maybe up to 10 or 20 photographers and in order to eat the following month you have to make sure every single shot counts. Trying to get interesting angles, tell the story, show the emotion and tie the images together really gets the cold sweat down your back going. I remember one act who I wont name was slightly under the weather coming out on stage and out of 400 shots of one band member I got 2 with their eyes open, and thats with them using a prop to keep them vertical during the show.
Another one I distinctly remember was lit by one single red spotlight, which by itself was enough to give a half decent exposure. Thats assuming they werent swaying backwards out of the light most of the time. Looking at the photos it reminded me of those old kids tv programmes where the clown with the big shoes was nailed to the floor and swayed backwards and forwards because of it.
With some groups they seem to go out of their way to make things difficult for you. One group who are notorious with photographers deliberately keep most of the stage lights off for the first three songs and once the lead singer said to us ‘right thats the freeloaders gone, we can get on with the show’. Charming. Hope you dont do anything stupid in your private life in the future… Another keeps the photographers at a huge distance away, takes your kit bags off you and has one security person for each photographer who ‘escort’ you ‘quickly’ out of the arena…. yes…. Particularly galling as you sit on the cold stone ground wiring pics in to see people with cellphones and compact cameras in the crowd uploading to flickr with impunity. Again the old maxim of being nice to people on your way up as you may need them on your way down.
I’ll not even give credence to the travelling pr company who thought it would be a good idea to put us in the crowd with all our equipment at a rappers concert. I have to say Ive never laughed as much as at the skinny white boys from belfast with their calvin kleins falling down round their arses getting down with the boyz in the hood. No seriously lads, take a long hard look at yourselves.
Then theres the concerts where you pray that the golden liquid flying towards you from the crowd is cheap lager beer and not the end product of an afternoon spent drinking that beer. Newcomers often ask why some of us at festivals shoot with our hoods up on sunny days.
Compare that with the hard working PR companies who get you spots in the press room, sort out wifi, keep you fed and watered and see if theres anything you need. Ive even had Louis Walsh sitting over my shoulder helping with photo selection. Normally something you try to avoid when you are sitting wiring away and someone over your shoulder is saying ‘oh thats a nice pic’, ‘ I like that’, ‘lovely’. I was just about to turn round and tell them to foxtrot oscar when I saw it was Louis so told him to pull up a chair.
As you can probably tell I wouldnt classify the most of it as fun so when a friend of mine Stephen Maguire mentioned to me that he was doing a gig in Belfast in support of Nanci Griffith I jumped at the chance to photograph it. I’ve known Stephen for a number of years now and we have become friends. Ive done a lot of static work with him for posters, album covers general PR, headshots etc but as most of his concert touring is in Canada I rarely get the chance to see him live never mind photograph him. In fact I’d never seen him live and was worried that I’d be too busy looking through the lens that I wouldnt even hear the gig. Its one thing that people ask after a gig, ‘what did they play’. ‘I dunno’ is invariably the answer as you are too busy concentrating on the job in hand then you are out.
Stephen was playing in quite an unusual and intimate venue, the May Street Church. I’d photographed it a few years earlier for the local press as it was rumoured it was closing due to dwindling attendances due to population movement out of the city centre. Its trying to regenerate as a venue and coffee shop downstairs as well as the church. Stephen was supporting Nanci Griffith as part of the Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival.
I have to say Ive never been as nervous photographing a gig in my life. Id never done it for a friend before and chatting over a coffee minutes before the gig I dont know who was talking the bigger pile of shite, me or Stephen. I stuck to my 3 songs rule and then slid up the aisle into the gloom to enjoy the rest of the show. I know Im biased but you know the way it is with friends, you will give support regardless of how you think they did. Well I thought Stephen was superb, great audience interaction and a great buzz during the set. I hate the phrase but its probably the one time you will hear me say it, Stephen, you rocked! (invoice is in the post).