Category Archives: Commercial work

Edinburgh Seven

Before lockdown I was commissioned by Edinburgh University medical school to reinterpret Rembrant’s painting, ‘The anatomy lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp’. The university owns a copy painting of this that hangs by their anatomy museum just where we made this photograph. In our version the characters were replaced by all female medical students who represent the very first women students in Britain that were allowed to study medicine 150 years ago at Edinburgh University. Sad to say the women back then were not granted the honour of graduating, something the university rectified at a honorary degree ceremony for them last year.

The original Rembrandt inspiration – The anatomy lesson of Dr. Tulp from 1632

It was a real honour to be involved with a project to help redress this imbalance, something that we need to be ever mindful of when we still live in a world where women’s rights are still being decided by groups of men.

There was a tricky balance to strike to shoot this. I’d have ideally spent several hours on it fine tuning lighting, angles and outfits. But of course we couldn’t take up the space and time of everyone involved indefinitely so the image was pretty much one hour from start to finish. We set it up just outside the anatomy museum next to a giant elephant skeleton which is just out of shot. The robes and props we had were a far cry from perfect but I love the challenge of making the best of what you’ve got. I guess the trickiest part was the fact that the arm was 6 inches short and should have been a left hand, not a right! As well as that I discovered just how many liberties Rembrandt had taken to foreshorten the cadaver and raising the figures at the back, something we had to work around. Several people have since commented on the cadaver looking like Mark Zukerberg and much as I’d like to say it was all an intentional symbol it’s wasn’t!

Trying to overcome some of the technical problems in the recreation.
The women medical students receiving the doctorates last year on behalf of the original Edinburgh seven.

I prefer not to do unnecessary retouching and there’s not much my final version other than colour, texture and grading. I wanted it to look like the Rembrandt but I didn’t want it to be overly stylised, otherwise the key message of the image could get obscured.

There’s an article here in The Scotsman that covers more on the original Edinburgh Seven.

I’ve photographed at this same location many times for the university in the past but also on a personal project.

An image I made at the same location, inspired by the same Rembrandt painting years earlier as part of my Conemen project

This image was also inspired by the Rembrandt painting so it’s pretty ironic I was asked to do this again byJen Middleton from the university when she was unaware of my earlier Conemen version. That first shoot was memorable for having the affable Prof. Gordon Findlater who was at the time head of department show us round. He stayed late so we could shoot and gave us a personal tour of the spooky anatomy museum upstairs which included the skeleton and life mask of body snatcher William Burke, from ‘Burke and Hare’ infamy. It’s generally closed to the public.

I love to work on projects like this but it’s not too often they come up. If anyone out there is inspired and would like me to shoot a project for them, whether it be for a client or just personally I’d love to be kept in mind. When projects are interesting enough the budget is of secondary concern for me.

If you want to see more new work like this then my Instagram feed is the place to see it.

Red

Here’s a behind the scenes film of stills campaign I shot for Radisson Red hotels with Teviot a while ago. It was a fantastic project, especially working with such quality models.

I loved the simple quality of light, especially the ring flash fill. It allowed their personalities to dominate. Here’s a few of the edited images.

Radisson Red campaign image
Radisson Red campaign image
Radisson Red campaign image
Radisson Red campaign image

The Duchess

‘Pass the blood Ben.’ Delicate work….

Sometimes when you’re given a brief your heart just sinks. Sometimes it beats faster. This was definitely a case of the latter.

I’ve long loved shooting theatre projects and this production was no different. The brief was clear, based on an earlier pre production illustration created by Edinburgh Agency, Do, create a poster image for the Edinburgh Lyceum / Citizens Theatre co-production show showing the principal actor Kirsty Stuart as The Duchess, standing in a pool of blood that’s soaking into her dress.

There was a lot of talk about the best way to do this and I quickly decided that we had to do it for real as far as we could with a natural reflection of her in the blood. You’ll be glad to hear I drew the line at a visit to the butchers. Fortunately Allan Ramsay from the Lyceum turned up at my studio replete with 5 litres of the red stuff, so convincing it was hard to tear your eyes away from it once it spilled out onto the ground. I was relieved it just smelled of sugar, being made of no more than corn syrup and colouring. Before it was poured out I did all the lighting and composition tests so we could focus on getting the blood element right.

the final poster for The Duchess of Malfi at the Lyceum theatre Edinburgh
Photograph of Kirsty Stuart drenched in blood as The Duchess of Malfi performing at Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum theatre. Photo – Laurence Winram

It took some time to spread around, Kirsty stoically not moving an inch, so when we were finally ready we couldn’t hang about. Kirsty channeled her Duchess perfectly so it didn’t take long to capture the right image. I then just had to shoot the wider edges of the pool of blood and piece it all together.

pool of blood
for the edges

The cleanup was almost as dramatic as the shoot. I hauled the sheet covered in drying blood outside where I could clean it off into the drain. If you’ve not seen it, my car park area is surrounded by the backs of housing, literally hundreds of windows looking down at this. I half expected a visit from the men in blue.

Cleanup

The Duchess sounds pretty epic. It’s a 17th century play, although it’s a new version by Zinnie Harris after John Websterby. Check out the Lyceum info here.

Harris Distillery

More Hebridean adventures, with tea from a 128 year old…..

Here’s a few fun images from my recent jaunt to Harris Distillery on the Outer Hebrides. This year my wife Krista came along for a ‘holiday’ and to maybe help out ‘just a wee bit’. Didn’t quite happen that way. She was with me for most of the trip dangling lights off boats, running away from monster waves and hauling gear around warehouses. Still it’s always a pleasure to meet up with the Hearachs again and introduce Krista. It may be a job but I’m meeting with folk that are more friends than clients. Myself and Krista had some fine adventures with even a bit of time at the end for a trip down to Rodel and then over to Skye for a few days.

Lewis McKenzie brings in the sea kelp. An essential ingredient of Harris Gin. Lewis has a huge knowledge of the crop which has recently been under threat of being commercial dredged, a ruinous practice. 
One of the locals takes a sniff of the Harris gin at Hushinish beach 
storms one minute….
blue skies the next….
Kenny checking out the peat supplies that will be used to give the Harris whisky it’s smokey flavour
New distiller Norman Ian with his bairns on Luskintyre beach
looking very at home on Hushinish beach.
The design of the bottle was inspired by the beautiful patterns you get on Harris beaches.
Harris is a truly otherworldly place. Where else will you get to see waterfalls running backwards? Probably around a 60mph wind out there.
I can never resist the view of the Clisham from Aird Asaig. 
Managing director of Harris distillery, Simon Erlanger, travels from Stornoway down to Harris on his classic bike, and on a day that’s not raining! Simon doesn’t like the rain. 
Lewis trying not to look like a kelp monster
Stevie with a traditional peat cutting tairsgear.
Guardian of the Clisham, with the new distillery warehouse in the background.
Production manager Kenny Maclean checking the stock at Aird Asaig
Billy filling the Dottach for another distillation of Harris gin. Just a 72 hour process end to end. A wee bit quicker than the 5-10 years it takes for whisky to be ready! It’s been one of their best decisions to have added gin production to the distillery, it created an almost instant income stream thats been many times more successful than anticipated.
Days I love my job, no. 4.
The legendary Temple cafe down in Northton, wonderful food and atmosphere. Sadly about to close.
….just along from Croft 36, what an amazing concept.  A shop all done on trust, just help yourself and leave your payment. Wonderful pies and soup to be had.
Inside St. Clements, the 15th century church in Rodel on our day off. Such an amazing place.
My favourite moment on Harris…. Down the Golden Road we stopped at this ‘cafe’ (a church hall selling soup and toasties on Tuesdays and Saturdays). There was the sweetest old lady managing things. I asked her how long she’d been there, she stopped to think for a while, raised  her finger and said proudly, ‘since 1908!’ I’d just love to think it might be true, but she did eventually rectify it to 2008. Love it!