Category Archives: Portraits

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.

Do try the Bacon and Saville

I recently visited the Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh, a regular haunt. They are currently showing some incredible work by the acclaimed Scottish artist, Jenny Saville I remember her work when she first gained wide recognition over 20 years ago but hadn’t seen much for years. I was totally blown away and would recommend a visit. You really need to see the images in their larger than life scale to appreciate them. The wild textural style seems at odds with the subtlety of the overall final painting from a distance.

While there I saw some of the Francis Bacon images they hold in their permanent collection. I’ve always loved the abstraction in his work and like Saville I’m so impressed that brush strokes so seemingly wild can result in art so nuanced. I’ve always felt a little frustrated that those contradictory qualities are harder to capture in photography. I have been playing around with light from a projector and I calculated I could use it’s qualities to allow more unpredictability and abstraction into my work . I’ve never seen anyone else using light in quite this way and was unsure if my late night pondering on the technique would come to anything.

I first tried lighting a moving model during a long exposure in the studio and liked the outcome, especially the lack of control over what the final image would look like. I then tried shooting a self portrait, largely for the want of a suitable (slightly!) craggy face that would work well for this approach. All rather hard to do while holding the camera at the same time! All this from a man who can’t abide ‘the selfie’. The self portrait has a look of something highly edited but I love that this image is straight from the camera unedited other than a crop. The rather wild look of the image is captured raw in both senses! A couple of days later I was shooting a theatre image for my friend Matthew Zajac and managed to sneak in another projector portrait of him at the end of our shoot.

I’m not sure where all this might lead, I’m always inclined to jump around stylistically but I really enjoyed the lack of control  inherent within the process which I think allows more to come from the sitters in that moment. Anything that challenges your normal practices, especially after 30 tears of shooting is very welcome. I also just love to play!

Jenny Saville style photograph of a reclining nude in a studio

Baconesque self portrait

Matthew with Patricks shoes







Not so Common

Now it’s been officially released I can let you have a peek at an extremely fun shoot I was commissioned to do for the Royal National Theatre’s production of Common back in January. It stars Anne-Marie Duff as Marianne and is set around 1800. They wanted to portray it in period and on location. Logistically it was decided to shoot it in London so I had an assistant recce  a few spots that would give us that wilderness look without an epic amount of travel. So thats how I ended up getting the sleeper down from Edinburgh to be picked up by assistant Keir then off to Chingford Plain on a chilly morning in the first week of January.

There I met up with Liam Relph and Ollie Wisner the creative team at NT. We stomped about and found the right location before Anthony turned up with his mighty fine crows fresh from a stint with Doctor Who. After a good while for costume, hair and make-up I got to meet Anne-Marie out in the field. Straight away it was apparent she’s very down to earth and great to work with. We took shots in a couple of locations , which took a while as I had to cater for  the dread, ‘side of a bus’ and ‘drop banner’ crops, every photographers nightmare!. That’s why the shot below is a stitch of about 6 shots to cater for the huge crops.

Apart from the laptop dying of cold half way through we had no mishaps. The crows performed right on cue every time which helped reduce much need to photoshop elements after. Anthony even had a choice of crow if we wanted one to fly, flap wings or just sit still. I made the shoot much less stressful than I anticipated. I think thats ‘Flamingo’ on her arm.

It’s not on till May but if you want to see it here’s the link

Anne-Marie Duff in the National Theatre's Common
Anne-Marie Duff as Marianne in the National Theatre’s Common

Assistant Keir providing me with blue screen assets – or is it an i-D magazine shoot?


Anthony Bloom with one of his crows
Anthony Bloom with one of his finely trained crows

Ollie Winser directs the birds




The Iliad

Ben Turner as Achillies at Lyceum Theatre
Ben Turner as Achillies at Lyceum Theatre

The Iliad – and the question of art direction

I recently shot these images for The Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh’s production of Homers The Iliad. It’s Mark Thomson’s Final show as artistic director there and quite the epic to end on.

Right from the start I pictured a form of multiple exposures to show the main characters in not overly dramatic poses but also showing the chaos they create by the use of blood. I could see it in my mind but I couldn’t show it to the client in advance. Fortunately, Ben Jeffries, Director of Communications at the theatre, was trusting enough to let me try this approach. This is hugely appreciated! It highlighted to me the lack of faith I feel there can be in photographers abilities to bring their own vision to bear on a creative project that all too often can be entirely art directed in advance of any communication with the photographer themselves. There are times I feel it would be more appropriate to don a white lab coat in the exercise of ‘now copy this,’ style of uncreative art direction. The best course is a balance, bringing the ideas of the art director at the early stages of a project to the photographer to see how their creativity together can help create something greater than the sum of the parts. Often a final photograph is the best idea of a non photographer. I wouldn’t dream of telling a designer how to layout their page, it’s not my speciality. So why does it happen the other way around!

Poster for The Iliad at Lyceum Theatre by Homer. Ben Turner as Achillies, Helen by Ameira Darwish and Thetis by Melody Grove
Poster for The Iliad at Lyceum Theatre by Homer. Ben Turner as Achillies, Helen by Ameira Darwish and Thetis by Melody Grove

America Darkish as Helen in the Iliad at Lyceum Theatre
America Darkish as Helen in the Iliad at Lyceum Theatre

Melody Grove as Thetis at Lyceum Theatre
Melody Grove as Thetis at Lyceum Theatre

Harris Distillery

Harris Distillery Portraits

These are shots of Donald and Peter, two of the new distillers at Harris Distillery. After taking shots of all the distillers in their work at the distillery I took shots of them going about their own lives.

Donald like most folk on Harris has a boat and does a bit of fishing so we took a wander down to the bay by his house. Like a lot of folk on Harris he was very laid back and perfectly at ease in front of the camera.

Peter is a coastguard so he can be got up at any hour of the day or night to deal with emergencies. He easily wins the award for the most enthusiastic member of staff, I couldn’t get him not smiling. I took shots of his stepson, Cameron with his ducks the last time I was over.

Shooting on Harris was the most rewarding job I’ve done last year, especially at the end with the amazing ceilidh with the band Skipinnish for the grand opening. As I had to meet and photograph so many people it felt like a big family get together with over half the population along for the night. I so hope they ask me back to take more images, it’s a job that feels like a holiday!Harris distillery portrait Harris distillery portrait

Exhibition looms!

Exhibition looms!

I have been asked to exhibit some of my work at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary in July. I am intending to show the images from my recent Shadow series, mostly double exposure nudes. To that end I’ve been shooting for this in my free time. It’s a lot of fun playing with ideas and creating just the feel I want. A lot of the images have been of Sophie who originally modelled for me in commercial projects a few times. I didn’t realise at the time but she was the perfect model for this series as she has worked as a life model in the past and is an artist so understands the creative process perfectly. That makes a huge difference when you’re working on something personal as it often involves a fair degree of searching around to find the right direction.

Two of these have been shot on my home-made tilt shift lens, I love it’s etherial quality. The double exposures are easy to produce but very hard to get just right.

Anyone women interested in modelling for the series please email me on

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Isle of Harris Portraits – Cameron

Portraits from the Isle of Harris. – Cameron (please do share this!)

Portraits from the Isle of Harris. - Callum
This is part of a series of portraits commissioned by the Harris Distillery being built in Tarbert on Harris. The wanted portraits of the islanders in their natural environment.  National Geographic was the mood they asked for.                                                    This was the shoot I enjoyed the most of the time I spent on Harris. Cameron and his family were so welcoming and open to ideas. He was very patient while we attempted to herd the ducks into some kind of order which was as you’d imagine, like trying to drink soup with a sieve. Lovely people. I love my job!