Midway through the pandemic I was commissioned by Edinburgh University to make a series of portraits of 13 individuals that work in or with the university. Each of them was chosen to represent the broad range of people at the university who in one way or another are playing their part to help combat the virus. Their roles are diverse from stores manager to government advisor to intensive care consultant.
After some test shooting and much discussion on safety between myself and the university co-ordinators Jen Durkin and Jen Middleton we established a straightforward style that seemed to fit the subject.
I photographed each of them individually in my studio, a bit of a challenge when we had to stay well apart. Trying to relax your subject and adjust a camera is not so easy when your mask is steaming up your glasses and muffling your words. Despite these inconveniences the project was hugely rewarding creatively as well as a being an interesting window into each of their worlds. In the course of shooting I received several personalised mini TED talks on what they were working on. The biggest thing I learned from talking to them is that despite their best efforts just how hard it is to know what the future holds when you’re dealing with a pathogen that’s so new without years worth of data to analyse.
Large scale prints have been produced of some of the images. These are hung at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh inside the Chancellor’s building foyer. The full collection is to be displayed in the Elsie Ingles lounge soon. You can see all the portraits and read more about each of the subjects on the university blog here.
I was commissioned to shoot the mens Hibs team to showcase their new lineup wearing home and away strips for their newly designed website put together by the agency Whitespace. Adam Wilson the designer from the agency art directed for the two 1/2 days of shooting at the Hibs grounds. They wanted to make use of some stylised lighting that used the team colours so I spent time testing beforehand so we were good to go on the day.
Adam shot some behind the scenes footage. Click on the image below to view.
It was then rightly decided to do the same for the women’s team. Again over two 1/2 days, this time in my studio. Fortunately I’d made a detailed plan of all the lighting and settings from the previous shoot which meant I could exactly match the earlier shots, something I’m always encouraging students to do.
A good while back I saw a couple of amazing paintings at the RSA in Edinburgh. A friend of mine introduced me to the artist, one Kirsty Whiten. She specialises in powerful surreal images, ritualistic, symbolic paintings I felt strongly drawn to. We ended up meeting and got along. I persuaded her to appear in one of my photographs. Loving her work I wanted to reference it in my own image somehow. She invited me up to her amazing home studio in Fife then on for a traipse around some local spots Kirsty thought might be a good location for a picture. Eventually we ended up in an amazing forest that was full of sink holes and mini caves in Blebo woods. This seemed like the perfect location to capture something otherworldly. The elemental quality of the location made me decide to use fire in the image. We took a couple of test shots in a shallow cave and headed home.
The forthcoming shoot was in my mind to the extent I ended up dreaming about it. In my dream the location was different, in a much deeper cave with a lower cave within the main cave that was full of people that we had to negotiate with before being able to take the photograph. When we arrived back at the location for the shoot Kirsty mentioned that there was a second cave nearby if I wanted to see it. We ended up heading over and as soon as I stepped inside I was surprised to see the cave you see, one with a deeper lower cave at the back, just like in my dream. Naturally we ended up taking the images in there.
The smell and atmosphere in the cave made it one of the most otherworldly and intense places I’ve ever shot in, even more so when we began to light up the balls of fire. It’s a tricky process all about subtle timing but that intensity helped in a way. As well as Kirsty portrayed as Tatwari, ‘a god of fire and shaman of ancient times,’ I took a couple of other images of her as well as the cave alone which is the one I keep getting drawn back to.
Being a photographer you used to being asked to do some pretty daft things. But when I was called up by Jim Swan at the Leith Agency to discuss a shoot that involved a car blowing up on behalf of the Scottish Government I was a little surprised and well interested. When I saw the visuals I loved the environmental concept and the film poster style of the campaign, something that suited my more theatrical approach to photography.
I did start the process of researching literally blowing a car up, which no matter who you are, let’s admit it, we all want to do! However, the client wanting to use a £70,000 Mercedes lead us down the retouch route.
The shoots themselves were relatively straight forward, especially after getting my assistant Elliot and friend Mihaela to run through the actors rolls with banana and croissant in hand as well as getting Elliot swinging around in a harness. That meant I was all prepped for lighting and the crucial comping angles to match the backgrounds. Thanks to Sarah Lauder for her epic production skills!
Get yourself a Movember portrait!
Send your Movember ‘tashe pals along to the studio (63 Brunswick Road Edinburgh EH7 5PD) on Friday 27th November between 5pm – 10pm for your very own Movember hi res Football card portrait wearing one of my provided vintage Toffs football tops.
Add yourself to the event; https://www.facebook.com/events/1529347844053681/
(please no beards! It’s a ‘tashe thing) Mo sistas welcome though, I have fake ‘tashes for them.
I was filmed in an interviewed the other day by a friend of mine Les Stelmachowski for one of his Fitness Soul podcasts. We do discuss sport as that’s how I know him, but mainly it’s all about my photography. Click on the link below, (not the image)
I’ve done this kind of thing before, a talk in front of a roomful of semi interested students who don’t always have the choice about whether they want to be there. It’s actually generally a fun thing to do. I feel a strong sense of obligation to help out students as it was professional working photographers visiting and talking at my uni that made all the difference to me. It left a big impression. So that’s why I like to do the same for students now and it usually ends up with me blurting out every possible bit of advice and pitfall to avoid I can possibly muster in a non too eloquent manner.
This time though, Sophie Gerrard, photography lecturer at Napier Uni has asked me to talk to her final year students but has also made the talk open to the public…. and they’re calling it a lecture….. It all sounds a bit grown up and serious! They’ve even made a poster for it! (At least I’m looking svelte in it, being taken 12 years ago – with me standing on the bubble cable release)
It’s supposed to be about being a commercial photographer, which is fine although I’d much rather talk about personal projects as they consume about 98% of my brain. However, I’ll strike a balance and go over both. One of the problems is that it takes many hours to prepare properly for a talk and I’m always so busy! I’m trying in my spare time to collate new info and images to make it as fresh as possible but if you’ve heard me talk in the past you can cough loudly and yawn when I start telling one you’ve heard before. Questions at the end.
My biggest fear apart from the nerves is that it’s full of photo nerds that want to talk about gear! Zzzzzz. sorry guys!
If you want to attend this stream of consciousness then you need to RSVP Sophie Gerrard the lecturer co-ordinating it at Napier.
RSVP for a seat S.Gerrard@napier.ac.uk
Where Napier University, Merchiston Campus lecture theatre B2
It makes such a huge difference when you have a team on a project like this. I love it when the actors turn up with a hair and makeup person as well as with just the right costume. It means I can spend my time on the lighting and feel of the shot and not be running about looking for safety pins and hairspray! And having a talented actor helps of course. Nicola had no problem getting the intensity of the character across. The students on placement seemed to enjoy standing in for Nicola too, bunch of posers!
Well here are just a small sample from my shoot from the end of November celebrating all the moustachy for the Movember charity. We had a great night and raised £295 for the charity. I love how some of the characters that came along look totally convincing as criminals while others just look like someone having fun.
On Luskentyre beach. One of the hundreds of pictures of locals on the Isle of Harris I shot last week for the new Harris Distillery they are building in Tarbert. Joanna was very patient and understanding. I was really looking forward to shooting this portrait as I knew the early evening low light would combine with my lighting to give an effective image. I wasn’t counting on 72mph winds though! I don’t know how she managed to keep her eyes open, it was like standing in a sand shower!
Been shooting for Havana Club in Cuba. Huge amount of fun, lots of work though and tough in the heat. This is Havana from one one precious day off. There’s not much in the shot to tell you it’s not still 1959!
Between the crippling USA trade embargo and still being communist, the country is in a pretty desperately poor state. Beautiful though, especially the people.
Good friends of mine, Matt and George. Wonderfully creative people who tick the eccentric box so had no problem with my ideas for a photo. These are all there own glad rags too so it makes my job to capture their character a lot easier. Matt was pretty exhausted, it was a long day on the piste!
This was a shoot from my time up in the North East of Scotland. A beautiful morning spent at the decidedly creepy disused Lido in Banff. The weather was spectacular and the location lent itself perfectly to the mood I was looking to create in the shots. These are part of my ongoing Mythologos project. The mask itself came from a tiny craftsman’s cellar workshop in a beautiful village in Tuscanny. I liked that the man I bought it from didn’t speak a word of English. There was much waving of hands.
I liked that the location reflected my interest in things we have left behind. The arrival of cheap flights to ‘The Continent’ cast the death knell of this lido and countless others like it. As a child I spent summers playing in the waters along the coast at Findhorn. With the gulf steam curling round to this unlikely coast the water was surprisingly bearable. Still, the Mediterranean it is not.
From a shoot up on the banks of Loch Ness in Autumn of 2013. Again we had two hour window on a job and myself and my good friend Iain sneaked away first thing to shoot these. I can’t explain how much I enjoy the preparation and build up to these kind of projects. The shoots themselves are usually a bit more fraught. I’ve always felt a bit unsettled by that but having watched a number video clips of other photographers shooting I don’t seem to be alone in this.
I made the wings over a week in a cottage on the beautiful isle of Lewis last new year. I loved seeing my sketches convert into the full size real thing. I now know the ins and outs of Krista’s sewing machine.
In case you wondered the name Otto is in homage to the legendary Otto Lilienthal a true pioneer of early flight. In keeping with dedicated slightly over enthusiastic innovators he died on one of his flights. I’d love to see a film of his life.