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A Dog With A Bone. Scooters, Greek Myths And A Career As A Commercial Photographer
The second thing that people often ask after I tell them I’m a commercial photographer is “how did you get into that”
I must admit to often asking the same of others I meet as either I’m just nosey or intrigued about the work paths people follow in life.
I always tell my children although all are quite young still (I was a late starter) you are a long time working so find something you love and make a career in that.
One of the beautiful things about photography is that there are no set ways into it. You can go and get a degree, attend part-time evening classes, assist or simply teach yourself.
Not being the academic type I chose the self-taught route with a short stint as a rather poor assistant.
Ultimately it is the work you produce rather than how you got here that counts at the end of the day.
My journey was rather as my mum would say arse backwards!
My father had an interest in photography and this is definitely where my interest initially came from at around 14 years of age.
This did not last for long and for whatever reason I sold my camera and moved onto other interests or 5-minute fads as my mum would call them (she had a phrase for many things in life and most not printable!).
As a teenager, my interests turned to riding Vespa and Lambretta scooters to rallies and events across the UK with my friends.
This was the 80’s and by August of 1984 at the age of 16, I decided I wanted to build a custom show scooter.
Another passion I had inherited from my dad was the love of Greece with its rich history and of course mythology.
This was to be the theme for my scooter build and decided to travel around the archaeological sites of Greece for a week for further inspiration.
This trip turned out to be the catalyst for my lifelong love of photography.
I borrowed my dad’s very impressive camera kit consisting of Canon A1 and several lenses including a monster of a 200mm zoom.
Looking back I think I probably enjoyed the attention I received from having such an impressive looking camera around my neck.
In 1985 the scooter was completed titled “Chariot Of The Gods” and it won several awards at many of the shows I attended.
It was around this time a national magazine was launched called Scootering which I approached and started to freelance for.
I couldn’t believe it I was actually getting paid albeit very little to shoot the people, scooters, and places in the scooter scene which at the time was my life ..I was hooked and decided this was the career I wanted.
I needed to learn faster so I consumed as much knowledge about commercial photography & printing as I could and enrolled in a home study course with the New York Institute Of Photography to learn the fundamentals.
This also allowed me to study while still working in the family Carpet & Furniture business.
Most of my knowledge was then gained by large amounts of shooting and note-taking, so basically much trial and error.
Approaching the late 80’s an opportunity to start my own business came along with the government’s Enterprise Allowance Scheme together with the Princes Youth Business Trust.
This gave me a grant for equipment plus a loan of £1000.00 to kick start my career as a commercial photographer.
In January 1990 my business called Apollo Photographics was launched.
Looking back now I don’t know how the hell I thought I was ready to enter business especially as my photography was still very raw to put it kindly but as Nike say “Just Do It” and indeed I did.
Business, however, did roll in from small local businesses, local papers, and tourist boards.
Circa 1991 with no apparent fear I booked an appointment to show my work to Somerset-based Clarks Shoes and incredibly came away with the biggest shoot to date which gave me my first real big break into work as an advertising photographer.
The job went well and I apparently became the flavour of the month and more work followed from Clarks for the following 12-18 months and I thought I had made it ….but I was very wrong!.
A career as a commercial photographer can be a cruel bitch and you can never sit back and relax for any length of time especially in the digital age where everything changes so quickly. The country went into a recession and work did go very quiet. It was around this time that another client who probably recognised I needed a photographic reality check got me a day assisting a friend of their’s who was a well-established commercial advertising photographer based in Bristol called Colin Peacock.
That client was right Colin’s studios and his work was an incredible wake-up call for me and I quickly realised how little I still really knew.
I was lucky with my timing in that Colin was in need of a second assistant so I ended up putting my business on hold and staying with him for around 9 months.
We worked on many large-scale shoots for well-known clients. The most memorable being a day at St James Palace in London shooting a royal portrait of Princess Alexandra.
Eventually, however, I got itchy feet and despite knowing I still had much to learn I left Colin to continue on my own.
I know he rated my chances of making a living in photography at exactly 0 and at that point looking back, I would have to agree with him.
However, quoting my mum once again she would say “You’re like a dog with a bone once you get a bee in your bonnet” meaning I’m quite a tenacious bugger if I get an idea in my head and for me not being a Photographer never entered my head for a second.
So as you can see my path was indeed slightly arsed backwards but passion, hard work, eagerness to keep learning and a refusal to give up is what has guided me this far and still does. Yes it can be hard and yes I’ve had doubts probably at least once a month but pack up and do something else ?… Nah I’m like a dog with a bone.