Some portraits from the past few months:
Instagram again. I'm going to talk about those I don't / won't follow. Probably because it's cathartic to make a vague swipe at the misuse, self-indulgence and poor behaviour on the platform.
A little background: for me, IG is mostly a place for all my 'singles', images which I take outside of work and which don't belong in a portfolio. Usually patterns, shapes and abstracts, that sort of thing (here). I also put the odd 'proper' image in there to mix it up, with half an eye on the (potential) professional/portfolio aspect.
I spend between 5-20 minutes a day on IG, and have 1,453 followers (today), and follow 604.
So, accounts I tend to follow include: quality photography and art; picture editors and related; potential and existing clients; odd, interesting and similar accounts, and some friends.
Regrettably, like many, I also follow accounts upon which I border on indifference, but I'm whittling these down over time. And some accounts whose origins I can't remember. The rest are the remnants of the few days last year when I used a bot. I remove these as and when.
Anyway, here's who I don't follow:
- People who list their kit. I just don't understand why anyone would do this. Nobody cares.
- Anyone who uses more than one or two emojis in their profile.
- Anyone following more than 500 people (I'm aware of the hypocrisy, but I'm trying). Seriously, though, some people follow a couple of thousand accounts. This is silly. They only care about themselves - they're not interested in you, or me, or anyone. Someone following over 10k people followed me the other day. Do the maths. Them spending, say, two seconds looking at one image per person per day equals... 5.5 hours per day on IG. So, do they want to see my work? No. It's clickbait, in order for me to follow back. Sometimes these people then unfollow. The cheek of it.
- #catsofinstagram - I'd never get any work done. It's the pinnacle of human achievement.
- People who post more than a couple of inspirational quotes. Just please stop.
- Anyone with a disproportionately high following in relation to their number of posts. This is suspicious. Do your time and upload some content, don't use a bot.
- Professional photographers whose target audience is those who they know personally, and worse, just those they know very well. Typically, you can spot them because their posts are insider-ish (to the exclusion of others) eg friends, BTS shots, holidays, in-jokes, family. You're not posting for me. That's fine - equally I'm not interested in you, I'm here to see your work.
- People who describe themselves as an "influencer", "dreamer", "disrupter" or "thought leader". Or use hashtags like #lifegoals. It's not that I don't get it - I do. We're just very different people and we wouldn't be friends in the real world.
- People who have too many selfies. 1 per 20 uploads is probably fine. More if you're a model, I guess.
- Friends who didn't follow me back. Why do you hate me?
Finally, there are posts which raise an eyebrow, but aren't necessarily dealbreakers. The absolute worst are portraits taken of celebrities who've just died, sometimes within minutes of the news breaking. The caption talks about the time (six years previously) when they photographed them, how nice they were, how sad it is etc. followed by a sea of these hashtags: #death #sorrow #tragedy #death #celebrity #overdose #portraitphotographer #londonphotographer #rip #sad #commission #suicide. You are horrible people. But I like your style.
In the interests of full disclosure, I should note that actually I'll follow anyone, and am guilty of most of the offences listed.
This set of pictures is from a long time ago, when I was in Nepal. Out walking one day, I came to Benchen Monastery in West Kathmandu and decided to take a look around. The novice monks were playing marbles:
I’m a cat person, and I watch Netflix.
I might binge from time to time, but in my defence I normally have one or both of my cats asleep on my lap, and I consider it a cruelty to move from the sofa.
According to a survey by Netflix, most people prefer to watch box sets with their pets. There’s no chance of spoilers - or, worse - cheating.
The study also claims: “More than a third of respondents (37%) have moved where they were sitting so their pet would be more comfortable, 22% have bribed them with treats to watch longer, and some (12%) have even gone so far as turning off a show because their pet didn’t appear to like it.”
(During the afternoon, the tiniest puppy ever was brought in to reception. Despite being a committed ailurophile, I did consider making space in my camera bag to bring it home. It was the size of a lens, and not even one of the large ones.)
I'm not at liberty to publish all the images, but here's a flavour.
Picture credits: Alex Rumford/Dogs Trust:
My IG feed - @alexrumford - is diluted with my regular work and archive material. If you're anything like me, you tend not to view more than the most recent couple of dozen pictures on someone's feed, and early posts soon get buried in an ever-growing pile.
Secondly, I like to see posts from everyone, but following nearly 800 people would mean an hour a day just keeping up.
With no way of filtering the 'best' images ('likes' are often largely irrelevant, at best a rough indication of quality) IG is then more about getting a sense of someone's work and interests rather than seeing their portfolio. Which is fine, but since my "out and about" shots - mostly minimalist and abstracts - are a world away from my commissioned work, I wanted to some of my favourites to date:
I was commissioned to shoot portraits and a meeting of the top people at Standard Chartered for their annual report. This is CEO Bill WInters:
A new headshot is long overdue: my existing one is around seven years old. So, tethering to my laptop, with a remote trigger, a tripod and a couple of lights, I set to work.
I played around with colours in photoshop to make it look arty, but the issue is still that I look unhappy, and there's not a lot I can do about that in post. But forcing a smile alone made me feel a little insane. When I'm shooting corporate headshots, I don't know the people and so I can objectively work towards trying to make them look professional, friendly, trustworthy etc. There's no right way for each person: aside from everyone photographing differently, depending on age, role and level a softer look will suit some, a more assertive expression others.
The subjects, on the other hand, are usually concerned with looking their best. 95% claim not to be photogenic as they come into the room, and/or dislike their nose/ears/chin/hairline etc. We're often looking for different things from the process.
I knew I should adopt the objective approach, but it's very hard to do. And I don't think I've ever taken a real selfie. Sometimes, knowing what goes into something makes it all the more difficult to achieve.
I had another go a couple of days later, with a different lighting setup and less post-production. The hint of a smile (as much as I can muster) is definitely better. The tilt of the head softens it somewhat, and the stronger catchlights in the eyes help bring some life into it.
On reflection, I'd prefer an environmental portrait over a headshot on a background next time. So whilst it will do for now, I'm still not thrilled with it, and will likely do a swap with another photographer at the next opportunity.
Landsec commissioned me to take portraits of staff for International Women's Day today, March 8th. Some of these accompany their interviews about the experience of working in an industry perceived to be male-dominated. Here is the article, and here are some of the images:
Here are some of my favourite shots taken in 2017. As many have already appeared - one of the drawbacks of blogging regularly - I'm including some background this time around.
I hope that was of interest. See you next near!
The Toyota Mobility Foundation has launched a $4 million dollar global challenge to change the lives of people with lower-limb paralysis, culminating in the unveiling of the winners in Tokyo in 2020.
The competition is is looking for teams around the world - including startups - to create game-changing technology that will help radically improve the mobility and independence of people with paralysis. The mobility solutions of the future could include anything from exoskeletons to artificial intelligence and machine learning, from cloud computing to batteries.
To raise awareness of the competition, volunteers from around the world (including athletes, presenters, scientists and artists) with lower-limb paralysis acted as spokespeople.
I was commissioned to source, commission and liaise with photographers from various countries and create a brief in order to produce a stylistically consistent set of portraits. I was also to photograph the two London representatives, Yinka Shonibare and Sophie Morgan.
Finding the photographers began with asking for recommendations and referrals, googling, searching agencies and skimming databases, and browsing scores of websites to find people with a roughly similar approach and portfolio. Narrowing them down based on their availability at short notice and, of course, budget, I presented these to the client for the final decision.
Dealing with my own, separate commissions alongside dealing with correspondence from various time zones meant late nights and early mornings, as well as lengthy, rather chaotic spreadsheets - something I've never had to deal with. And lots of coffee.
In a nutshell, the brief was to provide two portraits of each person: one full-length, wide shot to show their environment, locating them within their country or region, otherwise at a place which might suggest their profession or background; the other was to be a closer crop, with the emphasis on them and their expression (positive, challenging etc.) at, ideally, a different location. Lighting was to be simple, minimal to none where possible.
To maintain consistency, I did the basic retouch work on the selected RAW files myself which was extremely generous of the photographers to allow.
In the end, and despite best intentions and plans - as is often the case - some of it came down to what the photographers could do on the ground, what they could use to tell the story in the (usually short) time available from whatever relevant/photogenic locations they had in the vicinity. Mostly the time and location were dictated by the busy schedules of the volunteers and photographers, rather than by the best light or ideal spot. But you wouldn't know! - I think they did a superb job, and the launch was a great success.
So, happy with the results (and slightly baffled as to how I got it done), I have now have on file fifty or so photographers around the world I could contact should this come up again - a pretty comprehensive spreadsheet. If only I could remember where I filed it...
Here's a selection of business portraits and similar. Yes, they're nearly all corporate headshots against a light or white background. I'd normally not post these kinds of pictures but the first one I shot yesterday and felt it had a bit of personality to it which I quite liked. One headshot not being enough to justify a post, I found myself browsing others from the past year or so which stood out, and here they are.
Here's another selection of images taken over the past few months. There's something about taking commissioned work out of context and with less explanation than with a typical blog post, and putting them into these 'mixed bag' posts. Especially those shots may have come from larger series, but which would have been picked here as being the most interesting, the most representative of the set etc. Without some blog-type explanation, they could be anything, so you can see them on their own merits rather than as the usual (and rather boring-sounding), "examples of commissioned work".
Occasionally I'll send photos directly to a designer or retoucher straight from camera. Here are a couple of recent portraits to be used in an upcoming campaign.
They will likely be cropped to simple headshots and left on a white background, so while normally I wouldn't do any editing myself on these (especially as it wasn't required), I rather liked them and so had a play around with the background to make them presentable.
I shot a range of lifestyle & location images of Polish Wódka Wyborowa for use in their social media:
Vauxhall put together a stop-frame animation about the typical frustrations drivers experience for their new Mokka. (Above) I photographed our model running through the gamut of expressions. Then (below) from every angle:
(Below) We then covered dozens of gestures and reactions as sequences, both left-handed and right-handed, with different expressions.
My original image, and (below) another from the set.