While James photographed their designs, products, templates and models - all the cool stuff - I did portraits of the designers. Not that I minded - it meant I spent (a bit too much) time chatting, as it's rare and lovely to meet a client who speaks exactly the same language as you. Their passion seems to boil down to "how light reacts with different things" which is pretty much all I think about. Despite running over time in conversation, I still found a little bit of time at the end to photograph some of the cool stuff, too.
Portraits of multi-talented musician Matt Smith:
Artist Gavin Turk, who is exhibiting at the Newport Street Gallery on Wednesday with "Who What When Where How & Why".
I've said elsewhere that one of the things I like about Instagram is that it's a place to put all the images which don't belong anywhere else. Too random for Facebook, not relevant for clients, and neither suitable nor strong enough for my portfolio. But worse would be to leave them on a hard-drive, forgotten in a cupboard, forever. While browsing my IG feed, I noticed that a great number were shot while I was waiting around for something.
It's an interesting category. These are the kind of images which, most of all, should fall between the floorboards. These shots are either an afterthought or noticed when you're thinking of other things. They're the result of time spent idle, with no planning or prior intention, and they wouldn't exist but for the opportunity of a few free moments.
I undertook a series of case-study portraits on behalf of Instructure for their state-of-the-art Learning Management Software (LMS). We photographed teachers, administrators and learners - users from all sides - and visited Birmingham University (where I studied!), Oxford, Sutton Tennis Academy and Trondheim, Norway. Here are a selection:
Entrepreneur Rishi Khosla, CEO of OakNorth, a bank which focuses on lending to fast-growth businesses and entrepreneurs.
A while back I wrote about how much of the job involves solving problems seemingly outside of photography: usually practical issues around the shoot which are unpredictable, unwanted or irritating. My argument was that however we may feel, they are very much part and parcel of a shoot. They must be dealt with, worked around, bulldozed over - or even leveraged to create something new.
Or in other words, when given lemons. And hence, "I don't want excuses - I want pictures." as the picture desks say.
So, a case in point last week. Two brand-new Maserati models arriving in London, to be displayed in the window of Harrods. I was commissioned to document their arrival on Saturday night (straightforward), and return early the next morning - when they'd be setup up and window-dressed - to shoot "teaser" detail, close-up images of shiny chrome and brand logos, that sort of thing (arty). A taste of the display, but without revealing too much.
Part one (the arrival) went fine - just some cars being dropped off into a showroom at night:
Part two, however, was a different story. Very early on the Sunday morning, after wending my way through the labyrinthine underground catacombs of the store (you wouldn't believe), and finally arriving at the display, this scene greeted me:
Oh, dear. A half-finished installation, with bubble wrap and sheeting covering the cars for their protection. And the sheeting was not going to be removed until the last moment (which was expected to be sometime in the early hours of the next morning).
Hmm. There would be no chrome. No close-ups of an ergonomic steering wheel or an Italian leather interior. No branding. No logos. How could I take evocatively teasing images when I could barely see the cars?
I was about to turn around and go home - really; did I mention it was a Sunday morning? - when it dawned on me that, in fact, the shots were right there. Not what I'd expected or hoped for, certainly - but possibilities for teaser images (of a rather different kind), just the same. A couple of dozen, as it turned out. So, here's a logo at the front:
If that was too abstract, a wider shot shows a little more. Like the Christmas wrapping around a bicycle, which shapes what's underneath rather predictably (and delightfully):
I then found that the sheeting and bubble-wrap could be pulled up over the wheels and part-way up the bonnet, meaning I could get shots nearer to what was expected:
Finally, a photo of a car as a whole is rather dull. This is a pity, as it's very much the definition of a teaser image:
But works just fine with one small change - here, the sheeting is being smoothed into place by one of the installation team. Job done:
National Skills Academy for Financial Services (NSAFS) required images of their Money Mentors training scheme, part of the award-winning Lloyds Banking Group Money for Life Programme. This workshop runs over two days, training a variety of candidates to provide financial management support:
I've been running occasional classes for Instagram/Facebook over the past year. These are informal sessions where I teach their clients everything I know about photography (!) before letting them loose in Camden, King's Cross or Southbank. They have then 30-40 minutes' shooting before we regroup, critique, and decide on the winner(s).
The lesson itself lasts an hour. We cover some theory, a few practical tips and techniques, and then look at using the app to edit images. Nothing technical. Among others, clients have included Heineken and Starbucks, and there's one in the pipeline for Apple.
They're given a variety of themes to work towards - it's important to have limitations - but they're not obliged to keep to them. These are usually Reflections, Shapes & lines, Signs and symbols, Colour, and Close-ups.
Judging the winner is always difficult as many are equally good, but for different reasons.
While I could have shown plenty of descriptive images, lovely detail shots and neat observations, this selection I've made of their work either reflects some of the points we cover, or tends towards fresh and quirky (often abstract and arty shots) which are right up my street. That is, I'd be very happy to have any of these in my own feed (@alexrumford)! Although I should point out that the best pictures on the day are just that - they have nothing do with my own taste or preferences.
I hope you enjoy them as much as I did:
I posted a mannequin image on Instagram the other week. I have hundreds of these. I've been taking them for a while, usually through shop windows while on my way to shoots. There's no reason behind them. No underlying commentary on how idealisation results in lifeless, plastic, empty expressions. No comparison between the realist and impressionist takes on the human face.
I see them from time to time and I just find them interesting, I guess.
Now, I don't want to flood my IG feed - although I'll surely put more up there in time - but I feel I want to publish them.
It's a 'release', sure. Also, it clears the decks of the various non-commissioned, random miscellany which clogs up my archives, and which has nowhere to go.
Here are some of the men. Enjoy (?) -
Mousetrap Theatre Projects' mission is to get young people involved in theatre, and their focus is on disadvantaged youth (be those learning, economic or social difficulties). One of my favourite clients, they tirelessly work to offer a wide range of opportunities and activities, alongside regular education within schools and colleges.
I covered two workshops for them recently. The first was an "Insight" session, a 90 minute pre-show workshop for students to get inside the creative process of putting a show together (here, for Brecht's Threepenny Opera at the National Theatre):
The other was coverage of part of the "SummerStage" program, where students work with professional dance and theatre professionals to put together and perform a show in the West End:
My post a few weeks back on an advertising image for Land Securities reminded me of a shoot from back in 2014. I wasn't blogging regularly then; I neglectfully buried the images in a grid as part of a round-up post of my year's work. So it's a TBT.
The brief was to spend time around the central London areas of Aldgate, St Pauls, Fleet Street and Chancery Lane, where Land Securities has properties and ongoing developments. They required imagery of the buildings, shops, interesting asides, key sights -and the general feel and atmosphere - for a brochure and some other materials.
I loved this shoot - I had freedom over my schedule and route, and while there were some required shots, I was mostly left to my own devices as to what else to capture and how to photograph it. Apart from seeking a few permissions, I barely spoke to anyone for two days!
I'd done a couple of recces to plan the route, locate the main areas of interest, and see how the light was for the more architectural and wider scene shots at the different times of day. But still, so often I found myself winding around and double-backing on myself, getting lost around backstreets and frequently sidetracked with details I'd not noticed. I delivered a small library of photos in the end, very much an interwoven document of the area, but with a number of shots which I felt stood alone.
Here's a (small-ish) selection of some of my favourite ones - enjoy!
A little about the editing process today, and the tough choice we have to make when choosing between two or more shots which are similar. This photo above is in my portrait gallery, and the subject is - possibly - good enough to be worthy of inclusion there, regardless of accompanying gestures (here, the gloved hand framing the eye).
Naturally, it was one of several ideas we tried out. The photo below could equally have been picked: there's little between them, especially since you could argue that the gesture in both is arbitrary. All things being equal, you go with your instinct when making a preference, but often you use more objective details (and in this case, it came down to the hand on the chin overdoing it). But it's not easy, knowing you're consigning a perfectly good, potential portfolio image to a hard drive in a cupboard.
Neither made the final cut (my preferred versions are here). How to compare them? The top image shows more of Shelley, but the expression doesn't fit. The bottom image makes more contact with a stronger (or at least more apt) expression, but I feel the hands should be more splayed, like claws, and that the clothes are rather lost. And I'm not sure if I like, or dislike, not being able to see her eyes.
The point is this: whenever I have to choose between similar shots which I both like, alarm bells ring. Because if they both have obvious advantages over the other, there may be too much missing from both. It usually means I can't look past the subject to judge them on better criteria, that I just want it to work so badly I'll look past flaws which wouldn't get more than a moment's consideration on any other shoot.
Admittedly, sometimes the subject matter is so good that all other frames of comparison really do lose relevance - so in truth, knowing when this is the situation is the hardest judgement of all.
I usually like to look up my work when it's been published, especially when it's something I'm proud of or feel particularly invested in.
There's a huge, ongoing development by Land Securities at Victoria. They're currently working on the Nova building. Land Securities are a regular client of mine, and I'd shot this for them a few years ago (I preferred this version) for a press release. It was perhaps two years later when they decided that it could work well with this rather large advertising hoarding at Nova, and wanted to use it again.
Which I then completely forgot about, until I happened to pass it on my way to a shoot some months later.
It was a nice surprise: so much of what we do stays online - it's lovely to see work used in the real world so prominently.
I've thrown together various bits and pieces from recent months for this week's blog.
Photivation » /fəʊtɪveɪʃ(ə)n/ » noun » adj: photivated, verb: photivateRead More