portrait

International Women's Day

Landsec commissioned me to take portraits of ten staff members at their offices in Victoria. We had a room reserved, and were free to use any available locations in the vicinity (ie reception, foyer & cafe) as well as Cardinal Place, their adjacent retail centre and outdoor public space.

Poor weather meant we couldn’t shoot outside, so the issue was about getting a good variety with limited indoor options. This became increasingly difficult as the day went on. Happily, all the ladies were very generous with their time (and their patience). Here’s a selection from the shoot:

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Recent work - November 2018

Nathan is Chief Investment Officer at global innovation foundation  Nesta , and I photographed him for  Economia  magazine.

Nathan is Chief Investment Officer at global innovation foundation Nesta, and I photographed him for Economia magazine.

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Michael Rosen is a poet, broadcaster, and writer among other things, and made the  BBC Radio 4 Appeal  on behalf of the  Meningitis Research Foundation . I photographed him at the BBC offices.

Michael Rosen is a poet, broadcaster, and writer among other things, and made the BBC Radio 4 Appeal on behalf of the Meningitis Research Foundation. I photographed him at the BBC offices.

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I thought I’d do a deadpan / Sunday supplement image for this portrait. I’m not sure this style of shooting is for me, and interestingly both the selection and the editing were just as tough: being so far from my usual approach I felt much less sure what I was looking for or working towards.

I thought I’d do a deadpan / Sunday supplement image for this portrait. I’m not sure this style of shooting is for me, and interestingly both the selection and the editing were just as tough: being so far from my usual approach I felt much less sure what I was looking for or working towards.

I photographed art expert Natalia Cola at the Westbury Hotel.

I photographed art expert Natalia Cola at the Westbury Hotel.

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Recent work - August 2018

Some portraits from the past few months:

Lizzy Watts, playing the lead in  Hedda Gabler  at the National Theatre.

Lizzy Watts, playing the lead in Hedda Gabler at the National Theatre.

Jacqueline Davies, Chair of the Board of Trustees at NSAFS.

Jacqueline Davies, Chair of the Board of Trustees at NSAFS.

Azad Cola, owner of the Westbury Hotel, for  Forbes  magazine.

Azad Cola, owner of the Westbury Hotel, for Forbes magazine.

Belmond CFO Martin O'Grady, photographed for  Economia  magazine (and below).

Belmond CFO Martin O'Grady, photographed for Economia magazine (and below).

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Alex Gaumond and Jonathan Bailey, joining the cast of  Company  at the Gielgud Theatre.

Alex Gaumond and Jonathan Bailey, joining the cast of Company at the Gielgud Theatre.

Corporate portraiture at Cohn & Wolfe (and below)

Corporate portraiture at Cohn & Wolfe (and below)

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Facebook EMEA Head of News Partnerships, Nick Wrenn.

Facebook EMEA Head of News Partnerships, Nick Wrenn.

Corporate self-portraiture (two)

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. 

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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.

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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. 

Toyota Mobility Foundation

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.

Artist Yinka Shonibare MBE, photographed at his studio in Dalston. He is perhaps best known for his 1:30 scale model,  Nelson's Ship in a Bottle,  which occupied Trafalgar Square's fourth plinth for two years in 2010.

Artist Yinka Shonibare MBE, photographed at his studio in Dalston. He is perhaps best known for his 1:30 scale model, Nelson's Ship in a Bottle, which occupied Trafalgar Square's fourth plinth for two years in 2010.

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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.

Head of Design and Research at Pinterest, August de los Reyes. Photographed at Pinterest head office in San Fransisco by Brooke Porter (www.brookeporterphotography.com)

Head of Design and Research at Pinterest, August de los Reyes. Photographed at Pinterest head office in San Fransisco by Brooke Porter (www.brookeporterphotography.com)

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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.

Preethi Srinivasan (founder of Soulfree) photographed near Bangalore, India by Boban James (www.bobanjames.com).

Preethi Srinivasan (founder of Soulfree) photographed near Bangalore, India by Boban James (www.bobanjames.com).

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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.

Dr Rory Cooper Ph.D, photographed by Angelo Merendino (www.angelomerendino.com). Dr Cooper is FISA & Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) Chair and Distinguished Professor of the Department of Rehabilitation Science & Technology, and professor of Bioengineering, Physical Med & Rehab, and Orthopedic Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh .

Dr Rory Cooper Ph.D, photographed by Angelo Merendino (www.angelomerendino.com). Dr Cooper is FISA & Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) Chair and Distinguished Professor of the Department of Rehabilitation Science & Technology, and professor of Bioengineering, Physical Med & Rehab, and Orthopedic Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh.

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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.

Paralympian rower Sandra Khumalo at Victoria Lake Rowing Club in Germiston, Johannesburg. Photographed by Ilan Godfrey (www.ilangodfrey.com).

Paralympian rower Sandra Khumalo at Victoria Lake Rowing Club in Germiston, Johannesburg. Photographed by Ilan Godfrey (www.ilangodfrey.com).

 Paralympian - Sandra Khumalo - Ambassador

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...

Presenter, reporter, artist and model Sophie Morgan, photographed near Tower Bridge, London.

Presenter, reporter, artist and model Sophie Morgan, photographed near Tower Bridge, London.

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Campaign portraits

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.

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Recent work - June 2017

Here's a collection of (mostly) recent shots:

For this portrait, I used the  Magmod  gobo to create a window light. Really lovely bit of kit!

For this portrait, I used the Magmod gobo to create a window light. Really lovely bit of kit!

A quick portrait for the charity  Sense , who were working with Wayne McGregor dance at their new studios at the Olympic park.

A quick portrait for the charity Sense, who were working with Wayne McGregor dance at their new studios at the Olympic park.

Product photography for  Fruitflow , a natural supplement which improves blood flow.

Product photography for Fruitflow, a natural supplement which improves blood flow.

Noma Dumezweni, who plays Hermione in  Harry Potter and the Cursed Child , wins best actress at the Mousetrap Awards.

Noma Dumezweni, who plays Hermione in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, wins best actress at the Mousetrap Awards.

Shot for The Times, there weren't many options for this portrait of an entrepreneur. They wanted him photographed outside next to some goalposts. Sadly, the goals were half-size and we only had a few minutes before the kids' teams took over the pitch. We did what we could, but it quickly turned into the photographer's (dreaded) "Man in a Field" situation, which I obliged but - well, let's just say there won't be a blog post about this shoot. As the saying goes, "I don't want excuses -I want pictures."

Shot for The Times, there weren't many options for this portrait of an entrepreneur. They wanted him photographed outside next to some goalposts. Sadly, the goals were half-size and we only had a few minutes before the kids' teams took over the pitch. We did what we could, but it quickly turned into the photographer's (dreaded) "Man in a Field" situation, which I obliged but - well, let's just say there won't be a blog post about this shoot. As the saying goes, "I don't want excuses -I want pictures."

Roy G. Biv and all that. Apparently, Isaac Newton added the indigo (previously they used to think there were three colours, then five, then six in a rainbow). And nobody knew what a rainbow was until the 17th century. The Greeks thought rainbows were a path created by the goddess of the rainbow, Iris, linking us to the immortals. Anyway, there aren't three, five, six or seven colours, but millions, all blending into one another.

Roy G. Biv and all that. Apparently, Isaac Newton added the indigo (previously they used to think there were three colours, then five, then six in a rainbow). And nobody knew what a rainbow was until the 17th century. The Greeks thought rainbows were a path created by the goddess of the rainbow, Iris, linking us to the immortals. Anyway, there aren't three, five, six or seven colours, but millions, all blending into one another.

Canvas

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:

From the archives - two

I've nearly finished going through my archives in search of old images which I'd originally dismissed. 

As I've said elsewhere, even strong images tend to fade over time, both due to familiarity, and as one develops or improves. But occasionally, I'll come across an old reject which, with a fresh look, away from context - and usually with a different edit - I like much better second-time around.

Out of tens of thousands, only two or three of these I've since dusted off, tidied up, and put up in my galleries. But dozens got close - and were then rejected again.

The photo below is from a series of portraits of musicians (initially all 3- or 4-star rated I expect) but I thought this particular one could be worth another look - was it really only average? Yes. I really wanted it to work - a simple, outdoor shot like this would go well on my website. And there's nothing really wrong with it - and technically and aesthetically it's fine, but something about it's just a bit empty, boring, flat:

No matter how revised or polished a photo is, if it's not working, it's not working. You can do wonders in post-production, but there has to be something in the original which can't be created later, which has nothing to do with adjustments or photoshop. 

It's important to be brutally honest and unforgiving when judging an image, but often, subjectivity gets in the way. Usually it's the lengths you knew you'd gone to to achieve the shot - you were so invested in it that it becomes personal. 

I think it's about changing your role once you've put the camera down and when you're going through the work on the computer. You have to become an editor - a different set of skills - because as a photographer you can't be objective. And as an editor, this image isn't good enough. Next!