I still have the odd conversation with people (photographers and civilians) that starts with “Well Photoshop must make your life far easier…you don’t even have to leave your studio to get your photo”. And as all those who know me will testify, I am a mild mannered individual but I will spontaneously combust if someone says to me “I don’t care if the photos I take are a bit rubbish, I’m good at Photoshop”. The latter happened once and you can still see the scorch marks on the floor of my studio.
I was dragged kicking and screaming into the digital age and again by my hair when Photoshop arrived. I was never the most enthusiastic adopter but I wasn’t so myopic as to ignore or underestimate the inevitable and irreversible changes. However I never allowed these processes to dictate how I should work. I have always been and will always be a photographer and not a digital artist. I have great respect for those kind of skills but it is not for me. And this little story illustrates why…
A while back I was commissioned by a magazine to photograph some images for fashion editorial with an eco theme – basically fashion and push-bikes. We decided that it would be great to shoot it on a remote looking beach somewhere with two models looking like they were on an adventure wearing cool clothes and riding cool bikes. I was charged with finding a location, models, mua’s and hair-stylist. The client took it on himself to source clothes, bikes, accommodation etc.. I fired up trusty old Google and after half an hour or so of searching found the perfect location – Quantoxhead Beach, Somerset. A beautifully desolate rocky beach. A long way from Nottingham but worth the trip, I thought. The client agreed.
It was a summer shoot so we had a choice of two golden hours to give us the perfect light – around 5am or 7ish in the evening. I favoured the early option as there was more chance of people intruding during the evening. During the early stages of planning, I rarely consider the consequences as it’s all about the shoot. In hindsight is there such a thing as being ‘too professional for your own good?’.
Things moved swiftly – we booked the models from two different agencies, make-up and hair people sorted, bicycles sourced, hotel booked…in Bristol (Google Bristol to Quantoxhead – not particularly close). As it happened the hotel in Bristol was outwardly not a mistake as Bristol was where the bikes were being sourced from and the company were bringing them in their own van. The die was cast.
The afternoon before the shoot we set off by car for Bristol – the client, my assistant, the hair-stylist and me. All buzzing with the excitement of an impending adventure. The two models were travelling from Manchester and Bristol and the make-up artist was coming from Essex.
A wonderful summer’s evening, we arrived at the hotel without incident.
I must admit to a slight nervousness as I pulled into the car park – would the models and make-up artist all turn up? The models had been sourced from two respectable agencies so that should be ok. The make-up artist I had found online so I guess she was the one I was most concerned about. Above all though, I was worried about the hotel. My client was a publisher, he had the gift of the gab and had blagged this hotel along with an evening meal in exchange for an editorial spot in his magazine. I’m not a snob but I like a clean bed and the fact that my client had got this hotel for free at such short notice concerned me. After all I need a good night’s sleep for optimum creativity, especially as we had a very early start. As it turned out, on the hotel front it turned out I was worrying over nothing. The sleep issue was another matter though…
The hotel was simply the best hotel I’ve ever stayed in. As soon as we stepped through into the foyer we knew we had landed on our feet. A sun-lit atrium of glass and marble – proper posh. We were escorted to the rooms, and the hair-stylist and I called shotgun as soon as we saw the first one.It felt nearly as big as my studio, it was beautifully and luxuriously appointed and even had a walkthrough wet room shower – all black and marbly. Result!!!
So we dumped our bags and headed down to the bar to find that the whole cast had indeed assembled. Excitement and relief – we all introduced ourselves and proceeded to get on like the proverbial house on fire. As usual my stomach let me know what time it was and we headed into the restaurant for dinner, which (also blagged) turned into a feast. So engrossed were we in each other’s company that when we finally noticed the time, midnight had already been and gone. Sleep, must have sleep! So we hurriedly made plans although funnily enough the project had scarcely been mentioned all evening. Garments could be changed at the beach as it was likely to be deserted and models are not usually shy anyway. Hair and make-up had to be done in the hotel as we needed power for hair dryers and the make-up artist was using an airbrush system which also needed power. So according to Google, Quantoxhead beach was approximately 1hr away by car and then accessed by a 10-15 min walk. Hair and make-up would take about an hour. We needed to be on the road by 3.30am to make sure we caught the sunrise. It was now fast approaching 1am. So much for a good night’s sleep, more like a power nap. And I was desperate to experience THAT shower.
If I may deviate slightly, there was one thing that was glaringly wrong with the hotel room. And to this day I can not figure out how they could justify it. The bathroom – big, palatial and impressive. Had french doors. Which meant that as you were walking past you would have a grandstand view of somebody doing their business. In fact such was the relationship between the toilet and the beautifully clear double doors – you wouldn’t be able to miss it. This kept me awake a few minutes more as I wrestled with the logic. I was sharing with the hairs stylist who was a friend but definitely no more. So that was plain wrong. Aha! A young couple…..no no no! What a passion killer! A married couple on a romantic weekend….again no! I’ve been with my wife for over a decade now and the one situation which we have no desire to witness is the act of the number two. A young family then (there must be some explanation!), the room could accommodate a family, but again although it may be ok and even necessary to watch your young ones on the toilet, I am assuming (for I am not blessed with children yet) that your children watching you on the potty is also a little weird.
Anyway I fell asleep to the sound of the hair stylist whistling, still contemplating the conundrum. Whistling? Yes we devised a system where we would ‘whistle while we worked’ to prevent any embarrassing situations. We were, after all, just friends.
To be continued…..