This is a picture of the inspiration for Murphy’s pub in ASHES ON THE TONGUE. Glad to say it’s still going strong today. “Silence permeates the house, broken only by the crackling of the Sunday newspaper in the parlour and the small sounds of Ruby going about her chores. She black-leads the stove, rakes the ashes and sweeps the hearth before getting the fire started. While the kitchen heats up, she lays a cast iron frying pan on the electric cooker in the scullery, a knob of lard set to melt. Victor expects his fry-up and soda bread to be on the table before noon to set him up for his day’s drinking in Murphy’s pub at the bottom of the street. “
It’s getting near the publication date for my cosy mystery, Albert’s Garden – not written in stone yet (excuse the unintentional pun) but definitely well before Christmas. I’m thinking of a minimal feel for the cover design, as it’s under a pen name and quite different to my previous books. This is my first effort and I know it will change quite a few times before I reach the final version.
When I first photographed fifteen-year-old Devonn three years ago, I hadn’t even an inkling that I would start a secondary career as a self-publishing author. Having cut my literary teeth on my first novel, Circles of Confusion, I embarked on the much longer, more complicated Ashes on the Tongue which tells the story of Fen, a young girl in Northern Ireland in the 1950s, just before The Troubles really took hold. I always saw Devonn as Fen and a quick look through my archives revealed the first picture on the left which I thought was perfect. The strip below shows the progression from the original photograph to the processed version to the cover design and, finally, to the first advertisement after the book was published. The font used for the title is called Requiem and I liked it so much, I have used it for all my covers. As the sequel to Ashes – Then Sings My Soul – is well under way, it looks like I’ll soon be having another trawl through the archives.
A few pictures of Hannah, pulled from the archives; my favourite model, not just because she’s my grand-daughter but also because she’s so versatile. Girl in a Red Scarf was a serendipity moment. Hannah was waiting to go on set when I noticed the drama created by the red wall, the scarf and her pink hair. This is literally a grab shot as she moved a few seconds later and the moment was gone. It did fairly well in the international Salons, garnering twelve acceptances and a Silver Medal. Sunshine and Showers was taken for a competition at Beeston Camera Club. The category was Wet and Hannah’s young man was stood on a stepladder pouring water from a watering can. We hadn’t factored in the wind and she did get quite wet when gusts blew the water In her face. It was all for naught, as well, because I had to add rain in an overlay anyway. Not only that but the picture didn’t overly impress the judge on the night. Geisha Girl was shot at my daughter Beverley’s home. I took my portable lights round and Hannah’s sister, Sian, painted her face. The flowers were a leftover bouquet from Mother’s Day which was languishing in he shop at half price so we made good use of them. It got accepted into five international Salons.
Wild Child and The Chase came about because I wanted to photograph Hannah’s dad’s Harley Davidson. We couldn’t get it into the studio (two flights of stairs) so Dave Severn arranged for us to use a small room in a car dealership. Wild Thing has only been sent out once (I stopped competing just after I made it) to a circuit in Finland, but it was accepted into three of the four Salons. The Chase has only seen the light of day at Beeston Camera Club where it scored 20/20.
This isTicket to Ride, one of my more successful images in my early days of competing. It was accepted into Salons in twelve different countries and won a Gold Medal, a Silver Medal and an Honourable Mention. It’s a composite image; nearly every element in it was placed there by me, including the ticket in her hat. I worked hard on the final overlays to blend the tones. I should be very proud of it, but it makes my eyes bleed to look at it. Why? Because the perspective is completely wrong. I shot the model at a group night, in the days before I hired my own model, where you had to dive in for a few minutes to take your turn, no input into pose, costume etc. I was happy enough at the time. The model, Kelli Smith, knew what she was doing and the studio owner excelled at lighting. It was only when I came to put it all together that I fell flat on my face. I had the photographs of the railway station already, so
all I had to do was cut out Kelli from the stool she’d been sitting on and pop her on the bench. Right? I couldn’t have been more wrong. If you look closely, it appears that Kelli’s legs would have been about six feet long to have been in that position. And it’s all down to perspective. I was looking down on Kelli when I photographed her, using (probably) an 85mm portrait lens. I shot the railway station at eye level with a 50mm lens. To get the perspective right, I should have shot both pictures in exactly the same circumstances – bent knee, same distance, same lens, same lighting etc. OK, same lighting can be difficult but that’s adjustable in Photoshop. And, finally, shadows – they’re all over the place. I’ve learnt a lot since then and still learning all the time.
Up, Up and Away was one of those whimsical pictures that ‘just appears’. I was keen to do something lighthearted and with a bit of colour, as a lot of my pictures can be, shall we say, a bit on the sombre side. Vicky May, the model and a talented actress who has appeared in the West End of London, had brought along this patterned dress and the umbrella was leaning on the wall in the corner of the studio. Along with Vicky’s hairstyle and shoes, the whole thing was taking on a decidedly upbeat and quirky feel.
I felt a ‘Mary Poppins’ coming on and dug the red ribbon out of my props box, quickly shooting the dangling foot. It wasn’t until I was assembling the whole thing a bit later that I remembered the squawking gulls (a little bit of faffing required on their beaks) and so they were added in, looking suitably shocked at this strange creature floating in their air space. The only thing left to do was add a cheerful sky and there it was – one of the quickest composites I’ve ever done and it still makes me smile.
I met Gail Noble through a multi-photographer / multi model day and was instantly impressed by her unique ability to lose herself completely in a character.
We went on to do a couple of shoots after that where we could explore different ideas, aided by the fact that she is also a very talented seamstress, able to create her own costumes, as in the portrait of Gail posing as Queen Victoria. The background to Her Majesty is an interior shot from Southwell Minster in Nottinghamshire.
We has fun with Stand and Deliver, making full use of a wind machine, although I’ve lost count of the number of people who have told me she’s holding the knife in he wrong way. She looked pretty determined to me so I wasn’t going to argue with her! All I did to this one was add a few trees and a bit of mist.
Fear Not the Dark was taken at the initial shoot mentioned above and is a (nearly) straight shot, only needed the addition of a flame in the lamp.