Devonn is the grand-daughter of one of my best friends, Dawn, who was also the best friend of my late daughter, Aisling, so she is very special to me. As well as being a very beautiful young girl, Devonn is fierce on the football field and destined for a great career in her chosen sport.
She was just fourteen years old when she first came to the studio for a photograph session with her friend, Emma. (Teenyboppers) I was keen to shoot with her again and she proved to be a very responsive and intuitive model. I’m sure we’ll work together again one day when the Covid clouds roll back.
Naked, that is. I’m often asked if I feel uncomfortable, or even exploitative, when photographing nude women or men. I don’t. We all are naked under our clothes. Theirs are just younger and more beautiful than mine.
Clockwise from top left: Mischkah. Model: Mischkah Lady of the Mist: Model: Rosa I Dream in Pink: Model: Eachelle Penance: Mason Nearly Nude. Model: Mischkah
I’d never met Tanya before she walked into the studio on a ‘blind booking’. As soon as I saw her, I knew I was going to shoot her in black-and-white and my instincts didn’t let me down. Over three hundred frames and not a single one in colour. Every photograph of her that I entered into Salons was accepted multiple times and The Courtesan was an award winner.
A few initial ideas for the cover of Ashes on the Tongue. I lean towards the centre one, followed by the far right, although I grieve for the bits of the painting I had to chop off. The orange text is a big mistake! That will definitely go. The font is Optima which was designed in the 1950s, the era the book is set in.
I’m blown away today by the arrival of this image to be used on the cover of Ashes on the Tongue, due for publication around Easter time this year. It is an original painting by Northern Irish artist, George A Gourley, showing a derelict house on the Tirkane Road, Maghera which is near Londonderry. I’m not quite sure how I’m going to use it yet – there are lots of ideas buzzing round in my head. Many thanks to George Gourley for giving me permission to use his painting.
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.
It was bright and sunny this morning, although very cold, and we drove over to Colwick Park, reckoning that 1.7 miles was pretty much within our own area. We had planned to drive round the circumference of the lake, stopping occasionally in the lesser populated areas for some fresh air and a bit of a walk. Unfortunately, the path is now gated off so we were confined to the car park area, not having the mobility scooter available to us. Nevertheless, we saw pochard, tufted ducks, greylag and Canada geese, lots of black-headed gulls and swans. And, of course, the Colwick Park cormorants, some perched on the rocks like totem poles, drying their outspread wings, some swimming and diving for fish. It was very crowded so we didn’t stay too long but we filled our lungs with the (very) bracing air and felt quite invigorated on the way home.
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.
This is the first Nature picture I ever entered into competition in the FIAP International Salons, on a wing and a prayer really. It was accepted into twelve Salons worldwide and, although it never won any awards, it encouraged me to keep competing. I still don’t like wasps, though.