Another trip into the archives. Tillie Feather was both a dancer and a gymnast and a pure joy to work with.
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.
Left: Lost in Thought. Right: The Courtesan.
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 is Ticket 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.
But, hey, two medals and an HM – I’ll take that.
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.
Heaven, Saturday morning
Angel number 4501 is summoned to His Presence, or HP, as he likes to be called.
“I have an important job for you, 4501. There’s a music festival tomorrow in Everyman’s Park.”
HP’s magnificent voice rolls out, setting clouds, cherubim and seraphim a-tremble. A few feathers shiver and fall off 4501’s wings.
“I was very upset at the amount of sin that went on at the last one – drugs, blasphemy and …” HP lowers his voice and the Heavens still. “… you know, s-e-x that went on.”
4501’s heart leapt in anticipation.
The celestial voice rumbles on. “It will be your mission to point out the error of their ways to these young people, put their feet on a new and better path.”
OK. So it’s Mission Impossible, but I’m going to a music festival.
“Of course, HP. An honour to be chosen. In what guise shall I descend?”
A rock star? A Hell’s Angel? Oh please, not a groupie.
“You will temporarily take over the body of an ice cream salesman called Kevin.”
HP taps his foot and watches as 4501 plummets to earth, his heavenly raiment already changing to jeans and a Nirvana tee-shirt.
Hell, Saturday morning
His Satanic Highness kneels on the backs of two recently arrived politicians, his backside bare and pulsating with inner evil. A ring of hellfire encircles them, holding back a legion of imps and fiends with singed hair and blistered skin.
“Kiss my arse!” roars HSH. “A day back on earth for whoever braves the flames and kisses my royal arse.”
None are brave enough to risk self imolation until Black Bart steps forward. Seven feet tall, once a grave robber and now an upper level demon, he’s been a thorn in HSH’s side ever since he fell into an open grave and drowned in the seepage.
One almighty leap and he’s through the hellfire, skin smouldering and bubbling, smoke seeping from all his orifices.
Bending at the knee, he kisses the putrefying buttocks before him.
Beelzebub, as he likes to be called when dealing with the Damned, rears up and points upwards, searing a hole through the charcoal-blackened vaults.
“Go, Lulu, enjoy your day.”
Black Bart only has time to say, “Lulu? What the f–” before he vanishes in a swirl of silk and Chanel No 5.
His Presence watches the materialisation of the ravishing young woman, her modesty barely covered in wisps of green silk.
“You’ve outdone yourself this week, Lucifer.” He prefers the old names to all this high-falutin’ Royal Highness stuff.
The Devil laughs. “Kevin the ice cream seller won’t stand a chance. Shall I make the first move?”
The two deities settle down to their weekly game of Celestial Chess.
Lulu basks under the hot sun and a thought pops into her mind.
I’d kill for an ice cream.
Back in the days when we could go out and about without a care in the world, I had a three hour studio session booked with Hannah, my favourite model (and also my grand-daughter). I had quite a few different scenarios in my mind and decided to buy a dress off eBay for some of them. My eyes lit on this beautiful red dress with multi-frills on the skirt, a nipped in waist and a sprinkling of sparkles. Perfect! I just knew it would look fantastic on Hannah (I was right) and ordered it. Imagine my horror when it arrived in an A4 envelope, the material was nearly as thin as tissue paper and the whole thing was crushed beyond recognition.
When I tell you that I haven’t used an iron in over thirty years, you can understand why my first impulse was to throw it in the bin and put it down to experience. However, I set the ironing board up (well, Jan set it up. I didn’t know how to do it.) and spent a whole afternoon pressing the creases out of it. On the way to the studio, the dress had two seats all to itself as I was paranoid about it getting creased again.
Anyway, it photographed beautifully and I was delighted with the results. I still have quite a few frames from the day to work on so, hopefully, if my photographic mojo ever comes back I’ll revisit them.
The dress? I left it at the studio for another model to wear on another day. And I haven’t touched an iron since.
Left: Don’t Look Back. Right: The Party’s Over.
A little bit of vibrant colour for a grey, November day. I called this Flora for fairly obvious reasons. We had a lot of fun making the model’s hair fly out like that, although I think she was a tad dizzy by the time we’d finished.
This photograph was one of my early successes on the FIAP competition circuit, winning gold, silver and bronze medals. This came as a bit of a surprise to me as the shoot had verged on disaster. The model, whose name I have forgotten, was from one of the Eastern European countries and had only a very few words of English, so communications were difficult to say the least. She had a repertoire of practised poses which she persisted in adopting, in spite of my repeated cries of, “No, please no.” I guess she was equally frustrated as she watched this septuagenarian capering about trying to emulate the poses I wanted, in a weird geriatric version of charades. How we arrived at this pose, I have no idea. I think I had just given up on trying to establish any kind of connection and was allowing her to do her thing. Turns out she knew best, after all.
Welcome to the latest incarnation of my photographic blog.
Like most people, my life changed quite a bit when Covid-19 reared its ugly head. No more going to the races, an end to going out to Georges’s for fish and chips and, more importantly, it brought my involvement in the world of Camera Club photography to an end.
My camera club membership will lapse at the end of this year and, sadly, I won’t be renewing it as I just can’t bring myself to make friends with Zoom. As I am now galloping towards being an Octogenarian and not having recourse to a crystal ball to check on the demise of this pesky pandemic, I have also retired from my judging duties which I will miss enormously, as I met very many lovely people and had a lot of fun along the way.
So there we are, or rather, here I am.
As there’s no fun in a blog post without a picture, I leave you with an old favourite of mine, As the Crow Flies, featuring professional model Rachelle Summers and a lovely crow I saw on one of my nature rambles.
UPDATE (30th December 2020) I have decided to amalgamate my photography and writing blogs, as it seems to make more sense … and will be less work!