I look for honesty and reality, images that can elicit an emotional response or spark or discussion.
Over manipulated, hyper stylised and aggressively retouched work is 99% of the time a turn off.
USA Esquire Editor
I was invited back to Buckingham Palace to be second shooter with my good friend Alex Lloyd photographing the Not Forgotten Association Summer Garden Party. I have shot a few events for The NFG Association and you can see the results on my blog page. I cannot describe accurately what a pleasure it is to be amongst the veteran members of our armed forces who have dedicated their lives to defending our country. To say it is emotional and a humbling experience is just too obvious. I find shooting these events so much fun. I run around doing my best to record all the guests and obviously capture key moments. But there is large part of me that really just wants to grab a cup of tea and sit down with some of the veterans and listen to their stories. Many of the guests are very senior, a few between 90 and 100 years old but a good many are actually quite young and have all witnessed things we certainly wont ever in our lives and for a good part would not want to witness.
As a photographer I am sometimes criticized for being almost too chatty and not focused on the shoot. I am of course using the connection I create with people through my personality to then benefit from a very different image when they respond to my camera. Its like the subject is smiling for a familiar face and that image and that smile is so different than if they had not known me. Of course not always possible but for sure there is an element of that. I make connections and then feed off that energy later. But yes I know there are times when I am a touch distracted. Shooting for the NFG Association is a good example of where I enjoy making the subject feel relaxed through a conversation and then hope for a better response to when I later go in for a photograph. At the same time however I need to remind myself there are hundreds of people that need photographing and I need to move on and not discuss their war stories at too great length. Also many of the guests not only have truly incredible stories to tell but are so delighted when a youngster shows interest. Some veterans simply love an audience and it feels so rude to pull away.
There is so much we can learn from some of these incredible individuals and the recent response on the BBC to D-Day veteran Harry Billinge’s speech was a great example of how such a person from that generation can have a valid and credible opinion based on incredible experiences and thus have influence on current social affairs and life in general. I was quite moved by his piece that morning and he’s a brilliant example of the sort of character I come across when shooting for the NFG Association. So when you are running around snapping these amazing people it’s so hard not to want to spend a little time listening to them or show some respect, gratitude and simply have that moment’s connection. It is again a wonderful example of why I feel I am blessed to have such an incredible job and how it grants me such amazing opportunities and life experiences.
Now the editor of USA Esquire talks of an emotional response, a spark and a discussion. I sincerely hope that my images for this celebration do just that. I am aware that these images are available to the guests and of course to their families. I am genuinely touched to know that I am photographing hundreds of parents and grandparents of families who will treasure these photographs for generations to come. It may be the last photos of some of these great heroes and they are dressed so smartly, standing proud with their medals and uniforms. The very least I can do to show my thanks and respect is provide a powerful image that will last generations and give others something to treasure and hold on to as a memory of someone so important and loved. These images are not overly retouched and manipulated and are quite direct and simple. Just as there is real genuine honesty about these people and their incredible life achievements there is an honesty and simplicity about the photographs I’ve taken of them.
I am also delighted and honoured that two of my photographs have made the front covers of the past two NFG Association Annual Reviews.
Once again it feels so wonderful to work in a team and Alex Lloyd is a very talented photographer and great friend. We can split duties; touch base occasionally to check progress and we have each other’s backs. We may not have the same level of militarily precision and discipline as the incredible veterans we were photographing that day but for sure we felt a great sense of duty and respect. There were a few celebrities amongst the crowd. I wont bother naming them. I can hardly get excited about a few celebrities when the veterans simply steal the show and deserve all our attention.