When oh when will there ever be a ‘normal’ week in this job….never, hopefully…
Monday: One of the ‘bread and butter’ assignments for any Newspaper Photographer is the auction preview at ‘Sotheby’s’ or ‘Christies’ or ‘Bonhams’. We do these jobs week in week out. The Press offices at these auction houses are pretty much on the ball, they know what will make (publish) and they fine tune the items that are going to be sold to a choice few that they then organise a photocall for. It’s always a challenge to do one of these photocalls when you’ve done it so many times before. Sometimes the sale items are so extraordinary that it’s a breeze, most time it’s a struggle. Monday was one of those struggles.
The job sheet read “WORLD’S MOST EXPENSIVE TEA-PARTY: A TABLE SETTING WITH PORCELAIN WORTH £1M COMES TO AUCTION AT BONHAMS A table setting of the most valuable tea services in the world will be available to photograph at 9.30am on Monday 3rd December ahead of the Marouf Collection sale of highly important 18th century Meissen porcelain on Wednesday 5th December at 101 New Bond Street. The total value of all the items in the tea setting, which includes 8 of the top lots in the sale, will be up to £1,015,000.”
Sounds straightforward until you analyse the job, “8 of the top lots in the sale” I read as ‘captioning nightmare’..Normally there is a top dollar item and a couple or so of close runs. You spend some time on the top item then fill with the also rans.
There are only so many things you can do with these jobs. If it’s a painting that is the star there are a few set pix you always do. 1) Person, hands behind back looking at painting. 2) Two porters in white gloves ‘adjusting’ the hanging of the painting. 3) Two porters in white gloves carrying the painting (depending on value). 4) Slow shutter speed (15th) of painting with someone walking past. That’s about it. Repetitive but it gives you a set.
A Tea service is a bit of a change. A few of us were there to brainstorm, we all generally work together on these jobs to come up with ideas, and yes we always take the piss out of the person who suggests the most obvious pic but then we all unashamedly shoot it.
Some studio flash had been provided so we all set our flashes up to set them off and started shooting. It made a variety of shots which I’ve included below, clean blacked out backgrounds. I’d pretty much shot my fill and packed up. about to walk out with my Nikon D3s and 50mm 1.4 over the shoulder when I thought ‘hang on’ the set looks nice with the available light. I stopped and shot about five frames. It beat the other pictures into a cocked hat.
I’d been e-mailed another job whilst shooting the Tea service. I rang in and said I’d seen it. Edited the first job. Caught up with what was happening on “Snapperweb’ (a Facebook forum for Press Photographers)then set off to Battersea to photograph Laura Tenison founder of Jo Jo Maman Bebe for an “Autumn Statement” supplement due out after Chancellor George Osborne spoke on Wednesday about how our wonderful economy is doing.
I was going to Jo Jo HQ in Battersea. Laura was the Telegraph Rep for Retail in their supplement and they wanted her in a ‘retail’ setting. Slightly worrying in an office environment but luckily Jo Jo’s boardroom is set up as if it’s a shop, result. Laura was charming and easy to direct. I did a selection of available light and some off camera flash. Straightforward . Edited, sent and headed home. Nice combination of jobs for a Monday.
My phone went about 16.30.
“Hello mate, can you be at The Edward Vll hospital early doors tomorrow ? Kate (Duchess of Cambridge) has been taken in with morning sickness. Geoff Pugh is down there now and Will Wintercross is over-nighting, can you take over at 6am ?”
Tuesday : I got there at 5.30 am and there were seven TV crews all going live. At first I thought I’d missed the big one then quickly realised they were just talking..saying nothing just talking. They continued to just talk all day long never actually reporting anything all day.
In fact the only thing they did manage to ‘report’ was how the packs/hoards of Paparazzi were filling the pens . They stopped short of saying they were baying for blood….amazingly.
This is a bit of a bugbear for many of us in this industry. We are not Paparazzi. I don’t have a problem with Paparazzi. I’m not one, bit like I’m not a wedding photographer or a ‘photo-me-booth’. I’m a news photographer. If asked I’d say the difference between me and a pap is that I’d photograph a celebrity if they were in the news whereas a pap would photograph them if they were in the newsagents. I’m not a big follower of celebrity culture so I’d probably miss a major story by operating like this but unless they are in the ‘evening news’ I simply wouldn’t bother. I often see Hugh Grant in the ‘Crussh’ cafe at Millbank studios in Westminster and would never think of sticking a camera in his face…mind you that’s mainly because I know how much pleasure it would give him to moan about it…
Calling us ‘Paps’ is just inaccurate. Yes, there were some ‘paps’ outside the hospital but why wouldn’t there be. The pens were filled with News Photographers and we and the ‘paps’ that were there were behaving ourselves as usual. It’s a very lazy sort of TV reporter who refers to photographers as ‘paparazzi’ . Lazy and inaccurate. The same sort of crass act that says “The flash-bulbs were popping”.
‘Doorstepping’ as this is called is an uglyish but necessary and valid form of newsgathering. It’s not like you see it on TV programmes where the front garden of the subject is full of screaming hacks and photographers poking lenses through windows and shouting questions through letterboxes. That sort of behaviour is against the law . We simply don’t do it. Every doorstep I’ve ever been on has involved journalists searching for bins to throw their coffee cups in and people shouting ‘mind your back’ to warn those stood around that they need to clear the pavement for a pram pushing parent . Many times the neighbours overcome their initial fears and end up offering tea and toilet facilities. Generally once people get talking to us they realise we are not the monsters that cheap TV shows portray us as. Some people are lead to believe that being doorstepped is tantamount to being burgled . It’s not. We stand on a street and wait for the person in the news. 95% of the time they are expecting us to be there and aren’t bothered by it. It seems to me that passing members of the public and neighbours are far more disturbed and it’s from these people that the vast amount of abuse comes. You could be stood outside a police station waiting for Gary Glitter, a convicted paedophile , and you will still find idiots walking by calling you scum.
On this occasion the day passed off without event. The Duke of Cambridge (Prince William) turned up at about 11am. I got a side-on car-shot and a great frame of the back of his head. Mr Warren Alott took over from me at 3pm and I sloped off home. It had been a bloody cold day.
Wednesday: 7.30am in Downing Street. Chancellor George Osborne making his ‘Autumn Statement’ on the economy . Unlike the Budget in March , the autumn statement does not involve the man holding his red box up outside number 11 Downing st. It does still however need some kind of similar photographic representation. There was a ‘pool’ for two photographers at The Treasury at 11.30 one NPA and one WPA to photograph George leaving for the ‘House’, but the ‘pool’ is often a crap offering. When you leave the Downing Street or Treasury Press Office to dictate what ‘is’ or ‘isn’t’ a picture then you are in trouble. A few of us got there early and managed to see the chancellor leaving for work. To be fair he always almost stops and looks, giving a picture.
I got one decent pic then left for the warmth of ‘Crussh’ the cafe in the Millbank building where most of the TV stations have their parliamentary studios. I happened across a ‘Unison’ demo on the way with Peter Macdiarmid of Getty Images and shot a couple of frames of that, I didn’t hold out much hope of a publication from anything I’d shot.
Thursday: File picture of George used massive in Business and one of my Portraits of Laura Tenison.
I was on my way to St Alban’s to photograph two of the Rugby heroes of England’s weekend spanking of the ‘All Blacks’. Rugby stars are not like football stars. They are normal. Alex Goode and Brad Barritt, two superstars for England and Saracens. Agreed to do pictures after the interview both inside the training facility and outside in the almost zero temperature. Top blokes both of them. Oh and apparently if you are from that town you are in fact an ‘Albanian’..
Friday: Another auction job, this time at Christies, Old Brompton Road. Lots of items, none of them very valuable, total nightmare to pick and choose what to focus on. Joined by my friend Glenn Copus from The Evening Standard it was the best part of an hour before we narrowed the field down and shot what we thought might make. Glenn also told me he was making an official complaint to ‘OFCOM’ about the ‘Paparazzi’ remarks TV had made about News photographers outside Kate’s hospital earlier in the week. As one of the Vice Chairman of The British Press Photographer’s Association (BPPA) I said we would be interested in backing him up on this and maybe putting one of our own in. We are all getting more and more fed up with this type of shoddy/lazy reporting.
My next port of call was the Telegraph studio. I’d copped one of the worst jobs of the year. The Christmas Cracker round-up. Six boxes of the buggers. Pic of the box. Pic of a cracker. Pic of an opened cracker with contents. Pic of each individual piece of content..including the joke.
Once you get dragged screaming and kicking into that studio word goes out and you end up getting all sorts of people turning up for byline pics and wine bottle shots and book covers. I wasn’t surprised to get stuck there to photograph a trio of businessmen at 5.15pm. They were good fun though.
Saturday: I was on a fixed point for a ‘Centrepoint’ Gala at The Albert Hall in the evening. Originally The Duchess of Cambridge was meant to be accompanying her husband but obviously that had gone out the window. We’d applied and got a spot so we had to go. Head-shot of William. Boring.
Prior to that I got an early morning call to attend The Royal Courts of Justice in The Strand or, The High Court as we know it. Sally Roberts who is opposed to her son Neon receiving radiotherapy treatment for a brain tumour had caused the unusual sitting on a Saturday. We were expecting a judgement. The judge reserved it till the 18th of December.
We were given the heads up for her arrival, she was expecting or should I say hoping for a large press presence. She didn’t stop but did slow down somewhat on the way in. She stopped and spoke briefly on the way out. We all ran around a bit for various pictures. It looked on TV like we were hounding her but she was more than happy with us being there. It’s times like this when I wish TV would not use ‘cut-aways’ of us to justify the fact that they are not the only ones interested in a story. They’ve done it for years and got away with it, managing to film situations showing photographers gathering news whilst managing to disassociate themselves from the news-gathering process despite the fact that they are obviously there too. TV never get the same degree of abuse on the street that we do despite the fact that 95% of the time they are doing the same task as us. Strange. They seem to have managed to con the public into accepting what they do whilst encouraging them to criticise us. Very strange.
As BPPA Vice Chairman and whilst running between jobs on Saturday I also had to deal with a ‘Twitter’ storm emanating from the account of ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’ contestant and occasional Member of Parliament Nadine Dorries. The woman who had volunteered to put herself in front of TV cameras for 24 hours a day for Three weeks in The Ant and Dec jungle had decided that we (press photographers) could possibly be partly responsible for the alleged suicide of Jacintha Saldanha, the nurse who had apparently connected two Australian Radio presenters to the ward where Kate was staying under the belief that they were family members. Dorries tweeted a question/accusation about how many ‘paps’ (that lazy term again) and journalists had been doorstepping the nurse . Easy answer really. None. I’ve never seen such a desperate attempt to jump on the nearest bandwagon. We had nothing to do with it. Nobody was doorstepping her. I wish our MP’s would base what they say on fact and not conjecture. Our response, penned by my far superior BPPA co Vice-Chairman Neil Turner is linked below.