I popped up to Manchester a couple of weeks ago to visit my Grandad. A WW2 veteran, he will be 96 at his next birthday. Although I don’t see him (and the rest of my family and long distance friends) enough, I’m so glad he’s still around, and that I’m old enough to appreciate it… 🙂
Picture shot with my Canon 5D Mk iii, available light only.
A different kind of post today, inspired by the weather and the time to let my mind wander…
‘It’s the first warm evening of the year. A surprisingly hot spring day hazes into a cobalt blue evening. The first stars twinkle through the outstretched arms of the garden trees and I find myself drawn outside.
I take a seat on my back step and gradually dissolve into the evening. I let sight and sound wash over me, not reaching or holding, just being.
Slowly the tiny sounds of the evening city separate from the background white noise of London traffic. Sirens wail in the distance and air brakes suddenly screech on a nearby road. A chink of plates comes from the house opposite, higher than expected. Third floor washing up. Every so often there is the sound of running water by my feet and I realise this is water from neighbour’s houses, sluicing through the subterranean tunnel under my garden.
The back door of the house to the right clicks open and almost immediately I smell cigarette smoke and hear the burbling of the television. Something else too, a faint stale smell, un-aired rooms and domesticity.
Next to me my cat shifts slightly and the bell around her neck chinks gently. She stares at me for a while but then settles back down. She understands this silent observation. We watch the darkening garden together.
Suddenly there is rustling in the foliage. Small things move, surprisingly loud in this intimate space. Mice, frogs, snails, I’m not sure. My cat would know.
The woman next door coughs softly.
The stars grow steadily brighter and a blackbird trills it’s sweet liquid song into the night. Planes cross overhead and the traffic continues to rumble. Sitting close to the floor I feel safe, secure, enfolded by garden, trees and houses. The domestic lives of a million people wash over and me and it is strangely peaceful. My cat and I watch a light switch on in a window opposite as a satellite tracks overhead’.
14th April, 2015
Last week saw a last-minute shoot land on my coffee stained desk. Microseconds before I let out a shreak of despair at my burgeoning TO DO list, I thankfully noticed that the shoot was for Eurovision 2015, and all was right with the world again 🙂 Even better, I managed to catch the lovely Sarah Dunn on a rare quiet week and she jumped at the chance to do the cheesiest shoot in Europe 😉
Well actually, the shoot was not cheesy AT ALL. In fact, I hope you’ll agree, it’s rather lovely. Good luck Bianca and Alex!
Well I think enough time has passed for me to be able to talk about this project again without having an immediate panic attack. (Only half joking…!)
When this project landed on my desk back in the spring I knew I was going to have to assemble a crack team. The complexity was already terrifying and I didn’t know the half of it at that stage! Luckily photographer Steve Brown and digital artist, Kaia Zak quickly came on board and we started the first of what was to be nine shoot days.
Each artist was shot on a white seamless background as we knew the final image would be brought together in Photoshop. Steve copied the lighting and camera settings exactly each time which is critical in a project like this. We also had two days in the abandoned theatre at Alexandra Palace where we shot the BBC Concert Orchestra and backplates of the theatre itself, which you can spot in the final composition.
Creatively I knew we had to produce an image that reflected and complemented the tone and ambition of the final film. I worked closely with the creative agency, Karmarama and the visual effects house, The Mill, both of which had some great early visual material and an animatic. Even with that in hand, it was a huge (vast, immense, terrifying) leap from a collection of the some of the most famous faces in music on white backgrounds, to what you see above.
Early on in the post production phase we pulled together all sorts of visuals to try and understand what we were aiming for. We looked at a lot of David LaChapelle, Annie Leibovitz, fashion photography and some of the big Hollywood film posters, as they often worked with many people and visual elements in a fantastical landscape. The challenge here was not only to capture the tone of the film but to do it with 27 artists, an orchestra, a choir, a tiger and a jungle, all in one image!
The final artwork is a testament to the talent and resourcefulness of Kaia Zak. I had a vision of how it should look but she is the person who actually made it happen. Design time was approximately six weeks and the final image has over 670 layers and uses over 240 stock images alongside the principal photography. Anyone who works in Photoshop will know how insane that is!!
From this main image also cascaded many smaller versions for digital platforms, posters and other marketing collateral, such as the Spotify artwork above.
And of course, the single is being sold to raise money for the BBC charity, Children in Need, so please buy a copy!
This project was incredibly challenging and I learnt a huge amount along the way. Cast and crew were fabulous, memorable and calm in the face of some heart-stopping deadlines. I hope we all get to work together again on another (smaller) project!
It’s really quite a long time since my Art Foundation course, which was pretty much the last time I painted anything with any serious intention. I lost myself in Mac based design and photography for a long time, but a couple of years ago I realised I was getting increasingly frustrated with this media. I couldn’t figure out what was bothering me until a drunken rant with a colleague who felt the same way. Somewhere through the second china teapot of cocktail (yes, that bar), we realised that what was driving us nuts was doing everything through a screen!! We had grown to hate digital – gasp!
I know, right. I can hear people fainting all over the place right now, cause in my job, this is pretty much on a par to renouncing Jesus.
So anyway, the next day we sobered up and realised that we didn’t actually hate digital, but we just felt stymied by all our creative work being channeled through computers and screens of varying sizes. We felt nostalgic for all those hours spent in the darkroom or the painting studio, throwing colours around instead of sitting in an office getting square eyes and a flat ass.
Quickly I realised the only solution for continued sanity was less work work and more me work. But how? When I got home from the office I was a creative husk and physically repelled by the sight of my Mac. I know there are a bunch of twenty-something hipsters living in Dalston being creative and amazing 24hrs a day but frankly I am old and I just don’t have that kind of energy. The only solution was to get my boss (and my husband*) to agree to me moving to a four day week.
*I don’t often ask my long suffering husband permission to do anything but given that he is paying for this creative ennui I thought it only reasonable…
Anyway, to cut a long story short everyone agreed and here I am with a whole shiny day, every week, all to myself.
At first the thought of drawing and painting again for real was actually quite paralysing. I did the classic fear of failure stalling thing and did nothing with my new freedom but take photos for weeks. Thankfully I gave myself a good talking to one day and got myself down to a life drawing class organised by London Drawing. So that was last January. Since then I’ve become a little bolder, drawing and painting quite regularly and some of it is actually not shit! I’ve also been researching like mad, falling happily down Pinterest rabbit holes of beautiful, intimidatingly good, illustration and abstract art. So much raw talent exists out there it constantly surprises (terrifies) me. How do people get that good? Will I ever be able to produce anything that good? Are these people all just sickeningly talented or do they work for it? Arghhhhhhh…..
All insights gratefully received! In the meantime, here’s one I made earlier.
Publicity pictures for the upcoming Winter Olympics in Russia finally went live yesterday, so I’m now allowed to talk about them!
This shoot was probably one of my favourites of 2013. The idea for putting the BBC’s key presenters in a dynamic winter environment came from the brief for the TV trail. Often sports presenter images can be quite static as it’s hard to know what kind of environment they should occupy. The first thought is to put them on the pitch/track/slopes, but they aren’t athletes, so this could get a bit visually confusing for the audience. This time the creative proposal for the trails was really inspiring and I found a way to tie these images into that creative and produce something a little bit different. I hope you agree that they work really well!
The photographer for this shoot was Adrian Myers, someone I hadn’t worked with for a while but I knew his style would suit this idea very well. We also pulled in SFX make-up artist Bill Turpin to create the ice and snow effects on our presenters. I felt it was essential we do this in camera rather than trying to achieve it in post production. I really wanted it to feel like our presenters were up there on those fantastical looking slopes, freezing and gritting their teeth against the harsh conditions, just to report back the top stories!
Lastly, the super talented Kaia Zak brought all the elements together in post production. The beautiful wintery backgrounds were created by the CG company building the TV trail. High res renders were supplied to us before the stills shoot and Adrian matched the lighting on the day to the light conditions in the backgrounds. A fantastic job all round and a really fun day, rounded off with a fake snow and ice fight! 🙂
BBC coverage of the Winter Olympics starts on BBC Two on February 6th!
After years of begging, the management of the (in)famous carwash on York Way finally let me in early one morning to take these pictures.
The building is a fantastic old Victorian industrial space mouldering gently away. It’s destined to be demolished and turned into a hotel very soon so I was getting pretty desperate to get in there! I think I caught the new day manager in a good mood… 🙂
All shot on my Nkon D90.
The new series of Citizen Khan kicks off tonight on BBC One and I am finally able to show you a couple of my favourite photographs created for the series.
All the main set ups were shot by the lovely Jay Brooks in Manchester after the cast had finished doing one of the studio recording sessions with a live audience. We had decided to build our alternative ‘lounge’ set in the studio next door to give us more room to work than on the actual set used for the programme. This also gave us time to set up and test the lighting while the live episode was being recorded.
As usual Jay’s lighting was exceptional. The finished shots inevitably needed a couple of ‘head swaps’ and other retouching work to get just the right combination of facial expressions, but little aside from that. This was managed by one of our great in-house designers, Alicia Kulikowski, who has since moved to Montreal (we still miss you Alicia!!! sob). I can’t remember what kit Jay used (sorry – maybe a later post!) but I know we were shooting straight to Capture One on his Mac laptop so the producer could review the images as they were being shot.
Just a quick pic of me with Kiss FM’s Rickie & Melvin at the end of our shoot. I seem to be collecting quite a few random shots of me with various actors or on set in a random location 🙂
This was shot by the lovely Jay Brooks and I was actually doing the publicity stills for BBC3’s Sweat the Small Stuff which is on air at the moment.
Last weekend I had a brief respite from the rain in London, shooting at the Mediterranean Film Studios in Malta.
Here are a couple of behind the scenes shots. Zena was using a Canon 5D with underwater housing.
Well this week has been exciting. Thanks to a tip off from a stranger, I discovered that a website called My Science Academy had used one of my images in a post called ’30 Abandoned Places That Look Truly Beautiful’. While I’m ever so flattered that they included my work in this post (which has since gone viral and is seriously all over Facebook) they COULD HAVE ASKED ME FIRST!
Sheesh. I’m sure I will have a rant about image stealing very soon but in the meantime, enjoy. My shot is number 14 – the Maunsell Sea Forts.