You Can't Please Everyone.

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I often think back to an incident that happened quite a few years ago now. I had been asked by a wedding venue in the area to take photos for their new brochure. The shoot had gone well, and I was really pleased with the photos, so I went to the venue for a meeting to show the wedding coordinator my images. As I was waiting, one of the volunteers at the venue came up to me. He had seen the shoot unfold and was curious about my images. He asked if he could have a quick look at the photos before the coordinator arrived, so I took my laptop out of my bag and started to scroll through the images I'd taken. At first there was no response as I clicked through images of the couple, the details of the bride's dress, and the flowers. And then came a long 'Mmmmm', I knew it wasn't a satisfied retort, that long drawn out consonant was low in tone. 'Well you missed the focus on that' came the next line. The photo was one of the bride in the foreground and the groom in the background, I'd used a shallow depth of field to get this effect deliberately. 'Oh, you cut their heads off' came the next grumble, it was a photo of the couple holding hands, and I'd decided to focus on that. It carried on for a few more minutes, 'I wouldn't have taken it like that', 'why did you take it just of their shoes?'. It really knocked me for six. I started to feel really uncomfortable, my stomach churned, palms were a little sweaty, and then the coordinator walked in. Convinced I had absolutely missed the mark, I was really nervous showing her the photos. At the end of the viewing came the reassuring response 'these are exactly what we've been looking for'.

I know taste is such a personal thing, and I'm sure everyone has had similar experiences in their lives. In that moment I was really worried, but I am for ever grateful to this man at the venue. I've talked about this incident in our photography retreats as we chat about finding our voice as photographers. It's such a vivid moment for me still. I'm grateful to him as it absolutely made me realise that I couldn't please everyone with my images, and if I tried to do this, it would dilute any style I was trying to build. In that same week when I was showing the venue their photos, I was getting passport photos ready for a family and taking photos of some guttering for a couple who were having a dispute with their builder. I was trying to do so many things, to please everyone, and actually to the detriment of where and who I wanted to be.

I'm writing this now as I had an exchange at the weekend that took me right back to that nervy time of me showing the venue those wedding photos. We opened our doors for Hebden Bridge Open Studios. It was great to see so many new faces and to get a chance to talk about our work. Late on Sunday afternoon, just before we closed, a man walked in with a slightly quizzical look. He reminded me so much of the volunteer at the venue I actually felt my stomach lurch a little. He looked round in silence and then just stopped in front of one photo. 'This is my favourite'.

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Out of all the frames on our wall, I was really surprised, and I had a word with myself for being judgmental. 'I love the feeling, the light, the memory it evokes, there's something almost ethereal about it'. I quickly scribbled his words down after our exchange. I've been wanting to push myself a little further to take more images like this. Like most photographers, artists, makers, I guess our work is always evolving, developing. I almost never want to feel too comfortable, there's always an itch to scratch. I guess if our heart is truly in our work, people will come on this journey with us as they can feel something too. I just know that taking photos like this really excites me, and I think back to myself in that wedding venue all those years ago and I want to be true to that voice.

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The Unthanks - Diversions Volume 4.

Back in December last year, I travelled up to the beautiful village in Northumberland where The Unthanks have their recording studio. They'd asked me to take some publicity shots to announce their new Diversions Album to be released early 2017. The album was going to be a reworking of some of Molly Drake's beautiful songs and poems. Being a fan of her son Nick Drake's work, I had heard some work by Molly, and it seemed to be the perfect fit for The Unthanks to weave their unique sound amongst those tunes and words.

The concept behind the shots was that Rachel and Becky were to join an existing photograph of Molly in a composite, and to make the sisters look ghostly. So I took a series of shots of both Rachel and Becky individually against a plain background. I freelensed a few to give the images that dreamy, ethereal feel.

The Unthanks
The Unthanks

It was a beautiful winter's day outside, so we went down the lane and took a couple more, making good use of that low light!

The Unthanks

I worked on a few edits back in the office and brought Becky & Rachel together just to see what the final choices would look like.

The Unthanks

The final composite was put together by Steven Wainwright. It was great to see it for the first time!

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It's a stunning album. I tried to explain Molly's music in words and then I found this description from Adrian (the pianist, musical director, and producer) and it's just perfect -  'Stylistically, the first thing you hear is the mannerisms of the time. The Noel Coward, Ivor Novello-esque hallmarks of the era are there in her piano playing, and a stiff, properness in the voice. But then, in stunning contrast and contradiction, her softness, her emotional intelligence, her sensual and radiant artistry, start to reach out to you. Hearing a woman, a mother, from that time, expressing her personal, melancholic, philosophical thoughts, so beautifully, with such guile and confidence, and yet kind of from behind closed doors, is as compelling a listen as I’ve ever experienced'. 

The publicity shot I worked on is on the inside sleeve of the album, and the cover of the Extras.

The Unthanks
The Unthanks
The Unthanks

 

If you'd like to here one of the songs, take a listen to this beautiful track. It pulls me in each time I listen to it. The spoken words are by Molly's daughter Nick's sister, Gabrielle.

Wild Meadow

We're away on holiday next week with our friends Hannah & Dean at the beautiful Wild Meadow in the Welsh borders. We all went down there last year for Suzi's birthday, and then we returned for my birthday too. I might have become a little bit like my family before me, holidaying in the same spot, but when you discover somewhere as beautiful as Wild Meadow, I think you'd probably feel the same! It's a beautiful haven, an eco house built lovingly by the owners in the middle of a meadow. A kitchen garden, orchards, wild flowers, tall grass and birds and creatures a plenty. The last time we were down, we also had a family shoot with our friends who live down there. I realised we hadn't shared these photos, and thought it was timely. When we come back from Wales, we'll be in full family shoot swing and have a few slots for our meadow sessions in Hebden Bridge. Please do let us know if you'd like to book a shoot for your meadow runners!

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