Ever since I became an intermittent resident of Berlin nearly ten years ago, I have been mildly obsessed with this array of nearly two dozen bridges that carried various rail lines over Yorkstrasse and which have mostly been derelict since the war. I had always feared that they might be swept away by the tide of regeneration as the Gleisdreieck park to the north took shape from a huge abandoned marshalling yard but it seems that they will now be preserved, probably spruced up and painted and another piece of photogenic dereliction will be consigned to history.
I know nothing at all about the Butler Manufacturing Company of Kansas City, Missouri, but I was very taken with the colour they chose for these now disused grain drying towers.
The phrase "hours of boredom punctuated by moments of terror” is usually used in relation to war but could just as easily be applied to working on a film set, perhaps along with “trying to achieve the impossible, very quickly without upsetting anyone”. I’ve just spent a few days on a location for a new television series based on a novel by a famous author and featuring two very well known actors. Sadly the four page contract and non-disclosure agreement that I signed prohibits me from saying or showing any more than that, and I won't be allowed to use any of the pictures until much nearer the transmission date, if at all, so these images are from last year's acclaimed BBC series "The Living and the Dead" but here's an idea of a typical day. Having, hopefully, had a chance to read the script so that you have some idea of who the characters are and what the story is, you will get a call sheet the night before with the timings for the day. The call time on set was 8am, but of course any diligent crew member is there before that, if only for the plentiful breakfast, and as the set was an hour from home, my alarm was set for 5.30am. Arriving at the unit base for the first time, of the forty odd individuals who make up the film crew, there are at least five key people, the Producer, Director, 1st Asst Director, Production Manager, and Director of Photography who you have to identify, introduce yourself to, and whose names you have to memorise. The process of getting the job done is slightly different on every set but basically involves working out whether or not each scene is going to yield anything useful in terms of good images, and then asking the 1st AD or the Director to let you have a few seconds either before or after shooting the takes when the actors may, if you're lucky, run through the scene once more for your benefit, but only once and with zero tolerance for any delay if you suddenly find you're using the wrong lens or need a fresh memory card. Occasionally, if it’s a long shot, it might be possible to shoot alongside the camera operator during a take, provided your camera is silent but the lighting for interior sets will almost certainly be on the low side and shooting at a 30th/sec wide open on a 300mm lens at 3200 ISO is not unusual. Over the days that I was on set, none of my shoots lasted more than a minute and there were between six and nine scenes per day, not all of which were appropriate for stills, so there are hours of downtime when nothing much is happening during which you might be able to shoot some documentary images of the cast and crew, or sit around like the actors, reading a book. At the end of the day, sometime around 7pm, the director will call it a wrap and you can make your way home - to start again at 5.30 the next morning……I wouldn't want to do it every day but as an antidote to some of my other work, I love it.
On my way to Morzine to get some cash for Nathalie the ski instructor - despite her excellent tuition, I'm beginning to think that skiing is probably just another of the rather long list of things that I'm only ever going to be reasonably good at, but, as they say round here, 'C'est la vie'.
Holocaust Memorial, Cora-Berliner-Straße. Now just over eleven years old and beginning to weather in an interesting fashion with some of the stelae settling at different angles and about 400 or so of the 2700 showing hairline cracks necessitating steel reinforcement straps - probably not what the designers had originally intended.....
Manor House, London N4. Proud, defiant and enduring or tattered, dirty and irrelevant?
At a certain point in life, middle-aged men such as myself are sometimes tempted to visit a tailor, probably for the first time, in order to commission a bespoke suit that will convey to the world the impression that they have 'arrived' and are men of importance. However the gentleman with the elaborately tattooed head is not a tailor - he is Ben Crowe, a master luthier who founded Crimson Guitars in Dorset and as I rarely wear a suit, I had a custom electric guitar made for me instead which I collected last week. While I was there I managed to grab a few quick portraits of him and some of the other luthiers involved before he started filming another of the YouTube videos that have made him something of an internet star. I have definitely not 'arrived' nor do I think I am a man of any importance but when I walk on stage for the guitar's debut gig on Saturday night I shall feel like both.
I do love an English seaside pier - apparently there's been one in Cromer since the 14th century and this one won Pier of the Year award in 2015. Beat that.
Waking up on a misty Saturday morning in the wonderful Gunton Arms, a delightful pub in a deer park in Norfolk, I could almost have shot this from my bed, but I dutifully got dressed and walked out in the morning dew for a better shot, justifying the leisurely breakfast that followed in the dining room with its open fire, oak settles and eclectic mix of art from Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Gilbert & George and others - a unique and wonderful place.
Abandoned wrecks on the marshes in Essex, dotted around the creeks and inlets off the Blackwater. In between are various boats that are obviously seaworthy and inhabited by a variety of interesting characters living 'off the grid'. The marsh samphire that was underfoot looked slightly different to the variety in the fishmongers but we took a few handfuls home and had it with fish - it was delicious.
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere I still get a buzz from seeing my pictures in print so it was extra gratifying to see today’s blanket coverage in the business press of Emma Walmsley’s appointment as CEO of GSK, as it was my image that was widely used to accompany it. Following some last minute and rather secretive enquiries over the weekend about my availability on Monday, I was finally briefed on Sunday afternoon and made my way to GSK HQ the following day still with no idea of exactly what I would be doing. Eventually I was shown into a boardroom and told I had an hour with Emma to come up with something good, which was the easy bit - the editing, choosing and final preparation took another four hours and I was eventually released back to the outside world in the early evening clutching a non-disclosure agreement and with a clear understanding that divulging this news or trying to buy GSK stock ahead of the announcement would be a very bad idea indeed. Many of the articles made the point that she is now one of only seven female CEOs of FTSE 100 companies - strangely enough, when I looked to see who the others were, I realised that I had photographed four of them; Emma, Dominique Laury at Kingfisher, Alison Cooper at Imperial Brands and Carolyn McCall at Easyjet. Perhaps I should write to the other three and see if I can finish the set……….
Portonovo, Marche, Italy. They do things very differently in Italy - the beach is crowded but very well organised - everyone has a lounger and an umbrella (at a price, obviously) and there are rather pretty changing cubicles and showers and, of course, a handful of decent restaurants for an obligatory slow lunch.
There is sometimes a curious beauty to industrial buildings that have been designed for utilitarian purposes with scant attention to aesthetics, particularly when the sun casts some strong shadows around rectilinear shapes - it's something I come back to time and again. One day I'll get it right.....
One of the pleasures of being despatched to various different locations around the country is occasionally ending up somewhere I've never been before, wouldn't necessarily have visited otherwise and which turns out to be rather fine. This weeks thousand mile jaunt through a dozen counties for a real estate investment trust took me through Llandudno, the 'Queen of the Welsh Resorts', with its magnificent Victorian pier. Simon Roberts, a photographer whose work I admire sufficiently to have bought two of his prints, photographed it from a different angle, as part of his excellent 'Pierdom' series.
A handful of images I shot visiting the rather amazing Getty Center overlooking LA. In addition to its fabulous photography collection, it also contains several masterpiece paintings including one of Van Gogh's Irises, one of the most expensive paintings ever sold. Some years ago, I was working with a very wealthy businessman in the house that he used exclusively for his art collection and following his directions to the nearest lavatory, I found my myself in a small corridor face to face with a stunning painting of purple irises - the style seemed unmistakeable and returning to the kitchen I asked him "is that a Van Gogh down the hall?" to which he replied "aye, some museum in Germany just offered me three million quid for it...........I told 'em to get lost!"
The trailing tentacles of a rather beautiful Purple Striped Jellyfish, Chrysaora colorata, at the Monterey Aquarium.
1966 Marlin Fastback on the street near Venice Beach
Two of the questions I'm most often asked are 'Who is the most famous person you've ever photographed?' and 'How big a print could you make from that camera?' I'm not entirely sure of the answer to the second one but here, looking rather good on the side of a building in Dusseldorf's exhibition centre is a banner of one of the portraits I recently shot around Europe for Fujifilm, measuring an impressive 4m x 3m. The answer to the first one is of course David Hasselhoff, who I photographed in London shortly after he single handedly ended the Cold War in 1989*, a legend whose stature could not possibly be done justice by a photo even this big........
Arriving in Paris with a brief to photograph two lawyers somewhere around their office, I wasn't expecting to find much in the way of interesting backgrounds and probably, as is often the case, to have to contrive something out of virtually nothing in a featureless meeting room so when I stepped into the top floor reception and spied an exit onto what appeared to be a roof terrace I wasted no time in asking my clients if it was possible to check it out. Slightly baffled by my request, as they regarded it merely as a smoking area, I was allowed out through the fire exit and immediately knew that one problem at least was solved although there was rather more wind than I had bargained for. Having set up my flash and weighted it down with a camera bag, I had to keep a nervous eye on it as it swayed alarmingly in the breeze above a six storey drop to the street while I picked the moments between gusts to try and catch the girls with at least most of their hair in the right place. Add a little of the effortless style and nonchalance for which Parisian women are so renowned, and the job was in the bag.
This extraordinary painting entitled 'Speaking in Tongues' by Paul Benney was hanging in the South Transept of Chichester Cathedral where I was asked by an art PR company to shoot it before it moved on to to its next venue. Depicting the story of the Pentecost, where the apostles suddenly have a direct personal experience of God as 'tongues like of fire' descend and sit upon each of them, the work features the apostles beautifully rendered as characters who are all known to the artist. The problem was that, apart from the flames themselves, the whole painting is covered in a highly reflective lacquer with the idea that the viewer can see themselves reflected in it which meant that in all the photographs that had previously been taken, there were terrible reflections of the cathedral, the lighting and even the photographer. Add to that the very low light levels inside and you have a significant technical challenge. Having realised that my first idea of controlling the reflections with black drape was going to need about ten times more drape than I had with me, the solution was to light the work from both sides from just outside the reflected area without spilling any light back towards us and then to drop that in to a background mostly shot with the ambient light and a little extra fill on the back wall which, just to make life difficult, was also quite reflective. Having solved the technical problems we did several different versions and finally wrapped after about three hours just before the evensong deadline. For much of that time the soundtrack to our labours was the cathedral choir rehearsing in the Nave, which was very pleasant and I'm quite sure contributed to us all remaining calm under pressure and avoiding any unfortunate instances of stress induced profanity to which I am occasionally prone and which would have been more than usually inappropriate given the surroundings........