I’m not sure if it’s something to brag about or better kept to myself. Yes I have thirty five years experience of working for corporates but at the same time, I’m probably exposing my age to all the young purchasers out there seeking the services of a creative and young thinking photographer, Good or bad?
It all started as a small five year old boy in Hendon, north west London. My father was a keen amateur photographer and the year was 1963. I was just about old enough to sit with him in a darkroom, converted from a kitchen with black cloth draped all around the windows and doors to create a light seal from the street lighting outside the house. Still not old enough to handle the chemicals, I was made to sit and watch the process in amazement as the pictures of myself, my mother and my sister appeared by magic in the dish. I was permitted the occasional agitation of a developing tank. It captured my imagination.
I showed a keen interest and ‘though not too creative with a camera at this early stage, I was clearly developing the creative side of the brain rather than the academic side. I would churn out drawings, pictures and paintings, eventually leading to some pretty gruesome oil paintings. Moving on eight years, I was still showing an interest in the technicality of photography. And so it was that for my 13th birthday, my father built me into the back of the garage, my own darkroom. I was in heaven. He gave me his Olympus rangefinder camera, my first 35mm camera and off I went, snapping at everything that caught my eye. Black and white photo papers had come such a long way with the introduction of resin coated papers but I wanted to push further and explore the world of colour. I saved up my hard earned cash from my Saturday job working in a camera shop in Golders Green and invested in a hot plate as the chemical temperature for colour printing was considerably greater than for black and white and the warmer temperatures needed to be maintained. To an extent, some of the magic of the image appearing on the paper was removed when working with colour since it was and still is carried out in almost total darkness as opposed to the red light we all associate with a black and white darkroom.
I was lucky enough to go to school with a number of personality parents, one of whom was Peter Sellers. His daughter Sarah and I were both members of the photography club at school and we would spend many lunch breaks in the darkroom. One day Sarah came in with her dad’s new camera, an Olympus OM1. I ran a roll of film through it and was immediately smitten. I must have told my parents about how I fell in love with the camera. Christmas came around and we celebrated at a family gathering with my cousins at my uncle and aunt’s house. My uncle alway used to dress as Santa. It came to present time and as I patiently waited I was handed a weighty box measuring about nine inches by five. The box was labelled ‘To Simon from Uncle Allan and Auntie Diane’. In those days my uncle used to travel annually to Japan to find out what new electronic products were about to hit the markets over here. He usually returned with gifts for all my cousins, my sister and me. I think to this day I remember every one of the phenomenal presents he came back with but when I unwrapped the box on this particular occasion, my jaw fell to the floor. The camera I had fallen in love but could never have afforded was in my hands. My very own Olympus OM1 – fresh from Japan. I still have it.
At seventeen I left school and went to college to study graphic art and photography, still using my own darkroom as well as the facilities in the college. On finishing college I went on to work in the family business, designing, photographing and producing the brochures as well as other general tasks within the business however something was still eating away at me and I wasn’t sure what. I went abroad for while and on my return, I met my future wife. We married eighteen months later in 1982, moving to Harpenden where I started working as a freelance photographer using Foto-Art as the business name. One of my early contacts was a company in Stevenage, Randall Photographic for whom I started freelancing. Trade photographic Services (TPS) was then set up as the commercial /corporate arm of the business and it was this side of the company that most interested me. by now the work was on a more permanent basis. We moved the commercial side to Baldock where I helped set up the studio which was specialising in food photography but after a couple of years, I was ready to push out on my own once again.
Opening my own studio in Kimpton, the business steadily grew. In 1987 I submitted a portfolio of images to the British Institute of Professional Photography panel and was accepted into the institute as a licentiate member. This enabled me to give confidence to potential new clients that the service they would receive would be a top level professional service. Providing location photography for companies such as Welcome Break and Sealink as well as studio product photography, the business continued to flourish until a huge fire engulfed the building, forcing me out for 12 months. Luckily, the offer from a good friend who also had a studio meant I was able to carry on, working out of Letchworth and eventually moving back a year later to a rebuilt studio.
In 1990 the business took another leap forward as we opened a much larger commercial studio in Harpenden with an infinity cove and full colour processing and printing facilities. In 1996 we were one of the first studios in west Herts to invest in digital technology. With early equipment inherently expensive and unreliable, my views on the way photography was going changed somewhat and before the end of the decade I had become disenchanted. In 1999 the studio was closed and the business sold off. I pondered the future over the next year before striking a deal to help start a new photographic based business, showcasing towns, retail and restaurant areas, creating photo led interactive CD ROMS. As the business developed, we found introductions into the events industry from where I started specialising in corporate event photography and conference photography and video.
Along with the architectural and commercial product and location photography I had broken my teeth on, corporate event and conference photography became a specialist field and another string to the bow. In 2009 I once again broke away, developing the corporate work still further whilst maintaining a core of clients in the commercial and architectural industries. To this day I continue in these areas of specialisation and thank all those loyal clients who have made it such an enjoyable career. Thirty five years in the business – thirty years as a member of the British Institute of Professional Photography. Its been real!
To see what else I’ve been doing for the last 30 years in-between photography, click here