Friday, 31 July 2009

That was the July that was!

Well folks, as August stretches out ahead of us that was certainly the July that was. Major life changes going on here at Gordon Acres; I cannot quite believe Alfie has finished at junior school and is about to embark on his secondary school career. The powers that be introduced a lottery system here in Brighton for allocating school places, having closed one school down, completely having thrown the towel in, and used some strange social engineering method to distribute kids from the closed school in an underprivalaged area across the rest of the City. It left the rest of the City spitting nails to say the least because the decent schools near to us suddenly looked like they would deny locals access in favour of non-locals, with no idea where the local kids would go or how far they would have to travel etc.
The political classes who designed this system frankly are a disgrace and I doubt to this day they have any appreciation of the hell they not only put families through but the sheer stress suffered by children themselves; fortunately Alfie got into the school of his choice and our choice too, by way of a lottery delivered by political idiots too incompetent to manage a failing school that by closing it instead, caused all the major heart ache last year as a result into this year. We got confirmation in March this year. Still, we mustn't dwell on such things, at the risk of becoming old and is hardly suprising although no less disgusting that so many nazis were elected from the UK to the European Parliament in the recent Euro Elections. These are dangerous times we live in, not least because the major political parties are not grasping the nettle.
Interestingly here in Brighton, our fair and liberal City by the sea, the Green Party polled more votes than either of the two main parties Labour and Tories. The times they are a changing indeed.
Today, we have had a great man and photographer join with us on the site, Mr Shawn Engbrecht, a destination wedding photographer based in Florida. Shawn has shown great committment and joined with us for two years and is looking, like us, to the longer term. Shawn's pedigree is perfect in so many ways, he is outward looking, cultured, well travelled having lived in Paris and London, holds multiple passports, speaks multiple languages, has worked on photojournalism projects in Africa and has recently been embedded with the troops in Afghanistan. Now, I speak to a lot of brides, couples and grooms to be, and one of the consistent themes that comes across is this; the most articulate and discerning clients dont necessarily want traditional wedding photography, or even contemporary photography; asked to articulate what they want and it is almost impossible for any couple to do so, it's like asking them to write the next Bob Dylan song. What they want is a soundtrack to their wedding in photography; the closest I have ever heard someone articulating what they wanted was this; 'I want Don McCullin, the war photographer, to cover my wedding.'
Upon further investigation as to exactly what the groom meant, a really interesting discussion by the way, he didn't want dark, brooding war photos but a no holds barred, good bad and ugly account of the day and night. Now, the world is full of capable and amazing photographers, but in Shawn I cannot help feeling we have been fortunate enough to capture , in every positive sense of the word, a photographer that has not only the capacity photographically to lead in a new direction, but the warmth and human skills it takes to really relate to and understand people. After several email conversations with Shawn over the past week or so we finally managed to connect on phone, and what struck me was that here was a person taking the right approach to the hare and the tortoise race; he knows his field, he knows what he is good at and his communication skills are superb. Shawn is taking the more considered approach to the race. Factor in his travel experience and war covergae, his knowledge of foreign Cities such as Paris and London, his language skills and his preperadness to travel the earth, and I think we really have someone rather special emerging here, and I am very pleased indeed that Shawn has joined with us. Welcome Shawn, I hope this is the start of a very good business relationship.

In other news, we will be running one of our photography courses on the south downs and Brighton seafront on 8th August, see for more details. The donated courses to my childrens school were snapped up which is very encouraging; there is no doubt a market out there, what I am still working on is the best way to reach it. Part of me is content to run the courses to the capacity we do currently, selling around 20-30 per year, it's not very many but I really enjoy them, it gets me away from the PC, out in the fresh air, challenges my own skills, keeps me sharp, and I get to meet some great people keen to develop and learn with their own new or old cameras. Whilst running the last course I spent the day with a journalist looking to extend his own skills and two sisters, one retired and the other about to embark on a lifetimes opportunity trip to Canada for several weeks. I think what really struck me was here was a group of diverese and disparate (not desperate I hasten to add) people, of different generations, facing different life challenges at different times in our lives, including myself, embarking down new roads and finding solice in the camera again. And for this is what it is all about. It's not about making a fortune; or running the best courses ever. It's about being able to impart information and skills topeople that what to learn, in a way I am almost delivering what I needed when I first picked up a camera. A non-competitive day with a professional learning as much as possible. I hope when I reach retirement age I still have the faculties and will to embrace new technologies and learning experiences. People really are quite amazing
In this time of flux, both economically and technologically it is great to see people from different walks of life taking up photography, albeit for different purposes and reasons, whether it was the writer who wanted an edge by being able to illustrate articles with better photography, to the retiree who wanted to get more out of her time and camera, to the sister about to travel across the pond on a trip of a lifetime. So for two vouchers to sell at the end of term school fare was very encouraging and positive; the only downer was they sold for a fraction of the selling price which is under market value whilst I establish this side of the business. Silly me, being too trusting, expected parents at the school to pay a reasonable price for them, meaning the school would have made more money, the whole purpose of donating in the first place. Still, this is my fault, and you live and learn, next time I set a minimum price for the school to benefit from. For me, the 200 or so parents present are now aware such a course runs and the network principle, of each person knowing 7 people, potentially brings a whole new 1400 people who will know the courses are running in Brighton. So, not a bad deal all round but I do wish the school had made more from it. Cant blame human nature for grabbing a bargain though, I would have done the same so no hard feelings. And I get to spend the day on the South Downs with my camera again.

I am working towards producing some portraits of Billy Bragg; the great musician and political commentator, I will update on progress, as it develops.
And this evening Karl from Elwood Wines here in Brighton popped in with some Californian wines to be shot over the weekend for a promotion next week, and yes I get to keep the wines! Two reds and a cheeky looking white! ;-) Karl is running a tasting again at the end of September, if you want to get ahead with wines locally in Sussex do speak to Karl, he really knows his stuff and isn't remotely stuffy. I went to a tasting some months ago, and the whites in particular were superb. It was a memorable evening not least because I went on afterwards to photograph Hugh Cornwell of the Stranglers playing live at the Concorde2 on Brighton seafront, met up with some old friends and had a fantastic night. The wines Karl can put you in touch with are genuinely superb, real head fillers that stay with you long afterwards, great nose and superb subtle tastes. I'm no wine buff, but these were good, very fine wines. So check him out at Elwoods Wines, all very reasonably priced too, cases of 12 around the £110 mark, although often under, some at just £96, delivered to your door. I produced some photos for Karl and his lovely wife Tracey with their youngest child down onthe beach earlier in the month, and then went onto the French market that pitches up on Hove Lawns. I'll try and add an image or two.
Karl and I are also discussing the prospect of businesses locally, like us both, without a shop front, running some kind of a pre-christmas event, with local hidden businesses running a desktop event in a local venue to present all these hidden talents to the community and to drum up more business locally. There's a massive push to buy locally, cut out food travel miles, carbon footprints etc, and this is one way to really bring the communities attention to what's out there. So, if you run a business near to Fiveways in Brighton and want to get involved, get in touch.
And so to August....happy holidays to all.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Destination wedding photographers needed across all US States

and the weekend photography courses. Last weekends courses went extremely well, it is very gratifying to watch peoples skills and appreciation of learning developing throughout the day. It was incredibly hot, and both the south Downs and Brighton seafront were busy. Very successful and thoroughl enjoyed,so come and join us for a one day photography course in Sussex, more details here

I am still trying to make headway in the States and am seeking Destination Wedding Photographers in all States, New York, Florida, California, Hawaii, Mexico, Cancun, and Washington DC in particular, but all States so that we can genuinely respond to enquries received. An air of confidence exists, dare I say, and visitor numbers are up and enquiries are coming in again.Reports from elsewhere are that some couples are still spending substantial budgets, so if you are a localor Destination Wedding Photographer in New York, California, Florida, Washington, Boston, Hawaii etc do come and take a look at the site, we are extremely good value. and urgently need photographers across the US to join with us.

As the 4th anniversary of 7/7 passes I was tremendously proud to see the memorial go up in Hyde Park today, not least because I am a Londoner at heart. I didn't, fortunately, know anyone that died in thos horrific and cowardly attacks on Londoners, but I do know people that were present on the Kings Cross tube that was attacked, and I used the Morgate line train on a daily basis for more years than I care to remember. Some days will live in the memory forever. As Londoners, we are too tough to succumb to terrorism, proud and foolish perhaps to a fault; everyone that has sought to terrorise us as a community eventually comes unstuck. Ask Hitler. But today has been about offering our support and thoughts to those left behind by the attrocity. If only people could find more peaceful ways of living, it cannot be that difficult. And is so much more preferrable to the awful consequences of mindless andblind hatred. RIP the 52.

Have a great week.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Photography in an English heatwave?

Here it comes again. 23 degress at a little past 6am. :) These are fine days, incredible colours given to us from nature that photoshop will never be able to replicate.
Let's get out there and enjoy folks. 31 degrees today and Murray is through to the semi-finals. Can he go all they way? We'll soon know. He's as cool as cucumber, I'll give him that, quite extraordinary, dealt with the wild card in straight sets.

And in this heat. A consumate professional. At last.