In early January I was asked to head over to NOCO hair salon in Bristol to capture some hair and makeup images for a L’Oréal ID Artist submission in what would be my first shoot of 2023. I was contacted by Hannah who was looking to audition for the prestigious programme and who had come up with a radical concept for a unique hairstyle that she wanted to showcase.
L’Oréal only recruit a select number of stylists per year for their highly regarded and competitve development programme, and Hannah was eager to prove what she could do and had already secured a model and makeup artist (MUA) to help bring her idea – an industrial punk vibe which included the elaborate use of cable ties and about 17 cans of hair spray – to life.
After friendly introductions with Hannah, Sophie (talent) and Mariella (MUA) I began capturing some of the prep work as they worked collaboratively to bring Hannah’s vision together. Prepared and shot entirely within the salon on a quiet Monday morning against a few different back drops and lit with my ever-dependable Interfit rig, I think the final results were incredible (and completely eccentric)!
Thank you to all three ladies for being so much fun and having me along to capture the fruits of their talent. Big shout out to the manager of NOCO also for being so accomodating and lending his ideas and experience. Best of luck to Hannah, you thoroughly deserve a place on the programme! A great way to start the working year.
Concept and hair design: Hannah Hayes
Makeup and style: Mariella Tardio
Talent and vibe: Sophie Alyssa Shah
Imagery, lighting and bad jokes: Tom Damsell
A few behind-the-scenes snaps, prior to the main shoot.
I was recently commissioned to capture portraits for Monmouthshire County Council’s newly elected Cabinet after a change of administration following the local elections back in May. It sees the Council change from a Conservative Cabinet to a Labour Cabinet, led by Monmouthshire’s first female Leader Mary Ann Brocklesby.
The brief required me to capture the new Caninet members in the wards for which they were elected and the shots needed to be relaxed and welcoming – nothing too formal. Natural lighting and simple was the name of the game
Everyone was extremely accomodating on the day of their shoot and I was able to quickly grab the shots with ease. Thank you to each of them for puttin gup with my rubbish jokes!
What a crazy one this was! In June 2022 I entered a competition to win a commission shooting a marketing project for FOR Cardiff to promote all of the shopping arcades around Cardiff city centre. All that was required was to take an abstract photograph that captured the energy and vibrancy of Cardiff. The competition was open to anyone of any ability, and could simply be taken on a phone. Not expecting to win, I entered with the intention of a free bit of publicity and marketing exposure to a broader audience.
Three weeks later and before I knew it, my phone started going bananas with alerts and messages notifying me that I’d been shortlisted into the top five after 600+ submissions. I was contacted by the organisers and asked to write a short piece about the image (which was actually taken 3 years previously – see below!).
After a lot of love and support, my image was eventually voted the favourite and I won the commission. Two weeks later and I’d received the project brief and the final images were delivered shortly after, much to the satisfaction of FOR Cardiff. Below is a small selection of snaps that were captured during the shoot. Thank you to Emma and the team for the brief and for having me a long for the ride!
You’ve got to be in it to win it!
Some of the final images delivered for the commission:
In March I was approached by HYPE Collective marketing agency and asked to snap some staff portraits at their HQ at London Bridge. They were looking for informal, relaxed headshots that captured the personality of each individual. The shots also needed to be simple, with minimal lighting and easily replicable in the future.
I was allocated a small space in the team’s open plan studio and so opted for a single strobe setup, with a 90cm octobox with the subjects sat on a stool two feet in front of an old brick wall. I also decided to shoot tethered so each person could review their shots after shooting, this allowed them to rate their favourite shots on a laptop, which gives them ultimate choice of their preferred portraits and also helps speed up the editing process later down the line.
We only had an hour to shoot, so it was quite fast paced and therefore crucial to maintain a relaxed environment in order to get the best out of each person. Plenty of chat and cheesey jokes, followed by a short burst of shooting and then a few remaining minutes of review time. As always, I’d rather spend more time chatting and engaging with my subject and minimal time shooting. Building instant relationships is always the fastest route to great portraits!
Thanks to HYPE for having me, it was short and sweet!
In early April I spent the morning with Chloé from Gourmet Gatherings, a local foraging business. She specialises in guided foraging excursions around the local landscape, as well as supplying ingredients to local restraunts and distilleries. She invited me along to capture her in action as she led a group of customers around the Severn Estuary – my old stomping ground.
After discussing things with Chloé prior to the tour, we wanted to capture the essence of what she does and how she brings her clients into her world. It was important to visually respresent her passion for nature and the environment and to really provide customers with a hands-on experience of foraging. Safe to say all of her guests; children and adults; were engaged and enthralled during their tour and everyone seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves. Hats off to Chloé, she was incredibly knowledgable and fantastic at involving everyone in the group and had a really warm demenour with people.
It was a pleasure being able to tag along and despite needing to concentrate on the task at hand, I was surprised how much I learned about an area I’ve lived in for most of my life. I’m also happy with the shots I came away with and was pleased to hear Chloé felt the same.
If you’re interested in foraging, Chloé is your perfect guide and I’d highly recommend visiting her website for more information and book onto a tour.
It was nice to receive a message from Chloé to say that some of my images had been selected by The Guardian for a spotlight article they ran on Gourmet Gatherings!
March 2022 has been a bit of bleak month for global events. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has sent shockwaves around the world and illustrates just how cruel a species we can be. Many stand by feeling utterly helpless, wishing they could do more to ease the suffering of those across in Ukraine as the bullets continue to fly. Ironically, horrific events such as this often show the worst and best of our civilisation and, despite the dark days, there’s always a glimour of light that provides hope that we are not beyond compassion and love for our fellow man.
On the March the 13th my family and I attended a rally of support outside the Westgate Hotel in Newport town centre as a statement of solidarity for the families in Ukraine. It wasn’t much; a modest turnout of about 250 people, but it was a way to feel like we were doing something ot help. Even if that just meant waving flags and making small donations into buckets carried by young local children.
Newport is not always know for being the most, uhhhhhh, desirable place but it was incredibly uplifting to see such a diverse group of people showing up to show their love and offer refuge. It was a moving display of solidarity and equally powerful reminder that no matter our age, race, gender or occupation, we’re all human and we’re capable of amazing things when we combine positive energy with love and a desire to do good.
Of course, with such a poignantly powerful event, I had to discreetly capture what may well go on to become part of an extremely important moment in global history.
If you’d like to make a donation of support to the people of Ukraine, you can visit: https://www.dec.org.uk/ to make a payment. Alternatively, if you’d like to offer your home as sanctuary to Ukrainian families then visit: https://gov.wales/ukraine-support-people-affected
SHE SAID YES!
(Thank God, or I wouldn’ be writing this, right?!)
As I’ve said countless times before, the two things I love most about photography are the people you meet and the moments you get to freeze in time. This one ticked both those boxes, and what a moment it was. Tissues at the ready!
I’d been contacted by Steph through WhatsApp via referral in early January. She’d planned to propose to her girlfriend and wanted the moment captured. Steph doesn’t use any form of social media, had no experience of how to go about booking a photographer or the costs involved. Nor had she ever heard of me or seen any of my work.
I was immediately excited at the prospect of shooting my first ever marriage proposal and the challenges and uncertainty that could come with it. I jumped at the chance to make a great first impression. After sending examples of my work and spending some time chatting on the phone, Steph quickly decided to recruit my services and we began scheming.
Her plan was to take her partner Chloe to a secluded spot on a cliff in Barry, the same spot as their first date. Their families would be stood across the bay holding up a giant sign which Chloe would need to read with the help of binoculars, only to turn around and find Steph down on one knee – ready to pop the big question. I’d be stood on the cliff posing as a tourist taking scenic shots of the bay, so as not to rouse suspicion, until the time came to swoop in and capture Chloe’s reaction. Easy, right? No pressure.
Room for error? Massive.
Exciting? Hell yeah!
Over the coming weeks we worked out a plan of action and I met with Steph on location so that we knew exactly what we were looking at in order to pull it all off. I guess the elephant in the room was the question: even if we managed to get everything to go to plan, would Chloe say ‘yes’ when the time came? In all credit to Steph, she never doubted for a second that Chloe would happily accept, and thank God for that or this story may have ended up going a completely different way!
All was set until the week leading up to the big day when I suddenly received a text from Steph saying that her and Chloe had both tested positive for COVID-19 and that the whole thing would have to be postponed until they were out of isolation. Bummer! We began trying to re-arrange things to the following week, assuming they’d both be testing negative by then (and feeling well) and we spent the week exchanging messages. Remember, all of this was in secret so I still don’t know how she managed to not alert Chloe to what was coming. After a few set backs, we managed to reschedule.
When the day finally came and it was game time, I arrived in Barry half an hour before the couple were due to arrive to find the wind down on the coast was unreal (as you can tell by the hair in some of the shots below). I walked out onto the peninsula ready to man my station, took my phone out to check the time and WHOOSH! It was whipped clean out of my hand and blown onto the grass. I knew what was coming – there was absolutely no chance that the family waiting across the bay were going to be able to hold up a giant cardboard sign in those conditions. I spent the next 20 minutes huddled behind a bush (with no shortage of funny looks from passers by), as close as I dared.
They turned up right on cue, and I could immediately tell that Chloe was struggling to spot the sign and Steph was going to need to think on her feet. ADRENALINE! Nevermind how she was feeling, my stomach was doing somersaults! I rarely get nervous for shoots these days, but I really wanted to get this one right.
The second I saw her drop to one knee it was suddenly GO GO GO! I rushed over and began snapping Chloe’s reaction. It was perfect! The confusion, the disbelief, the joy, the love and even the “Why is there a strange guy with a camera taking pictures of me?” – it was all there, and I managed to capture every moment. There’s no better feeling than knowing you’ve got ‘the shot’ and you’ve done your job.
Of course she said yes! Never a doubt.
I can’t thank Steph enough for taking a chance on me and I’m so pleased Chloe accepted. They both seem so happy together. Congratulations both, and thank you!
THIS is what photography is about.
This shoot was almost a year in the making! Meg, the singer and band leader from the recently branded Idle Minds (formally known as SouthBound), emailed me over a year ago after the original COVID-19 lockdown to try and organise a shoot. They’d recently had a member leave the fold and wanted a fresh batch of promos to portray the bands’ image going forward. Meg is a photographer herself (shout-out!) and had a clear idea of what she wanted which included the band smartly dressed juxtaposed with a rough, overgrown backdrop. We’d been in conversation for some time but due to the global-event-that-shall-not-be-named and people’s availability, it took a long time to put plans into action.
We’d toyed about with a few ideas but eventually settled on utilising the industrial vibe of Newbridge and its surrounding areas as a location and as luck would have it, by the time we got round to actually shooting, winter had come around and we were treated to a beautiful crisp morning (bit of an understatement – it was bloody freezing) with lots of light and autumnal colours which provided a rusty quality to the style of the shoot.
I lit some of the earlier shots with a softbox to add a consitent feel across the images. I’m normally one to remove a lot of colour saturation from my work but with this I wanted to keep that orangey rust-like tone, whilst removing a lot of blue hues from the sky so that the skin tones and landscape had colour priority.
Despite the moody aesthetic that seems to ever creep into my work, the band themselves were incredibly easy to work with and not ones to take themselves too seriously. These are always the best kind of people to work with and help you to feel like they trust you without trying to micromanage the session. In fact we joked it could have easily been a promotional shoot for a new estate agent company rather than a band.
It was great to finally get around to making things happen and all the waiting and planning eventualy worked out for the best. I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds for Idle Minds. Cheers guys!
At the start of October I was approached by Gareth Rees, an acoustic musician who specialises in re-working traditional Welsh music into modern arrangements. He wanted to shoot some images to promote his work, capturing the mood and melancholy of the songs in a remote Welsh setting. Given that autumn was fast approaching, he felt that shooting up in Brecon Beacons would lend itself to the perfect backdrop.
Having grown up in the town of Llangynidir, a small village on the East side of the Beacons, Gareth knew a particular location he wanted to use on the mountain side that he felt would provide the moody aesthetic he was looking for. Keeping an eye on the weather on the days leading up to the shoot, it looked as though we’d only have a fine window of time between bouts of rain. On arrival I was concerned that the whole shoot could be a grey-out as the rain started to set in, but thankfully it held out long enough to capture some portraits against a misty valley and ended up providing the perfect level of gloom. We wandered about in the light drizzle, chatting and taking snaps as and when we saw an opportunity, all the while surrounded by an eerie stillness that was strangely calm.
Shoots like this can sometimes be a little disconcerting at the time. I instinctively knew looking at the screen on my camera I’d caught some strong portraits, but was worried that the flat grey background might ruin them beyond repair. As it turns out I actually love the grey mist and the bleak yet calm emotion that it adds. The autumnal tones and minimalist landscape definitely captures the atmosphere of the morning and Gareth was thrilled seeing his vision come to life.
Beauty in the bleak.
Why foster with your local authority? That’s the million dollar question.
The amount of children across the country without stable homes is sadly on the rise and there has never been a bigger demand for foster carers in Wales. Children under the age of 18 face relocation and even potential separation from their siblings if they’re not taken in by willing, responsible adults in their local area. This comes at the cost to the local authority, the tax payer – and more importantly – the relationships and future stability of the children concerned.
I was recently commissioned by Foster Wales to assist in their October ‘doorstep’ campaign to recruit potential and prospective foster carers. The concept was to show existing foster carers from different regions all stood on their doorsteps to ask the metaphorical question: “Could you open your door to a child in need?”, with the emphasis on why fostering locally is so important.
The project required me to travel around the five local authorities of Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Monmouthshire, Newport and Torfaen to photograph foster carers outside their homes. I was then responsible for the art direction and production of the social media ads (I’m also an experienced graphic designer) which needed to feature quotes from the models in both Welsh and English, while adhering to Foster Wales’ branding.
Meeting people and getting to know them has always been one of the things that drives my love of photography, and I’ve been fortunate to have worked with some incredible people but speaking to these foster carers was a moving experience. Everyone was so welcoming and accomodating, despite not always being entirely comfortable with having their pictures taken. They were all prepared to cast their trepidation aside for a cause they’re all so passionate about. I got the sense that every one of them loved the children they care for as if they were their own, and for that they all deserve a medal. The difference these people make to a child’s life is immeasurable.
If you think you can make a difference to a child’s life and have the capacity inside your home to accomodate them, why not contact Foster Wales for an informal chat or more information. You’d be surprised how many people are perfectly suited to foster.