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The Beautiful Game

These two images were originally from the Steeltown project and may still end up there but there's a definite football theme running through it. Taken about 10 metres apart but probably linked by nothing more than a love for the beautiful game itself. In both cases  I'm guessing they ended up disappointed, although as a fan of Sheffield Wednesday I'm sure he's learned to deal with that over the years... 

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Steeltown is an ongoing project of mine documenting the town of Stocksbridge, on the Northern outskirts of Sheffield. It started life as a portrait project and its sole aim was to photograph the men of the steel works that the town is built around. As I wandered around however I noticed that there were too many interesting things about the place that were just too good to leave out. 

Ironically the image above centre "Jennel" is probably the single most boring image I've ever took but I love it because as a kid I loved Jennels. I still do, there's something magical and enigmatic about them. Once you set off down a Jennel anything can happen, you don't know how far it goes, there could be anything along its unkempt pathway, white dog poo... a porn mag in the hedge row... a featherless fledgling that's fell out of the privet... Sweaty Brian, the local flasher. Anything. As rich in life as they are dangerous, Jennels are wormholes that can transport you almost instantaneously to the chippy, the pub, your birds house... anywhere.

The term Jennel is one that causes much debate, they're also know as Ginnel or Snicket and should never be confused with Back passage. If life has taught me one thing it is just that, Never confuse anything with the back passage!

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Across the water she came...

Through the mist, her ferry drew closer... each wave breaking upon the bow seemed to take forever. The boat gently rearing up again and again as it neared the jetty. I couldn't see her on the boat but I knew she was aboard... the mist cleared as it sidled up to the boardwalk.. slowly the hull door lowered and there she stood... "Eee lad its fucken baltic today, Alreet ya bastadd... lets go tek some pikchas...", so we did. 

South Shields in February is no place for the feint of heart, the wind blows colder there but the people make up for it with a warm greeting. Shot on my Fujifilm GFX. 

I'd like to say we had a full crew on this but it was just myself and the model, her trying to get changed behind the car while mumbling "who the fuck drives an MX5 anyway... fucken hairdressers car man pet"  and me desperately holding onto my Profoto flash in the howling wind whilst explaining that the MX5 Mk III is the last of a dying breed of motor car. 

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British Journal of Photography Portrait of Britain awards.

I entered the Portrait of Britain awards almost as an afterthought, I'd always seen the winners, I'd even bought the previous 3 Volumes from Hoxton Mini Press. The portraits within those books were always a source of inspiration, a level to aim for. They were serious portraits, and I struggle to take anything seriously. At the beginning of 2021 I did start to take portraiture seriously, I have no idea why. I changed systems from Canon to medium format Fujifilm at some considerable expense and I've always said that sometimes upgrading your cameras forces you to upgrade your skills. From March of this year I became a portrait machine, camera by my side nearly every day looking for faces to shoot. It was my primary goal.

When the closing date came and passed I didn't think much of it, I was just happy to enter a few images. Fast forward to mid November and I was on a zoom call with a client. I hate Zoom calls, they're the worst thing to come out of the pandemic. Apart from the deaths. 

It was during this zoom call that an email pinged to my phone, glancing down to my left I started to half read it whilst at the same time trying to talk to my two clients. "Congratulations.. your image has b...", and thats all I could see in the preview. That zoom call went on for what seemed like 3 days and upon its termination I quickly grabbed my phone and logged onto my emails. 

Oh my god, I'd been shortlisted in the 200, that meant I was in the book. I couldn't believe it, I got up, did a cool kinda victory dance and then had to sit down for 10 minutes as it sent me dizzy, this is normal for me. When I say cool dance I think it was actually more like watching a drunk fight off a wasp but to me, at that point in time, I thought it was cool. 

Upon further investigation of the email it turned out I'd had 3 images shortlisted, there wasn't a dance in the world that could convey my glee. As I read the email it turned out I'd have to wait until mid December to find out which, if any had been selected as winners. The 100 winners get seen all over the UK in January 2022 on the JCDecaux screens. Surely that was asking too much. 

Mid December and I'm sat at the Mac doing what I call work which basically means sitting at the Mac, with it turned on but playing a fighter pilot game on my iPad. "Ping..." went the email. "Congratulations......"

Holy. Fuck. Trumpets!

All 3 of my shortlisted images were chosen as winners. I couldn't speak for about an hour. It still hasn't sunk in yet. 

You can view all the winners 1854.photography and don't forget to look out on the JCDecaux screens in January. 

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Frank, bare knuckle fighter, Sheffield

Frank is a bare knuckle fighter from the top of Heeley bottom in Sheffield, he's also a full time knitwear model in his spare time. 

This is him, modelling for his Grandmas knitwear AW 21 campaign.

This was my favourite image from the campaign shoot narrowly beating the dog poo on a stick shot, 

Here he is practising the age old knitwear model cliche pose of looking into the distance, suggesting the future will be brighter if you buy knitwear. It won't. The knitwear campaign  was narrowed down to Frank or David Gandy, with Frank just pipping him to it. Questions of nepotism abound, Franks Grandma was heard to have uttered "If he won't work for  a corned beef sandwich and a custard cream he can fuck off..." and he wouldn't... but Frank would.. so he did.

The Guardian recently asked Frank about the sustainability of  his Grandmas knitwear to which he replied "no idea but a jumpers not a jumper until its got dried snot on the cuff". 

Frank is also a keen amateur pigeon racer though he's never yet won a race saying "although I like the idea of pigeon racing it does make my arms hurt and I've yet to get off the ground". 

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Encounters with wildlife

So I'm stood on a side street just off Sheffield's Hipster Mecca, Division st. and I'm looking for subjects. So far my only contacts were a group of dangerous 40 somethings on a Hen doo. I'd spotted them early and was downwind of them so as not to alert them to my presence. Hen doo's hunt in packs, they can often be seen wandering around at any time of day or night in various states of undress and sobriety. You can tell a hen doo is coming by the scattering of men in every direction from their immediate vicinity the way that oil separates from water. I stood still and made no eye contact through the rising heat haze of the street. Oncoming, I slowly and stealthily retreated backwards towards my camera once again ensuring my anonymity would remain intact.... 

"Oi, naaahthen... Oi cameraman... show us your knob?"

"Ohhh fuck" I uttered towards a god I now wished I'd believed in. 

"Tek aaaah pictcha...Mr... Tek aaah photo...."

The 6 of them gathered in front of my Mamiya's 110mm lens not knowing that only one and a half of them was actually filling my already full frame. I raised my flashgun  above the camera and fired it directly at them, not one of them noticing that the sync lead wasn't even in the camera. The moment the flash fired it engraved an image onto the back of my retina which still haunts me today... it's mainly pink, there's some fur and glitter, an exposed breast, half a tray of chips and a large black dildo... the faces I can't remember but my therapist says that's probably a good thing, the rest should fade over time. 

Shortly after, this fella popped out of the Skateboard shop, luckily he wasn't on a hen doo and politely accepted my request for a portrait so all in all my day wasn't lost.

Shot this on my Mamiya RZ67 with my standard 110mm f2.8 lens. Film was Ilford FP4 developed in Rodinal 1:50 at 20 degrees which sounds proper technical until you realise I developed it in my kitchen with the dog watching my every move as he thought I was cooking. 

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Crime report

"At happroximately 6.15 on the morning of the 27th of May 2021 I was proceeding through the kitchen heading in a North North Easterly direction when I happened across the partially dressed body of a recently deceased gingerbread man laying face up on the worktop. Wearing only an icing bow tie and two buttons the deceased biscuit man appeared to have been dead for some time. I ascertained his deathness using my powers of detection by combining two facts... 

1. The victim had lain motionless for at least 3 minutes..

2. He had no head.

Given the brutality of the murder and his lack of head, identification has proved problematic and so I handed him over to the coroner who tagged him under the name of 'John Dough'."

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This is Luke, Luke is a one wheel trick rider and videographer. Came across him whilst walking around Godalming one sunny evening. Here's a tip if you want to approach Surfers or skateboarders and you want to come across as a complete tool, when opening a conversation start with the line "Hey dudes...." but do it in a South Yorkshire accent... Imagine if Sean Bean had got the lead role in Point Break... "Surfs up ya bastards... " and thats exactly why he didn't get the lead role in Point Break. 

Godalming was a nice place, there was a beautiful tree lined and overgrown River, The Wey, home to the most wary of British fish, the Chub, it gently meandered its way through the outskirts of the town, streamer weed wafting through the sparkling water. Peter the Great once stayed in my hotel and is rumoured to still wander its corridors to this day, mumbling about how great he was. The summer evening drifted into dusk and as I neared the town, a 1998 Renault Clio screeched to a halt outside Dominos as the driver shouted to his waiting friends "Oi Oi.. I'm in the mood to lick some females tonight..."

Godalming you were beautiful... for a while.

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Dusk, Cornwall on the hottest day of the year... so far..

There are days when carrying a camera is second nature... then there are days when it is an absolute chore. Today was one of those days, the surface of the earth was hotter than Mars. Matt Damons shit fuelled potato farm* would have been dust had he planted it in Cornwall this July. No chips for him. 

As dusk approached however, the temperature plummeted to a chilly 26.5 degrees according to my girlfriends Audi, which is unofficially the official temperature gauge of the Met Office.

I was actually looking for areas to fish for Bass the following morning when I came across a bunch of feral miscreants with no regard for their own safety or that of a thousand limpets. Clambering across the barnacled landscape I drew blood numerous times, my tanned legs and knees now a bloodied mess although still somewhat magnificent for a 50 year old. The shutter clicked as each kid hurled themselves to their ultimate demises after which I wandered off, bleeding... a hero.. into the night.. 

*Matt Damon, as far as I'm aware does not, for the record run his own shit fuelled potato farm although in the film 'Martian' (I think) he did exactly that, I shouldn't have to put these disclaimers in here you should know this but its purely for the people who have no depth or culture.

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Be more Lucy....

"Don't model...." thats my standard advice at the beginning of a shoot to anyone I photograph. Luckily, Lucy was already on my wavelength. We talked about Ghosts, Leonardo Di-Caprio's bedroom habits, some girl in Paris, doughnuts, a woman who showed me her boobs for no reason at all and a stoner who owes everyone money. It was one of those fun shoots with absolutely no focus at all. Just playing around with the light and location. It's how all shoots should be. 

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I have a theory with photography and I'm sure it works this way in other creative endeavours too... sometimes the universe just gifts you a shot... you have to notice it and you have to get your lazy ass up of the sofa and do it but here, the warm evening light was streaming through the caravan window just as Moomin had finished a dog jigsaw. Grabbing my Fujifilm GFX I quickly half posed her and took about 5 shots. If there's one piece of advice I could go back to my younger self and offer this would be it.

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A family holiday isn't always the best for wandering with my camera looking for characters but I decided I should at least  give it a try as a pre-cursor to a future week in Cornwall shooting this very thing. 

George, Bude 2021

Luckily for me, George approached me wearing a surf board as a hat so I thought I'd ask him, turns out he'd studied photography so was a very willing subject. A quick 5 minute shoot and then I thanked him and we said our goodbyes. 

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I'd love to tell you the thought process behind this... but there was none... so yeah.. no idea what this is about... shit just happens. 

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The importance of saying 'yes'.

I was asked to do a talk by the local scouts as part of their Photography badge. It's not the type of thing I usually do, in fact its the type of thing I usually hate. This time however, felt different. I said yes. I took my cameras, 6 of them, they loved those, particularly the 30 year old Mamiya RZ67. I explained film to them, which they thought was video. Enthralled they sat and listened, amazingly. 

They asked questions, I explained the effect of aperture on an image, panning and the rule of thirds, after which they all ran outside with their cameras and phones and started taking photographs of everything and anything they could find. Mainly dandelions. Whilst they were occupied I took a portrait of their Junior Leader. I love these portraits but more than that I loved how, even if momentarily I sparked something in those kids that might just take them onto other things, the same way my imagination was sparked 39 years ago and continues to spark to this very day.

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Max is a model but I didn't ask him to model, instead, me, him and the stylist just had a conversation while I took photos.

Shot these film images on an ageing Mamiya RZ67 that has a light leak every 3rd frame. Developed them in the kitchen. 

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Shot these in Manchester in a Yoga studio. We didn't do Yoga because thats for flatulent hippies and women without a pelvic floor but we did shoot some beautiful portraits. 

Baff, of Liverpool.

I never have much clue what or how I'm going to shoot someone going into it and I tend to chat for the first few minutes, its then I know... wing it.  Professional wingerer.

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Anonymous, 2016

Back in the 60's and 70's muffs were huge things and they were everywhere, they'd hang out of all 3 sides of a bikini bottom they were so huge. The first live muff I saw was around 1982 in Portugal, I was in the queue at the pool bar for a drink, turned around and there was a German woman stood in a bikini... her muff was a massive muff and it shot in every direction, starting around her belly button and ending somewhere down her thigh... I was 12 and I was amazed. By the late 80's the hole in the Ozone layer was having a detrimental effect on the muff, they were reducing in size! The massive muffs of the Cold War were declining in size at an alarming rate and by the 90's had been decimated to just a narrow patch of hirsute oasis. Ten years on  and there were no muffs to be seen anywhere, the millennium bug had completely wiped out the muff never to be seen again. These were dark times indeed. 

Roll the clock forward 20 years however and nature had a surprise in store. The muff was making a comeback, not in the huge surface areas of the 60's and 70's but the Muff nevertheless was back. Proof that nature is indeed, cyclical. 

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Spur of the moment golden hour shoot. 

Early March and the sun is shining. That cold blue light of winter is starting to wane and the golden evening sunlight of warmer months is starting to show its face. Albeit, fleetingly. A quick insta message to my go to muse  Alana and two hours later we're shooting. 

We live in a city built on 7 hills so the sun is fast approaching a higher horizon than you'd get in most places but it doesn't matter. We only need a few shots. 20 minutes after we start the light is gone and we're heading our separate ways. Alana did try to steal my jumper but I haven't pressed charges. Yet. 

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Charlie is my niece, she knows if I'm looking after her then there's going to be photographs made and she also knows she'll be paid in nuggets and milkshakes and sneakers. 

Finding different materials to work with is pretty much how my ideas come to life, I never think of a final image, then produce it. I just to find things to utilise and let the image come from that. 

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"High on a hill was a lonely boat, yodeladelodeladelyodeloowoohooo.... ! Wait, what... yeah boat.... oh.. is it? nooo... really...? Goat? GOAT? well that won't make any sense at all now...." 

Boat. Barmouth, North Wales, UK.

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If you're going to wander, wander with a camera.

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From Ghana.

Via Middlesborough.

Shot in Manchester.

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Robyn. Sheffield hard bastards.

This is Robyn, she's from Sheffield and she's hard as nails. She runs the estate. No one messes with Robyn. Not ever. *

*None of this is true.

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At home with the Moomin

Emilia lives in Sheffield with some adults and a dog. She likes dancing and talking, a lot. She hate wooly things, like balaclavas. She also likes to smile too but I bribed her with McDonalds. Easy peasy. 

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Hannah. For this shoot I drove to Todmorden on a wet November Sunday. I always thought Todmorden was near Leeds but in fact it's closer to Burnley in Lancashire. Luckily we didn't enter Lancashire and all my jabs are up to date anyway. 

It's a charismatic place and I couldn't help noticing it was very reminiscent of an early 80's English town. When I arrived I saw some kids having a fight. It melted my heart, proper kids, proper fight, swearing and everything, they were only about 12 or 13. Not an iPad in sight. 

Hannah and myself just wandered around looking for backdrops and ideas. You might think that the shot on a toy digger is weird but trust me, this was the least weird thing abut Todmorden. I actually loved the place. I'm thinking a portrait project might be in order. 

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Street Portrait

Yeah I know it's a landscape and not a street portrait but read on. I set off from the house at 9am. The dog gave me that longing stare that suggested he knew I wasn't taking him. I couldn't, I was doing street portraits in Sheffield. "It's no place for a dog, Ralph" I explained... "those streets are raw and dangerous... ". Releasing a quiet whimper he  got into his bed crate, turned around 14 times then flopped into his cushion with a disgruntled "hummph" - we were both in the doghouse, his a literal one, £38.99 from pets home and mine, a metaphorical and ultimately less comfortable one.

I considered doing that thing where I trick him into thinking he's having a home day then grab his lead and run full pelt into the living room closely followed by a tongue out tail wagging Ralph, not dis-similar to a post war cartoon showing a cleaver wielding butcher chasing a dog with a string of sausages, the roles this time reversed. Alas no, this was going to be a me day, seeking out interesting faces in the Steel city. The car sprang into life with a belch of diesel fumes and off I went. I called for a coffee at the Drive-thru and before long the coffee was gone, as was my street shooter mojo. It was warm in the car and before I knew it, Sheffield was just a distant misty blur in my rear view mirror. 

The good thing about Sheffield is that between us and Manchester there lies a beautiful, magical and mythical land called the Peak District. It was invented in the 1600's by one of my late ancestors (Uncle George Rusty Knacker Ferret-Tickler Fleming - a man of great importance at the time) and it was designed so that anyone approaching from Manchester would get to the Peak District, see how beautiful it was and stay there for a bit, stopping them coming to the Steel city and talking non stop about Manchester and it's under achieving football teams. It worked although to this day they do still talk endlessly about themselves. 

As I dropped down into Hathersage and the unravelling Hope Valley I was amazed to find it cloaked in a thick fog. We don't get much fog these days, I remember a lot more in the Victorian years. An hour of quick shooting resulted in a set of beautiful foggy landscapes, the fog quickly burning off as the suns rays heated it from above. As I returned home I was greeted by a tail wagging tongue out Cocker Spaniel who bore no grudge towards me for not taking him, mainly because he'd forgot and also because he's a dog. 

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Studio test day

After booking a studio in Manchester I decided I'd better get some faces in to shoot. Creative testing is so important, pre shoot I had no idea what I was going to do but as soon as I get the subjects in front of the lens things just seem to fall into place. All in all I shot 6 people, 4 actors, a girl that someone knew and a kid who'd just been sacked after locking himself in his workplace whilst wearing only his pants. It's important to shoot characters as well as normal people. 





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This is Alana.

These were shot in Sheffield.

Alana likes to wear Elf ears.

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For this shoot Elise turned up with bleached hair and zero eyebrows. Her dedication to the craft knows no limits. 

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Sheffield Junkyard 2016. In the heart of the city lies this aladdins cave of junk. As if to press the cliche even further, it even had a dog. Shooting through the fencing I couldn't get further back to get more in and I was limited to an 80mm lens. 

Brian. Artist. I bumped into Brian as he was walking up towards the city from the train station. Without thinking I asked if I could take his portrait to which he agreed although I think his reasons were more to do with my 6x6cm Bronica.

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But it's not sharp.

The success of this shoot was all down to a really good creative team. I always find if one cog in the chain isn't right then nothing will work. On this job everything was right. Sophie King on make up always does a good job and Kyle Lawson's styling worked perfectly, on top of that he also gave artistic direction to the model, Rulan. 

One of my favourite shoots of this year. 

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Absolutely flawless

Beauty photography seems so far removed from my usual stuff. I love shooting grainy film  or warts and all portraits but beauty gives me the chance to shoot exactly the opposite. This, for me was mainly a test to see what my new Fujifilm medium format digital camera could do.  Going medium format was a big decision but I feel it will give my work that extra quality. I'm a fan of printing my work too, I hate what instagram has done to photographers, de-valuing their hard earned work to something that people just scroll past during their lunchtimes. I shoot film to set myself apart from the raft of other photographers and hope that digital medium format will do the same. 

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Elise is somewhat of a polymath, a beat poet and a musician as well as model she is a self styling enigma that I first met in 2017. She was cooler than me, cleverer too.. way cleverer. 

She has since become one of my favourite people to shoot. You never know what colour her hair will be or what items will fall out of her styling bag, on one occasion she opened her bag and proceeded to dress in a Popeye style sailor suit complete with lobster hands. She has better stories than most of us, from tales of drinking with Jarvis Cocker to escaping an Alien sex cult in Berlin, true story. 

This image was shot on my Mamiya RZ67 with 6x6cm back on Kodak Portra film. She suits film, her skin is pale and it lends itself to the silky tones you get from analogue. I plan to shoot enough of her to get a book or at least a good zine. 

This session was shot in Manchester in a time that future generations will call 'Post Lockdown 1.0' but what everyone who was around to witness it will know it simply as 'Clusterfuck 2020'.

You can learn more about Elise and her work at by clicking on https://corporationpopband.bandcamp.com/track/i-bet-your-mum

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I enjoyed this shoot a lot. I arrived at the Crucible theatre in Sheffield and was ushered into a green room on the top floor of the maze like theatre. It was here that I met the two stars of the Sheffield Theatres production, Daniel Rigby and Jonathon Hyde. Both were amiable and happy to work with me to get the shot required. The actors went off to make up and wardrobe and I set about constructing the background, lighting and MAC. 

I was shocked when they walked back in, looking every inch the 60's journalist and American President. Shooting tethered we were all able to gather round the MAC and fine tune the portrait session. 

As a photographer you don't always get to work in a large fully equipped studio and this certainly wasn't that. Low ceilings encumbered my soft box so I opted for a smaller gridded beauty dish as main light with the feathered soft box just set to fill the harsh shadows. 

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Chelsea is an actor, she's Irish. We wanted the shoot to show the realities of how creatives really feel, and this was pre lockdown, imagine how we all feel now. Shot in my studio in Sheffield we experimented with various ideas, some did work, some didn't at all and some were just a bit... Morrisey...

After a couple hours shooting we made an executive decision to go to the pub, I told the make up artist (Laura) and Chelsea that it was a really good location... which it was.. for a pint. 

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Boly Hible, Hackney.

I was in London to shoot a set of hair campaign images for a large salon. As always when I work in the smoke I get a hotel, for two reasons... 1. Only an idiot would try and get to London from Sheffield on the day of the shoot, and 2. I like London, I have friends there, and also I like to shoot there. 

It's a melting pot of creativity, which I love but I also find it a rather sad place. It's one of the loneliest cities to live in if you have nothing. I don't get why people with nothing go there, go to the countryside, you can catch fish and eat apples. For free. 

This shot greeted me as I walked into my hotel room in Hackney. Without putting my bag down I pulled out my 30 something year old Nikon F3 loaded with Kodak Tri-X400 and took the shot. I only took two frames, portrait and landscape format. I love 35mm and the Nikon, it makes me feel like Don McCullin in Vietnam even if I actually look like a tourist, in Rotherham. 

The hair shoot went well. We were in a beautiful daylight studio near Hackney. Hair shoots are fickle things. Good hairstylists are picky as, and so they should be, its how you get to the top. 

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