Photography studio, gallery and training complex

Archive for May, 2012

Hey, Got Any Jobs?

Initiative is no bad thing

It’s that time of year again. The time of year when my inbox is inundated with speculative emails from not just the usual year-round would-be photographers and studio hands, but a legion of just-released-from-uni new graduates, out there seeking their first industry jobs.

These emails range from the polite, considered and professional through to the mis-spelled, abrupt and downright rude. I recieved one this very morning from one hopeful which began “Hey, I was wondering if you have any photography work going at your studio right now? I’m a music photographer from ******* and I would love to help out in a photography studio. Wether it’s taking photos or just helping with the editing that would be great!”

Whatever happened to “Dear…” or even “Hello, my name is…”? And what happened to spellcheck? This particular email went on to say, “Please take a look at some of my work here, also some quotes from bands I’ve worked with…”  followed by the URL of her website.

Yes!!! You are just the person I’ve been looking for! I really need a semi-literate oik with no relevant experience (as far as I can tell from the scant information included) who doesn’t even sign her name on her email, can’t be arsed to attach a CV or examples of work, or even a proper link! My clients will be so impressed by your professional manner, I’m sure. Start at 10am tomorrow! Is £30k a year okay for starters?

Email deleted.

Actually, on this occasion I did have a look at the sender’s website and the work was ok. Irrelevant but not bad. But I would never dream of having this person working in my studio. I’ve discussed this with a couple of photographers and studio owners over the last couple of months and the concensus seems to be that any email that starts with “Hey”, “Yo” (yes, I swear I get these too), or other, similarly inappropriate over-familiarities, plus those that leave out such pleasantries altogether, are headed straight for the “Recycle Bin”. I would add any “check out [yuk!] my website/Flickr…” emails to that too. As one photographer mate asked “What the f*** are they teaching them at college?”

So these are my tips for anyone sending speculative emails to photographers/studios for work…

  • Find out a bit about who you are writing to. Yes, we are a bit vain, but it also helps if we don’t think you’ve cut-and-pasted the same hastily prepared drivel to every photography-related business that google throws up.
  • Be polite!!! Imagine you are writing a letter. Or write a letter! Use traditional terms of address.
  • Say what you can do, what you can’t, and anything else you can offer (Maybe you’re reliable, have an ethical standpoint, live locally – these things are important).
  • Attach a CV, or offer to send one in a follow-up email. Or include important details about age, experience, qualifications. If you don’t include these, you’re expecting the recipient to ask – but they probably won’t bother, and might imagine you just don’t have anything to offer or you’d include details.
  • Include your name and contact details.
  • Attach an image or two. Don’t expect anyone to follow a link to your website – these can be virus-ridden, and businesses have better things to do than spend hours browsing other people’s websites. It may be hard to believe, but they might not be waiting around for you to drop into their lives. You contacted them, not the other way around.

Yes, photography is part of the creative industries – yes, I go to work in jeans and a t-shirt most days – but that doesn’t mean that basic professionalism and courtesy goes out of the window. I don’t care how great your photography is, if you come across like a chav, I won’t even meet you. I try to reply to everyone who sends me an email about employment. After all, I was in that situation once and I got a break (eventually). But I’ve now decided, in true grumpy old man fashion, that I will not even take the time to reply to people who: can’t be bothered to find out anything about the studio, don’t include a CV or even offer to send one, don’t take the time to compose a respectful and polite email.

By contrast, I have been known to take on interns who, in one case, admitted he didn’t have much photographic experience but highlighted other skills he had that might be useful to the business. He knew what we were about and what was needed. He had lots of ideas and was a real breath of fresh air for fotofilia (this is you if you’re out there, Ben). What he lacked in actual experience he made up for in enthusiasm and willingness to learn.  I’d much rather work with someone who has little experience but a keen professional attitude than a “fully formed” photographer with bags of attitude and an amateur disposition.

So there it is. Woe betide anyone who addresses me with a “Yo” tomorrow. Grrr.


More Grim Photo Tales

Like many photographers, I can be my own worst critic – so from time to time I like to remind myself that I’m not so bad after all by browsing the rather wonderful “You are not a photographer” website ( I’ve featured it before but it’s just too funny not to re-visit.

Now I like a “baby bump” shot as much as the next guy (especially if the next guy has a strong constitution) but…



Did you see the comments? Another one…

Mmm, bet she’ll treasure this one forever. Perhaps stick it to the fridge door when she’s on a diet.

And I couldn’t exclude weddings, could I?

Is that us?

Here’s a cert for that coveted over-fireplace slot…

Remember children, choose your background carefully… and your wedding venue… and your props



Aw! Good old Shep. Or is it Lady? Or Spot? Who the hell can tell?


A Studio Evening With No Cameras?

We’ve been running studio evenings (where small groups of photographers come along to shoot a model or two) for quite a few years now. We usually try to vary these events, and models, as much as possible. Sometimes we theme them – film noir, 60s, 70s, vampire, art nude, gothic, latex etc – but we’re about to try something that as far as we know, is at least a bit unusual, if not a first of its kind.

You may have read in previous posts about the occasions where I’ve brought in a model for a shoot and decided to do the whole thing on my iphone and leave my trusty Nikon in its nice comfy bag. Well someone (who I won’t name, but you know who you are) said “Ooh! I wish I could do that!” And so the idea for a phone-only studio evening was born.

Daisy, from a previous iphone shoot.

This event will be on Monday 18th June and will give five people the chance to shoot two models in a studio environment with their phones only. In fact, DSLR’s are banned in the studio that evening.

We will be using lighting from comparitively powerful “constant” light sources which has the advantage of allowing more than one person to shoot at a time, unlike flash-based shoots where we have to take turns to hook up to the studio flash equipment.

Another advantage to this kind of shoot, and which I hadn’t really anticipated, is that even photographers who might feel a bit intimidated or nervous about coming along to what seem to the uninitiated like a relatively “serious” studio shoot for “proper” cameras, have said that they are much more likely to attend a phone-only shoot.

The equipment is obviously minimal (any phone with a camera will do) but what we’ve found previously when I’ve been recording studio evenings on my iphone is that there is quite a bit of discussion and tip-swapping regarding the best camera apps to use. As we now (finally) have wi-fi at fotofilia, attendees will be able to use it to download any apps that they hear about on the night and decide to try.

For more details see!learn Book your place now – but leave the camera at home!

Hopefully, this will be the first of many such events.

Various shots of Kat from previous iphone shoots (taken by me)

Sam Knight (by me and the iphone)

Back Into Lumilyon’s Den


Image by Nettie Edwards


Fotofilia regular, Smethwick‘s second most famous celebrity (next to Julie Walters), and my good mate, Nettie Edwards returns to fotofilia this Sunday (27th May, 11am-4pm) for a kind of “follow-on” to her previous iPhoneography courses, entitled “Next Steps in iPhoneography”.

This one, she tells me, will be more practical in emphasis and will include, among other things, printing and layering. So if you think you’d like to push your iphone photography along a tad, get yerself booked on to this workshop. Nettie is always entertaining, and as one of the country’s top iphoneographers, is the ideal person to spend a summer afternoon ishooting with.

Here’s a few more examples of her work to whet your appetite…

Image by Nettie Edwards


Image by Nettie Edwards

To get a place on the course, email me first to see if there’s space, then pay online at!pay

See more of Nettie’s work at

Gilden Days

What a week I’ve had! As mentioned in my last post, I’ve spent much of this week assisting wild-eyed, no-nonsense Magnum photographer Bruce Gilden on his workshop at Light House in Wolverhampton. And it’s been an amazing experience.

Bruce Gilden

The course’s participants were a truly international bunch and with very varied levels of ability, but all – I believe – benefitted greatly from the erm.. frank(?) …and forthright(?) guidance of Mr. Gilden. Each day, they were given an assignment and their efforts assessed the next morning.

Gilden is just about as close to the archetypal fearless New York Russian/Jewish street-fighting camera-in-face photographer (if there is such an archetype) as it’s possible to be. Hilariously funny but with a very sharp edge, he has charm by the bucketload and great anecdotes by the skipload. He is full of praise for his friends (Martin Parr, for instance) but is simultaneously scathing and/or dismissive of other “renowned” photographers, including some of his Magnum stable-mates.

He may be in his mid-sixties now but is as sharp as a tack, remembering everything said to him, every image shown to him, and by whom. Surprisingly, he has an amazing knowledge of british football teams. He’s also perfectly happy to stand up to any belligerent victims of his intrusive Leica, his swollen knuckles bearing testament to a lifetime of self-defence in the pursuit of his art among some of the world’s toughest characters. But equally, he’s a gentleman, who clearly worships his wife, daughter and three cats.

USA. New York City. 1992. Women walking on Fifth Avenue. By Bruce Gilden

So what did I learn from these “Gilden Days” in Wolverhampton? Here, partly for the benefit of my good mate Gareth Jukes, is just a few of the pearls of wisdom I picked up…

  • Never answer your critics.
  • Turn your shortcomings into strengths. Learn what you’re good at and stick to it.
  • Never trust a photographer who isn’t working on at least one ongoing personal photographic essay.
  • Never ask for permission to take a photo. TELL them you’re going to take it. Say “You don’t mind if I take your picture”. Note: no question mark.
  • Pay careful attention to your backgrounds. Pick a good spot with good light and wait for the right people.
  • Avoid visual cliches. Don’t take “tourist” photos.
  • Pick subjects with character. People down on their luck (“bums”) don’t necessarily make good pictures.
  • Be street-smart.
  • If forced to choose between protecting your head or your camera, protect your camera.
  • Be prepared to spend all day looking for a single image and not getting it.
  • Just because you’ve shot it, doesn’t mean you have to show it.
  • Don’t let your subjects “mug” for the camera. That puts them in control. YOU should be the one controlling the shot.
  • Don’t have too much wasted space in the frame.
  • Choose the height and angle of your shot with care.
  • “Form” and the moment makes the image.

There. Hope that helps. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this week and have learned things that I won’t forget in a hurry.

You can see Bruce Gilden’s “A Beautiful Catastrophe” exhibition at Light House, Wolverhampton until 13th July.

And if you want to get some idea of how he works, have a look at these…

Image by Bruce Gilden, from “A Beautiful Catastrophe”

Many thanks to Kathryn at Light House for this wonderful opportunity.

Bruce Almighty

If I’m a little bit hard to contact this week, I promise there’s a good reason for it: from Tuesday to Thursday I will be assisting the world-renowned Magnum photographer Bruce Gilden during his intensive photography workshop at the Light House Media Centre in Wolverhampton.

Bruce Gilden: Afraid? Moi?

The workshop coincides with his “A Beautiful Catastrophe” exhibition at Light House which opens this week, beginning with a talk on Monday evening. Sadly, I’m unable to attend this as we have an f2 club meeting that evening, but I’m sure I’ll be spending plenty of time with “Mr. Gilden” in the following three days. The course itself costs £360 per head but is a very rare opportunity to study at the feet of a true master. I understand there are still 2 places available for this course, which has attracted participants from as far away as central Europe. But the group size is still very small, ensuring plenty of feedback and interraction from the man himself.

Image by Bruce Gilden

It’s been suggested by a couple of photographer mates that I might like to take along some running shoes. Gilden is known for his in-close, even confrontational, approach. He says: “I’m known for taking pictures very close, and the older I get, the closer I get.” Gulp.

I’m obviously delighted to have been offered this opportunity and look forward to reporting back once the course has ended. I see this as some welcome “professional development” time – something that I try to squeeze in at least once a year in addition to my own project work. – more information about the course.

Bruce’s Magnum profile:

Image by Bruce Gilden


New Blood

No, it’s not another vampire shoot. I thought you might like to see who’s been working at fotofilia lately (apart from myself and assistant Simon, that is). As it so happens, our three most recent team members came together for an exhibition of their own at fotofilia this week (starting on Monday and ending this weekend) with the ever-so-cheery title of “Glitter & Doom“.

It became apparent over the last six months or so that I was going to need some help with the gallery side of things, as I’d rather been neglecting the exhibition programme since the autumn while I concentrated on the rest of the business. So I brought in Jack Nelson and David Shepherd, both 2nd year photography degree students at the University of Wolverhampton, to become our in-house curators.

Since then, they’ve arranged, hung and unhung a few exhibitions. The most recent of these, being the one that neatly fitted in between two other exhibitions and features the work of David and Jack – plus fellow Wolves Uni student Anna Tedesco, who, rather conveniently, has also been working here over the last few months on an intern placement.

So here they are, hastily photographed during the launch of “Glitter and Doom” on Monday…

David Shepherd

David’s the one behind converting the main gallery room into what appears to be a cheap hotel room, complete with bed, table lamp, and repeats of “Last of the Summer Wine” on the TV.

Jack Nelson

Jack’s images occupy the lobby area at the moment.

Anna Tedesco

And Anna’s work can be seen in the corridor. But Anna is also responsible for “Gladys” who is in our front window…


And Gladys, Anna’s mannequin, is responsible for attracting a great many puzzled looks from passers-by.

So we’d like to welcome David and Jack aboard the good ship fotofilia.

And to wish Anna, whose stint as intern ends this week, all the very best for the rest of her studies and future career in photography. It’s been a pleasure working with you.