Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Yes, Minister - press portraits of Nicky Morgan MP

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Clients coming back is always a pleasant feeling. And even more so when the client is the Education Secretary in David Cameron’s cabinet.


In 2013 I photographed Nicky Morgan MP for TopSante and I was very excited to be contacted by her press office just after the most recent cabinet reshuffle. Nicky had been appointed Secretary of State for Education and her team needed some more photos. Needless to say - I will always find time for a minister in her majesty’s government. My schedule however busy is nothing in comparison to Nicky’s so when we finally found a date we met really early in the morning before Westminster really woke up. Twenty minutes was all we had, so I had to make the most of the beautiful weather and the excellent mood the minister was in.

Nicky is an energetic and impressive woman. She is also so nice and approachable, which restores one’s faith in politics. Having said this, I often find I take best portraits when I ask the sitter something confrontational. In this case I asked Nicky to convince me to vote Conservative in the next general elections. She was given no warning I’d be doing this (I only came up with this idea when setting lights up) and expected her to take a moment of consideration. Instead Nicky launched straight into an argument, eloquently and persuasively laying out the main reasons not just I, but the rest of the country, should vote Tory. I won’t be telling you how I am voting, but I will tell you that we got some great pictures of Nicky. Keep an eye out on her as I get a feeling the name Nicky Morgan will keep popping up this year. Hopefully accompanied by my portraits.

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Tuesday, 13 January 2015

What inspires you to do your job? Promotional portraits of Afroditi Krassa

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If you have ever grabbed a quick lunch at istu you will be familiar with their interior design. The clean and crisp lines with dapples of colour are a great addition to the otherwise rather uniform cafe landscape in central London. Who would have thought that the design was most likely inspired by … movies.

I met the mind behind itsu’s brand, product designer Afroditi Krassa, to take some promotional shots of her for Camron PR. Afroditi has come to prominence with her itsu design, but once you start looking around her style can be seen throughout London - from Heston’s The Perfectionists Cafe at Heathrow to Curzon cinemas - Afroditi has provided the hospitality business with her creativity and ideas. Design however is not her only passion and she draws her inspiration largely from film. Armed with this knowledge I knew exactly how I wanted to photograph her.

Afroditi’s passion for film means she is a frequent cinema-goer. I was keen to include this in my portraits, so after taking a few classic head shots of Afroditi in her studio, we headed out to a local cinema. I have always thought it must be fun to see your name in those big letters above cinema entrances. I guess I am not alone as Afroditi was keen to be photographed putting up letters spelling her name above our cinema. In the final image a whole team of Afroditis are busy getting ready for the night at the cinema all dedicated to Afroditi.

Designer Afroditi Krassa photographed in her London Studio
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Thanks to Camron PR for a fun assignment and to Afroditi for being such an approachable and friendly collaborator. You can find out more about Afroditi’s work on her website.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

2014 - A damn fine year

2014 - What a year

Happy New Year! It seems like my last year review blog post was only a glimpse away and here I am looking back at 2014. And what a year it was. Photography took me travelling for work and for personal projects, I shot some excellent personalities, met some great people and I am hungry for more of all of these in 2015.

Personal work

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Faces of the Flood

The beginning of 2014 was rainy and I waded through it. The floods in the South West of England really affected me and I wanted to contribute to the efforts made during the crisis. The story of the amazing people working in the Somerset Levels is my small part in raising awareness of the dire situation the region found itself in as well as a tribute to the amazing effort of the community. The project was featured on the BBC website, the Independent and It’s Nice That. More photos: http://www.charliecliftphotography.com/projects/faces-of-the-flood#


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Portrait of California

This was a year of travel - when cycling along Route One from San Francisco to Los Angeles in the summer I photographed the people I met on the way. Armed with just a white sheet and my camera I took portraits of the people who are as much a part of travel as sights are. The project was featured on Creative Boom. More photos: http://www.charliecliftphotography.com/projects/portrait-of-california#


Commissions

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UnitedHealthcare Global

The theme of travel was present in my commissioned work as well. I started a fruitful relationship with a number of exciting clients. UnitedHealthcare Global asked me to photograph an image library for their global launch which required travelling across three continents to 11 locations. From Dallas through Dar Es Sallam to Dubai, I photographed UnitedHealthcare Global’s multinational team and captured the business travel lifestyle so familiar to their clients.

Blog post 2 - Tanzania

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The weekend magazines

Editorial work remains one of my greatest passions. I am very proud to now shoot for both The Sunday Times Magazine and The Independent Saturday Magazine. The latter is a new addition to my portfolio - I thoroughly enjoyed shooting TV production designers for one of their issues in September. Shooting John Hamilton and his collection of cookbooks must also be one of my favourite commissions ever received. The Sunday Times Magazine has put me in front of their new wine critic as well as their god of small things among other commissions. These jobs are always tight on time and more than rewarding.


Tim - part of "Over the Hill", a photographic project

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And speaking of fascinating commissions I was contacted by Tim Andrews in 2014 as well. You may have heard of his project “Over The Hill”. Tim suffers from Parkinson’s Disease and he has kept a photographic record of his illness ever since his diagnosis. He has now been photographed by over 300 photographers and the exhibition of the works so far happened earlier in 2014 as well. I had the pleasure of photographing Tim after he saw my image of Clare Foges in The Sunday Times Magazine.

Molly the dog, photographed for Tatler

And now for something completely different...

Way back in January last year I took my very first portrait for Tatler. Do you enjoy Andrew Neil’s political shows on the BBC? Well, his Golden Retriever Molly certainly enjoys her visits to the set. I met Andrew and Molly on set of This Week and took a portrait of them for Tatler’s Pet of the Month in the January issue. A great opening to an even greater year.

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A big big thanks for everyone who made this all possible. I could not have had a better year and it would not be possible without the fantastic producers (Thirdberg, I am looking at you), assistants (you know who you are!), make-up artists, stylists, art directors and commissioning clients.


And finally thanks to Olga for being constantly there for me through everything, she is such an amazing woman.

Here’s to 2015 - I can’t wait for it all to happen!

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Playing with Medium Format Film

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I am always happy to admit that I discovered photography when digital had already been hailed king. Analogue cameras were increasingly rare (although not yet as cool as they are now) and digital had already replaced them as the tool of the present and the future. My passion for image-making however meant I dabbled my fingers here and there in film and with a quick refresher session I can find my way round a darkroom. For quite some time I have fancied the idea of having a play with a medium format camera and when the right one came along I could not resist.

I am now a proud owner of a Bronica SQ-A which I found on eBay and which has provided me with ample entertainment. I found its waist-level viewfinder a touch confusing to start with, but every day I am getting better. I have not used it for any work yet - just everyday, personal snaps - almost like a less portable and much slower phone really. The slowness as part of the process is great - instead of snapping hundreds of pictures I take my time with each one (“too much time” my girlfriend - deficient in patience - would say). Then there is the slowness of getting results - sending the film off and then scanning it at home, getting it wrong and scanning it again. I know it has been said a million times before - but waiting for results certainly adds a sprinkle of excitement otherwise rarely felt in photography.

I have lots to learn still having only developed two rolls of film, but here are some of my favourite snaps so far.

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Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Merry Christmas (when Charlie met Nick)

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Merry Christmas. May you have a wonderful time full of excellent food, presents and cosy evenings!

One of the best things about my work is that I meet people. And I love meeting people. I have photographed such a great diversity of sitters that it would not fit in one blog post. From cancer-survivors, to world-famous chefs. I have photographed human rights activists, celebrities and politicians. My recent sitter however beats them all. He is known all over the world and he is an undeniable legend, especially popular with the younger ones. He is an elusive guy too with rumours spreading far and wide this time of the year. Is it true he doesn’t do anything all year until Christmas? Is his business sustained by an army of illegal child labourers? Do his trusty travel companions really play Monopoly despite their hooved limbs?

Child fantasies aside, I have always felt sad thinking of Santa. After all, he visits all the children in just one night and all he gets for this hard work is a glass of sherry and a mince pie. However many glasses of sherry it does seem like a small reward for climbing down chimneys which are not just unpleasantly claustrophobic but in most cases in the UK - boarded up and unused too.

Nick is a busy man, especially at this time of the year, but he found an hour in his hectic December schedule for a quick photoshoot with me. I was eager to use the shots for my Christmas cards and ask the legendary man all the questions.

Unsurprisingly Santa was tired. He works hard all year preparing for the big night and no, there is no army of children helping. He likes sherry but cannot stomach more than a few mince pies in one night. The chimney climbing part is one of his favourites actually - you should see the faces of all the jack russells and black labs when a man armed with presents and dog biscuits appears from nowhere on their territory. We chatted and Santa lit up one of his guilty pleasures - a Cuban cigar. The reindeer don’t let him smoke and drive anymore these days.

Nick is an easy sitter - full of stories and a wonderfully expressive face. It was a pleasure to photograph him in a more personal way and with no presents or children in sight. Big thanks to him and his team of elves who organised everything so efficiently. You were legends. See you next year, hopefully!

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Thursday, 18 December 2014

Epic Moments with Samsung


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With 7 out of 10 Brits owning a smartphone it is not a surprise that advertising the newest device is a rather big deal for the manufacturers. Earlier this year I was invited to shoot stills on the set of the newest Samsung device online advertising campaign. These were to go with Samsung’s online videos advertising the newest Galaxy S5 smartphone and the GearFit watch.

I do not work with video myself (other than my keen use of hyperlapses as you may have noticed on my instagram) and this was the first time I was invited to do a series of stills to go with video material. Meaning - it was one of the first times I was on a shoot where photography was not the primary focus. This turned out to be a fascinating experience.

Firstly, the budgets and the teams on such big film sets are much bigger than your average photoshoot. This means more people, more lights, more instructions. I had an opportunity to work with incredible equipment and it was joyous how easily the lighting team created a beautiful hazy sunset on what was a dark and wet afternoon.

The tip top organisation on a set is amazing - no threads are hanging loose, no minute is wasted which means everything works like a good swiss clock with one minor challenge - there wasn’t much time for stills. So me and my assistant had to be super prepared as the film crew were only giving us a minute or two to shoot the relevant stills. Video production is all about a long, consequential processes and taking any more time to photograph would interrupt the flow of the filming. I had an almost playful relationship with the assistant director - always reminding him about the importance of stills.

There were other fun challenges too but of a more photographic nature. Releasing helium balloons and making them blow in the desired direction is not easy outdoors in any circumstances. Releasing them so that we get each balloon placed perfectly and captured on the smartphone screen in my shot makes the task even more difficult. We must have done it right though as the videos and my photo material to go with them have so far been watched over 2.8 million times and were liked on YouTube over 4000 times.

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Big thanks to Mason Zimbler for such a fascinating opportunity and to Aspect Film & Video for accommodating the stills photography needs on set.

Here are some Epic Moments with Samsung:




Wednesday, 10 December 2014

3 days of Christmas. In June. - Help for Heroes Christmas 2014

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Christmas is really all around us by now and I have a confession to make - this will be my second one this year. Photography yet again proves itself to be a great profession - I celebrated my first Christmas of the year in June at the Help for Heroes catalogue shoot.
You may recall my previous collaborations with Thirdberg Productions for Help for Heroes. They almost feel like great weekends away with fantastic locations, the beautiful outdoors and plenty of fun. All for a great cause. This time was no different. We gathered the team once more and headed for the Sussex coast to capture that cozy wintery feel in what turned out to be one of the hottest summers the UK has had in years.
Pretending it’s winter in June is easy on the photographer but it is hard not to feel for the models all wrapped up in chunky knits in 30 degree heat. And then of course there were the Christmas jumpers - H4H’s Christmas jumper collection is too good not to be included in their clothing catalogue for Autumn/Winter. This meant that we made one of the shoot days “Christmas”. We decorated the location house, lit the fire and adorned the room with tinsel and Christmas cards. We had Christmas carols playing and if it wasn’t for the fact that we were at work mulled wine would have been rather fitting. The only difference being that when we wrapped up I celebrated the end of the shoot with a swim in the sea. What better way to finish off?
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The Help for Heroes winter clothing catalogue is out now and the items can also be bought online. Beyond containing some fabulous gift ideas it is a great way to support a charity whose work changes lives for so many of our servicemen.

Thanks so much to the amazing team who worked on  the shoot:

Production: Thirdberg
Digi-tech and assistant: Phil Hardman
Make Up: Nina Sagri
Help for Heroes: Tanya, Helen and Lauren
Art Direction: Gary Bigwood
Male Model: James Lawson @ Mustard
Female Model: Alana Wallace @ BMA

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And here is just a little clip to give you an idea of what really goes on during these shoots: