Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Tanzania - UnitedHealth Global Part 2

For Part 1: click here.

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It was all going so well. I was going to finish off my UnitedHealthcare Global commission (see part 1 here) with a short stop over in Africa before embarking on the journey back to London. The air traffic controllers, however, had other plans. Storms chasing across the USA meant that two of my flights got cancelled there and then just to top things off we heard that my flights in Tanzania were also cancelled. Time to reschedule. So it was a few weeks later that I reunited with UHG with the same objective in mind - to photograph the company’s people and work as part of their rebranding.
I arrived in Tanzania and was completely struck by it. I had never been to this part of Africa and was amazed by how busy, chaotic and mad Dar Es Salaam felt. In order to show the global aspect of UHG’s work I headed to the local market and was quickly the most popular Westerner in the vicinity. The stall owners realised I could be a great source of income and soon I had a string of people following asking to be photographed for money. Usually it works the other way, but not in Dar Ee Salaam’s market, it seems! The market itself is ripe with photography opportunities: the spices, the fruit and most importantly the people.
Following a night in the capital, I headed to Mtwara - one of Tanzania’s biggest ports where UnitedHealthcare Global provide a whole range of health services to a conglomerate of oil companies. After a chilling health and safety meeting (I will never look at a mosquito in the same way again) I headed out to the port to capture the impressive work taking place there. Mtwara hardly has running water and a quarter of the houses do not have electricity. After driving along dirt roads past mud huts the port was the stark contrast - organised by the oil companies with strict health and safety it was ultra-modern. We set up numerous scenarios for me to photograph such as helping an injured employee and a rather exciting rescue mission in the bush.
Tanzania fascinated me, it's visually stunning and Mtwara in particular was incredible. Its people wore bright colourful dresses and rode the most tassled-up fancy motorbikes I have ever seen. Plus the light there has a dusty, desaturated quality to it that I haven't witnessed anywhere else. It is certainly on my list of places to return to.

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Thank you UnitedHealthcare Global for this most incredible commission. You can see my work on their newly launched website: http://www.uhcglobal.com/

As mentioned earlier - this was the second part of my shoot for UnitedHealthcare Global. The first part is an earlier blogpost.

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Thursday, 13 November 2014

Matt Rudd photographed for the Sunday Times Magazine

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Getting a phone call from The Sunday Times Magazine is always an exciting thing. I have done a few commissions with them already and am always hungry for more. A good few months back I got a call from Jessica from the Sunday Times Magazine team with a really unusual task - to create an image library of one of their columnists, Matt Rudd, doing things. Specifically - doing silly things.

Matt is The Sunday Times’s God of Small Things - his column asks and answers questions big and small - from why can’t children switch the lights off to whether we should fear an Ebola outbreak. The columns are funny and are always accompanied by a picture of Matt involved in an activity relevant to what this week’s column is about.

Typically before a shoot I brainstorm around a concept and fill a side or two of A4 with ideas, then pick the best 2-3 for the photoshoot - you don't get time for any more. This assignment was very different - not only did I have to come up with loads of ideas, but we used them all. Actually, we used even more as both Matt and Jessica had their own concepts in mind. So we had Matt pointing in all directions, eating pasta, levitating, meditating, celebrating and many more.

One hour was not enough - we have now met up a couple of times to photograph as many ideas as possible. I always learn a thing or two or an photoshoot but the last thing I thought I would learn was work fashion tips. Turns out wearing red trousers to work will provide your sitter with excellent reasons to mock you. I should have remembered that infamous blog, but by the time I did it was too late.

Faux pas aside, we captured plenty of fun images and you can enjoy them every week in The Sunday Times Magazine. Look out for The God of Small Things and ask Matt your #smallthing on Twitter.


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Massive thanks to Matt for being so much fun to photograph and Jessica for bringing so many ideas to the shoot.

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Monday, 3 November 2014

11 locations, 6 countries, 3 continents - UnitedHealthcare Global Part 1

For Part 2: click here.


You know that feeling when you catch yourself thinking: “This really is my life” and you almost want to pinch yourself just to make sure?
That’s exactly what I felt when the fasten-your-seatbelt sign was switched off and I was invited to sit back and relax on my way from London to Miami. I was on my way to the most amazing commission, about to shoot in 11 locations visiting 6 countries on 3 continents all in just over two weeks. A few weeks back I received a call from the vice president of strategic intelligence at UnitedHealthcare Global asking me if I would be interested in photographing a whole image library as part of their rebranding. UnitedHealthcare Global are a big organisation providing health cover for travelling business people all over the world. They also provide expertise and emergency response anywhere on the globe and have offices and teams dotted around everywhere. My brief was a similarly impressive one: to present UnitedHealthcare with an image library reflecting their services and their people. I was tasked with capturing the global business travel lifestyle as well as the people of UnitedHealthcare.


So when I touched down in Florida I started off with visiting UHC’s office and photographing their team there. The idea behind photographing the employees rather than hired models appealed to me greatly and it turned out that it was partly my ability to capture people candidly that attracted Kieran (the VP) to my work. I photographed all the types of work that UHC teams do – from emergency response call centres in Baltimore to United Nations account managers in New York to air ambulance medics in Toronto. UnitedHealthcare wanted to put their employees firmly in their visual identity.

I was also focusing my attention on UnitedHealthcare’s potential client – the business traveller. Streetcasting people in different cultures and taking portraits of business travellers at airports was a great way to show a realistic lifestyle business travellers can aspire to. Portraits are however never enough when creating images of a lifestyle and so I found myself escorted to the roof of ShangriLa in Dubai to take a sunset panorama of Dubai and lying on the floor of a multi-storey car park waiting for the storms to come over Tampa airport.

With such a great brief and so little time, logistics occasionally posed a challenge. One delayed flight stranded me in New York overnight and cut my stay in Canada to a mere day and a half. On the second day there I had just two hours to set up a whole photoshoot of an air ambulance plane and it’s crew complete with staging an emergency rescue operation before I had to turn around to get back to New York not to miss my flight to Dubai. Culture and climate provided me with new experiences too. In Dubai my lenses would mist up due to the humidity whenever I walked outside. I also made the mistake of boarding a “women-only” carriage on the metro train - I did wonder why they were all staring at me so intensely, but only realised after I had got out that I committed a terrible faux-pas.

Thank you UnitedHealthcare Global for the trust you put in me. I worked with some great teams, stacked up on air miles and most importantly delivered a library UnitedHealthcare were very pleased with. Let’s hope my career keeps taking me interesting places.


Find out about UnitedHealthcare Global on their new website here: http://www.uhcglobal.com/


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Thursday, 23 October 2014

California - 400 miles on my bike

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Back in March over an impromptu dinner my friend Oscar announced that he was planning on cycling down Route One in Californian. He casually asked if anyone was interested in joining him and I said: “Why the hell not?”. June seemed a long time away and the first few weeks after that dinner I gave the plan little attention. The closer Oscar’s departure loomed the more I realised I had a fundamental problem: I had no bike. Well, I had a mountain bike but that would be of no use for the 400 mile tour we were embarking on. I also had no tent, no gear and no clue about cycle touring (see the mountain bike from sentence above). Fast-forward a few weeks of frantic email exchanges between my friend and I, many trips to many cycles shops plus much last minute research and I found myself arguing my passenger rights with United Airlines (whose bike travel policy is hugely unfair and I would recommend you looked at other providers if you are planning a cross-Atlantic bike transport).

The one thing I did have a clue about straight away was that I had to travel with my camera. I was keeping equipment to the essentials to save weight, but that was most definitely essential. You may have already seen my Portrait of California but on top of taking pictures of people we met, I also photographed this strange land. California is a place of contradictions: we started in San Francisco, a wonderful city that is surrounded by miles of suburbia that would have tired even the most curious of eyes. Then followed the impressive redwood forests - trees bigger than I have ever seen and forests so lush us Brits can only be jealous of them. And then there was the Big Sur with its dramatic coastline, amazing wildlife and pristine beaches (when not full of sea lions). I think we also saw what is probably all of the world’s strawberries and cycled through the artichoke capital of the world (yes, it is a thing) before hitting LA, which blows your mind with its size. We got off the train and still had a 20 mile cycle ride to our hostel.

Trying to capture the whole 400 miles is an impossible task, but luckily California is a photographer’s dream. The light is dramatic and the views are never boring. And on top of that almost all of the people we bumped into were friendly. One thing is for sure, I will certainly be back to the Golden State.


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See what I mean by all of the strawberries?

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Look carefully here.

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And finally here we are after 400 miles of cycling at 7am in the morning. Thanks Oscar for the amazing trip!

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