2012

It’s been a while…

Sitting here almost half way through December it’s hard to believe that I haven’t published anything on this blog for five months. I promise you that it wasn’t because I had run out of things to say or that I hadn’t been doing anything!

First of all there were the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. I spent the whole of the summer – 13 weeks in all – working in the Main Press Centre on the Olympic Park on the Photo Help Desk and in the Photo Workroom as part of the Photo Operations team. Very long days, a lot of hard work and only a handful of days off more than compensated by the sheer joy of being right at the centre of an absolutely amazing event.

Imagine spending all of that time being surrounded by photographers, other photo operations team members and a vast cast list of people equally as passionate about photography as I am? I got to meet hundreds of top class professionals and make a lot of new friends. Before I left for Stratford my wife gave me a little blue book entitled “Jetsetters that I met and liked” and I’m happy to say that it is full of comments and messages from many of the amazing people that I worked with and for. Bob Martin, the London 2012 Photo Chief, put an amazing team together and it appears that we did a great job.

Lots has been said and written about the thousands of volunteers who made the Games happen and I’d like to add a few words of my own. The twenty or so volunteers that were part of our Photo Workroom and Photo Help Desk team were simply AWESOME. They grafted, they smiled, they brought an incredible array of talents and skills and they achieved a level of service that we couldn’t have provided without them. We had teenagers, undergraduates, graduates, professionals on a summer break and an amazing nucleus of people who had retired from very challenging and impressive jobs. We had linguists, teachers, journalists and communicators and the balance between all of those talents meant that we could have accomplished almost any task.

There is so much that I could say about my three months wearing purple. I could talk about the moment that the whole world shook as the first fireworks of the Opening Ceremony went off less than 200 metres from our building. I could list the stars and officials who passed through on their way to press conferences and briefings. I could even try to put into words the sheer joy that I felt every time I went into one of the sports venues. Being part of the London 2012 operation was a very special and emotional experience and I am sure that nothing will ever come close to replicating it. All good things come to an end and I returned home with my bags of souvenirs, my little blue book and all of my memories only three days after the closing ceremony for the Paralympic Games.

Returning to my day job was how I thought of it but, having been away for three whole months, it was never going to be easy. A couple of my regular clients had turned to other photographers in my absence and a couple of jobs that I thought were booked-in got cancelled. I hadn’t seen family or friends much or even at all since June and there was a lot of catching up to do – and that’s what I’ve been doing for the last three months. That is the reason why I’m writing this today; the same amount of time has passed since I came back to earth as I was away. It has taken that long to get things straight.

I’ve been teaching Photojournalism at Up To Speed Journalism in Bournemouth and I’ve done a couple of seminars. I’ve written a couple of pieces about photography and I have embarked on a new phase in some photo-consultancy work that I was doing immediately before London 2012 took me away. Most importantly on a professional level I’m back shooting editorial and commercial pictures and it is when I’m wearing that hat that I’m happiest. The Leveson Inquiry has reported and I have been working my way through all 2,000 pages. It’s hard to believe that it was over ten months ago that I sat there in that chair in that room to answer questions. Lord Leveson’s report has raised quite a few more that our profession needs to answer and that is yet another challenge yet to be faced.

I had wondered whether working with and for photographers would change how I felt about the industry. I had wondered if I would try to find things to do that used some new found skills but I haven’t. I’m sure that I’d enjoy working in a photo operations role again and if any opportunities present themselves I’d be interested but it’s not going to be my principle career choice – taking pictures remains my number one professional love.

So what next? The portfolio career is here to stay for a while – that’s a certainty. Speaking of portfolios, a new editorial folio is right at the top of my “to do” list. Just below it is a new commercial folio, some work on my website, a return to blogging and tweeting and I’m going to get on with all of those just as soon as we’ve had a family Christmas.

Thank you to everyone who has been in touch to make sure that I’m OK and that my lack of blogs and tweets wasn’t a sign that I was either unwell or going away. Thank you to everyone who has found me work to do since I got back from Stratford. Thank you to everyone who I worked with and for at London 2012 and, most of all, thank you to my family and friends whose hard work meant that I could spend three months wearing purple without having to worry about a thing.

Three months off from the day job.

It’s Monday morning and I’m sitting on the 06:25 train from Bournemouth to Waterloo for the first of many such trips over the next three months. I have decided to put the ‘day job’ aside and I’ve accepted a contract working in the Main Press Centre at the 2012 London Olympic Games.

When I’ve told people, the mixture of reactions has been very amusing. Ranging from the most common “how exciting!” via a liberal sprinkling of “are you mad?” to the rather predictable “can you get me some tickets?” The answers are, in turn: “I hope so”, “ask me in September” and “NO!”

Like most press photographers, I greeted the news that London was going to host the 2012 Olympics with a mixture of anticipation, horror and fascination. What would it mean for non-sports specialists like me? Would it mean anything beyond endless building works and some even-heavier-than-normal traffic? Until March of this year my only contact with the Games was to photograph a group of children whose school is right next to the Stratford campus in the Spring of 2008. Beyond that, I was expecting to have next to nothing to do with the biggest event to come to the capital in many years.

So what exactly will I be doing for the next 13 weeks? My job title says “Team Leader, Photographers Workroom, Main Press Centre” which is a posh way of saying that I will be there setting up and helping to run the vast work area at the main Olympic site set aside for visiting sports and press photographers. Customer service with a smile and a lot of empathy for the needs and deadlines of the 1800 or so accredited photographers that will be passing through the Olympic and Paralympic Games between now and the middle of September.

I’m excited – albeit in a slightly sluggish way having had to get up at 05:15. I am apprehensive too: this is a new departure for me in a career in photography that started way back in the mid 1980s. I’m genuinely looking forward to the experience and I hope, where possible, to say a few words every now and then about how things are going. If you are working at London 2012 yourself – please come and say “hello”. I expect that you’ll recognize me – I’ll be the one wearing the uniform, spinning plates, juggling press-packs and looking as if they know what they are doing.

My train is approaching London Waterloo and I’ve got to stick the laptop back into the bag for now.