Back in 2013 the Bournemouth Arts By The Sea Festival was getting bigger and better and I was asked to come along and shoot some of the events. The climax of day two was to be a spectacular show on the beach next to Bournemouth Pier by Joe Rush and The Mutoid Waste Company who build and drive fantastic vehicles made from scrap. The organisers had penned off a large area of beach, put up a large public address system and once night had fallen the vehicles and their crews came onto the beach.
I had been there earlier in the festival when some of the vehicles had driven through the town and so I knew roughly what to expect. I got there reasonably early and staked out what I thought would be a good position with the sea and the pier in the background. I had two cameras with me – one with a 70-200 f2.8 and the other with a 24-70 f2.8 zoom lens. I had a couple of Canon speed lights and a high-voltage battery pack, plenty of memory cards and then waited for darkness and the start of the show.
Half a dozen vehicles sped onto the sand and I started shooting away without flash. It was pretty dark, despite the arc lights that had been positioned at various points around the perimeter. These vehicles weigh several tons and one or two of them got caught in the soft sand but that made for great pictures because the people who ‘crew’ them are artists and showmen and they gave the most amazing static display whilst waiting to be hauled free.
Technical stuff: Canon EOS5D MkII cameras with Canon EF 70-200 f2.8L IS and 24-70 f2.8L lenses. Top picture 1/100th of a second at f2.8 on 2000 ISO with white balance corrected in Adobe Camera RAW. Bottom picture 1/25th of a second at f3.2 on 2000 ISO.
A lot of photographers have been playing around with various image sharing sites. Most are doing it because it’s fun and others because they have been told that it’s a great way to get noticed by new audiences and to be seen by clients as “up-to-date”. I simply wanted to ‘have a go’. Get with the fun. A lot of photographers that I like and respect have been uploading some lovely work using EyeEm over the last few weeks and, although I’ll never beat them, I thought that I’d join them.
I missed out on Instagram and I have publicly parted company with Flickr. I’ve used Moby to share a few images in Twitter and of course TwitPic has seen a few of my pictures too.
A couple of weeks ago I set myself the challenge of uploading a few pictures to the EyeEm sharing site to see what happened. The experiment isn’t over – far from it but I am starting to find it a bit limiting and I’m starting to worry that the lens of the camera on my iPhone is showing it’s 3 years and 4 months age.
Anyway, if you are on EyeEm please let me know and please think about following my experiment. I promise not to bombard you with art – even if I’m tempted! Most of the images have nothing to do with the kind of professional work that I do and a surprising number so far have been shot around my home town of Bournemouth.
The picture that you can see above is about the most extreme treatment that I’ve given any of my pictures to date. For the geeks amongst you it was processed (contrast, sharpening and cropping) in Adobe Photoshop Express on an iPhone and then given the moody treatment and distressed border in the EyeEm app on the phone.
This is a first for me – writing an open letter to a bunch of people that I don’t really know and who, personally, have done me no harm. The accounts people in question all work for educational establishments in the UK and the rules that they are inventing/enforcing/misusing are costing me a small amount of money but far more importantly they are preventing students from hearing from a lot of wonderful professionals who have stopped doing one or two days here and there as visiting lecturers.
To whom it may concern
Thank you for the paperwork that you recently sent to me that I would have to complete before coming to your establishment to work with student photographers for one day. I have looked at the forms and decided that it would take me at least an hour to fill them in. I have also realised that a full-time permanent employee of the college would have exactly the same forms to fill in. This seems a little ridiculous, given that my time with your students will be restricted to five hours this week and no more than fifteen in any one year.
I was also disappointed to read that you wish to have all of my National Insurance and tax references and that you would be deducting tax and National Insurance at source from me even though I am a self-employed professional who is registered for VAT. I know that you will quote ‘advice from the HMRC’ as the reason and I would love to read this advice. Unfortunately a long telephone call to the tax authorities and a diligent search of their website have failed to turn up this ‘advice’.
Presumably, having taken tax from me at source, you would be obliged to issue me with a P60 tax certificate at the end of the financial year. This was a piece of information that HMRC’s advice line was able to give me. I am sure that all of this form-filling and certificate issuing covers your back quite nicely. I am equally sure that if you have to repeat the same process for every visiting lecturer it has the added benefit of creating or at least securing the job or jobs of members of staff within your department.
My problem is this: I used to do visits to a lot of colleges and I have refused to get involved in this PAYE farce because for every different college that has to send me a P60 I have to fill in another page on my tax return because each is treated as a separate employment. In one year I have been known to visit eight different colleges – eight extra pages on my tax return, and I have to get that each of them checked by my accountant. Time is money – especially at Chartered Accountant rates. This is on top of the extra hours I have to spend filling in your own forms (which arrive as badly laid out Microsoft Word documents with a good deal of redundant information asked for by the way) and, more often than not, having to chase for payments because you award yourselves 60 days credit as well.
How hard would it be to accept that I want to simply send the college an invoice for my time and my expenses instead of going through this dense bureaucracy? How hard would it be to realise that I am a legitimately self-employed professional who has no intention of ripping the system off and avoiding my obligations to the treasury? I am sure that HMRC never intended whatever rule you are citing to actually get in the way of the students getting contact with professionals. I know that it isn’t just me. I know a lot of other self-employed people who are at the top of their game who want nothing to do with very occasional visits to educational establishments for the very same reason.
So, no thank you. I will leave it to you to explain to the head of the course who wanted me to come and share my 25+ years experience with their students for a fee that was already a lot lower than I would charge for taking pictures why I won’t be coming this year. I’ll let them know that you will be the one explaining and I will apologise for the fact that your establishment has been added to the lengthening list of places that I won’t be supporting until you change your college’s rules.