freelance photographers

A freelancer’s nightmare

It all started with a twinge in the small of my back. The twinge became an ache and the ache became pain. A visit to the Doctor led to some prescription pain killers and a referral to a back-pain clinic two months into the future. Still working at full speed, I lost the feeling in the soles of my feet and had a few cramps. Every day it got a little worse and then, one Sunday morning, I couldn’t get out of bed without crying with the pain. We made our way to the accident & emergency department of the local hospital where an MRI scan confirmed that I was in trouble. They admitted me to hospital and just over a week later I had two operations on my spine.

The operations were three weeks ago today and, although I’m back home, I’m looking at several months before I can even start to think about working as a photographer. I’m on crutches, my rehabilitation is underway and it’s a struggle.

It has to be one of the worst fears of the freelancer – suffering some sort of injury or illness that keeps you from doing your work which in turn means a loss of income and knowing that your clients will have to look elsewhere for someone to provide the services that you have been providing.

All of this devastating news made me want to compose this rather different blog post and my advice comes in two parts:

  • What to do to avoid and prepare for a sudden, unplanned period of time off
  • What to do if it happens to you

The message has to be that it can happen to you. One minute you are buzzing around going from job to job and regularly burning the midnight oil to get those edits done, your cashflow is looking good and your clients keep coming back and the next you are laid up with an injury. (more…)

When Time Out did real news…

Right back in the early days of Insight Photographers, the small agency that we ran from an office in the rather un-trendy (how times change) Hoxton area of London, we used to shoot a lot of stories for Time Out magazine. Some weeks they would have five or six pages of real news and they used to commission some nice work too. One of my favourites from that era was this picture of a man who was part of a group of residents and squatters trying to stop the Department of Transport from bulldozing their houses to build a new piece of road in the Archway/Highgate area intended to speed up the journey up the A1 from Holloway (bear with me if the geography of north London bores you). When I arrived on a hot day from the a brisk walk up from the underground station the bailiffs had gone.

Archway Jack. ©Neil Turner/Insight, May 1989

I found this chap looking rather pleased with himself and asked what had gone on. He just smiled and said “we’ve seen them off”. I asked him if it was OK if I shot his portrait and he agreed. After that, I got my notebook out and asked him his name. He thought about it for a few seconds and then said “call me Jack… Archway Jack”. Of course I asked if that was his real name but he smiled and walked off trying to whistle a tune.

The News Editor somehow tracked him down, got some good quotes from him and the story probably got more space than a simple eviction piece would have. A definite case of “just because the story you were expecting didn’t work out, it doesn’t mean you haven’t got a good story anyway”. All of the Time Out news reporters and editors that I recall went on to do great things. I guess that it was a mix of choosing the right people and being a great place to hone those journalism skills. Quite a few of the freelance photographers that they used did OK too.

This was shot on Kodak Tri-X film using a Nikon FM2 camera and a 24mm f2 Nikkor lens