Where do I begin?
I know, it sounds like the opening line of the movie 'Love Story' and I guess in a way it is. Except the love isn't between two people, it's the love of a medium that has been around for well over 100 years called photography.
I'm not sure that I was born for it but some of my earliest memories as a child were days out to beautiful parts of Devon in the UK where my family lived. My Dad was always working so the trips weren't that often, but a drive up onto Dartmoor or a day at the seaside gave me a great love of nature which I retain to this day. Even as a child I valued beautiful scenery and loved being up high taking in the vista. I loved both Dartmoor and Exmoor, both were very different but equally beautiful. At the age of 11 my parents bought me a Kodak Instamatic camera 33, a basic point and shoot film camera which I instantly fell in love with. I think they regretted the decision as they not only paid for all the film I used but also the processing at the local Boots store in our home town Exmouth. I was limited to one film a month, tough days!
That Kodak camera (above) went almost everywhere with me, each frame carefully considered due to my printing restrictions. Like all boyhood things my interest drifted somewhat to other things as I got older and shifted to the attention of other beautiful things!! As it was a point and shoot camera I hadn't really learnt a thing about photography itself other than the flash cubes that I used burnt your fingers if you tried to take them off the camera too quickly.
It probably wasn't until I was in my late 20's, that I used a camera again in any serious way. By this stage of my life I had joined the Police, worked my time on the 'beat' and showed an aptitude for Detective work. I was assigned to an undercover team investigating the forgery of British bank notes and my job with another new officer was to photograph the comings and goings at a suspect's house. We were provided with all the equipment, an SLR camera and a long telephoto lens, given a logging sheet and told to get on with it. It transpired that neither of us had ever handled such a beast of a camera before, so we found a 'programme' mode on the camera and trusted to luck, dropping the film off in our photo lab before going home. The next morning we were summoned to the Detective Inspector's office and shown a group of blurry photos where you couldn't identify anyone. We were the next day dispatched onto a 2 week basic photography course and that is where it all really began for me, the photography bug had bitten me. 5 months later and the gang were arrested, charged and imprisoned for forging bank notes using many of our photos as evidence and with the overtime earned I purchased my first SLR camera - a Canon AE1P with a 50mm f1.8 lens.
A TIME TO STUDY
It didn't take long to become an addict, I started buying photography magazines and going to exhibitions of well-known photographer's work including my photography hero Don McCullin who is still photographing in his 80's but no longer as a war correspondent. I got better, the Police had given me a good grounding, but I wanted to produce the shots I saw in magazines and as hard as I tried I couldn't get there.
About this time I started working as a liaison officer for the Police in schools and colleges and in the staff room of one local college I met Norman, a teacher, who taught photography. I soon enrolled on his course in the evenings and worked in the college darkroom producing better and better prints of my work. I eventually did the BTEC exam and passed with distinction. Norman was reticent to show us his commercial work as photographer, but he did so on the last day of the term, a modest man, his work was amazing and the one thing he taught me, which has stuck with me, is that a camera is just a tool, it's your eye that takes the image. Sure great gear helps, but it's the photographer who sees and records the image in a certain way.
I continued to always carry a camera with me as often as possible, often dreaming of being a professional but never thinking one day that it would happen.
A FUNNY KIND OF RETIREMENT.
I retired from the Police in 2008, aged 52, but at the end of a long career I felt older and tired, so I took a year out and studied to become a conflict mediator. My wife, who I love as much as my camera gear! took me out the day after I retired and I purchased a Canon EOS5D Mk2, the latest Canon digital full frame (35mm equivalent) and several lenses, and other toys so I could pursue my hobby in retirement. We had purchased a house in Portugal and had a long-term plan to both retire there in 5 years' time. I set up my mediators business and had 5 local authorities buying into my services and then the financial crisis happened, austerity began and I basically had no work. So off to Portugal we went with a plan to do art and photography when we got there to supplement my pension.
So off we go to portugal!
Well to the fishing village of Ferragudo to be more accurate, a place we fell in love with many years before on a holiday. Now being honest we were both used to being very busy people and were a bit like 'fish out of water' for a little while. Alyson, my wife, painted to try and find her 'style' and I put myself on Facebook as a photographer and did a project called Portugal 365. It made me go out with my camera everyday to take photos and the best photo of the day would go on my FB page. At the end of the first year we decided to try an exhibition of our joint work, but didn't know where or how, so we punted a request out on Facebook. Within 10 minutes the very lovely Vicki Good from the Holiday Inn at Armacao de Pera offered us her hotel as she had been following our work.
The rest, as they say, is history. Lots of hard work and fun later, I have a small but busy photography business and have met and photographed some amazing people, events and locations. If you want to know more my wife has written a book about our journey and the link is below. Some 8 years later we are now living on the Algarve's western Atlantic coast in Aljezur, a beautiful friendly town amidst much wonderful nature. You'll learn more about my business development and story in later blogs, this is just to give you my background and to say, if I can do it, anyone can, but being a photographer is not an easy choice in this day and time.
See you next time, blog notifications will be posted on my Facebook page.