A Monkey's Revenge - My Blog

Lateral thinking and gingerbread men

Remiss of me I know, but I've laid off the blogging for a while now. I couldn't really see the point until a good friend phoned up to check that I was still alive! I mean- who reads the crap I write on here? It takes up my time and energy when I should be getting on with more productive tasks like getting my tax return done and cleaning out the hamster cage.

To be honest I've kind of lost my way a little-is this blog about what I do for a living? About how I work? A monotonous diary of the jobs I've done? Tips for newbies? Giving away secrets of the trade I've learned over decades as a professional photographer? I'm not sure- so in future I'll write what the hell I like, when the hell I like, with no apologies.... because I can!

Several weeks of commercial jobs with clients who don't like me going on about it on my blog or on Facebook. So I'll write about one of The Guardian jobs I did last week. A bit of 'stream of consciousness' stuff about what was going through my tiny mind at the time.

I'm asked to photograph the town of Chipping Norton in the cotswolds. It's a true blue 'Tory Town' with shoppers carrying wicker baskets, wearing quilted barbours and green wellies and yummy mummies telling off their children, Jemima and Harriet because they are pestering for sweets,(in case you think I made all that up, no I didn't, I actually saw and heard this all for myself whilst waiting for the reporter to turn up).

'Chippy' as it's known is a bit of a black hole for mobile phone signals. The reporter and myself perform a pincer movement on the town with me arriving from the north and she driving in from London off in the south east. I get there earliest and after arranging a rendezvous point,(standing on the highest point I can find in the town with an ocassional one bar of mobile signal), I head off to take some generic photos of Chippy, the town which kicked out the ConDems in the local elections and turned Labour.

First I wander around getting a feel for the town. I dodge into a shop near the mellow stone town hall and there is a selection of summer garden chairs and deckchairs with cushions on them embroidered with the ubiquitous advice to 'Keep calm and carry on'. I get permission to shoot from inside looking out, keep calm and carry on. Next door is a traditional bakers and being a bit of a foodie I take a peek in the window. Smiley red gingerbread men take their Labour revenge on the townsfolk. I take 3 snaps then go inside to buy one of the gingerbread men for my lunch. "Are you a birdwatcher?' asks the counter assitant. Now there is a very strange thought- what would a large fat bloke with a small lens on his camera and carrying a rucksack be doing bird watching in a cotswold town centre? Perhaps he caught me photographing the yummy mummies?

I start to worry if the gingerbread men photo is a bit obscure, even for The Guarniad. Will they get it? They usually do 'get it' and are one of the more fun newspapers to work for. Some have very rigid photo briefs and effectively put you in a creative straightjacket but not The Guardian. So I decide to carry on with my lateral thinking and whilst on a colour theme, head off to The Blue Boar public house. It makes a nice photo of the High Street through the pub's bay window and then I finally get to meet up with the Guardian's reporter.

The writer quickly ascertains that this particular old geezer seems to know what he's doing, (even if he isn't sure himself), and announces that she is off to get her own look at things and some of the ones I've mentioned. She doesn't want me to do the traditional 'vox pop' so beloved of newspapers. Oh joy! Like most photographers I can't stand vox pops, (street interviews and photos with the local populace). It reminds me of all the local newspaper ones I used to do. BORING, and lazy space filling operations!

I make some more images then decide to wire from a cafe where I've worked from before. Their router is broken, but there is a good BT Openzone signal coming from somewhere nearby. My Mifi dongle doesn't want to play in this no-go area for mobile phone signals, so I do the sensible thing, order a coffee and sit by the window. The first pic gets to 99.9% then the internet goes down. Why is it that this so often happens? I try a few more times then relocate to the highest part of town. Same happens again.

By now time is ticking on to the deadline by which I'd promised the photos. I remember a pub I passed high up on the hilltops and drive there as it's only 3 miles away. The place is deserted. Desserted would have been better but I go in through the unlocked door anyway and sit at a table hoping to get a signal and a glass of lemonade. Oh joy a second time! Very fast broadband that actually works. I shift nearly all the photos just as a group of youngsters come in and mistake me for a grizzled landlord. Then the real landlady turns up and explains to us that she is covering for somebody else,(it's a friend's pub), and that the place is closed and the door was supposed to have been locked until 7 pm. The youngsters clear off to find another venue and the friendly landlady lets me stay to finish my work. 

So thats what I did one afternoon last week. Now I'm off to fill in my tax return....

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