Twenty Three Seconds with Mr. Salmond.

So the picture desk call me, “Can you be in Aberdeen on Monday? We need a portrait of Alex Salmond.” Words to send fear into any editorial or magazine photographer in Scotland. Mr. Alex Salmond, former First Minister of Scotland, and former leader of the Scottish National Party, now MSP and standing as candidate for Westminster parliament in the forthcoming elections in May, is not known as an easy subject with photographers.

So off I toodled to Aberdeen, knowing full well that whatever moments I get with Mr. Salmond would be exactly that – moments. No full, long, lengthy slow photo shoots with Mr. Salmond. It would be brief, it may well even be brusque, or belligerent.

But my desk wants as much from the situation as I can muster, squeeze all options from the opportunity.   Talking shots during the interview?- Sure! Portrait – Sure, if you can get it! Candid on the stage/platform – of course! The key way to keep a picture desk happy is to provide options. Send them variety. Looking left/ looking right, verticals/horizontals, tight/loose. Options/options.

So I arrived early, a country hotel, not overly chic or endowed with background locations…except for just inside the door at the car park. A wall, with bright gold and reddish wallpaper. Some may say baronial in style, some may say Chinese restaurant. But to me it looked good. And it was beside the door. Mr. Salmond would have to come in that way, it was convenient. Rarely will a subject like himself wander far to suit the photographer’s whims. I could stop him before he’d gone far. It’d take seconds.

So I shoot a test shot, I have the journalist, the esteemed Matthew Engel of the Financial Times stand in for Mr. Salmond. It looks good. Lit by natural light, the fading daylight coming in from the dusky, damp, rainy carpark. But it could work.

Financial Times journalist Matthew Engel. ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 2015, all rights reserved.
Financial Times journalist Matthew Engel. ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 2015, all rights reserved.

Fast forward a few minutes and the car draws up. Mr. Salmond strides across the car park, I shoot a few frames, and I’m in the door before him. “Sir, hi, I’m from the Financial Times, could I just shoot one very quick portrait of you here please? It’ll take 1 minute.” Mr. Salmond looks around the vestibule, at the wall paper, and asks incredulously, “Here?”. “Yes, please, I’ll be fast”, I reply. He sighs exasperated, and passes his paperwork to his PA. It’s on. He strikes his pose, one hand in pocket, smiling straight to camera.

Bang, bang, bang, “Straight to me please Sir”, bang, bang, bang, and “Just glance out the door please.”

Heavyweight politician Alex Salmond, former First Minister of Scotland. ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 2015, all rights reserved.
Heavyweight politician Alex Salmond, former First Minister of Scotland. ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 2015, all rights reserved.

“Excellent, thank you Sir.” Twenty-five frames in twenty-three seconds. Look at the camera metadata and count ’em.

And he’s gone. Through the doors to my left and into his event. For me the job isn’t finished, I still have to cover inside, but the pressure is off, I’ve upright and horizontals, looking to camera, looking away, and scratching his head. I’ve options. It looks good, I’m happy, looks like a picture from a shoot of longer than 23 seconds. Result.

Document Scotland at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh, 2015.

I’d better start shooting. This morning the National Galleries of Scotland have announced their programme of shows for next year and very nicely, myself and my three Document Scotland colleagues, Sophie Gerrard, Colin McPherson and Stephen McLaren, will be showing our photography work at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh, Scotland. The show will run from September 26th 2015 until 24th April 2016, a nice long run.

The official announcement is here: Document Scotland at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh.

Other main shows announced for next year at the National Galleries will be Picasso and Lee Miller, David Bailey, M.C. Escher, and Roy Lichtenstein. Prestigious company for us. I’d better shave, buy a new shirt.

We’re still working on what exactly will be shown in terms of which images, and the title of our Document Scotland show will be announced shortly.

There’s still a bit of time, and no doubt I’ll post about it again, but we hope you’ll be able to make it. Many thanks.

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Wabori, Traditional Yakuza Tattoo

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A little while back I came home from some assignment and waiting for me in the pile of mail needing attended to was this book, ‘Wabori, Traditional Japanese Tattoo’ by Manami Okazaki, and published by Kingyo books. What a sumptuous book it is.

I had given permission for some of my images of Shoko Tendo, author, and daughter of a now deceased yakuza boss, to be used. I had first photographed Shoko Tendo, and her entire body full of tattoos on an editorial assignment for The Guardian, with journalist Justin McCurry, then shot again for Marie Claire Magazine. They proved to be a popular set of images, although I can never decide which part of the sentence ‘naked girl with yakuza tattoos’ draws in the attention…

Today I got an email from the publisher Manami-san and she tells me that the book has almost sold out now. Printed in a run of 3,000 Manami now only holds the last 10 or so copies that she had. Great news to hear of a photo book selling so well, and congratulations to Manami-san for producing a book which, even to non-tattooed folks, is a fascinating read, and with some beautiful images, both contemporary and historical. If anyone is interested in getting hold of a copy of the book, drop me a line, I can put you in touch with Manami-san, or try online.

Here’s the cover, and two of the spreads from my section in the book…Hope you enjoy it.

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Alex Salmond, man of the moment.

As Scotland nears a day of decision, on whether or not to leave the United Kingdom, I was asked by an editorial client to go through to Edinburgh for a portrait shoot with Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland.

Time was going to be short, after all Alex Salmond is nearing the end of his campaign and is no doubt busy, but there was a little time none the less, 2 minutes at the beginning of the interview to shoot whilst he and the journalist settled themselves, and then less than two minutes at the end of the interview. Such is the photographer’s lot sometimes, the journalist gets 24mins, you get 4. Hey ho. Whatchyagonnado? Complain? No, you use your time, you take it seriously, you get your images.

Towards the end of the interview as I sat awaiting my time I noticed the shadows of the blinds creeping up over Alex Salmond, up his trousers, across him, and then onto his face. Must be hot I thought, the sun now directly on him. But it also made a good image. I wondered to myself, do I shoot it and possibly ruin a chance of two minutes at the end, or do I wait for my two minutes? I waited, then the press officer says “last couple of minutes.” So I took my chance, I shot the First Minister with the shadows on his face. One frame. Quietly on the Canon 5D mk3.

And I still got my two minutes at the end.

Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland, September 2014. ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 2014, all rights reserved.
Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland, September 2014. ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 2014, all rights reserved.

 

All my photographs of Alex Salmond, and of the Scottish independence referendum campaigning, are available to licence from Getty Images.

 

Common Ground

Another gallery, another show!

My Document Scotland colleagues, Stephen McLaren, Colin McPherson and Sophie Gerrard and I have a show on at present at Street Level Photoworks in Glasgow, Scotland. Each of us shows one body of work, and we’ve also invited the photographers, Abbie Trayler-Smith, Jack Latham, James O Jenkins and Gawain Barnard, of the Welsh photography collective A Fine Beginning to show with us.

My contribution to the show is a series of portraits, from the ongoing project ‘Unsullied And Untarnished’, of the Common Riding festivals of the Scottish Borders. Two of them are here…

'Lucky' from Unsullied And Untarnished, 2014. ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 2014, all rights reserved.
‘Lucky’ from Unsullied And Untarnished, 2014. ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 2014, all rights reserved.

 

'Kevin Smith, Peebles Cornet' from Unsullied And Untarnished, 2014. ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 2014, all rights reserved.
‘Kevin Smith, Peebles Cornet’ from Unsullied And Untarnished, 2014. ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 2014, all rights reserved.

 

The show, with the loose them of ‘home and community’, runs until October 19th.

More informations is available here on the Street Level Works website, or you can download the press release here.

To coincide with the show we’ve published an 84-page flu colour book of the work on show in Common ground, along with some work from our Beyond The Border show at Impressions Gallery, Bradford, and with essays by curators Anne McNeill and Malcolm Dickson. The publication costs £10.00 plus package and posting in the UK and can be ordered here.

 

Common Ground publication.
Common Ground publication.

 

Common Ground publication.
Common Ground publication.

 

Common Ground publication.
Common Ground publication.

 

I hope you can make it along to the show, if not then the publication will give you a very good flavour of it…and more!

Thanks for reading as always.