The Donkey Sanctuary – Adoption Scheme

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The Donkey Sanctuary was founded by Dr Elisabeth Svendsen MBE in the 1970′s and is the world’s largest charity caring for donkeys and mules.

The Sanctuary raises the huge amounts of money needed to carry on its work caring for over 40,000 animals world wide in a number of ways. An important fund raising initiative for the Sanctuary is the adoption scheme whereby donors can build a relationship with their chosen donkey, learn about its traits and habits, visit their donkey and make it part of the family.

I was asked by award winning brand agency The Allotment to work with them on a new campaign and mail pack that would emphasise the idea that the donkey could become part of the family and make the relationship deeper, contact more frequent and more enduring.

The idea for the mail pack received by the donor was of a family portrait of the donkey complete with a frame that could be assembled and displayed. In addition there would be a set of postcards of the donkey’s daily life, grazing in open fields and with other donkeys. Also an Ap’ has been created that facilitates frequent sharing and interaction via social media, a fun feature being that the donkey can be placed into personal photos wherever they may be.

The photos of the individual donkeys were intended to resemble a formal traditional style studio portrait and the design of the cardboard three dimensional frame with its gilt detailing further enhanced this idea.


The shoot involved a mammoth UK and N Ireland road trip over land and sea photographing 20 animals. I wanted to approach the shoot in the same way as I would approach a portrait session with a human subject.

We found the staff at each of the centres to be devoted, dedicated and proud, easily understanding the attention to immaculate presentation required. Hooves were highly polished, coats beautifully groomed, manes were impeccably coiffed  and whiskers lovingly trimmed.

Donkeys have a reputation for stubbornness but ours performed impeccably, better than many professional models, with the exception of one donkey, who shall remain nameless, who acted like many important business executives I have known, allowing me just one shot before hoofing it off on “more important business”. All I was told was that it involved an appointment with fresh spring grass and ginger nuts and not even a carrot and stick could persuade otherwise.

Since the campaign was launched subscription income from the adoption scheme has more than doubled.

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I would like to express my sincere gratitude to donkeys Alfie, Benjy, Hannah & Timothy for their patience, cooperation and professionalism in helping me achieve the above series of portraits which were voted into the final round of  The Association of Photographers Awards this year. It was a privilege to work with the extremely hard working and inspiring James Backhurst, Creative Director at The Allotment Brand Design and enthusiastic and totally professional Mark Cross, Head of brand design at the Donkey Sanctuary. Thanks also to the extremely dedicated staff at the various centres we visited plus Anthony Cassell and Billie for their hard work, assistance and enthusiasm.




The Old Pier Bookshop and Philip K Dick

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I was drawn to Morecambe by cosmic forces.

Tony Vettesse runs The Old Pier Bookshop. There are thousands of books, the Tardis like interior seems built of books. Once inside one loses all sense of time and space.

In the Sc-Fi section Tony showed me his pride and joy, a mint condition 1950′s first edition of “World of Chance”, highly collectable. Books are very close to Tony’s heart, he lives and breathes them.


Philip Kindred Dick was an American Sc-Fi short story writer, novelist and essayist. Ten of Dick’s works have inspired well known feature films, his 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, was the basis for the film Bladerunner.

Like Dick, photographers and film makers are story tellers. Just like a great poem can inspire, hold our attention, feed our imagination and make us want to read the same piece over and over again, so can great photography.

It was great to meet Tony and I really appreciate his help and enthusiasm in producing this portrait. If your fascinated by books pay him a visit he’d be delighted to meet you.

Thoughts of John Ruskin at Coniston Water

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“Nature is painting for us, day after day, pictures of infinite beauty if only we have the eyes to see them.”

John Ruskin.


Simplicity is always best but its really difficult to do simplicity well. My “Picture of the Day” at Coniston Water in the beautiful Lake district.

John Ruskin lived in a beautiful house overlooking Coniston, Brantwood, he had many associations from the Pre Raphaelites and Arts and Crafts Movement to the founding of the National Trust and the Welfare State.His writing styles and literary forms were equally varied. Ruskin penned essays and treatises, poetry and lectures, travel guides and manuals, letters and even a fairy tale.He also made detailed sketches and paintings of rocks, plants, birds, landscapes, and architectural structures and ornamentation.

There are 72 Portraits of Ruskin at The National Portrait Gallery

Suranne Jones Portrait Shoot

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Suranne Jones is a Northern stage and screen actress who first became well know through her role in TV’s Coronation Street as Karen McDonald. Since that role she has gone from strength to strength and become well know for her many roles in gritty TV dramas like Vincent alongside Ray Winstone and most recently the role of detective Rachel Bailey in Scott & Bailey . Suranne has been on my list for a long time, I’ve always felt that I could make a really strong portrait with her. On screen she’s captivating, sexy, attractive and funny, a very capable actress who projects a distinct inner strength and independence.


On the day of the shoot she breezed into the studio, dead relaxed and friendly.

But I felt I wanted the portrait to convey a real sense of rawness and strength, be iconic and powerful .


I really enjoyed meeting Suranne and working with her on this, a wonderful and genuine person and thank you Lizzie Jenkinson for helping me to bring this together and Tally Bookbinder for hair & makeup


Mike’s Record Shack

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Record shops are becoming rarer and rarer these days. Mike’s Record Shack is on the border of Whalley Range and Moss Side. Mike had been selling records from here for over 20 years. Its a tiny shop piled high. You can hardly move inside. I learned that Mike’s personal taste is generally saxophone jazz of all styles from the 1950s and ’60s


Mike nodded towards a poster outside the shop which says “Give us a smile”

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I really wanted to to buy something but realised I no longer own anything to play them on. Mike told me he’s investing in an MP3 converter.


If your looking for something vintage or unusual drop into the Record Shack. There’s every music genre, from the 1930s up until the 1990s. Mike’s a lovely bloke and would love to meet you.

A Little Application Required

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Here’s a neat little recruitment campaign I worked on recently for the Careers Service at The University of Manchester which is being rolled out at the moment, both on and offline. The models in each shot were cast from real students. Concept and Art Direction by the amazing David Milligan-Croft. I was a bit sceptical about getting a good selection of students but it was surprising how many readily came forward hoping for fame and to get their face in the media, half a face as it turned out.


It was great fun working again with fabulously talented stylist Lisa Westwell on this project and valuable input from Tracey Campbell-Monks and Anne Milligan of client MU was much appreciated

All My Sons by Arthur Miller

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I was introduced to the paintings of Jack Vetrianno as part of the inspiration for this project. I have come to love this artists work.

Jack has a unique style of painting. He claims many of his works have been inspired by ”25 years of sexual misbehaviour”. Some of his images are highly erotic and super sexy.


But he is also perhaps better known for his dance and beach pictures which capture an amazing quality of warm dramatic light together with a strong sense of  the weather, often stormy but sometimes baking hot.


In September, “All My Sons” will be performed at The Royal Exchange Theatre . I was asked to collaborate in producing an image for the poster. Michael Buffong, the director, wanted to capture some of the essence and feel of “Billy Boys”, (above rh) in the image.

The play is set in the Midwestern USA in the 1940′s, Michael wanted to capture a similar sense of wide open space and sweltering midday heat. Part of the inspiration for the design layout was the traditional Wild West movie poster.

The two lead actors are Don Warrington MBE (Rising Damp & Death in Paradise) & Dona Croll (Doctors). It was important to emphasise their involvement so a big part of the image were portraits of the two actors in character. I placed them closely, one behind the other in the final image. The lighting and treatment enhanced the feeling of hot midday sun.

In the play Don and Dona’s characters are a couple with a lot of tension between them. There had been some fatalities with faulty aircraft parts supplied to the US Air Force. I wanted to convey this tension with the way I posed them and with their expressions.

The background image is inspired directly by the “Billy Boys” painting. I wanted a similar feel, colouration and sense of wide open space and the heat but also incorporated some hints of the story with the suggestion of an airfield with fighter planes.

Dave Sedgwick created the type design for the poster. Dave really effectively used the stencil lettering used on 1940′s military aircraft as his inspiration for the choice of typeface.

Much appreciated for their creative input and direction are Maxine Laing and Claire Will of the Royal Exchange marketing team.


John Henshaw Portrait Shoot

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Had the pleasure today of meeting the actor John Henshaw, a lovely man who I have long admired for his portrayal of roles as diverse as serious hard men in gritty TV dramas like “See no Evil” and “West Riding” to comedy in “The Royle family” and “Last of the Summer Wine” and the part of a deputy manager in the Post Office TV Ad’s.

John only became an actor at the age of 40 having worked “on the bins” until then. His first big break came in a role as a minder in the acclaimed Channel 4 series G.B.H.


The tricky part of a personal portrait shoot like this, with a well known actor, is not to depict them as one of the characters that they have played but to bring out their real life personality. I had initially thought John would have been right in a working mans suit and tie. This was how we started off but everything looked too distracting and, as is often the case, we ended up simplifying things right down and shooting him in the simple black shirt which he had turned up in.

I’m greatful to Lizzie Jenkinson for the production on this and Tally Bookbinder for her meticulous grooming.

Caradoc Hill Fort, Shropshire

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Just before Christmas last year I was working on a project with Joe Public Advertising. We needed some great landscape and product shots for the brand Rohan. We made our base a cottage in South Shropshire from where we planned to climb nearby Caer Caradoc to reach the summit and the remains of an ancient hill fort believed to be connected to the ancient legend of King Arthur.

We made an early start, it was freezing cold and frosty but the skies were beautifully clear. The hoar frost on the trees as we made our way up looked amazing.


When we reached the top the views were absolutely stunning.


My shot of the day was the one below. Taken from the summit it shows the view across towards Wenlock Edge. The frost and the low lying mist created a fabulous moody atmosphere and really made the shot.

I make regular submissions for inclusion in One Eyeland and I was really pleased with this one. The editor chose it to go through to be published in the online gallery, Result !


I really appreciated the help of assistants Paudie Spillane and Adam Hutt on this shoot who willingly took on the joint roles of Sherpa and occasional model. Thanks also to Ian at Joe Public Advertising and our guide Robert Dixon AKA “Bubba”.

The Importance of Casting

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Way back in the 90′s I was asked to work on an Ad’ campaign for a hand soap for kids. One of the concepts suggested that kids play in some really dirty places and the antibacterial content of the soap would help keep them clean and germ free without spoiling the fun. To work, the kids face in the bin had to jump out, look like a cheeky little boy having fun, be endearing. Not just any little boy would do, the child had to be able to project the right attitude. We saw hundred of children but this little boy, Zaccary Price,  stood out for me, those eyes, like bin lids ! In the end, to my dismay, the client selected a different child but on the day of the shoot he wouldn’t  get in the bin. I tried all manner of bribery but it wasn’t going to happen. We had a deadline to meet and time was running out so I got on the phone to the agent. Zaccary lived a long way from the studio but his mum brought him straight away. When he arrived he knew what to do and got straight in the bin, the shot was in the bag, just in time !


It was great fun working on this campaign for TBWA with art directors Gary Hulme and Danny Brooke-Taylor