A flash of pink…
A girl with the balls to keep her given name…
The world of the Photographic Assistant is a wild and varied one. One day you are working with a familiar face, the next the new Johnny or Jenny Big Bananas . Most go into this industry to learn enough to go out alone, some want to work with the people who inspire them.
It has to be said this industry is filled with a long list of wonderful people, the kind of people who need assistance in their work, they understand the importance of the role, and rely on the group effort to get what they need out of their own work. Alternatively, there has to be equal amounts of quite the opposite of these people and that’s the rub as a young and impressionable freelancing assistant.
Their days are filled with a kaleidoscope of unique experiences, from damp basement studios, high mountain tops, strapped in the back of speeding cars, being used as target practice with paintball guns or standing in for someone who is going to be comp’ed in later, wishing your friends could see you now..to mention but a few.
Assistants are the glue that keeps the shoot together…or so you would think.
It is not just all about taking bookings for studio and lighting hire here at Slaughterhouse Studios, it is about working with and witnessing some wonderful work taken by some of the world’s finest photographers.
Just lately however, I have noticed a marked change in the difference in Photographic Assistants.
As production costs are increasing and the amount of work out there fluctuates on a month by month basis, you would be a fool to think that anyone’s job is secure. Performance is what is required from any Assistant, that and unmitigated loyalty. I have worked with people who are happiest when they sweat like prize fighters after a 12 hour day, with only 15 minutes to throw some less than nutritious catering down their welcome gullets. No assistant has a soft handed grandmother lighting a candle for them, no union rep. ready to head down to your studio with a copy of The Big Red Song Book and neither will anyone ever, and I mean this with all the love in the world, ever see an assistant as anything more than what they are.
Now, some assistants come into this industry with one thing on their mind, to be giant killers. I once had to interview two assistants for an overseas job, to be presented with a tall and capable looking chap, the facial hair and style of a young man just cycling through Shoreditch, assuming on his ‘fixy’. His retort to a question put to him by the production manager was thus. “What do you want to get out of this trip?”, his response – “to take all of his [pointing at me] clients and be the best fashion photographer in London”. Now, joking aside, asinine comments like that make me want to employ these people just to see how far they are happy to go before they snap…but I am no longer that calculated and evil, maybe I never was. Maybe, just maybe I was always just galloping through life waiting to see if I was ever going to meet the “best fashion photographer in London”. I think we all know that it is never going to happen. The industry is far too fickle for that…
So to see such a shortfall in talented, young and energetic, creative people wanting to be a photographic assistant to learn more about things that excite them, travel, understand that this industry is a roller coaster, not a roundabout. And most of all, be happy that they are in full time freelance employment, earning more than most and depending on who they attach themselves to, working on some stunning locations, the finest studios and getting access to more than just photography.
Thankfully, just last week I was introduced to such a person. This guy is everything one would expect, of in an assistant. Not only is he personable, has an unnatural understanding of the boundaries in a studio, he is never rude or aggressive to the client, studio directors or anyone else for that matter. He has no axe to grind, no chip on his shoulder. He just wants to get on with his job, learn more each day, meet new and interesting people, expand on his list of lighting styles and to top it all off, he remembered how many sugars I have in my coffee.
So, if you are after a solid team member who is happy to work until the job is done, someone who will never bring his iPad2 to watch during a shoot or Facebook his/her friends, someone who will never just stand there and watch as everyone else handballs heavy kit and someone who is never going to flirt with the models (they would flirt with him though). Then Alexander Cornes is your man.
Take a look at his work, who he works for and get in early before he gets taken on some permanent contract. People like this are like hen’s teeth so react now and secure some future dates with Alex.
Anyone in doubt of how to behave as an assistant should spend some time shadowing him.
To all the photographers and studio owners out there that may have ever wondered what you can do with used Colorama.
It has been a regular supply from my studio to the school my wife teaches at, and recently a very generous and kindly photographer delivered a partially used new role of 3.55 wide (approx 28m long) white paper colorama to a primary school next door to the location he was shooting at in Liverpool. He wanted to hang around to see what they could do with it, but he had to be elsewhere…
This has sparked interest in some LEA’s around the region and as for most shoots, this product is more often than not covered in the clients budget and after a few uses, they just get tatty and have to be replaced. And if you have a studio like mine, it isn’t too long until they start to take up a lot of space in storage areas around the building. So what do you do with yours?
I implore that as a collective of responsible members of the industry we see used and old rolls of any width of colorama as a vital resource to all our schools.
With national and international events such as The Big Draw, commencing very soon in all our neighbourhood schools, I think it only right that creative industries begin to reinvest in what will be a new generation of creative minds. The Government has dropped the ball, so it’s our job to keep it going.
It is your responsibility to support struggling schools, most inner city state schools in Manchester, for example are having their art materials budget slashed or removed. This cannot go on.
So, ‘Send It To School’. Any teacher would be happy to receive lengths of that unusable remnant at the end of each roll or sections that have just been walked on during a shoot.
I look forward to hearing about this rather unofficial campaign to help out poorly resourced schools. And I equally look forward to any response or additions you may wish to add to this blog. If you are already doing this, then let me know, I would be happy to create some kind of national campaign linking our industry to helping schools. It cuts down on direct waste and the product gets to be used more than once. So you see, you are all able to sleep safely in the knowledge that you are making a difference.
Holding up the sky ⓒ I F Simpson
With the ongoing ‘slaughtering’ of small businesses and paradoxically, the reported over spending yesterday in Europe’s largest new shopping mall. One would be correct in thinking that we, the public have a right to spend money on what we want and that supporting everyone in the supply chain makes for a happier world.
Settling to establish this studio in Manchester last year was a difficult decision, as reported spending was at an all time low (well at least since the 40’s) and lets face it, we were all at war back then.
It’s hard to conceive it was five years ago when I decided to look into building a studio hire service that offers so much more than just a space and some lights. It’s easy to suspect that the main difference between most successful business people and the one’s that pulled the trigger and have been left floundering for banks to mop up is tens of years worth of successful business knowledge and hundreds of staff behind you. I don’t have that – at all. This doesn’t make me smarter, more savvy, or more talented. I just had the guts to go for it and I still think I was right.
“have an office and a desk, an out side line and a plan”, useful words from a company director known in this city to run the most financially stable hire studio company (amongst others). This allowed me to understand that any city, in any country offers the same deal. I am not trying to reinvent the wheel, I am not expecting men to weep, priests to renounce their God, children to run crying to their Mothers, nor was I looking to take on a property that would cost the GDP of a small South American nation.
No, however, one thing that has become apparent. People don’t need an office, it’s the office that needs people. Technology has allowed us all to work from home (what ever that means..), it has allowed the workforce to become much more flexible and being able to work almost anywhere, I still prefer it when clients bring all their team with them. The basic need of any human is personal interaction (beyond Facebook and Twitter) so, offering this space in which to work, take excellent photography and deliver your best work is what it is all about here.
The studio has not been cluttered with expensive desks, brightly coloured floors and many people running around ‘looking busy’, trying to add value to the client’s experience. The desks we have in the office were found in a garage, they are still holding up expensive Apple technology, the tables and seating in the studios are all from lucky eBay purchases, and they all get high praise from all who work in and visit the building. I hear a lot about reducing overheads in business. I say, start out with it reduced and put all the money earned where it will help the company and it’s clients. This has resulted in removing any prejudging from clients, it has allowed all the studio’s clients over the past 18 months to remember their positive experience and know that consistency, benefits and value are the only things this studio is interested in offering.
Growth is not a goal. If growth was the only goal here, I think we would be guilty of looking down the wrong end of the telescope. Growth is a result. A result of better thinking. Better work ethics. Better service. Better results. That is where our growth is coming from. With the cut throat competitiveness of the industry as a whole, to be seen as flipping our ethics would be like building on shifting sands, it would be great for a while, but soon enough we humans get a sniff of bullshit and then, its all over and all the clients go elsewhere.
All in all, this is a pretty cool way to earn a living, I feel lucky each day (at 5am while dragging my bones out of bed), mostly as I am unsure what else I am qualified to do – maybe growing apples and making excellent roast dinners is not a calling, more a fringe benefit. Over the past three months, the studio has repeatedly welcomed many companies and clients, some I have to keep quiet about due to the sensitivity of the campaigns, but some are more than happy to be openly affiliated to Slaughterhouse Studios. They include: the BBC, iTV/Granada, Red Productions, Hollywood Stars (secret) and many photographic luminaries; such as Perou (just yesterday), Matt Holyoak and his team, Layla Regan, and some excellent home grown talent such as: Gu Shiin and Christopher Ball. Plus, each day I get to speak to talented, focused and professional people with great ideas that need realising, great clients worth profiting from and wonderful, happy people that make each hour here worth all the effort.
I am looking forward to the next 18 months, if this is what I and the studio is capable of then being part of its growth is a very good place to be.
Call to book your next studio day(s) on +44 (0) 161 745 4232 or email your requirements to firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for Ian or Sid.
Well what a busy few months it has been and as we see the nation being firmly gripped by Autumnal showers, winds and just general unrest it was wonderful to see the smiling face of one of the worlds busiest and talented photographers pop by my humble studio – you have to guess who.
After a great chat over Red Bull Cola (oh yes, that’s how we roll here at the Slaughterhouse), I am looking forward to seeing his next new project come to light.
Safe journey home Sir and my regards to you and your family.
Suddenly, I feel like smoking again…