I didn’t quite understood why my mother didn’t like the fact that I had become a photographer. At first it was just a hobby, but then one day a few miles from where we lived, there was an RTC: a Road Traffic Collision. And not a small one at that. I had been cycling home at the time and when the actual collision took place, I was about thirty meters away. I dumped my cycle, grabbed my camera for I always had it with me, and began shooting as fast as I could.
“Er, excuse me young man,” I felt a hand clamp my shoulders. Turning, I saw a traffic cop. You can always tell a traffic cop, their caps are white rather than black.
“What?” I asked, vaguely, wanting to get back to my shooting.
“You cannot be photographing this.”
“Oh. Sorry, erm, hang on,” I dropped my camera, it was on a strap around my neck so it didn’t fall, and grabbed my wallet. From it I pulled a business card and handed it over.
“Colin Pearce. Photographer,” read the policeman. “You’re not the press though, are you?” Then he frowned. “And you look a little young for that anyway.”
I was seventeen, and though I could probably pretend to be nineteen, any more was pushing it. I decided to ignore the second part of the policeman’s question, and concentrate on the first, it was easier. “I’m not employed by anyone, I’m freelance. I sell to the press, I do photographs for books, and I’ll let you have all the originals, and I’ll even sell them to the insurance companies as well if they want them.” Most of this was wishful thinking on my part, of course.
“You think we’ll pay for them?” asked the policeman angrily. He reached out to take my camera but I moved slightly away from him.
“I didn’t say I’d charge you,” I said, very annoyed and not hiding it. “I said I’d give them to you. Now. You get on with your job, and I’ll get on with mine.”
The copper stared at me hard. “Make sure I get all those photo’s before you leave,” he snapped.
Luckily I had my notebook in my bag as well, and before I gave my memory card to the police, I copied all the images off onto my notebook. Reluctantly, the traffic cop gave me a receipt for the card, though it took months, and many phone calls from both me and my father to eventually get the card returned. Sadly no one else would pay me for those photo’s, but I was called into court to give evidence about them.
That episode led to me taking up photography in a far more professional way. Mostly I did specific assignments. I’d have loved to be doing sports photography. Football was particularly hard to get into, but rugby and cricket were almost as difficult. I started out with, of all things, women’s hockey. As an eighteen year old, this wasn’t easy, but by the time I was twenty I had become known locally as a good photographer.
Sadly, I wasn’t to stay in sport, I was too interested in photographing the people, rather than the action, and this meant I took photo’s that the sports editors couldn’t use. They could however, be used by any number of other people, including both gossip and fashion, as well as just what became known as ‘life’ shots. Photographs of people doing ordinary things. While this ‘carelessness’ on my part lost me one job, it did teach me a valuable lesson about separating what I wanted to photograph, from what I was being paid to photograph.
Ultimately this meant I started doing local fashion shows, and similar, and soon catalogues. This was the ultimate in boredom. I hated doing these, but I had learned well, and they paid my bills. And truth be told I was good at them, and got regular contracts. It was these in particular Mum hated me doing, but she wouldn’t say why.
“Urgh,” I grunted, as the ringing phone pulled me from my sleep. I grabbed the handset. “Ugh?” I grunted into the mouthpiece.
“Colin,” came the voice of my agent. “You’re needed in an hour at the Tower Studio. They’re prepared to pay you one point two times your normal rate.”
“I’m in bed,” I muttered. “I only finished work at midnight.”
“It’s ten am,” came the brusque reply.
My eyes opened in surprise, and I stared blearily at the clock on my bedside table. The digital read-out said 9:58.
“Oh fuck. Can’t get there for eleven. Make it twelve.”
“Soon as you can after eleven,” came the reply.
I just grunted my assent. I wasn’t a morning person. Not voluntarily.
“Thank you my love,” said my agent cheerily.
“Sod off Sharon,” I muttered, but she just laughed and hung up.
Sharon Acorn was my agent. She was sixty five, not even slightly attractive, and a cougar. Fortunately I’d been warned about her predatory nature, and so far hadn’t been caught. However by stringing her along just enough, without ever promising anything, she got me lots of work. Luckily she also had a good sense of humour, so when I told her to sod off, or bugger off, or I called her a bastard or a bitch to her face, she just laughed it off. She was a bitch, but she was also extremely good at her job, and found me more than enough work to enable me to pay to do the photography I wanted to do, that no one would pay me to do. For that I put up with her occasional early morning calls, and her slightly more frequent wandering hands. I did wonder why, when a woman does it to a man it’s called teasing, or fun, or a come-on but when a man does it to a woman it’s called sexual harassment.
I got there at twenty past eleven, only to be told the shoot wasn’t expected to start until twelve, so I was about on time. It always took me about thirty minutes to get set up, so I liked to arrive forty minutes early so that I wasn’t rushing, and had a chance for a coffee or a loo break.
“Ahhhh! Bitch,” I said angrily. Luckily the woman I was talking to knew I wasn’t referring to her.
“But you love me none-the less,” came Sharon’s voice behind me. I turned and glared at her, but her permanently cheerful, over made-up, face always made me smile anyway. As per normal she was dressed as if she was a glamorous forty-year old. I just shook my head resignedly. She had done this to me before, but not often, and it had got me here on time, even if I had been rushing.
“What is it today?”
“Catalogue work. Lingerie.”
“Oh fuck.” I didn’t like catalogue work, and particularly hated lingerie. Strange as it may sound, it was boring. I was a twenty-four year old male with a healthy libido. But I still found it boring. I worked out, so was fit, and not to be blunt about it, I was good looking. I had my fair share of girls, more than that maybe. The models were attractive, even sexy, but taking half a dozen photographs of a girl wearing a pair of knickers or a bra, then having her go off and change while a second, then third came out in different pairs, sometimes identical just in a different colour, for exactly the same shots was mind numbingly boring. Now I knew why they were paying over the normal rate. It wasn’t. It was the standard rate for the job.
I glared at Sharon again. She just smiled beatifically at me, and left me to setup my camera.
“Bollocks, bollocks, bollocks, bollocks,” I muttered.
“I know what you mean,” said another voice.
I turned, startled. “Oh, hi Ade.” Adrian, or Ade, was my regular gopher, and sometime backup. He wasn’t as good as me at this sort of work, but neither of us cared. His photographic interests were different. He liked photographing insects and other creepy crawlies, and close-ups of flowers and webs covered in dew, and other such crap that just left me cold. And he was damn good at it and made money on it. As such, I didn’t consider him a worse photographer than me, just different. We got on very well together, and when we weren’t working, were either talking cameras and accessories, or talking about the next projects we wanted to do. Even if I wasn’t interested in what he was photographing, the techniques and equipment were interesting.
The first model came out, and started to pose in front of me, but then her hands went in front of her crotch. “Colin?” she said, shock in her voice.
I looked up. “Mum?” I gasped. I had found out why my mother hated the fact that I was a photographer.
My mum was forty-five. I knew she had a nice figure, but I never really thought about it. She was pretty in an understated way. She also couldn’t swim, so I had never seen her in a bikini or swim suit.
My jaw dropped. Her body, from toe to neck could have been that of a twenty-year-old. Only her face suggested older. The clever makeup she was now wearing, made her look ten years younger than she really was.
“Oh shit,” I gasped.
The director stormed up,
“What the fuck’s going on here?” He demanded.
“I can’t work in front of this photographer,” Mum sighed. She didn’t say it in a nasty way, for which I was slightly relieved.
“Why not?” he demanded.
“Because she’s my mother,” I said grumpily.
There was a long pause.
There was another long pause as the director mulled things over. He turned to Ade. “Can you do Stephie’s shots?”
“Haven’t got my kit with me.”
“Use Colin’s,” he snapped, then saw the look on both our faces. “What?”
“We don’t loan,” I said. “I use Canon, he uses Nikon. They’re just as good as each other, but they’re very different. It would take Ade an hour to learn how to use my camera even close to properly. Plus, I’ll have mine set up differently to how he likes his set up.”
.... There is more of this story ...