Jesmond Natural Health & Fertility shoot

Louise and Laura. Copyright © 2015 James Sebright Photography.

Louise and Laura. Copyright © 2015 James Sebright Photography.

Last Tuesday found me out and about in Newcastle on a shoot with Louise Collyer and Laura Bicker, 2 acupuncturists who are looking to make their mark on the well-being of the city. Louise and Laura currently work together under the guise of Jesmond Natural Health and Fertility, a small and friendly health clinic based in Jesmond. Working with their team of well-being professionals, the clinic offer a range of services including acupuncture, massage, nutrition, yoga, reiki and traditional Chinese medicine, amongst othes. The clinic has existed for a number of years, and Louise and Laura are looking to grow the business this year with a wave of marketing and PR activity.

Louise and Laura both appreciate how important good imagery is for effective communication, and so they got in touch and asked if I could help out. Working alongside PR professional Nikki Bruce, my brief was to create a set of images that captured the energy, personalities and rapport of Louise and Laura, to be used for advertising, PR, social media, websites and so on. Their friendship lies at the heart of the business and their positive energy and relationship runs throughout the clinic, making this more of a lifestyle shoot than a classic PR shoot.

The truth is that most people don’t enjoy having their photograph taken, especially in public. That’s more than natural, and it makes my job more challenging, as not only do I have to take good pictures technically, but I also have to work hard to put the subjects at ease.To make my life easier, I had recently worked with Louise on a couple of shoots for her own practice, and so we had a good rapport on which to build. Add on the fact that Laura and Louise are great friends, and the result was a lot of fun.

Key to the success of any shoot is planning, so that as much as possible can be achieved in the time available. Newcastle’s quayside offers a myriad of options, and so we were able to explore 3 or 4 set ups in a very short space of time. Most of my shoots begin in a cafe. Not only is a chat over a coffee the best way to agree a plan and gently ease into things, but cafes often make great locations themselves. So it was with the cafe at the Baltic which has a modern, airy feel with some neutral backgrounds. After this, we headed out into a chilly, fresh morning to use some of the local landmarks. The reality is that local landmarks always go down well with local press, and so it’s good to get a few of these in the bag, as well as exploring other, less familiar options. It’s a case of having your bases covered, creating a set of images for different clients and their preferences.

It might sound obvious, but photography deals with the visual, and so whilst it may be implied, it’s not possible to tell what the temperature was when a photograph was taken. Fortunately, the sun was shining on us, but it was fresh to say the least, and so hats off to Louise and Laura for braving the elements in their summer dresses, which brought a touch of colour and femininity to things. True professionals!

Having completed our brief on the quayside, we then headed up to the clinic to take some staff profile shots and group shots. It was great to meet the team. Working on my own is great, but I did feel a pang of jealousy to be part of a warm group who all share a passion for the same thing. Again, new relationships had to be very quickly forged, but the staff joined in with the spirit of the thing to bring things to a successful close.

Louise and Laura were a pleasure to work with, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how the images are used. I still get a pang of excitement when I see one of my images in the press! They have a great business, and I wish them all the best with it, as it goes from strength to strength.

Here’s a selection of images from the shoot…

Eldon Gardens interior shoot

Eldon Gardens Shopping Centre.Eldon Gardens Shopping Centre, Newcastle upon Tyne. Copyright © 2015 James Sebright Photography.

Shortly before Christmas, I was asked to take a series of photographs of Eldon Gardens Shopping Centre, Newcastle upon Tyne, for a brochure aimed at attracting new businesses to rent space there. Slightly off the beaten track for some visitors to Newcastle, and perhaps overshadowed by the new wing of Eldon Square, Eldon Gardens are feeling the pinch in these difficult times. Empty units need to be filled, in order to bring the buzz back to this premium shopping centre right in the heart of the city.

Whilst much of my work is fast-paced, working with people in action, this job was very much the opposite; slow and deliberate, allowing me to take my time, thinking about how best to show-off the space. Using a wide-angled tilt and shift lens in what is effectively a low-light environment means using a tripod and really taking some time. It’s always been my mantra to get things right in-camera, rather than relying on extensive post-production, and this is especially the case with this kind of work. Just because one can shoot hundreds and hundreds of images at no cost doesn’t mean that one should. It’s not quite large format film photography, but it’s heading in that direction, and comes as a welcome change when shooting with a DSLR can often feel to throw-away. The results are very ordered, detailed images which I think showcase the light and space to its best effect. I enjoy this kind of work very much and plan to do more in future – particularly during the wet and cold winter months!

The results have been well-received by the client, who value quality photography when trying to lease high value units like these. It makes business sense to put together a brochure, so it’s worth spending money on a professional photographer to take some quality images that will do the space justice. We can only wait to see the longer term results. I’d love to see the place full, all rented-out to thriving new businesses. It’s not good for anyone to see lots standing empty.

Here’s a brief selection…

Aonghus Dracup: violin maker

Aonghus Dracup violin maker. Aonghus Dracup: violin maker. Copyright © 2014 James Sebright Photography.

One of the things that I photograph a lot, is people at work; people in action, doing what they do for a living, showcasing them to the wider world. It’s something I enjoy a great deal. At heart, I am nosey, and doing this kind of work allows me to poke my nose into other people’s lives, other people’s worlds.

Last week I was lucky enough to work with Aonghus Dracup, a violin maker based in Newcastle upon Tyne. Working in a small workshop in a converted 60s office building in the heart of the city, he creates things of real beauty, crafting these wonderful instruments from humble blocks of maple and other wood. Aonghus – or Gus for short – needed a set of images that tell the story of what he does, as he is putting together a new website to mark out his territory. Everyone needs a website, he observed, and as someone who understands craft and quality, he realised that he needed professionally taken images to bring it alive.

For me, and for Gus, the story of his business is more than just the finished product – a beautifully crafted violin – it’s how it comes into being, the process and how his unique personality and methods make his instruments unique. So rather than just get glossy shots of finished articles, Gus was keen for me to come into his workshop and tell the story of how he, personally, creates what he does.

I love workshops. They’re like an Aladdin’s cave for the senses, filled with strange and exotic items, unusual smells and hidden treasures. Visually, they are rich and exciting and often very complex, which brings with it a whole set of challenges to the photographer; how best to translate this into images? How does one communicate the smells and atmosphere of these spaces through the medium of static imagery? It’s a challenge I enjoy, a personal enquiry. Often, it’s the details that tell the real story: the fine particles of sawdust settling on the radio; the specialist tools carefully laid out for use; the image of Elvis, presiding over things. These are the things that add personality and colour, the things that make up the working day for this craftsman.

What the images don’t show is the conversations that took place, the questions I had answered about the job, the cups of tea shared. Amongst other things, we discussed Stradivarius’ violins, living in Japan and getting older. But these are things for me to take home. All I can say here is that it’s a fascinating job, and I am filled with admiration for anyone capable of creating an instrument or any sort, let alone anything as fine as Gus’ instruments.

I look forward to seeing how Gus makes use of the images that I created for him on his new website. In the meantime, here’s a selection…

Inpress Festival of Publishing…

Inpress Conference 2014, by James Sebright.Inpress Festival of Publishing 2014, by James Sebright.

One of the best aspects of being a photographer is stepping into other people’s worlds, especially when it is as interesting – and civilised – as the world of publishing. For the last 3 years I have been lucky enough to have been the official photographer at the Festival of Publishing, organised by Newcastle’s Inpress Publishing Ltd. This year’s event took place at the Free Word Centre in London and featured some excellent speakers on the issues facing publishing today, including eBooks and selling books online.

For me, event photography is no different than street photography, the only difference being that I am less likely to be confronted or punched at a conference. Well, hopefully that’s true. I move through the space trying to be invisible, looking for the characters, the gestures, the juxtapositions, the things that make a conference unique, the unique combination of the space and the participants. It requires an observant eye and a sense of anticipation. Technically it is often challenging, as indoor venues are often dim and flash is often much too obtrusive. It’s at conferences that I am aware of what an amazing instrument is the human eye.

“Oh, she’s lost weight!” or “Oh, that beard he’s grown doesn’t suit him at all…” It’s always fun seeing the familiar faces and seeing how they have changed in the last 12 months. Also heartening is seeing how the numbers are growing each year, with new faces appearing. It’s good to see that the publishing world hasn’t been entirely squished by Amazon, and that people still care enough to produce beautiful books of poetry and prose.

I am already looking forward to next year’s festival!

It’s been a while…


It’s been a while. Having thrown myself into the ocean of social media, I have neglected my blog. Unforgivable! Maybe I have been frightened of having more than 140 characters available to me. There’s so much to catch up on!

The year so far has been something of a blur, involving some nice jobs for The Baltic, Trinity Chambers and Inpress Publishing, amongst others. I have also been hatching a plan for a nice documentary project. Big smiles! So having been so busy, it’s sometimes difficult to know where to start, like those awkward moments when you meet someone you haven’t seen for years, and they casually ask “So, what have you been up to?”

So let’s not rush things. I know that you are relieved that I am still alive and haven’t retired. Have a sit down and a cup of tea. Breathe deeply. Let’s take this slowly.

In the meantime, here’s an image from a collection of photographs that I have been working through, which I took in Lebanon in 2010. This one was taken in the Bsharri region of the country, which is where Kahlil Gibran, author of The Prophet, was born.

Expect more soon. Promise!

To the House of Lords…


Last week was one of those weeks where the job of being a photographer opens doors that might not normally be open to a simple chap from Lancashire. My assignment was to accompany a delegation of around 15 business professionals from Malaysia who were taking part in the inaugural Knowledge Exchange Programme (Economic Prosperity through Enterprise Education), organised by ICE (International Consultants for Entrepreneurship and Enterprise). As well as stops at Oxford University, Durham University and Newcastle upon Tyne, the first stop was a conference at the House of Lords. In my own unique reportage style, I chronicled the delegates’ journey to produce a lasting record of their experience. These images have been used across blogs and articles about the Exchange Programme and also act as a rich resource for ICE to draw upon when marketing future activities.

Photographing at the House of Lords had a surreal quality to it. As might be expected, security was tight, and I was only allowed to photograph in certain places, which unfortunately did not include the main chambers, which we covered on our tour. Photographing at conferences and meetings often involves a lot of kneeling, getting down low to capture the concentrated faces of delegates. My abiding memory of the House of Lords was how lovely and thick the carpets were, my knees have never had such an easy time – and that’s no mean thing when one approaches middle age. The shot above is really one for myself, capturing the splendid chamber where the morning’s meeting took place. Behind me, the windows look out over the River Thames, which was so close you could smell the cool watery air. Definitely a day to remember.

Aspers reportage shoot

Image of Aspers Casino shoot by James Sebright.

Today I was busy on the biggest commercial shoot I have undertaken to date, at Aspers Casino in Newcastle upon Tyne. The brief was a ‘reportage’ style shoot to produce images for marketing materials, in particular to promote a new site in Milton Keynes. With 10 models and 2 professional croupiers, the plan was simply to let them play and enjoy themselves…

I was selected on the strength of some of my travel and reportage work, and the manager particularly liked the candid and honest nature of my work from Japan. This was pleasing to hear, especially as I think it is easy to underestimate commercial clients and their expectations. Many casinos use corny ‘high-fiving’ imagery for their campaigns, and Aspers were keen to avoid this, adopting a more natural approach, real people having real times in their casino.

Overall, the results are looking good, and it was a fantastic experience. I thought that managing so many people might have been tricky, but not at all; it’s amazing how we can rise to the occasion when in professional mode. What was really pleasing about this job is that I was able to be myself and do my thing rather than try and take the kind of photos that I thought they might have wanted. May there be many more!

Image is everything…

Image of Kathryn Clarke, Image Consultant in her studio in Spennymoor, Co. Durham.

Today I have been photographing Kathryn Clarke, an image consultant based in Spennymoor, Co. Durham, producing some profile shots for her website, social media accounts and for a forthcoming piece about her in North East Life Magazine. Rather than just producing a straight-ahead headshot, Kathryn wanted to create something that not only captured who she was, but what she does, where and how; an image with a story, not just a “this is what I look like” image.

One of the really interesting parts of being a photographer is sticking your nose into other people’s lives, finding about what they do. Every photographer is a voyeur in some sense, so it was interesting to learn about somebody else’s job, see their studio and learn about another aspect of life. Hence the first part of any assignment like this always involved a cup of tea and a chat, lots of questions, and in this case some delicious biscuits from Marks and Spencer.

Having got a sense of what Kathryn’s job is really about, we were able to put together some shots that bring together those elements to create a whole. I am firm believer that a good portrait is the result of a collaboration between photographer and sitter and I think this experience reinforces that opinion. I look forward to seeing the results in print, which is one of my favourite parts of the job; seeign things online, but there’s no substitute for holding something in your hand and being able to show it your mum.