Tuesday, June 27, 2006

...and Then It Gets Better

I spent the weekend being the official photographer for the Muddy promotions Grass Roots festival (Photos here). I took over 1500 photos over the three days including 320 of a Slovakian wedding.
What to tell you first... I turned up at 8:00am at the grooms house only to be presented with a glass of Vodka. I protested that it was too early to start drinking. They put on the offended faces. These were paying clients so I accepted the Vodka and as instructed said "Dastravia" and downed it in one. Cue warm glow at 8:05am.There was a band in the back garden. Accordion, clarinet and Violin. They started playing after having several Vodkas. I took photos. I was offered more vodka. I declined saying I was working for them.
"You take better pictures with da Vodka no?"
I had another Vodka.
We drove to the brides house. The band set up on the pavement outside and started playing whilst school children made their way past, giggling and laughing. The brides mother gave me Vodka. It was getting silly.
Then we had the ceremonial fight with knives as the Groom fought for the right to remove his bride from her house. His helpers pulled him out and gifts were exchanged instead. Big bottles of... yep Vodka. Then the father of the bride made a speach imploring the brides mother to let her daughter leave the family home and set up with his son. Real tears flowed, and I'm capturing all this on my camera.
The brides mother agrees hands shaken, kisses exchanged, and more vodka drunk.
We al drive to the registry office. The band starts playing in the car park. More Vodka is handed out.
Finally we are allowed into the registry office. every one lines up in twos boy girl boy girl and the band strikes up in front of the processional and we all march in. We're told to wiat in the recption area where there's a party, more Vodka and the band playing, people are dancing. Hardly any of them speak english so we have to have a translator.
We go into the room for the wedding itself the band plays until they are told to shut up. The translator gets us through the ceremony and the band strikes up again. We go outside. There's an English party waiting for their turn. They are given Vodka. A professional photographer stands there with his fuck off camera and tripod he's being paid £400 I'm being paid a quarter of that and I think "Who's having the more fun?" That'll be me then.
We retire to the reception where the feasting begins. But not before plates are broken stamped on and swept up. Immediately the band starts up and every one is singing and dancing. I've never been to a wedding quite like this. I don't know anyone but they are all my best friends already. I haven't a fucking clue what they are saying to me but I know it's nice. I am part of their family. I am fed and watered, and I keep on taking photographs. They are so polite to me. They say something in slovakian followed by "please" and "thank you".
I leave them about 1:45 while they are dancing.
I come back at 6:00 and they're still dancing. I come back to witness the pinning of the money onto the brides dress. I stay til 7:00pm because it's such great fun.

Then I drive to the music festival. As I arrive at the site someone shouts at me "There's a mention of you in the programme"
"that's nice" I thought as I had my wrist band stapled on me.
Jody gives me a programme, she grins. I took it and wandered off flicking through the pages. Site rules. List of bands, bands profiles, paragraph each, where's my mention? Then I turned the page and then I find a whole page devoted to me. "The man in the Hat" I read on. I was filling up. I'm overwhelmed by the nice things they say about me. Every one else has worked so hard taking the week of to set up the festival builing tents erecting the security fences, digging trenches. What have I done? Nothing except take photos. I was almost in tears.
Nine months ago when I first started this I was worried that I wouldn't fit in because I'm an old guy of 47 and everyone else was in their 20's. And now?
I could cry just now thinking about it.
The muddy festival was like going on a huge picnic with music and 499 of your best friends. I'm not going to write anymore just now, or else the tears wil just flow.

I'm still being evicted. I still have nowhere to live. My business is still going downhill faster than a speeding bullet. But shit! What does all that matter? There are more important things in life than the material.

Rock on dudes

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Friday, June 23, 2006

It just keeps getting worse.

Since my last post I've had three good friends die on me.
The first was Mick Davies who died Monday night of cancer. He was a musician and a devoted blues officianado. He is the one who put me back on the road to playing live music again. He lent me his Gibson 323. I wanted to play it more than I was scared of playing live. I got applause. I never looked back. Three months ago he was given three months to live. For once the doctors were right on the money and he had exactly that. In that time he bought himself a Dobro. That's the guitar on the front cover of Dire Straits "Brothers in Arms". It cost a fortune but he wanted it. I'm pleased for him for just that.
The other two were brothers Tony and Terry Dixon. Tony was a drummer and such a gentle guy. He was a good friend to me, we spent hours in the pub discussing the ways of the world over beers. His brother Terry was a great guitarist and appeared on stage with the likes of Status Quo. I liked him so much I gave him my Banjo, because at the time I couldn't play it and he could. They died yesterday. They were fishing off a rock on the south coast of Wales and a freak wave swept them out to sea. They both drowned. You may have seen it on the news. They have a brother Rick who is also a friend of mine he is the manager of our local Music shop. He must be devastated. I know how I felt when I lost my own brother to the sea.
It's not been a good week for me. I am being evicted. I have no where to live. My friends have died and my business is falling apart around my ears. I spoke to Abi she gave me a hug and said "Nothing happens for no reason, you have a destiny, it will be alright in the end." I want to believe her, I really do, but right now it's all very dark and confusing.

May your God be with you. Because he certainly isn't with me so he's got to be somewhere. Love you.
Mike

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Monday, June 19, 2006

Poppies

You know I haven't photoshopped this image one little bit. It's exactly how I took it. It's incredible. So much intensity of colour. I don't do wedding photography. But this Friday I have relented,because it's a special wedding. What we have is a true gypsy wedding. I'm not talking about travellers or pikeys or whatever you call them but the Eastern European Gypsies. I will be picked up Friday morning to be taken to the brides house in time for the groom to arrive to demand the hand of his bride. The father will not let his daughter go without a fight and will draw a knife on the groom. It's scene re-enacted throughout time. The (staged) fight will ensue and eventually the groom will placate the brides father with a huge bottle of Vodka. The brides father, suitably placated will allow the bride to leave the house. We then go on to the registry orifice for the
ceremony and then to central park for the photos. Then dieu volante we finally arrive at Da Rosalia Hotel for the feasting. I'm supposed to be taking paparrazi shots throughout the day.
It's going to be very interesting.
Shortly after that I'm off to the Muddy festival to do my duty as the official festival photographer.

Meanwhile in case you're wondering I'm still working on my eviction from my squat. I have a few irons in the fire. A few options. I don't have much time left. If I don't get out soon I am in "Shit Street" that's just second left off "You're Completely Fucked Avenue". I still need to maintain an anonymous profile. I can't be seen to exist in this world.I have just six months to go before I can return to being legit. But then it's fun being a non person. Why stop now? Rules are made to be broken. I a not your usual 9 to 5 guy. I am not part of the rat race. I don't want to be rich. My sister recently said of me "if you had wanted all this stuff you would have had it. But you don't give a shit so that's why you are where you are." She's lovely my sister.

Rock on dudes Posted by Picasa

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Friday, June 16, 2006

The Hunted Has Become The Hunter

Ok you know I've been caught up with by the council. You know I've been squatting here for six and a half years and the shit has hit the fan. I've got to get out. Well just when you think things are at their worst something always comes up. Well they do for me. Tonight while taking photographs of bands I was approached by some dude who enquired about my services. He runs a detective agency.
Yeah you're all thinking Philip Marlowe and stolen Jade necklaces. Raymond Chandler this aint. This is city councils wanting to gather information on people like me. People the other side of legitimate. People who claim one thing and do another. They want me to photograph, using a long lens, these people so they can take them to court. It does seem like a crazy coincedence to me. That the very week they are on to me I am asked to catch others like me. Spooky huh? OK I'm happy to go legit if they pay me enough to be legit.
And the pay seems quite good. £2000 for a stake out and photos. A mornings works.
The guy who approached me said, rather clandestinely "It can be dangerous if you're not careful."
"How long is the lens I get to use?" I asked trying to find some comfort zone.
"It's a 500mm anti vibration lens."
"Will it fit my Canon?"
"If it doesn't you rent a camera it does fit and charge it to expenses."
"What just like that?"
"Sure. They want results. What we pay you is peanuts compared to what the council will save when they catch them. And even if it isn't it's the principle that matters."

So I'm having to think very carefully about this. I need the money, there's no argument there, but at what cost? I could go down the sex line and take discrete photos for people who don't want or can't get their photos done at Boots or I could put my life on the line and do detective work. One thing is for sure taking photos of bands isn't paying me a wage other than beer money.

I have noticed Sony BMG are using my photos on one of their websites. Yes that's why I took them, for the website. But we agreed they'd pay me £450 for the job. They haven't paid me yet. I think a stern email is in order to get my money.

If any of you guys are harbouring ideas of being a professional photographer. Take heed. It aint easy. Anyone can be just another guy with a camera. It don't mean shit how good you are. I consistently produce excellent images. I am very good at what I do. In fact it's the only thing I am truly good at. But does it earn me a living?

Not yet

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The shit has hit the fan

Oh Fuck! The shit has hit the fan. I've been a none person for the last six and a half years. Today I had a visit from the council. It was a friendly visit. But someone has dobbed me up. I've been stitched up good an proper. They wouldn't say where they got their information but my days of squatting are seriously numbered. My only leaway is the fact that the council visitor knows me and is giving me a few weeks leaway. So now I've got to disappear again. Back into that dark nether world of obscurity. Luckily I've found alternative accomodation very quickly, through my contacts but it's going to cost me. Big style. My playboy life style is going to be a thing of the past. Unless of course I find a new way of making a dishonest buck.

Funnily enough I had a visit from a photographer today who put me straight on a few things. I told him I was not making enough money from photography. OK I'm earning a bit of beer money. But not enough to take it seriously. His answer? I'm not charging enough. He cited an example of someone asking him to do a wedding. He didn't want to do it. So while the going rate is between £400 and £500 he asked £1,500 to get rid of them. They agreed straight away.
I told him that Sony BMG were paying me £450 for a photo shoot of Abi. He just laughed at me. Saying anyone who charges £450 was obviously a joke so they wouldn't take me seriously. I should have been charging in four figures to be taken seriously. Perhaps he's right.

Del and I had a chat tonight. He mentioned wedding photography. I shrank back. But he went on "this is special wedding photography, it's the new niche market". Where the bride has "special" photographs taken for her new husband. Intimate stuff. Stuff that Boots won't print without calling the police first. I said "where have you heard this?"
"In The Times of course."
So that's got to be good then.

I have a friend who works for Motor cycle news and other motor sport related mags who, on the side, makes a killing, photographing special people. Again it's nothing Boots would print without the alarms going off. But he offers a "discreet" service. High quality images. No questions asked. Del assures me this is a money making opportunity. So I have the ability and the skill to do this and Del has the enthusiasm to find the contacts.

I could be forced to go back to being a professional musician. Been there done that. But circumstances change. Again I have the ability but recently not the enthusiasm.Where needs must.

That's our mantra right now, Del and I. "Where needs must." He is in the same boat as me. We need to earn money. We'll sell our souls for rock and roll and indecent photographs. It's sad that it has come to this. But with the CSA breathing down my neck and the council on my case what else can I do?

Suggestions in the comments box at your leisure.

Rock on dudes

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Monday, June 12, 2006

Catching your death

I don't care what anyone says this is Melody and she's lovely. If it wasn't so hot last Saturday night I'd have been telling her to wrap up warm before she catches her death of cold. Youngsters eh?

Now here's another thing over on my other website, the one I run for "The Unity Club", I'm doing a myspace of the day feature, where people send in their suggestions for myspace of the day and I put it up so everyone can share in the latest music discoveries. The problem is even with up to 100 hits a day no one gives me any suggestions. When I speak to them in person they say it's a great idea and they'll email me. But they're too lazy.

So I know some of you lovely people are really into this sort of stuff so if you've any myspace dicoveries you want to share let me know. Also any bands that are good who might need a venue to play at let me know as well. Posted by Picasa

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Grass

Somtimes you just take grass for granted. But there's loads of types of grass. More types than you can shake a stick at. here's a selection of grass types that I saw today. 5 of them I shot whilst sitting in just the one spot. I wont name them it's pointless you wont remember. But just take note in future that grass is not just grass.  The last picture bottom right is Woody night shade. This aint rock and roll this is botany.

Rock on dudes Posted by Picasa

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Thursday, June 08, 2006

You're doing the right thing

I was showing some friends some archive photos the other day when this picture came up. Of course it's of Abi. But the more I looked at it the more I thought it was a classic. I've taken thousands of pics of Abi but this one is special.
In my new role as music promoter, it wasn't what I intended doing, I've found that there are a million letters to write. Letters of introduction, letters of acceptance, letters to offer dates,letters to confirm dates, letters to thank them for this that and the other, letters to find out special requirements once the date has been set. Letters to give them directions to get here. Then the friendly chatty letters to build up a rapport with the group. It doesn't stop.
The point is I didn't intend to be a music promoter. It wasn't my plan. I was moving toward being a photographer, that was my dream. But this sort of fell into my lap, almost by accident. I booked one band, then another, then another. Then I found venues asking me host shows for them. Offering me their big venues to put on live acts. It's a bit daunting right now. I know nothing. I don't have the confidence that it's going to work. I don't know enough of the industry to know it's going to work so I'm scared. Acts are begging me for gigs. Yes I can give them a gig no problem. But I can't pay them right now. I have to be confident that if I book an act I can fill a venue and make it pay, and that's the problem.

It could mean a quantum leap to the big time. Booking bands like "The Arctic Monkeys". Gambling on a turn out. They aint gonna play for less than £500, maybe more. It could be a four figure sum. It's not like a pub band who will be grateful to get £150 for a nights work between them. I need advice, guidance. I need to be educated in the world of promotion. People already in the bizz tell me it's a piece of piss. It's guaranteed money in the bank putting on bands. I wish I had their confidence. I wish I had their knowledge. At the moment I'm booking desperate bands. That sounds aweful for the bands. But they don't mind that I can't pay them, they just want the gig. But who is going to turn up for an unknown band? Can I charge punters to pay to see someone who is an unknown? No matter how good they are.

Many years ago I worked for a club called "Friars Aylesbury" the guy who ran it is now an international music promoter. He is the agent of Howard Jones and many others. I might be forced to beg him for advice based on the fact I was once one of his loyal workers. It might work. I can use any help I can get. I'm not too proud to admit I know fuck all. I just need knowledge. And knowledge is power. I know I can do this but I need someone to kick me up the jacksee and say "yeah you're doing the right thing".

I'l still keep on taking the photos. Because I love it. But this new twist is becoming really interesting.

Rock on dudes

Keep the faith Posted by Picasa

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Booking bands

Jaysus it's not easy being a music promoter. I've been trying to book bands and juggling dates and getting the right mix of bands to play for us. Then I turned up at Radius a new venue in Peterborough. I spoke to the manager., he's given me caerte blanche to come and go as I please and all I have to do in return is to bung him a few pics for his website. Here's "Dekadence" 
The lighting at this joint is brilliant, I don't need to use flash which dulls the drama of the shot. It's a trade off, a little bit blurry for more atmosphere.

Bands I've been booking recently have been Dekadence, The Neumes and Heather McVey check them all out The Neumes could be the next Corrs, Heather McVey is another Annie Lennox. So now things are heading forward.
I shant say anymore right now. But things are looking up.

Rock on dudes Posted by Picasa

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Friday, June 02, 2006

Man Orchid

Have you ever seen one of these? It's a man orchid. You can see his little arms and legs as he hangs from his helmet by his head. They're not easy to spot as they are not brightly coloured like other flowers. I was discussing future trends with my son last night. Take something everyday and mundane like a light bulb. Well you all know the 100W light bulb, well a few years ago they gave us the low energy bulb where the equivalent value was the 18W. This saved us just over 80% of our electricity. Now starting to come through in the catalogues are LED lights. That's Light Emitting Diodes. The 100W equivalent is just an amazing 2W. This has to be the future. At the moment they are quite expensive (£7.95)but with mass production the price will fall from it's novelty high to a more reasonable price. After all the low energy bulbs started off at £7.95 each now you buy multipacks at the pound shop. These LED lights will be the same. Not only that they can come in different colours (White being the most expensive currently)and they don't have to be bulb shaped. You'll be able to buy lighting tiles that glow.
While we're on the energy saving subject the next huge growth industry will be to do with self sufficiency in power. Little windmills initially to power all these LED lights in your house. Then there will be the solar panels on the roof. These will be the water heaters. The prices they quote on TV for the state of the art panels are quite frankly ridiculous. Someone somewhere is going to come up with a budget version. Because, lets face it, a garden hose painted black glued onto a black panel would be better than nothing and raising the temperature of the water in your tank by just a few degrees every day will save significant amounts of energy. We don't necessarily have to have the most efficient state of the art equipment. Anything that saved energy will be better than nothing.
I'd like to see electric cars. The oil companies wouldn't of course. They could be recharged by your windmill. They don't have the range of a petrol car but there are thousands who drive just a few miles a day to and from work and that would be ideal.
I'm not advocating that we should all follow Tom and Barbera Good and become self sufficent and have gardens full of hens and a goat. That's too much to ask of most people. But LED lights? That's a start. Water heating panels? Theywont change your life style but will help the environment.
and anyone who starts telling us nuclear power is the way to go can knock themselves right off my christmas card list they aint no friends of mine.

Rock on dudes

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