I lived in a council house on the ring road in Liverpool (Queens Drive) – and had very supportive parents (although I might not have thought so at the time). I went to a Catholic Boys’ Grammar School, St Francis Xavier’s – I and was very religious (up until the moment I was 18 – and then never went to church again!).
By the age of 18, I was sick and tired of academic life – and just wanted to get on and work. I was the only boy in our sixth form not to apply to go to University. I had the grades – but decided to undertake a vocational course in Press Photography for a year. Before that, I’d had to make some difficult career decisions. I had a large model railway set and thought a career as an engineer might be interesting. Tempered with that, I had a keen interest in photography. Luckily, I decided to sell my model railway set – and buy a better camera!
Once I’d decided to follow a career as a press photographer, I really did not apply myself to A Level studies. I could not see the relevance. However, I did want to learn relevant skills – and I made one of the best decisions of my life … to learn how to touch type. I spent many hours (when I should have been revising for my A Levels) sitting at my sister’s old typewriter in my room teaching myself to type. It’s a skill I still use today – and think it’s essential for any youngster to learn. I am sure that access to computer keyboards will make it a more natural skill for this generation of youngsters.
In pursuing my love of photography – the dream was to be able to photograph Liverpool FC at Anfield. It was virtually impossible to get access as a photographer (still is today). A friendly photographer at the Liverpool Echo tipped me off that a paper called “The News Line” wanted a photographer to shoot the first 10 minutes of each match on colour film – in return for a photographer’s pass. “The News Line” is the newspaper of the Workers Revolution Party (WRP) – and at the time was the only colour daily newspaper in the UK. I didn’t ever read the paper – but was always very proud of my colour picture on the back page after a Liverpool or Everton match. One of the pictures I took – of a fan with a dart in his neck – ended up being named on of the 100 best football pictures of all time. I bet the WRP would be surprised at the help they gave to my career!
My last “proper job” was in 1983-5. I was a photographer at the Leicester Mercury. It was one of the most enjoyable times of my life. Working within a community, making connections, then gradually gaining trust and respect is a rewarding process.
The entry of Getty Images and Corbis (100% owned by Bill Gates) into the photography business in the mid-90s set us on a fairly inevitable course of a trade sale. Getting venture capital and angel finance on board at the end of the 1990s also dictated this route. It was a testing process. From 1997 […]
At the end of the 1990s, sports rights holders were increasingly restricting the access of photography agencies and individual sports photographers into events. The story was not a new one – up until 1972, only one photographic agency was allowed in to a cricket ground to photograph test matches. Things were looking like turning full […]
In 1985, I was a 22-year-old press photographer in a well-paid and rewarding job at the Leicester Mercury. I had excellent colleagues – and a very comfortable life. However, it was not enough for me – and I wanted to work for National Newspapers and create my own business. So I set out to create […]
In the autumn of 1994, I decided to “hang up my cameras”. EMPICS was growing as a business – and it needed me at base. I’d tried to bring in senior managers to take on my role – but that was not successful (probably my fault rather than theirs). I also felt it was time […]