When did you first get involved with photography?
I first discovered photography when I was about 12 or 13. I heard my parents discussing heatedly the merits of my dad purchasing a Practika SLR for about £45. My mum was horrified but my dad eventually won the argument and the camera proudly purchased, along with most of the magazines about photography on sale at the time. The camera lived in its box or in a black and brown camera bag and, usually, one roll of film survived two Christmases. I kept sneaking the camera out of its box when my parents were away and pretended to take pictures with it. I fell in love with the way the point of focus added depth or a perception of depth at the time. My dad was always telling what I could not do with the camera. Eventually, after much nagging, I acquired my own camera when I was 15; a Mamiya ZE2.
At school the careers’ teacher told me that being a photographer was not a proper job and that I should lower my expectations a little. After that I knew what I wanted to be, a photographer. On leaving school I went to art college and got bored with the idea that I had to conform to someone else’s ideas of what worked and what did not. So I left, told my parents I was going to be a photographer, enrolled on a local Youth Training Scheme, and that was it. I worked in various darkrooms around the Midlands, in England where I lived, and tried to go out with the photographers who supplied us with the images to print. Eventually, I met a professional photographer who thought I was enthusiastic enough at carrying his bags to take me on. I worked with him as an assistant to start with but eventually as a business partner in his company, shooting glamour calendars at the age of 19. I always had a big smile on my face.
After spending more than I was earning, I ended up at a local newspaper and became a trainee photographer. From there it was a matter of my pushing aside everything else in life in order to get to the top. I only wanted to work in London, ideally at The Times; nothing else would do. From my start at the Daventry Express in 1991, I moved to News Team, an agency in Birmingham, and then took on the role of setting up their office in Manchester before being asked to become deputy picture editor of The Manchester Evening News in 1996. In 1998 I was approached by Reuters and hot-footed it to London to join the big league. After two years, I was asked to join The Times as assignments editor, a job that did not exist but had been created for me. It did not really work out, to be honest; I hated the way they used images and had so little time for their own photographers, whom I was sending out on assignments, only for the newspaper to use images from Reuters. This just infuriated me. After expressing my unhappiness, I went part time, moved back to Yorkshire with my wife and started ...