Okay, I’ve been procrastinating for ages about putting my website out there and tonight, through procrastinating about something different (because I have loads of other stuff I need to do and I’m skilled at multiple levels of procrastination) I let down my guard and put a Facebook post up which I was always going to edit to keep getting an unattainable amount of likes. Initially saying I’ll launch my website when I get 5000 likes, then I changed it to something a bit more realistic, and again to a few different numbers and now it’s got a bit out of hand and I just realised various parts of my site aren’t ready!
But what is ready anyway? It’s alway going to be a work in progress.
Now I’ve pretty much ditched everything in life I’m looking forward to doing a bit more photography work anyway.
And until then, my new website is at http://www.simonayre.co.uk.
I love how it makes my photos look and how easy it is to navigate and use as a site visitor and in terms of keeping on top of it. I can’t thank Pixelrights enough for making it all so easy.
Anyway… I suppose I’d better just let the website do some talking.
Well, it’s been three years since I last blogged, despite several (SEVENTEEN!) failed attempts in that time. I don’t know if people really read blogs now, but I do intend to write more often on here this year. I used to enjoy writing them but found that as a lot of the jobs I was doing were weddings and more personal things they didn’t feel right to share on here.
I’m currently in the process of putting together a new website with Pixelrights, and I think it looks great so far. It really lets the photos speak for themselves. It’s also given me a bit more confidence looking through some old photos from various jobs that I’ve done in the last couple of years, especially some of the band portraits I’ve done for the BBC Horizons/ Gorwelion project, where I have a limited amount of time to find a good spot (some of the festivals have literally had NO good spots!), get the band for five minutes of photos then get back and shoot the next band and repeat. It’s hard work, but it’s fun and I love doing it and getting to know some of the bands.
I’m hoping to do a lot more portrait work this year. I think outside of weddings this is where I really want to be. We’ll see how it goes.
Anyway, I’ve finally edited my ‘About Me’ section to say I’m a photographer, instead of an amateur photographer. I was absolutely positive I changed that years ago but apparently not!
I’d better go anyway… I have a website to get on with.
Last weekend, after what seemed like months of excitement and build up, Tiger Bay Brawlers finally faced London Roller Girls Brawl Saints at Tal Y Bont in Cardiff.
Brawl Saints were rated number 2 in Europe and have never been beaten. Not recently, not ever. Properly unbeaten. Tiger Bay narrowly lost out in their last bout against Glasgow… a bout that was won and lost in the last jam. It was amazing to watch and amazing to be there, but we knew the bout against LRG would be even harder. The predictions were that Tiger Bay would eventually succumb to Brawl Saints by a fairly comfortable amount. While London took an early lead, it didn’t last and the Brawlers led comfortably for most of the bout. I say comfortably, there’s rarely a comfortable lead in the sport. What can seem like a comfortable lead can be wiped out in a couple of jams, so Tiger Bay were kept on their toes and certainly couldn’t afford to take it easy. Brawl Saints are number 2 in Europe for good reason.
Oh sorry, did I say are number 2? WERE number 2!
Tiger Bay won 204-135, pushing them into the top ten in the European rankings for the first time, at number 8. Brawl Saints drop to 5th place.
Beautiful scenes at the end as half the Brawlers started crying at the same time I got something in my eye. What a coincidence!
It’s been 15 years since I had this level of emotional investment in a local sports team and I have to say it is really hard trying to stay/ seem impartial while taking photos from behind the tape. I suppose I don’t have to actually act impartial, I just assumed it would be the most professional thing to do. I’ve been wondering recently whether to carry on taking photos of roller derby, as I essentially do it for my own pleasure. There are always people taking photos, whether the person/ photographer is sat in the crowd or is crouched on the corner, and sometimes I’ve been guilty of feeling that so many roller derby photos look the same, so what’s the point? Where do I fit in? Where does roller derby fit in to my life when tt’s so hard to do something different that makes you stand out. I don’t necessarily want to take my flashes, I want to document it without extra lighting, but I’m still trying to figure out how to do it in a way that stands out and still produces clear photos in often terrible lighting situations.
I nearly pulled out of taking photos on Saturday, but having seen what I saw I’m so glad I didn’t. Being a photographer is such a privilege. You get to see everything from your own unique view, meet amazing and inspiring people and then people tell you they love your work.
And if things really go to plan you get paid to do it. But above all, you have to have the love for the job and your subject, and when you’ve got all these things there’s little better in life.
I really have to stop coming up with awful titles for my blog posts.
Anyway, whatever. My plan to average at least one gig a week isn’t going brilliantly if I’m honest, but I’m only a week behind. Or a gig behind.
I heard about Peter Hook playing Clwb Ifor Bach just before Christmas and really wanted to get a ticket, but I had a nagging feeling about it that it could be a total shambles. I don’t know why. I’d seen him in conversation at Latitude a few years ago and thought he came across as quite honest and funny, but since his split from New Order I wondered if either of them would be any good without the other.
The day before the gig I got a text asking if I’d be up for shooting it for the venue and with the gig being sold out by this point I jumped at the chance. With it being an intimate warm up gig for the band before they played a few bigger gigs such as Koko in London and Manchester Cathedral, I really didn’t want to miss the chance to see, let alone photograph, someone who has been involved in creating some of my favourite songs of the last 30ish years.
I already know this is going to be one of my favourite gigs of the year!
Back in December I managed to worm my way into the BBC to photograph a live session for Bethan Elfyn’s show from Samoans, who I also managed to worm my way in to Reading and Leeds festival with back in the Summer. It’s great being able to build a relationship with a band where they feel comfortable with you taking photos at any given time, and my relationship with Samoans is exactly that sort of relationship.
18th December was a long day for the guys at the BBC, recording sessions with The School (another one of those bands I’ve built a great working relationship with) and I think Cut Ribbbons (but don’t quote me on that) before Samoans headed in for their session.
I’d been looking forward to doing this as soon as I found out about it, mainly because I thought it would be a great way to bookend my year, with sessions for Bethan by two of my favourite bands, having photographed Kutosis there earlier in the year, and with Samoans playing a gig the night before everyone was really up for it.
Photographing in this particular studio is a bit awkward- it’s a big room with lots of walls and lots of obstacles of varous colours so it’s not ideal for setting lights up anywhere, plus the drums are recorded in a small room within the room so the photos were a mix of some taken in just available light and (most with) flash.
The band played four songs, Catamaran, Secret Sixth and Brothers/ Blisters as well as an exclusive recording of their forthcoming single, Antlers. You can listen to the session live on Bethan’s show from 8 o’clock tonight on BBC Radio Wales, then go and buy Samoans debut EP, Elevated Reflections from http://samoanstheband.bandcamp.com/ or Spillers Records if you’re in/ around Cardiff.
Today I totally forgot that I’d planned on seeing Hail! The Planes playing at the lovely Welsh Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay, until my friend Polly reminded me. How could I have forgotten? My plan to get back to averaging at least one gig per week this year wasn’t going too well, having gone the first 9 days without going to one. But what better way to ease my way back into it?
The last time I saw the band was a couple of years ago- I think their old bassist, Lee, had recently left to go to Japan, and I was unsure which way they’d go in or if they’d even carry on, and if they would, whether it would work. I vaguely knew Lee the first time I saw them and was amazed at how they worked so well together- the subtle mastery of their instruments was fantastic- so having not seen the band for so long I wasn’t sure how well it would work as a six piece, but they were brilliant, which isn’t surprising as they’re a bit of a supergroup.
The crowd built up to quite a nice size as the early arrivers for Phantom of the Opera hung around and applauded and in many cases, didn’t really seem to have much clue what was going on.
Anyway, here are some photos…
A couple of weeks into December I decided it was time to start looking through my photos, readying myself to write this post. Here we are nearly a week into January and I’m still trying to put my year into words.
The last couple of years I’ve made big steps for someone who is absolutely terrible at selling himself. There have been some landmark moments for me in 2012.
I started off the year in January (like most people) with a live session (unlike most people) at the BBC Wales studios in Cardiff with Kutosis, who were recording a live session for Bethan Elfyn’s show on BBC Radio Wales. The band had released their debut album a couple of months before and 2012 was a great year for them, and deservedly so.
A couple of weeks later I was asked to do a photoshoot for the School, hopefully for use on their album cover. We did two two shoots over two days and were so pleased with the photos from the one venue that the band went with those for the front cover and inside sleeve.
In February I went to visit some friends and was greeted at the station by their dog, who was just on her way to an aquatherapy session!
February also saw Allo Darlin’ come back to Cardiff. The gig was fantastic, and I happened to take one of my favourite photos of the year of the singer from one of the supports bands- This Many Boyfriends- as he dived on the floor of Buffalo Bar.
Also this month I was asked by Buzz Magazine to accompany one of their editors, Gareth, for a behind the scenes piece on the BBC Wales programme, Scrum V. Being in the middle of the Six Nations tournament this was quite exciting, especially getting to meet Robert Jones and Jonathan Davies, two Welsh rugby heroes.
March saw the birth of my friends’ first child, who became affectionately known as #Bill on a certain social networking site. I’d never really taken photos of babies before, but #Bill is a fine young man: Very good looking and very well behaved.
March also saw the beginning of my project on local musicians. It’s still in progress and I’m hoping to get something out this year, with lots of shoots in the pipeline. Projects are something that are great for your development as a photographer, and this is one that has got me really excited.
The last couple of years I’ve become really interested in the International Space Station, and in April there were some great passes overhead. One weekend I managed to get to a friend’s house in the country where there was absolutely minimal light pollution. Such a treat.
May saw my return to photographing the Tiger Bay Brawlers after about 6 months at a few closed door bouts…
… and an engagement session for the forthcoming wedding of my friends, Emma and Toby, at the Electric Cinema in Birmingham- the oldest working cinema in Britain.
It was important that everything was well planned as we had less than two hours to get all the shots done, including setting everything up. Once edited, Emma and Toby put the photos into a beautiful guestbook for people to sign at their wedding.
Also in May, Kutosis did a little tour with Olympians, stopping by Undertone in Cardiff, and I took photos of The Temper Trap for Buzz Magazine in the beautiful Coal Exchange in Cardiff. I’d never really listened to the Temper Trap and wasn’t actually sure I’d enjoy them that much, but they were utterly brilliant, with a great light show too.
One of my most memorable days in June saw me going to photograph Gary Numan at the Coal Exchange with Polly (www.pollythomasphotography.co.uk), but not before I managed to book myself a hotel for 3 in Copenhagen for the same night. Whoops. Luckily that all got sorted fairly swiftly.
It was the third time I’d seen Gary Numan (if we don’t include his appearance with Nine Inch Nails at the 02 on their farewell tour), but I’d never had the chance to photograph him before. He is one of the best people I’ve photographed. The lighting was horrendous, but the shapes he pulled were great.
Also in June, I had the pleasure of going to Oldham with the Brawlers for their bout against the Rainy City Roller Girls. It was without doubt the most physical bout I’ve seen, at times resembling Rollerball rather than Roller Derby. Tiger Bay were beaten, both in terms of points and physically in what was an incredibly frustrating bout to watch!
Towards the end of the month I found myself going to The Moon (just the one in Cardiff unfortunately) for a couple of gigs- first for Right Hand Left Hand and Last Partisan, then a week later for Kutosis as we briefly popped in to see their set during Adam (of Last Partisan)’s leaving drinks before he popped off to Canada.
Right Hand Left Hand have been one of my favourite bands for a few years… such a good live band and Last Partisan are always good shouty, punky fun to watch. Kutosis just get better every time.
July was my favourite month of the year. Starting off with a trip to Denmark for the Roskilde Festival, we spent a couple of days wandering around Copenhagen after the festival. It’s the 5th time I’ve been to the festival and I plan to go again if I can drag people along with me. This year I made the decision to not take any photos of any bands, but that did change slightly. I did take more photos around the festival than I normally do, though.
Finally on the 21st it was my birthday, so it was really nice of Toby and Emma to organise the entertainment by having their wedding. I may not have known anyone there, but it was the best birthday I’ve ever had. Even better than that time I went to the cinema and watched Batman and Robin for my 19th birthday. SO many lovely photographic opportunities, with a stylish couple in a great setting!
I also had the chance to spend a couple of hours with a Canon 1DX which will mean nothing to a lot of people, but having had a good go of it, I don’t NEED a £6,000 camera. If anyone wants to get me one though, I definitely wouldn’t say no.
So with July being probably the best month I’ve ever had for anything in my life, August wasn’t far behind in the flippin’ brilliant stakes. I swore I’d never go to Reading again the last time I went as a paying customer, but that all changed when I got the opportunity to go with Samoans, who were playing the BBC Introducing stage in Reading on the Friday, then Leeds on the Saturday.
It was a fantastic couple of days documenting the band on their travels and something I’d love to do again. I met some great people and saw some absolutely awful bands. I also saw the Cure two nights on the trot, which I have absolutely no problem with.
As if all this excitement wasn’t enough, I got an email from NME asking if they could use one of my photos from the absolutely beautiful Perfume Genius gig at the Globe. Oh I suppose so. They didn’t want my favourite one though…
September saw an amazing tour of the country by Africa Express, a collection of over 80 musicians from various parts of Africa, America and Britain. Various events happened around the city, but the gig in the Student’s Union was one of the best things I have ever witnessed.
After cycling success at the Olympics and the Tour de France, the Tour of Britain came to Caerphilly in September, and despite the no show from Bradley Wiggins (I think due to illness if I remember correctly) there was a massive crowd to greet the cyclists. It’s a great experience, despite only lasting seconds as they whizz past you.
Also in September, Hold Your Horse Is came to Cardiff for a nice loud show in Undertone. There’s something about Undertone that I like for photographing bands, especially with a little pop of flash when the band members go into the crowd.
As my wedding season was pretty much over by October I could concentrate on gigs, which is just as well, given how many are on at this time of year. After going to see Samoans launch their EP, the first gig I photographed in October was when The Jim Jones Revue came to Clwb Ifor Bach. After seeing them at Swn Festival last year there was no way I was turning this one down. The general consensus was that they weren’t as good as last time, but they were still one of the best things I’ve seen this year. So much energy, and so loud. A great, proper rock ‘n’ roll band!
Tiger Bay Brawlers A Team also faced Dolly Rockit Rollers All Stars and made light work of the bout, with a record win for the home team, 496-30. A fantastic performance. This year has seen me trying to find my own style within roller derby. There are so many good photographers around (not to mention people in the crowd with cameras) that it’s important to take photos that stand out. It is HARD, but I’m pleased with the way things are going.
The last week in October was all about the music, with a gig for the Welsh Music Prize, followed by four days of Swn Festival.
The Welsh Music Prize gig showcased most of the bands nominated for the award later won by Future of the Left, and what could have been a disaster of a night (HOW MANY BANDS DID YOU SAY ARE PLAYING?!) turned out to be a great night and an excellent way to expose yourself to new music.
Swn Festival continues to grow in size and reputation, and this year I decided I was going to try to absorb it all a bit and take it a bit slower than usual. I had my list of bands to cover for Buzz, but with the new rules Swn introduced stating that we should only be taking photos for the first song of support bands in smaller venues- a rule I fully support- there was no point in rushing to other venues after getting out after your first song, as the other bands would be well into their set. Admittedly the rule is hard to stick to, but if the photographers respect the paying customers I don’t see the problem with slightly bending the rules within reason. The problems come when you have either someone moving around for the duration of a set, with no sense of spatial awareness and their flash going off every couple of seconds. Unfortunately it did still happen at a couple of sets, but overall there was a massive improvement on previous years.
Highlights for me included The Cribs, Sweet Baboo, Kutosis, Scritti Politti and The School, and the queue for Bo Ningen at Dempsey’s. A special mention also has to go to the door staff there who had to put up with some persistent harrassment from a group of people playing the “Don’t you know who we are?” card because they had a stage in a nearby venue. Unfortunately for them, the “It doesn’t matter who you are” card beats the “Don’t you know who we are?” card quite substantially. Pretty embarrassing behaviour, well handled.
The Swn Festival also ended with the party of the year at Clwb Ifor Bach. This party of the year was followed by the worst two days of the year, featuring a massive hangover and being tagged in about a billion terrible photos on a certain popular social networking site.
Things died down a bit in November, though I did a couple of nice assisting jobs for local commercial photographer. I did manage to get to one gig- Europe, at the Coal Exchange. As much as I would have loved to have stayed, I had a job early in the morning and couldn’t face staying another two hours to hear the one hit!
December saw me visiting #Bill again, to have a catch up and take some photos of him now he’s six months old. Again he was so well behaved, but taking photos of kids is impossible. I have the utmost respect for those who do it for a job!
December 12th was one of those nights where you would have been happy spending money on any of the four main gigs going on in town, and I wasn’t disappointed with my choice to go to the Launch of Local Sports Team’s debut EP, with support from Gindrinker and Alex Dingley. It was a great night, only let down by the fact it didn’t get the crowd it would have had on any other night.
The year ended as it started, at the BBC with a band recording a live session for Bethan Elfyn. This time, fittingly, the band was Samoans. I say “fittingly” as I think my absolute highlight of the year was going to Reading and Leeds with them.
So, while I don’t feel I’ve achieved a massive amount, in reality I have achieved way more than I ever thought I would. Published in Wedding Ideas magazine, NME and the Guardian G2, plus an album cover and inlay sleeve, and a wedding most people would LOVE to be at as a guest or photographer, 2012 was an amazing year for me.
As I think about writing down my goals for 2013, the top of the list has to be to enjoy my achievements a bit more. I’ve always found it easier to pick holes in myself rather than singing my own praises and appreciating some of my better work. Having said that, this year I finally got some of my own photos printed to put around my room, so things are on the up!
Being a photographer is a great job, but it’s an amazing life. It’s time for me to start embracing this fact.
Have a brilliant 2013 everyone, and don’t forget to enjoy yourself.
And well done if you’ve read all this.