I hope that you have had a great summer so far. Cat has enjoyed his days outside sleeping in the sun kissed bushes, fighting Steve the neighbouring cat and chasing the local fox. In the world of two legs things have been more hectic.
Aegon Championships - The Queens Club
You know when it's the start of the grass court season when the highly talented tennis circus lands in WEST KENSINGTON.
I have been working at this event longer than I care to remember.
Being a great lover of the game from both perspectives of participation and observation, I enjoy these few weeks of the calendar.
Sadly, this year was a draining event for all concerned in the photographers room, as we were dealt a hand of regular rain and tennis seeds sinking like roaches to the bottom of an English pond.
Only ANDY MURRAY remained from what was a depleted starting field compared to historic tournaments here.
Benefiting from not playing on French clay, the Scotsman went onto win on a fun packed finals day under the blissfully warm rays of a rarely sighted sun.
BNP Paribas Tennis Classic - The Hurlingham Club
Moving just down the road to PUTNEY, the weather forecast continued to cast an unpredictable cloak over the tennis on what I consider to be one of the prettiest grass courts that I have ever seen. Considering this is a small corporate event, the quality of competitors was strong: with the attendance of ANDY MURRAY, TOMMY HAAS, JO-WILFRED TSONGA, KEI NISHIKORI, KEVIN ANDERSON and my hero RAFAEL NADAL. I have to say that the week was telling as ANDY played strongly, and RAFA did not ( even though he did win ).
Unsurprisingly, the media attended in large numbers when ANDY played. The press conference room was packed to the rafters. The patriotic build up to SW19 had begun in earnest. RAFA's press attendance the next day was considerably less. My highlight of the week was a reporter kindly getting RAFA to sign a photo for me. Sooo happy.
I had a ticket for Court 1 on the first Monday of this quintessentially English grand slam. I was excited that again I would get to see RAFA play due to his fallen ranking of World No 5. I knew from years of watching the Spaniard play, that he is a notorious slow starter in the grand slams. Unlike the key players on the mens' tour he had only played the one match on grass prior to visiting SW19. His damaged knees meant that after being presented by USAIN BOLT with his eighth Roland Garros winners trophy in the last nine years, all time had been spent on recuperation not grass court practice. Having said this, you always believe that the matador would fight his way through any scare to the second week. How wrong could I be. Court 1 that day proved to be the graveyard of dreams for 3 top seeds in the draw. The worst being RAFA and VIKTORIA AZARENKA.
Fashion Rules Kensington Palace
On a sun baked June evening.all the accredited photographers sat under the trees to the North of KENSINGTON PALACE, speculating what the embedded values of the grand residential properties were on the other side of the fenced off small field, as we waited for access to the grounds to photograph arrivals at a party attended by fahionistas to help celebrate the opening of the latest royal dress exhibition. The party started and below us the champagne flowed in the front garden as the sound of choral vocals carried on the air towards the park. I like KENSINGTON PALACE, as it has beautiful gardens within a hair's breath of cycling commuters, dog walkers and joggers going about their daily routines throughout the park. The way I can imagine that historic monarchs in residence watched their subjects as they went about their daily business.
Hampton Court Palace Flower Show
Trying to get accreditation from THE ROYAL HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY has proven difficult over the past year. But, as we all know, if you knock on the door long enough, the door will be eventually opened, even if it is to ask you to go away.
I spend some of my spare time playing creative God in the garden, so I was a bit disappointed that I only got time to cover photocalls before having to leave to drive home, wire pictures and get on the tube to cover my next event at THE ROUND HOUSE in CHALK FARM.
Bizarrely a large chunk of the interesting photocalls took place in a tropical dome, home for butterflies...just the place to wait for at least half an hour a time on a baking hot summers day. Rivulets of sweat gently trickling down the small of my back as I waited at first for EMILIA FOX and then THE DUCHESS OF WESSEX to meet the butterflies during the beautiful but fleeting lives.
Maybe next year I will get time to look around and pick up some useful ideas on press day from the exhibits on either side of the impressive palace canals.
Novak Djokovic charity dinner - The Roundhouse
The World No 1 had eluded me all summer as he stayed away from THE QUEENS CLUB, and was playing/imitating tennis players at BOODLES in STOKE POGES the day RAFA was at THE HURLINGHAM CLUB.
Many will know that I am not a huge MURRAY fan. Unlike all my neighbours who sat in the communal garden the day before, watching the Mens' final play out to an historic conclusion, I was not crossing my fingers for the first British win on the hallowed turf since 1936. I was waiting for NOVAK to fight back to win his second title in this grand slam. But it became increasingly clear that the Serbian had run out of gas after playing in the best match of the fortnight, his semi final against the giant Argentinian JUAN MARTIN DEL-POTRO.
He may have been cheekily introduced by the night's compere JONATHAN ROSS as "the loser"...but he definitely was a winner on the night, attracting some amazing names to attend his charity dinner and raising an impressive amount of cash for a good cause.
Inside Out exhibition at The Royal Academy, Burlington Gardens
I have never been face to face with this amazing architect. RICHARD ROGERS did not disappoint with his ever smiling face radiating charm from the centre of an impressive life portfolio of work. I have always loved his structural masterpieces: The Pompidou Centre ( a social space for the masses ), The Lloyds Building for its inside out practicality, to name a couple. It was only when I saw ALAN YENTOB's supporting programme that evening that I can now add another to my list...the beautiful airport in Madrid. What beautiful cathedral like ceilings. RICHARD ROGERS, I salute you and look forward to seeing what your contribution to the regeneration of Ground Zero looks like.
The Woverine premiere- Empire
HUGH JACKMAN is such a charming man. He is one of those actors who can hold a crowd in the palm of his hand just by a smile or high five in the right direction. Mind you, it does help when you have created an impressively versatile range of celluloid work over the past few years. A man who can play love, action, sci-fi and sing. What more do you want?
How about driving yourself onto the red carpet in an impressive white sports car.
The Frozen Ground Vue West End
In contrast, NICHOLAS CAGE, is very shy and intense. I can't really visualise him playing comedy.
This film is a true story of how an Alaskan mass murderer was brought to justice. Looks dark and gritty from the film clips I saw whilst waiting for Mr Cage's arrival.
Allegria - O2
One of the biggest grossing shows of all time has been taken on tour across The UK.
Historically CIRQUE DU SOLEIL have camped out at THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL for the whole of January with one of their touring shows to entertain those suffering from Christmas show withdrawal. They are formulaic shows which aim to provide light comedy relief for the young, amazing costumes/make-up, and jaw dropping acrobatics and aerial work for the hard core fans of the franchise.
Recently the dangers of the show were highlighted by the sad demise of an acrobat during the summer in another of their shows performed on The LAS VEGAS STRIP. The acrobat died in her harness from high impact trauma, the first major accident in the international troupe's 29 year history. Clearly some of these acts are dangerous, but risks are minimised whilst sustaining the high adrenaline injection to the show's format.
I have always loved the shows that I have photographed. However, my favourite scene continues to be the snow scene just before the intermission, originally created by the Russian clown SLAVA POLUNIN It is enduring, emotional and very beautiful.
The Lone Ranger premiere - Odeon
JOHNNY DEPP is probably the world's best eclectic character actor in the movie world.
Sadly, probably as a reaction to his recent separation from VANESSA PARADIS, it looks like JOHNNY is seriously considering hanging up his diverse range of
convincing character masks for good. This "rock star" of LA LA LAND will be missed if he decides to do this. Not just by the hordes of screaming fans who attend his public engagements and location shoots, but fans of his versatile craft such as myself.
Royal Birth - Lindo Wing St Mary's Paddington
If ever there was an example of the saying "No pain, no gain"...this was it.
Unlike many photographers, who started marking out on the 1st July, I first visited the press pen area the Friday before the birth...marked a space for a ladder and left. The morning after the Lone Ranger premiere, THE DUCHESS OF CAMBRIDGE went into hospital. I hot footed it down to ladder city for the unbearable wait. First I renegotiated a spot considerably closer to the famous doors of the LINDO WING....tucked in just behind NBC. Not square on, but close enough to the left side of the doors if you were to leave. I hate press pens at the best of times, but this was worse as it produced several points of concern as a working area:
- Security as people were coming and going all the time. So it was important to surround yourself with friends and take it in turns to go for breaks to ensure no equipment or personal effects went missing.
- Being exposed to the sun on what was the hottest day of the year, followed the next day by a couple of flash rain storms. I got soaked!
- Living/walking/spending time living on ladders as space was at a premium and non-existent as metal rose from the concrete slabs in all directions to maximise view points.
The world worked in this space, TV crews filling time as it slowly passed between live transmission slots on varying global times.
We were encased in metal barriers along the street, crowds gathered behind us between my two havens: the hospital coffee shop behind us, and the hospital toilet. Without both of these essential amenities, the days would have been dire.
At 4.30pm the police got twitchy in the street and we all thought that someone was visiting. Little did we know that the future King had just been born. I missed a premiere and then went home at 7pm, 11 hours after arriving....only to find out at 8.30pm what the hospital and those who needed to be in the know knew at 4.30pm!
The early start on Tuesday morning saw better communication between The Press Office of Kensington Palace and the media. The message was that KATE, WILLIAM and the baby would not be leaving before 7pm, and possibly it would be Wednesday morning. Please no...not another day in this claustrophobic world.
Then some good news...the sight of KATE's hairdresser and several dresses...surely this was going to be an evening shoot?
The arrival of KATE's parents for an hour visit followed by the formation of a "rent a crowd" opposite us on either side of the doors heralded a brief visit from PRINCE CHARLES and CAMILLA. If the crowd left, it would be Wednesday morning!
The crowd stayed, and the rest is history with the world welcoming the future KING GEORGE.
"Out of The Ordinary" - Christies South, Kensington
I love auctions like this. Full of humour, imagination and bursting with one-off pieces.
If you get time, pop down for a look at the world of "Toys for the Boys" with a difference.
My favourites were the Trojan Horse and the Rolls Royce engine. What else would you buy for your study?
Swan Lake Reloaded - The Colliseum
Not much to tell about this. Swan Lake with a twist. Frustratingly however much we asked for some light to photograph by...it didn't happen.
Shame because I loved the Swans who danced literally on the floor.
Anyway, enough from me for now.
The film and awards seasons start again soon in London...so there should be lots to talk about in my next issue. Until then, take care of yourselves.