Wednesday, November 11, 2020

kevin wilson photography | wedding photographer | dorset



Rachel Thornhill ABIPP

As the year 2020 started, everyone was full of optimism, 2020 had a positive ring about it, excitement and expectations for my own family were reaching a crescendo.

My daughter Charlotte was busy finalising her arrangements for her own wedding due to take place in Sicily.

 The wedding season was about to start , diaries were rapidly filling, the coming year looked promising as well as exciting, it appeared on the face of it as though it would be busy.

 Julie and I were on board the cruise liner, Crystal Symphony, sailing and enjoying life on board this luxury liner, what turned from an atmosphere of joy suddenly became one of caution and awareness, cruising was in trouble. We were sailing from San Diego to Hong Kong, however, after leaving Guam we were due to visit Manila in Philippines, Da Nang,Vietnam and finally our destination was to Hong Kong. All this was now cancelled and we were left sailing around the South China Sea, no destinations would allow us to dock. Singapore finally allowed us to enter and fly home.

Very few would consider to draw a parallel with the Zager and Evans song, “ in the year 2525 “ just how significant 2020 would be for everyone.

I was in conversation with one of my mentees, Rachel Thornhill, just after Boris Johnson, our Prime Minister announced Covid 19 national lockdown, the first week or so was filled with anticipation and how would we all cope?  I sensed Rachel's concerns, not just for her business, more importantly, her family.

Rachel having previously attained her Licentiate qualification in Portraiture was keen to progress to her Associateship, this being the next step on the qualifications system. Feeling rather deflated, knowing that social distancing and Covid 19 was going to prevent her photographing her wedding clients throughout the summer months meant Rachel’s dream of gaining her Associateship in wedding photography was rapidly going downhill.  Her camera had not been out of the bag and unsure she she may have the chance to use it once more.

I suggested that she might like to consider creating a body of work that would reflect the Pandemic, photographing her family, how they were coping and adjusting to a very different way of life. This would also provide a fascinating history for her children to talk about in future generations, passed on to their own grandchildren in years to come.

Their home was transformed to allow Rachel to create school lessons, the lounge became useful for recording daily activities as they coped with all the emotions of Oscar & Ben unable to meet their friends and visit their out of school normal life.Zoom meetings for Judo classes and birthday celebrations gave Rachel the opportunity to capture the spirit the boys embraced.

The ensuing months, saw Rachel set about this project which would document the days of lockdown in her family home, the rest is history.

 Rachel has something that her boys will always be able to look back on in years to come, in turn they will be able to relate this period of their lives to their children.

Rachel's words

When I first discovered the BIPP, I was constantly looking for answers. What makes a great image, how do I create images with impact, and style, and why do images that I love not necessarily rate with trainers or mentors? I was very new to the industry, and incredibly keen, and the answer that I constantly got was that I need to keep shooting. Keep practicing. It will come. For someone who is often quite methodical and plans things to the Nth degree, this felt quite frustrating. I was willing to put the time in, the energy and the work, and wanted to learn. 

For me, a Mentor is someone who’s work you not only adore and photographs you wish you’d taken, but that you can look at and say, that fits with what I would try to achieve too. You don’t question their work, but appreciate the nuances, the things that become apparent the more you look at an image. Images that speak for themselves with beauty and impact so don’t need words of explanation. 

From the first time I met Kevin, when he was chair of my LBIPP qualification in 2018, I knew he was someone I aspired to be mentored by. His work is stunning, but I knew I had a long way to go, and needed to put in the work to learn the technicals; and in particular the light, composition, posing. In fact he told me as much at the time! Even after that brief conversation, I felt inspired by his constructive comments.

Our next meeting was at The Societies in 2019; when a chat in the bar led on to discuss my work, and I was stunned when Kevin could recall images from my panel. The images that I loved, but could be improved upon in so many ways! It was one of those conversations that ignited a spark, and I knew I wanted to learn more! As a photographer who at the pinnacle of his profession using predominantly natural light, he is one to learn from; to be able to use available light in the best way possible is a precious transferrable skill that I wanted to learn. 

Anyway, life and work happened, and the months flew by. But when I saw that Kevin was teaching a Seminar at Wrest Park for Colour Rite alongside Ross Grieve, I knew that this was a day I had to be part of! And a fantastic day it was too, a beautiful day in a beautiful location, and the chance to see how Kevin worked such a location, and to ask questions as he went, was like gold dust. I knew then that if I wanted my work to progress he was the Creative Mentor for me.

One of the most important parts of my time with Kevin was regular conversations. These helped give me direction; when I showed him current client work he gave me feedback that I could implement for my very next shoot. His words were constructive and encouraging, and he always followed up on them, so held me accountable. Not just ideas that I forgot about. Which, when you work for yourself in this industry, can be very hard to find. 

Then Lockdown happened.

It was on the 23rd April that I had a chat with Kevin that would have a big impact on me. He could tell I was feeling somewhat down, and asked what I’d shot recently. Apart from a few snaps on my iPhone for my personal instagram, I hadn’t shot anything, not even touched my camera, because I felt I had no reason to. I capture memories for my Clients, moments in time that they can hang on their wall as beautifully framed heirlooms, to be enjoyed for many years to come. I always like to have a reason to shoot, having learnt over the many years I’ve had a digital camera that without that I just end up with hundreds of images sitting on hard drives not touched. It was then that Kevin asked about my sons, and what they had been up to. I told him about the Zoom Judo classes, the Zoom birthday party that Ben was invited to and the fun on our walks over Colley Hill. Kevin suggested that I took my camera out and captured a couple of portraits of them, for them. 

When I think back to when I was little, I often remember moments that also happen to exist in photographs. I remember the bench in Grandma’s garden, eating ice cream at the beach, climbing trees at Leeds Castle. However I’m not really sure if I’m remembering the times themselves, or the photographs. But I don’t think it matters, if photographs help our memories, then they are important. 

So from that conversation came an idea; Create a record of Lockdown through Oscar and Benjamin’s eyes. Photographs for them to look back on, to keep, and to show to their children in years to come, exactly as I say to my Clients that their children will do with the photographs I create for them. Until then, I never thought to create such a record for the two most important little people in my life. Why shouldn’t I create for our family the kind of memories that I create for my Clients? 

Over the next few days, the idea grew. I began to look more closely at the children as they did their activities, study how the light changed through the day in the house. I drew up ideas for portraits of us all. As it meant shooting much of the project indoors and in our small space, I needed to use my 24-70mm f2.8 lens much more, shooting wider than my typical work. We have limited space the most of that space to help keep the captures as true as possible, using the available light. My chance to really use what Kevin had taught me! 

I started off the project in my comfort zone, outdoors on a walk over the beautiful Colley Hill on the North Downs, and my only chance to use my beloved 70-200 2.8 lens. I really wanted to capture the cameradie that they had developed having spent so much time together over the previous weeks, and for that afternoon with the novelty of playing photoshoot, they happily obliged. When I reviewed the photographs on the computer afterwards, I couldn’t believe how much they’d grown, right under our noses! 

Shooting indoors at home was more of a challenge. For my Clients, I tend to move things (with their approval of course!). Whether that is a chair, toys or even furniture, I’m pretty hands on to get the best picture possible. But because this was a record of the time, I felt things shouldn’t be moved, or prettied. It was much more of a reportage approach than I’ve been used to, but the right thing to do. Photographs or posters on the walls, toys in the garden, items on the dining room table, things on the worktops in the kitchen all needed to be included. So these became my layers, or frames. I had Kevin’s words in my head, “Look for the bigger picture” and tried where I could in the limited space to allow for cropping. And I whenever I sent Kevin the work that I’d done, I took his feedback on board each and every time.

When I started to look at the images I’d created, I could see that these called out to being 􏰙􏰖black and white. I adore using colour in my Client’s work, but this felt different. I wanted to emphasise that this was a change from my normal work, giving more of a focus on details and emotions. The impact of the images in monochrome became so much stronger. 

What was intended as a personal project to practice my storytelling photography became a real passion project for me. I loved the challenge, having a reason to shoot really helped keep my spirits up. When I showed Kevin the bulk of the project and he said I should think about submitting for my A panel, I was completely taken aback. That was never the intention for these images; although true, not being able to work with my clients meant I presumed putting a panel together this year would be out of the question. Perhaps it shows that even in adversity, we can still move forward as artists, and when something is important to us, our energy can be harnessed to achieve things even though we have no idea how we might go about doing so. 

But the absolute key to Kevin’s mentoring was that could see what I was trying to achieve, and allowed me to develop my own style. His teaching simply added to what I had already, I wasn’t trying to relearn and to change, I wasn’t trying to be someone else, or imitate others. These were photographs that came from the heart, and Kevin’s mentoring helped me to enhance my work, not to change it. And those skills are a priceless gift that not only allowed me to gain my qualification, but that I will carry with me throughout my time as a Photographer. 

Rachel Thornhill ABIPP ASWPP LMPA
Rachel Thornhill Photography

Rachel Thornhill ABIPP ASWPP LMPA
Rachel Thornhill Photography