I don’t have any typical assignments. They are all different. But I am always on the lookout for stories that have strong editorial content. The quality of the content in any photo essay is paramount to being able to tell that story successfully.
My earliest memory of photography was when I was seven years old and had my photograph taken standing next to a Maasai warrior in Kenya. My father asked the Kenyan if he would allow himself to have his picture taken with me, my brother and sister. He agreed, but only after I shared the chocolate bar I was holding.
I learnt to photograph on the job. Continuously getting everything wrong is the fastest and most productive way of learning anything. I made mistakes all the time and continue to do so, but fortunately I am a quick learner.
My first assignment was in 1988 for a local newspaper covering a World of Music, Arts and Dance music festival. I was just in the right place at the right time and managed to convince a journalist that I knew what I was doing with a camera. At the end of the first day the journalist took my rolls of black and white film and asked me if I could come back the next day and do the same. The journalist appeared the next day holding a copy of the newspaper together with its double page centre spread pull-out section full of all my bylined pictures, and 30 pounds in cash as payment.
My first assignment taught me that there was potentially a job I could do and enjoy without having to wear a suit.
The Asian tsunami in 2004 was the story that left the deepest mark on me. It was an unforgettable experience spending three weeks with survivors in Sri Lanka, some of whom had lost entire families. I managed to come to terms with the scenes of devastation I witnessed every day. I will never begin to comprehend the magnitude of the human spirit that was shown in the face of such adversity – a most humbling experience.
The assignments that excite me most are the ones that allow me the freedom and opportunity to tell a story. Covering assignments such as the aftermath of the Iraq war and the Asian Tsunami is very exciting and these are huge important global events, but they are essentially the sum of thousands of much smaller stories. It’s the smaller stories I try to find and spend time working on.
What audience do I have in mind when I take pictures? Just myself.
Being on time and never assuming anything are lessons worth learning.
The people I respect the most have to be the World War II veterans I was lucky enough to meet and photograph during the sixtieth anniversary celebrations of D-Day in Normandy. The opportunities that I am afforded today is a direct result of the sacrifice and endeavours of these men and women.