The toughest brief of my career

The Old Billingsgate

In 2012 I received the most demanding brief of my career.

I was booked fairly last minute for a three day event at “The Old Billingsgate” in London for a very well-known brand, initially I thought it was three 12 hour days of general event coverage, which is tiring but is something I’m used to… THEN I received the 20 page brief!

This brief did require said event coverage, but in addition asked me to bring my portable photo to central London (no parking on site note) to photograph 100 staff headshots and eight team shots! It also asked me to shoot a group shot of all 100 people 8.30am on day one. Oh and could I do a 24 hour time-lapse of the set-up of the event prior to starting my main brief.

Wow! That was a lot to absorb, I seem to remember having a minor melt down before gathering my thoughts on how I could physically manage this brief. Once I understood the 100 headshots with the portable photo studio were required, I knew I’d need an assistant, I roped in a family member who I knew would enjoy a trip to London. Logistically taking a car to central London is always a faff with parking/fees etc. so this whole gig was a big undertaking.

We arrived in London April 2012 to a rather nice hotel; I left my assistant to un pack whilst I went to “The Old Billingsgate” to set up the time lapse. It was all very hectic at the venue and it turned out the videographers had also been asked to perform a time-lapse, we agreed to team up and it made for a much stronger creative piece. Whilst I was working, I had a rather confusing and stressful phone call… it turned out we’d accidentally been given the details for the hotel booked for the senior management team (rather than the crew hotel) and we’d been asked to leave the hotel with ten minutes notice. Having un packed everything my assistant had re pack it all, check out and then move us to a Holiday Inn (a slight come down as you can imagine).

I got to the Holiday Inn around 11pm exhausted. We were up the next day 6am ready for a 7.15am start, the group shot of 100 people was on the forefront of my mind, we had a lovely potential set up of the exterior of the building using the steps (if it was dry) … If it was wet the options were extremely limited. The weather was grey and certainly threatening rain, it was a stressful wait seeing if it was going to stay dry. Thankfully 8.30am came and we just squeezed the shot in before the heavens opened. They needed the shot ready for a 9am presentation in the auditorium, so I had work super quick to turn that around!

The event commenced and I juggled my time covering the action and squeezing in head shots amongst the madness! The event itself was a series of very high budget product development modules, people had flown in from around the world to host the different development modules that had been set up (the site was huge and there were about ten zones operating at once at any given time).

To help boost creative inspiration they’d hired a graffiti artist to develop stunning art work over the three days, I really enjoyed seeing his work progress during the event.

Everybody on the shoot was lovely bar one lady (there’s always one), her rudeness did taint one of the days, she made my job harder than it needed to be, thankfully after this event she left the company so I never had to see her again (though I would like my USB stick back lol)!

The 100 head shots were tricky to fit in around the main brief, but having my assistant there made the logistics possible, most people dropped in to the studio ad hoc and he would phone me as they arrived. The most memorable “drop in” was the CEO, I wasn’t given notice he was coming and I literally had to run across the site as he was waiting for me, I arrived with a sweaty brow and he told me I had “30 seconds” to take his photo (note ideally, I need at least ten minutes). I grabbed the camera and snapped as fast as I possibly could I sent him on this merry way after 25 seconds!

After four days onsite we were glad to head to home, I then had a HUGE edit on my hands, three 12 hour days of photos is around a three day edit. Unfortunately, someone has passed on my direct contact details to many of the staff and I was literally hounded for those photos by multiple people (rather than just the event company that hired me). If I hadn’t been disturbed so many times, I would have turned the photos around in a quicker period of time. This was a good lesson for me to learn and now if possible, I only hand the photos to one point of contact and they distribute from there.

I enjoyed the job overall and it great to work with such a high profile brand on a multi-million pound budget event. In conclusion I think it’s always great to have a “marker” in life, whenever I receive a brief now I often think to myself at least it’s not as hard as that shoot at “The Old Billingsgate”!

(Note I signed an NDA for this shoot, hence not mentioning the client’s name and being sparse with the photos.)

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