Smile please

For the love of photography.

There is a new gallery in the works, one that goes beyond music, one that visits other places and other things, there may even be a shop of some sort in this place for that. Who knows.

As it stands it felt like a good time to share this. I wrote it to introduce other peoples work a while ago, I wonder aloud about what got me into photography and end up in Ballycastle in 1988.

Read on, and enjoy.

The first time I picked up a camera I was on a school trip to a coastal town called Ballycastle on the North coast of Ireland, it was an away day where it took so long to drive there and back on a rattly department of education bus that we had about 45 minutes to photograph anything.

It was the year of our Lord Nineteen Eighty-Eight.

I fell in love with the place, though not as much as our art teacher John, who apparently had time to drop into The House of McDonnell for a pint wherein he found himself a commission for an oil painting.

His job was to create an image of the bar, last I heard he had packed everything up and moved to the coast, clearly more committed than I, his work adorns one of the walls and is pretty spectacular, not unlike their Guinness, which is also pretty spectacular if you happen to be in the neighbourhood.

The House of McDonnell was built in 1766 and is the very definition of a traditional Irish pub, it is Grade A listed, though I believe the good people of Ballycastle have yet to forgive the owners for the refurbishment of 1870, it is too modern for some though graciously easy to fall in love with, as John highlighted so keenly.

It was on that fateful trip that I fell in love with the idea of having a camera to point at things.

I didn’t have the money to buy one at the time or in the years since, and the whole finishing school, getting a job, getting a wage, getting a life, getting drunk and going to gigs took the impetus out of creative endeavours.

The only creative endeavours I actually engaged in were related to the attempts I made to make myself less geeky, less buck-toothed, a little less awkward and ill-looking and therefore more attractive to members of the opposite sex.

Reader, I was mostly unsuccessful.

It took a while to get to a camera again, probably the better part of about 15 years, I ended up helping out at a newly opened music venue, bought a camera, bought a slightly better one, kept buying them until I found one that kind of worked for me, then bought a couple more. Added some lenses, flashes, mobile studio kit, that kind of thing.


If only John could see me now. I’m not sure he would ever know the impact that trip had on me, how that afternoon with a borrowed black and white film camera would give me an itch I would be scratching (Removed – Ed) years later.


I chased John down through a school Facebook group and directed him to this article recently, it wasn’t until I had published it that I realised how much of an inspiration this fresh out of college teacher was. I thanked him for his patience, his eye, his kindness and for the gentle nudges that made the sick kid move. He has quit the teaching game after quite a lot of success and is now running what looks like a beautiful B&B on the coast.

I told him that I have the privilege of working with my heroes, that I’m occasionally paid to photograph events, weddings, special moments in peoples worlds, and that I can bring this love of photography into my work too. I thanked him for corralling us all onto a rattly minibus all those years ago and for putting that old camera in my hand.

It was good to catch up and share some memories.

We all have moments where this thing we do, this thing we spend huge amounts of money on, makes sense, where it clicks, where the energy and passion do something that sends a shiver up your spine.

It’s all about how you tackle gigs and challenge yourself. I always tell the new photographers on the team that when the list arrives in your inbox, print it off, pin it to the wall and throw some darts at it, tackle everything and anything, challenge yourself with the best of lighting and the worst.

You’ll never know where you’ll end up, it could be trying to sneak portraits on the Tube, it could be a ship in the middle of a forest, a boat in a harbour, an abandoned church on a windy Sunday night, a dark basement in a building with no bar and no name, it could be elegant town halls and exquisite balls, marquees, teepees, Humvees and TVs.  You just never know what you’ll see, hear or smell.

Photography is a hobby or way of life for most of the Getintothis photography crew, it’s something that has guided their decisions, their holidays, days out and been a measurement of how much sleep they really need.

Photography is about passion, it’s not always about light, or pixel count or image clarity.

It’s about a feeling.

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