Our Timeline

A brief personal history

Our Story

“Now, tell me something, what is it that you DO exactly”? Not so much a question as it is an interrogatory. “What is it that I do”? Well, first and foremost, I consider myself to be a visual communicator, a storyteller if you will. The difference is, I use images to tell my story.

In taking pictures, does this make me a photographer? Yes and no. In an interview, while applying for an in-house junior photographer position, the chief photographer went on to say, “You’re good – as an enthusiastic amateur. Not too sure about you being a professional”.

Well, that was half the story. Taking pictures is something I’ve been doing all my life – not just my working life. Obsessive? Compulsive? I don’t think so – just curious. Let’s put it this way, with a camera, I’ve gone places where I wouldn’t have ordinarily gone – done things, met people, been places and a lot more. But, had I not been curious in the first place, I may never have picked up a camera. As mentioned elsewhere, I take pictures to inform and to share the experience.  

Skateboarding
Off-loading a catch of snoek fish in Hout Bay, Cape Town

1976

This is more or less where it all started – as in moving beyond what might have been a hobby to something, let’s just say, more “cogent” – as in the real thing. At this stage of my life, I was stuck in something of a horns of a dilemma – as in being an apprentice somewhere or, getting on with it. “Apprenticeships” at this time were far and few between. Thus, the remaining option was to get on with it and hitting the road. 

At around this time I hitch hiked to the desert port town of Lüderitz in Namibia. While there, I caught sight of that town’s fishing industry. Thereafter, I conceived the notion that I wanted to document South Africa’s fishing industry. For the next 18 months or so, did just that – a project that I put together and financed myself. I was 22 at the time. The picture open this page and left was from the snoek fishing leg of that project. More details can be found at this link.

1980

The time around this period was pivotal. Between finishing the fishing project as best as I could, I took an in-house position as a junior photographer in a public relations firm. I was there for about a year. On the way to an interview for another in-house position, I bumped into the school friend who basically put the heat under my caldron, as it were. Unbeknown to me at that moment, he was working for the company where I was headed. Thereafter, it was mere formality. I was soon working for the largest public relations company in the country. The scope of work there was enormous. The company’s clients included multinational conglomerates, mining houses, FMCG companies, transportation, pharmaceuticals, retailers, NGO’s and more. One day we might be up in the air somewhere. On another, down in some of the deepest mines in the world. On another, maybe in a large steel plant or, on a production line somewhere on to doing social events elsewhere. All in a day’s work – as some would have it. 

Gold miner at work underground - South Africa
Johnny Clegg - musician

1983

Group Editors folded and with that, went what was an opportunity of a lifetime. For the next year or so, I worked in-house as a press photographer for one morning newspaper before going to freelance on another. At around this time, things were becoming quite interesting in South Africa. On the cultural side, the country’s music scene was coming into its own. Featured above is Johnny Clegg during his Jaluka days. On the socio-economic side, huge changes were in the air.

Macleans magazine cover

1985

South Africa was becoming the focus of international attention – this as civil unrest simmered around the country. With the collapse of the Rand Daily Mail, I started stringing for a number of picture agencies. While an incredibly interesting period, it was weird – the reference here being to the prevailing technologies of the period – as in having to rush to the airport to ship out one’s work – packages of film to some other parts of the world. At round this time I scored a few “successes” such as this Mclean’s cover. 

Annual report cover

1986

At around this time, the government of the day clamped down on the media and more or less put an end to coverage of the unrest. This didn’t mean to say that I stopped documenting what was going on around me. Far from it. But, at the end of the day, there was rent to pay, putting food on the table and related practicalities. In this regard, I put my talents to work – as commercial photography. One such assignment was this annual report cover for the Southern Sun Group.

1988

85 Bute Lane, Sandton, South Africa

From career perspective – and what photographer has a “career” – 1988 ushered in something of a pivotal and productive period. The highlight of this period was picking up something of an open commission for PG Glass, South Africa’s premier glass supplier. Their principle business was with the automotive industry but, with the resurgence of Post-Modern architectural design and the use of glass for cladding high rise buildings, PG Glass had themselves a new market. Above is the former Tiger Oats headquarters in Sandton, Johannesburg.

At work - Smithfield Market

1991

While not exactly a matter of, “All good things must come to an end”, I just needed to move on. I left South Africa and headed to the UK in May 1990. It took a while to settle in but, like all else – together with a little help from family [my younger sister Bronwen in particular] and a few good friends [a big shout out here to Orde Eliason in particular] – we got on with it. In April of 1991 I approached Smithfield Market asking if I could document the activities at the market – as in, “a day in the life” thereof. I spent two weeks on this this project – the results can be found at this link: the Lost Years Project

David Sanborn playing live in London

1992

One of the highlights of this period was joining up with Redferns Music Picture Library. Good times were had by all. While I didn’t always get to cover the big gigs – as in Queen or whoever, there was more than enough going on at the time. Above we have David Sanborn playing in London. On this occasion, for some reason, we weren’t allowed to take pictures. I had to leave my main rig at reception. In my bag, I had my Leica with me – hence this shot.
Richard Branson - portrait

1993

This period was an immensely productive period. I had a good roster of clients – commercial and otherwise. There was a fair amount of editorial work going around. I was commissioned by The Executive [a South African corporate publication] to photograph Richard Branson. We did the photography at his home in Holland Park. I considered Branson to be an “uncomplicated” person and, I wanted an uncomplicated shot. We did the shot in his living room using available light.
Children on a country road in China

1994

In April of 1994 I wanted some time out – as in going somewhere new. China beckoned. At the time, I had some relatives living and working in Hong Kong. This was my starting point. 5 weeks were spent travelling around what was essentially the southern, central part of China. I got up as far north as Luoyang before heading across to Nanjing and Shanghai. The image above was taken on farm road outside of Yangshuo. More images of this trip can be found over at the Lost Years Project website.

Portfolio shot of toy truck

1995

Do these two images work together? No, not particularly. “Well then, how do you reconcile the two”? You don’t. This is known as being “expeditious” – as in doing commercial photography so I could afford to pursue my passion – social documentary photography. If I sound a little factious here, my apologies. The fact is that, after completing my April trip to China, I took up employment as an in-house photographer with a Hong Kong toy company in October of 1994. Here we have a portfolio shot I did for one of the company’s designers – shot on 4 x 5.

Portrait of CEO for an annual report

2004

Towards the close of the “century” [ just sounds so nice to say it like that ], I took something of a “sabbatical” and got out of photography and operated as tech consultant for a couple of years. Same tune, different fiddle. When graduates with IT degrees started pouring out of the local colleges, this seemed like a good time to make a return to photography. For a period I teamed up with TDA, one of Hong Kong’s premier graphic design companies at the time. And, together we worked on several corporate capability projects. Above is a picture we shot on location for the chairman’s page in an annual report. Yes, an all in one shot taken on site – no “dropped in” background and very little in the way of Photoshopping.

CIO magazine cover

2005

Besides corporate photography, we did a fair amount of editorial and other corporate branding photography over the period. I also continued with my social documentary photography – mainly street and cultural projects but, nothing significant. Which eluded to something else…

Call Me Poupee performing live in Montreal

2006

… as in time to move on. In April of 2006 I moved to Montreal, Canada. The reasons for the more were various but I needed to venture out and do something different. I needed “new air” and, I certainly got it. It kind of goes without saying that Montreal is something of a cultural capital in the grand scheme of things. The short summers there are peppered with music festivals and other cultural events and, this suited me just fine.

Singer Marlene Dorcene

2007

Not too sure what it is with me and the music scene? Blame it all on Leonard Freed. Is this “documentary photography” by some other name? Let’s put it this way – I couldn’t ever find it in myself to be some sort of passive fan sitting in an audience somewhere. Not my style. Perhaps this comes back to my mem, “… to inform and share the experience”. My interest goes back to my time in South Africa and the music scene there. On arriving in the UK in 1990, the music scene was my first port of call. Here in Montreal, it was no different.

Trumpeter Erik Truffaz

2007

And, before anyone asks, “Is there any money to be made out of this sort of work”? Of course not. Yes, there’s the music press and, unless you’re Annie Libowitz, they don’t pay. And, they don’t pay unless you’re on the paparazzi circuit. Again, not my scene. Yes, this work was usually filtered back to the picture agencies. Even then, most people in this industry – the minders in particular – were usually looking to get something for nothing.

Speaker at an international conference

2007

More blocks have been dedicated to 2007 than any other year on this timeline – for the simple reason, things to do, places to go and people to see. I returned to the UK in the third quarter of 2007. The idea was to more or less pick up where I had left off in the early 1990’s. Over this period I was fortunate enough to team up with FilmMagic where I was on call to cover media events, do theatre photo calls, the celebrity circuit and, of course, the music scene.

Hairspray photo call

2007

While the cultural scene in Montreal is quite tight and intense, London often appears to be a little more laid back and suffuse – more diversified and spread out. Well, in “spread out”, we could cover the whole of southern England for that matter. In this part of the world, slow and steady wins there race. Just wish I could have felt “more settled” over this period – a lot of good things were happening at this time.

Magazine cover - Hong Kong Exchange

2008

I returned to Hong Kong early 2008. I guess this is where I knew I could earn regular money. At around this time I again teamed up with TDA and where we were working on various corporate and editorial projects.

Making a sale in Tai Yuen market in Tai Yuen, Hong Kong

2011

The above image is from a commissioned project, one of the biggest I had ever worked on to date and for which a 6 figure fee was paid. The purpose of the project was to document the refurbishment of an indoor wet market. Other than marketing collateral, the outcome of the project was a commemorative book on the market and its development.

The Marina Bay Sands resort in Singapore

2012

In July 2012, I spent the month in Singapore. While there, I worked on several commissions and did what I do best, this regarding street photography. Featured here is the Marina Bay Sands – a casino and resort complex. This complex is huge and has a couple of firsts and records attached to it.

The Sands resort in Macau

2013

Let’s put it this way, Macau is a boat trip away from Hong Kong. Over the past decade or so, there’s been building boom of sorts in the enclave – most of it relating to the gaming industry. While commissions were few and far between, there was always a demand for editorial images.

Riviera Twinstar Square in the Pudong District of Shanghai

2013

In July 2013, I made yet another return trip to Shanghai – the first being in 2011. On this occasion, this was to finish off a project that was started back in 2011. This was a large multi-purpose project consisting of 2 office tower blocks, a hotel and an annex. The commissioning architects were Architectonica. We got some really good press – print and digital – from the work we did on this project.

Card players - the Philippines

2013

In effect, in the early part of 2013 I had moved to the Philippines. Put more prosaically, I had one foot in the Philippines and one in Hong Kong. With present day technologies, the idea was to run my business affairs in Hong Kong while benefitting from a lower cost of living living elsewhere. No easy. As they say, “There is always a price to pay”.

A young woman reading.

2014

Let’s just say that 2014 was something of a “crash course” year – a year in which I had to “readjust” my sights and my thinking and to look at doing things in different ways. Little of this had to do with my photography per se. More a matter of “packaging” and presenting oneself.

Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong

2015

It is with sincere thanks and deep gratitude to friend and mentor, Edward Stokes where, from late 2014 through to 2016 and beyond, we collaborated together on a number of interesting – and, to my mind, influential –  photography projects. This collaboration resulted in several well received photo exhibitions held in Hong Kong and Singapore over this period. More details can be found on this page – 

Exhibition poster

2017

While this maybe the last panel on this timeline narrative, it is by no means the end of this story. Featured here is the poster for an exhibition of photography entitled, “HONG KONG, at the water’s edge”.

The Hong Kong Maritime Museum invited me to put together and curate an exhibition of my photography. To date, it was one of the larger projects I have worked on in a while. For this, I am indebted to Richard Wesley for according me this great opportunity and to all his staff for all their support.

This is not the end, it's just the beginning...

The above is just a brief overview of what I’ve done and where I’ve been. There’s still more to do…