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The Ship Photographer

It is not without irony that I find myself going on a cruise (and a P&O one at that) with a photography project tucked (not so secretly) in my pocket!

Back in January, after a seemingly endless period of going down numerous blind alleys trying to make a go of things freelancing I finally had to put the photography dream on hold, climb back on the corporate hamster wheel and go look for a ‘proper’ job.

As a parting shot and a last ditch attempt to keep myself gainfully employed shooting things, I applied for a job as a Cruise Ship Photographer with P&O. I thought I would have at least a fighting chance, as they asked for someone who not only wanted to develop their photography skills but was also very customer focused. OK, so my seventeen years corporate commercial experience may have been a little bit more than what they were looking for, but the speed that my application was dismissed out of hand, I could almost feel G force in the email that came back in return. But how the hell do you dress down that level of experience without growing a nose as long as .. well, a P&O Cruise Ship for example!

So back in June, when big sis proposed that I might like to perform my share of daughterly duties spending two weeks on a cruise with mum and dad (as opposed to a week in grey Hartlepool), the words ‘gift’, ‘horse’ and’mouth’,* sprang to mind. Not because (as we have already established) I have a burning desire to go on a cruise, but because it would give me a chance to do a proper documentary photography project. The way I see it, documentary is the toughest kind of photography that exists, (and unfortunately in this day and age, one of the most underrated), you can technically be a genius, but being able to get a message across with one single shot or a limited series of images is a different thing altogether.

I’ve heard the same bit of advice on numerous occasions by several different photographers of this tribe. The first being that you don’t have to cross the globe to find a story, very often the story is right under your nose, and secondly, that you should never go looking for the photo, you should sit, wait patiently, and let the photo come to you. When I started randomly shooting Mum and Dad on my visits home a couple of years ago, I didn’t have much of an idea about which way I was going as up until now I have never been able to put form or structure to their story. Of course when I started, Dad was in perfect health. The cruise gives me the perfect opportunity to do just that. Not that my subject matter is anything new, or that the story I’m trying to tell is any big deal in the world of documentary photography, old people and illness are pretty much a right of passage for anybody who is into documentary. The big deal is that the story makes sense to me, which is always a good starting point, if anyone else chooses to climb aboard (I swear the nautical references aren’t always intentional) and join me on the journey, then thats fine by me.. I’m going anyway.

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