2013 represents the 40th anniversary of the first time a photograph I'd taken appeared in print. It's the one above (detail), shown here complete with the coarse half tone screen needed for newspaper printing. The photograph was used in a press advertisement for the Spanish Tourist Board. The headline on the ad was 'After 50 weeks of what you've been through, you need a break.'
I admit, it's not a very good photograph and, quite aside from the sloping horizon, there's no point of interest and nothing to recommend it at all. It shows an anonymous couple on what could really be almost any Mediterranean beach.
Nevertheless this is my professional photographic beginning.
I rather grandly say “my professional photographic beginning" but I wasn't actually paid for taking the photograph. At the time I was a 22 year old art director with a London ad agency called Maisey Mukerjee Russell and taking (or more normally commissioning) photography was part of the job. I didn't get paid for any of my photography until the following year - 1974 - a set of live photographs of the singer Betty Davis taken for Island Records.
Regarding the deficiencies of the photograph above, I would say in my defence that I was simply asked to shoot a few stills to accompany the TV commercial we were shooting at the time and the main requirement was to keep well back and make no noise. At no time was I told my photographs would be used for any ads.
The happy couple in the photograph were both actors we'd hired in the UK. The TV commercial we were shooting took the best part of a week. I don't think the commercial was particularly memorable and the best thing Campaign magazine could say about it in their review was that it was "well made" which I suppose is better than nothing.
I was 22 at the time and although I was ostensibly the art director on the shoot, I did no art direction. Occasionally someone would ask my opinion about something and that was about it. I suspect I was only in Spain as a reward for working on the new business pitch that had landed the account a couple of months before. The night before the pitch, I'd worked all night on the presentation and was still hard at it as the big wigs from the Spanish Tourist Board were shown to their seats. Most new business pitches at that agency were like that, nothing was ever done a second ahead of time. It simply added an extra frisson of excitement to what was already a pretty crazy work life anyway.
Unlike the Madison Avenue world of the '50s and '60s, which was portrayed wonderfully in the TV show Mad Men, if they made a TV show about the London ad' agency world of the '70s, I don't think anyone would ever believe it. It was like Mad Men but much, much madder. Okay, maybe we didn't have all the suits and the Brylcreem but there were guns, knives, suicide attempts, skinny dipping and strippers. And plenty of Joan's.
I'll try to write a little about my experiences in the ad world of the ‘70s at some time in the future.