Like most, it’s been an interesting journey. Life is precious, losing parents and family in the circle of life teaches you that. Parenting is the ultimate and removes all spare time that never really existed. From an early age, I have always knew what I wanted to do, or was I just trying things out, the human condition… see what happens?
I like to outline everything first, then come back to it.
Here is my outline. Draft 1, the dyslexic version.
At age 8, my father said ‘I have a new Polaroid camera, don’t know how to work it, you try son’. Today, my kids have been using iPhones as cameras since they could walk, and have taken countless photos and videos clips. Back then, a Polaroid camera changed my life.
Age 13, visit my uncle in London, watch him photograph people in front of a white background, it’s all a bit noisy (London in general), flashing lights, make up, hair dressers, what is going on here I thought. It isn’t a place for a 14 year old with people bossing me about thinking I am an assistant. A few photos taken at London Zoo, personal time with my uncle, nice gaff, I like the place.
Age 14, perception kicks in, I am seeing, angles, lines, composition, the world isn’t looking the same. Every time I walk in to a room, my eyes measure everything up.
Age 15, leave home and study in Manchester, or ‘Madchester’ as the Happy Mondays, The Stone Roses and the Hacienda were going strong, so were flares and long hair and interesting patterned jumpers.
Age 16 & 17, two buses through the roughest parts of the city to get to college, work part-time in the fast food world, medium format camera, process film, print in a darkroom, sorted.
Age 18, the best course in Europe for photography said “you are too young to be given a place, you need to live a little first”. So I did, on the course upstairs and found some friends who know I cannot write what happened while discovering art, nightlife, cheap supermarket food, boring weekend jobs and Calypso film. That stuff made simple photography more like the mind expanding experiences we were creating at the weekend.
Age 20, they said yes, you have a place, stay out of trouble, turn up to class, learn to express yourself. A teacher who I valued dearly said “James, you are dyslexic”. I said “what is that?”. He replied “how do you not know this already at your age?”. The first time I owned a computer I was seven, a ZX Spectrum. Now they are giving me a laptop for free so I don’t scare people, when I WRITE IN CAPITAL LETTERS AND PSELL THINGS RWONG.
Age 22 (for one month), standing on my own in London with a sandwich, credit card, camera, a portfolio I had worked on instead of doing an end of year exhibition, two weeks of Pork Pie factory wages in a my pocket (worst and last wage job I did), and started to call people.
Age 23, people gave me work after I dropped my portfolio off, no website in those days…. just wait by the phone and see friends and drink beer. The Telegraph, Observer and Dazed & Confused said yes, thank you.
Age 24, I shoot the Oasis Masterplan album sleeve. I looked like an assistant, but it felt like this is my thing. More shoots followed for many years to come. Eminem, Public Enemy, Beck and a few cheeky British artists where some of my favorite times with some flash lights and lenses. Meeting Richard E. Grant before I was even in the room. His distinctive voice carries memories of Withnail as it echo’s down the long hallway of the hotel. Lovely guy, great film.
Age 30, hundreds of shoots later, I meet my wife. Snowboarding became a thing, life on the South coast was always the starting point for an adventure. Seeing the world is humbling.
Age 35, propose in Chamonix on the back of shooting in America, two flights, crack on, surprise her in a restaurant in the mountains… the room cheered, the ring fit.
Age 36, ten best men for the wedding, a party to remember (although the day went fast), even a few actors turned up. My wife stands on a chair shouting “babies”. Then the room cheered.
Age 37, our first arrived. No point talking about work, that is a treasured continuation of experience and travel. Being a parent changes everything, wouldn’t you agree?
Age 39, our second arrived. Sleep becomes a distant friend waving through a misty window, of a boat heading out to sea.
Age 41, you can see where this is going, our third arrived. At this point, various cars and houses have been an aid to progress. Then the itch I promised to scratch, once we stopped building the family, became too much to bare. I gave up photography after a colorful, adventurous career for many years, as I have wrote, it goes back to a choice I made at a young age… to find a life and a bigger world than my home town. Now it feels like something I have outgrown. Sad. I knew it was coming, I needed something bigger, something with more purpose, something that expected more from me which is more to the point. They say ‘learn it like you can teach it to someone else’. Life, I see it as a gift, an adventure, obstacles to overcome, move from one place to another with a goal in sight, something we all share, the journey to discover purpose. The odd story may or may not work around that universal condition…
Age 42, I only want to write screenplay that would make me go to the cinema to watch. Bar needs to be high, the purpose needs to be personal, explore the human condition, most of all drama, adventure, mystery and best of all entertainment. The craft of story is so vast, deep, big, wide, sideways and small, I could not wait any longer, steps were made to make story-writing a part of my life.
Age 43, my father finds a new path to walk, many memories, too many to mention. I decide to run very long distances over hills for medals, so far so good, up to mile 50 miles in one hit. Some call it madness, daft, ‘why do you want to do it?’ they say. When you try it you will know why, I reply. My father’s spirit lives on when I run through breath taking scenery, perspective hits you with such great forces the hairs on my neck stand on end.
Age 44, our fourth arrives. While on page 136 on draft 2, I find a sense of achievement, (even though I am not at the place where I want to finish the story) something has changed. The 14 hour days, sleepless nights, working weekends, training, family, friends, work… maybe it’s an age thing. Or something may have changed because I realised, I must write, even after a long day, I must write, I think about a story when I am not writing, I look forward to the next writing session. I think I love writing story. We all need a bit of love in our lives, and I have four noisy ones to remind me what love is.
James resides on the South Coast near London with his family, at the foot of the South Downs, where he trains. His ambitious clients are mostly based in the UK and Europe.