portrait of man in suit with skull and crossbones tie in shoreditch graffiti tunnel

Battling “The Beast from the East”

The combination of outdoor, early morning, winter lifestyle shoots can generally be a little unforgiving on photographer fingers. However, when Graham booked with us a few weeks ago for such a shoot, amongst the planning, the mood-boards, the image consultation and wardrobe styling, sub-zero temperatures did not feature as highly on the consideration list as perhaps they should!

Our surprise battle with that wicked wind-chill began early one Sunday morning, close to Shoredich High Street Station. We love to start early; to capture the pre-dawn light, the empty streets and, from a more practical pragmatic perspective, before traffic wardens have started their shift.

Man with ponytail sitting on pavement with graffiti wall behind, with the word "start" in the jaws of a lion

And let the shoot begin…

It takes a combination of factors to make a memorable, fun, and successful shoot. Some of it is in the preparation, the honed brief, the planning, and of course the photographer’s skill, but once these boxes are ticked, much of the day is down to serendipity and the sheer amount of effort put in by the client. Graham put in effort by the bucket load – both before, and throughout the shoot. Many would have shirked the cold; Graham’s costume changes in the chill and his bare arms (see the portrait on yellow) are testament to his fortitude!

Headshot of man in black army style coat in front of red and white graffiti

Graham – Dawn in Shoreditch

Heating set to full blast, it was time for the car to give some warm relief. The plan was to stop off for a coffee near Bank, but due to a rally and road closures we found ourselves diverted nearer to the Barbican. It’s a running joke here at Mat Smith Photography that the Brutalist Barbican is Mat’s Bermuda Triangle. Once he enters, he and his camera are never to be seen again, at least for a very, very long time. We played it safe today, and used instead for backdrop the high-rise glassy buildings around the danger-zone:

Man with slicked back hair in front of a green tinted glass building in a army style black jacket with silver double buttons

Brutalist Reflection: A portrait of Graham in the eye of the Barbican

Next, a quick stop for a much needed brew & brunch at caravan coffee. Mine was an enjoyable Ethiopian Wote Konga V60 followed by a ludicrouly laden sourdough grilled cheese sandwich, quince jam, with a fried egg for good measure. Graham followed in the same suit, whilst Mat plumped for the smashed avocado, pickled red onion, soy pumpkin seeds, sprouts, manouri – not forgetting a poached egg on top. No food photos, but back to the blog in hand,  here is a portrait of Graham, whilst waiting for his chow:

Man in coffee shop looking out of window

Coffee at Caravan in the City

Back to business, Graham donned his work attire and we wandered up to Bank. Our brief was to capture Graham both for personal portraits and for business use. The stone archtecture of Bank offered us a good contrast to the glassy walls near the Barbican and street art of Shoreditch. Too corporate, however, would certainly not do for Graham’s brief. The choice of orange tie nicely took care of this!

Business man in blue suit, orange tie and white braces in front of grey stone wall

The back streets of Bank

A business man wearing a bright orange tie walking through columns in front of the Bank of England

Suited and Booted by The Bank of England

Black and white photo of a suited and booted man sat laughing on the Bank of England's steps

Bank of England steps

Being Sunday morning, we quickly stopped off at church (albeit not making it past the front door):

Portrait of a man sitting in front of large blue church doors on the steps of a church entrance

A moment’s reflection

And onwards though backstreets and alleyways photographing as we went, happy in the knowledge, for today’s shoot at least, the Beast from the East didn’t defeat.

Man walking down a back street in the city of London looking back at the camera

Till We Meet Again – A backstreet portrait

Inspiring Women – Roundup of Mat Smith’s London Portraits for International Women’s Day 2018

Today’s date, March 8th, International Women’s Day. And the year, 2018, the centenary of women’s suffrage in Britain – although of course we must wait another decade before we the can mark the centenary of equal voting terms for men and women. I was first introduced to suffrage aged 7, by Mrs Winifred Banks, and so, one evening after a photo shoot this week, we re-visited the 1964 Walt Disney classic, Mary Poppins.

I say “re-visited”, for Mat, it was a first.

I hadn’t seen the film for decades, and as well as wincing at the ludicrous “London” accent of Dick Van Dyke, I couldn’t help cringe at the portrayal of Jane and Michael’s ditsy, apparently inept, and often absent, suffragette mother. Many have wrangled over both the positive and negative impact of Mrs Banks and her help or hindrance to the ensuing attitude shift toward women and the roles we fulfil in society. She was, nevertheless, my first introduction to the ever-present plight of women to reach equal standing with men. As I was not, sadly, a “daughter’s daughter” of a feminist, its impact was meaningful.

Today I have been looking back to some of the inspirational women Mat Smith Photography has recently had the pleasure to meet and photograph.

Lady Hale – Portraits for Bristol University

We were commissioned to photograph Brenda Marjorie Hale, Lady Hale of Richmond back in 2016, before she took up appointment as the President of The Supreme Court in 2017. Her role as President follows her appointment as Deputy President from June 2013. In October 2009 she became the first woman Justice of The Supreme Court.

Lady Hale – Now President of the Supreme Court

Lady Hale talked of hoping to use her position to inspire other women and show that they can reach the pinnacle of any profession. She hopes to further improve the gender balance in the Supreme Court moving forward. We wait with eager anticipation to see whether women fill either the position of the new Deputy President or any of the three currently vacant Justices positions later this year.

We ended our shoot in her private chambers:

Lady Hale in her Chambers

Toto James – Portraits for Women’s Institute

“Woman of the Year” nominee in celebration of her work as a Marketing Consultant with leading law firms, and her voluntary work with the Women’s Institute.  Mat Smith Photography was invited to her home for an editorial shoot for the WI Magazine, WI Life.

Woman of the year 2018 – on sofa

You can read all about Toto in this month’s WI Life edition, “The Inspiration Issue”, where our photograph of Toto James is featured on the cover, with a double page spread celebrating Toto, who in her life has blazed a trail in both the business and voluntary sectors.

Woman of the year 2018 – with statue

Mary Kerr – Portraits for Lincoln’s Inn

Mary is currently the Under Treasurer of the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn.

During our shoot with Mary we loved hearing about a project she, with a wry smile, coined “her baby”; a major £20m conservation and extension project on the Grade II* listed Great Hall and Library, situated within the Bloomsbury Conservation Area in High Holborn – the biggest single project since its original construction in 1845.

Mary Kerr, Under Treasurer of Lincoln’s Inn – in the cloisters

Those who follow Mat’s various personal social media feeds, will be all too aware of the somewhat smaller basement project that fills much of our spare time, and so we were particularly inspired by the 1,247 sq. m, two-storey extension being constructed below ground under the East Terrace of the Great Hall. A day-lit basement providing state-of-the-art teaching facilities comprising a large, multi-purpose lecture theatre and mooting space, 10 flexible advocacy training rooms, quiet study and break-out areas, and additional social meeting spaces.

Mary Kerr, Under Treasurer of Lincoln’s Inn

We look forward to taking up Mary’s offer of revisiting her awe-inspiring project, once it is complete later this year.

Dr. Sabrina Cohen-Hatton – Portraits for American Psychological Association

Commissioned by the American Psychological Association, Mat Smith Photography had the pleasure of photographing one of the most inspiring women we have ever met: Deputy Assistant Commissioner at London Fire Brigade, Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton.

Portrait of Sabrina Cohen-Hatton for American Psychological Association

Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton – Deputy Assistant Commissioner, London Fire Brigade

The double studio session held at our High Road Studios, in Chiswick, has been one of Mat Smith Photography’s recent highlights. The brief was to somehow capture Sabrina’s warm, approachable personality whilst dressed in full Brigade uniform, on a stark white studio background, which will be used as a cover shot and feature article in the APA’s May magazine edition later this year.

One of the best parts of any shoot is hearing about the lives of those we photograph. This shoot was certainly no exception. Having left home at 15 and school at 16, Sabrina’s firefighting journey began at her local fire brigade in a small, South Wales mining community. Since then, as well as rising the ranks to become one of the most senior fire fighters in Britain, having served at a number of major incidents, including the Westminster terrorist attack in March this year, Grenfell Tower in June, and the Holborn fire in 2015, Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton also has a PhD in Behavioural Neuroscience, having undertaken a series of night classes.

Portrait of Sabrina Cohen-Hatton, Deputy Assistant Commissioner

She has won two prestigious international academic awards for her research into incident command in the emergency services. It is the first time in history that psychological theory has been used to improve the way officers make risk-critical decisions and her work fundamentally changed the national approach to how fires are fought, to make both firefighters and the public safer.

Sabrina’s book, a firefighter’s memoirs, “Through the Fire” is to be published by Transworld in Spring 2019, which I, for one, can’t wait to read.  And if TV is more your thing, Broadchurch producer Kudos is also adapting her memoirs into a new TV drama series.