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About my photographic journey

My photographic journey began in May 2008 when I borrowed a camera to photograph a friend, and this inspired me to buy my own camera and lights. I started learning how to use them by taking portraits of family members.


A '1920s style' portrait of my wife, Pauline

Due to limitations imposed by long term health problems (I was diagnosed with ME/CFS in 1994) I was never going to be a prolific photographer, but I particularly enjoyed taking portraits, so I began to slowly build a portraiture portfolio sourcing models (amateur and professional) locally and online.


My first photo shoot with a model, Nikki Hayward - taken in September 2008

I experimented with many different types of portraiture - trying everything from gritty to glamour, fashion to nude, female and male - seeking to capture the desired photograph by using different lighting, poses, props, backdrops and/or locations.

I also started attending and photographing at events such as the Manchester Fashion Show.


Manchester Fashion Show - October 2008

In November 2008, I met Cassie McDowell, who was a shop assistant at the time and hoping to start a career in modelling. We began collaborating on lots of photo shoots, including a week's photographic holiday in Jersey, along with recently qualified make up artist Sonara Parker. This proved to be very successful in helping us all to hone our skills - Cassie went on to leave the shop assistant job and become a professional model and Sonara became a professional make up artist.


Make Up Artist Sonara Parker helps model Cassie McDowell as she precariously navigates the rocks at La Corbière, Jersey in her heels



Cassie McDowell - taken at La Corbière, Jersey in May 2009

In summer 2009, I decided to test how the development of my portraiture skills were coming along by submitting a panel of photos to the Royal Photographic Society (RPS), and it turned out they were coming along fine as I was awarded my first RPS distinction (LRPS).

Having played guitar in bands for many years, and been a keen sportsman before my illness, I particularly enjoyed photographing at local gigs and sporting occasions.


My first major gig photography - Mark Morriss of The Bluetones taken at Rochdale Feel Good Festival in July 2009


One of my earliest sport photos - Unsworth versus Milnrow in the Wood Cup Final at Walsden Cricket Ground in August 2010


Another early sport photograph - Rochdale v Colchester taken in August 2010 at Spotland Stadium, Rochdale

In April 2011, I met and photographed Mary Davidson (aka Mary HD), a former full-time professional model who was embarking on a singing career, at Plas Teg Jacobean Mansion in North Wales. We became good friends and I have taken photos for a number of Mary's music covers.


My first photo shoot with Mary HD - used as the cover for her album 'Resolute'

In May 2011, I was awarded a second distinction by the Royal Photographic Society, this time an 'Associateship' (ARPS) for a panel of sport and music photos.

In 2012 I began what became a very long-term project lasting many years, that of documenting the major changes that took place in Rochdale town centre, from the construction of Number One Riverside (the municipal building housing Rochdale Borough Council), the building of the new Transport Interchange, the demolition of the old municipal building (aka the 'Black Box') and the adjacent bus station, the opening up of the River Roch (previously covered for over a century) and the development of a new town centre retail and leisure area, subsequently named Riverside.


Number One Riverside under construction in June 2012

Throughout this time my health fluctuated, but I adapted best I could to not knowing one day to the next what I would be like. One thing I did learn - the hard way - was to rest for a couple of days prior to getting out and accepting that there would often be a price to pay afterwards in terms of time needed to recover.

I had good days and bad days, good weeks and bad weeks, good months and bad months, but I enjoyed getting out photographing whenever my health permitted. The only difficulty was being unable at times to fulfil commitments, but I always explained my situation and limitations at the time of agreeing and though I had to cancel and rearrange far more often than I would have liked, I was grateful for the understanding that was forthcoming when I had to do so.

One of those understanding people was Ant Wainwright; I had to cancel our first scheduled photo shoot but one of the photos from the rearranged date in September 2013 subsequently gained me an 'Honourable Mention' in the 2020 International Monochrome Photography Awards.


Ant Wainright - 'Honourable Mention' in the 2020 International Monochrome Photography Awards

Thankfully, on the day in February 2014 that I was scheduled to photograph one of my favourite singers, Lisa Stansfield, I was having one of my better days.


Lisa Stansfield

My health had been a sliding slope downwards for a couple of years and in 2015 I had no choice but start using a wheelchair again for the first time since 2008 (I had been in a wheelchair between 1996 and 2008) due to being unable to walk for anything but the shortest distances. That brought additional challenges when taking photos and I was therefore fortunate to have a friend, local hairdresser Greg Couzens, who began assisting me on portraiture photo shoots.

In autumn 2015, I spotted a local Rochdale Photographic Society competition that was also open to non-members and so I entered a couple of photos I had taken previously and came first in what was the society's 125th anniversary competition. My winning photo was of Rochdale lacrosse player Georgia Greenhalgh, I also received a commendation for another photo in the same competition, that of a disabled cricketer playing for Lancashire Disabled.


Rochdale Lacrosse player Georgia Greenhalgh - taken in April 2014 - first place in the Rochdale Photographic Society 125th anniversary competition


Disabled cricketer - taken in June 2013 at Middleton Cricket Club - commended in the Rochdale Photographic Society 125th anniversary competition

In June 2016, I met and photographed Xara Taylor, a fashion designer and part-time model. I was given an 'Honourable Mention' in the 2020 International Monochrome Photography Awards for a photo I had taken of Xara in July 2017.


Xara Taylor photographed at Brabyns Park, Marple Bridge in July 2017 wearing an outfit she designed and made herself
'Honourable Mention' in the 2020 International Monochrome Photography Awards

Mary Davidson came to Rochdale in October 2016 for a photo shoot for the cover of her latest music single, 'That's What They Say' - I was assisted by Greg Couzens and Jackie Meredith. Tinkerbelle the Rottweiler came courtesy of OnTrack Dog Training in Rochdale.

We had planned to take the photo outside Greg's house, hoping for fine weather, however it was pouring down, so we adapted and got the smoke machine out and worked with the weather.


Mary Davidson - taken in October 2016 for the cover of Mary HD music single 'That's What They Say'

A photo I took of an aspiring model, Jeanne, in August 2018, outside Number One Riverside in Rochdale town centre, was given an Honourable Mention' in the 2019 International Photography Awards.


Jeanne - 'Honourable Mention' in the 2019 International Photography Awards

In September 2018, Greg Couzens asked me if I would take some corporate shots of him for business publicity purposes. At the end of that photo session I asked him if I could take a more gritty type of portrait for my own portfolio, to show what a dfference mood, lighting and pose can make, and the resulting shot is one that gained me an 'Honourable Mention' in the 2019 International Monochrome Photography Awards.


Gritty portrait of Greg Couzens
'Honourable Mention' in the 2019 International Monochrome Photography Awards

Also in September 2018, I took a photo for the cover of Real Rochdale magazine. Taken at The Baum, Rochdale the model was Gwen Raby, Greg Couzens styled Gwen's hair and assisted along with Sam Kuterba-Wall. The lovingly restored Lambretta scooter was loaned by Councillor Billy Sheerin, who had owned the scooter from new in 1967.


Gwen Raby - photographed for the cover of Real Rochdale magazine winter 2018 edition

A relapse in October 2018 left me as badly affected as I had been in 1994 when I first got ill, and hence photography became a very occasional activity, mainly taking photos of the flowers in the garden.


Sunflower - taken in September 2019

I did manage a couple of portraiture photo shoots at home in 2019, including another for the cover of Real Rochdale magazine, with local hairdresser Jade Hodkinson. Greg Couzens styled Jade's hair and assisted me, and Jade's make up was done by local make up artist Tylaa Clements.


Jade Hodkinson - taken in October 2019 for the cover of Real Rochdale magazine winter 2019 edition

A short trip to Rochdale town centre in September 2020 saw the culmination of my long-term Rochdale town centre project as I photographed the completed Rochdale Riverside retail and leisure development.


Rochdale Riverside - September 2020

In January 2021, I was notified that I had been shortlisted for the Royal Photographic Society Science Photographer of the Year for a photo of an offshore windfarm I had taken whilst on holiday in Skegness in 2013. Shortlisted photos were due to be part of the Science Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Manchester Science Festival, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic the exhibition installation had to be cancelled and instead the photos were part of an online exhibition between 12 and 21 February.


Offshore Windfarm, Skegness - shortlisted for the Royal Photographic Society Science Photographer of the Year

I started a new project in April 2021 photographing the locks, bridges and scenery of the Rochdale Canal which, with the help of my wife (canal tow paths can be tricky to get onto and off in a wheelchair!), I hope to continue with throughout 2021.


Rochdale Canal - Lock 37, West Summit - taken in April 2021 - centre spread of Real Rochdale magazine summer 2021 edition

Thank you for your interest and I hope you enjoy viewing my photos as much as I enjoy taking them.

Malcolm

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