When I started as a photographer I wanted to be a sports photographer, I wanted to join the prestigious agency ALLSPORT, (even writing that name brings back floods of memories). I totally devoted my life to working with them. The trouble was the agency mind set was that you must be able to shoot football, stock action, football football football. I remember the first night at Tottenham in the freezing rain Eddie Keogh congratulating me on getting the Job, I think Eddie was at Today paper then, that was my only real moment of knowing I had reached a goal in my life, but this was not me! and actually I did not like being told what to do.
I enjoyed my time there in terms of seeing other photographers work, the great Bob Martin, Pascal Rondeau. I suppose one of the best things to come out of my time there was that I met Lane Stewart lighting guru. But I wanted to do my own thing, I had dreams.
Lane would applaud my urgency and my ideas, but would always ask me - 'if they say yes are you ready..?' umm. that would make me think.
I then went to work with the papers settling down at the Mail on Sunday (with help from Andy Hooper who had just moved to the Mail) shooting sport and features it kept me busy all week long which was great. But more importantly I was making photographs of people in a way I wanted, printing them in B/W trying different things.
Working with a paper I started to get work for brands, such as Puma and this led to my meeting Linford Christie, circa 1991/2. I suggested to Puma that I should go to Lanzarote, Club La Santa where he was winter training with his team. I could then sell it in to the MOS as a feature as 1992 was Linford's Olympic year, Barcelona was just around the corner.
Off I went to the Canary islands, Ian Stafford the journo was going to join me there. I was settled and marched down to the track area. Now Linford knew I was coming but he proceeded to ignore me for two days, not a look, nothing. On the third day at the end of training he walked up to me and asked me what I wanted to do.. I looked at him and said I'm not going to tell you! and walked off. Later that day he called my room and invited me out for dinner with his group. We had such a laugh and I managed to get my idea of the picture across to him.
I had been going to Lanzarote for a while to shoot windsurfing and knew the area well. Just down the road from La Santa are the lava fields and I thought wow Linford running across the lava would be pretty stunning.
Linford agreed to do this after training the following day but would only give me 15 mins! umm I had got up and role played the scenario and could do it in 12 minutes from him getting in the car to returning so he could have lunch.
The clock was now ticking and Linford was in the car. we got to the spot and we quickly did the picture of him jogging across the dark rock in a yellow Puma running gear - perfect. Two runs and I said lets go quick quick..... but he would not leave he was amazed at the landscape that lay just outside his training camp.
We sat there talking about all sorts of things, his prep for the Olympic games and how he knew he must deliver, he wanted to win so badly, his focus and self belief was truly amazing and some of the things he talked about still ring true in my mind.
Importantly for me this was the start of all the behind the scenes work I did in sport, it set my path. I realised that this was my type of sports photography and my approach for my other work going forward and still is to this day, not that I do much sports photography now. I think its like movie set photography people are so nervous of a photographer being around, access is tough, but its all about trust.
I remained in contact with Linford and we worked on several projects over the next five or six years. I would go to Florida with him and down to Australia for a month or so. One trip down under we had the company of Frankie Fredericks who became a multi Olympic silver medal winner and one of the nicest men I have ever met. The mission was two fold, Frankie needed straight line practice and Linford wanted to run around corners. He was looking at the 200 mtrs. More good times.
Here Linford and Frankie hammer down the back straight anti clockwise in Narabeen Australia.