Caitlin Stubbs in The Lion and Lobster, Brighton
2012 and I had been making some money from photography for three years, but still felt I was on the starting blocks, outside of my healthy wedding work. I wasn’t growing as a portrait photographer as I wanted to, and, compared to the Brazil years, just didn’t have the numbers of people around me happy for me to practice on them!
One thing I had been doing was to photograph bands – as a hobby, for no payment more than getting into gigs for free and the odd beer. One band I saw several times was Rothko (later Twin Brother) with Caitlin Stubbs on backing vocals. Caitlin was an accomplished singer/songwriter in her own right, and always looked great in the photos I took of the band. She agreed to be a model – getting the photos in payment to help in her own publicity.
My model was youthful, lively, intelligent and expressive. Her personality was not going to be captured with simply accurate photography – staid, stodgy or square weren’t going to work.
The camera was my old Nikon D700 – though not so old back then! I opted to use two prime lenses (50mm and 105mm). I used them both wide open most of the time, giving minimal depth of field, and lots of chance of missing focus. I didn’t let the ISO go too high even as the light failed (down at the old bandstand) so that the shutter speed was also slow. I avoided flash throughout. Altogether, a recipe for blur and movement and (I hoped) a real sense of life and fun in the images.
The shoot went well. We took photos at the Lion and Lobster pub, at the old bandstand on Brighton seafront, at Caitlin’s home and at various points in between.
My favourite shot was the featured one at top. Caitlin lit up a cigarette while we were out at the back of the pub – I just caught her face in the flare of the flame. The shot is blurry and atmospheric, but I love it.
I have never smoked, and don’t like it, but can’t help liking photos of smoking! However, Caitlin’s mum didn’t know she smoked, and so I couldn’t use or show the photo until, years later, I found that mum was now up to speed and I could go public. (Nikon D700 50mm 1.4 @1.8 1/60 ISO360)
My other favourite from the shoot was probably this one – a high-key portrait which is not my usual style, but which I just love. (Nikon D700 Sigma 105mm f2.8 @ 2.8 1/10 ISO1600)
Eleven years on I am still grateful to Caitlin Stubbs for that shoot, as it was definitely a stepping stone onwards to many more paid shoots. including headshots and more informal portraits.