Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Advertising Campaign // Shell Rimula

Towards the end of 2018 I was awarded a contract to shoot a campaign across SE Asia for the energy giant Shell. The job involved travelling through six countries, capturing truckers and truck drivers using Shell’s product, Rimula, an engine lubricant. To do this we teamed up with the excellent London-based production company, Foxtrot Papa, and Shell’s then creative agency, Iris. The schedule could have been quite punishing – especially as I was due to be getting married right in the middle of it all! But thankfully Louise Allen, from Foxtrot Papa, is an excellent producer and brought things into line that would have most people tremble and give up. We ended up shooting in Russia, China, South Korea, India, Malaysia and Indonesia. For each country we had to sort visas, source local models and crew, find locations, and work out logistics. Louise managed this all seamlessly. In most locations we had one day for a recce and one or sometimes two days shooting, aiming to build a library of images that Shell could use across local markets. To complete this brief we used local models (often real truck drivers). The trick then was to create realistic and authentic-feeling scenarios across different times of day, in different locations, some urban and some rural. This meant being very clever with locations and creating scenarios where we could get multiple assets with minimal set-up. The shoot as a whole also had to feel consistent across the time frame, geographic and cultural spread. Below I’ve included a selection of final campaign shots and below then some behind-the-scenes snaps.


Behind the scenes shots

Breakfast in a roadside Dhaba, India
Indian village set-up
Drawing a bit of an audience from the local villagers, India
Dawn location, Jaipur, India
Shooting truck to truck, Jaipur, India
Working with Tim as my assistant and right-hand man
Pulling some interesting photo squats whilst shooting in Malaysia
Setting up a location in Indonesia
Shooting into the night in Kuala Lumpar, Malaysia

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Assignment // Sierra Leone, Sunday Times Magazine

A dugout canoe shot from the Mavic Pro, Bonthe Island and the Sherbro River Delta, Sierra Leone, 03 May, 2018. Photo by Greg Funnell
Jena Bacong collecting oysters, Bonthe Island and the Sherbro River Delta, Sierra Leone, 03 May, 2018. Photo by Greg Funnell
James Green, of the Whitstable Oyster Company, talks with Allieu Bakarr Kamara, 32, about oyster harvesting that Allieu has been running trials on. Sherbro River Delta, Sierra Leone, 04 May 2018. Photo by Greg Funnell
Oyster smoking taking place in the village of Kgnama, Sherbro River Delta, Sierra Leone, 04 May 2018. Photo by Greg Funnell
A poster advertising the Bonthe Oyster festival, Bonthe Island, Sierra Leone, 03 May 2018. Photo by Greg Funnell
Oyster shucking taking place in King Jimmy village, Sherbro River Delta, Sierra Leone, 02 May, 2018. Photo by Greg Funnell
Women buy fish at dawn from a young fisherman who has been out night fishing, Bonthe Island, Sierra Leone, 04 May 2018. Photo by Greg Funnell
Fishing boats on a mudbank at low tide in the Sherbro River Delta, Sierra Leone, 04 May, 2018. Photo by Greg Funnell

Rugiatu (foreground) and Mabinty, collect oysters at low tide on a mudbank in the Sherbro River Delta, Sierra Leone, 04 May 2018. Photo by Greg Funnell
About this time last year I was commissioned by the Sunday Times to go to Sierra Leone. I was hugely excited to get another chance to visit this amazing country having previously been there with ActionAid to document their local development work. On this occasion I was asked to photograph a story on mud oysters of Bonthe Island, in the Sherbro River Delta. To do this I was teamed up with the writer, Michael Hodges, and the head of the Whitstable Oyster Company, James Green, and Dr Francis Murray from Stirling University. James Green had set up an initiative about five years previously to promote education and development of the local Oyster scene in the Sherbro River delta, to see if they could become a source of sustainable food and potentially a local form of income. To do this he had started the Bonthe Island Oyster Festival. Now to say this makes it sound like this was quite a large scale event, but the reality was the Bothe Island is rather remote and it takes a number of hours and a significant boat ride to get there from the capital of Freetown. Once on the island, there is very limited (non-potable) running water, and electricity only when the diesel powered generators are running. 

My room on Bonthe Island for the duration of my stay.
There are very few if any vehicles on the island, most people getting around by walking or bicycle. Every morning at dawn fisherman would return from having spent the night in small wooden dugout canoes. When the tide was out (mainly women) would head out to harvest the mud oysters from the exposed mud banks. This would involve walking in knee deep mud filled with razor sharp oyster shells. Sometimes they would take the dugout canoes and hack the oysters directly off of (and including) the root of the mangrove (a practice that Mr Green and Dr Murray were trying to discourage, as often this would involve destroying the mangrove root and in turn the trees. Once they had dieed back, the riverbanks would become more vulnerable to erosion, much in the same way deforestation elsewhere leads to soil erosion and mudslides.

Collecting oyster on the mudbanks, many of the women would get cuts to feet and ankles that would have a hard time healing.
We spent a number of days on the island, staying in a small two storey building (a rarity on the island). I would get up most mornings and wonder into the local market or villages on my own to make the most of the good dawn light. After a few days of doing this the locals were relatively used to me and I could shoot somewhat uninhibited, I’d often teamed up with one of the local students working with Dr Murray and therefore get to utilise their local knowledge and language skills. I always find it interesting working in these situations, trying to walk the tightrope between being the obvious outsider but striving to make photos that feel very observed, rather than constructed. On this assignment I was shooting with my Fujifilm X setup which included (at the time) the XT2 and the X-Pro 2. The cameras are much smaller than my normal DSLR set-up and they are therefore much less obtrusive and intimidating. Using the electronic shutter they are totally silent; when you are photographing at dawn on an island with no cars and little electricity with just the sounds of the lapping water and the bush, this is surprisingly important. 

Shooting with the trusty Fujifilm X-Pro 2. Weather sealing in these conditions is a bonus.
On this trip I did also decide to use a drone, flying my Mavic Pro (often taking off and landing on two small planks of wood when flying off the mudbanks). This allowed me to get a real sense of the landscape and show the island and the community in context that I simply wouldn’t be able to do any other way. I did feel a sense of guilt however using this as once or twice I felt flying it too far away from where I was might cause some distress to anyone it happened upon - and loud buzzing drone is the antithesis of my softly softly approach and so I tried to use it sparingly. The kids however, as kids do everywhere, loved seeing it fly. 

Couple of the local guys enjoying the drone on its rather meagre improvised landing pad.
The photographs I made ran in the Sunday Times Magazine and for that I have to thank Emily McBean, Russ O'Connell and Leanne Bracey. I take comfort in the thought that when a magazine is willing to send you half way around the world to shoot a tricky assignment it's a mark of trust. I'd also like to thanks James Green for inviting us out on the trip in the first place, Dr Francis Murray for his fascinating input and knowledge along the way, Michael Hodges for being an excellent team mate and traveling companion and of course all the people on Bonthe Island for having us, and looking after us so well. The photos were subsequently picked up and shortlisted in the ‘Photojournalism’ category of the 2019 AOP awards.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Assignment: Hotel du Cap, Eden Roc

A bit late with this one, but back in April of 2018 I was commissioned to photograph the renowned establishment, Hotel du Cap, Eden Roc in Antibes, France. The hotel is often associated with celebrities and was a popular and iconic destination for those escaping to the sun for many years, becoming particularly famous in the 50s and 60s. It's a fascinating establishment with a rich and colourful history. Being granted access to do a behind the scenes piece was a real privilege, but also obviously came with it's own challenges.

The story, for Gentlemans Journal, was designed to reveal a day in the life of and as such we photographed everyone from cleaners to gardeners, pool boys and barmen. We had a limited window and the weather was not with us on the first day – which always adds a little pressure on these type of shoots. Thankfully we had windows of sunlight had I made the most of getting up at dawn every day to make the most f my time there. The following images over a little vignette into one of Europes most famous hotels. You can see more for this story on the website here.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Personal Work: Gauchos

At the beginning of 2018 I was able to take some time to visit a part of the world which I have yet to really get the grips with as much as I would like, South America. I have had assignments in Central America before (Guatemala and Mexico) but as a region it’s not somewhere I have really got to explore yet. I was lucky enough to travel on the maiden voyage of a new route for Norwegian Airlines as they flew their first direct flight London Gatwick to Beaunos Aires. The assignment that took me there was a story on the Iberรก region, and I teamed up with the writer Amanda Barnes for this. Once done on that assignment, we took an extra couple of weeks to shoot a story on Gaucho culture.  We covered everything from the gauchos of the wetlands who have learnt to swim with their horses, to the horse whisperers of the La Pampa and the hardy Gauchos of Patagonian wilderness

I have since turned this into a self published book and you can purchase a copy of that here. To see more of this project as it is on the website click here.

Once again if you are interested in buying copy of the book you can find it here