I wasn’t going to do this but 2015 was such an insane year I felt that I had write it down somewhere. I met bands for the first time that I would go on to form great friendships with, flew to America on four separate occasions for four different jobs, shot my first ever magazine cover with my second cover following ‘swiftly’ afterwards, travelled around Europe, stood on the Other Stage at Glastonbury and my personal favourite away from photography watching Kanye West/Skepta & co. play a secret last minute show at Koko. 

Below are 10 of my favourite photographs that I took in 2015 with short little stories to go along with them: 

Taylor Swift - shot for an NME cover feature 

Taylor posted one of the photos from the shoot onto her Instagram a few days after the magazine come out and it’s now hit 1.5 MILLION likes. It’s insane. We only had one full day in Los Angeles and flew either side of the shoot day so it was really tough on the body during & after the shoot. I tried to make the most of the few hours I had free in the city as I had never been before. I found time to go to three fantastic vegan restaurants and walk along Santa Monica Pier on the morning before the flight back home. 

Obviously aside from all that was the small matter of shooting Taylor Swift for the cover of the NME. I was a big fan of 1989 so I was stoked when I was asked to shoot it. Taylor was great fun to work with - a true professional. Although she did tell me to turn off my grime mix I’d made so she could put on her own playlist. I guess she isn’t a fan of hearing about N17 or E3… 

Ho99o9 - shot for an NME feature

I was covering Great Escape for the NME down in Brighton. The festival showcases new talent from around the globe in small venues around the town and gives people a chance to catch bands before they get huge (I watched Stormzy perform to about 50 people one of the nights). 

For this photograph I was briefed to make the band look menacing and/or scary as possible. My hotel room had a HUGE balcony on the seafront that the seagulls would wait on so I decided I was going to use the birds to my advantage. Ten minutes before the band arrived I bought the biggest bag of chips I could find from a greasy chippy on the seafront and rushed back to my room. I chucked one chip out and obviously the birds went ape so I knew what I had in mind would work. I asked the band if they were scared of birds “…they’re alright” the band hesitatingly answered. My assistant set up my light, I put the band in position and lastly the big bag of chips behind them. And here’s the image that you get with one light and a bag of chips…

Catfish & The Bottlemen - shot for NME’s coverage of Glastonbury

LARRY! Towels! Cover the boards!” was shouted by Benji across the stage as the heavens opened onto Catfish’s Glastonbury set as soon as they struck the first chord. It pelted it down for the entire set but it didn’t dampen the spirits of the band or the vast crowd in front of them. 

I met the band in Chicago in February only 4 months prior but had already embarked on one UK tour with them in March which meant the boys were used to having me around the stage so I tucked myself tightly in-between Benji’s amp and Bob’s kit so capture the moment of the set. A red flare went up in the crowd mid-set and I knew as soon as Van opened out his arms I had get the photo. 

FUCKING HELL MATE! YES! I want that on a tour poster. Can we get that on a tour poster?!” Van excitedly asked his management & myself backstage after seeing the photograph. He was in good spirits, the band had just smashed their set at Glastonbury’s second biggest stage and he’d found a quid on the stage floor after finishing the set. 

Slaves - shot for an NME cover feature 

I was in an AirBnb that me and my girlfriend had rented for a few days in Venice when I got a phone call from a longstanding friend & colleague, Zoe Capstick, at the NME asking if I was free to photograph Slaves for a cover feature. I had never shot a cover before so I said yes as quickly as I possibly could, put down the phone and jumped into my girl’s arms shouting “YES! FINALLY!”. 

It was their first NME cover so I think we were all initially as nervous as each other. We eased into it eventually with a good playlist and a few bad jokes. I felt that wider angle from above would create the look I was going for - slightly playful but not to mess with. Later on in the shoot we got out the spray paint and trashed my Colourama which made for more great photographs. 

This cover was the last ever commissioned by the NME in the paid format of the past so without knowing it we photographed a little bit of history. Crazy. 

Enter Shikari - shot for the band

I had only met Enter Shikari once in the past shooting a two day on-the-road feature with them for the NME. So it was to my surprise that I got an email out of the blue from their manager asking if I was interested in going to Germany with them to shoot their huge shows at the festivals Rock AM Ring/IM Park. Of course I said yes… 

This photograph was taken in probably the blandest backstage room I’ve ever set my eyes upon with its movable plastic walls, four Ikea chairs, a rug and a table (probably from Ikea). It’s not my best photograph of all time but it makes me laugh every time I see it hence why it’s made the cut for my top photographs of the year. With Rou doing his yoga, Chris warming up, Rob looking like he’s just cracked a joke and Rory FaceTiming his daughter back home I felt that it really summed the personalities of the band and what a backstage can actually look like.

Sunflower Bean - shot for NME’s coverage of SXSW 

My first time to Texas state. I’d been forewarned that SXSW was controlled chaos and controlled wasn’t particularly a true part of the statement. It was a difficult but fantastic week of sneaking into shows that I didn’t have the right wristbands to, getting absolutely drenched in what felt like a tropical downpour, eating vegan Texan BBQ bits & bobs and seeing lots of friends I hadn’t seen in a long time. 

I was told that there was a bridge in Austin that houses a lot bats and that they come out during the sunset. As soon I was told I knew I had photograph a band there before I flew back to London. So after dragging Sunflower Bean there it turned out there wasn’t THAT many bats…well not enough to make it a great photograph so I quickly decided to cross the bridge to a very old Americana petrol (or ‘gas’) station that I had saw once in an Uber. We had about ten minutes until the sun disappeared completely so after prepping everything I managed to shoot about ten strong frames of the band with their manager standing behind me holding my flash head before the light was gone for the day. 

Thanks for being champs, Sunflower Bean.

Stormzy - shot for a personal project 

“If the flights are under £50 then we’re going…” is what me and my girlfriend agreed to when Stormzy announced he was playing in Copenhagen. EasyJet responded with a £49 return flight so we packed our bags and off we went to Denmark. I had only seen one grime show outside of the UK before so I was equally excited & intrigued to see how the Danes would react to Stormzy’s sold out show at the Pumpehuset. 

We were in for a treat. The place knew every single word to every single song and with Stormzy finishing on WickedSkengman4, Shut Up and Know Me From the crowd stormed the stage for a chance to share the excitement with the 6ft5 lad from Croydon. 

This picture will be part of grime project that I’m currently working on and will be exhibited in the near future. Keep your eyes peeled.

Skepta & Jme - shot for a personal project

2015 was a huge year for Skepta, Jme and grime in general.  I’ve been following grime since 2009 when a friend of mine showed me the clash between Skepta & Devilman on LOTM2 so to see Skepta perform on such a huge stage felt like I was witnessing grime history.  In 2015 alone I had already seen Skepta six times in three different countries including the famous Kanye/Skepta show at Koko & illegal Shoreditch carpark show before the Brixton show.

I didn’t get a photo pass for the show but took a little camera along regardless to document the fans at the show.  As we were the leaving the show there was a pretty big police presence around Brixton and I clocked two police officers watching the front door from afar.  I snuck up behind them and snapped a few frames.

This shot is part of the same project that the Stormzy photograph will be part of.  I can’t wait for you all to see something I’m so passionate about creating!

It ain’t safe on the block…

A$AP Rocky - shot for an NME feature

The location was The Langham, a 5* hotel in central London.  The artist was A$AP Rocky.  I hadn’t photographed many rappers prior to this so I was really excited as I knew he was fashion conscious and had modelled in the past, so it was safe to say he would make for great photographs.

Despite being on rapper time (4 hours late) we got on like a house on fire.  He asked if he could film me on his 8mm film camera for his tour documentary, spoke about my Contax TVS after discussing film photography vs digital photography and explained that he’d missed out of the Alexander McQueen exhibition that had closed recently which lead onto a big discussion about fashion.  Funnily enough, we both turned up with t-shirts tucked into our jeans and A$AP turned to me and said “we’re on some James Dean shit!  I never do this but I’m gonna turn the tables, can I have a photo with you?  Yo, take a photo of us!” and handed his Polaroid camera to his manager.  He kept the polaroid.

I only had the hotel to use as a backdrop to my photographs and after scouring the building for 15 minutes, despite it’s luxury, I didn’t find much.  But there was a huge mirror that ran the whole way down the staircase and hey, what’s better than A$AP Rocky?  Three A$AP Rockys.  After seeing the photos on the back of the camera he turned to me and said “I don’t mean to blow smoke up your ass but you just got that creative shit, I dig it”.

Catfish & The Bottlemen - shot for the band

This photograph nearly mirrors the Enter Shikari shot earlier on in the post.  I love trying to capture the backstage room as naturally as possible and that comes with disappearing into the corner to wait for the right moment.  This was shot at Brixton Academy on the second night of Catfish’s two sold out shows and about an hour before stage time.  Despite looking posed this was all totally natural excluding Van looking me as I shouted at him to get his attention to get the engagement I wanted out of the photograph.  

I love my time on the road with Catfish and I think there’s more to come in 2016 so sit tight.

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