You would imagine that interpreting a client’s brief must be one of the toughest challenges that a professional photographer can face: and this brief was indeed tough. I wanted to show what an extraordinary environment we work in yet also the demands placed on our officers and crews. Having commissioned shoots this specific before, and having not got the results, I knew that being precise as to what was expected would be critical, but would ultimately still be an act of faith!
Well, Karel handsomely repaid that faith and more…
In his blog, Karel describes how he went about the two shoots in disarming and electric detail so I won’t go into that in this post because what really must be said and noted is the literally jaw-dropping images Karel captured.
Some history first though; JP Knight is after all 122 years old!
From the 1930s to the 1950s, JP Knight commissioned the celebrated photographer Beken of Cowes. His monochrome images have become some of the most iconic maritime images ever captured and the studies he made of our tugs from that era to this day defy description. They capture much more than the subject, more than just the light, they convey an emotion and a serious understanding of the subject’s environment. In my view such maritime sensitivity is only now matched in each and every one of those respects by Karel’s unbelievable skill.
But what is so remarkable in Karel’s work?
First, the lengths he goes to get ‘the shot’. We discussed plane v ’copter, but Karel was insistent that paying that (little!) extra for the helicopter was the only way to capture with total clarity the images I sought. Act of faith number one. In fact the act of faith was his, as his vivid description of the waterline shot proves.
Second, Karel’s determination regardless of circumstance. The ‘industrial shoot’ really provided challenges. Torrential rain, awkward timings, working amongst a risk-strewn situation, coping with equipment failure: quite a list! Another act of faith — should we cancel? But no, Karel said he could do it despite the worst conditions. He was right.
Third, he captured the heroic nature of our crews, the focus and the will to deliver. Karel showed empathy with the men and like a great painter melded the circumstances to his advantage to create mood and atmosphere.
Karel is also a consummate professional in his business-like attitude. No grey areas, all costs are very clearly set out and agreed beforehand: no surprises, no extras.
Ultimately, Karel is that most elemental of photographers, a story-teller. He is a communicator — and isn’t that what a picture ultimately is? A story.