Sunday, December 21, 2008

Random Acts of Kindness

Over 25 years ago, way back in 1982, I was sent, by a picture agency, to cover the launch of a British TV 'soap' called "Brookside", at the modern, Liverpool housing estate in which it was set and filmed. I was, in every sense of the phrase, a "fledgling" freelance photographer and felt totally out of my depth, surrounded, as I was, by photographers from almost all of the British national daily papers and large circulation magazines.

At one point, during the day, I turned up a bit late, to photograph actors Ricky Tomlinson and Sue Johnston (who, incidentally was brought up in the small town - Prescot - in which I was born and raised) who were posing as "man and wife" outside the house their characters "owned" on Brookside Close. I was fumbling with my camera so much that all of the other photographers in the press pack had finished shooting Ricky and Sue, before I had even taken my first photograph. I stood there, forlornly watching the stars walk away from the set, when (I'm not sure how) Ricky Tomlinson noticed me, and called across to his co-star "hey Sue, this lad hasn't got his pictures, come back and pose again for him, please" which she did, most graciously.

I've never forgotten that small, random act of kindness from Ricky Tomlinson. I didn't really thank him properly at the time, but I do make sure I mention it to friends, whenever I see him on TV - usually in the hit show The Royle Family (which also features Sue Johnston).

The Chinese have a saying: "may you live in interesting times", which is meant to be a curse - with "interesting" being a euphemism for "not good". This year, as a professional photographer, was very interesting indeed. But not all of it was bad. New friends were found, and some were lost. New work was found - including the opportunity to fulfill a life-long ambition as a travel book photographer - but not all of it was as glamorous as I might have dreamed. Some people treated me extremely well and others were downright rude, didn't pay me or even bother to return emails or phone (occasionally, the same person did all of those nice things!) All-in-all an interesting year. A mixed bag of surprises (good and not-so-good), triumphs and tribulations.

Amongst the (modest) triumphs is this blog - which I began in August 2008, as a means of killing time while holed-up alone in hotel rooms, during travel book shoots. I've now made 74 posts, and almost kept my promise of writing a new post three times each week (which is harder than you might imagine!)

I am thrilled that even though it has not (yet) made the top 100 of most-subscribed-to- photography-blogs (I'm working on that) it does have subscribers and gets about 100 hits a day - sometimes many more - and I've had comments and emails from new friends all over the world. Now that is incredibly interesting - and in some ways, very kind. So thank you all for your support for my first year of blogging. I hope you'll stick around for 2009.

The thing I remember most about 2008, though, are the small acts of random kindness that people still bestow on me. A encouraging email, a text message inviting me for coffee, and sometimes even bigger gestures. I know who you are, and I'm very grateful, thank you.

I'm off to my small home-town of Prescot for Christmas - and I hope I can offer a few RAOK's myself, or at least make a decent roast turkey for my father!

I'll be back on January 5th - and I look forward to your company for the professional rollercoaster that 2009 will (no doubt) be.

Nollaig Shonasach agus athbhliain shuaimhneach

Merry Christmas - and a Happy and Peaceful New Year

p.s. If you could encourage your friends to visit - so that I can break the 5000 "unique visitors" target before Jan 1, 2009 - I would consider it a serious RAOK on your part! Thank you in advance!



  1. I discovered your interesting and nice blog and I'll be back as your 101th visitor every day :)


    Sue's Daily Photography

  2. I Stephen - nice post, and a great story about Ricky Tomlinson. Looking forward to seeing him again this Christmas in the RF. I posted on my site - article: the inspirational world of photography, a few of my favourite links and your blog was one of them. I hope that that generated a few visits and subscribers at least. "Read you" in 2009. Merry Christmas.


  3. I just discovered your blog today and read it with interest. It's always good to read about RAKs - they're uplifting and inspiring, and to have an 'interesting' year is I think typical for most people, myself included! I was listening to a video post by Tony Robbins the other day - don't know if you know him, a motivational speaker from the USA - who was saying that every problem is a gift ( and it inspired me to write a post about it on my blog, which I only started last week by the way (if you want to check it out, it's at Trials and tribulations are part of life - and if we look at them positively then we can learn and grow from them. I take inspiration from the people in my life who have refused to succumb to
    problems and difficulties - my mother is such a person. She's German and as a very young woman had to flee from her home in East Prussia at the end of WWII (her father had been called up late in the war and had been killed at Leningrad). She had to find work in rubble-strewn Hamburg, then married an English officer and had to leave all her family to start a new life in a totally new country. Every day I give thanks

    'for this woman of resolute will
    who refuses to wallow
    in past tragedies, disappointments,
    upheavals and strife,
    living in the here and now
    of the autumn of her life
    and living it in a blaze of vibrant colour.'
    (excerpt from my book 'Family and More - Enemies or Friends?')

    Her life has been much more 'interesting' than mine. So if I ever do get down about the 'interesting' things that happen to me, I just try to remember that compared to my mother, my life is really a bowl of roses. Good luck with your photographic ventures in 2009!

    Helena Harper

  4. Thank you for stopping by on my blog. Your comments re crisis and opportunity were very interesting - in the sense of thought-provoking!

    Helena Harper

  5. Best wishes Stephen and remember for 2009, photography is not just art - it's business!

    Make sure you get contracts signed before the shoot and licence, licence, licence.. ;)


  6. Hi Stephen,hope you had a good Christmas and i wish you a prosperous New Year.I thank you for the random act of kindness you gave me this year with your advice,and it's good to have your experience and knowledge available if i get "stuck" in my workflow or need general advice!
    Have a good one mate and i sincerely hope your hard work opens new avenues for you in 2009.
    All the best,Tim Oram.

  7. I've been enjoying your blog since I found it a little while ago. I don't read everyday, but I always catch-up with several blogs like yours.

    Congratulations on your success and good luck on hitting your 5000 goal. I will mention you in my next blog post which I hope to have up later today. Hope that will generate at least a few hits for you.

  8. Hi, and thanks for another great post. I wish you and your family a Happy New Year, I look forward to reading your blog in 2009.

    I hope that random kindness will come your way this year as well :)


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