One of the biggest problems with the sort of work that we do is boredom; much of the time is spent waiting for something to happen, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a pap (paparazzi) job, an investigative job or a doorstep. There are occasions when you are working with other photographers or reporters, which makes the time pass a little quicker.
Terminal Boredom, comes ultimately at Airports. Having been told at 2200hrs on Friday that I was going to Geneva, to get a shot of Jeff Hoon (Minister of Defence) returning from a skiing holiday while the Gulf Crisis was escalating;Â However the flight was at 0500hrs, with check-in at 0400hrs, meaning that I had to leave home at 0230hrs.Â
Having been told that Jeff was leaving in the morning, I wonder why, as a write this I am sitting on the concourse at Geneva Airport at 2130hrs, waiting for my flight home which doesn’t depart until 2155hrs.
I have been on alert, since I arrived at 0530hrs local time, and by the time I arrive home it will have been a 23hr day with only 3 hours sleep the night before.Â Worse than all of this is the fact that I never got more than 40 yards away from the airport complex, Geneva is a beautiful city, and it would have been nice just to spend a couple of hours there.
I reckon that I probably spend something like 90% of my working life on my own, and probably half of that in the back of a van or blacked out car, watching a doorstep for someone to either arrive or leave.Â So you have to enjoy your own company, otherwise you’d probably end up going slightly potty.Â I am fortunate that I am already slightly potty and I quite enjoy my own company, and can keep myself amused for hours on end (careful, no indecent thoughts) either reading a book, watching a DVD or occasionally writing junk for the website.Â The longest doorstep that I have done was a six weeks, a few Summers ago, from dawn until dark (approx 0600hrs to 2200hrs) watching a house in Watford for the mistress of a footballer, after about three days it was quite apparent that this woman wasn’t about (I found out she was on a sabatical in Africa), and rather than sit in the back of the van all day, I took to sun bathing, in a public park that afforded a decent view of the house.
One of the most difficult elements of door stepping, is the compromise between the need to rehydrate, and then need to not urinate.Â In the van its not a problem, however in the car it is a pain. I usually go equipped with several 2 litre bottles of water, usually the wide necked versions, as after the contents have been consumed they can be refilled (if you can can’t guess, I am not going to spell it out for you).
When I am working with a crowd of photographers, the odds are that there will be a lot of standing around, waiting for something to happen, there are occasions however when the job can be great fun, rewarding and easy.Â When Chris Evans was sacked a couple of years ago (June 2000 if my memory serves me correctly) the first few days were hectic, I was fortunate enough to get the only pics on the day that he was actually fired, although many of my colleagues had pictures the previous days, when he was out on the “lash”.Â After having been sacked and returned to his home in Surrey, myself and two other snappers spent another 7 days or so, on the Chris Evans watch.
Within a couple of days we had a routine sorted out, which meant that everyone got the pictures that they needed, and no-one had to work too hard.Â We generally met up in Godalming at around 10am, and had breakfast, at about 12noon we’d wander across to his local pub, and watch the tennis (it was Wimbledon fortnight) until they kicked us out of the pub at 3pm, and then we’d go up to his house and photograph Chris and Billy in their garden, and wire them to our respective papers at about 5pm and go home.
It’s not often that it happens but when it does, this is the easiest well paid work that I know of.
In the car I usually listen to CDs, having recently had a Satellite Navigation/multi-media system installed in the car I also have the option of watching TV or DVD as well as conventional radio, It is also my intention to install a DAB (Digital Audio Broadcast) Radio tuner in the car also, rather than the portable DAB unit that I have at present.
The Digital Radio is fantastic in and around London, once over 30 miles or so away the signal is very disappointing (especially as they claim it is crackle and distortion free, it also takes an age to find the stations when you switch frequency).Â
The TV will be particularly useful during the Football and the Cricket season when terrestrial TV has something worth watching, some FA cup action and Champions league matches are also shown on free to air, no matter how bored I get I cannot watch day time TV, with the possible exception of “The Wright Stuff”.
The bad thing with having a DVD player in the car, is that everytime I pass a HMV or Virgin Record Store I end up buying more of them.