February 14 is a remarkable date for me, not because it is Valentine’s Day. It is remarkable for being the date I opened my first high street studio premises at Balaam Street E13 – February 14th 2000.
The journey to that point started many years before. I left Africa for England aged 28, laden with ambition and the desire to achieve so many things. I already was a budding entrepreneur, having started a small graphic design consulting business called Harvest Limited and armed with a university degree in graphic design.
Photography was not my first calling to be honest – even though I studied it as part of my degree program. I loved and was very good at painting and had hoped to make a name for myself in that field (having participated in several successful exhibitions back in Africa – it did not work out).
A friend of mine called Ade (mentioned else where on this blog) who had come to England a few years before me took me along to a meeting of the London Portrait Group held at the world famous Paul Kaye Studio in Park Road – and my future was literally decided there and then.
I became a member of the group without owning a camera, made some great friends and learned a damn lot from the group and even served as Vice Chairman under Hossain Mahdavi FMPA, FBIPP, FEP. I started out like most people back then, with a second hand camera, did a lot of free work and spent a fortune on films and processing. This was 1995.
By 1998 I was reasonably good, enough to gain my licentiateship of the Master Photographers Association and win the best Portrait prize for the month of December in the London Portrait Groups quarterly competition – I was on my way, setting up from my living room and shooting in clients homes as necessary.
By 1999 I knew I needed a high street premises and signed the lease for 37 Balaam Street on December 09 1999. I was in heaven (for a short while), getting the premises ready took longer than I allowed for and cost more than I budgeted for, but finally I opened on February 14 2000 – and it was a glorious day.
The journey wasn’t always easy or fun, but it has been worthwhile and fulfilling. Every February 14 comes along and I quietly smile to myself as I remember how impossible it seemed at the time – 12 years on. Many ‘wise’ people counselled me not to do it – that it was not possible (just get a job in a studio, learn the ropes and see what happens) but I did not listen, could not have imagined not doing it.
Was it hard? Oh yes it was and I made A LOT of mistakes along the way. But looking around me these days and seeing all the younger photographers following the same path makes me so proud I did it.
A BIG THANK YOU goes out to all you wonderful people I have the honour and privilege to call my clients, colleagues, family and friends. You helped make this happen for me – and I will always be grateful. Happy Valentine’s Day to all the lovely folks out there celebrating February 14th – GOD BLESS US ALL.