One of the first campaigns I ever made:
The agency was Cromer Titterton, my creative partner was Alastair Wood, the typographer was Andy Dymock, and the photographer was Duncan Sim, the photographer’s assistant was a scruffy, curly-haired Brummie called Malc.
We shot for three weeks to get the three shots above.
Malc was treated like a 17th century slave.
We shot in the freezing, windy Highlands of Scotland, at the end of the day Duncan would sometimes say to the Brummie “Sleep here tonight, in the van, we don’t lose this spot…Night!”
We’d all go back to some fancy hotel, eat, drink and sleep, then turn up the next morning, Duncan would bang on the side of the van: “MALCOLM!Let’s go…COME ON!”
Up he’d jump and be lifting stuff within seconds from waking up.
Because he had it so tough, Alastair and I would try to help him out, smuggle him breakfast from the hotel, buy him drinks and generally try to make the shoot a bit better for him.
A year later, completely out of the blue, he called me up: “Dave it’s Malcolm, Malcolm Venville… Duncan’s assistant, can I get your advice on my pictures, I’m going to be a photographer.”
He turned up with a ramshackle box of photographs at my office in Edwards Martin Thornton: stuff from photographic college, random pictures of his girlfriend and a few portraits of reggae stars, taken as a favour for a friend’s magazine.
All were grainy and black and white.
At that time Advertising photographs were all colour and glossy.
Shame, I thought, he’s such a nice bloke.
I gave him a couple of tiny jobs to help him out financially.
The first, a portrait of my Nan for £50. (I remember asking her to wear black and white clothing so that I would get an idea of what the picture might look like, I guess I didn’t trust him?)
For the second, I asked him if he was able to take a colour picture of some expensive plates? “Yeah, easy!”
I was a bit anxious, should someone from snooty up market jewellers Asprey’s ask to see Malc’s folio, to see why I’d chosen him to shoot their products, the nearest thing to being relevant would be some grainy black and white pictures of Lee Scratch Perry – “Some people have heard of him… and some people have heard of you.”
I get to the shoot to find he’d stuck the three plates to a pink wall with Elephant Gum, “Er…will that hold…those plates are worth more than this shoot?”, Malc: “Yeah!…yeah!…I think so.”
Next, he shot a poster for the IPA Society for writer Mike McKenna and I, this time Malc was a bit more bullish about how it should look, insistent it be shot in daylight.
We used the cardboard back of a layout pad as the background and made the ‘models’ ourselves.
Shortly afterwards I had a proper ad that needed shooting.
One with a budget.
Should I risk giving it to my, by now, best mate, or give it to proper photographer?
He ‘pitched’ for it, showing me Richard Avedon shots as reference, again he wanted to shoot in daylight, and wanted a fifties feel.
We then tried to hustle a few projects by offering free creative and photography, providing we had complete creative control.
Things like this poster. (Again shot in daylight and printed by Klaus Kalder on lith paper.)
At that time, Malc was working out of a retouching company called O’Connor Dowse, who gave him a room at the back of their offices to use as a studio, for free.
Malc convinced Grenville, the owner, that a big ad in Campaign would really put them on the map.
It’s possible that we felt an endorsement from London’s leading Art Directors REALLY would help O’Connor Dowse, but we were very aware that meeting the best Art and Creative Directors would be pretty useful to us too.
Paul Arden, John Hegarty and Alan Waldie passed.
Graham Fink made Mike McKenna and I come up with better concepts for his image, quite right too.
This is the finished result:
The ad was a great success.
I’ve no idea what it did for Grenville, but Malc started shooting regularly with the Marks, Denton and Reddy, and I was hired at Simons Palmer DENTON Clemmow & Johnson within the year.