5 Feb 2017

Press Passes Giving You Access To All Areas.

In my years as a photographer with the Middlesbrough Gazette and then as a North East freelance commercial and PR photographer I must have amassed hundreds of press passes. These are the keys to the kingdom in terms of having unique access at sporting grounds, royal visits, arts events and music gigs where security is a key factor.

As you would expect, top of the tree when it comes to event security are those involving royal visits and I’ve probably photographed 20 royal visits to the region between Dumfries and Galloway down to Teesside in the last few years, including photographing the Duchess of Cambridge when she visited the Crime Reduction Initiative’s Recovery Service centre on William Street in Stockton on Tees. As well as capturing the Duchess talking to assembled guests this job involved moving into another area of the building to take some pictures of her chatting with service users in a private meeting away from the rest of the assembled guests, which was quite a privilege – it’s not very often that it’s just me and a senior member of the royal family in a room together but luckily having done this job for years I’m not over-awed by VIPs.

To get my press pass for a royal visit usually involves several conversations and meetings with various Kensington Palace staff, who require references, my passport and a host of other details before we even start planning the photoshoot.

It’s not just the royal visit organisers who prefer to have ‘invitation-only’ photographers covering their events. In 2005 I was really pleased to be selected by world famous news agency Reuters when they wanted a North East photographer to take pictures of the American artist Spencer Tunick and his naked people installation on the Newcastle and Gateshead banks of the Tyne. A chilly 3am start saw around 1700 volunteers stripping off for the camera and strolling around the streets in various poses directed by the artist. This was one of those occasions when the fewer photographers and bystanders around, the better.

At a celebrity or music event I’m often surrounded by other photographers of course, whether they are professionals or amateurs armed with camera phones, but my press pass gives me privileged access to all areas. I’ve covered gigs where I’ve looked out on audiences of around 10,000 people that are just a sea of camera flashes, most of which would generate grainy pictures of tiny figures on a dark stage, while I’ve been able to get close enough to the performers to get shots that have been used by all the major newspapers and news outlets the following day.   

Whether I need a specific press pass or not I always carry my British Press Photography Association card and my driving licence around. Together these make up some useful ID for a variety of occasions, particularly when I’m doing school photography or in environments where there are vulnerable people for instance.

Even though I’ve been doing this job for years I still get a real buzz from slinging my press pass round my neck and setting out to get something different, whether that’s a set of pictures covering a four-hour VIP visit or a handful of key shots that perfectly sum up an event and its atmosphere for my client.  

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