I began my professional photography career in 1987, the job was advertised as ‘Entertainment and Nightclub Photographer’ and it stated, quite clearly, that applicants must be over the age of 21 – I was 17 at the time, but applied anyway, lied about my age and experience and got the job. The Isle of Man was a very different place in 1987 – every other building on Douglas promenade was a hotel, guesthouse or pub, and in the summer the island’s capital would be rammed full with holidaymakers. Drunk holidaymakers. Of course, in 1987 not everyone had a camera in their pocket, so my job was to document their alcohol fuelled nights out for them – I would approach a table, ask the inebriated revellers if they’d like a photo, and if they replied in the affirmative I would take a single shot, they’d hand-over £2.50 and I’d give them a ticket and instructions as to where they could claim their 5×7 inch print the next day. It always amazed me how many people actually remembered and picked their prints up – or rather how many didn’t remember.
My equipment that summer was basic – I was expecting a motor-driven Nikon F3, Metz hammerhead flash and a selection of fast, prime lenses to choose from – which in my head I’d be allowed to keep at the end of the summer as a thank you for my hard work… but no, and I’m sure you can only imagine the crushing disappointment I felt as I was handed an Olympus Trip 35. I honestly thought it was a joke and started laughing. It wasn’t a joke.
Two weeks into the job I was called into Island Photographic’s shop for ‘a chat’ – the first thing the boss asked me was hold old I was, I confessed to being a minor, that I’d be 18 in a few weeks (I wasn’t actually 18 for another 4 months) and that I wasn’t even close to being 21. To my surprise, I wasn’t sacked on the spot, but then again I was making a lot of money for the company. Instead I had to promise I wouldn’t go into any of the places with an over 21 rule, such as the bar underneath the casino, Whispers Nightclub. Within two nights I was back photographing in all the usual places, which included Whispers.
That was a great summer, my days completely shifted round – up all night, sleep all day. I also earned a considerable sum of cash… I earned 25% of everything I took and with it I bought my first ‘proper’ professional camera – a Nikon F3.
The images in this article have nothing to do with this story, I just thought I’d show some of the work I’ve shot professionally over the last few weeks. I would like to see some of those photos I took in 1987 though, there must be some lying around, somewhere?
Oh, Island Photographic upgraded to more modern equipment in 1988, so at the end of the ’87 summer season I was allowed to keep my camera as a thank you for all of my hard work…