Working in the creative industry can be confusing; there are so many different specialisms and disciplines that there is no single sentence that can describe what encompasses being a creative, it is as vast as the minds of those involved within it.
Just recently I have had the absolute pleasure of working with a creative contemporary photographer, Nigel Tooby. What I get most satisfaction from at Open Communications is the range of clients that we have. Their businesses, brands, objectives and markets are so contrasting that it makes every day a ‘school day’ – you learn something new.
Working with Nigel and his wife Elaine was no different.
Our first meeting was back in August when we hosted an Open Strategy Session with the team. Not only did we all find the session enlightening, it was engaging and a real sharing of insights, beliefs and values. Nigel approaches his specialism, photography, very differently from how I would PR and that made for some great conversations and debate.
Fast forward a month and I took a call to ask if we would support the team with a project and exhibition they are working on, Eye Spy. Needless to say, having seen some of the works I couldn’t wait to roll my sleeves up and get stuck in.
All in the aid of Simon on the Streets, Nigel was originally tasked with creating a series of images for a charity calendar for the organisation, thanks to a referral from Red Media, the local design, print and marketing agency.
Rather than stick to the traditional, which isn’t really Nigel’s way, he chose to take the project one-step further and to recommend that the images were not only taken through the eyes of the homeless but also that they become an artistic installation, using materials from the streets to give the subject deeper context.
I was lucky enough to get a preview of the final pieces and a complete contradiction in terms is the best way I can find to describe them; they make for the most uncomfortable viewing but in the most positive and thought provoking way.
And so, here’s where we came in, it was our job to take Nigel’s creative talents and showcase them within the media. The first challenge was that the subject is interesting but also uncomfortable and the second is that some of the images were definitely unsuitable for print, simply due to the brutal truth behind them.
So, we got to work. A press call, invitations, press releases, media relations… and repeat… PR can be a little bit like a recipe for Yorkshire puddings sometimes, if you get it wrong it will all go flat but if you get it right… well, next time you have a Sunday lunch and you bite into your fluffy, light Yorkshire puddings that’s how PR feels when you get it right!
Thankfully we did. Working closely with Nigel and Elaine we were able to secure coverage in Yorkshire Post, Yorkshire Evening Post, Wakefield Express, Wetherby News, Harrogate Advertiser, Ripon Today, North Yorkshire News, BBC Radio Leeds and BBC Look North.
Not only is the work deserving of the coverage it achieved but I am so pleased to see that Nigel’s creative talent is being recognised. I have never met a photographer with such a vision for story-telling.
I have learnt a great deal in the short time I have worked with the team at Mogul Image and I expect that they don’t even realise it, knowing how unassuming and modest they are. Nigel has taught me to see behind an image and to look deeper as there are always things that you miss first time around.
As I said at the start of this blog, the way he approaches his art is very different to how I handle PR for our clients at Open Communications despite us working in the same creative industry. We are all about facts and figures, stories and angles, headlines and news, whereas Nigel deals with perspective, depth, contrast, controversy and creating debate.
The results for us both are similar; we raise the profile of a subject to encourage people to talk about it. The ultimate goal is word of mouth but our skills couldn’t be more dissimilar.
I will be attending the launch event of the Eye Spy exhibition this evening, which takes place at the Workhouse Modern in Harrogate from 6.30pm. I would encourage anyone who isn’t your typical lover of all things photography or arty to come along.
I will certainly be raising a glass to an exhibition well done and hope that people will take the time not only to better understand the plight of the homeless in our region but also to get their hands in their pocket and support Simon on the Streets, which is a very worthy and deserving cause.
Here is a small and very select sample of the images that will be on show at the exhibition, which will run until Monday 6 October. Please do remember that some of these images feature on crates and paving slabs… I won’t go into too much detail because I don’t want to spoil it but it is certainly worth going to see.