Slow Down in the City That Never Sleeps

On my trip to New York a couple of weeks ago I took along my wooden pinhole camera to grab a few pictures. This is really back-to-basics photography. No digital preview, not even a viewfinder to see what you are shooting. Analogue film, over 2 second exposures (sometimes up to 2 minutes) and no idea what they are going to come out like. For a first go I’m really pleased with the results and amused with the mistakes. Most are classic rookie photographer mistakes from way back shooting film. I’ve taken one of the Statue of Liberty and cut her head off, forgotten to wind the film on and double exposed some images, and even misjudged the panoramic effect and had my finger over the “lens” waiting to close the shutter.

But the thing that struck me most wasn’t the end results but the process of taking the images. Everything was slower, more deliberate. Knowing that each shot, from setting up the tripod, levelling the camera, taking a meter reading, working out the adjustment for the pinhole exposure, setting the timer, was going to take at least 5 minutes – even before I actually took the picture –  concentrated my mind on what I really wanted to achieve from the picture. Framing became far more considered, no taking a shot and checking the back of the camera to assess. This was a one time effort and had to be right.

The results are far from perfect but it is a great exercise in slowing down and taking stock. And for a piece of wood with a tiny hole in the front, I think they look pretty good.

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Cleaning Up Cornwall

At the end of July I took a trip down to Treyarnon beach near Padstow for Nissan and Auto Express to shoot a feature on how car manufacturers are helping in the fight against the tide of plastic waste being washed up on our shores. Beach Guardians, a father and daughter community interest group, regularly organise beach cleans and go out on their own to collect the waste plastics brought in by the tides. That’s where the Navara comes in. Nissan have lent their modified Navara AT32 to reach those hard to get to places.

The brief was fairly simple though we had an early start as the beach was likely to fill up with tourists and we needed to have the off-roader away from sun-seekers as soon as possible.

Our first shoot was in a nearby cave where at high tide plastics are washed in and invariably get wedged. In here we found oil drums, wetsuits, and all manner of other plastics.

My ridiculously bad claustrophobia was kicking in so I was glad to eventually get out of the cave and get some shots of the Navara being put through its paces on the shoreline while the early morning surfers carried on oblivious.

Finally it was the arranged time for volunteers to arrive for a briefing and start the arduous task of cleaning the beach.

Some went off with litter pickers while the majority stayed right at the back of the beach near the dunes. Here they were searching the sand for things called “nurdles”, tiny fragments of plastic that fish   eat thinking they are food.

After an hour we stopped to inspect our haul, pack up and be on our way. Sunshine, sea, sand and education all in one day. Not a bad way to make a living.



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35mm film cameras are back in fashion – but who needs a camera?

I read an article yesterday from the Guardian about how there seems to be a resurgence in 35mm Film Photography. (“Back to the darkroom: young fans reject digital to revive classic film camera”)

The “Reflex” is in development, designed by a group of enthusiasts and is looking to be on sale later on this year.

I last took a film photography back in 2000 when the demand from clients meant I went fully digital almost overnight. Sadly, to fund this change, I had to sell my 35mm cameras and my treasured Mamiya 6×7 medium format camera. But that’s progress and I couldn’t justify keeping them at the time.

A few years ago I got the urge to smell the developer and feel the sting of the fixer on my hands. I couldn’t bring myself to buy all the kit again so (this was just after Christmas) I got our empty Quality Street tins (still metal ones then) painted the insides with matt black paint and drilled a hole in the centre of the lid. I then used a thin piece of aluminium that I’d pierced with a sewing needle to cover the hole. My “shutter” was a black piece of card that was taped over the aluminium.

I bought some 6″x4″ black and white photographic paper and chemicals online, loaded my sweet tins with the paper by taping it to the back of the base and trooped out into the garden to see what would turn out. Luckily it had been snowing so the contrast was high. I set my camera up on a tripod in a rather Heath Robinson (one for the kids) fashion and peeled off my shutter. I had no idea how long to leave the shutter open but timed it at about 30 seconds. It was a flat day, clouds heavy after the snow but bright.

At the time I didn’t have a changing bag to replace the paper so I took two exposures, one with each “camera”: one of the front of the house and one of the rear. Composing any shot should take time and thought, even in the “machine-gun” days of digital where the physical image has no financial penalty (35mm meant 36 shots per roll and that cost money) but knowing you only have one chance makes you think about every aspect of the scene, slowing the process down, making sure everything is just right. The Decisive Moment as Henri Cartier-Bresson said, although he was talking about fleeting moments not 30-50 second exposures!

Then I dived into the garage to develop the images and see what I had. There is something mystical about seeing a picture develop slowly in front of you. Almost a Frankenstein moment where your creation comes alive. I spent 7 years photographing and developing black and white images when I first became a press photographer and the thrill never left me.

And so the pictures finally came into being. Out of the developer, into the fix and a bit of a rinse. And here was my first pinhole image.

Or at least the negative of an image.

Now I had to go back to modern technology, scan the negative, stick it in photoshop, invert it and flip the horizontal.

And there we have the front of the house!

And the back garden in the snow.


Sadly (and fortunately) soon after this work became manic again (January is always a little bit slow) and after a brief trip to Oxford to try it out again, the cameras were forgotten about.

But this article in the Guardian has jolted my interest again and I’ll be looking to make a few more cameras in the near future. I’m told iPhone boxes make great “compact” pinhole cameras.

The irony


I can’t wait.

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An unexpected engagement

I was shooting a race for my local running club a couple of weeks ago. The race started in a park in Marlow and I’d been photographing a bit of the preparation before the start. As I walked out of the park to get a position for the hoards of runners as they ran up the High Street something made me turn around. As I did I saw this….

Luckily I already had my long lens on and quickly rattled off a few shots as I walked back towards them. I kept shooting to get their reactions.

Happily it was a positive outcome

The groom-to-be was obviously confident on the outcome as he’d got a t-shirt printed so I got in close and grabbed a shot of the happy couple.

A great way to start a mornings work.

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The ISIS Crisis


About 10 years ago I set up a subsidiary photography company dealing with the more “social” side of the business. Its an odd term as I don’t feel particularly unsociable photographing in the “commercial” sector… Actually, surely all professional photography is “commercial”? Anyway, I digress.

I had always thought that the two types of photography should be kept apart as there was (and still is) a perception that wedding and portrait photography was somehow a lesser skill than the corporate work I mainly undertook. As the years have gone on I realise that the skills necessary are completely interchangeable and one market will feed the creativity of the other. Alongside that the organisational skills needed in arranging many people in a short space of time for a variety of shots is invaluable in both markets.

For instance, a lot of shots I do could be called corporate portraiture, images of executives or employees for annual reports, websites etc. These may differ in tone from a portrait to hang in a home, for instance, but the lessons learned in one environment can be transferred to the other.

Whether it’s using natural light on a subject…

…or something as simple as a bit of a folded-armed lean!

So what is the point of this blog then? When I set up the wedding business I wanted a name that was as far from my corporate style as possible, with a name that evoked a more romantic, feminine feel. So I came up with this…

What could possibly go wrong? An Egyptian goddess which “remains one of the most familiar images of empowered and utter femininity,” and a beautifully ornate logo. I was on to a winner.

Until a few years ago when things started to get a bit interesting. True, I wasn’t massively promoting this side of the business so I probably wasn’t keeping a very close eye on the traffic coming to the site or the Facebook page. But apparently ISIS Photography was creating some interest. And not in a good way. Bookings were about the same, but likes and followers were increasing. As were comments…

Eventually at the beginning of last year I had to close down the website and the Facebook page as it was obvious ISIS were here to stay (no matter how much I wanted ISIL or Daesh to stick) and I realised the association, while an interesting talking point, wasn’t going to help my credibility.

So this year I have relaunched the site as Matt Fowler Photography keeping the same logo as the core business but emphasising the wedding, portrait and events side. The web address will be and the corporate address will remain as

Hopefully no-one with my name will decide in the next few years that they fancy a crack at world domination…

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A quick round up and a promise…

2016 was a bit of a whirlwind. I can’t believe I haven’t posted anything for nearly a year, that is truly shocking! So the dreaded New Year’s resolution has to be to pull my finger about and start blogging a bit more.

Rather than go through each month I thought I’d just pick out a few highlights of the year and some pictures I enjoyed taking.

It’s been a bit of a car-themed year starting off where 2015 finished with my amazing trip to Tokyo. This year has been a bit more UK focussed though and began with a trip to the Nissan plant in Sunderland for a visit with Paralympian David Weir. With Nissan sponsoring UK athletes at the 2016 paralympics the Weirwolf came up to the plant to chat with workers and get a tour around some of the factory.9880-04-01-OEwho

March was once again Geneva Motor Show. This was my 20th Geneva show for Nissan. The year wouldn’t feel right without a trip to Switzerland. Its a great show, nicely compact so I don’t have too far to get to the stands!


In April I had probably the most interesting job of the year. The idea was to fit 70 Renault Twingos into the courtyard of Somerset House and film it from the roof. All before 6.30am.

At 3am I fitted one camera, on a time-lapse, to the roof of the building and a go-pro half way down so I could capture the cars being driven in and parked as the sun came up. Then, just before 6.30 when all the cars were parked I got the shots and everyone disappeared. It was like we were never there. This shot is from the time-lapse and shows the sun just lightening the sky as the cars are positioned. Unfortunately the film is too large to place here but you can see it here


June is Goodwood Festival of Speed time and the best, longest, most exhausting long weekend of the year. Who knew I would be photographing the future Formula One world champion?


I don’t know what it is about the Auto Union’s but I never tire of shooting these incredible machines.


In June I also went down to the Eden Project to shoot a fleet of electric cars that were being delivered to the attraction. We were able to drive a few of them into the biomes which made for some nice and unusual shots


July can only mean one thing. The Roald Dahl carnival. I’ve no idea how many years I’ve covered this and it is always a ridiculously colourful event. This year we were blessed with great weather, but even when it has poured down it is always a riot of colour and (sometimes soggy) papier-mâché.



August saw me up at the Bedford Autodrome mixing with another F1 driver, Jolyon Palmer, from the Renault F1 team. He was thrilling and scaring competition winners in equal measure with laps around the circuit.It was late in the afternoon and the sun was perfect for a bit of atmospheric shooting.


September was spent at back-to-back Motor Shows, firstly the Commercial Vehicle show in Hannover and the week after at Paris Motor Show for the launch of the new Micra.


A freezing night in November was spent in Coventry with Pudsey Bear and Peugeot, leaving mini bears on peoples doorsteps overnight to raise awareness for Children in Need


Finally, my last picture is from early December and wasn’t commissioned. Late November and early December produced some stunning evening skies and I wanted to capture the beauty of one alongside a local landmark at Coombe Hill in the Chilterns. Everything seemed to work and I love the colours of the sky in this shot.


So that’s  it. Round up completed. I promise to try harder this year to get some thoughts together more often.


Oh, by the way, I do shoot a lot more than cars, honest!





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Racing into the new year


January has been a very busy month, both professionally and in terms of my running.


From meeting with South Bucks Hospice in the first week of the year – confirming our plans to raise as much money together as possible – to my first 26 mile run on the last day of the month, it has been non-stop. I have decided to run 3 marathons in 3 weekends, starting with Manchester on 10th April and finishing with London on the 24th for this local and very worthwhile charity.

Runner signature v1.1[1] copy

Traditionally January is a quiet month in the commercial photography calendar but that hasn’t been the case this year with work all over the country. A couple of shoots with paralympian David Weir have been totally inspiring and reinforced what an incredible yet humble man he is.


Like most people running has had to fit in around work so it has been an interesting exercise keeping both sides of my life happy.


Having said that training has gone really well and I’ve recorded my biggest ever monthly mileage (242 miles) Knowing I’m running for the Hospice has really focussed my mind and made me determined to train as hard and sensibly as possible. I want to do well but also don’t want to get injured!


I’ve started to build in speed work now, trying to get a bit quicker. My club caters for all levels of runner and hold a couple of sessions a week concentrating on speeding up. These benefit all types of runners as it pushes you probably further than you would do on your own; and it’s also a great way to socialise with fellow runners.


Long runs are the bedrock of any marathon training and I usually do mine on a Sunday morning. However, one Saturday this month my daughter had to be up early for work and wanted me to make sure she was awake. As I was up anyway I thought I’d get the run done so set off at 6.30. The idea was to run 17 miles and end up at the Rye just before 9am to run parkrun (the free running event held every week there – I’m not a morning person and obviously my first few miles were a bit sluggish as, when I got to the other side of the Rye, I could see 300 people running the opposite way having already started!


On the last day of January I ran my first full marathon distance this year. It’s not something I usually do training for a marathon but the Stonehenge Stomp is a favourite of mine and I couldn’t pass up the chance to run around those iconic stones. This isn’t a race, doesn’t have medals, timing or goodie bags and isn’t really for runners! It rained for pretty much the whole way round but the marshals at each checkpoint were as enthusiastic as ever. I spent about 17 miles chatting to a fellow runner not noticing the miles passing as we swapped stories. At the finish I decided I might as well run another mile or so around Amesbury to get the distance to exactly 26.2 miles.


So it’s been a great start to the year in many ways and I can’t wait to see what February brings.


If you feel you could support South Bucks Hospice in any way please visit their Just Giving page at  More about the Hospice at

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A summer of sport

I love photographing sport but unfortunately very rarely have the opportunity. This summer, however, I have been lucky that, not only has the Tour of Britain route passed really close, but I have also had two clients closely involved in sporting events.

National Paralympic Day

Firstly Nissan are sponsoring the Road to Rio for both the British Olympic Association (BOA) and the British Paralympic Association (BPA). In August the BPA held a National Paralympics Day at the former Olympic Park. I was commissioned to photograph the various events taking place showing how the brand was seen during these events. Not as easy as it seems as sponsorship boards from a variety of companies were vying for space.





The Tour of Britain

I am lucky to live close to where the 6th stage of the Tour of Britain was held. Not only that but where one of the Category 2 climbs was scheduled at Kop Hill. I wanted to shoot the tour at a climb as I had seen a lot of images from earlier in the tour and all were of the peleton in a bunch racing through a village or countryside. I wanted to get a bit more up close and personal focussing on the strain in the faces of the riders as they battle up this short but tough hill. An added bonus was that they would be going a bit slower so I’d have more time to see them!




Blenheim Horse Trials

The final sporting assignment was at Blenheim Horse Trials where Biffa Waste Services were again sponsoring a fence. Again my task was to show off the branding around the course. I took the opportunity to grab a few personal shots too as I walked the course. Not a bad way to spend a day.







And finally

Not really a sport but sport related. ASDA workers volunteered as Tourmakers during each UK leg of the Tour de France earlier in the summer. This picture was used in their internal communications.



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Everybody’s doing it so why can’t I? A London Marathon Story

Sorry Cranberries!

My London Marathon odyssey. 

A lot of meticulous planning went into my first marathon. From training plans, alcohol free months, strict(ish) diets down to what and at which time I would have my pre-London breakfast. The one thing I had neglected though, was how I was going to get there. I assumed (I know, I know) that I could jump on an early train into London and everything would fall into place.

photo 2

Which is how I found myself driving into Central London at 6am.

I parked up in a very posh road (Chandos Street) near to Oxford Circus parking my mini between an Aston Martin and a Range Rover Evoque and chucked down my OatsoSimple porridge. Classy.

The journey to Blackheath was pretty good though it was nose to armpit all the way. Once there I got my first taste of the madness to come.

photo 1

This was tame in comparison – luckily I never saw the mankini man in the flesh.


photo 3


As I do, I arrived about an hour earlier than necessary but spent the time hydrating, getting rid of the hydration effects and relaxing.

photo 5

Then it was start time. Starting in the blue section you don’t get the sense of scale that you must have with the other starts and I was through to the timing mat within 10 minutes.  And so it starts. I remember at the time being massively frustrated that I had to keep dodging around slower people almost continuously for the first 5km. When I looked at my splits I found that this was my second fasted 5km so in hindsight I’m really grateful all those runners were there. I almost certainly would have set out too quickly and bombed halfway through.

photo 4

The first half of the race went pretty easily and I couldn’t wait to get to Tower Bridge. I’d arranged to meet the family there, on the left, but no idea which part. The whole of Tower Bridge was a blur of noise and faces as I tried to find them. Eventually my daughter screamed out my name and I ran over for a quick kiss and cuddle. It was such a relief  to see them and set me up for the rest of the race.

The next mile or so is also where you run back so it was inspiring and demoralising at the same time to see runners who were at least 7 miles ahead of me on their return leg. What was fantastic was to see the 35km marker on the opposite side as I new, once I reached that, I only had one and a half (ish) parkruns left.

I was surprised how much I enjoyed the Canary Wharf section as I assumed there wouldn’t be too many people out there. However, spectators had turned out in force, bands were playing outside every pub, steel bands on every corner and every underpass had a louder drum group than the previous one.

I was still feeling good at 20 miles and had finally given up trying to find a Runners World pacer to help me with my time. At the start I was pretty well down the back of the queue next to the 4.30 pacer. The idea was to ease past as quickly as possible and find the 3.56 pacer and sit with them. In the first 2 miles I got past the 4.30 and 4.15 but couldn’t find the 3.56. At about 3 miles the red start and the blue start merge so thousands of runners joined us. Then I spotted a pacers flag only to find it was a 4.58, then another further on was 4.30. Totally confused I THEN remembered to take note of the mile marker times and sort myself out.

photo 7

Around 21 miles I had a bit of a mental wobble. We were running past Limehouse Town Hall. I think the previous few hundred yards might have been a bit quiet because suddenly there was a wall of cheering, a massive sound system pumping out live music and a fantastic atmosphere. I felt myself welling up, took a deep breath, and a gel, zipped up the man suit a bit tighter and carried on.

Not long afterwards I hit the magical 35km mark and knew I could do it. Unfortunately what I didn’t know was how long the road was until we were back at Tower Bridge. I kept thinking it was just round the corner but it was a good mile away. Happily I somehow completely missed the 22 mile marker and, thinking I must be slowing horrendously, was ecstatic to go through 23 miles. One parkrun left!

I tried visualising my local parkrun, where I would be on the route that I’ve run so many times, but I was tired, and a bit grumpy, so that went out of the window. What also, briefly disappeared was my appreciation for the crowds. At Limehouse my heart went out to all the people, most I suspect who weren’t cheering for anyone in particular just for the joy of encouraging strangers, to the extent that I almost cried with gratitude. 3 miles later I just wanted them all to shut up, stop making such a racket and let me get on with this on my own. Sorry…

It was all a bit straightforward after that, apart from dodging runners who, so close to the finish, were either stretching out their own cramps or being stretched by others or, worse still, looking like they weren’t going to make it.

I hadn’t taken any pictures throughout the run as I had a few other things going on but thought I should do a bit of a selfie at Buckingham Palace. Shouldn’t have bothered.

photo 8

And then the final stretch. The wonderful, amazing indescribable feeling of having accomplished something I set out to do almost exactly 8 months previously.

And all for this…


The ballot opens for next year on Tuesday. I’ll be first in the queue.

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Review of 2013 in pictures

2013 was a pretty interesting year. From shooting cityscapes in Monaco to horse trials at Blenheim life hasn’t been dull. Long may it continue!





lord mayors show








dexter fletcher




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