Competition winner, Graeme Cooper

Eposure launched a competition to feature as the featured photographer for eposure’s site launch. We received dozens of excellent entries, and after careful consideration we chose Graeme’s entry.

Graeme Cooper has worked as a commercial professional photographer for over 20 years, and Eposure invited Graeme to talk about his time in china and how the shoot went; With some surprising challenges to overcome (including April fool’s day…).

Graeme your entry is a fantastic shot, where was it taken?

“Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong Province, it’s just west of Hong Kong in mainland China”.

Can you describe how the day panned out?

“You mean the week more like…we’d been sent out to China to shoot a campaign for Sophos Anti-Virus. Our original visuals and brief comprised of a shot of loads of bicycles crossing over each other…the strap-line indicated that Sophos, as a product, could give you respite in a very chaotic world, somewhere safe.

We set aside 5 days, with a couple of travel days either side.

You’ve got a lot of red tape shooting somewhere like that, as well as production problems and language problems.

I resolved this to a degree by taking with me a Cantonese speaking Chinese assistant from the UK, named Dinu Li.

Originally we were heading for Beijing but as they’re Mandarin speaking in the north we decided to go into the country through Hong Kong and look for somewhere further south, and Dinu has a lot of family still back in China, in Guangzhou. And those contacts and the help they provided, proved to be invaluable.

The problems began with trying to find the bicycles… we didn’t want initially want to set the shot up. The Chinese were quite rightly insulted by the fact that the rest of the world seemed to think that they all still rode around on bicycles. We recced the Universities and factories of Guangzhou at the beginning and the end of shifts… but none were looking right and there certainly weren’t enough bikes.

So in the end we had to find somewhere to set the shot up, and roping in loads of people to participate.

We started at a brick works about 2 hours west of Guangzhou on about the 3rd day. We went up and recced the location and the manager of the brick works rounded us up a hundred or so people with bikes at a suitable location for the following day.

We shot the following day, and I wasn’t happy with the results… so we put Plan B into operation which was to shoot it at the University Campus in Guangzhou.

We’d arranged a backup crowd with the English course thinking this would make our lives easier… but the following day was April 1st and all the students that had been commandeered thought that the faculties were playing a practical joke on them.

Aside from studying English they were also doing English cultural studies… and no-one turned up!

So, we ‘stole’ some bikes from the bike racks, quickly grabbed some passing students by waving some money at them and attempted the shot again.

I still wasn’t happy with it and therefore we phoned the guy back at the brick works to round up the people again and do a reshoot the following day.

We shot it for a third time, slightly different location and set up and after we’d finished I still wasn’t happy with the shot.

After a meal and beers that night and phoning the Creative Director (whose idea of a joke was ringing me at 3am pretending to order a Chinese meal) we were looking for another avenue to take.

Both Dinu and I were staring out the bedroom window of the hotel the following morning and the shot you now see was in front of us.

We discussed the idea of a shot on the flat roof with the back door of Guangzhou behind.

Dinu’s uncle was a Tai Chi instructor and Dinu rang him up and asked him if he was willing to gather his class together and do some Tai Chi for us.

So the landscape in the shot was the view from my hotel room window.

And that last afternoon of the whole trip, we set the shot up with radio links with them below.

What I find really weird is that if we’d been sent to China with that brief, we’d have been looking for that location for weeks.

Some would call that serendipity… I think I’d just call it extremely good luck.

The other interesting thing I find with the shoot is, as it was about 8 years ago… we were still shooting film for the commission – one of the last commissioned film shoots I did, albeit 35mm., but I had with me a Canon D60, precursor to the 5D,

I shot both film and with the D60… not massive files by todays’ standards… but when I got back in the darkroom with the black and white negatives from the Leica and compared them to the raw files from the D60 it was pretty evident the writing was on the wall as far as shooting professionally with film was concerned.”

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