Graham Ford’s B&H Goldfish photoshoot

‘It was one of those great advertising briefs where all the elements are there, but nothing was set in stone. I don’t have the original layout from Nigel Rose, art director at CDP, but I think it showed a shadow of a cat, a bowl and maybe the suggestion of a window.’

B&H Goldfish ad by Graham Ford

You were working on several campaigns at the same time: did you and Nigel discuss the look of the shot in detail? Or were you both pretty much on the same wavelength?

Graham Ford: ‘That summer of ’85 I was also working on Benson & Hedges with Graham Fink, Silk Cut for Paul Arden, Volvo for John Horton, Atora and Clarkes for Nigel, Hennessy for Guy Moore, BMW for Kathy Heng and Citroen for Dennis Lewis. I was very busy!

Nigel would have drawn a loose layout which the agency and client would have approved in principle – art directors could actually draw in those days – and we’d discuss the detail with the stylist and modelmaker. When we had everything ready on the set we would progress together, a process of discovery using lots of Polaroid.

Art directors like Nigel knew what they wanted, and they understood photography. There is a long journey from sketch to billboard, as everything had to be made by hand, assembled, lit, brought into focus, and distilled onto one sheet of film. Nigel knew my style, we trusted each other and knew we could make this work.’

Are you the kind of photographer who works everything out on paper, or do you prefer to evolve the shot until you’re happy enough to go ahead?

Graham Ford: ‘Both. I would calculate distances, sizes and lens angles, and I would set up a test and plan as much as I could beforehand. Don’t forget, the models were real and couldn’t be changed after they were made, and that sometimes took weeks…

Read the rest of Graham Ford’s B&H Goldfish at

Photo: Graham Ford, Art Director: Nigel Rose, Model-maker: Terry Kemble. Shot in Graham Ford’s studio in wonderful Westbourne Grove, London, 1985.
This feature © Ken Sparkes. All Rights Reserved.


Bennison Calendar 2012

November - Bennsion 2012 calendar by Ken Sparkes

The Bennison Fabrics 2012 calendar just has been released and it looks terrific. Like the previous calendar we wanted to showcase the fabrics in an eye-catching way and create images that would be remembered. So, we thought a childhood theme would do the trick, nostalgic but with a twist. Jude Massie-Taylor suggested Fairy Stories, I liked the idea of Nursery Crimes. We combined the two themes, went to our desks and began to sketch.

Our Mary Poppins sketch left quite a lot to the imagination, which is fortunate because our original intention to find a suitable rooftop location was doomed. With time running out, I had to think of something else.

We photographed Kim standing on a tall chair while she tried to hold the umbrella and look as though she was airborne at the same time. I had snapped the Battersea Power Station photo just a week or two before, having been soaked by the storm that you see in the final image.

Bennison 2012 Calendar by Ken Sparkes - March

Read the rest of the feature: New Year Resolution: Bennison Calendar 2012

Photos © Ken Sparkes. Art Director/Stylist: Jude Massie-Taylor, Costume Design: Sophia Lovell Smith, Hair and Makeup: Elaine Smith, Shot at Bennison Fabrics, near Sloane Square, and other miscellaneous locations around London. All Rights Reserved.

Atelier sul Mare art hotel, Sicily

Atelier sul Mare art hotel -

About half way along the Sicily’s North Coast is Cefalu, and just a little further is the tiny village of Castel di Tusa which at first glance has little to offer; a bar emitting pop music and the whiff of a typical café kitchen, a few fishing boats pulled up on the harbour front, a coach of schoolchildren. Except it happens to be home to one of the most extraordinary hotels you are ever likely to check into. Atelier sul Mare is the brainchild of Antonio Presti, who had the insane idea that guests would travel miles off the beaten track to a hotel that allowed you to stay and sleep inside a piece of art.

Atelier sul Mare art hotel -

Sixteen or so of its 40 rooms have been created by an international collection of artists who have been given the freedom to push the boundaries of what constitutes a hotel room to the very limit. We chose the Pasolini Room (also called the Prophet Room) by Dario Bellezza, Adele Camria and Antonio himself. The black metal door is covered with Pier Paolo Pasolini’s poetry, cantilevered so we can knock it down should we want to, and opens into an impossibly narrow, pitch-dark corridor which requires us to turn our wheelie suitcases sideways. The room is large and all walls and ceilings are plastered with straw and mud. It shouldn’t work, but it does! The effect is at first perplexing, then strangely comforting

Read more about Atelier sul Mare on

Atelier sul Mare, via Cesare Battisti 4, 98079 Castel di Tusa, Sicily.
T: +39 0921 334 295 W:

Words & Photos: © Ken Sparkes All Rights Reserved.

A Flickr Alternative? 500px Review

Bennison Fabrics calendar by Ken Sparkes on

It never rains but it pours, or so it seems. I have used Flickr as an online scrapbook for many years but Yahoo, who own and run Flickr, seem to be have left their prime photo site out in the rain recently and it can’t communicate with PayPal for Pro account renewals. That means all but the most recent photos have disappeared, including photos linked to Bennison email campaigns and any links to sets or collections I’ve emailed to friends, colleagues or clients. Apparently they are still there, but we can only find them by searching for the right keywords. ‘Oh well, plenty more fish in the sea’, I hissed, and went in search of an alternative.

500px was founded by photography fanatics Ian Sobolev, Oleg Gutsol and Evgeny Tchebotarev and looks very much like a site for people who take photography seriously. The site is attractive, is easy to use. It lacks many of Flickr’s bells and whistles and currently has only a few integrations, so probably kinder to people with time-management failings. I uploaded a few photos to see how the portfolio section worked, linked my profile, tinkered with the settings, logged out and went to do some proper work.

My GMail notifier started flashing. I had mail. Lots of it. This rain-swept umbrella picture had 11,500 views, 42 pages of votes and comments, and became Editor’s Choice soon after. The 500px community is enthusiastic, engaged, active and there are some very good photographers on there…

Read the rest of the 500px mini-review on

Words & Photo: © 2011 Ken Sparkes. All Rights Reserved.

How to get your property photographed beautifully

Home styling for the complete novice

You’ve decided to let out your property for short-term holiday rentals while you head for the sunshine, and the agency is sending over a photographer to do some spiffy pics. As a rent-virgin, you are not sure what to expect and perhaps a trifle uneasy about splashing photos of your intimate sanctuary all over the interwebs. However, the success of your rental, and therefore the exoticness of your own holiday, is in direct proportion to the attractiveness of your property, so how to you make the most out of what you’ve got? I’m a partner at posh London agency so I thought some practical guidance would be useful:

Q: By spooky coincidence, we booked your photographer to come on laundry day. Is it okay to leave the house festooned with knickers and damp tracksuit bottoms?
A: No. Unless you have booked a super-model to wear them, please hide all extraneous undergarments and clothing.

Continue reading How to get your property photographed beautifully