Dusty Springfield, an MPP Micropress and EastEnders.


3/7/20244 min read

Upon finishing school; let’s not beat about the bush, I was expelled, I found myself at Brian Goodchild's Cameras in Stratford, a true haven for shutterbugs. I was good at my job but my course needed steering towards actually taking photos. The store owner, a diamond of a man, saw my passion for photography and generously financed my trip to Kodak's London headquarters for an intensive training course.

At the Kodak HQ, I got my first taste of street photography. With a gleaming new Kodak camera and several rolls of film in hand, with my fellow students we roamed the streets of London, capturing the city's raw energy and vibrant life. The course, not only refined my technical knowledge but also laid the foundation for my lifelong love for street photography. Little did I know then that these transformative days would more than half a century later inspire the creation of my Facebook group, "Street Photography, Cartier-Bresson Inspired" - a beacon of inspiration for street photographers worldwide.

It was at Brian Goodchild’s that I struck up an unlikely friendship with a remarkable fellow named Hugh Miller. Hugh, a prolific writer of magic books and partner in a London magic business, was a regular customer, who I learned to admire, and soon became a mentor in my nascent career in photography.

If I find myself reminiscing about Stratford-on-Avon, I recall a young lad, camera in hand, and a sparkle in his eye. Yours truly, was that ambitious lad, fresh from an adventurous stint in Aden, Yemen, now living in the quintessentially British village of Ettington, looking for clients to capture and immortalise through his lens.

One day, Hugh invited me to his house in Wellesbourne to help with some photos for his new book. I found myself in the extraordinary position of holding props and even operating the shutter. This was my first taste of professional photography and the excitement was palpable. If you dig into some old magic books, you might even stumble upon some of my early work, and pictures of me!

Hugh, with his colourful Glasgow accent and an endless collection of fascinating stories, was nothing short of inspiring. He exposed me to London's vibrant magic scene, taking me to his shop on Wardour St and the exclusive Magic Circle – a rare privilege indeed.

While I continued to shoot weddings and portraits, I felt a shift in my aspirations. Inspired by Hugh, I decided it was time to elevate my photography business. I wanted to target a more upscale market, and to do that, I knew I needed to adjust my pricing to reflect the high-quality service I aimed to provide. But it wasn't just about the price tag; I wanted to ensure my work truly resonated with the top-tier quality I was striving for. My reliable Yashica 635 had been a great partner on this journey, but I felt the need for something more to truly take my work to the next level.

bigger is sometimes better

The revelation came when I encountered the work of another Stratford photographer, who used a Linhof Super Technica 5x4. The quality of his work and the prices he charged left me in awe. The Linhof was the epitome of 5x4 cameras, just as the Rolleiflex had been when I owned my Yashica 635, both regrettably beyond my reach.

However, my resolve led me to the MPP Micropress 5x4, a true beast of a camera that commanded attention. Paired with my newly-acquired, latest tech, white shoot-through umbrellas, I had transformed my photographic setup into a sight to behold. With this newfound pseudo-professionalism, I raised my price to a substantial 20 guineas, a significant jump of ten-fold from my humble 2-pound fee. I've managed to hold onto a number of my initial portrait enlargements, and blimey, even viewed through today's lens, the quality remains undeniably striking. They truly do stand the test of time, they're just that bloody good!

Though the bookings came less frequently, the increased income more than compensated for it. I was working smarter, not harder. In the eyes of my clients, I wasn't just a young lad with a camera; I was a bona fide professional, producing photos with a mature flair that was inspired by the likes of Yusuf Karsh. Hugh, ever the ideas man, suggested a catchy name for my venture - "Studio 5" was born. With my impressive kit, unique branding, and top-notch images, I was walking the walk and talking the talk.

The enigmatic Hugh has worn many hats throughout his life: from a band member of the Scottish group The Corries and the boyfriend of Dusty Springfield to a police forensic expert and a captivating raconteur. He's a true man of mystery, with a particular fondness for Scotch whisky. His journey led him to remarkable success as a writer, contributing to numerous books and screenplays, including well-known titles such as "EastEnders," "Indelible Evidence," and "Minder." Over the years, our paths have diverged since I left England, and his current whereabouts remain a mystery. I wouldn't be surprised if he's still residing in his old flat in Warwick's St John’s Court. Nonetheless, his influence remains deeply ingrained in both my heart and my work.

Ettington was the backdrop to an exciting chapter in my life, filled with drama, inspiration, and entrepreneurial spirit. It was a testament to the power of mentorship, the rewards of following your passion, and the joy of turning a beloved hobby into a successful livelihood. And it all started with a lad, a camera, and a dream.

© Peter Pickering. www.peterpickering.com