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My first work experience

My first work experience was helping out at a photographer’s studio in Mayfair, London. I was 16. I was taken on by the chief photographer, Peter White, a dour Scot, through a personal connection with my stepfather. My job was to help Peter with the equipment when he went out on shoots.

The studio specialised in photographing valuable artworks belonging to wealthy individuals. It was the kind of job I was unusually suited to, even at that age. I had recently completed a six-week residential course in Renaissance art, in Venice. We used a large-format plate camera that I seem to remember was larger than even the 10″x8″ cameras still in general circulation (this was in 1966). The images had to be of the very highest, archival quality for reproduction in art books. It was a job I could see myself doing most agreeably for the rest of my life.

After I had been working there very happily for two weeks, the owner of the business returned from his holiday in Barbados, where he owned a villa. “Who’s this?” he demanded to know. “He’s just helping me out”, said Peter. “He’s not being paid.” “Well, get rid of him”, said the owner, just to show his chief photographer who was the boss. And that was my first work experience, of being fired for fuck-all reason.

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