As an Essex based PR agency winning the Visit Essex contract to challenge the Essex stereotype was a dream come true. The Big Wave PR team are Essex born and bred. We’d been ‘annoyed’ by the outdated stereotype for a long time, so it was a project we knew we could really get our teeth into.
Our Essex-based PR team put a call out to the media for ‘top stars’ of the county to step forward and challenge the stereotype. There was a great response with entries flooding into our office. Once the ambassadors for Essex were chosen, I was tasked with photographing the top 15 for a new ‘This is Essex’ calendar and pop-up gallery.
The project had me traversing all corners of the county, from Harwich to Southend, Harlow to Colchester and beyond. I had to photograph 15 people in seven days, it was a tight timetable, as the client wanted to get the project up and running quickly. It was no mean feat to arrange, or should I say ‘juggle’. However, it was a fantastic opportunity and I got to visit parts of my home county that I had rarely seen.
The ambassadors for #ThisisEssex were a truly inspirational group. Martina Cole is a multi-million selling author who started in very humble beginnings in Aveley. She is proud to call herself an ‘Essex Girl’ as she knows Essex and its people is what made her and inspired her novels. I photographed her at the mystical St Peter on the Walls in Bradwell, as faith is central to her life. I was a bit daunted at first to take her portrait, especially as she arrived for the shoot in a chauffeur driven Land Rover, make-up artist at the ready and a travelling wardrobe to choose the ideal outfit. We soon broke the ice and had a good rapport. She was a very welcoming and friendly lady and even invited me to the launch of her latest novel in London, I accepted!
Next up were the only Michelin star brothers in the world, The Galvin Brothers. The pair have several restaurants in the capital and have opened the Green Man pub and restaurant just outside Chelmsford. Here I photographed the Essex-born duo working hard in their kitchen and also taking some downtime, relaxing in the bar and beer garden. Given how successful they are and how hard they work in a demanding environment, they were a real pleasure to photograph and certainly no prima donna moments – I just wish there had been time for lunch!
I headed over to Harlow to meet Anne Wafula-Strike MBE, a world-class Paralympian who I met on her home track. Here I wanted to capture a dramatic shot of Anne in her Team GB strip, in her racing wheelchair and with her ‘game face’ on. I laid down on the track surface to achieve a low angle to make Anne and her racing wheelchair really stand out and I got some eye-catching images. I loved that look of determination that true athletes have. She was a lovely and inspiring person to photograph, which made my work so much easier.
The campaign also wanted to capture the hidden heroes of Essex too. So, I drove over to Chelmsford to meet Dr Miles Adcock, head of Space and Quantum at Teledyne e2V. The research undertaken and the technology produced by the company is literally out of this world, all very serious stuff! But I wanted to show the human side to all the technology. I captured Miles in the research labs, by the company’s timeline, which highlighted all its astonishing achievements. Here I like to think I caught a Mona Lisa-esque smile from the man who normally spends his days considering quantum theories.
In all 15 ‘stars’ from Essex were captured for the #ThisisEssex campaign. Together they created an impressive gallery which the client displayed at King’s Cross station and is now touring the county in public spaces. A calendar was also produced of the ambassadors and distributed to decision makers and the people of London to showcase real Essex.
For me, another opportunity arose as BBC Look East took up the campaign and decided to film one of the stars of the campaign, female rally champ, Nabila Tejpar and myself over at Layer Marney Towers. It was strange to be the other side of the camera; but delighted to help showcase the very best of what Essex has to offer!
To discover more about #ThisisEssex, visit www.visitessex.com/this-is-essex.aspx. Or, to find out more about our wide range of PR and photographic services, log onto https://www.wearebigwavepr.co.uk/marketing-services-essex/.