Drama at the football

Posted on May 1, 2018 by Admin under Work
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So before I returned my full attention to Countrywide I spent a long time working for the Kent Messenger  Group, either freelance or later as a staff photographer. Local papers gave me the variety of jobs I have always craved and working freelance meant that I often got sent to different areas of the county. However, when I became staff I was given my own patch. My patch was Maidstone, Kents County Town, home of the Crown Courts, the County Council and Maidstone United.

The football club had been ground sharing for a while now, but as I arrived in the town they were waiting for their new stadium to be completed, close to the town centre. Once the Gallagher Stadium was finished, you would find me most Saturday afternoons and Tuesday nights positioned in the corner of the 4G pitch armed with my Canon cameras and trusty 400mm lens. I personally liked the 4G pitch as I never got muddy, but the wife did get slightly annoyed a the black pieces of rubber that stuck to my boxes, whoever there was division with in the league about plastic pitches.

During my 5 year stint covering Maidstone they seemed to win everything, winning multiple promotions and trophies, whilst also having a great FA Cup run one year. Being a regular face at the Gallagher, I became fond of the club and the fans. They were all so passionate, you couldn’t help but feel a connection sat amongst the packed stadium. Sometimes I had to stop myself joining in with the fans appeals against poor tackles as I was paid to captured the action, not watch it.

Back in April 2014 Maidstone United had made it to the Robert Dyas League Cup final against AFC Sudbury and went onto win the game 3-0 at the Gallagher Stadium.


The atmosphere in the place was electric. The fans were great, full of passion which always made for great images. So I spent a short time getting my fan celebrations for the sports desk. The sports desk on the paper always used our pictures well so I always looked forward to Friday paper to see what images had been used. I then headed over to the halfway line for the cup presentation. The captain then was Steve Watt, a former Chelsea player lifted the cup and the silliness started. We got our usually team and trophy pictures before they paraded around the ground to the loyal fans. Once things had calmed slightly I asked a couple of the guys if they were going to do the celebration where the team runs and slide along the ground in front of the home fans. It was agreed, so I positioned myself ready to capture it. Wide angle lens fitted, I was ready. As the guys formed up on the halfway line I noticed a couple of them chatting and laughing before they started running at me, full steam ahead.

The camera was at full speed, firing off frames and the guys kept running. It was at this point I realised they were getting too close, looking over the camera it was clear they were running straight for me and weren’t going to stop. Now I am no athlete by far, I knew I had to move quickly to avoid being flattened. In my head I was running really fast, the problem was that my legs weren’t! So I soon lost my balance and managed to fall over in front of thousands. In hindsight I should have stood my ground? Now a photographers instinct is to protect his cameras, so as I rolled I managed to save both, my second was on my shoulder which survived too.

 I quickly picked myself up and carried on capturing the celebrations, trying hard not to show everyone the pain that I was in. Whilst saving my second camera that was on my shoulder, I had rolled over it and it must have  bashed my ribs because they hurt.

Now I wasn’t kidding myself, everyone saw it and I quickly remembered that Stones TV filmed every game and if you watch it back you can see them all laughing at my fall from grace. So I took a bit of stick that night from everyone, but I was hoping they had forgotten about by the start of the next season (this was their last game of the current season).

The following week I could feel a cold coming on and coughing and sneezing was a little painful as my ribs were still a little tender. So I finished my shift Saturday and went to bed feel shattered. I woke on Monday, having missed Sunday altogether, still not feeling great. I spent the day on the sofa and the wife took the kids out to Dover Castle. She returned later in the afternoon. The next thing I knew, two paramedics were stood over me telling me I’m off to hospital? It was only after I had been there a couple of hours plus 7 litres of fluid, that they told me I had double pneumonia. So that meant I was in hospital for a week and off work for 8 weeks. Thankfully I was staff, if I have been self-employed things would have been tough. But the lovely guys at Maidstone were unaware of what happened following the game and on my return the following season they told me how the guys at Stones TV had kindly added a slow mo of my fall on the match highlights. I laughed along with them, then I told them I nearly died! The looks on their faces when were priceless.

I have included a link to the YouTube footage, should you wish to see my fall, I don’t mind really.



Lets start at the beginning.

Posted on April 30, 2018 by Admin under Work

Welcome to my blog, I haven’t planned any sort of theme or direction for this little venture into blogging but I hope it makes an enjoyable read. I say hope, as I haven’t written anything since school and that seems like a good place to start as that’s where it all started for me in the photographic industry.

Way back in 1991 we were asked to pick three jobs that we would be interested in trying for our work experience placement. At the age of 16 I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to be. As a kid I really enjoyed all the different motorsport events we attended and as I got older I used to take photographs with the family camera, a Pentax K1000 and a 50mm lens. Back then you was a little closer to the track than now, but not close enough to get anything descent on such a little lens. So when it came to my tough decision of picking three potential job experiences I added photography, along with fireman but the third escapes me.

I was given a two week placement at Countrywide Photographic, a commercial photographic studio in my home town of Ashford, ran by a husband and wife partnership, Ian & Sue Gambrill. I arrived on the first day, young, dumb but full of enthusiasm. I had no clue about photography but that wasn’t an issue for my mentor. Ian patiently showed me how to load and process film, mix chemicals for the print processors. As a   kid I was very curious and asked lots of questions. During them two weeks I went out on a huge variety of photographic assignments and assisted where I could. I remember heading to Sheerness Dock and capturing cargo be unloaded. The port was a very busy freight terminal which saw fruit, paper, steel and cars imported and exported from the north Kent port.  Construction sites were another regular assignment during them two weeks. Back then you was allowed to climb on things and get close to machinery without having to fill out a risk assessment. I remember climbing cranes and lighting towers to get an overview of a site. As a still very young 16 year old boy this stuff was exciting and working with Ian had been fun. I can honestly say that in them two weeks they changed my life.

So it’s 1992, school has finished, I had finished my exams and he called and offered me an apprenticeship, I didn’t hesitate for a second as I had just spent 2 weeks plumbing with an uncle and it was no where near as exciting as the photographic industry. Soon I couldn’t believe how lucky I was,  every day was different and the people I met were so genuine and interesting. At the start we would head off on projects together, normally I would fall asleep on the journey, but when I wasn’t sleeping we would chat and joke together, our sense of humour were very similar. Over the eight years of working together we became good mates. I guess you can say I grew up working for Ian & Sue.

Unfortunately they had to let me go when digital technology changed the photographic industry, but we remained close. I headed off into the world, unsure if I could take all of my eight years of experience in the darkrooms and behind the camera and survive in the new digital world. After a while I started to work freelance for the local papers, a different type of photography but still with all the qualities that had got me interested in the first place, no day was ever the same!

Work continued, life threw us a few curve balls but Ian was always there for me and my partner (now wife). One day Ian & Sue made contact and offered the business to us. We didn’t need too much convincing. The pair were so kind, they made it possible for us to afford it. We had an arrangement that meant in three years of payment instalments the business would be our. In them three years Ian & Sue headed off to enjoy their retirement together. Tina and I rented a studio space and started a new chapter of our lives as the owners of Countrywide Photographic.

So three years has passed, the payments had all been made and everyone was happy. It wasn’t long after that I got a call from Ian to tell me he was ill and time wasn’t on his side. I was gutted, the man that had taught me so much about life and business wasn’t going to be around. He had plans and dreams, things he  wanted to do in his retirement. I wanted him to see us grow the business, to see my young family grow. But it wasn’t to be and he sadly passed away a short time later.

So here we are are now 2018 and Countrywide Photographic continues, I just wish he was here to see it.



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