Alister Jack, Secretary of State for Scotland

The clock was ticking recently when I was on assignment for the Financial Times in Angus for a portrait session appointment with the Right Honourable Alister Jack, Secretary of State for Scotland, and Conservative Party Member of Parliament.

Always nice to be asked to do such photography portrait shoots with people who are in the news. Love them or loathe them, it is always interesting to meet them, have a portrait shoot, and ultimately the resulting photographs make their way into my photography archive, and which one day hopefully tells the stories of our times. (The first 32-years worth of my archive is now held at University of St Andrews, and can be found online).

This particular portrait session With the Secretary of State was limited by time restrictions imposed by the Minister and his Press Officers. My journalist colleague and I were given 10 minutes in which to do the interview and the photos. “Last question if you don’t mind, the Minister has one more minute…”

The Right Honourable Alister Jack, Secretary of State for Scotland, in Brechin Castle, in Brechin, Scotland, 15 August 2022.

So, as is the way of it, 10-minutes means means 9 minutes for the journalist’s interview with me photographing during the interview, and then one minute for me alone at the end. A good journalist understands this and works with you in these situations. I’ll photograph while he/she asks the questions, and then when I’m doing my photos I let them continue their chat with the sitter, albeit in a less formal way. Both trying to maximise our time. It’s great to work with colleagues who understand this, and that is how we do our best in such circumstances.

Thankfully the room setting for this interview was attractive, a beautiful castle baronial-type room with heavy drapes, huge stone fireplaces. And thankfully nice light. But I wasn’t there to showpiece the room, but to photograph the Minister, and as such you just have to take control when your moment comes.

In a strong and confident voice taking control of the situation and getting his full attention, I give my directions, “Please stand here minister”, always remembering your manners. Prior to the assignment I’d read up on the mInister, found out a few nuggets of information I could use in conversation with him as I move him into position, or when we exit the room and I try to gain another minute with him outside. Finding something he can talk about, away from the politics, engages him, buys me time. In this situation it did help, I squeezed another few photos outside the castle, but as is often the way the most engaging shot was the first, from in the room.

A swift photo shoot, but one which delivered an image which ran in the following day’s Financial Times, and another portrait of a person of our times for my photography archive.

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