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The story behind the portrait

Updated: Nov 17, 2022

This person was important to me. I’d been pushing him for a shoot for some time. There I was on The Terrace of One New Change, St Paul's with way more kit than I reasonably needed and he asked “So what do you want me to do?”.

We’ve usually got a shoot plan sketched out, with shed loads of time to work through the range of ideas that ebb and flow through the shoot. But that day I had other thoughts clouding my vision. So what was different this time?

I guess I start with the reveal. My subject was Iain, one of my younger brothers… and there was a time not long ago when we feared we may lose him.

One Sunday afternoon in 2017, Iain phoned; “Okay if I pop round?”. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but gut instinct was nagging at me that something wasn’t quite right. Gut feelings are rarely wrong. And so it proved. After some small talk and banter Iain calmly said “I’ve got lung cancer”.

I mean, WTF? He was only 47. A non-smoker. Fit. Can’t be.

I can’t explain how I felt. Can’t imagine how he felt. It was surreal. Yet at the same time brutally real.

The months rolled on slowly. We met regularly and discussed progress, feelings, the practicalities. I say discussed, but there is little you can you do except listen sometimes. And be there. That’s not to say that Iain needed anything more. I could do nothing but admire his strength, the way he used his vast project management experience to organise his personal battle with cancer. Resilience is a word bandied around too commonly in management jargon nowadays. Believe me, you haven’t seen resilience until you’ve witnessed someone battle their way through a situation like this. Never once wanting sympathy, never once giving up. So aside from my love for my brother, I found a new admiration for his strength.

Standing there on top of One New Change that chilly morning was a poignant moment. The massive role Iain had played in its design and construction as Engineering Director at Land Securities was one of many professional successes under his belt. The place means a lot to him. And I felt emotional to photograph him there. I also knew the day would be tiring for him; he was still on 3 weekly chemo for God’s sake. It was a massive ask of him.

After a while, the creative process and instinct took over. It was great to spend time with him in his World. And to learn more about the amazing projects and places he’d worked on; to see him in an environment where he felt comfortable, proud of what he’d achieved. A highlight was the basement housing Europe’s largest hybrid ground source energy system using open loop boreholes, energy piles and ground sources heat pumps – a fantastic location to shoot in! Unsurprisingly, his favourite portrait of the day was shot down there.

We also shot in the awesome 62 Buckingham Gate, Victoria, another Land Securities building Iain worked on. It’s exemplified by a spectacular entrance hall that boasts a textile artwork by the fabulous Grayson Perry and a stunning optical chandelier made from spectacle lenses by Stuart Haygarth. Had to get a few shots under the chandelier!

We finished the day in two locations that mean a lot to Iain. He’s known for his love of flamboyant shoes – important to highlight these things in personal brand shoots - so we did a cheeky gun’n’run in one of Iain’s favourite shoe shops, Jefferey~West in Leadenhall. Grateful for the courtesy we were given when asked to leave – a truly classy establishment! Then onto a legendary pub, The Jerusalem Tavern (since renamed to the Holy Tavern) in Clerkenwell where Iain spent many happy hours in the past. He only drinks non-alcoholic beer nowadays (says hangovers are too much like the draining post-chemo feeling). His standout favourite is St Peters Without. Again, many thanks to the Jerusalem manager and staff who tolerated lights and cameras as we sampled their wares. Has got to be one of the outstanding ‘must visit' pubs in London, and their St Peters beer is proper special. Go. Just go. You’ll not be disappointed.

Iain’s doing well. He’s a fighter - just look at that steely body language in The Terrace shot above. Just before Christmas 2021 we got word that the cancer is under control. His oncologist has said there’s no sign of the cancer and the monthly chemo can stop. Such great news and an unbelievable Christmas present for the whole family.

He has much of his life back. And is back working. And how he works! Since leaving school at 15 and taking an apprenticeship, he has never stopped progressing professionally. He’s now an Engineering Director at LandSec and has delivered on a number of hugely successful projects including Trinity Leeds, 62 Buckingham Gate, and One New Change. Those locations and achievements are important and integral to telling Iain’s story, but actually it was the personal things, his love of flamboyant pointy shoes and classic, proper London pubs that made the day and kept it real. They’re the parts of the story that portray the Iain his colleagues and clients know and love. Authenticity wins out any day.

If you want to learn a little more about Iain and his battle with lung cancer, please spend a few minutes watching the video he did for the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. Cancer often doesn’t have to be the end of the World. Iain is proof of that. He’s an inspiration, just listen to him in that video!

I’ve put a portrait of Iain on the homepage of Trent Portraiture. Under the giant optical chandelier. I love that shot. It means a lot to me. There’s a story behind everyone. The power of portraiture is in conveying those stories and narrative, and creating an emotional response.


If you’d like to know more about lung cancer and spotting the symptoms early go read all about it at the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation.

Would you like to help raise money to beat lung cancer as part of getting some new portraits? Book a Business Portrait, Personal Brand or 'The Magazine Feature' shoot quoting 'Iain' before 1 March 2023 and I will happily donate 30% of the shoot fee to the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation.

And if you’re a Corporate business with a strong social responsibility ethos and maybe looking to do something a little different sponsorship-wise at a 2023/24 event or conference, then take a look at my ‘Our Times; Our People’ service. I’d be happy to donate £2000 of the fee to Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation.

Get in touch via LinkedIn or drop me a line if you’d like to have a chat.

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