First Published Photo. Ever!

It felt gooooood!

This was the very first photograph I had published anywhere ever. It was back in 2004 and I was still slaving away for the very cool Internet Bank, Egg Plc. But for several months I’d been chipping away at a City & Guilds Photography Course (Home Learning) and it was going slowly, but it was going.

Then came a competition in the local newspaper, the Ashbourne News Telegraph. The description went something like this:

“We want to see Ashbourne from a different angle; a view of the town that we don’t get to see every day. The winner will have their image published in the newspaper, and printed and framed professionally and hung in the window of Red Square Gallery.”

So this was to be my first project, and I was determined to win this one. I remember packing my equipment and dressing like a model. Well, my intention was to dress like a photographer, or at least how photographers looked in my head or in the movies. But just to help your imaginations along, I was wearing a pair of jeans, a black suit jacket, some kind of a scarf and a woolly beanie hat. It was May! At one point I walked right passed a current flame who didn’t even recognise me until I spoke up. “I’m trying to look, and therefore act, like an artist,” I told her. “Plus, I don’t want anyone to know it’s me!” Being openly creative in Ashbourne just gave people an excuse to kick or spit at you back then. Not sure if this is still the case.

St. Oswalds Church, Ashbourne, Derbyshire, Photography, Photographer, newspaper, media, photojournalism, first published

The 13th Century church of St. Oswalds in Ashbourne, Derbyshire.

Finding the shot

So onwards I went, not really knowing what I wanted out of this shoot or where to go, but just strolling around and clicking away. Remember, we were still using film a lot back in those days (thanks Gramps) so it really was important to be a little conservative with the clicking action.

Eventually I ended up in the graveyard of St. Oswalds, a beautiful 13th century church to the east of the town, and continued to look for decent angles and objects to focus on. And I suppose that this was the first time I discovered how important it is to choose a different height to take pictures from. I preach about it regularly during my Shooting Copenhagen Photography Workshops (shameless plug, there) and the results speak for themselves. Behold! I took this shot, and the Lord said it was “Fucking Awesome!” She really did.

Second Place

I submitted the print a couple of days (weeks?) later and received a response shortly after. And as the subheading here suggests, I was awarded second place. Now there wasn’t meant to be a prize for second place, but the judges had apparently found it so hard to pick between the two that they decided to publish it anyway, albeit a little smaller than the winner’s. Sadly it wasn’t printed or framed, though.

Needless to say I was happy with my achievement. A little miffed that I’d missed out on first place, but there you go; you can’t have it all, right? But over the next couple of days I was stopped in the street by people who knew me and patted on the back. There were even a few folk who told me that they thought mine was the best one, and who was I to argue? I totally agreed 🙂

Four years past by until I had anything published again. Unfortunately the next image was a car accident on an icy Derbyshire road. “If it bleeds it leads,” a wise mentor once told me. Sadly he was right. But the same guy also told me not to try and make a living from my hobby as a photographer. He was definitely wrong about that.

Send me your First Published photos

Today we live in a world where we can self-publish our own material every minute of the day: Flickr, Pinterest, Twitter and so on. I’m not saying that this is any less relevant, but there’s something special about seeing your photos in printed format on the shelf of a corner shop.

Which is why I’d love to see some of your first published images. You can send them to me via email at matthew@matthewjames.dk or on Twitter using the hashtag #firstpublished. I’m going to share them via my Social Media channels and include them in a follow up blog. Share the stories behind them, too. What’s a picture without a story, eh?

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