From the archives: Paul Cummins

Paul Cummins. A name that’s been banded around a lot recently in the media, and I knew I’d heard it before somewhere. For those of you who don’t recognise the name, Paul is the man behind the 888,246 poppies that surround the Tower of London, to commemorate Remembrance Day, which takes place today.

Every year on November 11th at precisely 11am, the UK falls silent to remember those who suffered and gave their lives during the First World War. And this year marks 100 years since the war began, making today’s one-minute silence even more poignant and also the reason behind this remarkable river of blood-red ceramic flowers in the nation’s capital.

Amongst all of the media reports, I finally got to see some recent footage of the man himself. Produly beaming from ear to ear (as he should be), Paul has come a long way since I first met him back at Derby University in May 2009. Officially, photographing Paul was the third job of my second day working for the Derby Telegraph and it was the first time I started experimenting with a long lens (I didn’t really know what it should be used for up until that point).

Paul Cummins, Tower of London, Poppies, World War One, WWI,  Remembrance Day

Ceramics artist Paul Cummins sets up his unique pot flowers at the University of Derby’s Markeaton site as a trial run before his Degree Shows display.

I met Paul in one of the gardens behind the university where he led me towards his new ceramic pot flower designs, which he carefully started erecting for the photoshoot. The display was a trial run for an upcoming Degree Show Display, where Paul was to exhibit his work to mark the end of his degree at Derby.

At the end of the shoot we shook hands (Paul was very quiet and polite and really easy to work with) and we went our separate ways. I’ve never seen him since, although the picture I took that day did make it in to my final Derby Telegraph portfolio three years later.

It’s interesting for me to reflect on that photoshoot: an unknown artist being photographed by a complete amateur photojournalist. Both of us had a future laid out ahead of us, though neither of us could’ve known what that future might be. Since then, Paul has gone on to create his unique ceramic designs for the London Olympics and I imagine that by now he’s very much in demand. I only wish I owned the copyright to this picture (I don’t, so don’t even think of trying to download it, or you’ll get me in a world of shit!), but this is definitely one of those ‘Before they were famous’ images. I think now I can finally add it to my Famous Folk Collection over on Behance.

Clink on the link to see a selection of (heavily) processed images and video of the poppies in London