Concorde – Never seen before – Never seen again

Posted on October 2, 2015

The launch of a new web site is an exciting new beginning, it’s time to clear the decks, ditch anything that’s now out of date and put out there, in words and images who you are and what you’re all about. It also forces you to take some time out –  something we don’t do a lot of normally – to reflect on where you were, where you are now, where you’re going and how all your experiences to date, have shaped your career and the work you produce now.

In the About Me section of my site, I talk a little about what has to be my favourite shoot. It was an experience that was a defining point in my career, and one of the things it taught me was how transient such things can be, because it was subsequently overtaken by an event of such dreadful magnitude that it changed everything.

The name Concorde means different things to different people, some were lucky enough to have flown in it.  Others, would simply crane necks in admiration from London back gardens as around 10pm the Bird would roar overhead, flying towards Heathrow.

My own memories of Concorde go further than that and are of a shoot more special than I could ever have imagined when I was first starting my photography career at 21. It was early 2001, when I was asked to be part of a high quality piece of direct mail.  This communication was aimed at making the world fall in love with Concorde all over again.

I was briefed to shoot 5 images worthy of being recognized as art.  These 5 images were intended to shout loud and clear to everyone about the amazing combination of technology and beauty that was Concorde. The loss of customer trust in the safety of the aircraft, after the Paris crash had been significant and the only way to reverse that was to entice the high rollers of the world back onto the plane.  This direct mail would be going out to Mick Jagger, Madonna and the like. They wanted me to sign the prints and I amused myself, visualizing the Material Girl unwrapping the beautiful packaging, taking out the prints and exclaiming “Who is this Pheel Seels?” At least, I like to think that!

It was a once in a lifetime chance to shoot a once in a lifetime icon and I was given complete artistic freedom to produce the exact images I wanted and be a proud part of its history.  Was it exciting? You bet! I was on top of the world, literally, as I was taken up to get overhead shots of the plane, which looked smaller on the ground but sleek and wide from above. Shooting the startling and immense beauty of its soft white tonality and curved lines was amazing, especially as there was a wonderful contrast, against the hard, angular and architectural lines of the concrete surface. The sun shone, I got to work and I was the luckiest Photographer ever.

The shots were perfect, sadly the timing wasn’t. The dreadful events of September 11th 2001, changed everything, perceptions and expectations and of course had inevitable financial outcomes, which resulted in huge amounts of advertising being withdrawn. My work, of which I was so proud, was relegated to a filing cabinet. The re-launch of Concorde never happened, and the rest, as they say, is history.

But nobody can take away the memories, the experience and the excitement of the day, although an additional irony was that the days of shooting film and printing were already, like Concorde, coming to the end of their time, as newer technologies were taking over.  A new era was coming …