Archive: May 2011

  1. It’s All About The Countenance Of The Bull

    Esquire opening spread: The cold room at Tim Wilson’s farm in Yorkshire, The Ginger Pig

    It’s been quite busy here at Clean Living Towers recently so I’m a little bit late putting this up.  In February of this year I travelled up to Malton in northest North Yorkshire with Tom Parker Bowles to work with him on a story for British Esquire about the work of Tim Wilson, a farmer with the reputation of producing the most wonderful beef, as well as pork, lamb and chicken too.  The steaks from Tim’s livestock sit briefly on the tables of some of London’s most sought after restauarants, including the mighty Hawksmoor of Covent Garden.

    Tim Wilson

    Tim also owns four butcher’s shops, all called The Ginger Pig and all in tactical parts of London (Hackney, Marylebone, Waterloo & Borough Market) that sell his produce, as well as sausage rolls and a whole range of pies that are all made by hand on the farm.  The man is a walking advert for the old school and proper way of doing things, combined with modern ideas about marketing and branding.  While things today often have the patina of sizzle about them, the reality often contains very little actual steak.  The Ginger Pig, on the other hand, produces a range of foods that are very much all steak as equally as all sizzle. And I know because he gave me an absolutely massive bag of meat to take home and eat in the days following my visit.

    I made the journey up from London the night before I was due to meet Tom PB and stayed in a B&B nearby. Tim met me the following morning at 6.30am, to give me the chance to head out on the morning feed with one of his shepherds.  Yes, shepherds do still exist. Strapped to the back of a quad bike we lurched off down the freezing lanes around the farm, with random ninety degree turns into fields guarded by gates that would cause equally sudden and forced halts, whereupon I would clamber off and open them up.

    Yorkshire from a quadbike. At dawn. In February.

    As the quad whizzed past me I’d be required to shut the gate again and leap back on it as it chundered past.  We’d do a lap of the field with the entire animal population chasing us, while I hung off the back photographing them, as the feed bin on the back dropped measures of nourishment all over the place before exiting the field in the exact same manner as we entered. The thing it’s important to bear in mind is that some of these animals have horns. And it was bloody freezing.

    Being chased by animals that have horns

    Back at the farmyard we met some beautiful little additions to the population.  Not being sure if the destiny of these creatures was the provision of wool for cloth or of meat for the pot, I asked the shepherd’s wife, who was feeding them warm milk from a bottle, what the future looked like for the lambs.  She looked over at them, then back at me.  Her face dropped and she said quietly, “Not good.”

    Actual Ginger Pigs

    Tom PB had arrived by now and the first thing Tim wanted him to see was the one creature that he says makes the whole thing possible.  Without it, all this meat that surrounded us would be for nowt.  That animal is known as The Bull. The Bull, Tim believes, is the number one reason for the quality of all beef.  If you do not start with the right bull then all his progeny will only ever produce ‘adequate’ beef, not great beef. The countenance of The Bull is everything. Consequently, The Bull resides at a secret location that only Dick Cheney knows the address of.

    The Bull

    Having met The Bull, however, I feel that the following sentences expresses his impact and awe sufficiently. There are several hundred female bovines on that farm and one single, solitary male, The Bull. When you’re in the presence of The Bull you can literally inhale the testosterone right out of the air around him and use it to help you in a fight in which you could single handedly take on and probably beat 15 Russian sailors.

    After that, everything else is downhill so we took the best option available, which was to return to Tim’s farmhouse for a slap up lunch of pies, rolls, pickles, breads and all the stuff that put the ‘Great’ into Great Britain.

    Before

    After

    Read the full story by Tom Parker Bowles in the June issue of Esquire.

  2. Waiting Game

    This was from a recent shoot I did with the actor Mark Strong.  In the course of our time I also shot about two minutes worth of video.  What I fundamentally took away from it was a minute long film of a guy putting on his watch, which I have to say was not particularly thrilling or inspiring.  However, as Mr Hitchcock frequently showed us, storytelling is as much about what you don’t see as what you do see, and also about what you can and can’t hear.  A weekend of trundling around the internet looking for interesting and useful sounds (a thunderstorm, a passing car, a ringing telephone & my voice saying “Hello?” into an iPhone voice memo app) allowed me to make something that is still brief but also, I hope, a little more intriguing and mysterious than the filmic cul-de-sac of a man just putting on a watch.

  3. A Starry Night On Sark

    The view from Sark. March 6th 2011. 19.55 GMT
    I took these pictures in one night on the Channel Island of Sark, which is sandwiched between the bigger islands of Jersey & Guernsey, with all three sitting snugly off the Normandy peninsula of northern France.  Although much closer to France, the islands are all British Crown Dependencies.  This means that, legally, they have their own autonomy and parliaments and their own money.
    However, I am not here to elucidate on the legal status of these islands, but to tell you about Sark’s recent admission to the International Dark Sky Association as the first dark sky island in the world. The IDSA is a US organisation that is dedicated to preserving the darkest sky views on Earth.  Sark helps to make this possible by having no cars, no traffic lights and no street lights at all.  Transport on the island is by bike, horse or tractor (during daylight hours)
    A memorial to a group of people who died in a sailing accident in the 1960′s. The orange glow is from Guernsey.
    These pictures were taken on a single night.  I rented a bike with a trailer from one of the two rental outfits on the island and spent two nights trundling around in the pitch black with a torch in my mouth looking for ways to photograph the sky that could also feature identifiable elements of the Island.  That way no one could accuse me of faking it.  My first night was a cloudy disappointment. I didn’t see a single star all night.  The second night was the complete opposite.  A dazzling evening of stellar incredulity, the like of which I’ve never seen, all of which is available 80 miles from the English coast.
    If you want to go there and try it for yourself then you can take a ferry from Guernsey and I recommend that you stay at the Aval du Creux Hotel. If you go out stargazing till too late the chef will tuck a couple of cold beers outside by the bike rack for you to enjoy on your return.  By the second flowerpot on the left.

    Dry Dock

    This is a good piece about the recognition given to the island by the Dark Sky Association from The Guardian earlier this year.