Report by Jim Strom
Adrian Ashurst has been passionate about photography for over 40 years and during that time had served as the president of Salford Photographic Society. In his talk he reflected on some of the interesting experiences he had enjoyed over the years and offered some sound advice to budding photographers.
One thing that stands out in Adrian’s photographic review is that he had an uncanny knack of being in the right pace at the right time. He had always been an amateur photographer and had some wonderful opportunities to promote his own photography through TV news channels and other contacts he made. His display of photographs clearly demonstrated that he was a very accomplished photographer.
His first break came back in 1973 when he managed to get a press pass (and a roll of film!) to photograph the Summerland fire disaster on the promenade at Douglas, Isle of Man. His photos were subsequently used by the BBC and ITN as part of their coverage of the event.
He was very interested in motor cycling sports and took photos of motorcyclists at the TT races including Mike Hailwood and Barry Sheene. Through the success of these photos he managed to get a press pass to take photos of motorcyclists anywhere in Europe. He said: Photography is all about having a passion.
He showed one photo taken at Cowes Week on the Solent where he was asked to photograph one particular yacht in the race armed with only the number of the vessel (displayed on the sail) and the colour of the yachtsmen’s waterproofs. He hadn’t fully appreciated the sheer number of different yachts that he would encounter. However he succeeded by taking the photo not from the shore but from the ferry, showing his ingenuity and resolve.
He showed a photo he had taken of Billy Fury’s statue at the Albert Dock. Rather than take this as a well lit detailed exhibit he’d decided to show it as a silhouette taken against an evening sky. In reference he remarked: If you want to photograph something then don’t be frightened about what the judge might say.
In the 1980s he decided to take photographs of his sporting heroes and, using his initiative, had written to Sir Matt Busby. As a result he got an invite to the Old Trafford ground. He managed to get an iconic photo of Sir Matt standing in his old box at the football stadium.
Again as part of his ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’ philosophy he wrote to Nikon about his work and got invited for an interview. As a result, Nikon offered him any equipment he needed to undertake his photos of his sporting heroes. He subsequently took photos of a number of famous sporting personalities including John McEnroe, Boris Becker, Geoff Boycott, Frank Bruno, Willie Carson, Nick Faldo, Ian Botham, to mention a few.
He said: When you’re a photographer you have to be capable of taking pictures of anything put in front of you. As an illustration of this he showed a stream of pictures taken under different lighting situations and also different weather situations. His advice was: Whatever you do, don’t stop shooting. The shot is more important than worrying about your kit. (Referencing a photo taken of a canal trip in a hailstone storm).
His day job meant that he did a lot of travelling by car and he would always carry his camera with him. This brought with it the opportunity to photograph events that he just happened to see while out travelling. Off to work early one morning he spotted a pub on fire near Blackburn and managed to get the photo into the Blackburn Evening Chronicle that day. He kept repeating the point: he had only achieved it because he made the effort. On that occasion he stopped and got out of the car to get the best photo.
He had photographed agricultural shows and illustrated the opportunities to capture both informative and fun pictures. As part of his intrepid nature he showed some of the lengths that he’d gone to in order to get photos from a different angle that others would not consider. One photo was taken of horses in the river at the Appleby Horse Fair where he himself had waded into the river to get the best shot: If you want to be a photographer you have to be in it up to your neck!
‘Anticipation’ was another virtue that he had exploited: being in the right place at the right time and knowing what you expect to see happening. He illustrated this with several wildlife shots showing birds in flight. He also showed shots of a cricket match at Saltaire where he managed to capture the precise moment that the cricketer was stumped by the wicket keeper. He said he was lucky to get the shot but it was: all about being there and anticipating what could happen, not just thinking about it. He stressed that you need to know your equipment really well so that you can capture something as it happens.
His final words were: Always carry a camera with you to capture those special moments. You will only discover the true pleasure of photography by taking lots of photos. Remember, you’re only as good as your last picture.