It’s not every day that you’re asked to photograph a group of topless OAPs… but that day came for me in June 2017… and of course, I agreed.
Earlier this year the Bodenham Women’s Group in Herefordshire came up with the idea of a charity calendar in the spirit of the Calendar Girls to raise funds for local charities, St Michael’s Hospice and The Haven Breast Cancer Support. To turn this idea into a reality the only things required were:
- willing participants
- some concepts and theme ideas
- some discreet venues
- some props
- a photographer who doesn’t embarrass easily
We all met at the England’s Gate pub in Bodenham to flesh out (!) some ideas and come up with concepts and themes. Plenty of ideas were suggested, some easy to photograph, some not so easy - but this resourceful group of ladies had access to a surprising array of props and locations - including a vintage tractor, a Morgan classic car, a hairdressers and a village hall to name but a few... so it seemed anything was possible.
With some ideas agreed, we booked in the first photoshoot - an outdoor shoot in a cornfield - and crossed our fingers for good weather.
The day of the shoot came around and the British weather was playing ball! We made our way out to a remote barley field that I knew of and promised the ladies that no one ever ventures out to this location and that their privacy would be assured. Minutes after the ladies had nervously removed their tops for the first shot a tractor thundered past with the driver’s face aghast! Oh well, baptism of fire and all that. After everyone’s giggles had subsided we got on with the shoot. It probably wasn’t a bad thing as, after that, we all thought “how much worse can it get?” and everyone was put at ease.
With one picture in the bag all trepidation had subsided and the group were looking forward to the next shoot which would cover the bulk of the calendar in a local village hall.
It wasn’t a particularly warm morning so the heaters went on in the drafty village hall! We set up the first scene of the day - an Afternoon Tea party - did a couple of test shots (with the ladies fully clothed) - when we were happy with the shots - I vacated the hall for the ladies to get into position, get out of their togs and hide behind their judiciously placed props! The girls were all really game and relaxed and we got some great shots, straight off the bat. Then, we were on to the next scenes...
It all went so well that we finished the entire shot list within a couple of hours and were sat merrily tucking into all the food that had been prepared for the Afternoon Tea shot. A perk of the job!
In the coming weeks we completed other shots including one at a hairdressing salon in the village as well as more outdoor shots including a Gardening shot, Ramblers shot and Land Girls which saw the ladies all posing around a vintage Ferguson 20 tractor.
With the shots in the bag, all I had to do was edit some images for each month and send them off to the Bodenham Women’s Group to make a decision on their final choices for the calendar. A few weeks later the first calendars rolled of the press!
I was delighted to be involved in this project and it was a hoot from start to finish, every scene raised a lot of laughs and the ladies were tremendous sports.