Life behind the lens of a local news photojournalist
It’s the county known for cream teas, beautiful beaches and lazy days enjoying the summer sunshine.
But a quick look at the Twitter account of CornwallLive photojournalist Greg Martin reveals many other sides of the holiday county, especially in the middle of winter.
Greg has been sharing photos on the social media site, many of which show the beauty of the county he covers in the middle of winter — and the stories which matter to local readers.
Reach audience and content director in the South East, Jacqui Merrington, said: “Greg is an exceptional photojournalist with a unique lens on life. He tells stories in a way nobody else can and as a result has built a huge following for his work and a layer of content to CornwallLive that really makes us stand out from other news sites.
“Greg’s forward planning ideas are a highlight of every week’s newslist and you’ll often find he’s been up at 4am to catch a sunrise or a big wave or an unusual festival in a way that no one else would have thought to capture it. If you asked anyone in Cornwall what they loved most about CornwallLive, it would probably be Greg’s photo stories.”
Here Greg delves into the photos from January, and tells us about his job covering the most southern county in the UK:
January has been a busy month for me as a photojournalist in Cornwall, with all the elements of storms, protests, characters and tradition that make up the broader picture of life here at this time of year.
My role involves a mixture of self-motivated, planned content, alongside getting images and video for reporters’ stories and covering events and breaking news.
It’s a careful balance of keeping busy and filling my diary, whilst retaining enough flexibility to drop everything and prioritise being at the most important stories.
On the Bank Holiday Monday, January 3, I covered Cornish comedian Jethro’s funeral. For me, in Cornwall, it was one of the rare occasions where I get to work alongside other photographers from PA, Getty, etc., who I know well and enjoy working with.
Speaking to the Canon Chancellor of Truro Cathedral beforehand, I arranged for access for us photographers to a balcony where we could get a great angle from above.
Obviously, we get PA pictures, but the benefit of having me there was that I could send images throughout the day, so we could run a live blog.
On January 5, I went to meet Nicolette Baker, who suffers from a rare condition leading to vascular compressions which is starving her body. Weighing just over 3 stones, she was fundraising for £50,000 to get life-saving surgery in Germany.
She was such a kind and genuine person, we spent ages chatting before I eventually got my camera out. Because we had both been smiling so much, it took a minute or so before I could get the more serious portraits to reflect the gravity of her situation, but I didn’t want to say to her to stop smiling when I started snapping, because she has such a lovely smile.
After the pictures, we did a video interview, during which she broke down. The story took her crowdfunder from £3,000 to around £15,000, but it was when the video was used natively on social media, that it jumped up to £60k within a few days, giving her the chance to live.
An unnamed storm hit Cornwall on January 7, bringing huge waves crashing into the cliffs.
I went to Sennen for first light, and after a few shots in pretty gloomy light, I did a Facebook Live. During the Live, I could see that the swell was really starting to hit, sending huge flumes of spray over the nearby cliff. And then, with a massive black cloud heading my way and a little break in the clouds where the sun was rising, the sky went pink.
Local Facebook community sites are always interesting to keep an eye on for potential pictures. A striking piece of graffiti had been photographed and put in one of these groups, and for a brief break in complaints about parking and dog poo, the page was flooded with positive comments about how talented the artist was.
Negotiating through a middle person, I managed to track down the anonymous artist, and convince him to let me come out and film/photograph his next graffiti piece. Obviously, he had to put a lot of trust in me to not give anything away that could put him in trouble with the law, but ultimately he was really happy with the resulting photo story, and it was something we had not done before.
I try not to do sunrises and sunsets too much, because that’s what every photographer in Cornwall seems to spend their time doing.
But I was surprised to see just how many people were sea swimming at sunrise each day in my home town, Penzance, and wanted to get some pictures of that.
For a couple of years, I’d had a sunrise picture in my head, where I knew I could line up some people on a rock where they get into the sea with the rising sun. But it would only line up for a few days of the year, and needed a low tide.
The elements all aligned on January 14, and I knew I could get the shot in my head, if only I could find some willing people. Just as the sun was about to rise, I recognised a couple, who were just about to get in the sea. Persuading people to stand around in their bathing costumes when it’s close to freezing is a big ask, but they agreed.
I love this last picture of them, where it looks like they are sharing a moment. But actually, I think Emily is saying to Martin “That’s long enough now, I’m freezing, let’s go!”
I didn’t expect this Kill the Bill protest to attract so many people on January 15, but more and more kept turning up. And then all of a sudden, a signal was given and they all walked into the middle of the road, blocking the traffic. I enjoy the buzz of shooting protests, and try to remind myself to get a mix of overview shots showing the extent of the crowd, as well as picking out individuals that personalises the story a bit more.
A full Wolf Moon rising on January 17 behind the head gear at South Crofty tin mine in Pool, Cornwall, where a project is underway to attempt to reopen the mine which closed in 1998. Again, this is a shot I had in my head for ages, but it was just a case of waiting for a clear night with a full moon when it would align with the old mine.
A protest against mandatory vaccinations for NHS staff turned into a full blown anti-vax protest with Katie Hopkins on January 22. You’re never very popular as a member of the media at these protests, and despite the size of it, I seemed to be the only person from the media there. Alongside all the crowds, the banners and the focus on Katie Hopkins, this protester, stood to the side of everyone in front of the cathedral where I began my month, made for a striking picture.
- In 2022, Behind Local News aims to celebrate local journalism in all its forms through our 365 Acts of Local Journalism Project. Lets us know what you think should be included. You can email us here or contact us via Twitter on BehindLocalNews or on Facebook here.