The first time I ever met photographer Ray Massey was way back in November of 1998. My physical artistry agent ‘Physicality’ had a very close working relationship with Ray and shrewdly commissioned his expert eye to produce a photo that captured the amazing skills of the agency’s aerial artists to take pride of place in their new advertising brochure.
The shoot took place at Ray’s amazing studio, a deconsecrated church in Camden Town, in London on 19th November 1998. I had no idea what ‘aerial’ work involved at the time and I had to learn in a few minutes what takes aerial artists weeks to master. Due to my gymnastic ability, I was able to turn my hand to the skill-set required for the shoot but I found out very quickly indeed, just how physically demanding aerial work can be and my learning curve was literally a vertical one. All the other members of the cast Suzie Barton; Lucy ‘in the sky’ Morgan; Daniela Zocchi; Karen Edgington; Terry Wan and Mark Tate were all experienced aerial artists.
Ray is a photographer who thrives on pushing boundaries and wanted to create a very complicated shot of seven aerialists up in the air at the same time intricately linked using different circus aerial apparatus. For the shoot, I hung upside down on the ‘silks’ or ‘tissue’. Essentially tissue consists of one very long and flowing piece of material made of a silk blend, doubled over to form two strands of equal length descending from a fixed point on the ceiling on which the most beautiful and elaborate positions and shapes can be performed. They are often the main focus of many of the world famous Cirque Du Soleil extravaganzas, and as they can also be attached to motors lifting them up and down they produce the most incredible aerial adagio dance and ballet.
Simply climbing the silks to get into position was extremely challenging as the muscles in my forearms became so pumped that I could barely get a grip on the material to hang on, let alone turn upside down and maintain a stationary pose for the photographs. It also brought home to me that you really do take your life in your hands when performing aerial skills.
In addition to the silks on the shoot that day, the other more familiar piece of equipment used was the Circeau or hoop, which was also suspended from the beams in the studio roof. Ray’s studio was the perfect venue for the challenging aerial choreography with its 35ft high ceilings to dangle from.
It was on this shoot that I met many of my best friends both within and outside the business. It was definitely a career-defining shoot, as it was my introduction to aerial work and how I could further diversify within the business and make myself more versatile in order get more work, earn more money and expand my brand within the entertainment industry.
As a result of my participation on this shoot, I made some very important new contacts and strengthened my relationship and reputation with my agent Physicality. Photographer Ray Massey was also now aware of my existence in the industry and the skills that I possessed. Hence when Ray wanted to shoot a series of artistic gymnastic shots with a view to selling them to a photographic library, my services were called upon once again. This was the beginning of a great working relationship with Ray that was to pay dividends in the future. The pictures from this second shoot were amazing and so I was able to incorporate them into my portfolio to make myself even more of a marketable commodity with yet more tangible assets to my name.
Everyone knows that you have to speculate to accumulate in business. My speculation that the hard work and effort I put into this photo shoot with Ray Massey would eventually pay off financially was realized a little further down the road when the Tony Stone Photo Library was particularly interested in purchasing some of the incredible images produced by Ray in that session. However, the library wanted the pictures to be tailored to a specific business market, which meant re-shooting the same gymnastic elements in a totally different style. As an example of this, my classic free cartwheel photograph was transformed for corporate arena with a suit and tie, a couple of bent legs and a mobile phone and a briefcase.
The shoot was pretty tricky though as it is not easy to perform complex gymnastic maneuvers in a suit carrying a mobile phone and a briefcase. The results were fantastic and this re-shoot made good a return on my investment.
It was during this time that I learned some very valuable new skills that enabled me to exploit yet another niche in the entertainment market and continue to build the brand of Nicholas Daines.
Over the years Ray and I have continued to collaborate, bringing fresh and exciting images to the advertising world which at the same time celebrate physical artistry.
This Ray Massey Lloyds TSB campaign is also one of my favorites images in my extensive modeling portfolio.
When Olympus approached Ray Massey to showcase the technology of their E-20p and he needed a male trampolinist for the photo shoot, my name was at the top of the list. It couldn’t have been the perfect assignment for me and the results Ray’s incredible image made the campaign a huge success.