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Holy Smoke- Paul Pickard, September 10th 2005, Walsall, West Midlands

19 January 2006

2005 was my first year trading as a freelance photographer and I had an early evening commission to photograph the West Midlands equiveant of the Blackpool lights, the Walsall Illuminations

Living close to the M6 in Staffordshire I know just how unpredictable the motorway can be, so I gave myself plenty of time to travel the 30 odd miles to the lights. Before I even reached junction 14,at Stafford, I saw this huge pall of smoke in the distance and my twenty years of working regional newspapers told me there was the possibility of a news picture. It was obviously a trend setter, Hemel Hemstead can only follow where Walsall leads in producing filthy smoky skies.

I had just enough time to make a considered image a safe distance from the fire, and watch my former colleagues on the Birmingham papers scramble around at its seat.

I liked this image as it seemed more picturesque than a row of firemen, and as the photo was taken around the weekend of September 11th it also reminded me of other images I had seen a few years previously.

I made the switch on of the lights on time, my clothes didn’t stink of smoke, The Guardian used it well on page four, the next day the Church Times called me and ordered it and it marked a good days business, as I spent the rest of the evening in a Birmingham night club doing a reportage feature for a womens magazine.

I have now completed a successful first 12 months in business shooting mainly corporate, PR and editorial from Edinburgh to London, with most of my work being in the West Midlands

I still think there may be more mileage in this image yet, perhaps advertising, so I am planning to sit it with Alamy in the new year.

Paul Pickard runs a photographic business based next to junction 14 of the M6 in Staffordshire but he covers much of the UK .He specialises in Corporate, PR and Editorial photography. Last year , 2005, was his first year in business as a Corporate PR and Editorial photographer, having worked as a staffer on the Regional Press for 20 years.He has been a photographer since 1984 and an EPUKer since 2002

See more work by Paul Pickard

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