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Four Thoughts - Len Copland

Earlier in the week, we blogged about @snapperlen’s Smile Please! photography exhibition and just couldn’t resist asking him for his ‘Four Thoughts’… four responses to questions we think you’d love to hear answered. So, here’s what happened when we chatted to Len about his exhibition, his favourite photos and asked him to share a little secret that no-one else knows!

1. How did the idea for the exhibition come about and how did you feel when it opened? 

The exhibition tied in with me being at the Western Gazette newspaper for 25 years. I actually joined in Aug 1990, but it took a little while to choose all the images!

I felt fine when I was choosing the pictures and was okay when it came to hanging them all, but when I walked into the gallery area on the evening of the launch, I was truly overwhelmed. It was lovely to watch my friends, colleagues and peers walk around and enjoy the pictures – which were really a part of their lives, as much as mine.

2. What do you think is the most memorable photograph you've ever taken? Can you share the story behind it?

My most memorable snap was the first picture I ever took. I have no photographic training and fell into the job by accident. The brother of a friend of mine invited me to see his darkroom and the minute I saw an actual old-style black and white image appear in a developing tray, I knew this was the job for me. Within a week, he lent me a camera to go and photograph the then MP for Yeovil, Paddy Ashdown, opening a fete. The picture appeared on the front page of the paper with my name alongside it. I was hooked and have been ever since.

3. Do you have an absolute favourite snap? If you had to choose one, what would it be and why? 

There are many pictures I love - a few have even won major awards - but my favourite has to be the picture of the little lad jumping up to grab a kite, at Eggardon kite festival in Dorset.

The event takes place every year at the end of September, on the beautiful Dorset hills with a view to the coast. There are kites of all colours, shapes and sizes on show and people galore, but the kites are in the air and the people on the ground, so how was I going to include both in the perfect shot? It took me three years to get the picture I wanted and as with most good pictures, it’s all about keeping your eyes open… seizing the opportunity. I saw the young lad jumping to try and grab hold of the kites, which were a series of fish trailing off into the deep blue sky. I had to run 200 yards, climb a small bank, lay flat so I was beneath his feet and then somehow manage to rattle off a few frames. I knew I had the picture; I just had to explain to his laughing parents who I was!!

And as we’re Somerset Cool, we'd love to hear about your favourite Somerset photo too…

Well, it’s a group of girls going to their Preston School prom in Yeovil, around 2006. It was one of those events where I had to shoot enough pictures for 8 pages in the paper, so time was at a premium. I was photographing another group when this car arrived, the girls got out and started checking their hair and makeup in the reflection. With seconds to react, one wide lens and fill flash, the moment was captured!

The picture went on show at the British Professional Photography Awards exhibition at the National Theatre in London, as one of the best 100 pictures taken by British photographers that year. To say I was chuffed is an understatement. 

4. Tell us a secret about your career in photography that no-one else knows!  

I once had to develop a roll of film shot by war photographer Don McCullin - with the help of my friend, a video camera and a couple bottles of wine!

That sounds like a secret we’d like to hear more about… and if you’d like to see more of Len’s pictures, Smile Please! 25 Years of Western Gazette Photographs, is on at the Yeovil Octagon until Monday. Now’s your final chance to see the photos up-close, so get along if you possibly can.

P.S. Here’s one final pic of Len in his younger days. If that’s not Somerset Cool, then I don’t know what is! :)


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