Stephen Ambrose: Calcio Storico

At Locate we get to work with some of the best creatives in the business and we love being able to share with you the work they do and their career journeys.

One such creative is photographer Stephen Ambrose. Stephen is an award winning photographer working with design and advertising agencies across the UK. He has recently won 3rd place in the IPA awards Extreme sports category for his latest project Calcio Storico.

Tell us a bit about how you got in to photography? 

My initial interest in photography began with my Dad.  He was a keen amateur and had an SLR. As my interest developed my parents bought me my own SLR when I was 12.  After some bad careers advice I ended up doing business studies at college. I lived in a small northern town and all the careers adviser knew was high street portrait photographers.  Then i got a job in a factory driving a fork lift truck and packing boxes. I stayed for 9 years but towards the end of this time I studied photography at night school where my tutor, Debbie, persuaded me to give up my job and go to Blackpool college full time to study for a degree in photography.  After graduating I relocated to London and started to assist. Firstly Architecture with Peter Durant and Grant Smith and then I fell in to the advertising world when my assistant friend Vik got me in as a second on a shoot with Adam Hinton. This has now taken me all over the world on many campaigns working with all the agencies in London.  In 2017 I won the portrait category at the AOP awards and this gave me my first advertising campaign and I spent most of 2018 working on numerous adverts for Adidas.

What appealed to you about starting this project?

This project started after spending most of 2018 photographing footballers at the top of their game. Then this made me think about what it takes to get to top level sports and I did a project on a young gymnast which showed me the passion that develops from a young age.  Which then led me on to how that passion continues if it doesn’t become a career. I was looking for a project that would show the ultimate passion and sacrifice and I came across Calcio Storico.

What is Calcio Storico? 

Calcio Storico is a game fought between the four districts of Florence, Italy every year.  Twenty Seven men in each team play a fifty minute game. Two semi finals on the third weekend in June and then the final always played on the 24th June, La Festa di San Giovanni (the feast of John the Baptist).  The game has been played since the sixteenth century in the Piazza Santa Croce. Passions run high. They do it for the love of their districts. No money is involved. The rules are no sucker punches and only one on one fighting but apart from this pretty much anything goes.

What were the challenges you faced shooting the project?

The main challenge shooting this project was rupturing my right arm bicep tendon a week before.  But also, as with any project, was gaining access. I had tried to contact the Florence government and was getting nowhere.  Then Locate productions put me in contact with an Italian producer that made a few phone calls and advised me that the best thing to do was for me to write a letter to the Florence government and state my case.  Its a very local event and they like it that way. It’s not something that they want to publicise to the world so I think they liked that I was doing it for me. I didn’t hear anything until 4 days before the first semi final when they emailed to grant press access and then it was a rush to book flights and hotel.

What are you looking to work on next? 

Now I’m looking for an agent.  I find that I’m quoting on lots of jobs but losing out to photographers with agents. The quoting and usage process is a minefield which an agent would be massively helpful as with exposure and self promotion.  I enter competitions and see art buyers and art directors with my folio but that extra exposure would be good. I think an agent gives an ad agency or client confidence in the whole shoot process, even if we all use the same production companies, casting directors, stylists, make up artists etc etc etc.

For my next personal project I’m continuing on the weird and extreme sports of the world.  Calcio Storico was the beginning and it was such an experience. High pressure, spontaneous, chaotic but at the same time keeping yourself composed and thinking of the big picture and how each image will work in the project.  With no art direction and no sports choreography you’ve really got to nail it first time as there’s no repeats of any actions. It makes the commissioned work a little easier.

 

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When the AOP approached Angus, producer and co-owner of Locate Productions to ask if we wanted to be featured in one of their weekly newsletters, we jumped at the chance. A big thank you to the AOP for this opportunity to share some of our insight, ways of working and thoughts for the future.

As news begins to trickle in of the industry preparing to open up to a different working world, we were pleased to hear our friends at Locate Productions are busy prepping for jobs in June. Following the post-pandemic production guidance, Locate are well positioned to provide safe production services for all your needs. We caught up with Angus Light to find out more about their services as well as their stance on sustainability in the industry.

Can you tell us more about what services Locate Productions provides for professional photographers?

For both photographers and moving image clients, we have two ways in which we can help; location solutions and/or full production services. Often, a brief starts with the need for the location (and sometimes that’s all our clients require) but frequently develop into the wider production needs of casting, styling, transport, crew, equipment and more.

We started out in the late 90’s and are now a team of 15 location scouts and producers, based in London, Brighton & the South West. During this time we’ve worked in all corners of the UK and more than 40 countries; from global campaigns on the busy streets of London, to shooting simple backplates on frozen rivers in Scandinavia or deserted islands off the coast of Brazil. Safe and smooth production management is at the core of how we produce shoots, with no project too big or too small.

China DarioMitidieri © Dario Mitidieri

What can you offer over other production companies?

We have an ever-growing library of over 10,000 locations both in the UK and abroad. This complements our wealth of production knowledge gained from over 20 years of ‘on-set’ experience shooting around the world, across both stills and moving image. Ultimately, our skills come from working as a team, sharing ideas and collectively finding solutions.

Grass NadegeMeriau    © Nadege Meriau

Having been a speaker at our recent sustainability event can you talk about the actions Locate Productions have taken to be more sustainable and what advice can you offer to others to make a difference?

Sustainability as a whole can feel quite challenging and unwieldly so here at Locate we’ve broken things down into smaller, more manageable situations, which are based on three key strands within our working environment. When presented in small bite-size portions hopefully people will feel the solutions are more achievable, aligned with a general shift in the mindset on how to move forward.

On Shoots & in Production:

  • We use bicycle couriers and carbon negative taxi companies
  • We recycle our waste and have our own water bottles and keep-cups and have started trialing Voltstack batteries as replacements for portable generators
  • We promote vegetarian, seasonal and locally sourced menus to our clients
  • We use public transport wherever possible including train travel rather than car or plane where possible (if safe, given the present situation)
  • We have a network of international production partners to service shoots locally which can reduce the need to travel

Behind the Scenes:

  • We use Good Energy as our as our office energy supplier and our website hosting company, Erjjio, runs off renewable energy
  • Our staff and crew have completed carbon literacy training through the BAFTA/Albert initiative and we use Albert’s carbon calculator to work out how much carbon we produce on our shoots and then explore ways we can reduce or offset this
  • We add an optional ‘1% For the Planet’ to our invoices which, at present, goes directly to a scheme in Romania called Forests Without Frontiers, reforesting the Carpathian mountains

Wider Culture of Sustainability:

  • We are members of organisations who promote a sustainable film, TV and photographic industry; Albert, AdGreen, Purpose Disruptors
  • We support smaller organisations who need content to spread their message
  • We attend events and contribute to the ongoing discussions on how to achieve a low-carbon economy and what that looks like for our industry

 

Rooftop Trigger © Trigger

What is the most obscure location you have shot in?

Possibly Western China where we searched for a remote mountain range, which involved the final leg of the trip on a donkey. But obscure can also be closer to home; once we needed to find a location with a very specific grass length of about 12cm for a fruit drink campaign, but also things like a cityscape helipad for a car shoot and a zumba class in Manchester for This Girl Can.

ZumbaClass AdamHinton © Adam Hinton

What’s next for you?

In the immediate future; starting to shoot safely again. We’ve started working again on projects and are devising ways of delivering the content required by our clients, in a safe manner, following the Covid 19 industry guidelines. Longer term; to continue delivering the high quality of production on new and interesting projects, whilst working towards a zero carbon industry.

Published with the permission from the AOP. The original blog can be viewed here – https://www.the-aop.org/what-s-on/news/post/2020/05/29/focus-locate-productions

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