CLAIRE MATCHES (This complete editorial can be found at: www.yachtingmatters.com Edition 30)
'Why don’t you bring your cameras?' This single question asked by the owner of a boat I used to crew on in local regattas that marked a real turning point in my career. But we’ll come to this a little later..
My first boating experience was when I was just six months old, travelling with my mother from Africa (where my parents lived) to England on a post boat. A trip which turned out being the first of many and perhaps also the start of my love for the sea.
I grew up in Emsworth, a small town in Hampshire on the south coast of England and I can vividly remember going to see Velsheda with my father in the Solent and often seeing other children sailing dinghies from the local sailing school and thinking: 'Now, that looks like fun!'. Funnily enough I first chose horses over sailing!
Growing up I was curious and very interested in art and photography. My very first camera was a disk camera!! One of those terrible little things with minute bits of film stuck around the disk. The pictures were horrible but I had been bitten by the photography bug nonetheless. Everything got captured: My family, my dad’s car, even the rabbit had its picture taken many times. I’ve got happy memories of my time at school and later college and during this time the artistic streak still took centre stage. My dream was to go on to study graphic design and photography.
I learnt to sail in the Solent when I was 19 aboard a 24ft Achilles. I had many great sailing experiences afterwards and I managed to pass my Yachtmaster’s exam in Poole. A few years later my life was about to change forever as I packed up everything and travelled to Menorca with my then engineer boyfriend to start a marine business. Mahon harbour was quiet and beautiful and I was happy to be living and working by the sea but business was slow to say the least so we moved to Mallorca where I started working for the Sunseeker dealer in the port of Andraitx. I ended up doing many deliveries from France back to the island, sometimes on my own in a fleet of two or three others, refuelling at sea from one of the bigger yachts!
Although I loved living on Mallorca the pull to learn more about photography and to follow my dream was always there until eventually at the age of 28 I returned to London to study photography. At 30 I was lucky enough to assist some of the best photographers in London. I was struck. They were amazing, each one of them boasting a different speciality: interiors, lifestyle, cars, one even specialised in photographing bed linen! I was fascinated by the way they all dealt with everything in order to get the job done. I gorged on all the information I was getting about exposures, lighting and processing film which was all medium or large format and I have consequently never forgotten what I learnt from these icons. Moreover, I often think back to those special days. After those four years in England I couldn't wait to get back to Mallorca and put it all into practice, preferably all at once!
I chose to focus on fashion and life style photography and with a loan from my Mum (and a job at a diving centre to make ends meet) I went out and bought the very best equipment I could possibly find.
But where were the customers? Unfortunately tough times followed. My stints working at the diving school became longer and longer, as this was what kept me going financially. I had occasional assignments taking photos of the odd villa or at weddings but this all changed after the: 'Why don´t you bring your cameras?' moment. I had honestly just not thought of combining my two greatest passions, photography and sailing, until then.
That was it. I was off! I began photographing as many yachts and regattas as possible. I wanted to be able to photograph like Franco Pace, Giles Martin Raget and Carlo Borlenghi. Whenever I ended up being on the same chase boat as one of them I was amazed and delighted. Kate Branagh, The Superyacht Cup event coordinator gave me my first big break in 2006 by asking me to cover that year’s regatta. From then on things just got better and better and I’m happy to say I still work for Kate every year.
Since 2005 I travel for approximately four to five months a year to the most fantastic locations on the planet photographing the world’s most luxurious and beautiful yachts either at regattas or for brochures. I’m sure there will be many more amazing experiences to look forward to in the future as I meet so many fascinating people on my travels who all have such interesting stories to tell.
I often get asked:'What equipment should I buy? 'to which I always simply reply to just buy the best you possibly can. Another question I regularly hear is: 'Do you know when you’ve just made a great picture? 'Yes, you usually do, you can see them coming! And to the question: 'Don’t you worry about your cameras in that chase boat? 'Of course I do and lets just say the environment in which I photograph is not the most forgiving for sophisticated electronics! It can get very expensive.
Right now I’ve just come back from Antigua and am at the time of writing about to fly out to St Barts to cover the St Barts Bucket Regatta. Afterwards I will again be Caribbean-bound for a private client for whom I have worked for the last five years.
'Are there any downsides to my job?' Not really at all. Except maybe the eternal editing. Photographers now are also the photo laboratory of old and I spend endless hours editing when I would much rather be out there taking the pictures!
I consider myself to be very lucky indeed to do what I love and hope I can continue to do so for many years. Thanks Kate!