Small Goals, Small Achievements, Happy Days

Serendipity Feeds Enthusiasm

Recently, two linked pieces of good fortune resulted in me achieving a goal I hadn’t realised I’d had: to have one of my musical heroes welcome a PhillConnellPhotos print into his life. I’m going to tell you the story. If you’re looking for instant gratification or ‘YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED NEXT’ clickbait, you’re on the wrong website.


I was contacted by an old friend a few months ago. We’d last spent time together pretending to be in a band in my schoolmate’s cellar in 1987, and the magic of Facebook has made us realise we still have some good things in common. He suggested we go to see The Wedding Present together, and I agreed this was a marvellous idea.


The day of the gig came around and we met up in a very rainy Manchester. Over a pint of Ruby Ale (me) and a glass of good red wine (John) we talked about film making (John) and photography (me) as well as our mutual love of good music. An old friendship rekindled, we walked through the wet streets of Manchester to the venue. John’s filmmaking exploits can be seen in more detail on his site, Willow Tale.


The gig was on the night after the horrific evening of shootings in Paris, so security at the venue was pretty tight. I was asked to show the contents of my very masculine manbag to one of the door guys, so I duly unzipped and explained that it was ‘mostly my drugs; I’m diabetic’ and was waved onwards. Nobody noticed my new Fuji X-A2 tucked neatly in there. Oh how I love my little new camera! John was subjected to a full frisk, I’m pretty sure that was just because he looks like a hippy.


When the final support act exited the stage (Badly Drawn Boy: he was terrible), we executed our plan. As the crowd breathed, people dispersed: they walked outside for a smoke, or to the bar for a drink, or to the loo for a wee. We took our chance, walked straight to front centre of the crowd and waited for the main attraction.


After the usual faffing of engineers and heavy lifters, The Wedding Present came on stage and began an energetic and entertaining set with a mix of classics like ‘Kennedy’, ‘Deer Caught in the Headlights’, ‘Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft’, ‘Dare’ and the wonderful finale of ‘My Favourite Dress’. I spent most of my time with John dancing to the upbeat tunes overlaid with heart-rending lyrics of teenage angst, adultery and frustration. (There’s a playable set list on if you want to relive the night’s classics)


But here’s the good part, for me anyway: between the dancing and jostling for position at the front of a lively middle-aged crowd, I took a few photos which I’m proud of. At the time these were intended purely as memories for me, as most of my photographs are.


After the gig John and I bought a sandwich from Sainsbury’s (rock and roll, kids) and jumped on the tram home. We went to our homes and went to sleep.

The Wedding Present, 14th November 2015 by Phill Connell Photos

The Wedding Present, 14th November 2015


Two Days Later

On processing the photos, I realised they were actually pretty good. I had an idea. What’s the worst that could happen? It was too late to get thrown our of the gig for sneaking a decent camera in, wasn’t it? One tweet later and the deed was done: I sent one of the images to David Gedge, The Wedding Present’s driving force, writer, lyricist and vocalist. I simply offered a free print if he liked it.


He liked it. He retweeted it. I gained a few fellow fan followers on twitter. But the main thing was: DAVID GEDGE LIKED MY PHOTO OF HIM. As a fan, this made me very very happy. As a photographer, this meant that a performer considered my photo to be good enough. I ordered the print, and added a wider shot of the band too. I posted them to Brighton, the band’s UK headquarters.


A Few More Days Later

…I got a direct message from the man himself to say a simple thank you. A common courtesy from a man who spends his very busy life entertaining people and writing excellent songs.


This single episode motivated more as a photographer than anything else in the last few months. Someone whose opinion I valued enjoyed a photo that I’d taken. A man whose music I have listened to since I was a spotty student gave a simple acceptance of a simple offer. It was a basic exchange of goods: I’d had the enjoyment of the music, he got a couple of prints. Everyone was happy. The exchange reminded me that I can take a pretty good photo and that people do like my work.

David Gedge, 14th November 2015 by Phill Connell Photos

David Gedge, 14th November 2015 by Phill Connell Photos


So What? So Try It!

So if you’re feeling like you’re working in a vacuum, struggling for motivation, just try offering something to someone who’ll appreciate it. We all have something to give: some talent or gift that another person will love. That feeling you get from another person liking your stuff is an enormously motivating gift.


Then get back to it, renewed, refreshed and reinvigorated. Enjoy it.


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