The blog of photographer Kim Ayres

The Royal Wedding, The Usual Place, and a Magazine Cover Photo Shoot,

"I was driving into work this morning," said Andrea, the commissioning editor of Dumfries and Galloway Life magazine, "and realised we should try and get a cover photo of Amy and Heather from The Usual Place for our June issue. Would you be up for it?."

Amy and Heather have been invited to The Royal Wedding of Harry and Meghan, this coming weekend – along with around 1,200 other selected members of the public, chosen by the nine regional Lord Lieutenants.

The Usual Place is a non-profit social enterprise company, providing employment and training opportunities for young people with additional support needs, in a cafe environment.

Quite simply, it's a great place to meet up with people for a coffee or lunch, and it's training people who are often left behind by the system - including our daughter, Meg, who has Down's Syndrome.

Over the past 2 years she has been training there, her confidence has grown and she has passed several SVQs (Scottish Vocational Qualifications). What's fantastic is that she has been able to achieve these at her own pace, rather than being forced through a time-restricted course at an academic institution. With the right supportive environment, she is thriving in the workplace.

Heather was one of the initial creators of the concept, and Amy came on board shortly afterwards. It took several years to put in place, but finally The Usual Place opened its doors in 2015. Since then they have won numerous awards, including the D&G Life Awards 2016 for the best cafe in the region.

Andrea and I bounced ideas back and forth. We needed it to looking wedding-y, but not like Heather and Amy were getting married. A quick call and I set up a meeting with Heather to chat about it.

It transpired The Usual Place happened to be holding a celebration event the day before the wedding called "inside out" - essentially a garden party being held indoors in the cafe itself – partly because of limited outdoor available space, and partly because this is Scotland so fine weather cannot be guaranteed. What this meant was they were already gathering stuff like fancy china tea sets, confetti, and various wedding-style decorations.

So now the idea was taking shape – Amy and Heather could be dressed like they were heading for a wedding, and the photo could be taken inside The Usual Place, with a table decorated to the theme (including a mini cut-out Harry & Meghan to make it more obvious what the photo was about). They even managed to borrow a wedding cake prop from the Theatre Royal.

The final element was to include a couple of the workers at The Usual Place, with their distinctive purple aprons. The shoot had to take place after the cafe had closed, so not everyone was available. However Meg, and co-worker Cait, were.

We did several different shots – some with just Amy and Heather, some where they were eating cake and some where they were raising their glasses in a toast.

Despite the fact the shoot was commissioned for the front cover, there was never any guarantee it would definitely make it there. Last minute changes to stories, policies and priorities meant an entirely different photo could have replaced it at the last moment.

However, in the end they did decide to select the cover from our shoot, and chose an image that included our Meg in it (furthest left), which meant I got a beaming smile from her when she found out.


savannah said...

How absolutely cool is all of this?! Great cover, great organization, great ladies, and fantastic Meg! xoxo

(Aside, Meghan Markle when to the same high school as my daughter and daughter-in-law!)

maurcheen said...

Just fab!

Kim Ayres said...

Savannah - the world is such a small place!

Maurcheen - :)

hope said...

Wow! Just've done it again. And Meg looks like a cover girl. ;)

Kim Ayres said...

Hope - thank you :)

viji suresh said...

Awesome photography as always.. Apart from your photography, the beaming smiles steal the show. Your Meg, the royal invite, their esteemed guests and the Duchess Meg.. Beautiful connections ❤️❤️ My love to everyone.

Kim Ayres said...

Viji - In a lot of my photography, I quite deliberately don't want people smiling. But for this one it couldn't be anything else :)

Pat said...

Lovely to read how it all came about and it captures the spirit of what turned out to be a very special day. Pity the splendid cake wasn't real but I suspect some cake was eaten. Meg is a natural in front of the camera.

Kim Ayres said...

Pat - if you look to the left of the fake cake, you'll see a cake stand with lots of goodies on it. Needless to say a few of them were snaffled :)

And yes, Meg's been used to me pointing the camera at her for 20 years, so she does relax beautifully in front of it :)

daisyfae said...

Beautiful people, beautiful story, and absolutely stunning photo! Says so much! Bravo!

Kim Ayres said...

Daisyfae - thank you :)

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