The blog of photographer Kim Ayres

Peaky Blinders at Rosefield Mills

I was meeting up with Tracy for a hot chocolate to discuss the photo shoot she had won in the raffle, in which I'd offered a prize for a fundraiser for Rosefield Mills – an incredible old Victorian building on the River Nith in Dumfries, which has been falling into ruin for decades and was hoping to be bought by the Dumfries Historic Buildings Trust.

I've offered photo shoots in charity auctions before now, and what's great about them is the people are bidding for it because they genuinely want it. Raffles, on the other hand, can be a real hit-or-miss affair. Winners might not be that interested, not know what to do with it, or demand I photograph their pets.

Tracy was apologetic. She didn't really know what kind of photography to ask for and feared what she had won was maybe too big a prize – perhaps it should be given to someone else. I reassured her she had won the shoot fair and square, and said it was a chance to really have some fun. We didn't just have to do a portrait – we could do something spectacular. She could dress up, get friends and family involved, find a great location, and create something really memorable.

As the conversation developed, it transpired that she and her husband were Peaky Blinders fans – a 1920s period drama about gangsters in Birmingham. It's a fantastic series – beautifully shot and brilliantly acted (and very violent). It also turned out that a friend of theirs was having a Peaky Blinders themed birthday party the following month, so they were already getting outfits sorted out for it.

I'd just found out that the purchase of Rosefield Mills was successful, and in a conversation with Mark Zygadlo from the Dumfries Historic Buildings Trust, he said we could use it for the shoot if we wanted, and attached to the main building was an old, empty warehouse.

It all seemed like a wonderful opportunity to create something cinematic. Soon we were discussing friends she could rope in, and the fact she had a horse too (horses feature strongly in Peaky Blinders), while I was thinking about creative lighting and possibly smoke bombs to add atmosphere.

In the end it was one of most fun shoots I've ever done. 10 enthusiastic people in costume, with a horse, and a couple of hours of time to play with lighting and posing. Here's a selection of my favourites, although for the full set, click here for the Facebook album:

The Guys

The Gals

The Fight

On horseback

Knowing I would really want a record of this, I managed to drag a couple of photographer friends - Allan Wright and Andy Jardine - along to shoot some behind-the-scenes video footage for me, which I edited together with the Peaky Blinders theme tune (see below - it's less than 2 minutes long).

I've been itching to show all this off for a few months now, but we've been holding back to tie it in with an appearance in the latest edition of Dumfries & Galloway Life magazine. Mark Zygadlo wrote an article about the shoot and the story behind getting the building, and I was delighted to see they'd used several of my images, including a full double-page spread of the big group shot.

Huge thanks to Mark for getting us the space to use, and being my smoke bomb operator, and to Tracy, Chris, Peter, Hannah, Katie, Andrew, Robbie, Linzi, Gail, Mhari and not forgetting Wallace the pony, for getting completely into their roles, which allowed for such epic shots.

Make sure you pick up your copy of the December/Christmas issue of Dumfries & Galloway Life - out in the shops now!


Eryl said...

Brilliant! I find Peaky Blinders far too stylized for tv, but it works wonderfully here in stills. I'm expecting to hear one of your images has been bought by the Tate any day now.

Kim Ayres said...

Thanks for your kind words, Eryl. Unfortunately I don't think the Tate bothers much with my kind of photos

Unknown said...

Fantastic! I used to work at Rosefield Mills & love Peaky Blinders. These shots are excellent!

Viji said...

Thoroughly loved the photos, video. What I liked more was your way of making people not camera shy and bring the best in them. May be you should do cinematography. Looking forward for more such treats.

Kim Ayres said...

Unknown - thanks for taking the time to comment! If you come back, please leave a name as it's always nicer to know who I'm talking to :)

Viji - Thank you! I think if I ever get fed up with photography I'll explore film more. At the moment I'm quite happy stretching myself to see what's possible with the camera :)

Pat said...

Talk about serendipity! I'm slightly at a loss because - regretfully I turned my nose up at Peaky Blinders but I can well imagine how you all revelled in the marvellous atmosphere you created. That lovely mist that comes from hot animals and fresh manure. So atmospheric.

Kim Ayres said...

Pat - Peaky Blinders, while beautifully shot, is very violent. However, if you want to get a sense of it, just go to youtube and watch a short trailer. The mist in this shot was created with smoke bombs (take a look at the video) :)

Mary Smith said...

Brilliant, Kim. It's very atmospheric and it looked like everyone had great fun. It was a good feature in D&G Life but it's even better to see the video.

Kim Ayres said...

Thanks Mary - it was a lot of fun. One of the things I quite like in the video is you can see the ambient light I was actually working with, and how different the images look because of the way I was manipulating the camera settings - which is something few people would realise by looking at only the photos :)

daisyfae said...

As always, i am just as smitten by your tale of how the concept for the shoot came together, as i am with the stunning photographs!

Kim Ayres said...

Thanks for your kind words, Daisyfae. I always think the story behind a photo can be just as interesting as the image itself, and love it when photographers give those insights - so I tend to run on the assumption that others might feel that way too when I explain my own tales behind the photos :)

Pat said...

Kim I started watching PB this week-end and am hooked. I love seeing my Dad's haircut again.
Your mist effect was sensational.

Kim Ayres said...

Pat - I was forgetting this was your parent's era. And while it's not set as far North as your birthplace, at least it's not just set in London as so many period dramas are. Glad you're enjoying it, and many thanks for your kind words about my photography :)

All content copyright of Kim Ayres. Powered by Blogger.