Writing and other Musings

I’m a journalist by training.

These days my writing and photography work sit side by side in my work for the BBC. Specialising in longer form features, I always prefer to speak with people before getting out the camera.

It all goes back to getting both a sense of the person you’re speaking with, their story, their way of being. These acts of intense listening – combined with a degree of collaboration in terms of what might work visually to express that person and their story or sense of the present moment – helps (I hope) inform the images I then make with each contributor.


Covid 19 and the curious world of lockdown DIY

“When you called,” architectural photographer Tim Soar told me, “the last thing I thought it would be about was my putting up some shelves.” “Indeed,”…

Cemre Yesil’s Hayal and Hakikat: Thumbs, forefingers and murder in the time of Abdul Hamid II.

For a work so dominated by photographed hands, it is perhaps no accident that Cemre Yesil Gonenli’s Hayal and Hakikat opens with the book maker’s…

Weird Assignments: How to Wear a Scarf. No seriously.

My son asked me whether he could borrow my scarf. Then he asked me how best to tie it up. I told him, “you know…

The Mayflower Ship that Never Set Sail to the USA

It was a lofty ambition: To build a life-size replica of the 17th Century Mayflower and recreate the Transatlantic crossing that set sail 400 years…

Covid-19: The chaplains at the front line of end-of-life care

Coronavirus has radically altered the working life of hospitals. But it has not just affected the doctors, nurses and ancillary staff. While the main role…

Covid-19: Inside the hospice caring for the most vulnerable of the vulnerable

They care for dying patients in their final days, but having to shut their charity shops and cancel fundraising events has put UK hospices in…

Covid-19: Southwold and Lowestoft

Lowestoft and Southwold sit just 14 miles apart on the eastern edge of England. As the coronavirus outbreak took hold, one was bustling with people,…

Elections, elections, elections: The thoughts of people in Canvey and Peterborough

Recently dispatched to Canvey Island and Peterborough to photograph the faces of the electorate voting in the European elections and the Peterborough by-elections, here are…

Music at the Margins: Creativity in the wake of Gang Violence

Ipswich, Suffolk. Two rival groups of boys and young men engage in a “turf war”, in this case J-Block versus Neno. They start trading insults…

Numbers of falsely accused teachers are of ‘considerable concern’, says union

Last year, I did a piece of work looking into the geography of, and reasons behind, teacher bans. In response, a source at the National…

Presumed Dead: The Torments of Those Left Behind

I first learned of the Presumption of Death act in researching a piece of work I did on unidentified bodies a few years ago. When…

The asylum seekers, migrants and refugees in search of legitimacy

This is the scene. A BBC crew arrives at a Red Cross refugee drop-in centre with a large camera and a long furry microphone. Is…

In the footsteps of Corrie McKeague

The last known images of Corrie Mckeague alive are grainy, monochrome pictures captured by a town centre CCTV system. The 23-year-old airman had been for…

Teaching bans: Gathering the numbers

Months ago, I sent a Freedom of Information request to the Department for Education asking for details of all teachers banned in the past five…

Meeting the Historical Re-enactors

It turns out the world of historical re-enactment is far from a monolith of collectively-interested hobbyists. Re-enactment has its own sub-cultures, sea-shelves and side-streets. For…

Crunching Data: The School Holiday Fines

A couple of weeks ago my piece of work on school holiday and truancy penalties was broadcast across telly, the wireless and t’internet. The online…

They have a dream: Harwich friends buy an overgrown, graffiti-strewn derelict Tudor fort

If only every assignment went like this: Hey Laurence, could you do a picture feature on an abandoned fort out on the Essex coast? Alas,…

Dead Ends: Life and work in the shadows of unsolved murders

Loose ends make a fertile breeding ground for rumour, suspicion and fear. And few loose ends linger in quite the same way as an unsolved…

Gosh, a woman with a comic shop

We were trying something a little new on the BBC news website a few weeks back. The idea – called ‘Slides’ – was to try…

Faith Spear: The Prison Monitor Who Spoke Out

I recently wrote a piece about a former prison monitor who had raised concerns about the state of prison monitoring. As a result of her…

‘Little America’: Where the Stars and Stripes fly high

Many years ago, when I worked in Suffolk, I had an idea for a feature about the peculiarly American feel of north west Suffolk. Yes,…

The school nobody wants to talk about

This week saw the publication of an extended project on a primary school in Essex. With its austere 1920s red brick design, outdoor playgrounds and…

The public costs of bird control

A few months back I was leaving an inquest and noticed some guys putting up netting around a council building. They told me it was…

Inside Reggie Kray’s old prison cell at Blundeston

There are some places you never imagine you’ll end up. Take, for example, the prison cell which was once home to one of east London’s…

India Chipchase: Lured to sheet-covered home by a ‘meticulous’ killer

A seemingly kind passer-by stopped to help a distressed woman outside a nightclub. But far from being a helping hand, Edward Tenniswood was a calculated…

The Schoolboy Killer

First, a vulnerable man was found in a town centre park with more than 100 knife wounds. Second, a young Saudi woman was found stabbed…

Treasure finds in England

“Walking with a purpose.” What a great phrase! It came from a metal detectorist called Stuart Eldon while I was producing an Inside Out film…

Unidentified bodies, Cockley Cley and the people trying to give the unnamed dead a name

I couldn’t believe there were more than 1,000 people in the UK who were dead, unnamed and with nobody to mourn them. In this age…

Fertility and aphrodisiacs in the 17th Century

I’m a bit old fashioned. I grew up on letters rather than email and I can still remember the excitement of opening my first ever,…

Amputees: how people adjust to life after limb loss

Being the odd one out is strangely invigorating, a good-for-the-soul experience. I experienced it being the only white man on a Tanzania-bound cargo ferry, I…

For the love of ‘Soup’

Above all else, I love spending time with people. Family. Friends. And work subjects. Yes, you can probably get what you ‘need’ from a quick…

De Beers myth: Do people spend a month’s salary on a diamond engagement ring?

Some say you should spend three months’ salary on an engagement ring. Or perhaps two. Or maybe even one. Over the years these ring-wallet equations…

The ubiquity of the modern beep

We’re surrounded by beeps. From reversing vehicles to supermarket checkouts to trains, they punctuate our day. But what’s the story behind them? (the piece which…

Mods and rockers 50 years on since Clacton ‘invasion’

Fifty years ago, England was invaded. At least, that’s what the headlines claimed. The invaders? Fans of two-wheeled transport. They were the mods and the…

What do those squiggles on the pavement actually mean?

Look down at British roads and pavements and there’s often a slew of squiggles, dots and arrows, painted in a plethora of hues. But what…

People always say the same thing about tattoos

News just in – tattooing is no longer the preserve of bikers, sailors and convicts. More than that, celebrities are getting tattoos. And women too.…

Shoes, tattoos and female bodybuilding

Behind the scenes I've been having fun meeting some of the nation's more unusual academics. It was an idea born when I heard about a…

M40 minibus disaster 20 year anniversary

Last week I was on an assignment speaking with some of those affected by the M40 minibus disaster, which happened 20 years ago. They included…