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The essence of heroism

October 25, 2013

I have many remarkable friends, across all walks of life. As a general rule my friends are my heroes, people I adore, I admire, and I am inspired by (most of the time). It doesn’t matter if one is at right at top of the corporate ladder, she still has time for dressing in a cardboard box and another is a phenomenal very young Mother doing all she can to support her daughter and make every day an adventure for her, one may be a top test pilot and other a gardener, one a postman and another an entrepreneur, one a dependable volunteer, the other a passionate musician … they’re all different, and the richness of what they all bring to our lives is something to be hugely awed by and appreciative of.

Today however two guys top my poll of ultimate heroes. Neither of them set out to do what they are now doing, but they both made a decision to walk away from corporate success and follow a passion. One is an old old friend, the other a new one and both of them have caused me to whoop with delight in their achievements today.

The idea of following a dream is often seen as some start struck person walking easily up a pathway of sparkly lights and bounding over rainbows. In my experience, the people who achieve their dreams are the ones that have a vision and work hard, very hard towards them, they are single minded, but they are also prepared to learn.

I have an old friend from student days, we travelled the world together for a while, he had studied engineering at university, he wasn’t really sure what to do with his life. He worked in the end for a huge multinational, and one day, sitting on an oil rig in Nigeria with a friend he designed a submarine on the back of a fag packet, or perhaps on the piece of silver paper with one white side that wraps around the cigarettes. Not just any submarine, but a magical craft, one that when it was under water would allow the passenger to feel as if they were suspended in clear water, as if they could reach out and touch the fish, one made entirely of glass, a bubble of a submarine. They gave up hugely lucrative contracts and moved to the States where they lived for years on virtually no income as they battled with getting a supplier who could manufacture glass thick enough, clear enough and robust enough to form the bubble, before they could get coast guard approval and before they could get someone to buy one. 18 years on they have sold many of their initial design, they’ve been behind some incredible under water footage, they’ve organised literally tens of thousands of dives and now they’ve come up with an even more cunning plan. My friend is the engineer, the designer and is the one with the remarkable wife who has helped support him and their family along his journey.

A computer image of the new submarine

This week his company launched the dream craft, the submarine that will go deeper and offer more, far more than their previous craft. So … hurrah for you Ian, I’m so proud … a wonderful friend, an incredible father and a hard working, perfectionist with a vision that I’m sure will be an outrageous success. James Bond would want one, as will Attenborough … check out the SeaMagine Aurora sub and prepare to have your jaw hit the floor … just imagine floating under water in a glass bubble … well now you can actually do it!

I went to Madagascar a few years ago to fundraise for a charity, the flight out was delayed due to the volcano erupting in Iceland, the stress and ups and downs of the ‘will I / won’t I fly’ drama was carried out on Twitter. Someone I’d never met sponsored me as he said he’d been touched by my plight. We kind of kept tabs on each other through social media after that and then I met him for real, taking photographs at a Local Councils event in London. He was a former grown up civil servant, he’d walked away from his job and the posh pension and the comfy corner office and become a photographer. His journey started when he realised he needed to give up drinking, he took a camera to a party so he’d have something to fiddle with when everyone else was boozing and he didn’t look back. He has built the most awesome reputation photographing politicians, Royalty, weddings, events, parties, skyscapes and skylines and even Hope and I. All his pictures have drama in them, he seems to have a Peter Pan like ability to capture the very essence of a situation or a place. He observes light beautifully and always provokes an emotional response; sometimes “wow”, other times “aaahhhh” and occaisionally “eeooowww”, even his corporate event photos cause people to smile (often ruefully!!). When I was pregnant Paul took some pictures of me when I wasn’t looking that really captured my fear, my uncertainty and at the same time my pride in my unborn small Spaniard. When I asked him to take a picture of me that was posed it turned out to be one of my favourite photos of me; tired, excited, apprehensive, protective, happy.

Ellie & The Spaniard infront of the breaking waters wall!! (no they hadn't)

Me & The Spaniard infront of the breaking waters wall!! (no they hadn’t)

When we celebrated Hope’s first birthday he came to the house and took pictures of a small person and her besotted family, a far cry from the normal shoots he spends his time doing. Over the last year we’ve had many pictures taken by different professional media photographers, none captured my love for my daughter or the relaxed happiness I feel around her in the way he did. Today, only 4 years after he started taking pictures on the camera he bought 5 years ago, he was named as one of the 100 Photography Heroes by Professional Photographer magazine alongside many established great photographers. http://www.paulclarke.com for more about him and to see some of his brilliant pictures. Way to go Paul.

Hope and dreams

My Hope and dreams

So … there you have it …

two opinionated, determined and dare I say it, difficult men, both utterly focussed, both very funny; Paul readily admitting he’s not been great at looking at the work of other photographers as he  knows what he wants and how he wants to achieve it from a picture, Ian utterly committed to what he does and the vision that transformed his industry. They have both worked their asses off, they could both be earning more money elsewhere, they are both perfectionists and I am so so very proud of them, I’ve long since had a crush on them both. Two very unlikely heroes.

Hats off to you guys and huge huge congratulations on your well deserved achievements … my heroes and an inspiration to my daughter… and Paul, maybe now is the time to ask you about taking some breastfeeding photos of Hope and I?!

“Self-trust is the essence of heroism”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

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