My Dad was a Palestinian refugee who came to London in the 1960s. If he hadn’t decided to leave I wouldn't have had the opportunities I've had. At 12 years old I saw some guys playing guitar and giving out pamphlets, I read them and started going to the church youth club. At 15 I went to South Africa for a month and took my first pictures after my uncle lent me a camera and paid for the film to be developed.
Before my exams came through I wrangled a job as a photographer. After 2 years I gave it up when our youth group leader said he wanted to rescue Vietnamese refugees drowning in the South China Sea. The leader sold his house, and with my fiancé and some mates, we sold the few possessions we had and bought a decommissioned WW2 warship. With Tower Bridge raised for our departure, we finally set off. Three years later we got as far as Turkey. But I learned so much.
Back in London and with no money, I got a job with an Arab daily newspaper that had started during the Gulf War. A few weeks later I met a photographer who told me he had been offered the job first, but was given to me after I unwittingly accepted it for £10,000 less than they were going to pay him. It was an amazing break. I became their only photographer shooting stories and rushing back to my darkroom, printing to a deadline six days a week. One time my editor didn’t want a quirky picture I’d shot of the Gorbachevs' visit to the UK, so I put it into an envelope and hand dropped it at the Independent Newspaper. No one responded. The next day I walked into a newsagent and saw it across the front page with the headline “UK and Russia Seal Friendship”. It was my first front page.
After 2 years my newspaper shut down. We all found out by reading the story on the front page. I was 26 with a wife and 2 sons and needed work. Driving to clear out my darkroom, news came that Windsor Castle was on fire. I diverted and got an early picture of a 747 flying through the smoke. It was an average picture, but an early one, and made the front page of USA Today for Reuters.
At Reuters I covered everything, general elections, IRA bombings, court cases, demonstrations, riots, gigs, and a load of waiting around for nothing or a shit picture. I did okay, covered some big stories and got a lot of front pages. After four years the work stopped. Years later I found out it was because I defended a colleague.
I started my own photographic company to see if I could make enough money to cover my own stories. That worked well and 7 years later I poured all my money, contacts and portfolio to start a production company and make documentaries. It was my film school. We called it Lonelyleap after a man who jumped from space in a helium balloon and wrote a book called The Long Lonelyleap.
The company grew in London and America. One of my partners wanted to leave so we bought him out. Covid hit the following week, but we came out the other side.
Finding stories, shooting pictures and discovering for myself, is what drives me. I’ve wept with war veterans, been surrounded at gunpoint, covered elections, riots, refugees fleeing war. Over many years I saw a lot of suffering and the more I saw, the more I gave up on my beliefs. And losing that changed me a lot.
I love the creative challenge of working with my hands, restoring, writing, playing guitar, and personal assignments. I’m currently working on two independent documentaries and a long form photo-essay which are referenced on this site. I love what I do. It brings so much life, and feeds my soul. Having my two sons beats anything I’ve ever done.