Merry Christmas and Bring on 2012…

Firstly I have to say a HUGE thank-you to everyone who has supported me professionally and personally this year. It’s seen some big changes and growth to my career and photography.

Roof Unit, the new shared studio resource in Roman Road was born and has grown from strength to strength. It is now busting at the seams with 18 amazingly talented photographers who I am proud to call both colleagues and friends. The mutual support from the ‘Uniteers’ is our biggest asset and is something I couldn’t build from timber.  We are all grateful to Alexa and Tim who’s input and dedication has pulled it all together.

I’m pleased to be working even closer with the “Reportage by Getty” team as we move in on more corporate and commercial clients to compliment a pure editorial output. Some of the highlights include a creative shoot from the roof of Somerset House with Burke McCarron and a recent assignment from National Geographic to be published in February.

Sitting here getting ready for Christmas with my family is a stark contrast to the insects and rice rations of the Peruvian Rainforest. The final photographic ‘present’ of the year was scoring the cover of British Journal of Photography for the January issue.

I hope you are as excited about 2012 as I am.  New projects, destinations and partners are in the pipeline but the economic down-turn and the Olympics are not.

An Irish Holiday, Amazon Trailblazing and NYT Lens-Blog

No apologies for this recent blog-silence as shock-horror we took a 2 week holiday in October! A panicked finish to the camper conversion for the new/old  Toyota Expedition  Truck heralds a return to more time behind the lens whatever the location or weather.  A huge thankyou to Alexa’s folks for the use of their yard  before we could set off to christen “The Monster” with 2 weeks down the West Coast of Ireland. The landscape and people on the Emerald Isle exceeded their reputation and hopefully the big-bag of 6×7 film will do it justice. Waking up to breakfast on Inch Beach was a highlight and more on these landscapes when the film is scanned. Our new Imacon X-5 was recently profiled with Roof Unit on the Hasselblad News Page. 

After only 2 days turnaround I found myself heading up the Amazon Basin with my friends at The Environment Investigation Agency. With legal sensitivity and methods echoing the Madagascar Project we can’t reveal much at this stage. However, I can guarantee a  healthy mix of documentation, investigative, GPS points and evidential work to send major shockwaves at Illegal Logging in Peru. The bugs, snakes, swamps, and endless days of trail-clearing in a such a remote and unforgiving landscape was a serious test of the team and equipment but thankfully the only major casuality was a 5d body and my ability to eat oatmeal or crackers ever again.

It’s a pleasure to write this blog in transit from Houston airport after seeing an article profiling my work and methodology on the NYT lens-blog. Thanks to Jim Estrin for his time in Perpignan and on the phone researching the article. I arrive back  to London on Monday for a curious commission for National Geographic which serves as the perfect distraction from the bug bites, scrapes and blisters.


Back from Perpignan with The Frontline Club edited down and up-loaded.

Just disembarked from the long train home from Perpignan Photojournalism festival in France. Had a productive and blurry 5 days of drinking, soaking up the exhibitions and importantly spending quality time with Reportage by Getty and discussions with magazine editors. You NEED to see Peter Dench’s fist-biting video diary of the festival courtesy of Hungry-Eye Magazine.

My first job when back was editing the Frontline’s recording of our panel, China’s New Energy Pioneers,  for distribution. It has been sliced down to 15 minutes from the original 90 and embedded above. Really happy with how the presentation went and thanks to Jim Footner from Greenpeace for his contributions and questions.


Global Map Project

Catalysed by an Innovation in Storytelling Grant from National Geographic I am very excited (and relieved) to have finally completed and made live a Google Map interface for my current projects. Geotagging and captioning the images and videos allows a new way of visualising or exploring projects beyond a linear narrative.

All future projects will be geo-tagged and the interface can also be used and skinned by project partners to present their work whether multimedia, text or beyond. An “app” version is next..

Stand Your Ground

Earlier this month I was asked to be part of the Stand Your Ground event conceived and executed by the London Street Photography Festival team.  As an avid photographer of Londonium and sensitive industrial areas I am no stranger to heavy-handed, uninformed security guards getting in the way. 6 shooters attempted to work legally in and around central London with a videographer documenting the encounter. The resulting short film below will be presented at a debate and panel tonight.  Just glad security didn’t catch me running around a restricted Rare-Earth mine in Inner Mongolia last year even that camp copper at (12min:00s) couldn’t have saved my bacon..


The Frontline Club

On the 20th July the Frontline Club will be holding a special networking event for Photographers. The event will serve; to build bridges between the different photography elements, free Chivas and deliver a  debate on “Who Gets the Credit?” You can reserve a place HERE.

On the 9th of August I will be presenting my China project to an expert panelist at the Frontline. . I am looking forwards to preparing my research further to what I can guess will be a set of testing questions and experienced journalists. Sadly no free Scotch but I might buy a drink for anyone who comes to Paddington on the night. Tickets can be booked HERE.


In the Picture: China’s New Energy Pioneers with Toby Smith

Photographer Toby Smith recently spent two months in China producing his latest project, China’s New Energy Pioneers.

Covering 11 provinces, his work took him to coal mines, wind farms and hydro-electric plants while capturing the landscapes and people implementing the Communist Party’s latest Five Year Plan.

Announced in March 2011, the new Plan is significant in its attempts to address escalating energy and environmental problems. A cap on coal dependency, ambitious targets for non-fossil fuel energy sources and ad rive towards more renewable sources of energy reflect the Communist Party’s intentions to aim for a cleaner, greener kind of growth.

With new power stations connecting to the grid in the People’s Republic of China at a rate of one per day, how China chooses to fuel its booming economy is one of the most important questions for the world of today, and of the future.

Toby Smith is a contemporary reportage photographer and director of Roof Unit, a collective of photographers based in East London. He specialises in environment and energy matters.

Smith’s feature stills and video work has been published by National Geographic, the Guardian, TIME, the New York Times and the BBC among others.

The Renewables Project goes Geographic

For the last month I have been working in the new studio on a new platform to display my images and video across a map interface.  I hope this helps illustrate the work spatially with advantages over a traditional editorial format. I’m going to keep it under wraps until completed, however it has been great to go through the multimedia content from “The Renewables Project”.  I’ve finally uploaded an edited version of the montage video that was screened in Toronto as part of the Nuit Blanche Festival in 2010.

Don’t look down, look forwards..

Been busy plotting and scheming in the new Roof Unit already. GPS positioned projects, a new Imacon X5 on the way and also some very exciting projects. Going to keep the exact details a bit hush-hush until further developed but until then here’s an incredible panorama I shot in Jhajjar India that I hope will be gracing the editorial world as a double page spread soon. Big thanks to Thomas Wright for the leg-work on stitching these 32 frames together… You can click the image to “zoomify” around the details.

Shoot Unit now at Roof Unit

After a month of graft I’ve thrown my carpenter’s tool back in the attic. 20 desks of solid 7-ply, 200 foot of sanded scaffold boards, 1400 sq-foot of antique pine floor-boards, 4 massive wooden truss beams and 1 studio/event space near Bethnal Green maketh Roof Unit. The original idea spawned and built with Chris Littlewood back in !2006!  is reborn in a new space with the old vibe that other photographers are colleagues not competitors, it’s better to work together and together the work get’s better.  We have 2 desks left for rental and the studio is also available for hire. The desk depicted is within a nuclear storage area near Sellafield not the one’s we rent in London..

OK, enough with the cheesy metaphors. I’m very glad to be a photographer again and plotting what’s next; firstly some nocturnal and nuclear work in UK before wandering further afield. The current research and planning stage will involve reaching out to potential partner organisations whilst testing the water and potential of the subject matter. I would love to hear from anyone reading this who might want to get involved. You can reach me from the contact page or come on over to Roof Unit.



Opening The Flood Gate..

My project on Scottish Hydroelectricity has gained some great natural momentum in the last month. Firstly, I am extremely proud to see the work featured by National Geographic Online as part of an extended photo feature with additional reporting by Marianne Lavelle. The 14 page feature can be seen HERE. Secondly, I had the privilege of spending a long weekend in Teeside hanging and opening a solo show at Profile Gallery. The exhibition is showing in sunny Saltburn-by-the-Sea until the 21st of May. Finally, the results of the Magenta Awards 2011 have been revealed and I am chuffed to see my name along-side some great friends and photographers, looking forwards to it for the second year running.