Shooting a national charity campaign: a rewarding challenge John Ferguson was approached in May 2009 by Orin Lewis, founding member of the Afro-Caribbean Leukemia Trust (ACLT), and asked if he would like to photographed the charity's 2010 publicity campaign. After losing their son Daniel to leukemia in October 2008, Orin and his partner Beverley De-Gale set up the trust in the hope of finding blood and bone marrow donors to help other sufferers from the Afro-Caribbean community. John had been recommended by Sarah Ferguson's PR team with whom he'd worked on an earlier portrait series. The charity's original idea was a series of portraits of young leukemia sufferers in hospitals or hospices, with the patients staring blankly into the camera. John says, "I'd seen this kind of image many times before and felt that, if this campaign was going to succeed in pulling in new donors, it would need to have a much stronger visual message. Orin and Beverley both had fixed ideas of what they thought they wanted, having just gone through the death of their son. But they gave me time to go away and think of some new ones." John finally hit upon the idea of photographing a funeral. "Can there be a more upsetting time in one's life than burying a younger brother, sister or child?" he asked himself. He decided to put together a series of photographs, settling on six or seven scenarios based around a family funeral service. "Like all photographers, I could see the finished images in my mind," John says, "but knew I would need the assistance of a good art director." John teamed up with Anthony Stileman, who turned his ideas into the page layouts which ultimately persuaded the ACLT to give the campaign the go-ahead. Pulling the production team together for the shoot Together with stylist Janine Jauvel, John set about finding the actors and dressing the scene, which included having a child's coffin hand-made. With his assistant Nick Richardson, he visited different cemeteries around South East London. Meanwhile, John's production manager Beatrice arranged location permits, caterers, time lines and running orders - even the hire of funeral cars. John's team also included Dan Scudamore as digital operator as well as a second assistant and hair and make up. John called in a brilliant lighting cameraman Onkar Narang with whom he'd worked on a pop video shoot. "We would be shooting with a mixture of daylight and inside locations shots," says John, "and, with the unpredictable weather patterns during that month, the lighting was a challenge to say the least. We had high sunshine directly overhead then summer showers 10 minutes later. The rain actually gave the pictures a pleasing sense of reality. I hired all my lighting from Sola Lights in west London using Briese lighting who were great, organising delivery and extra generators when needed." Lighting wasn't the only challenge for this complex shoot, as John explains. "I also had a few problems getting the right permissions for certain locations, and had one location pulled from us at the last minute. With a few hours left to film, this didn't go down too well!" Learning from the project John says the project was a great learning curve. "For example, I had to direct the actors in all the different scenes. Sometimes, after explaining the look I wanted from each scene, there were still one or two people who didn't quite achieve the feeling I was after. It was a case of being patient, diplomatic and very accommodating." John recalls one of the most difficult scenes to shoot. "The first scene with the young girl crying into the hearse was very difficult. I was a little concerned as to how many times I would have to ask her do the shot. She had to pretend she had lost her younger sister, and her acting was brilliant. I had to wait, continually looking through the viewfinder, until she was at a stage that looked real enough to capture this very emotive scene. Although I had Anthony on hand with some chopped onions and the make-up girl with her stick-on tear stick, neither of them were needed. The young girl played the role perfectly." Ultimately, the two-day shoot went very well. "It's surprising how many favors you can call in when you have to," laughs John. "A week before, I'd shot a feature with the young CEO of a transport company in south east London who had become a millionaire through his business. After giving him a few 16x12'' from that shoot, he kindly gave me the use of one of his mini buses and a driver for two days. We also secured the funeral cars, wreaths and some of the costumes free of charge too." John shot the whole campaign on his Hasselblad H2 with a phase one back and a variety of lenses. He chose around 20 shots from the shoot to display to Orin and Beverly, their late son's friends and staff at the charity. The group selected the final six images. "They were very pleased with the photographs," says John, "and I feel they work well, too. The images will be used for a nationwide press and publicity campaign later this year."