My first job was a characteristically quirky and creative one. I was still in Sixth Form at school, and I worked in the evenings and on Saturdays for an under-21's minimum wage, which was a lot less than it is now. The place was a family-run jewelry and gift store, the kind where all the locals knew the staff by name, and which had been in business since the early fifties. My job was to photograph all their unsold stock - sometimes random things which they found in the back of cupboards, the boxes covered in dust but the contents glittering and beautiful - and then I'd handle their online sales. I think I was only there three or four months, but I really enjoyed it.
So, why am I telling you guys about this? Well, on top of celebrating the ten-year milestone, I've also got something wonderful from this job to share with you - something that I've had stored up all these years.
The reason the shop was selling its old stock - and why I was temporarily brought on board to help shift it - was because they were renovating the upstairs rooms, to turn them into modern flats. The building had been around since Victorian times, and apart from piling up boxes of watches, paperweights and other knickknacks, most of it had remained untouched, and left to deteriorate. When they started knocking things through - and leaving wonderfully oddball shapes in the floor and walls - all of this beautiful decay was uncovered, and so I got my camera out...
Back when I had that job, I hadn't learned how to make films (as you can probably tell from my blurred photography and dodgy framing!). In fact, I was then in the process of selecting which universities to apply to, to study film production. But all the same, I looked at those crumbling walls, original fireplaces, wartime furniture and decayed wallpaper, and I was filled with inspiration - not just for set design, but for stories in general. I haven't used this inspiration yet, but it's good to keep things stored up for the right moment - and maybe, by sharing these images, I've inspired some of you guys too.
p.s. None of these beautiful dusty rooms exist any more. The flats were completed in early 2007, done up with clean white walls, and were soon let out to tenants. But you can still visit the shop, which occupies the ground floor of the building. It's in my old hometown of Belper.