Sunday, 18 November 2007


The best photograph I ever developed was the one taken by a woman two minutes before she murdered her husband.
Few things to say first: the picture here isn’t the actual photograph – that disappeared long ago into a file of evidence held by the Crown Prosecution Service. But I was reminded of it because this picture looks remarkably like the one I developed. Which brings me onto the second thing I need to say – when I say I developed the picture, what I mean is that I fed it into the Kodak developing machine in the shop I worked in at the time and then watched all the prints pop out one by one.

We used to do the picture developing towards the end of every shift – at about 9pm when the only people really coming in the shop were hardened drinkers after White Lightning, or people needing cigarettes. It was mostly a newsagents shop – you get very few people wanting to buy The Daily Express at 9pm.

So, anyway – me and Elissa (my co worker) would feed the rolls of film into the machine and then wait for the pictures to pop out – it was that simple, so neither of us could ever really claim to be professional picture developers. We were great critics, though. We would Oooooh and Awwwwwww over pictures of cute kittens. We’d bitch mercilessly about the Mother of the Bride’s hat. We’d laugh for ages and ages about a bad perm. We’d get very excited about a hot man – and Elissa would sometimes even do an extra print for herself if he was particularly cute. I was never tempted – I just thought it would have been a bit weird – and it would have been. But I wish I had taken a copy of the picture of the hot man asleep on the sofa.

So, anyway – I knew him and his wife. I’d spent an evening in his company (along with some other people) indulging in huge quantities of coke. We were all doing this on top of huge quantities of Warsteiner. I think I was a little bit in love with him that night – but only because of his beard and his black hair and the fact that he was so totally and utterly wasted and I found that charming. I knew it must be a nightmare to live with. And it turned out that it was.

His wife was a dog sitter. Strange profession, but the truth is that they had got married because she was up the duff and we lived in the kind of area where marriage was expected in those circumstances. She was pretty and small and she occasionally did some dog walking for my sister, who ran the local boarding kennels. None of us knew this, but her husband used to batter her so hard that he broke ribs. He would come home from the pub, completely off his head on a cocktail of drink and narcotics, and then take out on her the fact that she didn’t have the money, energy, time or babysitter to come out and get as wasted as him. Then he’d get another can of beer from the fridge and fall asleep drinking it on the sofa. The fact that he then managed to get up every morning and go to work on a building site tells you how young he was. He was 24 when his wife murdered him.

You can guess the circumstances – I don’t need to go into those. She said in court later that she took the photo of him asleep because that was the only time he ever looked like the lad she had fallen for big time. It was the only time she could ever imagine having sex with him in the cricket pavilion, which was why she had been transformed from pretty young hairdresser to human punch bag in the first place. Then she stabbed him three times with a kitchen knife. He never woke up.

The next morning, she brought the photos into the one stop shop to be developed, bought some credit for her phone and called the police. She didn’t deny anything. She was convicted of manslaughter and given seven years, I think. She’s probably out now.

That night we developed the pictures. We didn’t know anything about what had happened, so to us, it was just a picture of that cute pisshead, asleep with a can of Fosters next to him. She never collected the pictures, of course. CID did.

So the whole point of this is to say that photos can be dangerous. They can capture moments that are so very different to the pictures of you on a church tower in Valencia, or the pictures of you and your friends at The Live Lounge Christmas party. There are pictures that don’t belong on Flickr or Facebook or Myspace. They belong hidden in files, never to be looked at again.

This week I bleached my hair. It was a moment of madness. I’m glad that my moments of madness only lead me to do strange things with my appearance – they don’t lead to murder or wife beating. But, still, there will be no pictures of me with bleached hair on this blog, or on Flickr, or on Facebook, or on Myspace. At least not until the roots start showing, which is when I think it will look really cool.

As a way of compensation, though – here is a video of another moment of madness. It’s me and my friends and colleagues, Dave and Alex, spraying a BBC Radio reporters hair mad colours for Children in Need. You get a glimpse of the blond here.

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