Spotlight feature with Photojournalist Guy Bell

Next up in our spotlight series on our News, Sports and Entertainment contributors is Guy Bell, who is a UK-based freelance photojournalist specialising in corporate, news and event photography. Guy’s photographs regularly appear in many UK newspapers such as The Guardian, The Financial Times and The Independent.

It’s clear why Guy’s photographs are used in headlines stories, due to his tactile and creative approach in keeping up to date in current news affairs.

Delve deeper with us as we find out how Guy kickstarted his career as a photojournalist, what motivates him and how he manages it all as a one-man band.

CG: You specialise in photojournalism; can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into this area of photography?

GB: I have had several career changes to get me here, including a very brief stint in the British Army, retraining as a Chartered Accountant (as my degree was not much use, workwise), using that to work in the City of London as an investment analyst and then after redundancy, and much more retraining, eventually arriving where I am now — as a corporate and news photographer. To be fair, I initially fell into it as something I had always been interested in however I thought it might be an enjoyable diversion until I got back on track in the City! Luckily in work terms (if not financially) that never happened.

Alamy Stock Photo / Guy Bell

London, UK. 5th Nov, 2023. A 1901 Lanchester Passing over Westminster Bridge - RM Sotheby's London to Brighton Veteran Car Run. A consequence of the Locomotives on the Highway Act which raised the speed limit for ?light locomotives' from 4mph to 14mph and abolished the need for the vehicles to be preceded by a man carrying a red flag. The Act was celebrated by the first ?Emancipation Run' when 30 cars travelled from London to Brighton on 14th November 1896, the day the Act came into force.

CG: What made you want to become a photojournalist over other photography areas?

GB: News photography offers a huge variety of photographic subject matter, as well as the opportunity to be at the centre of big events, especially when based in the capital city. Sadly, as a freelancer, one doesn’t get access to ‘good’ positions for some of the larger organised happenings (for example coronations), which puts us at a significant disadvantage to the big agency photographers — so you must be creative and work hard to keep track of what is going on. This can be exhausting as a one-man band, but can be rewarding and satisfy the desire to attempt to deliver the news.

Alamy Stock Photo / Guy Bell

London, UK. 6th May, 2023. The Piccadilly Lights advertising screen is given over to the coronation message, Happy and Glorious - The rain came down and tens of thousands of people were disappointed and doomed to wandering the streets as the organisers shut the perimiter gates very early in the morning. The Coronation of King Charles III on May 6th.

CG: What has been the most challenging news event you have covered?

GB: When I was starting out, and very much learning the ropes, there were quite a few large student protests which were baptisms of fire, involving charging police horses, scary police dogs and angry crowds. But most jobs are challenging, particularly if you want to find an interesting angle. Other challenges can include dealing with threats from third parties with extreme views, or that you are just trying to cover the territory at a massive gig like Glastonbury. Sometimes the challenge is getting on with the work even if it is unpleasant and sometimes it is that there are too many choices!

CG: What was the most memorable photo you have taken?

GB: I take so many images of so many different events, it is very difficult to keep track! It is often the latest image that I have had published, which used to be a rarity but, luckily, is now somewhat more regular. So many shoots offer a visual feast and I do my best, through a mix of patience and a good dollop of luck, to convey that. But before I know it, I am on to the next one and the last has been all but forgotten. One image that certainly involved good fortune, as I glimpsed the possible opportunity from my bicycle (and nearly didn’t stop), was a picture of the moon and the Shard. Once committed to the idea I had to rush on to the millennium bridge and fine tune my position by rushing up and down it. Eventually I got the shot with the moon grasped between the apex elements of the tower.

Alamy Stock Photo / Guy Bell

07th Nov, 2019. A near full moon rises over the Shard in London.

CG: Are there any ethical considerations that you take into account when photographing a news event?

GB: I feel I am there to record whatever is going on in a fair manner, regardless of one’s personal perspective of the issue. Many groups think we are out to portray them in a way that suits our own ‘biased’ personal agenda, which is totally unfair, but we can only continue to take the pictures regardless. It is then up to different media outlets to place them with their story angle — often media outlets will use very similar images to make contradictory reports on one event.

CG: Do you have a favourite story that you have covered?

GB: My first story, when studying and still pondering the idea of becoming a photographer full time (i.e. in the long distant mists of time!), was to cover the migrant situation in Calais over two three-day visits. We covered the work of charities and the migrants’ hard lives, sleeping rough in the town and in the so-called ‘jungle’. I was even nearly arrested by the CRS (French riot police), which was pretty sobering; they made me take out and expose the film in my camera (luckily, I hadn’t even taken any pictures on it at the time!) It was also my first published story.

CG: How do you get your images onto Alamy so quickly? Do you do it yourself or do you have a team of people that help?

GB: Ha! I had to laugh at that one! Do I have a team…if only. This is one of the big competitive problems for freelance news suppliers as the big agencies often send direct from camera and have people back at the office to do a quick edit and caption. The picture quality is naturally poorer this way and, although I am in the process of developing a way to partially simulate the agency process using my phone etc, the best way is still to edit when you can and send in your best images, albeit slightly behind the curve.

We hope you found Guy’s interview as informative as we did, and you can find the rest of his collection here. Make sure to check out his website here, and keep up to date with him on X and Instagram

Chantelle Greenough

Chantelle graduated with a photography degree in 2020 and started her journey in photography as a technician. With a passion for analogue photography, Chantelle is on a mission to uncover creative content on Alamy.

Read more from Chantelle