Opinion: Never underestimate the power of supermarket photographers

I know lots of people moan about supermarkets, but I love supplying them. It isn’t easy work but, on the whole, their style of business has been good to me.

My biggest complaint about dealing with supermarkets – and I wonder if this is something that Christine Tacon, the groceries code adjudicator, might get her teeth into – is that they keep sending people to take my photograph.

See also: ‘Has health and safety gone mad?’ asks Matthew Naylor

I have posed in every clichéd position that you can imagine. I have held galvanised buckets. I have carried wooden chitting trays. I have spent hours staring at flowers with my hand at an unnatural angle.

I have squatted in fields so often that I have quadriceps like a rugby player. Short of taking off my shirt and riding through a river on a horse, like Vladimir Putin, there are few postures left for me to try.

The effects of a bad photo are long lasting. I recall one particular photoshoot where I was in a foul mood and my hair was awful. The photographer tried to cheer me up by telling a homophobic joke about Sherlock Holmes and some lemon curd.

If you wonder how that worked out, then go to Aldi HQ where, for the last four years, there has been a massive poster of me looking irritable in a daffodil field.

As you would expect, Waitrose holds the award for my most elaborate embarrassment. They convinced me to vault over a stone trough wearing a tie, aviator shades and flared, shiny trousers from that season’s John Lewis clothing range.

It was like Last of the Summer Wine reimagined by choreographer Matthew Bourne. I didn’t leave the house for three years after the photo appeared in Waitrose Food Illustrated.

More recently I have managed to avoid publicity. I put it down to the new GDPR regulations, but last week I was dragged out of the nettles and put back into service. The Co-op has just announced a three-year deal with us for British flowers and we were required to do some press photos together.

Issy, the Co-op horticulture buyer, is a good few inches taller than me. The photographer asked her to squat down so that we were the same height. She looked quizzical, but obediently squatted while I stood on tiptoes.

He then took a portrait photo of us with our legs fully in shot. This made it look as though Issy was actually twice my height. My legs look so slender that I have the appearance of a new-born flamingo.

The tender process to seal the Co-op deal was rigorous, but my height was one thing, perhaps the only thing, that didn’t figure in the negotiation. It was good to have that exposed to scrutiny too.

I suppose that there are two things that readers can take from my experiences. One is that the customer is king. I was willing to endure any humiliation if it allowed me to sell more British flowers and expand my business.

The second point is that photographers hold quite a lot of power when it comes to representing our industry. We should embrace publicity where we can get it, but ensure that we are presenting the industry as the diverse, progressive and professional one that we want it to be.

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