This week, we interview freelance journalist Anthony Harrison. Harrison writes on private homes, and once almost interviewed Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones in Mallorca.
He also talks to us about PRs telling porkies and becoming a gigolo!
His Freelance Journalist Directory entry can be found at http://www.journalistdirectory.com/journalist/QATz/Anthony-Harrison.
About your journalism:
What do you write about?
Most of my feature articles are about private homes – individual, owner-occupied homes – and depending on whether these are places with lovingly created special décor, or interesting new/self-build places, I offer my features to the home-interest glossies or the leading self-build titles. Sometimes I’m able to do features for the national broadsheets, including colour supps, where a home is a very, very special place on the market: it might have terrific history, or have a prominent owner. And occasionally the identity of the owner is the key to a title’s commissioning the feature from me.
Where are we likely to see your work?
In, for example, Period Living, 25 Beautiful Homes, or BBC Good Homes; or Build It and SelfBuild & Design; or perhaps in the Sunday Times Home supplement, or The Guardian Weekend.
What’s the most memorable work you’ve done?
Two features for The Guardian’s colour supp stand out. I met a lady who’d modelled for Picasso in 1954 as the beautiful “girl with a ponytail” then became quite famous as a result, and I featured her at the old house near Avignon that had been her father’s. Then I was given the opportunity to meet ex-con and celebrated sculptor Jimmy Boyle at his beautifully renovated riad in the Medina of Marrakech – where I spent a wonderful few days, got on well with Jimmy, ate some terrific North African cuisine, and the feature looked pretty good in print too!
What interview or feature would you love the chance to do?
I was sort of offered a chance at covering the Mallorca home of Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones, but it didn’t come to anything – be nice if that worked out! Actually the most recent house I covered was in Palma, Mallorca, and the people whose lovely apartment I was covering knew quite a lot about the Douglas/Jones household. (If this makes it seem I’m mostly concerned with celebs, that’s not the case at all – most homes I feature are very smart and special, but created by normal non-celeb people.)
About you and PRs:
Where do you source ideas for articles?
I locate my own houses to feature by various forms of networking, and in recent years I’ve found PRs increasingly useful, so long as they appreciate exactly what I need and how I work.
How can PRs be useful to you?
Very often PRs represent either individuals who have the sort of special private home that meets my needs, or they represent client companies whose products or services are utilised in superior private homes whose owners I can be put in touch with. Clearly, there is a potential free publicity angle, when the client/product can receive a mention plus contact details in my published feature. PRs can also help in my capacity as a commercial photographer, as distinct from my house feature journalism: my photography centres on the built environment and I have specialist skills for shooting interiors, plus products and people on location.
How and when do you like them to get in touch?
Absolutely any time! No matter how many potential house leads I have at a given moment, I am literally always looking for fresh homes to feature. I’m always contactable by email to email@example.com, or on 07974 070 590.
Do you find press conferences, trips, parties and other events useful or an interruption?
Mostly, such events are of little or no use. Twice in 2007 I was persuaded by PRs to go on foreign press trips, but the feature possibilities turned out to be far less than I’d been led to believe, despite my having spelled out exactly what I was after…
If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
Those PRs who seem unable to understand my requirements, or cannot be bothered to read all the way through my explanation of what I need, shouldn’t be in the profession!
Do you have a PR pet hate?
People who fantasise and tell porkies…
How would you pay the bills if you weren’t a journalist?
Do more photography! Alternatively, I wouldn’t mind setting up as a gigolo in, say, the Maldives. Part time of course, to allow for lots of fishing and snorkelling. Realistically, I’m too old for the gigolo thing! Maybe a fishing guide in the Maldives.
If we gave you £1,000, how would you spend it?
Right now I’m knackered with no prospect of a holiday any time soon, so a grand would give me a few days somewhere warm, sunny and comfortable, before resuming work.
What books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag, or blogs on your screen?
Er, I have Philip Larkin’s collected letters, Willow Gables by the same author, and a freshly acquired copy of Cochrane The Dauntless (intrepid Royal Navy commander in the early 19thC).