The hotelier behind the lens

EP Weekend People Story

The hotelier behind the lens

Having photographs displayed in the National Portrait Gallery in London is an honour that many photographers yearn for during their careers. For Jeremy Rata, known to others in the hospitality industry as the Managing Director of Bovey Castle in Devon, that respected accomplishment became true when some of his photographs were chosen as part of an exhibition of The Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize winner and finalists. This weekend people story examines the passion for photography that Jeremy developed into a second career.



Photograph © Jeremy Rata. Road workers in Old Delhi

“I remember being fascinated by photography at a very young age. I had an uncle who was passionate about it and taught me much about cameras and photography techniques. While I was growing up, he would take series of portrait shots of our family when we would get together at our grandparent’s house for lunch. My curiosity and interest led my family to gift me photography-related gifts every Christmas and birthday. I received my first camera when I was 7 – a Kodak Instamatic. It was my desire to travel the world taking pictures that led me to my career in hospitality.”

“I decided after school that I wanted to work and save money to be able to go on photography trips. I started as a waiter at GHF and was fortunate enough to have a young manager who saw potential in me and really cared about my development. He put me onto this management program within GHF and before I knew it I had started my career and my travel plans were put on hold.”

Time passed and Jeremy developed within hospitality, eventually becoming the Managing Director at the Devonshire Arms. “During my time at that hotel we gained a Michelin star and we had photographers come with journalists for interviews or marketing purposes. I used to spend a lot of time with the photographers, asking them questions about their cameras and techniques. Eventually I learned enough to do photograph our own marketing material.”

“One of the photographers I met was Ben Duffy, who worked for the Yorkshire Post and was a partner in an agency. He had the first digital camera I had ever seen and I asked him countless questions about it. Noticing my passion for photography, he asked me whether I had a proper camera and if I would like to come and take pictures at a Premier League match. I took him up on the opportunity and went to buy a professional camera for sports that day. A couple of the pictures from my first match were decent so he invited me along to another game.”

Photograph © Jeremy Rata.

For the next twelve years from 2000-2012, Jeremy spent his time off taking pictures at various types of sporting matches. He became a licensed Premier and Champions league Football Photographer and also photographed Six Nations Rugby and the finals of Rugby League (both the Grand Final and The Challenge Cup). He had images featured in The Sunday Times as well as most national newspapers. While telling his stories he reflects upon how lucky he was that his employers and the industry were flexible towards his passion for photography.

Photograph ©Jeremy Rata

“My employers at Devonshire Hotels and later on at Bovey Castle understood that photography was part of my life. It was a passion that benefited the hotels that I have worked in as I gladly would do their product photography and save the company money. Hospitality is a demanding industry but because I could work flexible hours on my days off, I would be able to attend a match with a kick-off at 3pm and go back to the hotel afterwards for an hour or two to ensure things at the hotel were running smoothly.”

In 2012 Jeremy paused his sporting imagery to focus more on his documentary work. The photographic trips began when he could take annual leave and he travelled round different corners of the world to Asia, the Middle East and Africa documenting the people and places he would see. It was during his trip to Afghanistan that he took The King’s Palace, the image below of two soldiers in the ruins of an old palace in Kabul. He had a book published with the images called Afghan Faces which has sold over 3,000 copies for charity.

Photograph ©Jeremy Rata. The King’s Palace

Jeremy’s love of photography lies in the art of telling a story through an image. Over the years he has built up a portfolio of expressive faces. Within hospitality he had portrait sessions with the likes of Roy Ackerman and David Morgan Hewitt (pictured below).

Photograph ©Jeremy Rata.

Having been able to dovetail his skills for hotel keeping and photography, the future for Jeremy is a life still fuelled by these two interests.

For more information on other initiatives or to get (more) involved with the community, please contact Nicole Thompson

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