The Andy Kershaw ‘incident’

Copyright Phil Kneen

On the 17th of September, last year, I photographed BBC radio presenter, Andy Kershaw, outside his home in Peel, on the Isle of Man, easy enough as I live about 10 houses away from him. The shoot was pleasant enough, Andy brought out some excellent fresh coffee, chain-smoked cigarettes and showed us photos of motorbike racing that he’d shot years ago. With me on the shoot were Simon and Angela Campbell, very close friends, Simon also acts as my agent.

I was shooting with a single studio flash, on digital, trying to balance the artificial and daylight, but the sun kept going in and out. I wasn’t getting the results I wanted, so I took Andy off on his own, down into the shadows of the promenade wall. I took the Canon 5D and a single 50mm lens and grabbed a Nikon FM2 35mm film camera. I took 15 images on Kodak T-Max 400.

Now then, I can not imagine anyone being less happy with a photo of themselves as Andy Kershaw was, he went MENTAL. I posted this image on Facebook, a lot of people liked it, but it attracted a couple of negative comments about Andy’s personal life, a personal life that is well documented by the press, so I’ll not bore you with it.

The shit hit the fan – lots of shit, big fan. Simon took the first wave of vitriol in a 20 minute phone-call. Andy claimed that I’d made him took like a “down and out” and that by posting the image I’d invited people to trawl over his past. I deleted the image, but the shit-storm continued.

Three days later I came face to face with Andy outside my own house, he refused to discuss the issue and I was told to meet him at his house later that day. When I arrived I was offered a glass of ginger beer and a cigarette, I took both. Andy then launched into me. I was subjected to a 5 minute stream of temper, something I’d not witnessed since the visits to my headmaster at school, 25 years earlier. When he’d finished I apologised, said that I’d never meant to upset him and asked if he’d like me to photograph him again, to my amazement, he agreed. Andy then shook my hand and thanked me for coming to apologise ‘face to face’.

I didn’t photograph Andy again, I never quite had the stomach for it. He’s left Peel now, gone off to see the world, I think?

This image was shot on film, I can’t help the way people look. To this day I’m not sure whether it was the photo that Andy didn’t like, or the comments that went with it?

12 comments

  1. andy kerruish

    i think Andys outburst was totally un-warrented,the photo is excellent,and shows the true image of what i think we all know is sometimes a misunderstood-well travelled,and highly motivated man,he is known for having strong views on certain subjects,and has keen eye for a story-in countries most people wouldnt dare talk about,never mind visit and report from,the photo you took Phil portrays an insight to the depth of the man…im sure in years to come,his reaction to it may mellow,and Andy will see it for the true image it portrays….10/10 from me.

  2. Carlos Ferreira

    Not wanting to get interested in whatever might have happened (I am not in the mood for googling it either), I can only say I think it’s a great portrait.

  3. I don’t think it’s a great photograph but I think it’s honest and sometimes that can say a lot about the subject’s self perception. I come up against this problem a lot in my own portrait work. In fact, it’s what i stress about the most. I don’t worry about getting it “right”, it’s more about the discord between my own vision versus how the person imagines their ideal self (what they expect to see in the final photographs). This is most problematic when I’m shooting closeups in black and white. Most people don’t want the “warts and all” version of themselves.

    I’m glad I found your blog Phil, you are one of my favorite photographers and I also like the narratives that go along with them.

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