Something happened to me last year that has never happened in all the 25 years I’ve been taking photos, and it didn’t just happen once. In 2011 I was asked, three times, to remove portraits that I’d taken from public view.
The first two photos were of two different people, but taken on the same day, in the same place, striking almost exactly the same pose. One was of my very close friend, Simon Campbell, it was pretty unflattering, to be honest, and has now become known as ‘The water buffalo shot’. The other person, who shall remain nameless, wasn’t happy with the image, which I loved. It always hits me as a bit of a side-swipe when someone doesn’t like a portrait that I thought so beautiful. I have photographed both people often, before and since.
The third occasion was a photograph of BBC Radio presenter, Andy Kershaw. I’d contacted Andy to ask if I could get a portrait of him before he permanently left his home on the Isle of Man, he kindly agreed and gave up 30 minutes of his precious time, he even supplied us with fresh coffee. I won’t bore you with the finer details, but Mr Kershaw was less than impressed with the final portrait. I posted the image on the internet and it received a lot of positive comments, however, a remark about Andy’s personal life was made and the shit hit the fan, lots of shit, big fan. Simon Campbell, as my agent, got the first wave of vitriol during a 20 minute telephone conversation, the buck was then handed to me. I went to see Andy at his home and sat through a harrowing 10 minute tongue-lashing after which I sincerely apologised. Andy had said, in his words, that I’d made him “look like a down and out…”. To my amazement, Andy agreed to a re-shoot, we then sat and had a glass of ginger beer. I’m still not sure if it was the photo that Andy didn’t like, or the comments about his past life? I’m not convinced that I’ll ever photograph Andy Kershaw again.
When we look in the mirror we don’t see what everyone else sees, we don’t see that bald patch or the saggy knees, the bingo wings or the muffin-top. We look in the mirror every day and don’t notice ourselves getting older…
These are six of my favourite portraits. Seven beautiful people, as they are.