At Ku, Ibiza 1984.

Recently there has been some interest in a set of photographs I took on the Balearic Island of Ibiza in the summer of 1984.

As a photo-journalist, one obviously can't afford be late with a story but, in this case, I found out that one couldn't afford to be too early either.

Back in 1983, when my family and I holidayed in Ibiza, I was shocked, if that's not putting it too strongly, when I saw the colourful and extremely vibrant nightlife in the island’s capital.

Although much of the rest of the island was colonised by young British holiday makers, Ibiza Town and the beaches and bars in it's immediate vicinity were completely different. It seemed more upscale and more multi-European, and at night the streets and bars around the harbour transformed into a hot and heady version of what was happening in London at places like the Camden Palace, The Batcave, Heaven and The Wag .  It was all extremely photogenic.

A couple of miles out of the city itself was a huge nightclub called Ku, which stayed open until dawn. With it's central swimming pool and dragon's shaped waterslide, it was more like an elaborate Hollywood film set than a club (eventually the club became Manumission but I'm getting ahead of myself. In 1984 there were very few Brits going to Ku).

When my family went back to Ibiza the following year, I didn't think any of the many magazines I worked for at the time had picked up on what was going on and so I decided to take a camera and shoot some pictures.

When I got home, I printed the best of them and took them into The Face magazine.  I tried to persuade them that there was a decent story there.

They weren't convinced.

Paul Rambali, the features editor at that time, said to me "Why would our readers be interested in what's happening in Ibiza?"

Those were his exact words and I remember them clearly.

I was very disappointed that they couldn't see what I could see.  I was also convinced that it was perfect for The Face demographic.  In truth, I probably wasn't persuasive enough.  And, of course, my photographs should have done all the talking for me.  I guess they really needed to have been better.

At the time, The Face magazine had developed a worldwide reputation as trend spotters and style setters which was mostly deserved.  They weren't always the first to spot a trend but they were usually the most visible in doing so.

For instance, back in the early days of The Face magazine, in 1980, when it was still predominantly a music magazine, they famously ran six pages of my photographs of the Blitz Kids (they called it 'The Cult With No Name').

This was six months after a similar article, also using my photographs, had run in The Sunday Times Magazine. Even The Daily Mail had run an article which predated The Face.

But it's 'The Cult With No Name' article, written by Robert Elms, which everyone seems to remember.

But in 1984, my idea for The Face running an article on the scene in Ibiza was rejected and not one of the photographs I took back then was ever published - until today.

But there there certainly was a story there.  Eventually other Face contributors must, I suppose, have confirmed this because the following year The Face ran it as an eight page cover story (in the September 1985 issue).

In the article, Don Macpherson wrote "Ibiza is fast becoming the decadent playground of everybody's imagination..."

Unfortunately, for me, it wasn't quite fast enough.

Once people in the UK started to realise that Ibiza was cool - and had it confirmed by The Face magazine - everything changed.  In 1987, 4 top London club DJ's went out to work in Ibiza and when they returned, they imported the sounds and styles of Ibithan summer nights to the UK.

The rest is history.

The kind of after hours dance culture which first kicked off in Ibiza - balearic beats, ecstasy, superclubs and the rave scene -became just about the biggest youth culture story of the late eighties.

And it may well be that my photographs will also now get their day in the sun.  There's even talk of a show.

As soon as I hear anything, I'll post it here.

Natassia Doubleoseven, Las Vegas 2012.

The photograph above is by way of letting you know that I have a new show 'Afternoon At The Seven Palms And Other Stories' and it opens on Wednesday evening at The Society Club in Soho. It's the same place where I had a show of portraits last March.

It's at 12 Ingestre Place, London W1F OJF.

http://thesocietyclubsoho.wordpress.com/about/

I really like it at The Society Club, it's a small but trendy cafe/bookstore/gallery and it's run by Babette and Carrie, who have both been very supportive.  Some afternoons I go there and have a chat and a coffee and stare out of the window and into another window, about 30 metres away, where I once worked in the late '70s.   Then it was an advertising agency and I loved working there.  I also once wrote about some of the views I had from that office window -

http://www.derekridgers.com/homepage/Blog/Entries/2010/6/14_Iggy_Pop%2C_Music_Machine%2C_Camden_Town_1977._1.html

This current show is my first foray into the world of a very mild form of erotica. It’s really more like naked portraits.  I'm not at all sure how it'll go down but Babette and Carrie have been very encouraging.

The above photograph is of the mysterious and exotic secret agent Natassia Doubleoseven.  There are two photographs of her in the show (I'd better not tell you her real name in case she has me eliminated).

If you've read down this far, please come along.  Email me if you want to come to the private view (Wednesday at 6.30 p.m.) and I'll put you on the list.  Or come anyway and I'll watch out for you.

Thanks.

By the way, I realise what a terrible blogger I am.  My postings have been very infrequent of late.  Like London buses, nothing for ages and then three turn up more or less at once.  Apologies.

Catherine Zeta-Jones, Holland Park, London 1996.

Following the publication of what was , by all accounts, a disastrous but also hilarious interview with Rhys Ifans in the Times recently (I haven't read it myself because it's behind a Rupert Murdoch paywall), there has been much discussion recently in the press and on blogs about the validity of the modern celebrity interview - especially with actors who have films to promote. http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2013/jun/07/rhys-ifans-worst-celebrity-interviews

And of course, the celebrity interview will usually also be accompanied by the celebrity photo session. These days that will be even more tightly controlled than the celebrity interview, if that's even possible, and one is likely to get a lot less than 15 minutes.

It wasn't always that way.

When I photographed Catherine Zeta-Jones for Loaded, in the Halcyon Hotel in Holland Park in 1996, she turned up cheerfully early and with an entourage of precisely no one.

Of course, in those days, she was not yet the Oscar winning, CBE awarded, fully paid up Hollywood royalty that she is now. In 1996 Catherine Zeta-Jones had had one UK TV hit with 'The Darling Buds of May' but that had ended in 1993. Since when she hadn't appeared to have done much. Her star may even have seemed to be on the wane. One reason perhaps, why she agreed to do Loaded?

Having said that, in 1996 Loaded magazine was still at the height of its powers. It was the magazine that had revolutionized the British publishing industry when it arrived in 1994. By 1996, pretty much everyone, Oscar winners or not, wanted to appear between its covers, if not usually on the cover.

In that year, Loaded featured a plethora of interviews with Oscar and Emmy winners and World Champions including Robert De Niro, Peter O'Toole, Michael Jordan, Carl Fogarty, Naseem Hamed and Matt Groening. And at a time when Friends was just about the biggest TV show on the planet, Loaded managed to get Courtney Cox out of her clothes and spilling all the beans.

Back then of course, Loaded was not quite the vacuous tit and bum fest it has since become. And the stars were literally queueing up.

On the day that I shot Catherine Zeta-Jones, I had to shoot Martine McCutcheon in the morning, also for Loaded. So for everyone’s convenience (but mainly ours), we shot both stars in the same hotel and in the same suite. Catherine turned up whilst I was still shooting Martine. A faux pas like that would certainly never be allowed to happen these days.

In order to pass the time whilst I finished shooting Martine (whose star was then certainly in the ascendant), a bottle of vintage champagne was ordered on room service. Catherine Zeta-Jones is famously litigious, so I can't say for definite whether or not she had much more than a small glass but by the time I started shooting her she certainly seemed relaxed and happy.

Actually, to be honest, she was extremely friendly and utterly charming, whatever the reason. I've seldom had to shoot an actress who was less trouble.

In order to shoot some bathroom shots of Martine McCutcheon in her underwear, I'd squeezed myself, my tripod and a lighting stand into the bath and shot her from there, perched on a low, internal space between the bath and the wc.

When Martine left and in order to save time, this was the exact same place I started to shoot Catherine. Although I was shooting her for a couple of hours, those first shots were by far the best. In some of the latter shots, one can see a couple of ice buckets with upturned champagne bottles in them and Catherine is appearing to drink from a third bottle. By the end, there were several more empty bottles in various places around the suite. Neither me or my assistant would drink whilst we were shooting and most of the time there were only two Loaded staffers and a make up artist there.

In some of the last frames, Catherine certainly appears to be a little smashed though, of course, she may have been acting. Only I and the lab ever saw those. If I'd handed them over to Loaded, the editorial staff were very mischievous and they'd certainly have used them. Consequently none of us would have looked good. I decided to hang onto them. Even if I'd have disliked her or she’d been horrible, I would never have done that to her.

I suppose, looking back, it was pretty unprofessional of Loaded to order so much alcohol and the fact that this sort of thing could really never happen now is probably a good thing. Besides anything else, nowadays not many print magazines can afford so much vintage Moet & Chandon at five star hotel prices.

You really had to have been there at the time. Loaded was a magazine that was so successful so quickly that many of us thought we could do what we liked and there would be no come back. And it was almost true for a while.

I heard the Catherine loved the photos but, as her star rose and Loaded kept republishing them in the following years, I eventually heard, via my agent, that she didn't like them any more.

I like them. Certainly the very early ones taken in the bathroom. It's a great memory of a time when the stars were less anodyne than they necessarily have to be today.

The Wedding, Wapping 1988.

Other than for close friends or family, I've never been very keen on shooting weddings.  It's an onerous responsibility because there can't usually be a reshoot and one never quite knows what's going to happen.

And some weddings are not necessarily the happy occasions they should be.

This would certainly appear to be the case here.

You can see from the photograph above that one fellow, the best man as it happens, is laying drunk and comatose on the ground. 

On the right, none of the bride's family look too happy.  The bride's father looks particularly sour.  The fact that he's standing there with a twelve bore shotgun doesn't help.

Though she looks cheerful enough here, the bride was supposedly eight months pregnant.  This may go some way to explaining the bride's father's attitude.

The groom - the guy wearing a back to front baseball cap and severely disheveled  trousers - sports a black eye.  It's also fairly obvious that he and some of his friends must have been fighting immediately beforehand.

The two guys with beards, one in a dress, to his immediate left were Peter Fluck and Roger Law.  At that time they were well known caricaturists and creators of the '80s comedy show 'Spitting Image'.

This is something of a clue.

This photograph was commissioned by the comedy team of Harry Enfield (the guy with the gun) and Paul Whitehouse (the groom) for their book 'Wad And Peeps.'  Don't even ask what that might mean, in the context of 2013 the reference is now way too obscure.

The guy on the floor was the Harry Enfield comedy creation ‘Loadsamoney’ (but played here by a stand in - if that’s not too much of a contradiction).

It had been our intention to find an abandoned or deconsecrated church somewhere and just to turn up during a weekday morning and quickly take some photos, guerrilla style, without bothering to get an okay from anybody.  I had a whole book load of photos to take over the course of about 10 days and we'd done similar things all over London.  We hardly spent more than half an hour on any one shot.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

I don't remember exactly who it was that found this particular church (St George's In The East in Wapping) but I suspect it might have been me.  I'd worked around that area a lot  and never seen any activity going on around that church.  I assumed it had been abandoned or fallen into ruin inside, like several churches in London had at that time.

On the day in question, me, my wife and my assistant, a management/PR man and a make up artist or two, plus all the characters for the photo assembled on the steps outside the church.  Then everyone got into costume, got in a line and things were ready.

Since I don't think I'd been thoroughly briefed beforehand, I had no idea the assemblage would be quite so left field, as it were.

My wife Jo-Anne even got roped in to play the mother of the bride, though you can't actually see her face.  It was a visual joke in the rich literary tradition of Godot, 'er indoors and Columbo's wife.  It was important that the character was there yet not actually seen.

Because there were a lot of steps in front of the church, I had to stand on the top of a very large step ladder, so that my perspective would be level with the wedding group.  My assistant did his best to hold the step ladder steady.  My precarious position wasn't helped by the fact that this particular wedding party included several world class comedians and I was finding it hard to keep a straight face, let alone a straight anything else.

I'd only managed to shoot a couple of test Polaroids when the door behind the group opened and out came a rather incredulous looking priest in a white cassock.

I didn't know what to do or where to look.

Luckily the management/PR guy was made of sterner stuff.

He took the priest aside and explained what we were doing.  He explained that it was all in pursuit of good clean fun and it had been commissioned by a reputable publishing company - Penguin.  It seemed that the priest was a decent enough chap, with an evident sense of humour.  I can't say for certain and I don't want to libel anyone who may, for all I know, still be working there but I think some money changed hands - for the church funds.

In nearly 35 years of professional photography, this was my single most embarrassing moment.  And I had a few.

As for the rest of the time spent shooting that book, I've never had so much fun  or laughed quite as heartily in my life.  Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse (both massive Spurs fans like myself ) were extremely amusing and enjoyable to work with.  It really wasn't much like work at all.  They're both brilliant mimics too and those ten days went far, far too quickly.

If all weddings were that much fun I'd certainly do more of them.

Cap De Formentor, Spain 1973.

2013 represents the 40th anniversary of the first time a photograph I'd taken appeared in print. It's the one above (detail), shown here complete with the coarse half tone screen needed for newspaper printing.  The photograph was used in a press advertisement for the Spanish Tourist Board. The headline on the ad was 'After 50 weeks of what you've been through, you need a break.'

I admit, it's not a very good photograph and, quite aside from the sloping horizon, there's no point of interest and nothing to recommend it at all.  It shows an anonymous couple on what could really be almost any Mediterranean beach. 

Nevertheless this is my professional photographic beginning.

I rather grandly say “my professional photographic beginning" but I wasn't actually paid for taking the photograph.  At the time I was a 22 year old art director with a London ad agency called Maisey Mukerjee Russell and taking (or more normally commissioning) photography was part the job.  I didn't get paid for any of my photography until the following year - 1974 - a set of live photographs of the singer Betty Davis taken for Island Records.

Regarding the deficiencies of the photograph above, I would say in my defence that I was simply asked to shoot  a few stills to accompany the TV commercial we were shooting at the time and the main requirement was to keep well back and make no noise.  At no time was I told my photographs would be used for any ads.

The happy couple in the photograph were both actors we'd hired in the UK.  The TV commercial we were shooting took the best part of a week.  I don't think the commercial was particularly memorable and the best thing Campaign magazine could say about it in their review was that it was "well made" which I suppose is better than nothing.

I was 22 at the time and although I was ostensibly the art director on the shoot, I did no art direction.  Occasionally someone would ask my opinion about something and that was about it.  I suspect I was only in Spain as a reward for working on the new business pitch that had landed the account a couple of months before.  The night before the pitch, I'd worked all night on the presentation and was still hard at it as the big wigs from the Spanish Tourist Board were shown to their seats.  Most new business pitches at that agency were like that, nothing was ever done a second ahead of time.  It simply added an extra frisson of excitement to what was already a pretty crazy work life anyway.

Unlike the Madison Avenue world of the '50s and '60s, which has portrayed wonderfully in the TV show Mad Men, if they made a TV show about the London ad' agency world of the '70s, I don't think anyone would ever believe it.  It was like Mad Men but much, much madder.  Okay, maybe we didn't have all the suits and the Brylcreem but there were guns, knives, suicide attempts, skinny dipping and strippers.  And plenty of Joan's.

I'll try to write a little about my experiences in the ad world of the ‘70s at some time in the future.

Lapine, Los Angeles 2012.

Monday, 4 February 2013

2013 will be the fortieth anniversary of my photographs first appearing, very gradually, in print.  And, after 40 years, it's the first time I've ever been offered a show of my erotica.

Other than in a few coffee table collections in the '90s and the Model Mayhem website, it's work that hasn't been seen before.  And it's certainly never been exhibited anywhere.  

It's an area of photography in which I've always been interested but, until fairly recently, never had all that much confidence in myself.

Ten years ago I showed my erotica to the well known publisher Miki Bunge.  He said it simply wasn't good enough.  He also said there were too many bathrooms and he was sick and tired of looking at bathrooms in photographer's portfolios.  Although I was left slightly bruised by his comments, I quickly came to see that he was dead right on both counts.

But I didn't give up and, since that point, I think my erotica has developed quite a bit.  And I should probably use the qualification "erotica, for want of a better word" when describing my work.  Some may even disagree that it qualifies as such and I don't think I'd mind that. There really isn't that much difference between my erotica and my portraiture.  Other than all the photographs are of women and they are wearing less.  "Naked portraits" might even be a more accurate term.

It sometimes takes me months, even in some cases years, to come to terms with some of the photographs I've shot.  I think this is because I'm not in total control when making the photographs and it's intended to be that way, in order to make the best of any serendipity that fall my way.  Most of my real control comes in my choice of model.  After that they get little to zero specific direction from me.  Some models don't like that approach at all but, usually, I don't like that kind of model either.  I think the trick is to photograph models who live interesting and creative lives outside of being models (like the performance artist Miss Crash and Lapine above, who is a film student and keen photographer herself).  After that, everything becomes much easier, not least in finding genuine reasons to make the photographs in the first place.

If the show is going to happen and things are still at the discussion stage, it'll be at the Society Club in Soho and in due course I'll post the dates on here.

Dennis Hopper, The Savoy, London 1992.

Monday, 31 December 2012 It may be different now but back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, in London, film companies would always book their actors into either The Dorchester or The Savoy to meet the press. Which would be great if you could ever get them to walk outside. But you can’t.

Sometimes these sessions are timed down to the last half minute and you’re constantly being watched, so there’s just no chance of escape. And you’re left shooting them amongst the over-opulent chintz of an upscale hotel. Or dragging a whole studio set up, Colorama backdrop and all, into their suite.

In my early days, I would always plump for this latter option, because at least it was something you could control.

Neither of these options would have been the way I’d ideally want to photograph Dennis Hopper. I’d have loved to have dragged him out somewhere in the East End and done something really dramatic.

But that was never going to happen. I simply cropped in really tight on the face. That way, it could be anywhere.

The Rolling Stones, Earls Court, London May 1976.

Friday, 30 November 2012

I'm posting this previously unseen image of the Rolling Stones in celebration of their 50th anniversary.  IMHO they've only been really good for the first 12 of the 50 but I guess I shouldn't be churlish.

Many apologies for neglecting this blog somewhat recently, I'm determined to try harder in future.

Sandie Shaw, Kings Cross 1984.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012 I don't think I made a very big impression on Sandie Shaw.

At least, not in a good way.

Unless I make notes, I very rarely remember the precise, word for word dialogue in any meeting.  In this case, because there was so little of it, I remember every word like it was etched into my brain.  Even nearly 30 years later.

During our abbreviated photo shoot, she only ever said 4 things to me.  They were -

"Hi, I'm Sandie."

I admit, I did pause for a moment to consider a giving a witty response.  Like "Well you should be more careful where you sit."   But humour isn't really my strong suit and the moment quickly passed.  And felt it better to concentrate on what I was there to do.  So I just rather meekly said “Hi, I’m Derek.”

The next thing she said was -

"How long have you been doing this?"

This is normally code for "You don't really look like you know what you're doing"  and I've heard people say "How long have you been doing this?" many times.  Usually when I'm fumbling with my equipment.

My approach is very low key, it's true.  Imagine someone who is the polar opposite of the photographer in the film 'Blow Up' and you wouldn't be too far off.   At least, I've certainly never straddled any of my subjects on the floor.

Her penultimate comment was  -

"You're the most miserable photographer I've ever met."

Quickly followed by -

"I'm off."

And that was the last I saw or heard of her.   She left me standing there.

Maybe I should have run after her and persuaded her differently but I was always more of a reactive than proactive photographer anyway.  And if people want to walk out on me I'm inclined to think fine, I'll just be home quicker.

In the time she was with me, about 90 seconds, I took a total of about two dozen frames.  None of them were very good.  The above image is a detail of one of them.

She certainly doesn't look very impressed with me, does she?

I once mentioned this brief meeting to her ex-husband Jeff Banks and he simply said "Well, that's Sandie."

So if you ever read this Sandie, many apologies.  Maybe we caught one another on the wrong day?

Bradley Wiggins, Twickenham 2012.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012 Hitherto I hadn't been much of a cycling fan.  But when you have the chance to see Olympic history being made only a short walk from your house - and for free - it would seem a little churlish not to pitch up and take a few photographs.

Bradley Wiggins is seen here pedalling, for all he's worth, down Strawberry Vale in Twickenham, about five minutes away from becoming Britain's most decorated ever Olympian.