Vali Myers, Frankfurt 1980.


In life I don't really have much in the way of regrets.  Or, as the song says, too few to mention anyway. But in photography, which has been a large part of my life over the last 35 years, I have plenty.

The largest of which would certainly be that I should have taken up photography much sooner.  Which I would have done had I not been so focused, by my mid teens, in becoming a painter.

The second biggest of my photographic regrets is that I wish I'd been blessed with a little more foresight.

I suppose one could say that about anything one chooses to do with one's life but, photographically speaking, I think I've been particularly guilty.

Take the time I ran into the artist Vali Myers.

It was at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 1980.  I'd taken a few days off from my job as an ad agency art director and gone there to try to get a book deal for a bunch of photographs that I'd recently had in a  show in London.  Vali was carting around a portfolio of her drawings and I guess she was looking for a book deal too.

I approached her for the simple reason that she had a tattooed face.  Some of the skinheads and prostitutes I'd been photographing in London had tattooed faces and it was becoming a bit of a theme for me.

I had no idea who she was.  She was friendly enough but she seemed extremely nervous when I tried to photograph her. I took a total of four frames and she doesn't look particularly comfortable in any of them.

After which, she showed me her art.  I was impressed but not overly so.  In genre of psychedelic illustration that she was (possibly loosely) working in, there were some incredible talents back then.  Much of her work was overtly erotic and it was obvious that the woman in most of her drawings was herself.

To be honest (and since this is my blog, why not?) I thought she might be a little crazy.  Or, since she was in full hippy regalia, I thought she might have taken too many drugs.  Possibly too many drugs that day even.

And this is part of the problem that I have, which I allude to above.  I'm inclined to make hasty and often mistaken assumptions.  For a photographer of people, this not a good point.

When I closed her portfolio and we went our separate ways, I made a note of her name and then promptly forgot what it was.

I hardly thought about her again until last week, when I saw her very recognisable face in this article -

It turns out that Vali Myers was a lot more successful at Frankfurt than I'd been.  And that she'd been friends with people like Tennessee Williams, Salvador Dalí, Django Reinhardt, Jean Cocteau, Jean Genet and Patti Smith.

But that wasn't the most amazing thing about her for me.  Maybe not for any photographer...

There are perhaps only a couple of dozen of really influential photo books from the last Century (stuff like The Decisive Moment, The Americans and Twentysix Gasoline Stations) and one of them is called 'Een liefdesgeschiedenis in Saint-Germain-des-Prés' by the photographer Ed van der Elsken.  It was published in 1956.

Most people don't know anything about this book but to serious students of photography, it's very well known.

The book, which is mostly photos but with a small amount of text, tells the story of a beautiful woman called Ann , her penniless Mexican lover Manuel and their colourful lives on the Rive Gauche.  The photos are fantastic and the book looks like a storyboard for a cinéma vérité film that was never shot.  It's supposed to be fictional but certainly doesn't look like it.

The original book is long out of print but an English version called 'Love On The Left Bank' is still available.

It turns out Vali Myers was the girl in that book.  It was long before she had her face tattooed.

Her original name was Ann Rappold.

Without Google, I'd never have known this.

And she'd have always remained an anonymous face from the past.

A woman I met all too briefly 33 years ago.

The obvious question is - if I'd have known then what I know now, what difference would it have made to my photographs of her?

I'm not sure.

I'll have to get back to you on that one.

Yasmine, Kings Road 1984.


The photograph above (detail) is one of the images of mine which is included in the V&A show 'Club To Catwalk'.

Since the show started I've been asked, mainly by fashion students, to answer a few questions about how I came to photograph street and club kids in the ‘80s.  I'm always happy to help and, although I never mind answering those sorts of questions, they do tend to be the same ones, repeatedly.

In order to save a bit of time, I'm reproducing below a recent interview I gave a on the subject of 'Club Kids and The '80s'.

So, you’re one of the photographers who took photographs of the London club kids scene in the 80’s?

That's correct. I started at the end of '76 and my project finally came to an end in 2012.

How did you start photographing these kids?

I'm an only child and my parents weren't particularly sociable people.  The result was that I grew up fairly shy, and when I was younger, I was an introvert.  I’m pretty much the last kind of person that would have made a good punk or New Romantic and I'd never have joined any gang or social group.  I was always a loner, content to watch events from the margins.

So, I think the real answer was that photography gave me the chance to intrude on, and gaze into, other more interesting lives.

With a camera, one can stare at people without it being perceived as rude or intrusive and having a camera gives one the legitimacy to approach people in the first place.

And I started photographing young people at the precise moment - aged around 25/26 - when I felt I was no longer young myself.

Which were the cool clubs at the time to find eccentric kids? The most famous parties?

I don't think this question is exactly right, the kids weren't really eccentric, they were just young and they wanted to express themselves through their dress and style. You may categorise that as eccentric but I don't.  Some may have taken things a little too far and some, at the height of the New Romantic craze, may well have made themselves look a bit ridiculous .  But, when one is young, one is entitled to do that, in my view.

I think most people who were around at the time would agree that the best London club of the '80s was Leigh Bowery's Taboo.  There were so many fashion students, models, stylists, fashion photographers and fashionistas in that club that if they'd dropped a bomb on the place it would have decimated the London fashion scene for a generation.

Blitz was a great club too but it was too small and, besides, it started in early '79.  Bowie Night at Billy's was even better but that was quite short lived and was in 1978.

The club that was my personal preference from the early '80s was Le Beat-Route because there were less tourists and arrivistes there than at either the Blitz or the Camden Palace and it stayed open much later.

The Batcave was very good too and it spawned the look which would later become known as 'goth'.  Before The Batcave, I don't think I'd ever heard that word (in the context of young people).  The Batcave moved locations several times but it was always in Soho and it was always really cool.

Party wise, Andrew Logan's Alternative Miss World events always drew a lot of club kids, art students and fashionistas.  Things usually got quickly out of hand and the AMW's were a lot of fun.

Since I was never one of the insiders on the scene (and never pretended to be), I didn't get to go to many private parties.

Not that that was much of a loss.  A lot of the club kids looked fabulous when they were out but some of the more famous of them lived in absolute squalor in squats.

My wife and I went to a party at Boy George's squat in Carburton Street about 1982.  There was nothing to drink there and no music and it was so crowded that we literally could not move.  Everyone in London had been invited and they all turned up at the same time.  It was the most disastrous party I've ever been to in my life.  My wife and I were stuck in a corner talking to Sigue Sigue Sputnik's Martin Degville all night.  He's a nice enough bloke but after twenty minutes we'd run out of stuff to say to one another but we couldn't move away or circulate.   I suppose we were fortunate that there was no drink there because we couldn't even have thought about getting to use the bathroom.  There were so many people on every floor that the ceiling above us started to bulge downwards dangerously.  Some idiots started to try to get it to break with a broom handle. If it had, people would almost certainly have been killed.  Then all the lights went out when the electricity failed.  It took ages just for everyone to file out.  I counted eleven police cars in the street outside.  Evidently the party had been raided by the cops but it was so crowded where I was that neither my wife or I knew a police raid had occurred.  That's crowded.

How would you describe the club kid style at the time?

This is an impossibility because there was just so much variety.  The best outfits were almost always home-made or, at least, created by the fashion students themselves.  In my photographs you'll see people dressed like the Pope or a Bishop, like a mummy from a tomb or, in the case of Leigh Bowery, God only knows what.  Really one could wear anything or sometimes nothing.  No one care as long as people were not boring.

Is the club kid style and the new romantic style the same thing, or is it 2 different styles?

The term "club kid style" as a category is not one I'm familiar with so I may not be the correct person to answer this one.  If you simply mean what young people were wearing in night clubs in the '80s then definitely not.  The New Romantics were a very specific crowd and they sometimes tended towards the overly theatrical.  Some would actually hire their outfits from theatrical costumiers but I always thought that was cheating a bit. And I very seldom chose to photograph people who simply bought their outfits off the peg.

The New Romantics were named as such in the latter part of 1980 or early 1981.  To begin with, at Billy's, it would have numbered no more than about 100 people.  Even by the time they got to the Blitz wine bar, it wasn't all that many more.  In the article about this group in The Face in November 1980 they were still unnamed and the article was entitled "The Cult With No Name."

Naming them either as the 'New Romantics' or 'The Blitz Kids' may have been the beginning of the end - no one really likes fitting into an easy category dreamt up for them by the popular media.  But whatever they were called, the New Romantic style went global and Rusty Egan and Steve Strange moved their club from a tiny wine bar to first, the Club For Heroes and then, the huge Camden Palace. I'm sure Rusty and Steve would be happy if it was still going on today but really, as a creative fashion movement it had largely run out of steam by about by about 1983.  The Taboo/Sacrosanct crowd evolved out of the New Romantics but I guess by then it would have been very, very unfashionable for one to call oneself a New Romantic.

Who were the most famous club kids/nightlife characters?

Boy George, Steve Strange and Leigh Bowery.  There were many others but those were really the main faces at the time.

Also there was George Michael, Spandau Ballet, the three girls from Bananarama, Haysi Fantayzee, Chris Sullivan and Christos from Blue Rondo a la Turk, Martin Degville, Theresa Thurmer aka Pinkietessa and the DJ Princess Julia.  They were all there, most of the time.

My favourite people to photograph but who weren't really famous at the time I shot them were Steven Linnard, Scarlett, Myra Falconer, Michele Clapton, Magenta Devine, Peter Robinson aka Marilyn, Kim Bowen, Leslie Chilks, Melissa Caplan, Matthew Glamorre and Stephen Jones.  As you may know, many of these went on to become famous.

What was the music playing in clubs?

I'm really not the kind of person that should answer this question.  When I'm in a club, I'm so focussed on what I'm doing that I rarely chat to anyone and I don't really hear the music.  I do know this though, Rusty Egan the DJ at Bowie Night and the Blitz was the first one in this country to play two of the same records at the same time and segue them together.  And he was the first DJ that I'd ever heard play two different records at the same time.  I'm told people in the US were doing those sort of tricks earlier than '78 but I'm pretty sure he was the first in the UK.  (I'm no expert, so you may want to check this.)  You can probably get his Blitz club set list from his website.

How would you describe the atmosphere?

The atmosphere on a good night at Billy's or Taboo was a little like a Hieronymous Bosch nightmare.  But darker and with more alcohol and more bad behavior :-)

Was it exciting?

If one was young and had an open mind, most certainly.

What did you like about photographing these people?

The best thing about photographing those people, once I'd become accepted by them (which took a while), was that they really, really wanted to be seen, so it became very easy.  They were the look-at-me generation.

Any special memories?

My special memories are my photographs.

When did you start to feel that the club kid scene was disappearing?

Things changed very quickly after Taboo closed, Shoom started and the rave scene arrived.  And the biggest single thing that effected the change was probably the drug ecstasy.  I'm not a drug taker (never have been), so I can't say exactly when ecstasy first arrived in London.  Grace Jones first told me about how wonderful ecstasy was when I shot her in London in 1985.  I don't think it arrived in the UK clubs much before '87/'88.

I didn't want to photograph a lot of sweaty, loved up dancers.  I couldn't really communicate with them at the raves anyway.  It was too loud, too dark and they were mostly off their heads.  Sometimes the raves were in muddy fields.  And it was always more a case of dressing down for the rave rather than dressing up.

Either way, by 87/88 I was jetting around the world a lot, as a rock photographer, and I had less available time and I did far less club photography after 1989.

What came just after?

See above.  Shoom, the rave scene, acid house music, warehouse parties, huge outdoor raves and the arrival in the UK of the 'superclubs'.  A lot more gay clubs and bars opened, so a lot of the business went there.  The arrival of the rubber and fetish scene took a lot of the exhibitionists too.

How do you explain the 80’s club kid phenomenon?

I think there was two main factors.

First - the cultural explosion that was 'punk' in 76/77 showed young people that anything was possible and their destiny was in their own hands.

Second - the election on Margaret Thatcher's Tory government in May 1979.  This government was very right wing and reactionary.  Many teenagers and young people couldn't see much of a future for themselves in Thatcher's Britain.  It seemed to me therefore that they were determined to express themselves and have fun whilst they were still able to.  This led to a fantastic flowering of the various tribes and style groups of British youth culture, both in the clubs and on the street.

There were two other, somewhat lesser factors but which ought not to be forgotten.

The influence of Central Saint Martins college, which was so close to ground zero of the London club scene in the '70s/'80s.  A great number of the prime movers in the club scene at that time were, or had been, students at Central Saint Martins.

The other factor would be the gay club scene.  A lot of those prime movers were also gay and if it wasn't for the flowering influence of the London gay scene, things would never have been half as lively as they were.

How did the club kids influence the mainstream?

The most obvious way was through fashion. One kid would have an idea, make something and wear it to a club.  A couple of other people might see it, be suitably impressed and copy it.  Or it might be a hairstyle of type of make up.  Because all of London's best young designers and fashion students, models, stylists, fashion photographers and writers were likely to be in the club as well, the idea would be seen and used by many.  And good ideas could go global in weeks.

You really would have to have been there to see it and believe it.

For instance, at Le Beat-Route there was a guy who came along one night wearing some ridiculously distressed jeans.  This would be about 1980 or 1981.  I'm not talking about a few holes as a fashion statement (that one can be put down to the Ramones), I'm talking about jeans completely in rags from top to bottom.

Just one solitary guy.

A week later, a couple of other people turned up in the club wearing something similar.

But still no more than three maybe four men, no women at that point.

The young Face journalist Robert Elms used to go to Le Beat-Route and he wrote about this look and even gave it a title 'Hard Times Chic'.  His article became a cover story (I could probably find out which one it was if you are interested?).  Within days of that issue hitting the news stands people were walking up and down the Kings Road in Chelsea wearing 'hard times chic' too.  I know, I was there taking photos.

It really did happen that quickly and you should talk to Robert Elms and get his take on it (he now works for BBC Radio London).

I saw how one person in one club could have an idea which would go global and which you will still see a lot today.  I don't know who it was (I never knew the guys name but Robert would).  There might be a good story right there?  I doubt whether he ever made a cent from the idea.

Oggy Yordanov published a book about the “new club kids” a few years ago. Did you see it? How do you think this new generation of club kids is different?

I don't think I saw that book but I'm not desperate to do so.  I have no idea whatsoever how this generation of club kids is different to the one from the '80s and I'm not the right person to ask.  My generation are the grand parents of today's club kids.  I rarely shoot in clubs now and any observations I might have would be largely guesswork.  I'd have very little genuine insight into the motivations of young people today.

Anything you’d like to add about club kid culture?

The only other thing I can think of is that it's interesting that, although many people have tried, including Steve Strange and Matthew Glamorre (with Kashpoint), once New Romanticism went out of fashion, it could never quite be revived.  It didn't hang around or occasionally go through reinventions like one gets with teddy boys, mods and even skinheads.  One doesn't really see middle aged New Romantics all clustered together at the seaside on Bank Holidays.  I don't really know why this is.

The late '70s and early '80s were very, very strange times in the UK.  In every respect other than being young, dressing up and going out, things were a lot worse then.  Even though no one, other than the banksters, has any money these days, things are so, so much better now in almost every way IMHO.

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.

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 -

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.


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.

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 of 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 was 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.


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?