Archive: Apr 2012
My second campaign for Agent Provocateur, a shoot for their 2012 Classics range of underwear, kicked off with a 6am start on a cold, dark February morning at Spring Studios in London. My set was to consist of 20 square metres of charcoal grey silk and a yellow perspex floor. This later became off black in post production but for technical reasons I needed a light floor to reflect some light back onto the model. The AP team built a frame to support it all, at a height off the ground that would allow me to get far enough beneath the models to be able to shoot from the low angle that I wanted to achieve on these.
For inspiration I had been thinking a little bit of Bill Brandt’s work, particularly his beach nudes. I wanted to light these pictures so that there was nothing direct coming from in front of the model. All the lights, 6 in total, heavily softened and diffused, came from behind and were directed towards a long screen of white polyboards in front of the model. I wanted the tone and texture of the skin to take on an alabaster feel which I felt I could only really achieve by bathing the body in purely reflected light. Think of it as being done under the thickest, whitest, blanket cloud imaginable, with only the subtlest kisses of highlight round the edges of the body. This was what I had in my head before we began and, unusually for me, I stuck to it on the day. The second part of the Brandt influence was to take the idea of using quite a wide angle lens and to shoot from extreme low angles, so as to exaggerate the length of the legs. Wide angle lenses are anathema in fashion photography, longer lenses are more flattering to the features and compress the subject so that it’s easier to make everything look softer and more beautified. I liked the idea of going against the grain for Agent Provocateur in this way.
As the crack of dawn showed it’s face outside the studio windows two of my all time favourite collaborators, make up artist Kay Montano and hairdresser Eamonn Hughes, set to work on the blonde Valerie and the brunette Charlotte in their own talented way. Meanwhile, the rest of us sat around and ate carbohydrate products until we were ready to start shooting.
Two wind machines, two laptops and two camera bodies later, we had 19 shots in the bag and a tray of Margheritas to end on. The great thing about working for Agent Provocateur is the attitude and energy that creative director, Sarah Shotton, contributes to the day. She has a brilliant way of ramping up the girls to a level that brings out a great performance. Her red headed presence is the living embodiment of AP, she is the AP girl and can get away with saying things that, coming from my mouth, would just be plain wrong.
To see more of my work for Agent Provocateur please visit my website.
Here’s a montage of behind the scenes shots. Thanks to Nic Serpell-Rand for doing these.
The first of a new series of 5 films for Mr Porter. This was shot at the Mercer Hotel in New York City in February 2012.
This feels like it will never end. While everybody else came to the party, stayed for a drink and left, I have been stuck in the room with all 140 of them for almost a year. It has taken me that long to gather up written pieces from as many of them as I can. Those that didn’t get back to me are too late. I tried, oh I tried. Nevertheless, over 120 people worked their brains to a pulp to give me something insightful, revealing, funny, thoughtful, worrying and optimistic on Twitter, photography, being photographed, 9/11, society, evolution and a thousand other things, as well as collectively creating an impression for future generations of what it means and feels like to be alive today.
The end result is a fantastic 172 page book, featuring written contributions from almost everybody who took part in my 2010/11 quest to photograph 140 of the people I follow on Twitter, as well as the portraits themselves.
In all the talking I’ve done on this project over the last year, time and again I have come back to the role technology plays in making human lives infinitely more convenient, while at the same time conspiring to drive a wedge between us physically. This has been so ever since the invention of the telegraph. The overwhelming response to ‘One Hundred And Forty Characters’ has been positive. The trolls have been contained to an area the size of a trolley and I am convinced that this is because the people who have seen it have innately understood and recognised that deep in our make up we understand that we are pack animals. We need to meet, gather and be together in common cause. OFC is that writ graphically and simply, only made possible because of technology, a lever to allow the conversion of potential energy into kinetic energy.
This has happened in several phases and stages. One, I invited people to my studio via Twitter. Right there they are out of the Twitter window and through my door, in my face. I can see how tall they are, what they sound like, what sort of phone they’ve got, where they came from and on and on. Two, when the project ended there was an exhibition and about 100 of the 140 came to the opening night. This made real a physical manifestation of Twitter’s daily virtual world, where they could all get up in each other’s faces and find out the same stuff I did, but with added alcohol. Finally, all of them are brought together for posterity, into hard copy format, ink on paper, with their thoughts to stand beside them.
“It’s a confessional, a Samaritan, a water cooler and a soapbox all rolled into one.”
As the years pass and we travel ever further into a world where online relationships will be nothing more than our daily reality, this combination of portraits and words will come to serve as a big old time capsule of what we thought social media was in its earliest days. Oh! how we will look back and laugh at our naiveté, I’m sure.
‘One Hundred And Forty Characters’ is available as a 172 page book, printed in England by F.E. Burman, in a limited edition format, on Fedrigoni Xper 140gsm with a blind embossed cover on Fedrigoni Xper 320gsm. Thank you to Wayne Ford for his beautiful design and art direction and also, Eleanor O’Kane, who proof read every single word and made the necessary corrections to the text.
The book is available directly from here for £35.00 for UK buyers. Click on the first link below:
For buyers from outside the UK the book is £40.00 and you should click here:
Finally, one more treat for you. So you can see just what you’ll be getting for your money, here’s a great little video of the book’s text pages, with a voiceover by me, that took 14 attempts to nail. Lots to look at, lots to read, get yours today. Thirty years from now your kids will be staring at this in wonder thinking, “How did they live like that?”
I must give the man some kudos here. With most of the people that I photograph it’s a ‘that’ll do’ attitude that carries them through the process. A collaboration is what I’m looking for but, often, what I get is a muted co-operation. Yeah…go on then, just do it quick. I know one Hollywood publicist whose number one criteria when approving photographers for shoots involving his clients is ‘How quick are you?’
I have photographed Ricky Gervais 5 times and, unlike most, he gives much more. He can be tentative initially, a little wary, but once he has committed to an idea he’s up for it in all it’s forms.
I once photographed him for a Christmas related story, in the middle of July, which involved a terrible sweater and Kermit the Frog. We were trying to make it look like Ricky & Kermit were sharing a laugh together in an old skool Christmas Radio Times kind of way. We shot hundreds of frames and were really struggling with it. He persisted with the inanimate frog for much longer than one would have expected until, at last, he decared, “Wait! I’ve got it, I’ve got it! Whattabout like this?……”
The second time I photographed him was at the Dorchester Hotel in London. I was told I had 3 minutes and when he came in he acknowledged how little time we had been given, so offered to do whatever he could to make it work. I said I was going to recite a list of 1970′s sitcom actors and would photograph his reaction on hearing the name of each one. Number 8 was ‘On The Buses’ star Reg Varney, who I think looks like Gervais in a sort of lackadaisical 1970′s way. Evidently, Reg’s name had it’s own effect on him because it yielded this reaction…
This time we were doing a shoot to illustrate his recent heavy weight loss, brought on by boxing and running. It needed some energy and he really did bring it. He battered that punchball for as long as I exhorted him to keep at it and after each kick he would come to the computer, examine it carefully and then insist on giving it another go until he felt the image looked right. Here’s what we got…..