Michael & Charlotte
We are in a privileged and sometimes happy position. We see a great deal of the world. Our obligation is to pass it on to others.
I often wonder when I read this quote from the great ‘Life’ magazine photographer Margaret Bourke-White, what my life would have been like if I had not discovered my passion and talent for taking pictures. Without doubt I have been in a privileged position. For it is through this artistic medium that my entire life has evolved. My photography career is at the very root of pretty much most of my life experiences and has been the catalyst for countless life experiences, encounters and relationships. I often consider how photography has taken me around the world, introduced me to the most amazing people and given me the licence to not only witness but also be responsible for recording a multitude of momentous occasions. Photographers always have great stories and when I was an assistant I used to love listening to the amazing stories of some of the great photographers I worked for. A photographer I know very well told me how once a trip to shoot for a very famous tyre calendar he celebrated his birthday whilst on the exotic Caribbean island. The famous photographer organised a party for him and the entire crew came together that evening. He was touched by this gesture but what made the trip so much more memorable was the late night knock at his hotel door which revealed one of the beautiful swimwear models declaring that she was his birthday present. I too once spent a birthday in Marakesh whilst assisting the fashion photographer John Bishop. I have a photo of me blowing out the candles with all the models. Sadly I didn’t receive a late night knock at the door. I am sure she just got the wrong room.
A photographer’s autobiography or diary is never boring and for the most part it is an eye raising insight into an enviable lifestyle. My bookshelf has so many wonderful photography books and I make a point of reading them each weekend and its time well spent. I sometimes wonder now we are all digital that I seem to spend an insane amount of time in front of my computer and dealing with computer issues and a whole lot less time out living life, meeting people and finding inspiration. I can remember a time when my computer was only used to slowly type out the invoice. A typical week now as a digital photographer is one of me sat at my computer for 8 hours, 5 or 6 days a week and I still never have enough commissions. As an analogue snapper I was never at a desk, out all day and shot constantly. But I must not get started on that topic!
An on-going relationship that I look back on fondly that was borne out of my photography career was my close friendship with the famous shoe designer Jimmy Choo. When I was still quite young and finding my feet as a photographer and assistant I found myself taken under the wing of Jimmy Choo and his team of artisans at his studio in Hackney. I can’t quite recall how it all came about but I would spend much time there with him and his team of designers. I remember I used to go out and get the design team pizzas or Chinese take away on Fridays. I would make tea, chat and generally kill time whilst in town on various errands. He was always trying to fix me up with his beautiful niece Sandra Choi. ‘Just take her to the cinema tonight Philip’ he would say each time I was there. Sandra would shyly smile and we would laugh at Jimmy’s attempt at match making. It is hilarious to think back to this, as Sandra is now not only married with children but the very successful creative director of Jimmy Choo. I recall how once my car was broken into outside his studio and my belongings and car radio stolen. Jimmy came out and handed me a wad of cash and helped me sort it out. He was always so generous and kind. I used to bring models to the studio and we would hang out there. I will enclose some images of a day spent at the studio with Jimmy chasing me with a stick! We would come after a shoot or I would meet the models there and Jimmy would make a fuss. I would occasionally undertake the odd shoot at the studio that was located in an old disused Victorian hospital in Dalston, Hackney. A very long time before this whole area was gentrified, full of hipsters and expensive. I used to photograph Jimmy when I was shooting for Vogue when on assignment and we clearly had a connection. It was such an exciting time and I was at a certain age with a mind-set that was convinced I would reach every goal, become famous and successful and I could do no wrong. My youthful confidence shone through and Jimmy’s studio was my hang out place. This is all back in the mid 90’s and is such a lifetime ago now. Looking back is such a nostalgic trip and I often wonder what has happened in the lives of myself, Jimmy, Sandra and all the wonderful, talented artisans that worked in that funny, cramped, messy little studio all those years ago.
So the link with Jimmy and this latest commission is one of building relationships with people. How important that is and how ones personality is so vital in making such connections and building those relationships. Photography has opened so many doors and allowed me to witness and record so much in life and of course it’s the incredible people that I have met that have truly had an impact on me. Photographers get close to many people they photograph. A bond you build as you work to try to reveal something personal and intimate with that person. A connection is made and it’s quite real. It is no wonder models fall for photographers, as the relationship is so intense, personal and creative.
I have been privileged to be asked back again and again by numerous families to record family celebrations. There is one lovely family who asked me to record all three children’s weddings. I have seen the children of these families grow up and I’ve been there at key family moments and that’s truly magical. To be called back for birthdays, christenings and weddings is such a wonderful privilege and is one of many great features of my job as a society photographer. In this case I was asked to record the celebration of Michael and Charlotte’s engagement party. I have been photographing for Michael’s family for many years and I was delighted to be asked back again. It does not seem that long ago I was photographing all his friends Bar Mitzvahs. In fact I have known many of his close friends from when they were just young children and they now are gown up, married with their own kids. This party was held at Michael’s mother’s stunning penthouse apartment in Knightsbridge and what a day to have this party. With the UK gripped by a heat wave it felt like we were all in Monte Carlo! Everybody looked so healthy, radiant and happy and the mood for this celebration could not have been better. Delicious sushi was served on the balcony terrace and a fabulous Latin band provided the music. Everybody appeared to be having the time of their lives and as I wandered between the rooms I remarked on how having built relationships with many of the people in the room for the last 20 odd years has brought me back time and time again. I also spent much of the time looking down at the ladies shoes and wondering who was wearing Jimmy Choos.