My agent Julian Cotton in the late 90s was, like me a huge classical music fan. He phoned late one night gushing compliments and hardly able to contain himself:
“Clive, I have just come from the Wigmore Hall and have just heard and seen, the most superb cellist in concert and her name is Nina Kotova. You must photograph her she is stunning, and her virtuoso playing is amazing, look her up”.
I got Nina’s album, the next day, when saw a picture of her, I called my agent,
“I’ve Just heard the album (her debut), it’s really beautiful and she has a lovely renaissance kind of beauty, please call her and try and get her to come to the studio, for a shoot”
I got a call back from him saying , saying she was only in London for a few days, and could I do the shoot with her in the next couple of days. I changed some dates around and set it up in the Chelsea studios.
As soon as she walked into the studio, I saw she was statuesque goddess, elegant poised and confident. The photographs I had seen of her in no way did her justice, she was absolutely stunning. “Hi, your Clive “ she said in a deep and sensual Russian accent. What an amazing woman I thought, the real deal who can really play.
I introduced her to the hair and make up people and explained that I would like to photograph her playing her cello. She glided into the dressing room while I set up a piano stool on the painted back drop I had made the day before. Nina called me from the dressing room, again in that hypnotic golden voice, “What do you think of this, dress do you like me in red?” “ I love red” I responded “and on you even more” “ Me too” she said.
I explained to Nina that I was going the use a couple of wind machines to blow her dress around her like a red storm, to accent the vibrancy of her playing I asked her could she play something stirring and exciting. She sat on the stool and her assistant undid the cello case very carefully. I later found out it was a very expensive and rare cello. The assistant gently and deliberately passed it to her, then she spent a little time tuning and adjusting her bow, zip zapping on the deep strings.
“I’m ready” she said looking straight at me as she performed stirring passages from the Dvorak cello concerto as the haunting melody resounded throughout the studio. We all stood in there transfixed taking for a moment. She stopped, smiled and paused; ”How’s that” she said” “That’s awesome “I said and Nina just played on.
She continued to perform the cello concerto to the amazement and the complete delight of myself and the crew. She played for about half an hour while I kept shooting. We paused and I showed her the polaroid’s “Wonderful, now lets take some more pictures, I am really enjoying this ” she said, “And afterwards I will show you how to drink Vodka”. Gladly my days on imbibing alcohol were way behind me, so I told her that “I used to drink but not any more” a statement that made her throw her head back and laugh.
“ I will still show you anyway ” she declared, and every one applauded as the last notes her performance finally faded slowly away. This really remarkable cellist and beautiful woman, did a great private performance for us all that we were very lucky to witness. Afterwards we toasted each other in coffee, and I gave her lots of polaroid’s. We talked about her on going career and success and she thanked me for what she called an “amazing shoot.”
I thanked her with a hug for her music, her time and her beauty. I walked her to her limo and stood watching until the tail lights faded into the on-coming night. Inspired and thankful for the incredible day.
- Clive Arrowsmith is still shooting stunning images, staging exhibitions and is as passionate about photography as he was when he first pressed the shutter at The Paris Collections. He is available for global media opportunities related to his work and photography generally. Bespoke prints from Clive’s archive are also available by special request, for any enquiries (email Eugenie here). Clive’s book Arrowsmith: Fashion, Beauty & Portraits is available here and Lowry at Home: Salford 1966 is available here