The amazing thing about Phil Collins is that for a not especially tall or classically handsome man he really knows how to respond to the camera. In a subtle way he has real presence on film. I don’t know if the fact that he was an actor first is part of that magnetism but its something I’ve noticed every time I’ve been fortunate enough to photograph him. He’s a really nice, friendly and amenable guy and I’ve been lucky enough to photograph him a few times and every time this has proven to be the case.
I was asked by Genesis’s manager if I would go and photograph the band at a secret location in Surrey (which may have been Mike Rutherford’s studio) and take some pictures while they rehearsed ahead of the Knebworth show in 1978. It was amazing to be in the room while they were playing at full tilt and because the location was a secret I have also forgotten where it was for sure, hence my vagueness.
I found the light in the studio very flat and far from ideal which was not what I had envisaged, I’d been told there was plenty of light. It was such an urgent request I just got into the car with my assistants and did not bring any additional lighting. I was told that the band did not want any flashlights going off. The thing about these images which I shot using extra fast film (Tri-X rated at 1000 asa) is they recorded what was there in the short time that I had to capture the vibe of the rehearsals.
The atmosphere was incredibly intense and I felt as if I was intruding, plus the music was so loud that I could not give anyone any visual directions. I just endeavoured to document these historic moments for them.
One of the paradoxes of working in this reportage way is being there but not being there. There is something slightly comical about trying to be invisible whilst at the same time capturing the moment with my trusted Nikon F. There were also a few hazards to negotiate like cables on the floor and I remember I nearly knocked over a very valuable vintage Strat as I walked slowly backwards to get a wider shot.
Fortunately for me, my assistant managed to grab me before I permanently damaged my reputation with the band by destroying some of their equipment. The funny thing was it was so serious that no one in the band said a word to me which did make it quite funny as the atmosphere was reverential. I was also quite stressed by the lighting conditions in my usual obsessive way.
I think I must have expressed my frustration to my agent about the lack of control over the lighting that I was thankfully offered at change to photograph them again but this time with lights and a larger format camera which satisfied my photographic ego mania! However when my daughter Eugenie found these pictures recently in my archive after much pleading on her part I allowed her to feature them on this blog.
- Clive Arrowsmith is 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 hereand Lowry at Home: Salford 1966 is available here