I shot these images of the late great Robert Palmer for Elle Magazine (London). He was such an elegant man and arrived dressed in a beautiful blue silk suit, he was incredibly well turned out for a rock star. In my opinion, he was one of the best singers of his generation and greatly under rated. I’d been very aware of him as a singer and producer since his early days in Vinegar Joe with Elkie Brooks. We were instantly at ease with each other, exchanging stories about music and I mentioned to him I’d been in the studio song writing with Boz Scaggs and he said “I didn’t know you did music, I thought you were just a great photographer, I love Boz he has a wonderful voice and is the real deal”.
I then asked him what he thought was the weirdest thing about the current music industry? He screwed up his face for a moment in silent contemplation then opened his eyes, looked at me and shaking his head slowly said, “That U2 ever had a hit”. We both burst our laughing. It was the early 90s so U2 were everywhere at that time so it was gently funny because they had reached the point of being inescapable.
I mentioned that I really enjoyed the video’s he’d done with my dear friend photographer Terence Donovan and he said that ‘Yeah, they were great fun, but I had no idea what he was going to do, I just trusted him”. Terry was from the generation of Vogue photographers before me, whose work I had enjoyed as an art student. I’d met Terry once I started to be more successful at Holborn Studios and was enormously flattered when he said he would like to own some of my prints. He really liked the images I shot of the actress Sophie Ward. It was so sad to loose him when we did because he had such a strong and imposing physical presence and was very encouraging to me. I was driving to have some Japanese Sunday lunch with my son Paris and my girlfriend and a reporter rang me. I pulled over to answer the phone and the reporter said, “I think you should know that your friend Terence Donavan has just died”. It was a shocking way to hear the news as I’d been with him the week before and he was dear to me. Robert was also a great talent gone far too soon.
Robert was so natural in front of the camera that I got these images of him really easily. During a break in shooting while my assistants were changing the set up he said, “Clive you know the fashion world, I need to buy a couple of long warm cashmere shawls, very large that would wrap around me.” I knew exactly where to take him so I called, Shi Cashmere who I’d just shot a campaign for and I took him to their London shop. When we got to their beautiful showroom Shi was delighted to meet Robert. Robert fell in love with their incredible collection of massive heavy cashmere shawls and bought three of them. He looked really fantastic in them and we all had a great time together. I asked Robert why he wanted to have so many large heavy shawls and he said he’d just moved to Switzerland and needed them for when he went outside to enjoy the scenery as it was absolutely freezing.
It was such a great experience meeting and shooting Robert I am only sad that I never got to work with him again. He was such a gifted vocalist with a really strong personal style, a true one off; he passed away in Paris in 2003. This was a sad loss of a great artist who I was fortunate enough to spend an afternoon with.
- 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. SEE OUR *Kickstarter Campaign for LIMITED EDITION PETER GABRIEL REFLECTIONS EXHIBITION CATALOGUE – HERE – 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
I was just thinking about Robert the other day and how it seems like he just disappeared without a trace. He was an underrated artist.
Absolutely, what a voice and what a talent! Great shame.
What a MAN What a Man!!!!
A lovely man it has to be said
Can anyone recommend a biography of Robert?
I don’t know Tim, but I am sure there must be a good one somewhere, he was a remarkable artist