My dear friend and ex assistant Kenton Thatcher (photographic Prince of Portugal) said over lunch, “I have a really talented friend called Simon Emmett who is a devotee of your photography and would love to meet you.” I said ” Yeah okay, when you next come over bring him with you.” The date was set and they both arrived at my place together. Simon seemed very quiet and shy and Kenton was very much the instigator/master of ceremonies about various adventures we had, had over the years including the Pirelli calendar in the desert. So the conversation proceeded with Kenton saying “Clive, tell him about the time we did…the Pirelli calendar in Almaria (in the scorching heat when the make up ran off the models), the set blowing over a cliff and nearly taking you with it” and on and on like that recounting various crazy stories from our travels around the world. Simon listened attentively and Simon opened up and I showed him lots of my work and he said “This work is amazing. I really think you should meet Maxine Leonard, Editor and creator of the Beauty Papers and they should do a feature on you.”
Maxine called me a few days later, she reminded me I had worked with her a few years ago and explained as well as being a make up artists she was currently Editor in Chief of The Beauty Papers, the bi-annual cutting edge tome and could we talk about an interview and a shoot. She came over to my house an as our conversations progressed she mentioned she new the fantastic hair dresser Olivier Schawalder (based in Paris) and the idea of doing a contemporary shoot alongside historic images emerged. Olivier would fly in from Paris, Maxine would do the make-up, Nick Royal would do the styling and so it began.
I spoke to Olivier in Paris and he said he loved my work and one of his favourite pictures was of Geschi Fengler for Vogue, so we used that original image of mine as a starting point. Then Maxine and I were trying to choose a model. The very first image that arrived was of Georgia Howorth and I instantly new she was the model I wanted to work with. At that times I was setting up the Peter Gabriel exhibition in Bath and viewed the image at a petrol station on my way to the gallery .
Maxine continued to send me alternatives models but I just new who I wanted. This often happens to me, when I was on the panel as photographer and judge on Britains Next Top Model I always new who the winner would be and I new Georgia was the model who was right for this shoot. Georgia has incredible soulful eyes and a face that is beautifully in proportion (like Christy Turlington’s face) which means that you can photograph her from any angle.
Hasselblad had kindly organised for me to use the new H6D Camera, which is amazing quality and very high resolution and can shoot film and digital on the same body, So thank you Hasselblad, On the day of the shoot I arrived at Loft Studios with my assistant Ian Stewart and grandson Eric (who is studying photography at Bristol University). Eric was standing in for my regular second assistant and had never worked on a big fashion shoot before. Ian is a great assistant and is so brilliant at setting up the tech and computers that is so essential at any shoot.
I told Eric to stand by me all the time and to watch everything I did and said. I asked him to move the lights, change the settings, bathe me in caffeine and generally be my right hand man. However Eric was very distracted by the model, the make up and the shoot itself and most fundamentally the buffet . I ended up shouting “Eric, Eric?” much to the amusement and then later consternation of anyone within earshot, particularly Ian. Eric would then reappear eating something. After a few jokes and minor chastisements he really got the hang of it all and was really attentive and helpful. Later his Mother Beth said Eric was totally knocked out by the experience and can’t wait to come on another shoot, along with his sister Tara who is studying film.
The stylist Nick Royal, had brought a racks and racks of totally fantastic clothes which I really appreciated and set the scene for a great day. Olivier arrived with boxes full of the most beautiful blonde perfectly crafted sculptural wigs and Maxine began doing her incredible make up. We began shooting with the opalescent globe which caused many problems as it illuminated the face without creating any contrast. Eventually I solved this problem, by using black polystyrene with a hole in it and varying the exposure (my usual fix). The chrome orb I had hoped to work with arrived at the end of the day just as we were packing up.
As Maxine, Nick, Olivier and I reviewed the days shoot on the screen (thanks Ian), Olivier put his arm around my shoulder and said to me, “Doesn’t it bring tears to your eyes when you see such beautiful images.” I then thought to myself that it is great when someone says something so genuinely emotional, rather than just, “Great pics/images” and I was so touched by that. Once again it was great to work with really wonderful professionals who understood the aim and attention to create beautiful images. Maxine had given me complete freedom and trusted me to express myself. That is the best way to work with creatives and these are the best of days and the best of times, thanks Maxine.