Time is a major constraint and I consider myself lucky if I get a quarter of an hour. The people I’m sent to photograph are often celebrities, politicians, or successful business people, with many demands on their time. I usually work in tandem with a writer and… I have to fit the photography session around the interview.
I’d be sent with a writer and had to take my photographs quickly so they could get on with the interview. In a typical month I might do Dennis Hopper at the Savoy, Woody Allen at the Dorchester, and a senior politician at his home. Each time, I’d have 10 minutes. So I would march straight in and take over the situation. I had a quick mind. I could suss it all out immediately.
[On photographing Francis Bacon] He looked good in his studio, among his paints and jars, but in black and white I knew the image would be confusing. Then he got up to show me to the door and say goodbye – he was a very nice man – and there it was: marvellous light. That was the last picture I took of him: a second bite at the cherry.
She was very sweet actually. I did have a sort of preview the day before, and I was shown exactly where she would be, and I chose the chair she could sit in, in font of a nice window, with just the right light. I was really worried that next day, it might not be the same… it was. The light was beautiful, and she did as she was told. She likes photography. She asked, ‘how many films have you taken?’ I said ‘two’ and she said, ‘would you like to take another one?’ I said, ‘yes please.’
I had just had my eightieth birthday and I said jokingly to the review, lets ring up and see if the Queen would be photographed by another eighty year old. And they rang, and I was horrified, I was even more horrified the next day when they rang back from Buckingham Palace and said “the Queen would be delighted.” So that made me a little nervous.