VIP PROFILE – STEPHEN PERRY
Stephen, you seem blessed with the art of drawing out your subject’s inner temptress and making them smoulder in front of your lens like Kelly Brook (above). Yet we imagine every shoot is like a fleeting first date… How do you break the ice and where do you begin?
That’s nice of you to say so! I tend not to think about it too much but I suppose if I have to analyse it I would say that I naturally get a ‘sense’ of my subject the moment I walk in the door. If I walk up to them, smile and say hello in a warm and reassuring way – I will get an idea of how the other person reacts. Body language is the best tell. I can tell if they are confident, nervous, distracted, bored, etc. just by saying hello and shaking their hand.
I can help them get into the right frame of mind to feel the best they can feel in front of the camera in the short time we have. I try not to be arrogant but at the same time not show any doubts at all about how I want to see that person through my lens. Arrogance is obnoxious and annoying and doubts are weak. My subjects have to believe in what I want from them. Then there are the grey areas which are instinctive and I think you are aware of them or you are not. Having doubts, for example, doesn’t mean you can’t ask the opinion of any of the subjects or make up artists or stylists you are working with. It’s a fine line between having no doubts in anything you do as a photographer – and arrogance. There is a balancing act and no one at all knows all this is going on in your head.
As well as lovely celebs like Duncan James (above) you’ve shot some notoriously ‘difficult’ celebs (Gordon Ramsey, Jordan etc) … Any temper tantrums on shoots?
Nothing major. You get ‘spoilt brat syndrome occassionally’ which is difficult to deal with when you are a young photographer with not much experience but now I just deal with that in the knowledge that if they are being a twat, they are not doing themselves any favours. We as photographers will always make that extra bit of effort for people we like. Simple as that!
For the record, Gordon Ramsey was one of the easiest people to shoot. He knew what I wanted him to do before I’d even finished asking him. He took direction better than most and just did it and was very complimentary about the pictures. I love his passion for what he does and respect him. He seems to have many enemies in the world he inhabits. He’s hyperactive for sure (generally speaking, not clinically). Other people around him just can’t keep up. That’s their problem.
Jordon was a twat.
When you first picked up a camera, who were you hankering to photograph? And 20 years later have you now shot them?
Kate Bush, Freddy Mercury, The Queen, Kate Moss, Cindy Crawford, David Bailey, My Grandad, Johnny Wilkinson, Charlize Theron, Helen Mirren, Richard E Grant, Joanna Lumley, Paul Newman, Clint Eastwood, etc etc . I have so many heroes whether they are actors, athletes, sports people, musicians, that this would just be a list of massively talented and beautiful people I haven’t photographed. I think that will change. I have concentrated so much on being good at what I do, I haven’t really done any of my own PR! Perhaps now that my own name will get out there, I will get some more high profile subjects.
I did photograph David Bailey thankfully. The first thing he said to me was ‘why aren’t you photographing me against a fucking white background’? He is the master of the white background so I said that it would be foolish to try and copy the master. He liked that. Actually as he does a lot of his people on white – and as it was an article and cover for Black and White Photography Magazine, I knew they would publish a load of his white background shots of Celebs and I wanted my shots of him to look different…and also for mine to not look like a wannabe David Bailey shot.
My favourite movie of all time is Withnail and I. Pure British comic genius, so photographing Richard E Grant was a massive pleasure. Best film quote ever..’we’ve come on holiday by mistake’.
Helen Mirren – what can I say. What a woman. What an actress. When I took her picture she asked me what I was reading and it was a Patricia Cornwell book about Kay Scarpetta, a forensic pathologist. I said to her she would make a great Scarpetta (but perhaps with a slight Italian makeover). Helen told me the author wanted her to play Scarpetta but she declined after she realized she was actually after some ‘extras’ with Helen herself. Nice to know she wont do anything for art!
You make a strong case about ‘artistic nude’ and ‘sexy nude’ shots. In the same way, do you think women are either ‘artistic’ or ‘sexy’?
If we are talking about all women in general they can, of course, be either or both. Let’s not forget they can be very intelligent and very everything else a human being can be. I tend to have more respect for women than men. Men can be such meatheads. I wish there were more women in positions of power.
Do you have a pet hate or loathed cliche in the nude photography world?
I despise anything that involves nudes with blood and gore. It’s a cheap shot at trying to be shocking. Some people think art has to be shocking. I just think it’s shit, demeaning and it always seems to be done by photographers that don’t have a fucking clue how to light their way out of a shit idea. Don’t start me off! Oh and I hate the term ‘Art nude’. I don’t really know why. I tried to explain it in a blog but It’s like trying to explain why I don’t like hard boiled eggs in a sandwich. It’s just wrong and tastes like farts.
Tell us about the coolest job you’ve done?
One of my first ever jobs was photographing the Happy Mondays in a bath with 3 naked women. If that’s not cool, I’m a cream egg. Also doing an advertorial for Fosters in Australia. I chose the models and travelled around Oz with beautiful women in stunning locations. Again..cool! Most jobs I’ve done for Top Gear Magazine have been fantastic – driving abroad photographing in great locations – dune driving in Namibia etc – all cool. I think the natural world impresses me the most. People are people. Some are incredibly talented (my favourite sort) but they are all full of human frailties and trip over mundane objects and like ketchup and chips.
What tips did you learn from Terence Donovan?
To not treat assistants like shit if they are doing their best. Sometimes he was a bully, but the main thing about him was that he was bloody funny. That outweighed everything. In the right mood he was a joy to be around. In the wrong mood, he wasn’t. Actually the most important lesson I learnt from him was to be honest and not ask for stuff. Honesty will earn you respect and if you ask you don’t get….obviously there are caveats to the second one but it’s about asking in a respectful manner I think he meant! He didn’t ask David Bailey for a close up photograph of a woman’s fanny on his birthday once, but he got one. Admittedly he slung it across the studio with the words ‘what the fuck is this shit’ – so I suppose is you don’t ask, you sometimes get what you don’t want. It’s probably worth a bloody fortune now so I should have asked him for it! Oh dear – I’m going round in circles. Nurse!
What do you enjoy most about working with the Woolhouse team?
Honesty, professionalism, creativity, support, respect among us all, a bloody good laugh and Emma of course. Emma is so passionate about her work and she will always do the utmost to accommodate her clients. We are all dedicated to produce the best work we can and there is never a hint of ‘that’ll do’ attitude. I will give 120% knowing that she has already done the same to secure the shoot with her characteristic hard work and honest approach. Whoever I shoot will have been in discussion with Emma and they will know what to expect when they turn up to the studio. Her design team are second to none and I have no doubts at all that my pictures will be enhanced by her digital artists in a very positive and brilliant way. Our clients are therefore in very safe hands knowing they will get a fantastic result and enjoy the whole experience.
Do you think you have a trademark style? Why do you think models and celebs want you to photograph them?
I think I do. I like to get character into a personality and a confidence that looks like they did that all on their own without my help. I want to bring out a person’s best characteristics and make them beautiful and interesting. I’d like to think that’s what people like about my portraits and sexy shots.
Who is more famous, you – or Stephen Perry from Journey…?
The Journeyman of course. I wish I could sing like that! If I could – I’d be a damn sight more famous and have a large shed full of money and cars.
Click here for the official website of Stephen Perry (the photographer)
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