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Shooting celebrities: Thirty years behind the lens

Published
7 July
image copyrightAndy Gotts
image captionJohn Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam ahead of the 50th anniversary reunion of Monty Python
Andy Gotts' photographic career began 30 years ago when, as a student, he persuaded Stephen Fry to pose for him. Since then he has photographed the biggest names in the entertainment business. Here, he remembers a few of those who have been captured by his camera.

Paul Newman

image copyrightAndy Gotts
One of the highlights of my career, without doubt, was spending time with the legendary actor Paul Newman. Paul was the most gentleman of gentlemen. Kind, witty and always had a knowing smile.
I have never shown this picture before.
The reason I have kept this specific shot to myself over the years is that it was taken at the very moment Paul gave me the nickname One Shot Gotts.
He would not believe any photographer could get the shot so quickly. So when I exclaimed… "Mr Newman, we have it."
He retorted with a huge smile.
"Mr Gotts your reputation is justified, you really are a one-shot guy. Hey you're One Shot Gotts."

Kylie Minogue

image copyrightAndy Gotts
I have known of her since her stint in Neighbours and she always seemed fun and bubbly, and I was not disappointed. As the minute hand struck the hour, she arrived exactly on time and full of energy.
When the shoot started it did not take many shots before the fun began when she started to dance and spin, and then in the very last shot she lowered her head and flicked her hair back just like a shampoo commercial.

Samuel L Jackson

image copyrightAndy Gotts
Sam oozes coolness and is every bit the lovely guy you would think he would be.
This shoot took place in Beverly Hills and Sam turned up in a neon orange T-shirt with matching Bermuda shorts and baseball cap.
We had a great chat and I had plenty of time to get a rapport going. As I was setting up the lighting Sam took his bag to the bathroom and got changed. When he emerged he was dressed in black and there stood Mr Cool.
The shoot was great fun and here are a few out-takes, an unseen contact-sheet of us just looning around.

Meryl Streep

image copyrightAndy Gotts
I shot Meryl at the Soho Hotel when she was doing a press junket for The Iron Lady and was in and out of interviews all day, but she graciously made time for me.
I wanted some strong lighting and atmosphere in the shots, so I played with having a light directly over Meryl's head to give more of an iconic feel.
All at once the door was flung open and in breezed Ms Streep and she was warm and welcoming and very keen to be snapped by me. Following close behind, was her personal make-up artist who said a quick hello then toddled off to find a quiet corner.
We began shooting and I started with the usual soft lighting, to ease into the session. It was going swimmingly with lots of banter back and forth. I then changed to the more dramatic lighting and within seconds a voice boomed across the room:
"Ms Streep is never lit like that in her photographs."
It was her make-up artist and he started giving some disapproving shakes of the head in the direction of Meryl.
I saw the lighting was actually great, so I briefly stopped shooting and asked him if he could fetch me the PR guy so we can look at softer lighting options.
As soon as the make-up guy left the room I started shooting with my preferred overhead flashes, giggling to myself like a naughty schoolboy. By the time the make-up guy returned, Meryl and I had finished the shoot and were saying our goodbyes. To this day I stand by my lighting choices and still smile to myself knowing how I achieved them.

Tony Curtis

image copyrightAndy Gotts
I had a trip to LA planned so I dropped Tony a note saying I was on the West Coast.
To my shock, I received a note back saying if I travelled to Vegas, I could shoot him at his house. I was thrilled and literally was counting the days down before I flew to the US.
The day before I left, my mobile phone rang and I saw it was his number.
I answered with a heavy heart as I was expecting him to cancel the shoot, but instead in a quiet and humble voice he said:
"Andy I know you are coming to photograph me tomorrow and I have seen your amazing work. I'm not in a good way at the moment but can I ask you one thing? Can you make me look like an icon just one more time?"
It didn't take me long to think of my flag idea as I knew his nickname was the American Prince. But meeting Tony was one of the highlights of my career as not only was he one of my icons but he was also a sweet guy.
Little was I to know Tony would die a few days later and this would be the very last portrait taken of him.

Morgan Freeman

image copyrightAndy Gotts
I shot velvet-toned Morgan Freeman in London while he was filming Batman Begins. I was all set and awaiting the grand entrance, and was not disappointed when this 6'4" frame of a cinema legend entered the room.
Morgan is usually shot in a very iconic, almost holy-looking way so I wanted something a little different. I asked how he entertained his grandchildren when they hung out together and he retorted that he pulled goofy faces to make them laugh.
I suggested we could play around with a "passport booth" style of shots, and the man had a little bit of fun.

Clint Eastwood

image copyrightAndy Gotts
I never try to plan my portraits, but I always have a feeling of the type of shot I want to capture.
With Clint it was pretty easy. Whenever I hear his name I picture the narrowing of the eyes and thinning of the lips, usually just before drawing a gun from a holster or throwing a punch.
This was the face I wanted.
While I was setting up, Clint was at his piano playing a little bit of jazz and spirits where high. When I was ready he came over to my lighting set-up and presented himself to me with this lovely warm, calm, charming face. Not what I wanted.
I exclaimed: "I am looking for Dirty Harry not Grandpa Walton."
Clint had a bit of a laugh… but then in an instant narrowed his eyes. This is the result.
image copyrightAndy Gotts
And to go full circle, here is the picture that began it all, Stephen Fry in 1990, taken while he visited Norfolk College of Arts and Technology where Gotts was studying.
Here are a few more stars who have been photographed by Andy Gotts:
image copyrightAndy Gotts
image captionJulia Roberts
image copyrightAndy Gotts
image captionRobert De Niro
image copyrightAndy Gotts
image captionKate Winslet
image copyrightAndy Gotts
image captionSidney Poitier
image copyrightAndy Gotts
image captionScarlett Johansson
You can see more work by Andy Gotts on his website and follow him on Instagram

Related Topics

  • Film
  • Portrait photography
  • Photography