This evening I attended a lecture by Albert Watson at the Victoria and Albert Museum. He was promoting his new book, Unified Fashion Objectives, and his exhibition at Hamiltons Gallery that will be opening this Friday. Watson is a well-known and successful photographer who has shot over 250 covers for Vogue and over 40 covers for Rolling Stone; so it's very likely that you have seen his work. Born and raised in Scotland, he became obsessed with the camera after his wife gave him one for his 21st birthday. His passion for photography was noticed by the right people and he began his career as a professional photographer in the early 1970s. He said his career began with a photo he took of a man holding a dead and skinned goose by the neck. The man was Alfred Hitchcock.
Before the lecture, Watson showed us a video, a "hodgepodge" of his work. Photos faded in and out to classical music, showing the faces of Uma Thurman, John Travolta, Mick Jagger, Prince, Kate Moss, Tupac, and many other celebrities. There were photos of dance, of children, of animals, and of couture. He has a huge range, photographing celebrity portraits, couture, advertising, and documentary projects. He said that he used to have days where he would wake up in Paris to shoot a fashion project, fly to New York for an advertising campaign, and fly to Los Angeles to take photos of a celebrity, all within 24 hours.
The man is an amazing photographer. I have never seen anything like his photos; the colors were so rich, even the black and white photos would pop out at you. There was a photo of Mick Jagger where his face was combined with the face of a leopard. His advice: "If you're going to work with a leopard, use a cheetah, they are less aggressive." Apparently the leopard almost got a taste of Mick!
On the subject of fashion, he says, "I love fashion." His couture photographs "are not fashion pictures, they are photographs of fashion." He discussed how through working as a fashion photographer, he came to appreciate the art. There was a photograph of Naomi Campbell's profile when she was about 17 years old; it was one of my favorites. He said that when he took this shot, he knew it would be the one.
His documentary is beautiful. I would have purchased one of his books to have signed after the lecture, but they were a little pricey (And by a little pricey, I mean a lot!). "The picture is simple," he says. "It's the concept that is more important."