HomeInternationalThe celebrity photographer who refuses to Photoshop movie icons

The celebrity photographer who refuses to Photoshop movie icons

Written by Megan C. Hills, CNN

Celebrity photographer Andy Gotts has snapped quite a few stars, from Hollywood titans Al Pacino, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts to promising newcomers like Anya Taylor-Joy and Nathalie Emmanuel. But one image stands out to him as probably the most poignant of his profession: a portrait of the late Tony Curtis, his face painted with an American flag.

The British photographer recalled years of begging the actor’s agent to arrange a shoot. After a number of rejections, he discovered a cellphone quantity for Curtis’ spouse, and she or he picked up. A shoot was organized for the following day.

That evening, nonetheless, Curtis known as Gotts. The getting old star, who suffered from numerous well being points and was utilizing a wheelchair on the time, stated he was feeling unwell.

“(He said), ‘I don’t feel good at all. But I will honor our commitment tomorrow, if you make me one promise,'” Gotts recounted in a video interview. “I said, ‘Anything, anything.’

“He stated, ‘Will you make me appear like an icon yet one more time?’ And I stated I’d do my utmost.”

Tony Curtis by Andy Gotts

Tony Curtis by Andy Gotts Credit: Andy Gotts

It was the last portrait ever captured of Curtis, according to Gotts, who said the actor saw the photograph just hours before his death and had declared it “the very best ever taken of me.” Characteristic of Gotts’ muted, shadowy style, the image sees catchlights glimmering in the actor’s eyes as he stares out with a painted face.
The picture is amongst dozens of celebrity portraits featured in Gotts’ new exhibition “Icons,” which is now open in London, and an accompanying book of the same name. In a career spanning three decades, the photographer has become a favorite among celebrities for his distinctive style and low-key photo shoots.
A portrait of Harrison Ford by celebrity photographer Andy Gotts.

A portrait of Harrison Ford by celebrity photographer Andy Gotts. Credit: Andy Gotts

With lighting inspired by art history’s Old Masters such as Caravaggio and Rembrandt, as well as cinema greats like Alfred Hitchcock and David Lean, Gotts works with an analog camera and no crew. His portraits are never retouched, unveiling actors’ “facescapes” with all their wrinkles, blemishes and smiles. It’s a style that has remain largely unchanged since he first started.

“If you see a pimple on somebody’s head, or a hair misplaced — that is as a result of that is how they had been, sitting in entrance of me,” he said. “I used to be capturing that second after they sat down with me for our dialog.”

Over Gotts shoulder hangs a smoldering portrait of Kate Moss with glowing skin — pores, minute lines and all. Stars like Kate Winslet, Naomi Campbell and Sir Ian McKellen have all embraced his candid style, but his aversion to re-touching images on Photoshop has been an issue for some, he revealed.

One of Gotts' portraits of supermodel Kate Moss.

One of Gotts’ portraits of supermodel Kate Moss. Credit: Andy Gotts

“There are these two iconic singers, in all probability the largest on the planet, who have each stated to me, ‘Andy, I like your pictures (and) I personal your pictures, however you’ll by no means {photograph} me since you’ll present me as I look.'”

Stripping down

Gotts was once assistant to celebrated photographers Lord Snowdon and David Bailey, though the experience had an unexpected impact: It showed him exactly what kind of photographer he didn’t want to be, he said.

“If you assume again to the late ’80s and ’90s, numerous portraits had glamorous backgrounds and had been very ostentatious,” he said.

Gotts resisted the era’s preference for staged glamour photography and instead turned to ’60s-inspired plain backgrounds, which had “fallen out of favor” at the time, he said. Focusing his attention on subjects’ faces, his preference for black and white photography accentuated every detail while his style of overexposing and under-developing portraits helped create stark contrasts.

“It’s primarily the panorama of the face that I’m all for — the nooks and crannies, the peaks and troughs of a human face,” he said. “That’s what I like about it. It’s all lovely imperfections. It’s incredible, and nobody was doing that.

“I thought, ‘Well, if I strip it all back, it’s just a face,'” he continued.

"Mare of Easttown" star Kate Winslet, who Andy Gotts counts as a close friend.

“Mare of Easttown” star Kate Winslet, who Andy Gotts counts as a detailed good friend. Credit: Andy Gotts

While working with Bailey, Gotts additionally discovered that the photographer was always surrounded by a “circus” of assistants — a debacle that left topics feeling “obviously bored,” he stated. “I thought to myself, ‘When I do this, it will just be me, no assistants. And I’ll be really, really quick. So that was my idea when I started: quickness,” he added.

Actor Paul Newman went on to nickname him “One Shot Gotts” after the photographer captured the successful portrait on the primary try. But other than pace, Gotts’ potential to put celebrity topics “at ease” permits him to seize extra intimate, genuine portraits, he stated. Chatting and telling impolite jokes are each key to his methodology, which sees him crafting photographic moments by way of dialog. Gotts balked on the concept of a standard “very gray, drab studio,” and as an alternative shoots in a transformed London resort suite or at his topics’ houses.

He defined, “Straight away, it’s like they’ve gone to see a friend, rather than to a photo shoot.”

While Gotts typically has preconceived concepts for shoots, he typically adapts to the state of affairs. A pensive portrait of Robin Williams, for instance, was taken because the late actor unexpectedly revealed how the dying of John Belushi had affected him. George Clooney, in the meantime, was snapped at his Italian villa after unearthing a pirate hat from a celebration the evening earlier than.

Other occasions, shock visitors fully modified a shoot. When Gotts first photographed Matt Damon, for example, he had needed to seize the star’s “really piercing eyes” in an intimate portrait. But in the course of the shoot, Damon’s “The Brothers Grimm” co-star Heath Ledger barreled into the room in search of a spot to disguise after he unintentionally upended a make-up desk. From there, Ledger did every thing he might to make Damon chuckle — throwing bathroom paper, blindfolding him with a shawl and hugging the actor.

Gotts stored snapping by way of Ledger’s photobombs. But the unlabeled roll of movie containing photos of the pair fell into the liner of his digicam bag and was forgotten for years. When Gotts ultimately discovered and developed them, Ledger had already handed away.

Matt Damon and Heath Ledger laughing on set, after Ledger interrupted a photoshoot.

Matt Damon and Heath Ledger laughing on set, after Ledger interrupted a photoshoot. Credit: Andy Gotts

“It was the only reel of film of Heath and Matt together, of these people messing about together… This moment in time was a moment where these two friends were bonding,” he recalled.

Gotts printed massive copies of the images and despatched them to each Damon and Ledger’s household. The late actor’s mother and father “loved the pictures,” he stated, earlier than giving him permission to share them in his new guide.

“This is Heath,” he recalled Ledger’s mother and father telling him.

Asking the precise questions

Gotts’ entry into the business was as unconventional because it will get, however one which displays his seemingly fearless strategy. As a 19-year-old pictures pupil, he interrupted British icon Stephen Fry as he was giving a chat to ask if the comic would sit for a portrait. Fry rolled his eyes and instructed him he had 90 seconds. =

The ensuing black and white portrait ended up on Fry’s mantelpiece, the place it was noticed by actor Kenneth Branagh. Next factor Gotts knew, he was photographing Branagh and his then-wife Emma Thompson — kick-starting his profession as word-of-mouth suggestions unfold by way of celebrity circles.
Photographer Andy Gotts' first ever celebrity portrait, taken of comedian Stephen Fry.

Photographer Andy Gotts’ first ever celebrity portrait, taken of comic Stephen Fry. Credit: Andy Gotts

Gotts hasn’t stopped asking — and getting — since, touchdown picture shoots with Clint Eastwood by turning to Morgan Freeman for assist, or asking Harrison Ford to act out feelings on cue. (The “Star Wars” actor instructed Gotts that no person had ever requested him to be foolish in a photograph earlier than, telling him, “Everyone’s scared of me,” the photographer recalled.)

“The worst that can happen is someone says no,” Gotts stated. And getting a “yes” from Stephen Fry when the photographer was, in his phrases, an “absolute no one,” he realized that nothing occurs if you happen to do not ask.

Gotts title drops like a cellphone guide, revealing that he known as Harrison Ford an “a**hole” to his face, challenged Meryl Streep’s lighting preferences and ordered “Fleabag” actor Andrew Scott to cry on cue. Calling himself a “frustrated actor” in one other life (although “more of a Danny DeVito”), his early want checklist was stuffed with iconic movie stars like Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, each of whom he is now ticked off. Tellingly, his exhibition and upcoming guide are much less about Gotts’ profession and extra concerning the icons who have held “meaning in his life.” Some of the celebrity topics featured are actually amongst his pals, whereas others had been photographed a number of occasions, 10 and even 20 years aside.

However, true icons have gotten tougher and tougher to discover, in accordance to Gotts. While there’ll at all times be A-list movie stars, “iconic” actors are stardust, he stated — particularly in a world full of individuals pursuing fame.

“I don’t think the word ‘celebrity’ will be as important as it was 20, 30 years ago,” he concluded.

Icons” is on at Maddox Gallery in London till Sep. 19. An accompanying guide, by Scala Arts Publishers, is obtainable now.

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