“Fantastic!!! Fabulous!!!” cried my client, as she caught sight of me. Its not often that I am greeted with quite as much gusto, but I’d just arrived at the ITV Studios stand in Cannes, where bubbly smiles, enthusiasm and exclamation marks abound. ITV, the UK’s biggest and most popular commercial television channel, has a big presence at MIPCOM (the entertainment version of a series of annual Cannes-hosted global trade fairs), and I provide their corporate event photography. Today, my first stop was a rendez-vous on Love Island.
Everyone held their breath – PR, assistants, journalists. In an uncharacteristic outburst, I had just barked an order at the kind of man who is not used to being told what to do (let alone by a photographer he has only just met). However, while I was up a ladder adjusting a light for this double portrait of a famous racing driver and ice hockey player, Nico Rosberg (2016 Formula One world champion) had quietly got up out of his position and picked up my camera. Suddenly, I had turned around to see him pressing buttons as he tried to take a peek at the first photo.
Wine and France. The two just go together. Le vin is of ultimate importance to the French economy, its way of life, history, gastronomy and, quite simply, to a sense of Frenchness. Yet the very nature of many established wines is under threat today. Global warming, and the slow increase in the temperature of the planet, is starting to make its presence felt in France’s vineyards. The impact on winemakers could shake the French wine industry to its core. This summer, Stern magazine, sent me as photographer, and journalist Marc, to the Languedoc and Rhône, two of France’s biggest – & hottest – wine-growing regions, to investigate.
Undeniably linked to the people and events that sparked the movement in the first place, the Cannes Film Festival found itself, earlier this year, under the spotlight of the globe-sweeping #metoo phenomenon. Cate Blanchett organised a women-only red carpet march to protest gender inequality among the film-makers historically honoured at Cannes (only 82 of the 1,727 films ever selected for the ultimate Palme d’Or prize have been directed by women). As a female photographer, it was a privilege to be assigned to take a portrait of Swiss female director Ursula Meier.
Every year, the Sunday Times Magazine devotes an entire edition to the Rich List, the definitive directory of the richest people in the world. This year was the guide’s 30th anniversary and the magazine’s picture editor had a billionaire’s portrait to assign to me in Monaco for a Rich List Interview special. I was to photograph Number 48, the founder of easyJet.
A few weeks before hoards of movie buffs, journalists and photographers arrive in the South of France for its annual film festival, Cannes plays host to another huge crowd at the world’s leading property trade fair, MIPIM. Monocle magazine commissions me regularly as photographer to make a reportage of this vast urban development event, but this year, the editorial direction had changed…
Its probably best not to read this post if you’re hungry. I headed to Marseille on a recent magazine cover assignment, to investigate the city’s vibrant cuisine and the influence that migrants have had on its evolution over the years. As both food and portrait photographer, I had the privilege of photographing – and tasting – some extraordinary dishes that combine South of France flavours with African and Asian influences, and making portraits of those who created them.
‘The world’s biggest bribe scandal’, they called it. The claims were indeed dramatic, and cracked code in leaked documents had exposed it all. Multi-million dollar bribes had allegedly been paid. The hands of corrupt officials in unstable states like Libya and Iraq had supposedly been plentifully greased so that some of the world’s biggest brands could get their own mitts on precious oil reserves. Allegedly orchestrating the ‘arrangements’ was a small, jet-setting family based in Monaco. Last summer, I was assigned to make a portrait of the middle son in this ‘family business’.
The call about this Saturday morning portrait shoot came at 5 pm the day before. The Guardian was planning an annual ‘Conversations’ special for the weekend magazine, and an extra celebrity pairing had been added to the feature last-minute. Time was tight to get the photographers’ work to the designer for layout, and the fact that one subject was on holiday in the South of France was not going to scupper the plan. Could I help in a tight spot? When I said yes, I had no idea how tight the spot would turn out to be.
Lakhdar lives a simple, anonymous life in the South of France, in a little village in the hills above Nice. He has children, enjoys gardening, and likes quietly watching the world go by from the terrace of his local café. Yet few of his neighbours know that his story has been told in the international press. Prior to his arrival on the French Riviera, Lakhdar Boumediene spent 7 years incarcerated in Guantánamo Bay and was the first detainee to win a court case for his release. I was commissioned as photographer to take the portrait for his biography.