Clive Arrowsmith

Clive Arrowsmith: Fashion, Beauty & Portraits

Published: 02 June 2016

The contents of Clive Arrowsmith: Fashion, Beauty & Portraits are nothing short of breathtaking. The execution is everything you would ever want in a book focused on fashion and beauty photography including the size and quality of reproduction. There is only one page of text—in other words this is all about the images and not about the words.

Clive Arrowsmith is not a photographer that one can easily describe but it is safe to say that he is part Avedon, Hiro, Mapplethorpe, Ritts, Bourdin, Scavullo, Coffin, and more. His influences are vast, and his output is nothing less than astounding and prodigious.

These are not the photos of today’s crop of photographers as they cannot be confused for snap shots. What is so arresting about this collection is that so much of it is untampered with in terms of retouching or Photoshop. These are photographs that are of the “warts and all” variety—none are truly disturbing unless you only seek perfect skin, unwrinkled faces, and not a pore in sight. Yes, you can see the powdered faces, crevices, and less than perfection, but this is reality in many ways and then there is some fantasy that comes along with it almost as a counterpoint to the hard truths as seen through his lens.

Be aware that the book is laser focused on images meaning not the clothes, not really even the models, though named here and there, this is all about that instant when you can almost hear the click of the shutter. The images are mesmerizing if not hypnotic. The reader will be totally drawn into this body of work that spans decades and only partially exhibits this man’s enormous gifts as a photographer.

Even the most seasoned fashionphile will get lost in the images and forget to even think of what designer, what ad, which model, or even when these photos were taken. This book clearly demonstrates that photography can be raised to an art form even when photographing fashion and beauty. Many of the images are timeless and none of them are banal.

This epic volume is aimed at those immersed in or even curious about fashion and photography. This is a spectacular coffee table book that will no doubt become rabbit eared after having been perused time after time and year after year.

Jeffrey Felner is a dedicated participant and nimble historian in the businesses of fashion and style. Decades of experience allow him to pursue almost any topic relating to fashion and style with unique insight and unrivaled acumen.

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Press Release: Royal Photographic Society

Published: 31 May 2016

Pictures the “world has never seen” before of Sir Paul and Linda McCartney found in the loft of one of the world’s most celebrated fashion and celebrity photographers, Clive Arrowsmith.

We are delighted to have an exclusive set of Paul and Linda McCartney photos for publication this April, which had been hidden away in the loft of celebrated photographer Clive Arrowsmith.

Clive Arrowsmith photography

On a recent lunch celebrating the release of Clive Arrowsmith’s critically acclaimed new book Arrowsmith: Fashion, Beauty and Portraits, Clive invited dear friend and fellow photographer Jeff Vickers (MBE, Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society) to his office to view some wonderful new pictures that he had recently unearthed from a search of his loft, which he hopes will form the foundation of his next book.

Jeff immediately knew these images where very special and set about organising an exclusive feature for The Journal, the magazine of The Royal Photographic Society of which Clive Arrowsmith is a member. To his amazement Clive realised that he had scanned some of the images in high definition years ago, and discovered many McCartney originals never published before. These three pictures will appear in the April edition of The RPS Journal, in a special music edition Edited by Gered Mankowitz (FRPS) the British photographer who made his name with his iconic pictures of Jimi Hendrix.

These images were taken at the end of a shoot for the Wings at the Speed of Sound (1976) album and during the photo session for Off the Ground in 1995. Clive explains that Paul asked the stylist to get some ‘fun costumes’ which judging from the photos the entire group enjoyed their dressing up session including Linda wearing a beard and the closeness of the McCartney marriage is clearly in evidence in the intimate couples portraits alongside the unseen photograph of Paul McCartney bungee jumping. All the photographs were taken on Clive’s favourite Hasselblad camera.

Clive says that finding the pictures has triggered a lot of happy memories for him. “They really capture the seminal moments of the shoot when it all came together. The fun we were all having, plus Paul and Linda’s closeness, it’s the naturalness of the pictures that is the key to their success.”

Andrew Cattanach: Editor of The Royal Photographic Society Journal says: “Clive Arrowsmith is one of the World’s most celebrated fashion and celebrity photographers who is held in very high regard amongst our members & in the Photographic world. I am delighted that we were able to include an interview with him in our April edition that he has allowed us to bring these images into the public domain.”

Footnote: Linda McCartney was a member of The Royal Photographic Society, as a professional photographer and had an exhibition at RPS Bath.

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Storyteller | Clive Arrowsmith

Published: 26 May 2016

‘Photography: my magnificent obsession’

Legendary photographer Clive Arrowsmith has been right at the epicentre of the worlds of fashion and music for decades. His work provides a telling insight into a remarkable period of change.

Clive Arrowsmith is the ultimate witness to the golden age of fashion and music that existed throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s – a man who not only documented some of its excesses but who also, along the way, starred in a few of them too. His pictures from that era reveal his closeness to some of the leading characters of the time, lending his work unique insight.

The biggest pop stars and celebrities of the day were not just his subjects but very often also his personal friends, and his favoured Hasselblad faithfully recorded the encounters and gave the rest of us a privileged view into the lives of those who fashioned those extraordinary times.

Now Clive has gone back through his archives to rediscover some of his best work, and much of it, along with his fascinating personal notes that tell the story behind each shoot, can be found in his latest book, a mighty and seminal tome entitled Arrowsmith: Fashion, Beauty and Portraits.

“I started out wanting to be an artist,” recalls Clive. “I did a foundation course in painting and design at Queensferry Art School, but at the weekends I would head to Liverpool because that’s where everything was happening. It was in an art school pub called The Crack that I met Stuart Sutcliffe [the original bass player for The Beatles]. He heard that I had nowhere to stay so he offered me a place to sleep at the ‘squat’ opposite Liverpool Cathedral that he was sharing with John, Paul and George. This was at the time when they were calling themselves The Quarrymen, and through that I eventually got to know them all.”

On leaving Queensferry Clive was awarded a scholarship by Kingston College of Art to study painting, illustration and graphic design. But after a brief stint of exclusively painting he found it impossible to make a living so he found a job working as an art director on the iconic Rediffusion Television/LWT music show: Ready, Steady, Go.

It was here that he first acquired an interest in photography, taking pictures behind the scenes as some of the legendary names of sixties pop passed through.

“Beatlemania was then at its height,” Clive recalls, “I had often said to my work colleagues that I knew The Beatles really well and no one believed me. Eventually they made their debut on the show and Paul came on to the studio floor, at which point one of the PA girls walked up to him and said, pointing at me: ‘He says he knows you’. Paul looked straight at me and exclaimed: ‘Spike (their nickname for me), what are you doing here? He insisted I go to the dressing room where John, Paul, George and Ringo were hanging out. After the show, we all got together and we then left them back at their hotel and I had all the buttons ripped off my clothes by the massive swarm of fans outside.”

Choosing a Camera

As his passion for photography developed Clive realised he needed a camera that matched his ambition, and it had to be a Hasselblad. “There was simply no competition,” he notes. “I saw a second-hand one in the window of a camera shop in The Strand in London and walked past it for three months before I managed to raise the deposit. Then I had to struggle to pay for it, but it was my ‘gun’ of choice and I was delighted with it. In fact I loved the camera so much I still own it.

“The quality you could get from the 2 ¼ square negative was extraordinary: even now when I look back at some of my early work, shot on Kodak’s ISO 32 fine grained Panatomic-X film, I can’t believe the detail that’s been captured. There’s a picture of Dame Sybil Thorndike, for example, where every line and every wrinkle in her face is revealed, and I remember spending all night in my darkroom and using up three boxes of paper before I achieved exactly the print I wanted.”

As with all of his other photographic skills, Clive taught himself how to print through trial and error, staying behind late at night for six months after Ready, Steady, Go had finished recording, to use the TV studio’s darkroom – until he finally got the hang of it all.

He broke all the rules with his approach to his craft simply because no one had ever explained what the rules actually were. And achieving the results he wanted in-camera, wherever possible, was one of his specialities long before the arrival of Photoshop allowed such trickery to be carried out in postproduction at the click of a mouse.

“My time as a painter taught me everything I needed to know about photography,” he says. “On one occasion I set up a line of three Hasselblads focused on different elements, each set against a black background. I then produced a triple exposure by shooting each individual object separately and not winding the camera on, instead taking the magazine off and exposing it in the next camera. Repeating this process and constantly checking with Polaroids took a whole day until I’d created the montage I’d conceived. No one else worked in this way at the time, but the approach seemed logical to me.

“I also paired a 150mm lens with my Hasselblad and would get low to the ground and look up at my subject so that it made them look taller and more elegant. This was not the accepted way of doing things at all. The fact that I’d never been an assistant helped because I hadn’t had anyone tell me what I should be doing. Plus, I was too headstrong and self-opinionated to listen to anyone else. I ended up doing things wrong 1,000 times before I got them right.”

An early fashion experience for Clive was a job to photograph the Royal College of Art fashion shows and then he started working for the iconic sixties magazine Nova, where his first job was to travel to the north of England to photograph ‘matchstick men’ painter, L. S. Lowry.

Following this he started to focus more on fashion photography and began working for Harpers & Queen.

His move onto English Vogue in 1970 was typical Clive serendipity, and followed a visit by Barney Wan (then art director of the magazine) and Grace Coddington (the fashion editor) to his house in Kensington to see his pictures and drawings.

The very next day the editor’s secretary was in touch, inviting Clive to come in to discuss his career with the magazine, and although he’d very much been thrown in at the deep end, he survived the experience and thrived, shooting fashion, beauty and portraits for the title for many years.

Getting the Look

Working with a medium format camera in an era where a more relaxed style of fashion photography had very much taken over from the staid and traditional approach that had previously been in Vogue might have been considered a challenge by some, but Clive triumphed by simply treating his Hasselblad as though it were a 35mm model. He worked off-tripod and encouraged those in front of the camera, such as his long time muse Ann Schaufuss, to jump, dance and move around as he followed, creating an exciting and fresh new look that was perfectly in tune with the times.

“I could wind my camera on faster than most motor drives could work,” he recalls, “and I would have an assistant loading backs for me so that I could change film really quickly and just keep shooting. Later on I also acquired some 220 backs that would give me 24 exposures on a roll of 220 film, and this meant that I could work even longer before changing backs – but you had to be really careful to load them properly. This did lead to a problem one time when I was photographing Yves Saint Laurent, because his agent had counted how many times I’d pressed the shutter and accused me of not having any film in the camera – because he couldn’t believe I was still firing!”

There have been innumerable highlights in what has been an extraordinary career, including shooting the classic cover for the Wings album ‘Band on the Run’ – a shoot that almost went horribly wrong when Clive used the wrong film stock. But he is also the only photographer to have shot the world famous Pirelli Calendar two years in a row. These commissions saw Clive thinking laterally in fine style once again, as he elected to work with an enormous tarpaulin light tent supported by scaffolding that surrounded the set on three sides, leaving the front and back open.

“I didn’t want to get any natural light falling on the models,” he says. “I wanted to use my own flash because that way you could see the landscape lit naturally through the studio structure while I could control the exposure on the model. We used a mobile generator to power the lights so that we could travel to more remote locations, and travelled with a truckload of props that had been manufactured for us by the Royal Opera House.”

Being in the middle of such an epoch-making period of change, Clive confesses he was not immune to its excesses.

He’s led a colourful life – married four times and father to seven children. He was also quite the party animal, but his hell-raising days effectively came to an end as he became more serious about Buddhism, and it was George Harrison who first introduced him to the Hindu path of meditation and Indian music.

It’s a regime that Clive has steadfastly maintained to this day and he’s gone on to regularly photograph His Holiness The Dalai Lama and others within the Buddhist movement such as Khyongla Rato Rinpoche, his Buddhist teacher, who he describes as “the most important man in my life.” He’s clearly very sincere in his beliefs and as he came to embrace his faith he gave up drinking and smoking and turned his life around.

Arrowsmith – Fashion, Beauty and Portraits is a sumptuous, eclectic collection of remarkable images celebrating the full gamut of what has been a remarkable journey. It’s been greeted by a host of glowing reviews, including one from the New York Review of Books that compared Clive to the likes of Avedon, Mapplethorpe and Ritts.

Now working on his second book, which is due to be published later this year, Clive sees no prospect of ever retiring from what he calls his “magnificent obsession,’ and he continues to search for that elusive perfect picture that he knows he’ll never take. “There’s always something you know you could have done just that little bit better,” he says, “and no photograph will ever be exactly right. If I ever did take the perfect shot then that would be the end: I’d have to stop because I wouldn’t ever be able to do it again, but that’s never going to happen.”

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