If and when we as writers ever become famous, I hope we will have photographers wanting to take pics of us like the rich and famous have done for years. One photographer who has brushed shoulders with stars for nearly four decades is the very talented, Rosie Still. I am so delighted that she has taken time out of her very busy schedule to talk on my Blog. And I've got my best smile plastered on my face, just in case the camera swings my way!OK Rosie, let's get snapping!"
Rosie, please tell us the names of some of the famous you have photographed
Having been in the business for over 38 years now I’ve photographed a lot of famous people. Back in the 70 & 80s I got to photograph The Jacksons, Queen, Alvin Stardust, Suzi Quatro, Kylie Minogue, Whitney Houston, … the list is endless, but besides musicians, I’ve worked with Victoria Wood, Stephanie Cole (currently Roy Cropper’s Mum in Corrie), Pauline Quirke (Emmerdale) and more recently Michelle Hardwick (The Royal).
An impressive line up there, but how did you get into photographing such famous people?
Back in the early 70s I was a hospital radio DJ and I decided that I’d like to spice up my programme a bit by including interviews with celebrities. Glenda Jackson was a local lady and had just been voted “Actress of the Year” and she invited me to her house. After the interview she asked if I’d considered doing interviewing professionally, which at the time I hadn’t. A couple of weeks later after interviewing the then virtually unknown Joanna (Absolutely Fabulous!) Lumley, she asked the same question. To cut a long story short I wrote up my next interview and sent it to all the women’s magazines. The editor of Annabel magazine (based in Dundee) was coming to London and asked to meet me.
A few weeks later I got a letter from Ken Gordon, Editor of Diana magazine (the slightly younger sister to Jackie magazine) asking if I’d be interested in interviewing pop stars & celebrities for his magazine. It took me all of half a second to decide!
In the meantime I’d bought a second-hand camera with a telephoto lens and suggested to Ken that maybe I could photograph as well as interview them. He thought that was great, but I hadn’t told him that I’d not finished a roll of film, so I didn’t even know if it worked properly …
The rest of this story and many many more can be found in my book “Still photographing the Rich … the famous … and the wannabes!” … how’s that for a plug!
I must admit though that Jim and I became good friends over the years and he was such a help to me. He had a programme called “Speak Easy”, where he’d have an audience and on the stage a panel of experts (depending on the subject matter) and throughout the programme a singer or band would perform two or three times. Jimmy suggested that I went along there during the day when they were rehearsing and did interviews and took photos. So I got to meet a lot of big stars of the time, that I may not have got the opportunity to meet anywhere else.
Although I continued with Diana I also was asked to work for other teenage magazines such as Jackie, Blue Jeans, Patches, Shout, Catch …. And I’d also take surplus slides along to IPC for them to keep on their files and I gradually had several front covers and centre spreads in their publications.
Also, by working for so many magazines I got to work with the same celebrities over and over again and people like Alvin Stardust and Suzi Quatro became good friends, so it was never like working ….. it was just such good fun.
When did the Pop sessions end?
When the Punk era came in, although I did a few like Blondie, The Damned, etc ‘Glam Rock’ was dying out and I was starting to lose a bit of interest. Also by then IPC was doing the famous ‘photo stories’! For those of you who don’t know what they are. They are cartoon stories, but instead of being drawn they have real people posing the shots with speech bubbles. I just happened to ask one of my editors if D C Thomson was thinking of doing them …… and I ended up doing them for 18 years, and for about 10 different magazines. When I stopped doing them it was like being released from prison and I finally got my life back again!! It was good money and regular work but it was hard work and although fun at the time, when the last of the magazines finally died it was almost a relief.
Is it right that you were the Jazz trumpeter/ Radio 4 presenter, Humphrey Lyttelton’s personal photographer?
Yes. I happened to be strolling through my local village in 1984 when I bumped into the late Ted Taylor (Benny Hill’s musical associate & owner of the local recording studio). I’d known his family for years and we started chatting. When he found out that I had my own photographic studio he asked for my number and said he’d be in touch. A few days later he called and asked if I would do some shots in his studio and also mine for an album that was being recorded by Humphrey Lyttelton and Helen Shapiro. I did, Humph, Helen & I hit it off instantly and I ended up doing all his sessions for the next 24 years until he died in 2008.
How did you move on to photographing actors and drama students?
Helen Shapiro is married to the actor John Judd and I started doing his Spotlight shots in 1986. He then suggested that I should use my studio for more than just photo stories (I faked a lot of locations there … from disco, café, classroom, shops, etc with a lot of props!) and Humph’s sessions, as he felt I had a gift for acting headshots. So I put an advert in the Stage and then later Contacts and although I do virtually any type of studio session, my speciality and favourite sessions are definitely acting shots. I guess I like looking at people’s faces. And since going digital it’s become so much easier (and no smelly darkroom chemicals any more!) as my clients can see instantly that they are getting the results they came for.
Have you had many famous people in your studio?
Apart from Alvin, Dollar, Squeeze, and a few other musicians of the 80s, Humph and all his Jazz celebrities, I tend to have more of the up and coming actors and drama students. But having said that, Bella Emberg, Liz Fraser, Gabrielle Bradshaw, Charlie Clements, Christopher Parker, Chris Jarvis, Zoe Heyes (London’s Burning & She’s Out) and also Maureen Sweeney (She’s Out, Only Fools & Horse, etc) have all been here. But Michelle Hardwick who I mentioned earlier was a real thrill for me.
I’d recently joined Twitter and I was being followed by Steve Huison (Eddie Windass in Coronation Street) and although I’ve still not met him, we exchanged quite a few Direct Messages and it turned out that he used to go to Rose Bruford, which is a drama school near me, and went past my house every day! I was currently updating my website and Steve tweeted to promote my work. Michelle saw this tweet and checked out for herself and a few weeks later drove 197 miles (and back again) to my studio for her current Spotlight pictures. We’ve now become good friends and hopefully very shortly her friend Venetia Deane (another actress/singer) will be doing the same journey for her new publicity shots. I’m also hoping that one day Steve will come here for his.
Talking of Twitter I believe that Fat Brenda is a friend of yours. Apparently she works on the switchboard at Street Cars in Coronation Street. She certainly keeps me amused on Twitter. Have you ever photographed her?
Fat Brenda! Another lady that I met on Twitter thanks to the lovely Steve Huison. She’s the unseen hero of Coronation Street who the characters Lloyd and Steve have mentioned a few times recently. But none of us know a great deal about Brenda, but we all love her to pieces, mostly for her outspoken manner. I’ve offered her a free photo shoot if she’s willing to travel down from Manchester to London, but it hasn’t happened yet. We actually spoke about her doing a nude centrefold, but she was worried that my studio wouldn’t be warm enough and that she’d freeze her bits off! But I did reassure her that the heating would be full on! She’s hoping to come down here one day with Steve Huison (who, between you and me and her thousands of twitter fans, she’s in love with) so I’ll keep you updated.
Tell us a bit more about your book.
Unfortunately I did a bit of a silly thing. I wrote it after I’d been in the business for 25 years and got several famous people … some of whom I’ve mention before … to kindly write something about me in their own handwriting to be included in it. It’s a book full of anecdotes rather than a photographic book, but when I finished it I hadn’t a clue what to do next.
I didn’t approach any publishers or agents …. I didn’t know which ones to go to … and instead I saw an ad in the paper asking for new writers, new manuscripts, etc. To cut a long story short, they were a self-publishing company. I would like to stress that I’ve absolutely nothing against self-publishing companies, but this unfortunately was the wrong road for me to go down. The quality of the pictures is dire and it was a case of here’s your book … now go and sell it. I did several radio and newspaper interviews – which I arranged myself and several celebrities, including Alvin, Humph, Helen, John, Chris Jarvis and actress Claire Oberman, came to my launch, which again I had to organise.
I’ve got about 600 copies in my loft that I bought back from them, so I sell them to clients or when I give talks, but I wish now that, as it includes so many celebrities in it, that I’d done it differently. Since scanning 31 years of negatives and slides, for talks and my new website, I feel that maybe I should give it another go with all my new material. But it’s all down to time, which I seem to have so little of, and really I’d have to know that at the end of it I can get it published … who knows, one day.
Tell me about your new website
For years I had a basic ‘lite site’, but early last year, I decided that I should include slide shows on it rather than just have a few pages of selected pictures. Unfortunately the site was too ‘lite’ and the only way I could do this was to teach myself how to create a website totally from scratch and do it myself. I finally, after about 8 months, got it up and running ….. but still something wasn’t right, so recently I took it off line for 3 weeks and totally revamped it and now I’m happy with it. I’ve tried to include as much as I can of the past as I can, so you can see a lot of famous faces on my Celebrities, Music and Jazz pages. On my About Rosie page I’ve included some of the written pieces that are in my book and also pictures of me with celebrities.
I should stress that I hate being in front of the camera, so I have a lot of sympathy for people who quake at photo shoots. I like to make the sessions fun and fortunately a lot of my clients come back over and over again to keep their pictures up to date.
Hope I’ve not bored you too much!
And Rosie Still …. Yes, Still is my real surname, so I guess I was destined from birth to become a ‘still’ photographer!!!
Thank you Rosie for coming along and sharing your photographic years with us, I know of all the people you have snapped away at, what a line up. I just want to wish you many more years ensuring the rich and famous keep saying cheese into your camera lens! I'm practising, just in case...laugh!
Please visit Rosie's web site to see some of the amazing photographs she has taken. http://www.rosiestillphotography.co.uk/
Rosie is also found chatting on Twitter most days!mailto:days!@rosie391