Wednesday, 29 April 2009

On snapping celebrities in the street

Some people have remarked on my increasing collection of celebrity shots as if it were unusual for an amateur to go chasing the Z-list. In fact, I don't. In every single case I've stumbled across that particular celeb in the middle of doing a piece to camera, a promo video or interview of some kind, or in the case of Dustin Hoffman, reshooting the end of a major Hollywood movie on the South Bank.

Most people don't see or, at least, notice celebrities in public. I think it's mostly because we don't expect to see them out and about on the street. But you're far more likely to spot one if you look at everyone you pass. Seems pretty obvious really, doesn't it? And if your camera is always on and ready you stand a good chance of bagging a shot, especially if your walkaround lens has a longish zoom.

Sometimes when I spot a celeb I watch them and the people around them. Passers-by barely glance at the celeb and, if they do, they don't seem to register who it was they just looked at. I once watched Peter Stringfellow walk a few hundred yards down St Martin's Lane, in which is situated his eponymous nightclub. Now he's not exactly the least recognisable person around (check Google Images) and yet no one seemed to notice him. Maybe they did but thought it uncool to stare. Maybe they didn't want to notice Peter Stringfellow.

Of course, keeping my eyes open, I've bumped into a few celebs when I didn't have my camera with me. Almost literally bumped. In my local Pret cafe one day I grabbed my sandwich and started to back away from the display shelves and almost trod on the foot of actress Sally Phillips (Green Wing, Smack The Pony). I didn't have my camera and it's a shame because she's prettier in real life than on the box. In any case, I really wouldn't expect to see Sally Phillips in Pret; I imagine her as far more likely to be hidden away in celebrity haunt The Ivy (no slur on Sally intended).

Many years before I got interested in photography, I found myself crossing the road next to the (somewhat diminutive) comedian Ronnie Corbett. I almost missed seeing him. I did my usual 'look right, left, then right again' (we baby boomers grew up before the Green Cross Code man did) and thought I was the only person crossing. Then I did a 'look right, left, down...' and there he was.

So, lesson learnt. If you want to snap celebs in the street (or Trafalgar Square, or the South Bank) remember: keep looking at everyone around you, and do remember to look down now and again. Not just in case Ronnie's about; you never know, you might be standing next to Tom Cruise...

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