Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester
British GQ

“Westminster is dysfunctional. I don’t miss it in the slightest. It’s just poisonous right now.” Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, photographed for British GQ. I’ve had the chance to photograph quite a few politicians and they often put on a face for the media. Andy was nothing like that. Mainly keen to find out about my assistant and I, he seemed eager to make us feel at home even thought we had just turned his office upside down to make our studio. A passionate lover of football I got the impression he doesn’t really enjoy his status and is more at home in the stands alongside everyone else. But with status comes power and he is eager to make a difference. When I brought up the topic of homelessness he was frank and forthright – he wants to end homelessness in Manchester and is doing everything he can to stop it.

Massive thanks to Anna, Robin, Anna and Keith at British GQ for the commission and to the Mayor and his team for being so friendly and helpful.

 - Project Isolation – Zebedee Models and Germaine Walker - Charlie Clift

Project Isolation – Zebedee Models and Germaine Walker

How do you photograph someone if you can’t meet them? My awesome agent Germaine Walker put me in touch with Zebedee Management to take part in Project Isolation, a project that required me to do just that. Photographing over FaceTime or Zoom I “met” three of Zebebee’s awesome models. First up was Jake. We dived into a totally new way of working, and a great fun collaborative process. I found that the restrictions from shooting remotely spurred creativity in me. I couldn’t use fancy lighting or complicated production, so I chose to simply concentrate on what was happening in the frame – to play with concepts and ideas and to be fully open to what Jake brought to the shoot. Jake and his Dad got really involved in our shoot – they turned a bedroom into a wonderful white studio space, all monotone. This looked fantastic and really gave us...

 - Olga – in my home studio - Charlie Clift

Olga – in my home studio

Keep on creating. Even if you’re not sure if you have space give it a go. I’ve been in lockdown for a while now and I wasn’t sure if I’d have room in the little office in our flat to put a backdrop up and make a studio, but I gave it a try. It turns out a backdrop support can just fit across the back wall if I rested one of the stands on top of my desk. So I hung some old cloth over it and it looked great – a nice little studio space. A doorway is the perfect thing to create a strip of light. So I popped a flash just outside the room then nearly closed the door and ‘voila’ a beautiful strip of warm glowing light. The perfect thing to play with. When I squeezed up against the opposite wall I had just about...

 - Lockdown self portrait - Charlie Clift

Lockdown self portrait

When there’s no-one else to photograph, photograph yourself. I had been wanting to experiment with this idea for a photograph for little while and in lockdown I’ve found the time, it’s just there’s no-one else to photograph so I decided to step into the frame myself, something I very rarely do. I created a little studios in the living room of our little flat in London and set up to create this abstract and colourful look. It’s made with just one light shot through a gobo with a lens to focus it. I made a custom insert for the gobo by sticking bits of coloured gels together, inspired a little by Mondrian. Then I fired it at my face. Another piece of red gel helped make the wall behind me red, and that’s it. It’s strange being in front rather than behind the lens, but one mustn’t stop creating just...

Coca Cola - Coca Cola and the Premier League – M&C Saatchi - Charlie Clift

Coca Cola and the Premier League – M&C Saatchi

Here is new campaign for Coca Cola to promote their sponsorship of the Premier League. Look out for it on a billboard near you. I lost my voice shooting this one, cheering along encouraging the best celebrations from our actors. We create both the print campaign as well as moving image content for digital use. Check it out below. Big props to the incredible people M&C Saatchi London for the commission and huge thanks to the brilliant team who helped this come together: actors Fay Jagger, Joey Bevan and Amron Adams, my awesome agent and producer Germaine Walker and her team, DOP and lighting guru Matt Barlow, digi tech Seb Niespialowski, assistants Max Barlow and Andrew Gloss, hair and make up Michele Rowbotham, props and wardrobe Katie Cordell, and food and drink stylist Tanya Sadourian. It takes a team!  

Jeremy Clarkson - The Sunday Times Magazine - Jeremy Clarkson – The Sunday Times Magazine - Charlie Clift

Jeremy Clarkson – The Sunday Times Magazine

There’s nothing quite like a deadline to sharpen your senses and force you to make quick decisions. I had been given 5 minutes with Jeremy Clarkson, with about 2 minutes to set up. After darting around Jeremy’s garden I was shown to his office where I found a simple wooden wall – the perfect backdrop. We rushed to gather the vegetables which would be our props, leaving potatoes rolling down the driveway behind us. Seconds later Jeremy strolled up. It was amazing to see him change in front of a lens: from a slightly hung-over man announcing from the start that that he doesn’t like photoshoots, into a professional, seasoned presenter. Who knew one could be so expressive with a carrot? After multiple carrot munching photos I started piling vegetables high in his arms, encouraging more brilliant expressions and keeping the energy high. Then we dropped everything and rushed out...

First Minister for Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon - The Sunday Times Magazine - Nicola Sturgeon – The Sunday Times Magazine - Charlie Clift

Nicola Sturgeon – The Sunday Times Magazine

  How do you go about preparing to photograph the First Minister of Scotland? As always I dived straight in, throwing many many ideas into my sketchbook, tearing through artbooks, flicking through photobooks, looking for thoughts that would lodge themselves into my head and not go away. I knew I’d be shooting in Bute House, the First Minister’s official residence, it’s not everyday you get to poke your lens around somewhere like that – the house had to feature. But how to frame up in such a place? My mind started flicking though a mental scrapbook – from Leibovitz’s images of the Queen, via Rembrandt’s portraits and Velázquez’s Las Meninas. I wanted to reference centuries of pictures of states-people. But I also wanted to make my photographs of Sturgeon more approachable, more intimate, less staid. When we walked into the Drawing Room of Bute House, light was spilling in through...

Matt Tomlinson - recipient of Conspicuous Gallantry Cross and Military Cross - Tribute Ink exhibition in London – The National Army Museum - Charlie Clift

Tribute Ink exhibition in London – The National Army Museum

Tribute Ink is open until 17th of April in the National Army Museum in London. Do head on down to see the stories behind the tattoos and to learn about the history of tattoos. Also – if you’re around on the 4th of March we will be holding a special evening event at the NAM – do come on down then to say hello. It’s been such an honour to be involved in this fascinating and moving project, massive thanks to Royal British Legion for asking me to photograph it for them. To see the whole project click here: LINK To find out more about the exhibition head over the the NAM’s website: LINK

 - Fora co-founder Katrina Francis – Tortoise - Charlie Clift

Fora co-founder Katrina Francis – Tortoise

This awesome woman started her career by creating The Big Chill. She has moved on to making workplaces that give us more. Thanks for welcoming me into Fora Borough Katrina, it was great spending an hour chatting with you about everything from creativity and mental health to great food and good music.

 - Dancers Erina Takahashi and James Streeter – The Sunday Times Magazine - Charlie Clift

Dancers Erina Takahashi and James Streeter – The Sunday Times Magazine

It was fascinating to work with people who were so aware of their own bodies whilst I was photographing them. Both Erina and James were very involved in the process, often asking to see the photographs we were making and adapting their poses and movements to make them better. It was a wonderful collaboration. Plus they were wearing the most amazing costumes from the English National Ballet’s production of the Nutcracker, I couldn’t quite believe how incredible they looked.

 - Adam Kay – Promotional images for Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas - Charlie Clift

Adam Kay – Promotional images for Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas

It was great to meet this dry witty ex-doctor last time I photographed him in 2017 for the magazine – at the time I don’t think either of us realised he would go on to sell over 1.5 million copies of his book “This is Going to Hurt” and have it translated into 35 languages. Having now read that book I can’t think of one more deserving of the success – it is not only hilarious but also highlights the incredible work NHS staff do every day. Of course, as the book is about Adam’s days as a junior doctor the first time I photographed him I covered him in blood. This time I was photographing him to promote his new book “Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas” and he arrived with a custom set of red scrubs that had Santa Claus fur detailing. The photos were shot for his PR...