Magic of the marquee

 

Personal projects are the lifeblood of being a photographer, you can experiment and play with new ways of making pictures and let your creativity run free. These projects can be both big and small – some require you to dedicate years of your life to them LINK, and others you can shoot in a single evening. I was walking past Brockwell park one lunchtime when I saw the huge marquees of Zippos Circus sprawled across the green. The creative juices were clearly flowing as an idea sprung out like a clown on a pogo stick… who are the people who live and work in a circus like that? Wouldn’t it be fascinating to take the portraits of the people behind the magic. With just my camera I turned up later that evening and captured the people behind the tent’s curtains.

The show was truly spectacular, such a joy to watch. Massive thanks to Zippos Circus and all the performers I had the pleasure to photograph.

 - Hideo Kojima and Nicolas Winding Refn – BAFTA Photography Collection - Charlie Clift

Hideo Kojima and Nicolas Winding Refn – BAFTA Photography Collection

Hideo Kojima is regarded as the first auteur of the gaming world, he is lauded for his Metal Gear series. I photographed him for BAFTA on the release day of his much anticipated new game Death Stranding. Alongside Kojima I also photographed the film director Nicolas Winding Refn, who appears in the new game as one of the characters. I started the shoot by showing each of them the sketches and references I wanted to work from. They both got totally involved, each doing their best to create the shapes and feelings I was after. It was such a pleasure to collaborate with them. Massive thanks for Claire and Jordan at BAFTA for making this to happen, and to Olly Mayhall and Ollie Tomlinson for assisting so beautifully.

 - Jay Rayner – The Observer Food Monthly - Charlie Clift

Jay Rayner – The Observer Food Monthly

What does a food critic cook for his Christmas dinner? It’s a question Jay Rayner gets every year in the lead up to the big event, people just can’t help but ask. So he wrote and article about his formula for the perfect Christmas meal. Find out Jay’s formula here: LINK

Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer - The Sunday Times Magazine - Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer – The Sunday Times Magazine - Charlie Clift

Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer – The Sunday Times Magazine

  Some portrait photoshoots are battles, and others are collaborations. When I photographed Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer for The Sunday Times Magazine it was wonderfully collaborative. I shared my ideas, they discussed them with great insight, then they dived into the process with open hearts. I could’t believe my luck the moment I arrived – the location was incredible. They had arranged for us to shoot in their friend’s flat in Camden and every room had overflowing bookshelves from floor to ceiling – the perfect space for such erudite individuals. We dived into the shoot, Neil and Amanda enjoying a moment of peace in their busy lives, an occasion to cuddle and laugh together. We were also short walk from Camden lock. I had scouted it out prior to the shoot and thought it would look great so after shooting inside we walked on over. I was slightly concerned about how much attention...

 - Home Schooling – The Sunday Times Magazine - Charlie Clift

Home Schooling – The Sunday Times Magazine

One night, after the museum closed, we descended on the Horniman in South London. Surrounded by stuffed animals and skeletons we set up our lights, the building creaking as it settled around us. It was quite the stage for Antonella and her daughter Bethesda. We were illustrating home schooling for an article Antonella has written in the Sunday Times Magazine. One of the main advantages of home schooling is that they visit museums, galleries and other places regularly as part of Bethesda’s education – and the hall of skeletons in the Horniman seemed liked the perfect example of this. Massive thanks to Russ for finding such a great location, to Emma Leon for the great hair and make up, and to Antonella and Bethesda for being totally into the shoot.

Grace Warwick - Tortoise - Grace Warwick campaigns against ageism – Tortoise - Charlie Clift

Grace Warwick campaigns against ageism – Tortoise

“Every society needs its elders, and we deny our need for them at our peril.” Grace Warwick suffered a serious and life-threatening reaction while dyeing her hair in 2012. When she started to let it grow out she ‘discovered quite quickly that many people thought that it wasn’t okay’. People tried to “save” her repeatedly and felt able to comment openly on her choice to let her grey hair show. ‘On a particularly blustery school run, a male acquaintance asked me when I was going to cut my hair off as “no one wants to see grey hair flying in the wind.”’ Grace now campaigns as a pro age activist. It was wonderful photographing Grace for this article, celebrating her grey hair and discussing our obsession with youth. You can read or listen to Grace’s fascinating article on Tortoise now: LINK Massive thanks to Jon Jones for the commission and...

Natwest - Natwest Campaign – M&C Saatchi London - Charlie Clift

Natwest Campaign – M&C Saatchi London

Whilst the wind smashed our lights around outside, and our brave assistants stood in the downpour holding them in place, the artificial sun streamed through the windows and made us feel positively delightful. Continuous light is strange like that, it really does trick the eye. We were shooting Fergus, our model, who was being shocked. You see some cheeky child (really a very talent make up artist) had gone and drawn on him, and he was a bit too embarrassed to visit the bank. Thankfully Natwest offers loads of other ways to manage your money. For those geeks amongst you the light was simple: as we were shooting moving image as well as stills so everything had to be continuous. Thus we put two massive “sun” lights outside and fired them through the window with warm gels on them to make it feel like morning light. Then added a bit...

 - Jo Swinson – British GQ - Charlie Clift

Jo Swinson – British GQ

  “I think that our politics and the public need a clear choice of a party that is unequivocally backing remaining in the European Union.” It was an wonderful to meet and photograph Jo Swinson, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, for British GQ. From discussing the depths of Brexit to her love of ice cream I was captured by her enthusiasm. You can read her interview with Alistair Campbell on the GQ site: LINK

Michael Bell - Navy Diver - Tribute Ink Exhibition – Tattoos in the Military - Charlie Clift

Tribute Ink Exhibition – Tattoos in the Military

Have you ever thought about the stories behind someone’s tattoos? Tribute Ink is a photography exhibition I created with the Royal British Legion to tell to the personal stories of tattoos in the military featuring both serving personnel and veterans from from the British Army, the Royal Navy, and the Royal Air Force. Curated in partnership with the National Memorial Arboretum and The Ministry of Defence, Tribute Ink opens to the public on Friday 13th of September on site at the Arboretum in Staffordshire. It wasn’t always easy hearing the stories behind the tattoos. Some have chosen to have the names of friends who died whilst serving inked into their skin, like Paul Glazebrook who has six large dog tags tattooed across his back, or Matt Tomlinson who has the ten names of those who died along side him during his time in Afghanistan and Iraq permanently in his skin....

 - Schwingen, the art of Swiss wrestling – EasyJet Traveller - Charlie Clift

Schwingen, the art of Swiss wrestling – EasyJet Traveller

“The trick is to use power, strength and strategy to pin an opponent to the ground”  Every August the hardest men in Switzerland wrestle to be crowned the king of schwingen, or Schwingerkönig. The prize should they win: glory, respect, and a bull (or if they prefer some cash). EasyJet Traveller sent writer Mike MacEacheran and I deep into the Bernese Alps to find out more about their wrestling tradition. There are no professionals in this sport, even the top champions work part time as mechanics, cheesemakers, farmers or butchers. But they are dedicated sportsmen, squatting 200kg in the gym, training daily, never tiring of having their faces squished into the sawdust whilst practicing techniques. It’s a brutal sport fought by men with beautiful manners – after each epic fight lasting 8 minutes with no breaks they stand up, brush the dust off their clothes and then shake hands with...

 - Cassandra Stavrou and her mum Dania – The Sunday Times Magazine - Charlie Clift

Cassandra Stavrou and her mum Dania – The Sunday Times Magazine

I was asked to photograph the founder of Propercorn Cassandra Stavrou and her mother Dania for The Sunday Times Magazine’s Relative Values. Your mind begins to conjure up exciting ideas – most of which require two tonnes of popcorn…But in the end I decided to create some classic portraits that show the genuine love between a mother and daughter who have been through a lot together. It was also important to capture the fun spirit of Cassandra and her mum. So I teamed up with stylist Frederica Lovell-Pank and we covered them head to toe in red to create some highly charged and colourful images. Thanks for the commission Emily McBean.