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 a smile. 

At an evening’s training I also discovered that schwingen is successfully fighting off computer games and youtube by attracting a new generation to it’s sawdust filled practice sessions. Youngsters full of testosterone grappled whilst their proud parents watched on, then later in the evening the men came to show the little ones how it’s really done. I got to capture it all, but thankfully managed to avoid being thrown to the floor. 

The current Schwingerkönig, Matthias Glarner, took time out of his routine to meet with us. He’s a calm and quiet man who works on the cable cars as a mechanic each morning, and trains hard each afternoon. We obviously took him to the top of a mountain for part of our photoshoot, before diving into the ring with him to see what he is really made of. Making swift work of his practice partner I could see the power and poise in this gent. This year he’s back from injury and eager to win another crown. But with many young men making their way up the Schwingen ranks eager for glory, it’s all to play for at this year’s championships. 

Massive thanks to Mike for helping make this happen, to Pete at Ink for the commission, and to the Bernese people for welcoming this strange English photographer into their world. 


 - 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...

Rob Brydon - The Sunday Times Magazine - Rob Brydon – The Sunday Times Magazine - Charlie Clift

Rob Brydon – The Sunday Times Magazine

What a lovely man Rob was to meet. He dived into our collaboration, telling me which ideas he liked and didn’t like, taking my suggestions, bettering them and giving me something extra. We chatted away all the time, and laughed a lot too. And yes, he did do his little man in a box voice – to the great delight of the small child who was on set accompanying Rob’s publicist. Hit up the link to read Charlotte Edwards interview⁠: LINK Big thanks to Russ for choosing me for this fun shoot, and to Olly Mayhall for assisting so beautifully.

 - Luciana Berger – The Sunday Times Magazine - Charlie Clift

Luciana Berger – The Sunday Times Magazine

‘Six people have been convicted of the racially aggravated harassment of Berger; two have gone to prison and there are more cases pending. It’s shocking to hear the stories that the kind and caring Lib Dems hopeful Luciana Berger tells about her experiences as an MP. Read the full interview in The Sunday Times Magazine by Caroline Scott: LINK

 - Oaxaca – Conde Nast Traveller - Charlie Clift

Oaxaca – Conde Nast Traveller

“Away from the well-trodden streets of the old town, and far from the warm glow of the lanterns at Pitiona, the Mexican state of Oaxaca reveals its true flavour to the traveller. Especially the hungry one…” I travelled to Oaxaca in Mexico with writer Olga Dziewulska, to eat the incredible food that the region is so famous for and to meet and photograph its amazing people. Head over to the Conde Nast Traveller website to discover more: LINK

John McDonnell - The Sunday Times Magazine - John McDonnell – The Sunday Times Magazine - Charlie Clift

John McDonnell – The Sunday Times Magazine

A couple of weeks ago I headed to Hayes to get to know the real John McDonnell. The man behind Labour’s financial plans with huge plans to alter the UK’s economy.  Will he become the next Chancellor of the Exchequer? We he really nationalise broadband? Does he carry a copy of the Little Red Book with him? And does he have any Tory friends in Parliament? Check out Decca Aitkenhead’s interview in the Sunday Times Magazine to find out: LINK Big thanks to Russ for the fascinating assignment and to Oliver Mayhall for assisting me so beautifully.

 - 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...