I was fortunate enough to be Brian Aris' assistant at the wedding of David Bowie and Iman in Florence, Italy in 1992. I was assigned to the 3 day trip travelling to Florence not knowing what the job entailed until we got on the plane. No social media or camera phones in those days to guess rumours what the assignment was. We landed in Florence with all the equipment and customs insisted everything was x rayed including the film, Brian was not happy as it is not advisable to x ray film. We arrived at the hotel which David and Iman had completely hired out with other wedding guests staying there. Brian requested we check the film by taking some pictures and having it processed locally. Keeping the results from Brian, the night before the wedding we slid coloured warm up gels into the 120 transparency film sheets to give the impression that the film was significantly affected by the x rays. Brian flipped but the joke was immediately exposed. The morning of the wedding we were required to cover the church with bed sheets from the hotel which looked appalling, this was to protect any paparazzi pictures leaking to the press as the deal was exclusive to Hello Magazine.
One picture managed to get out which Brian was very concerned about but fortunately it only reached the local newspaper. It was probably snapped by a security guard after the ceremony outside the church inside where the bed sheets that were hanging, Brian was extremely concerned about paparazzi pictures being taken, even at the hotel the day before we would flank David and Iman with large unfolding reflectors as they walked between buildings in the grounds of the hotel. I was on the coach with Yoko Ono, Bianca Jagger and Eric Idle who were travelling from the hotel to the church.
I also worked with Brian Aris photographing David Bowie with Tin Machine in Ireland. Tom Cruise arrived just as the shoot finished to jam with David Bowie.
Legendary photographer David Steen I knew and worked with in the late 80's - early 90's passed away aged 79. November 2015. Pulling up in his dark brown 500sl Mercedes
Legendary Photographer Terence Donovan 1936 - 1996. I worked with Terence Donovan on a number of occasions in the late 80's early 90's. He gave me a weeks wages as a tip one day. At the time he was photographing Ronnie Barker in London for a large production on a weekend when everything was closed in EC1, I was only 16 at the time and I was left single handedly responsible in the studio for such a production . I personally provided him, his crew and Mr Barker with a cooked breakfast, demands for the most comfortable chair for Mr Barker and a slight breeze for Mr Barker when he was resting whilst providing the normal studio assistance required. Mr Donovan had parked his convertible Bentley locally not knowing that he could have parked at the premises that weekend. I was informed to call him Terence and not Terry. I recall him answering the studio telephone with a dominant and intimidating "SPEAK". He would wear the same dark grey suit on every occasion but then discovered he had bought multiple of the same suit. His most important pieces were his light meters (several Minolta 3's at the time) which would be kept in the studio safe during his lengthy productions. I met Princess Diana's hairdresser (Richard Dalton) while working in Los Angeles, he told me that Terence once approached him quite apprehensively after Diana had arrived for a photoshoot asking where the F*** is the hairdresser. Mr Dalton delayed the obvious response for sometime then submitted he was the f*****g hairdresser..." I thought you were F*****g security replied Mr Donovan. His personal assistant when i knew him was Steve Galetely.
I was present at a speech Mr Donovan made at the Barbican in the early 90's....."I could speak for a long time about f16 but f8 I am a bit unfamiliar" this was very humorous. He also told the story of working for Italian Vogue. In the hope of being paid he sent a single scratched transparancy from the shoot to their offices with the statement "you send me my fee and I will send the rest of the pictures". no one else could get away with that especially today
On another occasion Mr Donovan had had a complete pub with bar built in the studio and I was asked to set a a Strobe strip flash light up in the adjacent studio at least 10 metres away...this was to give the best lighting possible for the pint placed on the bar (no CGI or Photoshop in that day)
Dave Cecil. Strobe Equipment. London. Contact Tel: (in those days) 01 253 0791
STROBE EQUIPMENT (London) Ltd was designed and built by Dave
Cecil. Their workshops and sales/display studio in Station Chambers, Turnmill
Street, London adjacent to the side exit of Farringdon Underground Station.
STROBE went out of business in the recession of the early 1990's
but was reorganised in another part of London by David Cecils' son and the
company renamed STROBEX. Probably a fall in equipment sales in the later part of
the 1980's, resulting from high tech competitors such as Elinchrom and Broncolor
The units that most photographers in London would remember are
the 1000 packs, 5000 consoles and the 824 so called “portable” location packs.
Be aware that each unit manufactured by STROBE Equipment is probably unique and has to be serviced using its own dedicated service manual and diagrams - unless you are John Kent of Luminary Lighting, London. He worked at STROBE in his youth and is probably the only guy on the planet who has the sanity and experience to repair this equipment. David Cecil always claimed that any competent TV engineer could repair his equipment. A fact that bears some truth to it but reflects a bygone era of valves and relay switches.
The only other manufacturer of high tension electronic flash
that I am aware of was BEE, made in Germany during the 1980's (sold by Keith
Johnson, Gt Marlborough Street, London who also briefly acted as a STROBE
agent), expensive, massive and beautifully finished but not as versatile or as
hard wearing as STROBE.
John Kent, Luminary Lighting, London. He once worked at STROBE EQUIPMENT and still repairs their units. He advised me that the trigger voltage was 400 volts on the older 1000 packs and 5000 consoles and 30 volts on the newer 5000 City and 824 location packs. Mechanical shutters have no problem coping with these voltages but I would advise using a slave to trigger STROBE units when using a modern digital camera.
John Shenton Photographer. Died age 55 in a scuba-diving accident 2002. A colleague of mine. He worked as a Fleet Street photographer for over 30 years joining the Sunday Mirror in 1972
Stevie Hughes. I knew and worked with Stevie in the late 80's and his assistant Jonathon Bookallil. The multitalented fashion photographer and former makeup artists. He styled music videos for Roxy Music "Don't Stop The Dance" and appeared in Culture Club "War Song" video. He was also Boy George's long term make up artists. He shot Yasmin Le Bon a number of times in the mid-late 80's. Stevie Hughes died of AIDS in 1992
Keith Johnson Photographic (or Keith Johnson and Pelling (after taking over Pelling and Cross)) in Great Marlborough St. (bought out by Calumet) Keith Johnson was a major player in the photographic industry, sold out to Calumet in the 1995. He purchased a large vinyard I believe in the south and Ironically I recall he wanted to sell rolls of film to the visitors he had but was restricted in this by his contract on the sale of KJP to Calumet not to sell film in the future!
Leeds Cameras in the Brunswick Centre. In my teens I remember driving Anthony Armstrong-Jones (Lord Snowdon) to this major photographic suppliers, while driving him in a Mini, he informed me that he had an input into the Austin Mini's window design. Leeds Cameras WC1 was a seriously professional suppliers run by Dave Halliday? It was not unusual to see the like of Bailey, Donovan and Lichfield there.
Linda McCartney 1941 - 1998. She had her photographic offices in N1 known as MPL. Nick Clark her personal assistant at the time was my mentor/colleague in the mid 80's. I approached Nick when Linda passed away for some comments for the Sunday Mirror where I was Studio photographer at the time but Nick was loyal to the end.