Some photographers dread shooting demanding people, but Alistair Morrison relishes the challenge.
He has spent 40 years shooting celebrities and has captured everyone from Dame Judi Dench to Bruce Springsteen with his lens.
“It might not sound like fun, but anyone who is very difficult is always great,” the London-based portrait photographer said.
“Psychologically, you have to try and get them around. If you get a good photo out of them, you feel you have conquered.”
He recalled one memorable shoot with acting legend Bette Davis.
“She was fascinating,” he said. “When I photographed her at the Savoy Hotel in London, she had this little salvo of cigarettes and she smoked in that very flamboyant Hollywood way. I had to get her approval of the photos.
“The next day I came back and she had some scissors and an eye loupe on the table. I said: ‘What are those for?’ And she said: ‘How many pictures do you need, Alistair?’ I said: ‘Six, Ms Davis’. She said that was what she was going to give me.
“She proceeded to look at them and gave me the six that I wanted. She cut out the rest. She took an hour to do it. I was 24, and that was probably two years before she died.”
Since then he has exhibited worldwide. Eighty-two of his portraits are displayed in London’s National Portrait Gallery. Actors’ Last Supper, his take on Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper, put 13 of Britain’s best actors around a dinner table; Great Britons highlighted 90 notable Brits in honour of the Queen’s 90th birthday two years ago.
This week he takes on Bermudian Legacy. The photograph will feature 13 outstanding members of our community.
“I wanted to do something that related to my own legacy,” said the 61-year-old, who came up with the idea and brought British Airways and the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club on board.
“I have kept a keen interest in those Bermudians who have made significant contributions in sport, music, charity, environment and conservation, art, history and culture. Many have been honoured on the international stage.
“I am also very aware that there are many unsung heroes on the island and I wanted to ensure that we also honoured them.”
Mr Morrison’s mother, Aileen Wingate Morrison, is Bermudian. His Scottish father, James, came to the island when he was 18 to work for Cable & Wireless.
“He used to see this beautiful young girl coming down the street,” the photographer said. “He eventually plucked up the courage to ask her out. They were married within the year. His work took him to South America — so I am one of five boys who was raised there. I was born in Peru, then [we went to] Argentina and Chile.”
He visits Bermuda often.
His mother moved back home 20 years ago, after his father died. Two of his brothers, David and Philip, live here along with other family members including his uncle, retired conservationist David Wingate.
At the moment, he is excited to start shooting Bermudian Legacy. Sporting greats Clarance “Nicky” Saunders and Flora Duffy have been confirmed; Mr Morrison is in the process of selecting the rest of the group. Nominations can be made on his website, alistairmorrison.com/bermudian-legacy, before June 15.
“I’m here right now doing some researching and looking at locations,” he said. “I would like it to be 13 individuals, because the very first of my Legacy [series] images was the Actors’ Last Supper, which included 13 actors.”
Mr Morrison was 21 when he decided to make photography his career — he found the idea of being his own boss appealing. Initially, he shot whatever he could for magazines and newspapers in London. He remembers once driving hours to shoot a swimming cat, who did not really want to swim that day.
His breakthrough came unexpectedly.
“There was an old Fleet Street picture editor who suggested to the art editor they should send me out to go and photograph Sting and The Police. I remember the art director thinking I was too raw and not experienced enough to do the shoot but the editor decided he’d give me the job. I arrived in Atlanta and got a good cover shot with the guys.” Still, he was not satisfied. The group’s manager, Miles Copeland III, suggested he hang around for a while.
Mr Morrison spent two days with them, capturing their personality so well that he became known as a portrait photographer.
Once completed, Bermudian Legacy will hang at the Hamilton Princess. Nominations for subjects can also be mailed: Bermudian Legacy, P O Box HM 2969, Hamilton, HM MX