Clive Arrowsmith’s Fortnum & Mason
“We had worked through the night on this shoot after the store was closed. The model’s head is turned away in every image because the model agency wanted an extra three grand if we showed her face, and Fortnum’s wouldn’t pay for it. But I needed the girl for her beautiful figure. As it turned out, everyone said: ‘What a great idea, not to show the model’s face,’ I just grinned and said: ‘Yeah, I know.’” – Clive Arrowsmith
Working in the Spotlight
One of the most celebrated Welsh photographers, Clive Arrowsmith, is widely known for his work in the fashion industry and the entertainment world. With a repertoire of portraits of famous personalities that include Yves Saint Laurent, The Dalai Lama, David Bowie, Sammy Davis Jr., Yoko Ono, and Damien Hirst, Arrowsmith keeps himself at the forefront of photographers working in the spotlight.
An Emerging Photographer
Clive Arrowsmith attended art school in North Wales and later moved to Kingston College of Art. After graduating, he was a painter and then worked as a graphic designer for a popular British television network. While working in graphic design, Arrowsmith would begin taking photographs. Subsequently, some of the world’s most well-known fashion magazines noticed Clive Arrowsmith’s work and Arrowsmith started to gain commissions working for different publications. He began creating a portfolio of memorable photographs that appeared in the pages of Vogue, Harper’s, Vanity Fair, Esquire, and other renowned publications worldwide.
Concurrently with his fashion editorials, Clive Arrowsmith remained an avid music admirer. This attraction to music was evident in his work. He took portraits of the most consequential artists of his day, the likes of Sir Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Wings, Jeff Beck, Art Garfunkel, and Def Leppard, to name a few. Eventually, after many successful shoots, Clive Arrowsmith would shoot the prestigious Pirelli Calendar. He would become the only photographer to photograph the calendar two years in succession. The Pirelli Calendar is a very coveted assignment known for presenting the world’s best photographers and models. In 1992, the CEO of Pirelli described the purpose of the calendar as a way to preserve the passing of time by recording the spirit of the ages.
Fortnum & Mason
Fast-forward to 2008, and Clive Arrowsmith worked for a fashion shoot for the luxury department store, Fortnum & Mason. Fortnum & Mason is one of Britain’s oldest continuing grocers and “the world’s most famous corner shop,” founded in London’s Piccadilly in 1707. The following text describes the challenge of creating a great photoshoot and the fortuitous moments that arise when searching for great art.
“I spent the night at Fortnum & Masons (by Royal Appointment.) I was asked to do the shoot after meeting the art director for lunch there. It was decided that we would have to shoot all through the night when the store was empty.
My crew, the art director, model, stylist, hairdresser, makeup artist, and assistants arrived dutifully at the back entrance at seven one evening. They were immediately taken up to the top floor to set up the dressing rooms. Just as I got there, the model agency called me saying they wanted more money for the model. They had reconsidered their position as it was for Fortnum & Masons.
I called the model agency back and told them that we would have to cancel the shoot and that they would have to cover the cancellation costs. I also suggested that if we didn’t show the model’s face, would they agree to the original fee? There was some muffled talk at the other end of the phone, and then they told me that they would agree to that compromise. It was a very stressful start to the shoot, which is part of what happens when you are working at this level. Something always comes along and creates a challenge.
Later, when the pictures came out, one of their senior model agents came back to me and said, ‘Why didn’t you show her beautiful face’? At which point, I felt amazed at their shortness of memory since they had insisted I didn’t show her face on the day of the shoot. However, the limitations of that day created a very unique and mysterious proposition as so many people loved these pictures because you could not see the model’s face. They would comment that it was brilliant to shoot the model with her face turned away from the camera as the images are intriguing. That always makes me smile if only people knew the true story behind these pictures.
The shoot itself was very technically challenging as the store was so big. I came up with a plan that we would light the back end of the store in each shot and come forward in layers, taking a shot and lighting each layer, moving the lights each time, until we shot and lit the model on the last set up of the layering. We then combined all the layers in the computer. The camera was, of course, locked off so that all the layers fitted together perfectly. We repeated the same process over and over in each setup.
It was a fraught and adventurous shoot… However, I survived the shoot and am particularly proud of these enduring images as were Fortnum & Masons.”
A Moment of Privilege and Style
The Fortnum & Mason picture has grace, elegance, and an aura of mystery. It is an example of Arrowsmith’s ability to create a moment of privilege and style. It looks effortless, as the model is lost in the moment. Knowing the backstory helps elucidate some of the challenges presented by shooting on location and navigating the unexpected. Although ultimately, it’s the end results that speak for themselves.