Richard Ansett

Interview with Le Cool Guide October 2009

Hello Richard Ansett – What’s this cover all about then?

It does what it says on the tin, it’s an Ostrich and a Phone box in Enfield. It’s difficult to expand on it really, there I was in a field by an old phone box and an Ostrich ran by. It was given an Honorable Mention at PX3 La Prix de la Photographie, Paris 2009 along with my flying hairless cats.

You’re an award winning photographer. I think you’re the first award winning cover artist we’ve had. How does that make you feel?

I will try to keep my acceptance speech a little shorter than Robert Plant’s but I am overwhelmed! Being noticed by anyone cool or uncool is an achievement, I don’t produce work with the affirmation of other’s in mind (obviously) but it means a lot that my work resonates with people and it spurs me on.

Are politicians hard to photograph? They appear to be quite stiff, whatever they’re doing. How do you get them to relax?

I don’t, I am interested in their instinctive reaction to the camera, it says so much about people whoever they are; if they are uptight, angry, shy, whatever, I’ll go with that. Relaxing people has never been my approach in fact being photographed by me can be a rather awkward experience. My portrait of Mandy and Campbell is the good example; I hope that you can tell a lot about those guys from how they’re looking at the camera. My recent portrait of Cherie Blair is much kinder, I feel the media attacked her because they couldn’t damage her husband. All the pictures we see of Cherie are caught at the worst possible moment, i think this borders on the misogynistic. My picture whilst not unflattering, questions the motives of the New Labour movement; she is incredibly ‘clean’ with perfect teeth, she feels very out of touch with us mere mortals.

Although not political, Bernhard Manning was really upset with me because i dragged him away from the racing on the telly and moved all his furniture into the back garden, hence the rather annoyed expression and clenched fists, he asked if he needed to put his trousers on but I told him it was a head shot, the client wanted him to wear a Sari but he was funny about that for some reason?

Did they ever tell you any state secrets?

Mandy seemed like he might not have a girlfriend and Alastair i can only describe as the Gordon Ramsey of politics, they followed each other into the toilets which is where i imagine all the important decisions are made. I photographed Roy Hattersley recently who was ‘tricky’; he had a deaf and senile old dog that wouldn’t do as he was told.

Have you ever taken a picture in an old house and developed the film and then seen a ghostly apparition in the background and then got frightened? It’s never happened to me.

You should spend more time at your mum’s house then… I faked some shots of some UFO’s once for an article, my assistants waved some torches around in front of the camera and we photographed some farmers in a field looking up into the sky; to be fair though, those crop circles freak me out, I was standing in one once and my female assistant’s menstrual cycle started very early, thanks for sharing I said, we laughed.

Do you ever go to the National Portrait Gallery just to check they’re looking after your pictures properly?

Yes, they love it when people turn up unannounced and challenge their ability to archive images for the nation. The Mandy Campbell portrait is in there, it’s the only portrait they have of two famous people in the same image, I’m quite proud of that.

Where can we see more of your work?

My portrait of Woman With Electrode Hat#1 is in the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize 2009 starting 4th November at the National Portrait Gallery and has just won a photographic prize at Russian Art Week in St Petersburg.

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