Working as a photographer you often shoot pictures of people before they become famous and then get to shoot them again once they have “made it”. I don’t know if you can really categorise a poet as ‘famous’ but the British Poet Laureate is about as famous as you can get for poetry. In 2008 and towards the end of his term as Laureate, I photographed Andrew Motion at his London home but this wasn’t my first “one-to-one” with him. Back in 1992 when he was already established as a poet, and just ahead of the publication of his biography of Phillip Larkin, I had taken pictures of him at a different London home.
A lot of people are a lot more accommodating and easier to photograph before they become famous. They are often friendlier, more likely to offer you a cup of tea and are generally easier to work with. That wasn’t the case with Mr Motion. Back in 1992 I had caught him on a bad day – or at least a day when he had far more pressing matters to attend to than getting his picture taken whereas fifteen and a half years later he was well used to being photographed and had developed an easy manner when dealing with people like me. It could be that I was also fifteen and a half years older and more able to handle myself but whatever the reasons, shooting him in 2008 was a lot easier.
Of course the technology had moved on: in 1992 I was shooting with Nikon F4S cameras and some lumpy f2.8 Nikkor zoom lenses (35-70 f2.8 and 80-200 f2.8) on black and white film. By 2008 I was onto Canon EOS1D MkII and 20D cameras with some lovely L series Canon lenses and shooting digitally. The quality difference is also very noticeable and I wouldn’t want to shoot film on a job like this again.