All that press

Here is an edit from an article in a local rag about this here local snapper..
“Mark Harrison said Richard Branson was usually doing something in a photograph, and he told him to just stop it.. I just put muy hand on his shoulders and asked him to stop."I just put my hands on his shoulders and asked him to stop." Tunbridge Wells photographer Mark Harrison's photograph, published on the cover of The Times magazine earlier this year, showed an extraordinarily quiet, pensive picture of one of Britain's top entrepreneurs. "That's why I love doing portraits," said Mr Harrison, who lives in the town with his family. "As usual, I'd looked at all the pictures of the subject I could find, because I really wanted to show the Richard Branson you don't normally see." Commissioned by the magazine to take pictures of Labour leader- in-waiting Ed Miliband the day before his election, Mr Harrison prepared to meet his subject in the unpromising surroundings of a hotel conference room. "I had a blank backdrop and I asked him to stand in front of it without telling him what to do," he recalled. "He became Mr Bean and from his body language you could tell he was very ill-at-ease. "That's something I'm always watching, because it tells you so much." With a lifelong love of the medium – he was developing his own pictures in his father's darkroom by the age of 12 – he knew early on that he wanted to specialise in magazine and portrait pictures. Stressing that he "never set out to take pictures of celebrities" and "just wanted to do the best photographs I could," he left art school in the late 80s to find himself caught up in all the glitter and boom of Thatcher's Britain. In the years since, the golden key handed to those selected to record the doings of the rich and famous has opened the unlikeliest of doors. Mr Harrison said: "I had a call one day to go to the Beatles' old recording studio in Abbey Road the next morning, but no one would tell me why. "When I turned up, there were armed guards outside and the doorman told me: 'Go downstairs, they're all there', locking the door behind me." He would spend the rest of the day shut in a small booth with Margaret Thatcher – deposed as prime minister just the day before – while she recorded Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address to music. "That was very strange, but if you're curious like me, being able to go into Downing Street to take a picture of Sarah Brown, to stand under a jumbo jet while it takes off, sit quietly under Jools Hollands' piano while he rehearses or get in a racing car with Jenson Button is just fascinating." With an archive of work scattered liberally across a broad range of publications, Mr Harrison has focussed his lens on a quarter-of-a-century of teeming political and social change. From top chefs to Essex girls, from Doctor Who – on the cover of the current Radio Times – and style leaders to world athletes and media tycoons, his distinctive, shadowy pictures have shone a light on an era slipping by. However, he is quick to distance himself from the muddy tide of paparazzi photographers lapping at the heels of today's celebrities. "They are a scourge, an embarrassment," he said. "Snatching quick shots is something entirely different. "I only ever take pictures of people who want to be photographed." Not that he always has the luxury of time himself. Booked to take a picture of the then Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton, he was warned he had an eight-minute slot to complete the job. "The day was tightly choreographed and they warned me they'd have a stopwatch running. "My assistant and I rehearsed it like a dance, timing each shot and working out in advance where each light would go. "We shot three pictures, and they were all used. "I know how to work like that, although sometimes I don't sleep well the night before!" Some of Mr Harrison's best shots – like the one of Nigella Lawson dressed for Christmas feasting – have been taken after the official shoot is over, when shoulders drop and faces relax. But those of which he is perhaps most proud are two quiet studies of high-profile actress Gina McKee and British Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman, recently bought by the National Portrait Gallery. Underlying his prolific output is a quiet conviction that he is working in the final days of still photography. "Times are changing," he said. "Magazines are dying and I think video will gradually take over from photographs, with images lifted from them where necessary. "I'm already doing it more and more, and in 10 years' time I think the whole way we do things will have changed."

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