Andy Gotts is one of only a handful of British photographers to have been recognised by the Queen. In 2012, Andy was awarded an MBE for services to Photography and Charity. The Norfolk-born artist has captured some of the biggest screen stars of our generation. But it’s not just the celebrity subjects themselves that make Andy’s portraits stand out; it’s the stories behind the shoots that give his works their character.
Andy photographs his star sitters in their homes, where they’ll be more comfortable. Working without any assistants means Andy can keep the shoots intimate and encourage his subjects to open up. In each case, it’s the character behind the all-familiar face that he’s after. Andy’s portraits do more than depict - they reveal the unseen.
We caught up with Andy to discover why he chose celebrity portraiture and to hear some of his favourite on-the-job stories.
What kind of photographer did you set out to be? Have you always shot portraits?
The only kind of photographer I wanted to be was a celebrity photographer. Even regular portraiture doesn’t really interest me. It’s the people I meet during my shoots that make my job worthwhile, especially since I’m a movie buff.
There are some landscape photographers who only like to shoot mountains, and there are others who just like to shoot deserts. Some portrait photographers like the documentary style approach. I stick to my clean and clinical celebrity portraits.
What’s the most important thing for you when shooting a famous face? How do you bring out a person’s real character?
When I shoot, it’s just me and the person I’m shooting. No assistants or entourage around. This makes things more relaxed; so when I spend time chatting to the sitter beforehand, it’s very intimate. I can gauge what mood they’re in and work the photoshoot to complement the way they’re feeling. And I don’t over-direct the shoot. I let it unfold through conversation.
Who has been the most interesting person you’ve shot?
As I’ve already mentioned I’m a movie buff, so to meet icons of the big screen is always a thrill. Paul Newman and Clint Eastwood were two subjects that took many years to set up - and both shoots were a dream come true.
Which work are you most proud of?
Probably the great Tony Curtis. We shot at his home in Henderson, near Las Vegas. We had a great afternoon of conversation and laughs. The shoot went wonderfully. Sadly Tony died three days after our shoot, so I captured the very last portraits of the wonderful man.
Can you give us a couple of favourite stories behind your photographs?
I shot George Clooney at his beautiful house on Lake Como. When I arrived, breakfast was being served on the veranda - it seemed more like a five star hotel then a private residence. After breakfast, George disappeared to find a space that had a plain white wall for the shoot. I had to maneuver my equipment around three obese (live) ducks in the hallway...
My tripod hit a bookshelf and a large atlas dislodged from the shelf and plummeted onto a duck. In a moment of panic - I had an unconscious duck on my hands - I hid it behind the bookshelf. George re-emerged wearing a pirate’s hat, which he’d worn at a dinner party the previous night. When I pointed out what a fool he looked, George started roaring with laughter... there was my photo! Not long after the shoot there was a muffled quack from behind the bookshelf and a dazed duck waddled out.
Penelope Cruz was a dream and every inch as beautiful in the flesh as she is on film. I was all set up and ready to shoot when Penelope arrived. I could hear muffled talking and laughing as she entered, and following her into the studio was her husband, Javier Bardem. I had shot Javier before and we got on really well, so he wanted to come along to the shoot.
My idea for Penelope was a sexy, brooding shot, but Javier kept making comments to her in Spanish. I have no idea what he said, but every time he spoke her cheeks flushed and she burst into hysterical laughter. I took the chance to take some fun snaps, but when I wanted the brooding shots I made Javier stand outside like a naughty schoolboy - which actually made her laugh more. Eventually I got the shot I was after.
Scott Phillips and Marcos Steverlynck started Rise Art in 2011 with a mission to revolutionise the way people find and buy art.
Scott was introduced to the world of art through his wife Helene, when he began to visit galleries and go to openings. He started to fall for art and was amazed by how it could transform a room in his home, spark conversation and incite joy and intrigue. And art was something he could actually own – it wasn’t just for other people.
Today Rise Art’s experts scour the globe for the most extraordinary artists, using state of the art technology to make their work accessible to anyone, anywhere. Rise Art has grown from a small, UK focused business to a company shipping art to customers in over 60 countries worldwide. In 2017, the team saw sales double to over £1 million.
Now Scott and Marcos are taking things to the next level - they're raising capital on Crowdcube to continue the growth of the business, with their sights set on expansion into Asia. You can join the Rise Art growth story by investing as little as £10. Go to our Invest page for more information. Investments of this nature carry risks to your capital as well as potential rewards.
Here CEO Scott shares his 6 secrets to start up success...
1. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
“At Rise Art, weekly sync ups with the whole team and daily catch ups within the sub-teams of the business keep us on track. Keep all channels of communication open, both within and across departments.”
2. Take Advantage of Digital Tools
“We use various digital tools that help boost productivity, like Slack, Trello, CoSchedule and Recruiterbox. Use as many SaaS (Software as a Service) tools as possible to replace manual tasks.”
3. Fuel the Body to Fuel the Mind
“A steady supply of office snacks keeps us going throughout the day. And towards the end of the week, when things get rough, we have tunes playing on the office sound system and we get together for Friday lunch to recharge us for the final push.”
4. Company Culture is Key
“As the founders of Rise Art, Marcos and I have built our team from 4 people to nearly 20 in the past 3 years. The biggest challenge we have is creating a positive and productive company culture so that A) we can recruit great people that fit our culture and B) we can get people energised and rowing in the same direction with common goals and values.”
5. Recruit Wisely
“Do future employees share our values and fit in with the company culture? It's not just about being smart and experienced in the role. We've made a few hiring mistakes in the past and these have been costly in terms of time and resources. Also save on costs where you can - hire freelancers for specific jobs rather than taking on additional staff members. The trick is to keep your costs variable, not fixed.”
6. Save on Rent with Shared Office Space
“Keep office space costs low by signing flexible contracts that you can flex up and down as your team grows. Using shared office space rather than signing a multi-year agreement gives us the flexibility to expand the team when we need to - and it saves us a lot of money because we don’t end up paying for space we don’t use.”
For Vinterior Founder and CEO Sandrine Zhang Ferron, it’s all about vintage. When Sandrine was looking for furniture to deck out her new London home, she found it difficult and time-consuming to source quality vintage pieces. Inspiration struck - what if you could browse a whole collection of unique, high-end pieces in one place? Sandrine left her career in investment banking to found Vinterior, a curated online marketplace for quality pre-owned vintage furniture.
Sandrine’s sense of style isn’t just limited to her choice in furniture, and like her taste for interiors, her taste in art is eclectic. Find out what kind of works Sandrine collects and discover her top pieces on Rise Art.
What inspired you to start Vinterior?
Whilst looking for furniture for my new home in north London, I got really frustrated. The lack of character, the mass production of flat packs and the consumerisation of the industry in general all meant I wasn’t finding what I was looking for.
It was taking up a lot of time visiting individual furniture boutiques to find that perfect piece. That’s what sparked the idea for Vinterior - an online marketplace that brought together independent boutiques with those looking for remarkable furniture, in one place.
What is it about the vintage look that you like so much?
For me it is about combining styles and eras, and playing around with what works with your personal space. It means no home looks the same, because you can find and collect items that speak to you. Vintage allows you to have a really eclectic style and show off your character.
I also love classic design pieces, like the Spanish Chair by Børge Mogensen. With those you get history and a story - something you don’t get with most of the mass produced new products that are out there.
What role does creativity play in your life and work?
Creativity plays a big role at home, with regards to both my interior style and my cooking. In terms of work, I think creativity is sparked from the extensive reading I do. I read something that captures my imagination and then this provokes conversations and discussions with my team.
Do you collect any art? If so, what are your artistic tastes?
Like my home, my art taste is eclectic and I buy what grabs my attention. I like photography and colourful prints. In my house in Majorca I have beautiful photos of the island by a local photographer. My only ‘collection’ is art from my home country, China.
In the same breath, I am a fan of really quirky artwork and I have a pair of prints by Human Shaped Robot that portray my love of food (they are portraits with meat hair!).
How do you think furniture and art can work together in an interior?
Furniture and art are very personal and styling particular pieces together can be right for one person, and wrong for another. But furniture and art definitely do work hand in hand, so it’s about finding the combinations that work for you and your household personally.
Do you think online marketplaces are the way forward when it comes to collectibles like furniture and art?
Social platforms like Instagram are making viewing other people’s homes a norm. Expectations of one’s own spaces are getting higher and higher, and people want to create wonderful spaces with design pieces or ‘instaworthy’ pieces to showcase, share and enjoy. Combine this with a society filled with time-poor and tech-savvy people, and you can see why marketplaces like Vinterior and Rise Art are becoming the popular way to buy furniture and art.
I visited Cuba 10 years ago and loved the vibe in Havana, with its mixture of nostalgia, the tropics and America. This artwork is an interesting way of representing the multifaceted nature of Havana.
I'm obsessed with plants at the moment and I'm buying new ones every week to build an indoor tropical jungle at home. I would love to mirror this with an artwork that features some greenery. Karenina's loveley piece would tie well into my collection of pot plants in the living room.
3. Reflection by Paris Ackrill
I love the abundance of greenery in Paris's photograph. I can imagine this nude working really well in my bathroom.
4. St Tropez Summer by Tommy Clarke
My husband is a major fan of aerial photographs of the beach. This work by Tommy Clarke would be an ideal gift for him.
I love the contrast between the bright, colourful dots and the traditional black and white style of photography in this work by Naomi Vona.
We're launching our second crowdfunding campaign and you can get in on the action.
Marleen Pauwels’s paintings are hauntingly beautiful. Her semi-transparent figures embody the fragility of human life, their ghostly bodies set in isolation and silence against stark backdrops and empty spaces.
Rise Art Prize 2018 finalist Maria Magenta tells about her journey into art and why she loves painting from life.
Around the world, hotels are opting for original, eye-catching and mood-enhancing art that will inspire their guests. Here are 5 hotels around the globe that have some breathtaking art.
Thai artist Ta Thimkaeo once thought that there was more chance of her walking on the moon than becoming an artist. But art was in her blood and it was written in her stars.
Choosing art with bold patterns is a great way to bring energy, movement and style to an interior. Lori Zimmer picks out her top 5 Rise Art pieces that play with pattern.
The founders of interior design and decoration practice Salvesen Graham are an art loving duo. For Nicole Salvesen and Mary Graham, art is a key player in their interiors projects. Plus they're active enthusiasts and collectors themselves. We find out more about the Salvesen Graham founders and their passion for art.