It was a day like most others. I was working in London as a photographic assistant to one of this country’s true greats, Mr Mike Owen. He had taken me under his wing and was teaching me how to look at life through the eye of a photographer. It was an exciting time for a wet behind the ears Essex boy, like me. I had already done a stint at Chalk Farm studios and worked for some pretty high profile fashion photographers before knocking on Mike’s door. But he was different; he was more interested in producing images that were beautifully lit and crafted using an old 5” x 4” plate camera and innovative film processing techniques. He was a true artist, and indeed still is. His reputation was for shooting advertising and editorial fashion, but also people from the music industry, film and television. This was the good old days. Mike was busy every day and one exciting commission after another would roll through the doors at his 5th floor studio in Clink Street, now the heart of London’s trendy Borough Market, back then it was more “Peaky Blinders”. In fact his studio was on the site of London’s first prison, “The Clink” which made late night lock ups a little hairy to say the least. I had become slightly complacent about who would be the next lucky celeb to sit for Mike, so as I wondered over London Bridge and down past Southwark Cathedral that warm sunny morning, I had absolutely no idea how my life was about to change that day.
I climbed the steep concrete steps to the fifth floor, unlocked the many pad locks, bolts and chains that offered some protection against the riff raff who would occasionally help themselves to Mike’s equipment. I walked through the calm, silent studio to the office. There sat on the desk like the holy bible, bathed in sunlight from floor to ceiling windows was “The Diary”. Listed in this unassuming little blue book were most of the big names that the early nineties had to offer, and looking back at it now, I should have been far more excited to be moving in such illustrious circles. But like a true geek, I was far more interested in how Mike was going to shoot them, light them, what film he would choose, black and white or colour, cross possessed or tungsten. It was much later that I realised the subject was always the most important ingredient, and the tool and techniques used to capture their image were only there to support the relationship that a great photographer must develop with his model. As I leafed through the weeks and months, the pages eventually fell open at today’s date. Everything went into slow motion, total silence, and disbelief. Two words “Kylie Minogue”.
She was my Bridget Bardot, my Sophia Loren, my Elizabeth Taylor, my Christy Turlington, all wrapped up in one perfect tiny package. Lets just say, I was a very big fan of Miss Minogue’s work. This was going to be a great day, for this nineteen-year-old Essex boy. As the studio started to fill with all the people that come together to make a photographic shoot work, I went about my daily business, readying all the equipment, loading dark slides, getting the coffee on, and making sure the music was just right. I must have looked like a Cheshire Cat, with a smile from ear to ear. When Kylie arrived she was as lovely in person as I had imagined, and I had done quite a lot of imagining by that point I can assure you. She was funny, kind and easy going. How could this day get any better?
Well I will tell you how that day got even better. Mike decided to shoot her in a swimming costume on the roof of the studio with London’s skyline as a backdrop. My job was to be in charge of the hose that would spray a watery curtain that Kylie would jump in and out of, while Mike snapped away.
She was a great sport, and I’m sure there was more than a little fun poked at the spotty oik holding the hosepipe while one of the decades biggest and most beautiful stars skipped about in a bikini, but I didn’t care. I had died, and I was in heaven. I was bright pink when we returned to the shady shelter of the studio, and not just as a result of embarrassment. I had, as usual cooked my skin in the harsh sunlight. Kylie disapproved of this greatly, and told me that it was most important to use SPF everyday, if I wanted to look good when I got older. Now, I would have jumped off the roof if she had told me to, so wearing a little SPF everyday seemed like a good compromise. I have done so ever since, and we have now included it in our own Moisturiser, which we developed thirty years later. Scientific studies show that it was sound advice then, and it still is today, in fact I think our Antipodean cousins were a little ahead of the curve on this one. Hopefully you will take Kylie’s advice too, and in the long run you will have more to thank her for than just gold hot pants. Although, that would be plenty in my book.