As I walk into this North London studio where the shoot with Stephen Mangan was to take place I was struck by studio envy. The studio in question had been an old stable, right on the doorstep of Camden and Regents Park. We were met with was a sizeable reception. This led into two large studio spaces which we walked through to get to the last room, a snooker room on level 1, with an adjacent kitchen. Park Village Studios is the studio of Peter Webb. Evidence of his work with among others, The Rolling Stones, was exhibited on the walls. The studio was cool, had a roughness to it, character, but what made me jealous was the knowledge that this studio had been Peter Webb’s, and his alone for many years. Only in the last few years had he opened the doors for others to rent the space. It’s a photographer’s dream. Without devaluing the quality of Peter’s work I have to say that a space like this would only be available exclusively to one photographer today if he was born into money, won the lottery or is amongst a very few elite advertisement photographers. It was a different time and I am sure Peter Webb can point the finger at many advantageous things of being a photographer today, but space is something that we don’t own anymore.
After I had shrugged off the feeling of jealousy I focused on the shoot. I wanted to use the space but also create a cleaner space that would led itself better to a cover. I set up a nice green colorama and looked around the space for other options. Stephen is one of those actors/comedians in the UK that has a perfect balance on exposure. He selects his involvement perfectly and his humour is understated and poignant. If I ever met him at a party I imagine him in the kitchen with Armando Ianucci, Tamsin Greg, Steve Coogan and maybe Simon Amstell, half hanging out the kitchen window, sharing a bottle of red wine whilst unraveling world politics and conflicts with funny one liners.
Stephen has written and starred in the television sitcom Hang Ups, so having him ‘hung up’ by some helium filled balloons seemed appropriate. It would also give a little nod to his recent performance in the Harold Pinter play The Birthday Party. The balloons would also work as a good prop and a great way to inject colour into the set. The rest of the shoot I chose to use the room we were in, snooker table and all. Stephen was good to work with; understated but fun in real life, much like how you see him in his films. He contributed with the sets and ideas and helped make the shoot a collaborative one, just the way I like it. I’m now peaking into every kitchen when I go to parties, just in case Stephen and friends are hanging out sharing stories.
Shot for Sunday Times Culture