(Full Interview) 01 Feb, 2014
Written by: Clare Harris
Liverpool-based member portrait professional Rory Lewis discusses how the idea for his exhibition Northerners led to his approaching actor David Warner, who hadn’t been formally photographed for over four decades.
Member Rory Lewis achieved an exclusive recently when he made a portrait of actor David Warner, who has appeared in Titanic, Time Bandits and The Omen, and hadn’t been formally photographed since 1966.
Says Rory, who held his first exhibition, in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support, in 2012 to celebrate 10 years in professional photography, “I wanted to do something on a grander scale, by concentrating on my pas- sion for portraiture. Being from the North, I struck upon the idea of Northerners – a collection of portraits of Northern actors, celebrities, politicians; and sports, community, religious and military leaders.”
Rory contacted David Warner, who was born in Manchester. Having sent two letters to his agent and received no reply, he concluded that they must have been lost in a pile of fan mail, so did some research online, and found that David was appearing at a horror film convention.
“I wrote a third letter, and sent it to the convention hall in London, to arrive on the morning of the event, for David’s attention”, he says. “I received an email from David five days later, saying he wished to be involved in the project.”
After a few further emails, Rory arranged to photograph David in London on 20 November. “It was a wet and windy day”, says Rory. “I arrived at the studio early, a little nervous, as I have followed David’s career over the years, and I am something of a fan.”
Rory’s mobile rang while he was setting up his equipment. It was David. He said, “Rory, I’m standing on the main road in the rain, and I can’t find the studio.”
Even more nervous, as he feared that Da- vid would be grumpy and wet, Rory ran up to the main road and greeted him.
“I shouldn’t have been so nervous”, says Rory, “as he turned out to be a profession- al, lovely, man. After I sat down with him for a cup of coffee and explained the style of image I wanted to achieve, David revealed that he had an aversion to having his picture taken, and that he hadn’t sat for a professional studio photoshoot since 1966!”
The last photographer to have shot David was Cecil Beaton, and prior to that Lord Snowdon and Bailey. Rory took a big gulp, and felt the pressure flow down his throat.
“The shoot began”, says Rory, “and, after a little direction, David took over with some remarkable expressions. David is one of the UK’s most celebrated actors, and I felt almost like a film director in producing this work.”
Checking the National Portrait Gallery’s website after the shoot confirmed that its collection contained only two images of Da- vid, both taken by Cecil Beaton in 1966.
“I sent an email to the curators”, says Rory. “A reply came a few days later, saying that the gallery had accepted my submission and would like to acquire the image.”
Rory has photographed several other Northern notables since his shoot with David, including actors Steven Cole, Claire Sweeney and Ricky Tomlinson, broadcast journalist Peter Sissons, and the Lord Mayors of Liverpool and Manchester. He has also approached actors Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen, along with 50 other potential sitters.