It’s a steamy, hazy, noisy afternoon in Camden and a…
Richard Young is internationally renowned for capturing candid images of pop culture icons, Hollywood stars and remarkable talents. As he’s excelled in this field since the mid ‘70s, garnering an enviable portfolio and a highly respected reputation, Young has become a legend in his own right. He’s toured the country with the Sex Pistols, visited orphanages in Romania with Michael Jackson and photographed an earless Paul Getty Jr. following his release from Italian kidnappers.
Young has published three books of his work; ‘By Invitation Only’, ‘Paparazzo’ and ‘Shooting Stars’ feature a unique collection of some of Richard’s most famous and candid photographs.
Your images tend to flatter the subjects, rather than expose them, is that deliberate?
Of course I like to take photographs of people looking good. If I made people look crap, I wouldn’t get invited anywhere! I always delete an image if it is really unflattering.
Who’s responsible for the downward slide in standards- celebrities or the paparazzi?
I’m not sure what you mean by this question, celebrities these days often set up deals with the paparazzi, to make sure they are photographed frolicking in the sea, looking their best, and split the proceeds. So, in this case the celebrities are collaborating with the paps. The other situation where stars complain about being photographed when they are out and about, well, don’t go to the faces places! There are celebs out there who rarely get photographed.
It’s rare that today’s photographers are invited to document exclusive parties, why do you think you were seen as an asset rather than a nuisance?
The reason I get invited to all the A list parties is that people trust me. I do a great job and 95% of the celebrities know me and feel comfortable with me, that’s why I get the best shots, there’s always a certain warmth with my images.
You’ve taken photos of the American troops in Iraq- did that experience change your views on war?
I was not on the front line when I went to Iraq; I was invited by Vanity Fair and the USO, which is an organisation that entertains the troops abroad. It wasn’t until I went to one of the field hospitals that it really hit home that all wars are devastating and not welcome.
Was Fidel Castro as charismatic as expected?
More charismatic that I expected, he is a very tall and imposing figure, and dressed in his army fatigues when I met him, he was very charming and amenable – his security were another matter!
‘Legends’ – what is your understanding of the term, and who is a ‘legend’ to you?
A legend to me is someone who has achieved great heights in whatever field they work in. My legends are people who have touched me mainly through their music, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen.
Is there anyone you regret not capturing when you had the chance?
No, I have captured everyone when I’ve had the chance. I would really have liked to have photographed John Lennon, but I didn’t meet him when I was a photographer, sadly.
Is it harder or easier to document somebody when you become a familiar part of their social environment?
Of course it is easier, when you turn up at a party and you have carte blanche. But always remember, you are still the photographer, you’re not part of the entourage. Know your place.
It takes a certain boldness to capture people in private moments- when (if ever) have you been the most intimidated.
I am never intimidated. I always feel perfectly happy walking into a room of people; it’s my room and my people.
How do you feel the role of photographer has changed now that everybody has a camera on their phone?
Enormously annoying and irritating, it drives me mad when I go to ceremonies, when we are positioned at the back of the room and in front of you, all you have is a sea of arms waving mobile phones snapping away. Everyone’s a photographer now.
For more Richard Young photography, visit the London gallery
First Published: The Hospital Club Magazine: Issue 22