Thursday 23 December 2010

Abbey Road

So, a zebra crossing on Abbey Road is to be given listed status by English Heritage. There are several odd features to this story. One is that this is not even the 'iconic' zebra crossing that the Beatles famously walked over in 1969 (McCartney barefoot, a detail that fed into a ludicrous conspiracy theory that he was dead and it had all been covered up). That crossing is one with Nineveh and Tyre, while this crossing is a different crossing, in a different place. This listing decision then, is less about what is being listed than about English Heritage courting a bit of publicity and the favour of the tourist industry. No harm done, though (unless it means other, more deserving landmarks being neglected).
The most startling detail, though, is that this strangely potent image that has lived on and on and been re-created by everyone from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to the Simpsons, was the product of a ten-minute photoshoot. Ten minutes! In my experience of photographers today, ten minutes is not a unit of time they would even recognise. Recently I had to have my photo taken - for reasons I shan't go into, but no it was not police mugshot. The process ate up a whole morning of my life, which divided into several phases. 1. Waiting while the 'team' (pohotographers never work alone) bantered and joshed and laid on the phoney affability, with coffee etc thrown in. 2. Make-up (I'd managed to fight off Wardrobe, being more than adequately dressed). 3. More waiting and affability. 4. An endless session in which two (yes two) photographers snapped what must have been well over 200 images of me, in black and white and colour, in every conceivable pose - standing, sitting, assuming various expressions, facing this way and that, doing everything short of lying on the floor kicking my legs in the air. When all this was finally over, I was worn out and my face had frozen in a permanent rictus... And the end result of this long long morning's activity (and huge expense - but it wasn't me paying) was a little black and white head and shoulders snap I could have taken myself.
And yet it took one photographer ten minutes to get that Abbey Road album cover.


  1. Heh heh, I find it very hard to imagine you 'vogue-ing it up' for that long, Nige. Must have been torture...

    Perhaps photographers go through all that rigmarole to justify their existence in this world of camera-phones...

  2. Sounds as if the only people who take longer to get to the point than some photographers are American lawyers. I suspect that a short sharp shot which aims for the essence says more than a score of unbrella lights and "just a bit more to the right, love". I'm not sure I like the idea of make-up, though, let alone having to wear someone else's clothes. Anyway, ordeal survived!

  3. I hope you'll be posting all 200 up on the blog.

  4. Hoho - a classic clip Malty!