Written by Megan C. Hills, CNN

Celeb photographer Andy Gotts has snapped many stars, from Hollywood titans Al Pacino, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts to promising newcomers like Anya Taylor-Joy and Nathalie Emmanuel. But just one picture stands out to him as the most poignant of his job: a portrait of the late Tony Curtis, his confront painted with an American flag.

The British photographer recalled a long time of begging the actor’s agent to set up a shoot. Immediately after multiple rejections, he identified a cell phone selection for Curtis’ wife, and she picked up. A shoot was arranged for the future working day.

That night, however, Curtis called Gotts. The aging star, who endured from numerous wellbeing difficulties and was working with a wheelchair at the time, explained he was experience unwell.

“(He said), ‘I don’t sense superior at all. But I will honor our dedication tomorrow, if you make me 1 guarantee,'” Gotts recounted in a movie job interview. “I reported, ‘Anything, nearly anything.’

“He explained, ‘Will you make me glimpse like an icon one particular more time?’ And I stated I would do my utmost.”

Tony Curtis by Andy Gotts Credit: Andy Gotts

It was the previous portrait at any time captured of Curtis, in accordance to Gotts, who claimed the actor saw the photograph just hours just before his loss of life and experienced declared it “the finest ever taken of me.” Characteristic of Gotts’ muted, shadowy design, the image sees catchlights glimmering in the actor’s eyes as he stares out with a painted deal with.
The impression is amongst dozens of superstar portraits showcased in Gotts’ new exhibition “Icons,” which is now open up in London, and an accompanying e book of the same name. In a occupation spanning a few decades, the photographer has develop into a most loved amongst superstars for his exclusive model and reduced-vital picture shoots.
A portrait of Harrison Ford by celebrity photographer Andy Gotts.

A portrait of Harrison Ford by superstar photographer Andy Gotts. Credit history: Andy Gotts

With lights impressed by art history’s Previous Masters these kinds of as Caravaggio and Rembrandt, as very well as cinema greats like Alfred Hitchcock and David Lean, Gotts is effective with an analog digital camera and no crew. His portraits are hardly ever retouched, unveiling actors’ “facescapes” with all their wrinkles, blemishes and smiles. It can be a style that has stay largely unchanged due to the fact he very first started off.

“If you see a pimple on someone’s head, or a hair out of area — that is simply because that is how they had been, sitting in entrance of me,” he explained. “I was capturing that moment when they sat down with me for our conversation.”

Over Gotts shoulder hangs a smoldering portrait of Kate Moss with glowing skin — pores, minute strains and all. Stars like Kate Winslet, Naomi Campbell and Sir Ian McKellen have all embraced his candid model, but his aversion to re-touching photos on Photoshop has been an issue for some, he revealed.

One of Gotts' portraits of supermodel Kate Moss.

A single of Gotts’ portraits of supermodel Kate Moss. Credit: Andy Gotts

“There are these two iconic singers, almost certainly the major in the entire world, who have both of those stated to me, ‘Andy, I enjoy your pictures (and) I have your images, but you will never ever photograph me for the reason that you can expect to present me as I appear.'”

Stripping down

Gotts was once assistant to celebrated photographers Lord Snowdon and David Bailey, however the expertise had an unexpected effects: It showed him particularly what sort of photographer he didn’t want to be, he said.

“If you feel back again to the late ’80s and ’90s, lots of portraits experienced glamorous backgrounds and had been quite ostentatious,” he stated.

Gotts resisted the era’s choice for staged glamour pictures and as a substitute turned to ’60s-inspired basic backgrounds, which experienced “fallen out of favor” at the time, he reported. Focusing his consideration on subjects’ faces, his preference for black and white photography accentuated every element though his fashion of overexposing and underneath-acquiring portraits assisted generate stark contrasts.

“It’s essentially the landscape of the face that I’m interested in — the nooks and crannies, the peaks and troughs of a human face,” he mentioned. “That’s what I enjoy about it. It can be all stunning imperfections. It’s fantastic, and no 1 was doing that.

“I imagined, ‘Well, if I strip it all back again, it’s just a encounter,'” he ongoing.

“Mare of Easttown” star Kate Winslet, who Andy Gotts counts as a near pal. Credit history: Andy Gotts

Though functioning with Bailey, Gotts also found that the photographer was constantly surrounded by a “circus” of assistants — a debacle that still left subjects emotion “certainly bored,” he said. “I assumed to myself, ‘When I do this, it will just be me, no assistants. And I am going to be seriously, really quick. So that was my idea when I commenced: quickness,” he added.

Actor Paul Newman went on to nickname him “Just one Shot Gotts” following the photographer captured the winning portrait on the 1st attempt. But apart from velocity, Gotts’ potential to set celebrity topics “at relieve” enables him to capture a lot more personal, authentic portraits, he stated. Chatting and telling rude jokes are each crucial to his method, which sees him crafting photographic times by conversation. Gotts balked at the idea of a standard “extremely grey, drab studio,” and alternatively shoots in a transformed London lodge suite or at his subjects’ residences.

He stated, “Straight absent, it’s like they have absent to see a close friend, relatively than to a photograph shoot.”

Though Gotts often has preconceived suggestions for shoots, he often adapts to the problem. A pensive portrait of Robin Williams, for example, was taken as the late actor unexpectedly revealed how the death of John Belushi had affected him. George Clooney, in the meantime, was snapped at his Italian villa immediately after unearthing a pirate hat from a occasion the evening just before.

Other times, surprise visitors totally improved a shoot. When Gotts very first photographed Matt Damon, for occasion, he experienced wished to capture the star’s “really piercing eyes” in an personal portrait. But during the shoot, Damon’s “The Brothers Grimm” co-star Heath Ledger barreled into the area hunting for a location to disguise after he unintentionally upended a make-up table. From there, Ledger did all the things he could to make Damon giggle — throwing toilet paper, blindfolding him with a scarf and hugging the actor.

Gotts retained snapping via Ledger’s photobombs. But the unlabeled roll of film that contains photos of the pair fell into the lining of his digital camera bag and was overlooked for decades. When Gotts eventually identified and made them, Ledger had already handed absent.

Matt Damon and Heath Ledger laughing on set, after Ledger interrupted a photoshoot.

Matt Damon and Heath Ledger laughing on established, immediately after Ledger interrupted a photoshoot. Credit history: Andy Gotts

“It was the only reel of film of Heath and Matt collectively, of these people today messing about alongside one another… This moment in time was a instant the place these two pals were being bonding,” he recalled.

Gotts printed substantial copies of the photographs and despatched them to each Damon and Ledger’s household. The late actor’s mom and dad “cherished the photographs,” he stated, prior to supplying him permission to share them in his new e book.

“This is Heath,” he recalled Ledger’s moms and dads telling him.

Asking the correct inquiries

Gotts’ entry into the industry was as unconventional as it will get, but just one that demonstrates his seemingly fearless technique. As a 19-12 months-outdated pictures student, he interrupted British icon Stephen Fry as he was giving a talk to ask if the comedian would sit for a portrait. Fry rolled his eyes and instructed him he had 90 seconds. =

The ensuing black and white portrait finished up on Fry’s mantelpiece, where by it was spotted by actor Kenneth Branagh. Future thing Gotts understood, he was photographing Branagh and his then-wife Emma Thompson — kick-beginning his occupation as word-of-mouth suggestions spread through celeb circles.
Photographer Andy Gotts' first ever celebrity portrait, taken of comedian Stephen Fry.

Photographer Andy Gotts’ initially at any time celeb portrait, taken of comic Stephen Fry. Credit rating: Andy Gotts

Gotts has not stopped inquiring — and obtaining — due to the fact, landing photograph shoots with Clint Eastwood by turning to Morgan Freeman for assistance, or asking Harrison Ford to act out feelings on cue. (The “Star Wars” actor explained to Gotts that no person had at any time asked him to be silly in a picture prior to, telling him, “Everyone’s frightened of me,” the photographer recalled.)

“The worst that can transpire is somebody says no,” Gotts reported. And having a “of course” from Stephen Fry when the photographer was, in his terms, an “complete no 1,” he realized that practically nothing transpires if you really don’t request.

Gotts identify drops like a phone guide, revealing that he called Harrison Ford an “a**gap” to his experience, challenged Meryl Streep’s lighting tastes and requested “Fleabag” actor Andrew Scott to cry on cue. Contacting himself a “frustrated actor” in a different daily life (though “a lot more of a Danny DeVito”), his early would like list was complete of legendary movie stars like Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, each of whom he is now ticked off. Tellingly, his exhibition and future e book are fewer about Gotts’ vocation and additional about the icons who have held “indicating in his everyday living.” Some of the celebrity subjects featured are now between his good friends, although other folks ended up photographed various instances, 10 or even 20 several years apart.

Nevertheless, genuine icons are starting to be tougher and harder to come across, according to Gotts. Whilst there will usually be A-record film stars, “iconic” actors are stardust, he claimed — particularly in a globe comprehensive of folks pursuing fame.

“I don’t assume the phrase ‘celebrity’ will be as essential as it was 20, 30 several years back,” he concluded.

Icons” is on at Maddox Gallery in London right up until Sep. 19. An accompanying reserve, by Scala Arts Publishers, is obtainable now.