Search

Highgate photographer takes official pictures of Queen for Diamond Jubilee

PUBLISHED: 07:00 09 February 2012 | UPDATED: 17:15 15 February 2012

John Swannell takes the the Diamond Jubilee picture of the Queen

John Swannell takes the the Diamond Jubilee picture of the Queen

Archant

A Highgate photographer has spoken of the pride he feels at having been chosen to shoot the Queen’s official Diamond Jubilee pictures.

John Swannell beat dozens of others to win the coveted commission, and his stunning images of Her Majesty, replete with royal crown and sash, have been beamed across the world.

The 65-year-old, of North Road, said: “I really wanted to do something special because she said it was a very important picture.

“I shot her in Buckingham Palace with her back to the window with the Queen Victoria memorial in the background so that it would be the reversal of what you usually see – the Royal Family on the balcony outside.

The father-of -two added: “The trick is trying to bring out the more relaxed side of the person. The royals are seen as very straight forward, everything has to be proper. It is important to break down that barrier.

“I am very pleased with the photo, and I believe the Queen is too.”

The Highgate photographer’s commissions were not always so majestic.

He began at the age of 16 taking photographs of school plays and sports days before getting his big break in 1968 when he was made an assistant at fashion magazine Vogue’s studios.

There he met David Bailey, and the pair embarked on a partnership that took them around the world taking photographs of The Beatles, Yoko Ono and Mick Jagger, among others.

Mr Swannell went from working with rock royalty to the real thing when, in 1984, he was commissioned to take a picture of Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester.

“She had a ball gown on and I asked her to lie across the floor for the picture,” recalls the 65 year-old.

“She thought it was really radical that I shot her while she was lying on this floor. But then her husband turned up, and he wasn’t too happy about it.”

It was an assignment with the Queen Mother that was the most daunting of his career.

“The scariest royal commission I have done was the Queen Mother’s 100th birthday,” Mr Swannell said.

“It was a special picture that included four generations of past, present and future monarchs – the Queen Mother, the Queen, Prince Charles and Prince William.

“I was told that it was going to be the most important picture of the royal family since Queen Victoria’s reign, and I only had ten minutes to take it.

“I got four stand-ins, exactly the same height, who I used to position and light everything. I even drew their foot prints on the floor so that everything would be perfect.”

Mr Swannell is giving a talk on his life in photography on February 23 at 7.30pm at the Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution, in South Grove, Highgate. Tickets cost £20 and proceeds are donated to charity.


If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Ham&High. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Hampstead Highgate Express