Matt Crockett is a photographer with an impressive back-catalogue of work, having photographed artists and performers from Daniel Radcliffe to Keith Lemon. Crockett’s recent work has included compiling 50 of his portraits for an innovative photography project; a book containing many of international comedy’s biggest names, entitled ’50 Comics’. This collection features the likes of Stephen Fry, Vic Reeves, Morgana Robinson, Harry Hill and YouTube sensation Miranda Sings. Matt is currently working on a new exhibition of his work for next Spring which will feature 30 new portraits.
To learn more about the life of a photographer working with comedians, I asked Matt a few questions…
What is a typical week’s work for you?
I usually have about four or five shoots planned each week – whether that’s comedy commission, theatre marketing or magazine editorial. The rest of my week is editing, retouching and setting up new work… the business side of things!
How did you begin your career in photography?
Photography was a big part of my degree (Communication Design BA) and my final major project was a short run of a book that shadowed performers backstage at 8 West End shows. My first professional commission was a campaign for a musical called Avenue Q in London. The shoot was so much fun, and I was totally hooked and knew that photography was the right career route for me! Comedy has always been a love of mine, so the minute I owned a camera, it was a no-brainer that I would endeavour to shoot my heroes of comedy.
What is the most challenging part of the whole process?
I’m not sure there are particularly challenging parts of the process – building a strong, trusting relationship with the subject (often in a short amount of time) is the most important and potentially challenging part, because I think portraits are only ever successful when that relationship is in place. I used to hate it when people talked about ‘energy levels’, but now I TOTALLY get it…!
Do you feel a pressure to do your subjects justice in your work?
A lot of my work is in marketing, so the aim is always to do the subject justice. That has probably translated into my other work too, such as my ’50 Comics’ project. However weird and idiotic the setup of the shot looks, I still like the subject to look and feel their best. Nowadays, social media is the most important tool for exposure and getting your work ‘seen’, so it’s really key that the subject of the portrait is happy and proud to share the work with their fans and peers.
What makes someone fun to photograph?
People willing to take risks and try things on the outer cusps of their comfort zone… My favourite part of the process (particularly with comedians) is the collaborative element – grabbing a coffee beforehand, chatting over ideas, and playing around on the day to see what’s exciting and unexpected. I love editorial magazine shoots that are entirely pre-planned with makeup, stylists, moodboards etc, but equally there’s something refreshing about somebody running off stage (or running into a studio space between gigs) and creating interesting photographs from nothing. My project with comedians is a mix of those 2 things – it’s interesting to ask my mates which shots they think have been pre-planned with a ‘creative team’ and which ones were in a rehearsal room cupboard with 3 minutes from start to finish!