Albert Watson: Monkeys, Celebrities and Hundreds of Vogue Covers

Albert Watson has made his mark as one of the world’s most successful fashion and commercial photographers during the last four decades, while creating his own art along the way. Over the years, his striking images have appeared on more than 100 covers of Vogue around the world and been featured in countless other publications, from Rolling Stone to Time to Vibe – many of the photographs are iconic portraits of rock stars, rappers, actors and other celebrities.

Watson also has created the photography for hundreds of successful advertising campaigns for major corporations, such as Prada, the Gap, Levi’s, Revlon and Chanel, and he has directed many TV commercials and shot dozens of posters for major Hollywood movies. All the while, Watson has spent much of his time working on personal projects, creating stunning images from his travels and interests, from Marrakech to Las Vegas to the Orkneys. Much of this work, along with his well-known portraits and fashion photographs, has been featured in museum and gallery shows worldwide.

Born and raised in Edinburgh, Scotland, Watson studied graphic design at the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee, and film and television at the Royal College of Art in London. In 1970, he moved to the United States with his wife, Elizabeth, who got a job as an elementary school teacher in Los Angeles, where Watson began shooting photos, mostly as a hobby.

Later that year, Watson was introduced to an art director at Max Factor, who offered him his first test session, from which the company bought two shots. Watson’s distinctive style eventually caught the attention of American and European fashion magazines such as Mademoiselle, GQ and Harper’s Bazaar, and he began commuting between Los Angeles and New York. In 1976, he landed his first job for Vogue. With his move to New York that same year, his career took off.

Despite the demands of his commissioned assignments, Watson devotes much of his time to extensive personal projects, and he has published three books: Cyclops (1994); Maroc (1998); and a retrospective called simply Albert Watson that was released by Phaidon in November 2007. In Autumn 2010, PQ Blackwell, in association with Abrams, published two new books, one on Las Vegas, Strip Search and another on fashion, UFO: Unified Fashion Objectives. Since 2004, he has had solo shows at the Museum of Modern Art in Milan, Italy; the KunstHausWien in Vienna, Austria; the City Art Centre in Edinburgh; the FotoMuseum in Antwerp, Belgium; the NRW Forum in Dusseldorf, Germany; the Forma Galleria in Milan; Fotografiska in Stockholm; and Hamiltons Gallery, London. Albert’s photographs have also been featured in many group shows at museums, including the National Portrait Gallery in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow, the International Center of Photography in New York, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Deichtorhallen in Hamburg, Germany. His photographs are included in the permanent collections at the National Portrait Gallery and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Watson’s visual language follows his own distinctive rules and concepts of quality. With their brilliance, urgency, even grandeur, his photographs stand out so clearly against the world of today’s images. His way of lighting subjects, especially the fetish objects and portraits, creates a nearly meditative atmosphere in the photographs.

Though the wide variety of his images reflects an effortless versatility, they are nevertheless identifiable as Albert Watson photographs by their sheer power and technical virtuosity _ whether it’s a portrait of a Las Vegas dominatrix or a close-up of King Tutankhamen’s sock. This single-minded commitment to perfection has made Watson one of the world’s most sought-after photographers.

Watson was awarded The Royal Photographic Society‘s Centenary Medal – in recognition of his sustained and significant contribution to photography – on 9 September 2010.

In June 2015, Albert Watson was awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth II for his lifetime contribution to and achievements in photography.

Mick Jagger in Car with Leopard, Los Angeles, 1992

Albert Watson’s Iconic Photographs Of 18-Year Old Kate Moss

It may surprise some to know that the critically acclaimed fashion and commercial photographer Albert Watson can see only see out of his left eye. But, as Watson has pointed out, all photographers must choose one eye to look through a camera viewfinder—his options just happen to be a bit more limited. A selection of photographs at Guy Hepner  are testament to the amazing
variety of subjects he has worked with over the span of his career: Johnny Depp, Christy Turlington, Nine Inch Nails, and Naomi Campbell, among others.

Moss Turban, 1993

Watson’s photographs made the cover of /Vogue /over 250 times, and graced the glossy pages of magazines like /Rolling Stones /and /Harper’s Bazaar/, with countless commercial campaigns sprinkled throughout. Some notable works include a portrait of Alfred Hitchcock clutching a dead goose for the Christmas issue of /Harper’s Bazaar/, and a dark image of David Bowie trapped in a creepy, head-sized box. Also striking: Mike Tyson as shot from behind from the neck up with each dot of perspiration aglow under Watson’s camera light, and a hooded Tupac with handgun in tow.

Perhaps his most memorable work is a series of nude photographs from 1993 of Kate Moss, taken in Marrakech, Morocco on her 18th birthday. /German Vogue/ commissioned the photoshoot, but the shots that became iconic were taken in more candid, improvised setting, post-shoot. The pictures are evocative, with a softly filtered light and milky tonality that gives the glazed look in her eyes and the curvature of her spine, a certain cinematic quality. One photograph in particular—Moss crouched on a floor of sand with arm outstretched into the distance—sold at Bonham’s in 2011 for £16,250. A large-format print of the same photograph went for £37,500 in 2013 at Christie’s London.

Whether looking out from under a torn veil, oversized hat, or a loosely wrapped turban, Moss commands each shot with her steady gaze and casual demeanor. Watson captured the kind of effortless, cool and easy sex appeal that came to be synonymous with Moss and her work. This series is significant, as it is representative of Watson’s unique photographic sensibility and marks the beginning of Moss’s career as a legendary, world-renowned super model.

Anna Furman / artsy.net


Albert Watson
is one of the world’s most successful and sought-after fashion and commercial photographers working today. Over the past thirty-five years his striking portraits have appeared on more than 250 covers of Vogue; he has produced photographs of many of the iconic figures of our time, including Kate Moss – whom he first photographed on a shoot in Marrakech on her 18th birthday – Naomi Campbell, Alfred Hitchcock, Jack Nicholson and that shot of Mick Jagger.

More than simply a straightforward fashion photographer, Watson’s images are informed by his work as a graphic designer and have a filmic quality; his work is often said to defy any simple categorisation as he bends and weaves different genres together.

The talented photographer has also published many books, like Maroc, 1998; Albert Watson, 2007; Cyclops, 1994; and etc. Two of his books UFO: Unified Fashion Objectives; and Strip Search were published in 2010.

Watson’s images are not only visually effective but also disseminate the fact that the photographer has a great sense of knowledge about technicalities. Just like any other photographer, Albert Watson also has a distinct style of photography that helped him emerge as a unique person in his field.

Albert Watson website

More works of Albert Watson you can see here

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