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Five minutes with celebrity photographer Richard McLaren

Chloe Best
Chloe BestLifestyle Features Editor
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From Nelson Mandela and Tina Turner to Heath Ledger and Pierce Brosnan, Richard McLaren has worked with an eclectic mix of famous faces during his extensive career as a photographer. Now the in-demand shutterbug, who has previously shot for HELLO! magazine, is releasing a selection of his most iconic images as limited edition prints for the first time.

We sat down with Richard to discuss his incredible career and the story behind some of his most memorable photographs…

Who has been your favourite celebrity to shoot?

My favourite celebrity to shoot was Nelson Mandela. He was one of the biggest icons in the world when I shot him, it was on my bucket list, and I was very lucky to get to shoot him while I was in South Africa on another assignment.


Richard captured this memorable photo of Nelson Mandela

I was doing another shoot for an advertisement and I happened to meet Nelson Mandela's right hand man. I asked him if I could shoot Mandela, and he said 'well you're 67th on the list' so I said 'I guess it won't happen then.' He said it'll probably happen in about nine months, but I said, 'I'm only here for two weeks'. I gave him my number and two days later he called me and said, 'Can you come to the palace tomorrow?' So that's how it all happened.

I got to spend two days with him in the palace and do a whole series of images, which was a wonderful experience.

Which other photoshoots stand out?

Pierce Brosnan was interesting because I shot him in Croatia, and I only had 15 minutes with him.

I shot Jean-Claude Van Damme also in South Africa. We were doing a publicity shoot for one of his movies that was coming out and my friend owned a lion farm, so I asked if they had any babies we could use.


Richard had just 15 minutes on set with Pierce Brosnan

Van Damme said: 'What do you want to do?' I said 'I'd love to shoot you naked with lion cubs,' so he took off his clothes and we proceeded to do this shoot. That was a miracle shoot because we never thought he would do it so that was fun.

Tina Turner was also great. I spent three days with Tina in the South of France at her house to promote one of her world tours. We did a series of images – one of the iconic images that's very famous and that people know around the world is the one in the swimming pool. She couldn't swim and she was terrified of being in the water so we had to do that quickly!

Do you treasure certain images such as those of Heath Ledger and Patrick Swayze who have since passed away?

Heath was great. I wasn't friends with Heath but we shot a few times and it was just nice to be associated with these people. Swayze was great, I spent a day with him shooting for an Italian magazine and we just had so much fun, so each time I look at these images there are so many memories from shooting everybody.


"Heath was great," Richard said of his time with the late actor

Where do you get your inspiration from to make each image unique?

Every shoot's different for me. I go in pretty well planned of what I want to do, but plans are not always kept. I have great visions of what I want to do but you never know until you get to the location.

I try to look at the locations before and plan it, so you plan it to the best of your ability but it always changes on the day mostly and you end up getting something better and different to what you had planned.


The photographer is selling limited edition prints of some of his most iconic shots

Is there anyone you really bonded with on the shoots?

I bond with most of them. Most celebs end up giving me their phone numbers and e-mails at the end of the day as I get on very well with people. I feel like I have a great personality and get through to people, and I have a natural talent for photography so I've been very lucky. It's like a hobby to me that I get paid for that is fantastic.

I get on with all of the celebrities because they know I'm not like a paparazzi, I'm coming in to do a specific shoot and they know my work before I go in. I make them all feel very comfortable – the first picture I do, I show them on the screen and capture their attention and then they're relaxed and then you have a great day ahead of you after that.

See more of Richard's work and order prints at