THROUGH THE LENS: unforgettable royal images
Meet the man whose thrilling day job takes him around the world capturing your favourite royal moments. Chris Jackson talks exclusively to Juliet Rieden.
Chris Jackson has the best job in the world, at least that’s how he sees it and as someone who has watched him work in stunning locations all over the globe, I’m inclined to agree. For the past 15 years, Chris (above) has travelled to the most extraordinary places you can imagine, met people from all walks of life, a cornucopia of cultures, and yes, he does all this as well as taking photographs of the royal family, often travelling on the same planes as his subjects.
This is the man who shot Kate and William romantically gazing at Paris from behind the huge clock in the Musée d’Orsay, captured the Queen laughing uncontrollably with her son and husband at the Highland Games in Scotland, who regularly goes to Africa with Prince Harry, who took those butter-wouldn’t-melt cameos of Prince George playing with bubbles at a children’s party in Canada and his of cial toothy fourth birthday portrait; the mystical images of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall in India and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex newly-wed, waving from their carriage. These shots end up on the front pages of magazines, newspapers and websites everywhere, and “the buzz of seeing my work on newsstands, that’s something that’s never gone away,” says Chris.
His of cial title is “Getty Images Royal Photographer” and he’s one of a small club of approved royal photographers who follow the monarchy. Chris is invited to the royals’ public engagements, into their palaces and castles and also on some incredibly special royal trips. He is one of a chosen few given the best vantage points to record royal history, often only an arm’s length from the most famous family in the world, and he still can’t believe it.
“I’m very lucky to work in this weird and wonderful world and photograph these amazing faces of the royal family,” he says.
Protocol and sensitivity (and good manners!) are key. Dress codes are strict and “no” always means “no”, engendering a hasty retreat. You mustn’t get too close, use a ash at awkward moments or make a noise in places like Westminster Abbey or the War Memorial.
“It’s very important to be respectful of the situation you’re in,” says Chris. “And you need to alter your behaviour depending on who you are with. There’s a different protocol – maybe not of cially – but certainly for each family member.
“I get excited every time I photograph the Queen, it’s a real privilege. She has this amazing aura and people love to see her; she’s iconic. For a photographer, that never wears off.” So how close does he get? “Physically, I would be a couple of metres away from the Queen. I’m quite conscious of how many pictures I’m taking. Whereas with the Duchess of Cornwall, for example, she might come over and have a bit of a chat.”
As well as diplomacy and politesse, speed and a keen eye for the best “sight line” are also paramount. For Prince Harry’s wedding, Chris was tasked with shooting a double page of the couple in the carriage. “I needed this picture and it was really tough. If you went a little bit too high you didn’t get Harry’s eyes in the picture. There is a difference between hero and zero which is so narrow, and it was total luck. Some photographers further down from me got no pictures.”
Chris says his best shots are of the royal children. “These are the more candid shots and they’re probably my favourites because they make you smile. They’re just nice pictures of children. It could be anyone’s children but he [Prince George] is the future King of England and kind of special.”