“My era was glam­our”

Aus­tralian pho­tog­ra­pher Robert Rosen on a life­time of meet­ing (and snap­ping) the most fa­mous peo­ple in the world, from Kylie and Michael to Ni­cole and Heath

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - Stellar - - Contents - In­ter­view by CAMERON ADAMS Glit­terati: Shoot­ing Fash­ion, Fame & For­tune.

On the re­lease of a col­lec­tion of his pho­tos, Aus­tralian “sna­parazzi” to the stars Robert Rosen re­veals how he won the trust of the world’s most fa­mous peo­ple.

When Robert Rosen was study­ing pho­tog­ra­phy in the 1970s, his teacher gave him some sage ad­vice. “Paul Cox, who [be­came] a film di­rec­tor, said, ‘Never throw a neg­a­tive out.’ Thank God I took no­tice.”

Now Rosen has shoe­horned nearly four decades of so­cial and fash­ion pho­tog­ra­phy, many via his old-school ar­chive of neg­a­tives, into his new book

“The first edit had 3000 pho­tos,” Rosen says with a laugh. “Cut­ting that down was like throw­ing your chil­dren out.”

Af­ter school in Mel­bourne, then a move to Syd­ney, Rosen re­lo­cated to London in the late ’70s. He calls it “an ex­cit­ing pe­riod – the punks and new ro­man­tics all mixed to­gether… the street was like a fash­ion pa­rade.”

He soon no­ticed the so­cial snap­pers mix­ing work and plea­sure in night­clubs he would fre­quent. “I thought, ‘I come to these clubs ev­ery night – I’ll take a cam­era’… and that’s how it all started.” One of those spots, which Glit­terati doc­u­ments, was the Blitz club, epi­cen­tre of the city’s new ro­man­tic scene. “The kids who went there were Boy Ge­orge, Billy Idol, Steve Strange and Mar­i­lyn. They loved hav­ing their pho­tos taken be­cause they’d spent all day get­ting ready to go out and be no­ticed. And a lot of them went on to be fa­mous. I knew Boy Ge­orge was go­ing to be some­body even when he was work­ing in the cloak room – he just had that aura.”

Rosen’s book show­cases his abil­ity to cap­ture – from red car­pets to VIP par­ties – that X fac­tor across a huge range of fa­mous names. “My era – the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s – was glam­our. Glit­terati – that’s what it was all about! I’m not pa­parazzi, I’m sna­parazzi.” He earned that nick­name in the ’80s, hav­ing won sub­jects’ trust by re­fus­ing to pub­lish un­flat­ter­ing pho­tos.

“I never want to in­sult any­body. It works both ways, celebri­ties know that. They want to be in the press and I want my pho­tos of them to be in the press. I’m not go­ing to put out a bad photo of them. So I was one of the few pho­tog­ra­phers in­vited into these par­ties where I could get pho­tos that weren’t so posed, or they were re­laxed af­ter a few drinks and more will­ing to pose. These days, peo­ple want to see celebri­ties in their nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment, or look­ing a bit drunk. I don’t. I just do what pleases the sub­ject.”

While his con­tem­po­raries back in the day lugged around big cam­eras, Rosen was an early adopter of the pocket model. “Peo­ple don’t feel so in­hib­ited [around] a small cam­era. A lot of peo­ple thought I was just another guest. I’d al­ways dress ap­pro­pri­ately.”

An ad­her­ence to dress code, and good man­ners, saw Rosen ush­ered into a 1982 event at Abbey Road Stu­dios while other pho­tog­ra­phers stayed out in the snow. “I went up to Paul and Linda Mccart­ney, said hi and asked if I could take their photo.we did three shots, then they kissed, which I didn’t ask them to do. But I snapped it.”

Rosen rushed off to de­velop the im­age – “film in those days, of course” – and re­alised what he had. “That kiss­ing photo went around the world. A few months later I ran into Linda and she hugged me and said how beau­ti­ful the photo was – I’d sent her a copy. That mo­ment was worth more than any money I got for the pho­to­graph.”

In 1990, Rosen was in­vited to the late Michael Hutchence’s 30th birth­day, where he took ca­sual loved-up pho­tos of the singer and his then-girl­friend Kylie Minogue. “They were a great celebrity cou­ple, a good bal­ance for each other. Michael was gor­geous, re­ally hand­some, a beau­ti­ful man. He had this charisma that flowed out of him.”

His ar­chives also in­clude an early shot of Heath Ledger with Rosen’s mate Jack Thomp­son. “That was my first sight­ing of Heath – I think he’d just started.” The shot, he says, cap­tures the very mo­ment he met the late ac­tor. Ni­cole Kid­man is another favourite. “She’s a beauty, but she also ra­di­ates warmth from in­side, which is im­por­tant. If peo­ple ra­di­ate some­thing, it comes out in the photo.”

Rosen is now watch­ing the en­tire in­dus­try change, with celebri­ties post­ing their own pic­tures on In­sta­gram and phones dou­bling as cam­eras. “[They] have de­feated the pur­pose of pa­parazzi,” he says. “Any­one in the street or club or restau­rant can get their phone out, take a photo of a celebrity and put it on so­cial me­dia. Pho­tog­ra­phers find it hard to get pho­tos printed. They’ve al­ready been on­line!”

Rosen now lives in Bali, which he dis­cov­ered on a stopover dur­ing a trip home from London to Syd­ney in the early ’80s. Fre­quent vis­its in­spired a per­ma­nent move, and Rosen was among the first in a line of Aus­tralian cre­atives who fell for the charms of the pop­u­lar tourist des­ti­na­tion enough to make it home.

Rosen says he is “sort of semi-re­tired”, and af­ter a life­time spent rub­bing el­bows with the most fa­mous peo­ple on the planet, he is happy to be away from the scene – and no longer chas­ing in­vites or en­trée be­yond vel­vet ropes.

“I just take por­traits of in­ter­est­ing peo­ple I might see on the street or the beach now. I’m older. I want a more re­laxed life­style. I lived five to seven par­ties a night for over 30 years. I’m ex­hausted! I’m hav­ing a hol­i­day.”

“Michael Hutchence was a beau­ti­ful man. Charisma flowed out of him”

ON cap­turedTHE SCENEthis early (clock­wise­shot of Heath­from top Ledger­left) Robert along­side Rosen fel­low Aussie ac­tor Jack Thomp­son at the 1999 AFI Awards; Ni­cole Kid­man with her then-hus­band Tom Cruise in 1992; El­iz­a­beth Hur­ley and Hugh Grant in 1994; that shot of Paul and Linda Mccart­ney; Cate Blanchett and Jerry Hall at a fash­ion event in 2000.

LE LENS OF TIME (from(fr left) Meat Loaf an and Olivia New­tonJo John in 1991; a lo loved-up Michael H Hutchence and Kylie M Minogue at his 30th b birth­day in 1990.

Glit­terati: Shoot­ing Fash­ion, Fame & For­tune by Robert Rosen is out now, $79.99; newhol­land­pub­lish­ers.com.

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