Celebrity photographer Peter Brew-Bevan has a sign on the front door of his studio, which clearly states the conduct he expects once anyone walks in to be photographed.
The sign says, All egos are left at this door. Considering the range of celebrities Brew-Bevan has worked with, it might be assumed the sign could offend some of the high-voltage, and often high-maintenance, star names who have walked through his door.
But obviously not, if the Brew-Bevan impressive portfolio of work is anything to go by. Ian Thorpe, Debbie Harry, Ashton Kutcher, Geoff Huegill, Holly Hunter, Akira Isogawa, Andrew Johns, Naomi Watts and Dawn Fraser have all posed for portraits with Brew-Bevan, now one of the world’s most sought-after portrait photographers.
A retrospective of the past 10 years of Brew-Bevan’s work is on show at the former Gowings building in Oxford Street in a new exhibition called Decca to benefit the AIDS Trust. His pictures have appeared on album covers as well as glossy magazines like Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Empire. All the pics in the exhibition are for sale.
Brew-Bevan, 35, considers photographing celebrities is the best and worst job in the world.
It really is a double-edged sword, he says. Sometimes it is the best, other times I wish I was a bank teller and could walk away from it . But it is tough even when it is good.
Taking the photo is only 30 percent of the job. The rest is being a psychologist, a mediator and juggling the whole thing. With most celebs, there is a whole entourage who come along, so a lot of negotiation takes place to get the shot done.
Among his favourite subjects have been Ashton Kutcher (I thought he would be an arrogant knob but he was a really sweet boy), Ian Thorpe (the most media-savvy person I have ever met -“ he knows his stuff), Geoff Huegill (a gentle giant) and Susie Porter (a favourite and a turning point of my career).
He admits the only person he has ever been starstruck by was 1970s rock diva Debbie Harry.
I absolutely idolised her growing up, and I was so nervous, he laughs. But everything went wrong -“ equipment didn’t work, things went missing, we couldn’t do the right lighting. I had to really pull it together and, while I was starstruck, you then see what the real person is like. She was incredibly professional and very sweet.
Brew-Bevan began his career in fashion photography, but tired of it and moved into taking portraits. He says capturing the essence of the person in the camera lens in the short time of the photo session is the biggest challenge of every session.
That is the bit that comes back to being a psychologist, he says. I am fortunate enough that I get to meet the people beforehand and know them. That is the only way to make them comfortable.
I have seen too many times when the photographer has an ego as well as the celebrity, and it becomes a battle of egos. That’s why I have the sign on the door -“ I really want it to be fun.
Decca is open from 15 February to 18 March 2006 at the old Gowings building, corner of Oxford and Crown St, Darlinghurst. Admission is free.