What it feels like…to work with Bowie, Bacall and Billy Connolly.

By Alistair Devine, Glasgow.

Dennis Hopper, David Bowie, Alice Cooper, Sir Elton John, Sir Paul McCartney, John Travolta, Lauren Bacall, Rod Stewart, Jane Russell, Sting, Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren and Sir Anthony Hopkins are just some of the names you’ll recognise.

Alistair Devine worked for Hello Magazine for 15 years and countless global publications. Here he recounts some of his most memorable shoots.


Lauren Bacall

I was slightly nervous photographing Lauren Bacall and this can be a good thing. I was 55 and been in the job for decades and when her PA told me “She doesn’t suffer fools gladly.” I had no problem with this but my engagement style is very gregarious and based on a relaxed atmosphere between the subject and the photographer.

The dilemma I had was whether I should use good humour or play it straight with Ms Bacall After a couple of minutes I decided there was no way I was trading my style and took a chance that she would understand where I was coming from.

This is a beauty who had been photographed hundreds of thousands of times. The pic was for a London magazine and we were shooting on the banks of the Grand Canal in Venice.

Passers by were shouting “Who’s the chick he’s with!?” She was wonderful; warm, highly intelligent and still a stunning woman at 70. The shoot was terrific.

Sir Sean Connery 

I’ve photographed him three or four times and the last time was in Edinburgh with Melvyn Bragg and on this occasion I told Melvin Bragg Sean he looked like Pierce Brosnan’s father. He pissed himself but liked the idea. ( It was the hair )

The photo formed part of a world wide exhibition and when I positioned him and told him the idea that I’d like to project a white lion rampant onto his forehead, he grinned and liked the idea.

When I was ready to take the shot I said “Christ, you’re a handsome bugger!” and that was the shot. It went swimmingly well and I left the shoot feeling a tad chuffed.

You see the handshake and the first greeting is so important. When I picture a celebrity they’ve perhaps been photographed hundreds or thousands of times but I want them to remember the shoot they did with me.

Therefore the precursor to all of this is the introduction; ultra friendly with a smile, looking directly into their eyes,with a firm handshake but never squeezing it!

Rory Bremner

Last year I met Rory and he introduced himself “Hi, I’m Rory Bremner.” I said “Hi I’m Al Devine, probably the worst photographer you’ve ever met in your life!” That was a good ice breaker.

The hardest man I’ve ever worked with was John Thaw the actor lovingly remembered as Morse. I met him in France where the set was of a 1941 war story, complete with German soldiers, machine gun posts, swastikas and ME109’s flying overhead.

John was mannerly and courteous but I could not break the ice with him, he was so wrapped up in his role playing a French Resistance Priest that I couldn’t hook him in. He did what he had to do but I’d more chance of getting into Fort Know. What an actor, he was wonderful!

Sophia Loren

I was 23 she was in her early 40’s and utterly, utterly stunning, She is beyond beautiful in looks. This woman had more style than any other person I have met on the planet.

With impeccable manners, charm, massive amounts of dignity, a  fabulous frock and a twinkle in her eye I was shaking when I met her.

I met her in her hotel, the old Albany Hotel as she was in Glasgow to do some promotion for a film. I photographed her for the Evening Times newspaper.

I was concentrating so much on the picture you know I never noticed her fragrance or anything else for that matter. Nervous, with a dry mouth and a bit of nausea I managed to introduce myself and she smiles at me and that said “What a lovely name” and with that all my nerves dissipated.

She wasn’t intimidating, she was just so damn beautiful!

I feel very lucky to have this career and met some wonderful people and one of the greatest has undoubtedly been former Picture Editor at a number of high profile publications Martin Gilfeather.

Every single job is a challenge; unique and an opportunity to do some great work. Steve Irwin’s crocodiles chased me, I’ve been head-butted by a shark, been caught in gunfire in Belfast, in a live minefield in the Falklands and the only time I was ever hurt was when a set of venetian blinds fell on my head in Shettleston and as a result I needed seven stitches.

When he’s not shooting drone videos for corporate clients with his production company Make Shorty Productions or photographing athletes, celebrities or weddings, he can be found salsa dancing and perfecting the art of making clootie dumplings.

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