Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Where When How Wednesday - Tony Nutley

Welcome to 'Where When How Wednesday'. In these weekly posts I'll be interviewing creatives about their journey into the creative world, their works, and what makes them tick.

Whilst you may not recognise my guest today by name, I am confident you will have seen some of his I'm interviewing Tony Nutley.

John Thaw & Nick Robinson in Goodnight Mister Tom

Hi Tony, thank you for taking the time to answer some questions. We should probably start at the beginning, when and how did you come about getting into the world of photography?

'I left school to go into the RAF to become a pilot, they’d already taught me how to fly up to the standard needed to obtain my Private Pilot’s License. However at the time I was joining it was a period when they didn’t want many pilots as national service was just finishing and loads of squadrons were being disbanded. They asked me to wait for a couple of years. My parents couldn’t afford for me to remain at school or have any further education so the RAF suggested joining them and doing any job I fancied for two years. I’d spent years at school doing ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels, and the job was obviously only temporary, so I picked something that looked like it was fun, not hard work…Photography. They tried for an hour to change my mind, offering me far more worthy jobs, telling me that this was the most stupid job I could have picked, but I stuck to my guns.  OK I accepted that this was a complete waste of everyone’s time and effort, but in my mind I could see myself in the future as a pilot who could take really good pictures.

I knew nothing about photography I just went in blind, they put me on an experimental advanced course, and then decided I was really good at it, I never quite believed them, every one else on the course claimed they were experts and knew everything about photography when they joined, and I believed them, I had a permanent inferiority complex for the eight months of the course, even when I passed out very near the top. Two years later at the point I was thinking of applying to starting flying they offered me a really advanced course, I decided to take that first then go on to the flying, but I then got totally hooked into photography, I was starting to believe people when they were saying I was good. I then won a very prestigious RAF photographic competition two years running which in effect labelled me the best photographer in the RAF. My name was splashed around my local papers (I was in Germany at the time) and my home television company contacted me about working for them. When I came back to England they got in touch again and asked me to work for them for a week, the money they offered was huge so I agreed to give up a week of my leave to do it. The week was a great success and they asked for more, it ended up with me spending a year working 5 days for the RAF and 2 days for Southern Television. Finally the RAF said I had to choose between the two, so I thanked the RAF for their time and became a freelance TV stills photographer. By my 5th month  I was earning double what I’d have earned in a year in the Air Force and never looked back.'

Ringo Starr - Narrator of Thomas The Tank Engine (and Beatles member)

As a freelance TV stills photographer, what did your job entail?

'I was a stills photographer, I worked on Films and Television programs, taking the still pictures that would be used for publicity and to help ‘sell’ the program. The pictures would be used in magazines, national and local newspapers, on posters, books, DVD’s and now on the internet.

I worked with the actors on set whilst they were filming, and I’d also take them to studios or areas where I could create a studio, taking set up pictures that could be used for magazine, DVD, and book covers etc.

I worked exclusively on film until around 2002 when when I switched entirely on to digital.

I was always freelance so could work for whoever I wanted, this included ITV, BBC, Pebble Mill, BBC Northern Ireland, Channel 4, Five, Disney, HBO, ABC, SF (Sweden), and ABC (Australia). I mostly favoured ITV as I had great contacts there and if two jobs overlapped for any reason they’d help fix it, BBC were not so helpful if it were an ITV job, so eventually I just sort of drifted away from them.'

Anthony Hopkins & Rebecca Pidgeon in The Dawning

Of all the films and TV shows you worked on, do you have a favourite?

'This is incredibly difficult to answer, picking out one film or TV series from several hundred worked on over 45 years is near impossible . 

Sharpe has to be there at the top really, five seasons, fourteen 2 hour episodes, and then two trips to India for another three episodes (two stories) nine years later. Almost everyone on there became close friends, from the producer down to the sparks. When I first went on it only people who’d read Bernard Cornwell’s books had heard of Sharpe, when it finished more than half the country had. It was great working with Sean and all the cast, I almost can’t think of anyone who was a pain to work with on it (well maybe a couple of the minor players), and so many actors starred in it, Sharpes Eagle had a young Daniel Craig as the villain. Emily Mortimer, Elizabeth Hurley, Brian Cox, Julian Glover, Mark Strong, Pete Postlethwaite, and so many others starred in at least one episode.

It was great to photograph, lavish costumes, loads of colour, masses of action beautiful women, horses, explosions, fights, killing, and the papers couldn’t get enough of it, so lots of my work was being used all the time which made it all worthwhile. 

Someone described Sharpe as a series of films where Sharpe meets a newcomer and a woman at the beginning of the show, screws the woman has a big battle and kills the newcomer, and in the next program repeats the exercise, a bit of a simplification but not so inaccurate.

One great thing about Sharpe was that it was almost always filmed abroad, The Crimea, Turkey, Portugal, and India. Oh and one program on the Yorkshire Moors, we lived in hotels, so in the evening rather than everyone going home we all went back to the same hotel which made for a great social life, and lots of bonding, and you tend to become a team rather than a crew.  

Sharpe has to be the winner, but I also liked working on Morse and Cadfael, and Foyles War, again great actors and good to work with.'

Sean Bean in Sharpe

This may be a difficult question to answer too...which actor/actress did you enjoy working with the most?

'Who was best to work with? That is impossible to answer, I usually was involved in a film or TV drama on and off over a period of 2 or 3 months, then I could go 6 months without seeing the actor or actress again and sometimes it was never, so you fell in and out of friendships. At different times of the year someone else was your favourite so let me name half a dozen (or more).

Definitely Sean Bean, also John Thaw for the later years, the first two years we hated each other (it’s too long a story to tell here), Derek Jacobi, Anthony Hopkins, believe it or not Prince Edward, I worked with him for Ardent his TV company, he is unbelievably pleasant to work with, I got on really well with Trevor Eve not everyone did, and finally Peter Davidson who I only worked with occasionally but was great to work with each time. 

As for females Tara Fitzgerald, Elizabeth Hurley, Emilia Fox, Juliet Aubrey, Honeysuckle Weeks, it goes on and on. The trouble with this question is that everyone assumes they are all luvvies and a complete pain in the arse, whereas they’re not, 95% are perfectly normal just like you or me, well me anyway!'

Having asked who you enjoyed working with, I have to ask...was there anyone who you had a nightmare of a time working with?

'I can’t really mention who was difficult to work with that would be very rude, so having thought hard about it I’ve decided not to mention Ruby Wax, Des O’Connor, Boy George, Adam Ant, or Elizabeth McGovern!'

Photography, especially online, tends to fall into specific genres and/or gets described as being a specific style. The trouble with this is it's quite subjective, the style someone views an image to be can often differ to the style the person creating it views it as. How would you describe the work your personal work?

'What I’m doing now I suppose is a soft form of glamour, I’ve drifted into it really, my job has always  been to make people look as good as I humanely can (apart from the bad guys) and that’s really what I’m still doing, I enjoy doing it because for once I’m photographing people who want to be photographed, and I can do it any way I want. When I first started photographing models I was a lot more adventurous, now I’m getting older I’m simplifying everything down, I rarely use large lights anymore, the vast majority of my pictures taken in the last two years are taken with one or two small Yongnuo speedlights and a small modifier, I find it tiring lugging large softboxes with big lighting stands around so I’ve drifted into simplicity. Do I have a style? I wasn’t aware of it but I must have, I’m told people recognize my pictures fairly easily, in a strange way I’m quite pleased about that, I’ve gone from large Elinchrom lights with £800 softboxes to £45 speedlights and they claim they haven’t noticed a change, although I absolutely do.'

Michael Kitchen

Photography can have it's share of problems. I personally have a particular problem with self confidence. This confidence issue can and has caused me issues with my photography. Do you find any aspects of photography particularly challenging?

'Without wanting to sound arrogant I have absolutely no self confidence issues, I was a successful working professional for 55 years, I could never have achieved that if I wasn’t totally confident, my technique was ingrained into me from the beginning, I didn’t have to bother about ASA’s, ISO’s apertures, shutter speeds, depth of fields, etc. I just fixed them without really thinking about it, and nowadays I’ve always got ‘P’ to fall back on.

Possibly the only thing that I find challenging is landscape photography. My real problem being that I’m now extremely lazy, The thought of getting up early enough for dawn shots horrifies me, I’m normally home eating by the time the sunsets happen, and I don’t like walking too far, I love mountains but live miles from any, so what I really need is a great view very close to a car park that will work around mid morning or afternoon. So far the best place I have found is Ashness Bridge in the Lake District, you can park about 15 yards from the best spot to photograph it, the main drawback being a million other people have also had the same idea and have got the same picture so I’ve never really succeeded in this particular genre and yet in a way I’d love to but never will, I’ll never fix the early mornings.'

In my series 'Foto Inspiration Friday' I share the people, images, places etc that I find give me inspiration. Who, or what, or where do you draw inspiration from?

'I’m stumped on this one, I really can’t say anyone or anything inspires me, I don’t really follow other photographers, I’ve never heard of most of them. There are certain pictures that I really like and some photographers who have pictures I look at and like, there are also believe it or not some on Purpleport that I like, but none inspire me. Find a photographer with good pictures and you’ll also find some rubbish he or she has taken as well, I like a fair bit of Bailey’s work, but he also has a lot I don’t like, I quite like  some of Annie Leibovitz’s stuff but then you have last years Pirelli calendar?? I look at my stuff and find there’s a load of dross in there dominating the good stuff.

I loved the technique of Herb Ritts, and a lot of his work, but inspire me, no sorry. 

I think the real danger in being inspired by somebody is that you’ll find yourself trying to copy or emulate them, and that just spells disaster. How many times do you see “inspired by ……. and not only does the picture look nothing like it was supposed to, it usually looks plain awful. It’s best not to have idols, just follow your own path be your own person, be different, especially if it’s your profession because then you have to look different from everyone else to succeed.'

Sean Bean in Sharpe

Sometimes images hold a special significance to us. It can be the first image we ever made, it can be an image drawing attention to a cause close to our hearts, it can simply be an image of someone we love. Do you have an image or images that hold a special significance to you?

'Probably the picture that is my absolute favourite is a set up picture that I took of Sean Bean on Sharpe series two. Every picture that you’ll ever see of Sharpe is mine, I did all 16 episodes, but this one was a bit special. Central wanted a picture of Sharpe and Wellington standing on 150 dead soldiers (there was a good reason), I told them as I left that it would be impossible but they wouldn’t listen. When I got to the Crimea (where the first three series was shot) I found there were only ten soldiers left and Wellington had gone back to the UK the day before as they finished his scenes early. Eventually after much arguing and whining I was offered Sean and the ten soldiers for ten minutes in the afternoon at a different spot than I wanted. I ‘borrowed’ a prop guy and between us we made that ‘enclave’ by scrounging, borrowing, and stealing, believe me it’s difficult stealing a cannon and dragging for one hundred yards across rough ground. I had to persuade 10 Russian truck drivers to move their lorries which were in my line of site. Next I needed 150 yards of a huge electric cable and an Arri Sun lamp dragging over to me, that involved bribes including a bottle of really good wine. Finally I had to persuade 10 Russian soldiers to lay on the frozen ground in temperatures of minus 20C, that cost me 20 Marlborough’s for each soldier plus a print signed by Sean (he was unaware of my generosity at the time). 

Despite the sun, the temperature was freezing, and it was literally blowing a gale. Sean arrived and I took the pictures, I was the only person including Sean who felt the idea would work, but all the time I was taking the pictures I could see they were good.

I got back to England and the Head of Photography at Central went berserk because I hadn’t taken what he had asked for. One week later he phoned and apologized, as he’d just seen the pictures and said mine were far better than what he’d asked for, he pretty well left me to decide what to take from then on. The series producer was so pleased he persuaded me to work with him on Inspector Morse, and I worked with John Thaw on every film that he starred in from then on until his untimely death.

A seven foot high version of that picture welcomed you at the entrance of Carlton Studios for years, and still regularly appears in magazines and newspapers today, it opened a lot of doors for me.'

John Thaw & Kevin Whately in Inspector Morse

Photoshoots can sometimes leave you open to scary or funny situations. What's the scariest or funniest situation you've found yourself in because of photography?

'I was at home when I received a call from a TV producer asking me to go to Parkhurst prison on the Isle of Wight, I explained to him that I wouldn’t be able to get in as I hadn’t been cleared by the Home Office. Don’t worry he said I’ll fix it. It took me an hour and a half to get there, I turned up and found that they were expecting me, I just had to sign a register, and I was in.

I was met inside by the producer who then explained that we were going into ‘C’Wing, this was a prison within a prison where the worst of the worst were held, people like the Krays and such, these were the scary people.
Once again I was just signed in without a problem and there I was inside one of the heaviest of British prisons.

I was taken to the wardens office and I asked what I could take pictures of, “Anything you like as long as the inmates don’t object”, and I was off, everyone wanted their pictures taken, I had guys staring through bars with hangdog expressions, leaning at their cell doors, sat on their beds, anything I asked for I got, this was obviously fun for them.

Then a little guy turned up and asked very politely if I could photograph him with his budgie on his head, that was no problem I could fix that, I was in his cell with him and his budgie when I was aware that it had gone quite dark, I turned round and almost wet myself, there was a huge ugly man just staring at me with a very frightening expression on his face, I sort of panicked, I didn’t know whether to scream, shout or play dead, I don’t think I’ve ever been as scared, all I could think was how could I be so stupid as to wander off on my own in such a high security prison, did I have no brains.

We had a sort of stand off, I thought he was letting me say my final prayers before he finished me off, he’d still not said anything to me, he just stared. Then suddenly a little skinny guy squeezed into the cell grinned at me and said ”He wants to be photographed with the budgie as well”, I turned round to the budgie owner and snatched the bird from his head, and in a squeaky voice said no problem, put the budgie on the big guys head, and took the photograph, he then turned round and left the cell, at no point did he say anything.

As fast as I could I shot down to the warders room and told them what had happened, they just laughed and said the big guy was harmless and the little guy was his boyfriend.
I didn’t move from the company of the crew again all afternoon.

There is a follow up to this, the next morning, I was still in bed, when I got a phone call from the home office saying they wanted all my films as I should never have been allowed into the prison in the first place, like a good photographer I said they couldn’t have them, but they then said they’d withdraw permission for the film to be shown, and within seconds the TV company was on to me saying give them the films, the pictures were of no real use to me anyway so I gave them to them. I never even saw the pictures but at least I got paid and learned to think a little bit more on my jobs in future.

I’ve photographed in six prisons since but I’ve never strayed away on my own again.'

Prince Edward The Earl of Wessex

We've talked about your start in photography, we talked about your current work, let's quickly chat about the future. What have you got coming up this year, more of the same? Any special projects? Plus in regards to a more long term plan, where are you hoping your creative journey will take you in the years to come?

'Hahaha, I’m 76 years old, my best long term plan is to survive until I’m 80! I’m retired now, although I did work for three weeks in March on a Swedish film in Stockholm, the drive has gone, now I just take pictures for fun.

Coming up this year, I don’t know, I tend to make decisions at the last minute, I rarely plan ahead more than a week at a time and I never plan the actual pictures, I just turn up and take something. I have no burning ambition anymore, in my field I feel I’ve done it all, I reached my zenith and am now easing down, I still love my photography and try each time I take pictures, but the hard passion has vanished, I no longer feel I have to be the best in my field like I did before, now as long as I like the picture I’m happy.

Perhaps I’ve become a boring old man, happy with his golf and photography, but at least I’m very relaxed and happy about it all.'

John Thaw in Kavanagh QC

We can't really talk photography without discussing gear, so...what is your 'go to' equipment that you find yourself gravitating towards the most on shoots?

'At the moment I possess a Canon 1Ds Mk 111, a Canon 1D Mk 1V, c/w 10 lenses (6 prime and 4 Zoom), and a mass of film equipment that’ll never be used again.

I’ve a load of different lights but I’m mainly using my little pile of 10 Yongnou 560 11’s,111’s, and 1V’s. Why so many, mainly because the upgrades were worth changing up for, once the 560TX controllers came out, and the things are ludicrously cheap, I can now control everything from my camera providing I can remember which flash is which.

So my ‘go to’ camera is the Canon 1Ds plus the 70-200 f2.8L Mk11 lens, and I would imagine 85% of my pictures are taken on that, I will use the 135 f2, and the 24-70mm f2,8 and even if possible the 300 f2.8, but really if you took away the 70-200mm lens I think I’d go into a two year sulk and stop all my photography.'

Timothy Dalton hosting In The Wild

Now for the shameless self promotion...where can people find more of you and your work?

'I don’t really bother with self publicity, I’ve a half finished website that I know I’ll never finish because I don’t want anyone phoning me about work, and that’s it...'

Jon Pertwee & Una Stubbs in Worzel Gummidge

I'd like to thank Tony again for taking the time to answer a few questions for me. I'd also like to congratulate him on his wedding anniversary which happens to be today!



  1. Easily one of the best photographers on the planet. Plus he is no big head like most of them on PP. That's why I left.

    1. Quite possibly one of the most well know photographers that nobody knows too...I knew so much of his work, but had no idea it was his!