Alison Jackson reveals the tricks behind her lookalike celebrity portraits

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

The photographer shines a light behind the head of her Prince William lookalike to make him appear bald

Alison Jackson is showing me a photo on her iPad of the Queen changing the nappy or checking the sex of baby George as Kate and Wills stand by, smiling. “I have about eight babies,” she says. “Because they only last about an hour and we do a full-day’s shoot.”

Click here to see more Alison Jackson lookalike photographs

Of course the scene is staged, not real. This is Jackson’s trademark: lookalike celebrities posed in private moments that the public would never otherwise see. Often the images appear to have been captured surreptitiously on iPhones, but this latest series looks Hello!-worthy. In another photograph, Kate, Wills and baby George are in the bath together. “I’ve got five lookalikes of Kate,” says Jackson. “I shoot them in a particular way.” She points to Wills’ hairline. “The light’s shining behind him so it looks like he’s bald.” She smiles. “Tricks like that.”

Jackson, 43, has just got off the “red-eye” from New York, where she has been holidaying with friends in the Hamptons. We meet at the top-floor restaurant of The National Portrait Gallery, overlooking a spectacular but muggy London. She is formidable:  glamorous in a tight-fitting black top and immaculate blonde hair. Her figure is toned and she wears large sunglasses like one of her celeb subjects. When she takes them off, her eyes are large and green and penetrating. I feel as though she is boring into my soul or sizing me up for a lookalike photo.

Jackson is a huge fan of Andy Warhol, and she speaks in similar Svengali-like tones. “I think any screen, or any image, is very seductive,” she says. “One makes the people into objects, which is delicious as a viewer, because then you can just fantasise. You can project your own fantasies onto the performer, rather than have to deal with the real person, which is always slightly awkward.” There is a pause, then we both laugh. “We really are living in a time of imagination.” This weekend,  a lucky bidder will have the opportunity to pose in one of Jackson’s photographs as part of the Macmillan De’Longhi Art Auction. Raising money for cancer support services, there will be an exhibition of the auctioned works at the Royal Collage of Art.

Jackson is fiercely clever, enormous fun, and utterly fascinating about her work and the larger philosophical implications of constructing mise-en-scènes of famous doppelgangers, which have ranged over her 15-year and very fruitful career from Marilyn Monroe masturbating to Tony Blair line-dancing in cowboy regalia on George Bush Jnr’s Texas ranch. There is an early shot of Prince William gripping the hair of an adoring fan who has written in red lipstick on his chest: KING. Rather than the expression of an adoring father, his face shows sexual aggression and right-to-rule arrogance.

I put it to Jackson that her images once seemed like critiques of those with wealth and power, a takedown of the empty icons of mass culture, but now seem gentler, less subversive. Indeed, walking through The National Portrait Gallery gift-shop on the way to our meeting, there are postcards of the real Kate and Wills that appear no more cosy than Jackson’s latest series. “I’ve got to gauge it every time something happens,” she says. “And I think the whole Wills and Kate thing is very euphoric.” Is she a royalist? “Well, I’m certainly not anti-royal. I don’t think they’re a drain or a drag.”

Jackson’s career has been entwined with the fall and rise of the royals, following the death of Princess Diana. She made a series of works in the aftermath that are disturbing: she aims a gun at images of Diana’s face and shoots. Next, she made a series of works in which she dressed up as Diana. So why did she decide to stop impersonating and start hiring lookalikes? “I wanted to get it right,” she says. “I wanted to actually replace the real. Can you replace the real? Rather than just fake it. I think you can.”

There is a Warhol-esque embrace of the American Dream behind Jackson’s vision. And in her own way, she is visionary. She describes growing up in her wealthy landowning family’s 11th-century renovated monastery in Gloucestershire. “I lived a very sheltered life,” she says. “And I lived my life with my camera. So I took photographs all the time. But I didn’t have much to take photographs of because I lived in the middle of nowhere, with nobody around. All on my own.” Did her parents introduce her to art? “No, I knew nothing. I had a very bad education and didn’t really learn anything other than needlework,  and I had a phobia of needles anyway. . And then I was supposed to marry someone and stay down in the country and never ever leave. I knew that I would literally drown in nothingness there.”

But she did leave. Despite the family money, Jackson is a self-made woman. She moved to London and became a receptionist in a TV production company instead of going to university. She became a producer at the age of 22. Later, she studied sculpture at Chelsea as a mature student and then photography at the RCA. She doesn’t have any children. “I enjoy what I do so there was a point when I made that decision,” she says. Is it possible for women to have a family and a successful career? “I think you can do both. I just think it’s much more difficult. She doesn’t want to say whether she has a partner or not.

In the future, she would like to direct a feature film and do a PhD on “voyeurism and replacing the real and authenticity, those kinds of things that I’m really fascinated by”. She remarks, wryly: “The edited view is so much better.”

Macmillan De’Longhi Art Auction, tonight, tomorrow and Monday at the Royal Collage of Art, London SW7.

Arts and Entertainment

photography
Arts and Entertainment
Adolf Hitler's 1914 watercolour 'Altes Rathaus' and the original invoice from 1916

art
Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tvThe two new contestants will join the 'I'm A Celebrity' camp after Gemma Collins' surprise exit
News
The late Jimmy Ruffin, pictured in 1974
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Northern Uproar, pictured in 1996
people

Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the new Paddington bear review

Review: Paddingtonfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Tony stares at the 'Daddy Big Ears' drawing his abducted son Oliver drew for him in The Missing
tvReview: But we're no closer to the truth in 'The Missing'
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 back in 2001 when they also supported 'Children in Need'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth rejoins Tess Daly to host the Strictly Come Dancing Children in Need special
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey getting ready for work

Film More romcom than S&M

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Review: The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
The comedian Daniel O'Reilly appeared contrite on BBC Newsnight last night

comedy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

    Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

    Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
    The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

    The young are the new poor

    Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
    Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

    Greens on the march

    ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
    Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

    Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

    Through the stories of his accusers
    Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

    The Meaning of Mongol

    Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible