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.

News

literature

News
Dermot O'Leary attends the X Factor Wembley Arena auditions at Wembley on August 1, 2014 in London, England.

television

News
news
Arts and Entertainment
At this year's SXSW festival in Austin, Texas

Music Why this music festival is still the place to spot the next big thing

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished
tvReview: The latest episode was a smidgen less depressing... but it’s hardly a bonza beach party
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Mexican government reportedly paying Bond producers for positive portrayal in new filmfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Disney’s flying baby elephant is set to return in live-action format
filmWith sequels, prequels and spin-offs, Disney plays it safe... and makes a pachyderm
Arts and Entertainment
Nazrin with Syf, Camden
photography
News
The QI Elves photographed at the Soho Theatre. They are part of a team of researchers who find facts for the television programme 'QI'.
people
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv0-star review: Sean O'Grady gives it his best shot anyway
  • Get to the point
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.

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss