The Brazilian photographer Anthony Souza, 25, was hand-picked by Madonna to take photographs on set of her new romantic drama, W.E, which she has directed. The film, starring Andrea Riseborough as Wallis Simpson and James D'Arcy as King Edward VIII, which is out next month, tells the story of the royal love scandal, which ended in the King's abdication. "I remember my first day on the film set as the stills photographer," says Souza. "I was a little nervous as it was my first ever job on a feature film. But Madonna was immediately approachable. Somebody gave her a first-day shooting gift of a water bottle with 'Keep Calm and Carry On' printed on it. She held it up and asked me to photograph her."
It was the start of a beautiful photographic project between the two of them. Souza approached the photographs as "artistic works" and not just "publicity shots" on Madonna's orders.
"Madonna wanted me to capture the style of Cecil Beaton's original photographs of the couple," says Souza.
A new show of Souza's photographs from W.E. and personal works from India are now exhibited in his first ever solo show at the Little Black Gallery in London. These largely black-and-white shots include Madonna sitting behind the camera, wearing black lace, on set of W.E. in London's Stoke Newington. "She was always supportive and inspiring and very hands-on," recalls Souza.
Images of Riseborough and D'Arcy in their roles as Simpson and King Edward VIII show the lovebirds dancing, sailing in the Mediterranean and kissing romantically.
How did Souza, whose style has been compared Steve McCurry and Henri Cartier-Bresson, get the job? "Madonna had seen my portfolio of photojournalism from all around the world. I'd tried to get a job as stills photographer on her documentary I Am Because We Are. But then when she emailed me to ask me to be the stills photographer on her feature film – I was obviously very excited."
Souza was present at every single scene of W.E. for three months. "I had to capture the essence of each scene using a sound blimp – a sound proofed box to put the camera in – so the movie camera didn't pick up the camera click. It meant that I had to do all the light and speed settings before each scene started," he says.
'Anthony Souza' at the Little Black Gallery, London, SW10 (www.thelittleblackgallery.com) to 20 December
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