Joan Collins, I dream of you: In bed with Hugh Thompson
Wednesday 11 May 1994
When I'm trying to be inconspicuous, darkness is my ally. Night is a good time for 'papping' celebrities and I'm often called from my bed to follow up a tip-off. I hide in the shadows and 'hit' them when they come out of wherever it is they've been spotted.
I've always felt that the night is my friend. When I was a kid I used to go to this Roman amphitheatre in the middle of the night. I really liked hiding round the place, blending with the shadows. Other people would come there sometimes and I'd watch them unseen.
There are different ways of working at night. Like most people, I started out cruising, working the streets. You hang around outside San Lorenzo, Langan's . . . the places celebrities go to be seen. Nowadays I mostly work on tip-offs:
PRs leak the details of a supposedly secret party, or the manager of an establishment will call when they've got celebrities in. It's only worth getting out of bed for something limited or an exclusive. I'm not into monstering (a large number of paparazzi attempting to take unauthorised photographs of one person) any more. I'm into making money.
Celebrities can get quite nasty when you suddenly appear in front of them and give them a good 'hosing' (bathing the subject in light from flashguns). Last year Bryan Ferry tried to punch me when I hit him outside a night-club. In that situation you have to think, 'Is the picture worth it?' - it wasn't, so I stepped aside. If I'd been working with my partner he'd have got Bryan punching me and that would have sold brilliantly. That's the advantage of working in twos.
The only time I've ever regretted papping somebody was Paula Yates when she was heavily pregnant. She got really upset and bawled me out, using quite unbelievable language. But if you don't want to be photographed, you don't go to certain places. They all know the game and it's ridiculous to pretend otherwise.
No skill is required at night. I've often got people by opening the door of a cab, sticking my camera in at arm's length and firing away. Information is the key and it's traded very carefully. The paparazzi are all in direct competition but there is still a certain camaraderie. If someone tips you off, you owe him one back. Similarly, if you outwit another paparazzo they have a grudging respect for that, too. There's a lot of humour involved - no one would survive without it.
I usually end up working about three nights a week. I've sometimes spent the whole night waiting in the cold and rain but I'm generally home by 2 or 3am. Whether it's been a good hit or not, I'm very hyped up on adrenalin and I can't wind down for hours. My girlfriend's asleep so there's no one to talk to. When I lie in bed I get visions of f-stops and angles or how I could have done it better and my eyes remain obstinately open for a long time.
Sometimes reading will do the trick. I've just started A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. I love India passionately and go there once a year for a month. Running round London all night chasing celebs is not exactly spiritually nourishing, so I step right out of it and spend some time with real people in real situations.
Dreams are very important to me. They are the only direct communication between your conscious and unconscious that you can get access to. That's why they can be so revealing. And they never lie.
Dreams have affected the most important areas of my life. My parents divorced when I was six months old and I lived with my mother, spending the holidays with my father. I always thought I didn't care but recently, through talking about my dreams, I've realised how hurt I was by him, how I am still trying to win his love.
Not surprisingly, celebrities often appear in my dreams. I subconsciously cast them so that they operate as symbols. Joan Collins, for example, is my dream symbol for falsity and superficiality. I suppose they're symbols to me in everyday life, too: Princess Diana hit unawares represents a lot of money in my bank account]
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