Craig's back trying to sell you a dummy
Sunday 13 December 2009
Professional footballer, songwriter, TV presenter, football-boot designer and inventor. Craig Johnston is constantly reinventing himself – with varying degrees of success.
Despite Jack Charlton describing him as the worst player he had seen when he signed a 15-year-old Australian for Middlesbrough, Johnston played 271 games for Liverpool, scoring 40 goals, including an FA Cup final goal, and winning five League Championships, a European Cup and three League Cups. He wrote the "Anfield Rap", which reached No 3 in the charts, and co-wrote "World in Motion" with New Order.
Then there are the inventions – a device called "The Butler" that shows what's been removed from hotel mini-bars, which has been fitted worldwide, and the revolutionary, best-selling adidas Predator boots. But Johnston's story is also tinged with sadness. His playing career was cut short so that he could go back to Australia to look after his sick sister, and more recently a football school project for inner-city kids left him bankrupt and temporarily homeless.
Despite such setbacks, Johnston has reinvented himself again, this time as a professional photographer, with his first UK exhibition set to open in March at the British Design Centre in north London. Photo- graphy has been a constant in his life since he arrived in the UK as a teenager.
"I've always been a photographer. I remember buying my first camera as a 16-year-old at Middlesbrough. I was on £15 a week and saved six months to pay £60 for a Russian camera I saw in a pawnshop. I walked past every day until I bought it. I've been taking pictures nearly every day since."
He would often take his camera to matches and got some candid dressing-room shots, much to the bemusement of players. "The lads were curious to start with but when they saw how nice the pictures were, a lot asked me if I could photograph their kids. Just recently I went to Kenny Dalglish's house and in a downstairs room, where he keeps his trophies and medals, right in pride of place was a picture I'd taken of his son Paul wearing a Liverpool shirt on the pitch at Anfield."
One of Johnston's favourite shots is a black- and-white portrait of Ian Rush posing with his trophies. "The lads used to joke that if I could make Rushy look good then I could make anyone look good, but Rushy loved it – it made him look like Rudolph Valentino."
However, these images are not the focus of his first exhibition. He is focusing his lens on high-end fashion mannequins in shop windows around the world. Why mannequins? "I love still-life photography, and mannequins are beautiful," he says. "They wear beautiful clothes [and] their make-up is perfect. They never whinge, are never too tired, too cold or hungry to help and will stand all day in the same pose. And get this, they'd never think of asking for payment."
But the 49-year-old's first love remains football, and he is excited about the World Cup. "I was born in Johannesburg to Australian parents. My dad was playing football for the Kaiser Chiefs, so I want to go as a photo-journalist. With [my] insight into footballers, [I can] come up with powerful and provocative images."
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