Exposure

Extract from Chapter 11

‘I wasn’t guilty of anything,’ said Emma Ford

Emma Ford
At the beginning, Bob just wouldn’t leave me alone.
I first met him when I went to his studio in Battersea with a friend of mine, Vanessa Upton. I was a make-up artist, Vanessa was going to model, and she took me there as a test. I had just come out of the London College of Fashion and had been working a bit for Trevor Sorbie. Bob kept on saying he wanted to shoot me, but I had never done anything like that before. I was ‘no, no no’, and I think it took him about six months to persuade me. I was 22, so nearly ten years ago.
 I had heard of him through other models. He was very charismatic, and on that first day he was all over me, and didn’t really take much notice of Vanessa. He was always talking about my hair, ‘look how fluffy it is, you’re like Picachu’. That was his nickname for me – Picachu. He would comment on your hands, everything you wore, what your style was. He thought I was some sort of  little creature, and he wanted to capture that. He kept on saying, ‘oh come on, come over, just a couple of shots,’ and in the end I said okay. Initially I was a bit shy, but he had a make-up artist, and it turned out amazingly. And then I spent about two years with him solidly.

Bob Carlos Clarke
Ideally, for the best pictures, I’d need to live with a subject for three years, or maybe three months would be enough, and really get inside her, both literally and metaphorically. That’s the way to take great erotic photographs. It’s a great shame in my mind that Naomi Campbell has never lived with a photographer, because that’s why Naomi’s photos are all surface and no depth.

Lindsey Carlos Clarkea
His obsessions would come and go, and we all got used to it. You know, he’d be ranting about how wonderful some girl was, the new muse of his life. You’ve got to be so sharp about sussing people out, and I’d nudge James, his assistant, in the darkroom and say, ‘Have you seen this one!’ and he’d say. ‘Oh God,’ so we’d let it pass. Three or four days would go past and he’d say, ‘That girl’s a complete nightmare!’ and I’d go, ‘Oh, you don’t say…’ Not all of them were like that. Some of them, like Emma, were around for years, and became friends to all of us.

Emma Ford
Even if he wasn’t shooting me, he would persuade me to hang around and help out, and pay me £30 or something. We were instantly friends, and he was very funny. He became obsessed with certain things, the way I would walk, and he would shoot a whole series of pictures with lilies all over me, and he would always say things like, ‘What knickers are you wearing?’ He loved the fact that I was always a bit scruffy and had holes in my knickers. He would say things like, ‘I’d love to cut that bit of fat off you and slice it up and serve it as crackling.’ I mean, we would shoot all the time. We did private work for him, work for magazines, and commercial work. We did the Urban Stone campaign - that was the poster that was banned. There’s a whole cupboard-full of pictures.

Simon Garfield
How did your relationship change over time?

Emma Ford
Everyone thought we were having an affair, but we weren’t. We were never lovers. I spent practically every day with Bob for two years. I lived in the studio for a little bit, in a glass room. Lindsey and I always got on, and I got on particularly well with Scarlett, and I went to stay with them at the beach house, and I felt I was part of the family.

Simon Garfield
I can understand how Lindsey would be jealous – you around all the time, 20 years younger than her.

Emma Ford
I think because nothing ever happened, and I was…I wasn’t guilty of anything. But I often did wonder: she must think something’s going on. I used to ask Bob, and he said, ‘Oh no, Lindsey’s fine.’

Simon Garfield
Do you think he wanted it to be more?

Emma Ford
I do, yes.

Simon Garfield
And you resisted that?

Emma Ford
Yes I did.

Simon Garfield
Did he ever use that line about how the only way to really take great photographs was to get to know his model intimately – by sleeping with them?

Emma Ford
He didn’t actually, no! But he would say, ‘When are you going to sleep with me? I’m going to be dead soon.’

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