Negotiating a national lockdown, Charlie Clift documents this year’s BAFTA award winners
After the ceremony was cancelled and moved online, the photographer saw this an opportunity to try something new.
- Ayla Angelos
- 4 February 2021
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
London-based photographer Charlie Clift has a knack for spotting an opportunity and making the most of historic, pivotal moments. In 2016, for instance, just moments before the polls opened in the British referendum on EU membership, he travelled to six European countries and photographed over 50 Brits abroad as they braced themselves for the results of the vote.
So, when Charlie reached out with another project of this ilk, we were instantly intrigued as to what his latest subject would be. This time around, he’s focused on the BAFTA TV award ceremony and its winners after the glitzy event moved online due to the pandemic. “One of my favourite commissions was cancelled,” he tells It’s Nice That. “But I soon discovered that this actually offered me an opportunity: instead of settling for just two minutes with some of the best talent in television, I could now have two hours and make something far more collaborative.”
To date, the photographer has worked with a broad mix of clients, including The Sunday Times Magazine, GQ, Channel 4, Coca-Cola and The Royal British Legion. He first picked up a camera while studying Psychology in Bristol, and switched things up as soon as he graduated – landing on photography as his career of choice. He proceeded to assist photographers and continued to shoot as much as possible in his own time to build his own client base. “After a couple of years, I got too busy shooting my own work to assist others anymore,” he says, citing personal projects as a key element to his practice, especially when it comes to keeping things “fresh”. Past personal endeavours include a mental health campaign, Let’s Talk, and a short film about life in the circus, which gave him the opportunity to experiment and showcase his skills.
While deep in the first lockdown during March last year, Charlie got the news that the live awards ceremony commission would be cancelled and moved online. It was a dream client, though, so he decided that it was a project not to be abandoned. “I had to find a way to still create something great, so I gave myself a kick and decided to try to view this as an opportunity rather than a setback. Maybe the change in circumstances meant I could do something different? Maybe even make something better?” With an idea pitched to BAFTA, photo director Claire Rees confirmed and the project got underway – a collaborative, intimate shoot that saw the photographer meet the award winners one on one in various (outdoor) locations and shoot their portraits.
Before meeting with each subject, Charlie would discuss on the phone to learn more about them and thus decide on the direction of the shoot. “What do they do to find inspiration? What places do they love? How have they recently been spending their time? Everyone understood that I wanted to create the ideas for our photoshoot together and got totally on board,” he says. An example of which can be seen in the shoot with Jamie Demetriou, who told the photographer how much he loves water – “apparently if there’s a swimming pool, sea or lake nearby he wants to dive into it.” This led to the creative decision to show Jamie wading into a boating lake in the middle of London.
In other photographs, you’ll notice the inclusion of the BAFTA trophy, which pops up every now and again. Charlie was keen to include the famous awards in some of the photographs, but was eager to do so in a less conventional manner than the posed shots often seen at ceremonies of this kind. “For example, when I was with Will Sharpe, we headed to a local kebab house at the end of our session to shoot there,” Charlie recalls. “Customers kept walking in and being really surprised to find a BAFTA trophy sat amongst the ketchup containers.”
Charlie’s work is the result of an immensely collaborative process and, having completed this series, he feels energised by the experience. It’s inspired him to keep trying out new things, like directing a short fiction film and collaborate with fashion stylists, “building exciting ideas together,” as he puts it. It’s more of a reminder that, despite living through a pandemic, creativity doesn’t have to stop. “Even though we are all going through really difficult times right now, we can still create exciting things – we just need to keep positive and look at things in a different way. Use this as a time to try something new.”
Charlie Clift: Bafta TV. Will Sharpe, Supporting Actor Award, for Giri / Haji. (Copyright © Charlie Clift, 2021)
About the Author
Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent the last seven years as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.