The photographer Koto Bolofo has spent two years documenting the life and craft of one of his heroes, Lord Snowdon. He reveals what he learnt from the master portraitist
By Lucy Davies 19 Mar 2012 in The Telegraph
Koto Bolofo fled South Africa aged four, when his father, a teacher, was accused of spreading anti-government propaganda to schoolchildren. Bolofo grew up in England, developed an interest in photography and, entirely self-taught, built a career as a fashion photographer and filmmaker. Now 52, he has devoted the past two years to celebrating the life and craft of Lord Snowdon. ‘We had his book Sittings in the library at school, and it fascinated me,’ Bolofo recalls. The idea for this project came to him in 2009. ‘I thought, this is one of the great English photographers; he’s captured every living icon you can think of. I wanted to show the younger generation how much work goes into being a master photographer.’ Bolofo set about creating a visual document of the life and work of the man behind the public persona.
The two hit it off from the start, and their regular meetings were always surprising. ‘Sometimes he’d just want to have a chat. Once, he sang to me; another time I watched him have his hair cut. I knew I couldn’t push or shove, it had to be at his pace.’
For Bolofo, the lessons he learnt during his time with Snowdon are invaluable. ‘Before, I would take a hundred rolls of film with me to a shoot, now I don’t even finish a single roll and I know I’ve got 10 good shots. He taught me: look first, learn first, shoot last.’