Photographer Albert Watson wins OBE in Queen’s Birthday Honours

June 15, 2015

Albert Watson, who has been blind in one eye since birth, is regarded as one of the world’s most successful editorial and commercial photographers of the past four decades.

The acclaimed photographer is behind more than 250 Vogue magazine covers and many advertising and film-poster images.

‘A lot of my pictures are confrontational and controlled, they’re not observational or voyeuristic,’ he told Amateur Photographer David Clark in 2009. ‘I aim to create something that is strong, powerful, memorable, interesting and technically correct, not lazy.’

Born in 1942 and raised in Edinburgh, Watson went on to study film and television at the Royal College of Art in London where photography was part of the curriculum. The post-graduate course proved invaluable to Watson who told AP: ‘I’m not naturally a technical person, it’s something I had to learn. I use the discipline I learned at art college every single day.’

He pursued photography, mainly as a hobby, after moving to Los Angeles in 1970 where his wife Elizabeth got a job as a schoolteacher. Watson’s big break came after he was introduced to an art director at Max Factor, which led to the company buying two of his images. His distinctive style then caught the eyes of fashion magazines like GQ and Harper’s Bazaar.

Watson, who was the official photographer at the wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, has spoken of his shock on hearing of the OBE.

Speaking from his New York home, Watson told the Sunday Herald: ‘We only heard about it two weeks ago and were sworn to secrecy… We had already organised a party and it was seven o’clock when the embargo was lifted, that’s how we were able to announce it at the party. Everyone was very excited. It’s another OBE for Scotland, which of course, is very nice.’

• 1942 Albert Watson is born in Edinburgh. His mother is a PE teacher and his father a professional boxer. He is blind in one eye from birth
• 1962-66 Studies graphic design at the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design in Dundee
• 1966-69 Studies film and television at the Royal College of Art in London
• 1970 Moves to Los Angeles, California, and begins shooting photographs professionally
• 1971 Opens his own photographic studio and gradually begins working for fashion magazines including Mademoiselle, GQ and Harper’s Bazaar
• 1975 Wins a Grammy Award for his photography on the cover of the Mason Proffit album Come and Gone
• 1976 First commission for Vogue magazine. Moves permanently to New York City
• 1986 Invited to be the official photographer at the wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson
• 1994 Publishes his first book, Cyclops
• 2000 Named ‘One of the 20 most influential photographers of all time’ by Photo District News
• 2006 Wins a Lucie Award for Outstanding Achievement in Advertising Photography
• 2010 Awarded the prestigious Centenary Medal by the Royal Photographic Society for his contribution to photography

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