Albert Watson - Frozen

Watson's photographs introduce you to a dizzy riot of colour, images riddled with fantasy but rooted in realism.

Feature by Diana Kiernander | 14 Aug 2006

Johnny Depp photographed with that 'Winona' tattoo, Jack Nicholson on the cover of 'Rolling Stone'. The stars of the silver screen shine a ltttle brighter when shot through the lens of Albert Watson. Dazzling, iconic imagery aside, visitors to his solo exhibition, 'Frozen', at the City Art Centre, may be surprised by the breadth of his work.
"About 70% of what you see in my show is commercial," admits Scot's born Watson, talking from his New York studio, "but there are more personal projects in there too."
Spread over three floors, the gallery is littered with breathtaking highlights from a career spanning almost 40 years.
His celebrated fashion portfolio sits comfortably alongside images of inmates from the Louisiana State penitentiary and the Orkney standing stones.
"I prefer to be moving around. I don't always want to shoot people, I don't always want to shoot colour, I don't always want to shoot commercials," says Watson, in way of explanation for the varied reportage, landscape shots, portraiture and stylised celebrity shots on display.
Combined, the body of work takes the viewer on a high-octane, almost cinematic, journey. Many of his characters are pure Hollywood, sparkling with gritty, uptown glamour. His settings are nostalgic American road trips. Watson studied film at The Royal College of Art before moving professionally into the photography arena, and this legacy has never left his work.
The Vegas project, shot in 2000, looks like an experimental, independent film. His photographs introduce you to a dizzy riot of colour, images riddled with fantasy but rooted in realism. Watson avoids casino clich├ęs but manages to capture the ego and the elegance of the Vegas scene.
Elsewhere, black and white imagery documents Watson's powerful connection with the Moroccan landscape and people.
"I found Morocco quite classic and traditional. It was an opportunity to do photojournalism and to work in a way that was not too art driven," states Watson.
Still, artistic integrity haunts even his most commercial pieces of work. The advertising campaigns he shot for Yohji Yamamoto and Prada revel in sculptural and stylistic genius.
"Fashion photography means you can work relatively creatively," he explains, comparing the collaborative nature of working with editors, make-up artists and models to that of a film crew.
Watson's range of still work is a spectacular sequence of celebrity, surrealism and style. With every piece, he's rewriting the script of the stars. Get there quick before the credits start to roll.

Frozen' runs from July 29 to October 22, 2006
£5.00 (£3.50 concessions)
City Art Centre - 0131 529 3993