“He turned the boy over, but no questions were asked.”
London Mayor Johnson participates in street rugby tournament Tokyo on a trade visit to Japan, October 2015. Photo by Stéphane Rousseau
Most politicians don’t enjoy taking pictures and doing stunts. Boris excels at them. This rugby match with Tokyo kids was set to commemorate Japan hosting the Rugby World Cup, but Boris was very competitive and engrossed. Most politicians and their staff would have had their faces covered in fear, but there were no questions or inquiries. Should we have played rugby?” It was just: “Oh, it’s Boris.
People say he’s Teflon, and he really is. I was wondering how many people would know him from that trip to Japan, but everyone said, “I saw him on a zipwire, so I know him!” . For someone else, that picture, and this picture, would have been a disaster, but for him it was a victory.
I remember the last day of the 2019 election campaign. We were in the Southend where he went to see a Tory supporter and planted a large Conservative sign in her front yard. It was a dark December night and he was given this giant mallet. Of course, he raised the stakes – he climbed over a very thin wall and stood there in a suit with his mallet held high. No one else would have even gone near that wall. “This is not going to work,” I thought, but he knew what would make a good picture. His favorite phrase at a photocall when he was mayor was:
“Stuck on a zipwire, his enthusiasm was rapidly declining.”
Mayor of London caught on a zip wire August at Victoria Park, London year 2012. Photo by Kois Mia
It was the 2012 Olympics and Johnson was visiting Victoria Park to highlight the capital’s Olympic appeal. When it was revealed that he was on a zipwire, I was surprised he was allowed in because his platform was so high. But he went with it – I think it’s the fastest way to go once you get there. I waited at the bottom and positioned myself so I could see the height . Almost immediately, Johnson turned and fell backwards. Luckily he swung back towards the bottom and I got some decent frames.
As we know Boris never made it to the end and this was filmed while he was waiting to be helped. I became dissatisfied and my enthusiasm dwindled quickly. At that time, it may not be as funny as when he fell into the river, but I thought it was pretty funny.
Did you think it would become an iconic image? Well, it was obvious that everyone was looking up at him while he was suspended in a very uncomfortable harness and trying to cover himself with a flag. I think this photo has stood the test of time as it has come to symbolize Johnson’s entire political career. After all, he’s the Brexit poster boy.
“He liked to dress duffy and like to sit in little chairs with the kids.”
current prime ministerJohnson is jogging with his dog Dillin. January 2022. Photo by Hannah McKay
That was the height of the Partygate scandal. I tried to shoot Johnson down the day before but failed. That means a very early start, plus not knowing his schedule. He often drives to Buckingham Palace and runs through the gardens there. Your best hope in that case would be to photograph him from the car window, but occasionally he would change clothes and jog through St. James’s Park. That’s what he did this morning, here he is at the back of Downing Street on his way home.
There are always two or three guards running with him and a car behind him. Dirin the dog is very excited. Johnson always puts him in a very long lead. This only adds to the confusion and humor of the situation with dogs and photographers all running around. I took a gamble and didn’t use flash. It’s a catch flash technique.
Most of the access photographers have to Chancellor is organized and controlled. He is charismatic, does funny things and takes good pictures, but the environment is always under control. Many of his trips were to schools, factories and construction sites. It could be anywhere you could put on PPE, take off your clothes, and sit with the kids in a small chair.
At the beginning of his premiership, this was great for photographers, as Teresa May was very reserved. But Boris, a couple of years after him, you started to expect him milking cows and wearing hairnets at the biscuit factory. We became desensitized because that’s exactly what he does. Opportunities to photograph him in nature were rare. An early morning jog was the only time I had, except when I left Downing Street to go to the Prime Minister’s question.
“That’s the face he made whenever I shot him.”
Johnson When Worker November at the Crisp Factory at Tate Castle in County Armagh, Northern Ireland 2019. Photo by Daniel Leal-Olivas
This was taken during a general election when the Prime Minister was campaigning in northern England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. He visited various parts of his Tayto factory, tested potato chips, picked up bags, and finally made it to the potato quality control belt. In between our shots, people were taking selfies.
the light was perfect. After a while I was told it was time to go, but as I was leaving I turned back and took this shot of him looking back at me. He’s pulling on what I call the classic Boris face. It’s the face he made whenever I shot him. In some ways he is like a queen. He always looks you straight in the eye and gives you an image.
I am always very relaxed when I go out. He doesn’t mind looking like a clown and I’ve never seen him say no to a selfie.I once visited a Boy Scout organization with him. He tried to start a fire with them, but it didn’t work. His team was saying, ‘OK, he has to go soon,’ but he was unfazed. He didn’t even care what his team or the kids around him said until he finally caught fire.
“His laces are tied, his shirt is tucked in, his suit is a tight fit.”
Johnson Arrival in Conservative Party headquarters as him become Party Leader, July 2019Photo by Toby Melville
It was the day Johnson was elected party leader. He was giving his thumbs up with one hand and saluting with the other. He must have known earlier in the day that he was going to beat Jeremy Hunt, but he was very reserved, even reserved. is. I can’t think of any recent prime minister, or even a prime minister in waiting, who did that in a moment of letting his guard down.
Boris gives us a visual hook, so it’s easy to think we did a good job. But you have to think beyond what’s behind these things. His shoelaces are untied, his shirt is tucked in, and he’s wearing a form-fitting suit. That said, I don’t think Johnson’s deranged look is a hoax. I think that’s his true form. He is self-conscious, but he is not self-conscious.
The photo got a bit of attention, and The Guardian and The Telegraph used it on the front page the next day (not necessarily my version). I think it was the fact that we thought this was the odd package we got, as the image shows.
“Maybe they knew the harm they were doing to Britain.”
Congressmen Jacob Rhys-Mogg, Boris Johnson, Peter Vaughn and Ian Duncan-Smith hear their colleague Steve Baker speak during the launch of the Global Trade Agreement. parliament, september 2018. Photo by Dan Kitwood
This was taken at the height of the whole Brexit process. Mr Johnson had just resigned as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and I think this image sums up the national mood at the time. I’m still not entirely sure if I should have been in that room. I thought I was invited, so I went to Congress and sat down and waited. As they all came in, they were staring at me as if to say, “What is the photographer doing here?” But no one said anything, so I continued.
I can’t remember exactly why everyone seemed nervous. Land Rover’s top had just attacked the government’s ‘no deal’ stance, so they had to fight it. I think he was one when they were just scratching their heads. And perhaps, in the end, those present knew the harm they were doing to the country.
Boris can do the head-in-hand thing well and play for the camera. It was a real frustration. Rarely does an image come together like this. We expect one person to do it, but not all at the same time.
“The pressure of Covid started to show on his face.”
Johnson in his office in March 2020 as the Covid pandemic accelerates. Photo by Chief Photographer of Prime Minister Andrew Parsons
It’s not your typical Boris photo. This was taken on Saturday, March 14, 2020, when he spoke on the phone with Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance and was told things would get worse with Covid. Nine days later he announced that the country had to go into lockdown.
I’ve spent the last two and a half years at No 10, photographing Johnson from the inside. In my opinion it is the best photo job in the country. In a way, taking pictures is easy. You have to learn how to blend in, read what’s going on in the room, and get along with people.
I never bought into the idea that Boris was just a showman who couldn’t take things seriously. I’ve seen what I can do. You can see how seriously he takes his job in this photo. There have been so many scenarios since Covid that the pressure has been immeasurable and it started to show in his face. No matter how big the fight was, I rarely saw him go down or out on the ropes.
is this my best photo? No, I’m not a big fan of composing. I would have hoped his aide was watching him. But I didn’t choose it for that reason. It’s a moment in history that will always be with me.