The Byker boy who is camera king of the catwalk

PUBLISHED: 21:40 17 November 2009 | UPDATED: 15:45 20 February 2013

Catherine Deneuve congratulates Yves Saint Laurent backstage Autumn Winter Haute Couture '92

Catherine Deneuve congratulates Yves Saint Laurent backstage Autumn Winter Haute Couture '92

It's a long way from the streets of Byker to the catwalks of Milan, but acclaimed photographer Chris Moore has been criss-crossing the globe for more than 50 years <br/>BY VICKY PEPYS<br/>PICTURES BY CHRIS MOORE

Chris Moore is a man who simply loves what he does - and has done for more than 50 years. He is an internationally-acclaimed catwalk photographer, now in his early seventies, and is enjoying the preparations being made for his forthcoming whirlwind global tour, encompassing New York, London, Milan and Paris, to cover the menswear shows, the couture shows and then the slightly more affordable ready-to-wear shows for the Autumn/Winter 2009/10 fashion season. It's a fast-changing schedule that offers as many as ten events a day (that's 220 shows per season), with Chris shooting almost 200 shots each time and very little breathing space in between. Plus, he'll do it all over again come the autumn for the Spring 2010 shows. He is commissioned by fashion and picture editors all over the world to capture new catwalk trends, and often by designers themselves, who will make full marketing use of the images. The publishing world endlessly dips into his archive to illustrate fashion's evolvement from the eras that Chris has captured. When does he find time to breathe? Briefly, between show times. Where he relaxes is something of a surprise. This hard-working, international icon travels north from his London base to spend time in the Allen Valley, south of Allendale, which he describes as 'hawthorn-strewn and drizzle swept, with a scent all of its own'. It's a place Chris regards as home, so the next surprise is that he's a Geordie, born in Raby Street, Byker. He's proud of the status he has achieved and if and when he eventually retires, it will be to his cottage, which he has owned since 1963. He says: 'It was originally rented by my sister as a holiday home - Mum was from Hexham - and I used to visit as much as I could. It's paradise, so I was keen to take over the tenancy. 'Later. I bought it, but gas, electricity and running water didn't arrive until the 70s.' Young Chris moved with his family to Essex in the 1930s. At 16, his first job was in a print studio in London's Fleet Street, but

by 1954 he was hired as a photographic assistant at Vogue, where he worked alongside the legendary Cecil Beaton. By then Chris was married to fashion journalist wife, Jackie, and the pair travelled to Paris and 'shot' the haute couture collections - a very different scenario to today's catwalk shows. 'Costumes' were shown in private salons and a dressed model was often sent down to the photographer at street level. 'We were very rarely invited inside,' he says. 'Fashion reportage always used to be a round-up of the week's events, which allowed us enough time to return to London and process the film. I used to process and print in hotel bathrooms.' As fashion developed to become the UK's third biggest industry, so Chris's career, supplying shots for international and national fashion pages and trade publications, has grown, but it has become hugely competitive, with timing the crucial issue. Coverage of each show takes only hours before it can be seen in its entirety through designated web pages. Always positioned at the very end of the catwalk to catch the models full face, with full eye contact and at the crucial pivot point, Chris is guaranteed to be in the middle. It's the number one spot, earned through hard work, history and kudos, and it must be said, a certain pioneering spirit. A show in the 70s could boast a handful of photographers. These days each show now must make space for at least 200, alongside video crews for TV and web-based fashion broadcasts. Plus, a contingent of 'paps' who want to photograph the celebrity element on the front rows. Chris has been there and seen it all, and many have looked to him to learn their craft. Among the chaos and the mayhem, this quietly confident, kind and humorous man has earned tremendous respect from the rest of the pack. He's known as 'The Reverend'. Never showing his discomfort in his surroundings, and often standing on his upturned camera case, he vents frustration at unnecessary delays - delays mean missed print deadlines - with good humour, by leading others in a chorus from Aida or an OM-type Buddhist chant. There are few credible fashion folk who don't know and respect Chris. He'll be the first to admit that he couldn't do it all on his own and has a terrific team in the studio, plus two other photographers at the height of the fashion season. He owes his technical wizardry and efficient running of base
camp to long-term partner and new wife,Welsh wonder woman Maxine Millar. They married just a couple of months ago to the great amusement of the registrar who asked if they wanted to take pictures. 'We don't take pictures, we're photographers,' Chris retorted. Max has guided Chris trough the move from film to digital imaging and it's to her credit that he describes the changeover as 'trouble-free'. He can now step outside after a show and email a shot to a picture desk of, say, the New York Herald Tribune for the next morning's front page, by mobile phone. Chris's punishing schedule has meant a life constantly on the move, to which he's developed a simple approach. 'When I travel, I turn myself into a cabbage,' he says. 'It drives Max crazy. I get on the plane and I shut down, I don't react to anything or anybody and I'm simply transported from A to B.' The same goes for his routine. 'I've been staying at the same hotel in Paris for 40 years, the same Milan hotel for 20 years and only recently switched in New York to the Dylan from the Wyndham.' For a man who has seen it all, some designers hold his interest slightly more than others. He cites Hussein Chalayan, Alexander McQueen, Jasper Conran, Comme des Garcons and Yohji Yamamoto as his favourites. 'Not always run of the mill,' he says, smoothing out his Yohji lapel as he speaks. Kate Moss is a particular favourite model of the photographer. 'Her appeal is that she could so easily be the girl next door, but I used to love working with the supermodels Christie Turlington and Linda Evangelista too,' he says. Fashion is all about new beginnings and Chris talks about his own new beginnings as he approaches retirement. 'I want to do the "reverse" thing in the Allen Valley. I shall live up here and run the office from up here and commute down to London occasionally. I'll never give up London completely,' he says. Four years ago the Liberty store in London honoured his 50 years in the business by holding an exhibition of his work during London Fashion Week. His favourite shots, some pictured here, were made into gigantic prints viewable from the ground level through the central well of the store right up to the sixth floor. Shortly afterwards, the London College of Fashion honoured him with "visiting professor" status and he held a public exhibition in their college gallery. Looking back at life in the photographers' pack, he describes the experience as 'marvellous' and smiles when he recalls 'the camaraderie, and all the friends I've made'. This is a man who enjoys his frenzied career but is beginning to see the benefit of a somewhat quieter lifestyle. 'I'm going to grow grapes. I've never been able to have a dog and I might keep a few chickens,' he says. See further work by Chris Moore at www.catwalking.com

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