Bond. Photographer Bond.
LONDON, October 28, 2015 -- The similarities are there for anyone to see if you know where to look -- the love of adventure, the impeccable style, the fascination with gadgets, the adoration of women everywhere. Basically, James Bond is a wannabe press photographer.
Well, at least that's what I told myself as I left my home to begin the evening shift.
I could see it in Daniel Craig's eyes as he attended the royally-endorsed world premiere of the 24th chapter in the James Bond franchise, "Spectre". Trying to console himself with the presence of Kate and William, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, may fill a temporary gap in his life, but he knows what's missing. Oh yes, he knows.
Taking place at the Royal Albert Hall in central London, the evening unfurled in the style of 007, with guests and media expected to honour the occasion with their finest attire. While some in the photographer pen clearly didn't get the memo, I joined a handful of others who went black tie for the occasion, with my discount suit and clip-on bow tie. If you can't dress like that at a Bond premiere, when can you?
It's certainly too smart for court, as my increased fines at my last appearance will confirm.
Being a news photographer for Agence France-Presse in London, film premieres are a reasonably common part of my work and they have developed a system of their own over the years. As it's not a daily job for me, I still find them reasonably interesting, particularly when it's a big. And Bond is big.
On arriving, the promoters carry out two or three draws to decide which position each photographer gets in the pen. To do this, every pre-approved photographer has his or her press card drawn at random, after which the photographers enter the pen, taking whichever position they want. Usually, the most sought-after position is at ground level directly opposite one of the pre-determined "stops" on the red carpet.
For me, the Spectre premiere didn't have the best start as I was drawn out second from last in the newspaper and agency draw. Crammed into a tight spot on the third row, balancing on a plastic step (a folding two-three step ladder that we carry with us to such events so that we can shoot above the people in front of us), I was far from the optimum position to get the best shots.
Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, added royal glamour to the "Spectre" premiere, along with her husband William and Prince Harry. (AFP/POOL/Chris Jackson)
Once in position, photographers are handed the cheat sheets of the evening's expected guests. These can range from being pretty accurate to a flight of fantasy, depending on how desperate a PR company is to get the media to attend. Thankfully, a James Bond premiere is a big enough affair to ensure that everyone gets the people of interest to satisfy their clients and employers.
Following the recently introduced tradition of holding the 007 premieres away from the cinemas in London's Leicester Square, the unusual location of Royal Albert Hall allows the studio to go all out with their stage designs, and the Spectre premiere was no exception.
Multiple screens showed clips from the film, a giant Mexican "Day of the Dead" skull perched on top of the Royal Albert Hall and there were even appearances by the film’s automotive stars, including the 1948 Rolls Royce Silver Wraith and the exclusive Spectre Aston Martin DB10. Hundreds of fans lined the red carpet, screaming and cheering as the cars deposited the latest icon.
The Royal Albert Hall decked out for the "Spectre" premiere. (AFP/Leon Neal)
Despite rumour and quotes from Daniel Craig suggesting that he's had enough of playing everyone's favourite spy, he was "on-message" throughout all of the on-camera interviews on the red carpet, refusing to be drawn on questions relating to his future in the role.
But I knew his secret though. What the casual viewer may have dismissed as a sideways glance from the barrage of retina-searing flashes was merely a chance to look towards our heavily-laden Thinktank camera bags, magic arm remote camera clamps and plastic folding steps. Anyone can shoot a gun with 15 rounds, but that look said it all: "Oh, to have just one chance to fire off a burst of NEF and JPEG files on a Nikon D4s..."
It was as the evening progressed and the glamorous stars of the film posed in various combinations that I began to consider that perhaps James Bond was happy where he was. Not because of the adoring fans and autograph hunters, nor the enduring global appeal. Maybe the reason that he saunters around in a well-fitting tuxedo with a beautiful woman on his arm is because he's accepted that he can't hack it as a press photographer.
Yes, that was it. After years of fights and chases, his legs clearly aren’t what they used to be. All the Vodka Martinis have probably started to affect his stability, not an advantage when photographing in low light or hand-holding a 400mm lens, which resembles a small telescope and weighs over four and a half kilos. Waiting for Q to create new toys and gizmos must be a real test of patience, while we just have to pop along to the Photography Show in Birmingham every year. As he looked at the prime specimens in the photography pen, his eyes tinged with envy, he must have felt so sad.
Once the red carpet was cleared of the punters/film stars, the stage was set for the arrival of the royal guests. Blue lights flashed in the distance and police out-riders cleared a path. Prince Harry was joining William and Kate and, on arrival, the photographers who only follow the royals repositioned to get their shots.
For them, it's all about clean full lengths and head shots, ideally with eye contact or interaction. As the cars came to a stop and the photogenic royal trio took to the carpet, every lens in the pen was raised and ready for "that moment". In the end, it never came.
The royal troika swept straight past without a single glance towards the waiting press photographers. For the next few minutes, Kate, William and Harry stood with their backs to us as they were greeted by director Sam Mendes and members of the James Bond franchise-owning Broccoli family. Still holding out for that last moment glance, we watched and waited, but as they walked away into the distance, deep in conversation, we knew that it was all over for the night.
As I packed my cameras away into my motorbike and pulled on my bike boots, I could only imagine the horrors and so-called glamour that Daniel Craig would be experiencing at the after-show party as I rode home to my two-bed flat.
Damn it, I want to be James Bond.