Tuesday 23 September 2014

Interview With Top Burlesque Photographer Neil Kendall

Photo by Neil Kendall
Photo by Neil Kendall
Today I bring to you an interview with top burlesque photographer Neil Kendall. Anyone who is interested in burlesque has heard of top burly photographer Neil Kendall. You will recognise his work as classic Hollywood vintage shots oozing class and glamour. Neil has worked internationally for the last 20 years as a freelance photographer and producer best known for his vintage and burlesque portraits.

What’s more I also bring to you some of his wonderful work below showing some of his great images. In addition you can also take up a spectacular offer to have your own vintage style photo shoot in February 2015 for only £150! Now there is a deal not to be missed!! For further info or to book your shoot before all dates get snapped up contact Neil on his Facebook page quoting APUGFEB150 for this great opportunity!!

Have you always wanted to be a photographer?

As far back as I can remember there was no real vintage scene when I started so I would use vintage shops and style and art direct shoots with girls that had a look but yes it’s in my blood creating wonderful images. Has been my life for so long

Photo by Neil Kendall
Have you always photographed burlesque style shoots or have you worked in other areas as well?

It’s always been pin up and burlesque now of course there is a big demand for it but I got started when I went to California and met Dixie Evans who was the Marilyn Monroe of Burlesque in the 1950's she ran a museum and died just last year  she set me on a life long journey of burlesque photography 

How has your business changed and developed over the years?

I build a lot of sets and props now so it’s a bigger business than when I started I just work hard and keep my head down that hasn't changed!

What do you love most about photography?

It’s just the creativity which I really enjoy, obvious I know. I shoot lots of performers who have weird and wonderful acts  and am known the world over as the 'Best Burlesque Photographer in the business' so I have to keep coming up with creative idea concepts and poses and I love that whole process.

What achievement with photography are you most proud of?  
Photo by Neil Kendall

I did Dita's tour photography   for ''Strip Strip Hurrah '' so had my work everywhere on giant billboards in Hollywood Vegas  and the infamous House of Blues too  that was amazing.

Where have you had your work published?

Loads of places Vogue to V magazine , Burlesque Bible to the Guardian now I do private sittings more and don't focus as much on editorial as it doesn't pay so well and keeping a vintage life as your followers know is expensive!

It’s fairly easy for people to get what they would consider good photographs these days as digital camera specifications are increasing, editing software is easily available, even camera apps for mobile phone such as Instagram have  taken off. What do you think sets apart the professional photographer from the amateur snapper?

Knowing how to light and work with studio lights is the key difference, knowing what poses work for different body types. Pros tend to have a much better sense of composition and a personal shooting style and know exactly what they are doing from year so of experience rather than leaving badly or flatly lit photographs and relying on software to make their pics better than they really are. 

What type of photo-shoots do you enjoy the most?
Photo by Neil Kendall
I love the vintage film noir classic Hollywood set ups which I am known for as everyone looks so good with the lighting! But I do love my themed sets I make everything from underwater caverns to 1930s film sets so that whole process of set build etc is really great fun. I just shot a queen Victoria and alien and art deco devil all in the same week so it’s surreal but, of course, I love that.

What type of photography do you have the biggest demand for?
Pin Ups Burlesque and vintage Hollywood style portraits really I get booked for other things like vintage wedding s too out of the studio and a just made a film which was amazing for English Heritage set in WW1.
Where do your photo-shoots take place?
Photo by Neil Kendall

I have a house which has featured on TV it’s filled with weird and wonderful props and upstairs is my studio. I love working from home and am a real home person 

What other photographers do you look up to?
Hurrell from the 1930's had the most amazing lighting, it’s just so beautiful.
You have worked with some fabulous people. Can you share for the readers the people you have had the chance to work with?
Dita sticks out as we had so much fun drinking champagne and she was  splashing around in her giant martini glass, actually a good friend of mine had helped rhinestone her glass, it’s so bloody heavy , so she is there swishing around as I am clicking away drinking champagne, that was vintage heaven!
Who has been your favourite model to work with?

Lou Lou D'Vil is great she has the look of Jane Russell from the early fifties you could put a bag on that girl and she would get 20,000 likes, she just has the fierce face of a total film noir movie set form another era really and I love faces.  I really have to like models I work with too, as it’s such a joint effort to get that perfect shot it’s a lot of work so I like to chat and work through it in a fun way, I don't take myself too seriously at all.

Photo by Neil Kendall
What advice would you offer to models looking to build a portfolio?

Go to a good photographer, don't try and cram everything into one shoot as its quality not quantity hair and make-up is key to get the right look I do special packages for girls starting out so it’s worth sending me a Facebook message its Neil Kendall Photographer my style is a bit more classic Hollywood cinema glamour than pin up but all the shoots are different.

Are you teamed up with a hair and make-up artist for your shoots?

Yes two great artists Kellie in the North and Ya Ya in London they are wonderful I love working as a little team and what is great is they do both hair and make-up too. 

You have worked with some of the best burlesque names in the business. How does a burlesque shoot differ to a fashion shoot?

It’s more skin!!  Really with burlesque it feels... more vintage, so I have a complex light set up of four or five lights which I wouldn't use in fashion as  it’s a lot cleaner in terms of lighting rigs.

You have also photographed many performers in action, what challenges does this present?

Photo by Neil Kendall
God it’s getting that exact moment and nailing it. I was shooting in Vegas this summer for Burlesque Hall of Fame, and it’s like bang, bang, bang really fast. I was a little rusty at first and you have to work so quickly, so I loved the results, they used them in Burlesque Bible but it was tough going because no performer wants to see an unflattering shot gurning mid stocking peel!

Who are your personal favourite burlesque performers to watch?

Lada Redstar is great ,she has this wonderful insect act  Kitty Bang Bang and Banbury Cross just have great heat on stage and are really wild I love the comedy of Fancy Chance and Velma Von Bon Bon , I booked Anna Fur Laxis who does an axe throwing striptease which is incredible.
Why should someone choose you for their photography needs?

Check out my work! I truly came from a vintage scene rather than just jumping on the bandwagon because it’s fashionable and I am the best at vintage lighting around plus the shoots are great fun to do! 

Photo by Neil Kendall
You are also behind Goldust the exclusive entertainment provider of well-known burlesque and cabaret shows in the North West. Why did you decide to make the move to show production?

I wanted to develop my artistic portfolio my degree was in Drama and Art so I just felt I wanted to make something special and extend what I was doing photographically to the stage. I didn't realise how it would take off now I get Arts Council funding and do these huge shows with acts from all over the world. With Goldust the shows just grew and grew, I have produced for over ten years and the scene shows no sign of slowing down which is great.

What do you think makes a quality show?

Booking the best acts and having variety within the show.  I always have Burlesque , tap dancing penguins, circus acts and side shows, juggling clowns, fire acts, its more entertaining than seeing too much of one thing for an audience. Variety is key I think. 

What do you think makes a good producer from both the cast and audience perspective?

Someone who gives an audience a night to remember and treats artists with respect and humour and does what they can to make the show as slick as it can be, because with live shows things can and do go wrong! Audiences need to be dazzled entertained and feel like they have been taken away from day to day life.

What events do you have coming up?

Photo by Neil Kendall
In Chester I am doing the fringe on October 11th Christmas Burlesque on Dec 16th and a vintage new years eve party on Chester you can find me at Neil Nez Kendall on Facebook and my site is www.goldustshows.co.uk it has links to Facebook and twitter  for all event news on there. 

What do you like to do with your down time?
I really don’t have a lot I do an awful lot of vintage shopping and have a huge collection of vintage film stills and burlesque collectables so I travel a lot to places buying items I am a compulsive vintage shopper I just can’t stop!

What does the future hold?

I am off to work in Hollywood for a month then home for the autumn shows. Halloween, it’s my favourite time of year and should be a national holiday! It’s a very busy time so I am working on sets and shoots. But tell your readers to look me up I am always up for shooting vintage pictures it’s my passion. 
Photo by Neil Kendall
I would like to thank Neil for his time with this interview. Make sure you check out Neil’s Facebook page for more photos of his work and to keep up to date with the action. In case you missed it before you can also take up a spectacular offer to have your own vintage style photo shoot in February 2015 for only £150! Now there is a deal not to be missed!! For further info or to book your shoot before all dates get snapped up contact Neil on his Facebook page quoting APUGFEB150 for this great opportunity!!

I hope you have enjoyed.

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