I photographed Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais in 2002.
Like others, I’d first spotted Ricky Gervais on the ’11 o’clock show’. I remember seeing him on there and feeling like I’d seen someone from my family. That isn’t supposed to sound weird (although it does). I don’t quite know what I mean it’s just that I was very much aware that I was watching someone who made me feel giddy with the accuracy of his comments. It turned out he was from Reading, where I was born and grew up and so I thought that might be the explanation to the feeling of familiarity I was getting.
In the Office and in Extras I was seeing people from my childhood so accurately described that I swear they’ve (Ricky and Stephen Merchant) had access to the inside of my head.
Now, in 2009, I’m firmly of the opinion that Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant are the Picasso-like, important artists of our time and all from just having observed people in their world and what they do so closely as to leave you speechless. Aside from bringing up my boys, watching people (and photographing what I see) is what drives me on too: it’s so important to describe what you see and what you’ve learnt.
I think that feeling of familiarity I had was that here were two people doing what I feel I have to do with my time here: and doing it so well. It sort of goes without saying that Ricky and Steve’s work makes me laugh; what does need to be said though is that their work is so important that the world depends on it: that is if you fancy a world where people living together and understanding each other is important.
The point of describing others, with empathy and affection and in whatever medium, is to say clearly: ‘someone has been a witness to the eternally beautiful phenomenon that is your life’.