Former Harrods boss Mohamed Al-Fayed has been back in the news again as ex-employees accuse him of sexual assault.
It was only my first or second job for Scotland-on-Sunday’s Spectrum magazine. I had a folio of tilt shift portraits shot on a Gandolfi Variant 5 x 4. This was a really slow process requiring exacting focus and huge patience on the subject’s part. Just right, apparently, to capture the rascal who was bad mouthing the British establishment in the shadow of his son Dodi’s death alongside Princess Diana. He would go on to accuse The Duke of Edinburgh of conspiracy to murder Diana. He was just the guy to feature in the relaunch of the magazine.
The shoot in his Highland castle at Balnagown, had already been postponed as I was half way up the A9. Two days later with Christmas out of the way it was on again. Arriving with the journalist and my assistant we were brought to a gatehouse and told to make ourselves at home as it might be a long wait. And it was. The journalist got to interview him while we suffered hours of stilted conversation with a member of his ‘security’ staff. Nothing that involved any information on Al-Fayed’s past, present or future could be discussed. And we were continually warned that the shoot might still be canned. Have more tea and biscuits.
Finally I was taken to meet the man himself in his tent (read gazebo). Five minutes later, having passed my interview we were shown indoors to his ‘Wallace throne’ . “I will change now”…. Soon he’s back in a kilt complete with references to his lack of underwear and a desire to be Scotland’s first president.
Five minutes later it was all over but not before one of my lights failed. I was prompted, too, to rethink doing a tilt shift shoot as he was clearly far too impatient to contribute positively to the exercise. All in all a technically imperfect image but one that raised a fair number of eyebrows at the time.
And an abiding memory? The biscuits. They were from Harrods of course. They were stale.