Baroness Thatcher photographed at The Lemonade Factory studios, Battersea, London, 9 October 2006
Harry recalls the shoot: ” Like her or loathe her, Margaret Thatcher was a major figure in British life in the 1980s. She changed the country’s cultural and political landscape. My career as a photographer didn’t really take off until the early 1990s, by which time her political career was over. I never got the opportunity to photograph her in her pomp and glory, and thought I had missed my chance. Then in October 2006, I got a call from Time magazine. The editor was planning a special edition – 60 Years of Heroes – and my commission was to photograph Baroness Thatcher. Although by then I had photographed many famous people, getting this job was a brilliant moment in my career.
During our meeting she held my hand and asked me several times, “When are the other people arriving?” She clearly thought I was shooting all the ‘Heroes’ at the same time, as if Mikhail Gorbachev, Nelson Mandela and her would be rubbing shoulders in this shabby studio in Battersea (picked because of it’s proximity to her home). At the end she looked puzzled and said to me, “The others never came…” She was no longer ‘The Iron Lady’. Just a once-formidable person succumbing to human frailty as we all eventually do.
The ‘eyes-closed’ portrait was one of the last frames in the shoot and was taken using natural daylight. I hadn’t planned it. She just blinked and the idea for the picture came into my head. I asked her just to close her eyes. Even when I was taking the shot, I knew it was going to be an iconic picture. I used my Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II with a 50mm lens, with the camera on a tripod. The shoot lasted about 12 minutes.
What makes this portrait special? I think when you get someone to close their eyes, they’re in a position where you can observe them. They seem vulnerable. Margaret Thatcher had so much dynamism and power, so when you see a photo of her in old age, and with her eyes closed, there’s something absorbing about looking at her and reflecting on how she affected our lives.”
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