Celebrity photographer John Swannell has a star studded portfolio.

 

His work includes pictures of The Queen, Sir Michael Caine, Dame Judi Dench, Sir Elton John and Sir Paul McCartney.

It is now being exhibited at Le Caprice in St James’s, favourite restaurant of Princess Diana.

Indeed Swannell’s most striking portrait is perhaps the one he took of Princess Diana with her sons Princes William and Harry in 1994.

“I got a call from Anna Harvey, who was deputy editor at British Vogue and she said: ‘Can you do a portrait of a friend of mine and her two kids?’

“I said: ‘Yeah, sure, who is it?’ and she said: ‘I can’t tell you at the minute, but it’s a Christmas card’.

“Four days before the shoot, I called her and she said: ‘It’s Princess Diana and Harry and William’.

“I was in the studio, half an hour before she was due to arrive, and I was at my desk on the phone.

“Suddenly I get this tap on the shoulder and nose-to-nose, it’s Princess Diana.

“She said: ‘I know, I know, I’m early’ and I dropped the phone on to the floor.

“You could see why people fell in love with her.

“At the end of the shoot she said: ‘John, come in the picture with us’.

“She asked me to send her the picture and she said she would sign it, which she did.

“She sent it back and it’s framed in the house now,” he added.

 

Diana’s sense of humour

Two years before the shoot, luck would have it that John was dining at Le Caprice – where else? – when he found himself at a table adjacent to the Princess.

“Halfway through the meal, she got up and walked across and went down into the men’s toilets,” says John.

“You could see everyone looking and then a minute later she came back up the stairs and she stood at the top – I remember as everyone was waiting for her to come back up – and her face was red like a beetroot.

“She just shrugged as if to say: ‘Oh OK, I made a mistake, big deal’, and we all clapped. She had a good sense of humour.”

John’s work spans the very best of British culture – Richard Attenborough, Sir John Gielgud, Paul Smith and Darcey Bussell.

His photographs have featured in publications including Vogue, The Sunday Times magazine and Tatler.

Now his favourites pepper the walls of Le Caprice.

Pictured left: John and his wife Marianne at the launch of the exhibition. (Photo by Dave Benett.)

Born a year after the Second World War ended, John’s birth was mired in controversy.

His Irish mother had him out of wedlock and was forced to flee the country.

“I was brought up by nuns in a convent for a while,” he says.

Ambition

John has fond memories of his childhood. Dyslexic, he struggled at school, but it mattered little.

“I was always going to become a photographer,” he says.

He would write to his hero, David Bailey, asking him to work for free. Little did he know that years later he would work alongside another hero, Cecil Beaton, and become Bailey’s assistant.

 

For the full interview with Jonathan Whiley in the Mayfair Times, read here.

To find out about Le Caprice read here.

For more about Princess Diana in Mayfair, read here.

 

Stars pictured above (left to right): Grace Jones, Sir Elton John with Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley and Dame Darcey Bussell.