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‘Noel Gallagher was mega hungover and Will.i.am kept walking off’ – The stories behind Big Issue photoshoots

Louise Haywood-Schiefer has been photographing stars for The Big Issue for a decade – and she’s decided to share some of her most memorable moments.

If you’re a photographer taking snaps for The Big Issue, you’re going to have some colourful tales of A-listers – whether they’re shattering preconceptions, cementing them or just leading you on a wild caper.

Louise Haywood-Schiefer, who has been tasked with photographing magazine cover stars for 10 years, has now decided to share the tales from her most memorable shoots. And you can see why.

From trying to get Will.i.am to stand still to going hat shopping with Sir Terry Pratchett and being ambushed by the Dalai Lama, Haywood-Schiefer has seen a thing or two.

The Portrait of Britain Awards winner says taking snaps for The Big Issue is “basically a dream job”.

“I get the opportunity to meet incredible people who are all accommodating and eager to be involved with the magazine,” she said. “For example, Russell Brand even fitted an extra shoot into a busy press day because he wanted the cover to be the best it could be.

“I’ve never been met with sullenness or reticence to do any of my ideas and I’m so grateful for the career opportunities I’ve had.”

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She shares her memories from some of the highlights.

Noel Gallagher – November 2019

“Noel Gallagher was mega hungover after being at an awards ceremony the night before. He came in and lay on the sofa until we started and then 20 minutes in asked if we’d got enough because he was ‘losing the will to live’.”

Noel Fielding and Kasabian’s Serge Pizzorno – October 2014

“Noel Fielding and Serge gave me loads of time and after doing different set ups in Noel’s studio, he decided we should take the shoot outside and down the road to his local Costcutter.

“It was one of the most fun and relaxed shoots I’ve ever done. As I sat in my car afterwards sorting out my Google maps to get home, he and his mates tapped on the window to wave goodbye. Really lovely people to photograph.”

Sir Terry Pratchett – October 2012

“After a mix up at the hotel location we’d been sent to, Terry Pratchett was more than happy to let me come hat shopping with him in his favourite hat store.

“The owners were thrilled to accommodate us and kept bringing out more and more elaborate hats for him to try on. What started as a disaster with the location falling through turned into a brilliant experience.”

Street Cat Bob – March 2017

“Bob the cat was one of my hardest subjects. He wouldn’t look at the camera or do anything I wanted him to.

“In the end he must’ve eaten about seven salmon sachets during the course of the shoot so I could get one frame with him looking at me.”

Sabrina Cohen-Hatton – April 2019

“Hugely inspiring and incredibly friendly.

“You would be hard pushed to find anyone more perfect for the role of ambassador. Becoming homeless in her teens, she started selling the magazine at the age of 16 and is now one of the UK’s top firefighters with a PHD in psychology and a book out – and she’s a joy to photograph too!”

Will.i.am – March 2018

“I’d been warned that will.i.am didn’t have a great attention span for shoots but we’re literally talking thirty-second bursts of posing before walking off.

“I had to keep dragging him back. He was really good natured but I was panicking I wouldn’t get enough shots!”

Dalai Lama – October 2015

“The Dalai Lama was incredible to photograph. We’d done the prep in stages- entered one room on arrival, got my kit out ready in a second room, then waited in the hallway for the previous interview to finish.

“All of a sudden the door flew wide open and he was there in the doorway grabbing my hand and pulling me to the other side of the room.

“My assistant was holding lights so instead of waiting for him to put the light down to shake his hand, with a big laugh he grabbed his beard and pulled him into the room with that instead.”

Ricky Gervais – April 2020

“Ricky Gervais performed brilliantly for every shot giving loads of options in the edit.”

The Killers frontman Brandon Flowers – September 2017

“I found myself at the buffet table with Brandon Flowers chatting about how great breaded chicken is.”

Russell Brand – September 2017

“Russell Brand kindly put up with intense gloss paint fumes from the DIY that was going on in the room I’d been given for his shoot.”

The Big Issue vendors

“Each week the magazine profiles a vendor on their pitch where often they are well known within the local community- the shoots are always pleasantly interrupted with friendly hellos from regulars.

“One assignment was to photograph a vendor who talked someone to safety as they were trying to jump off London Bridge and this is just one of an array of fascinating stories I’ve heard throughout the years.”

“Also included here are shots showcasing the Zettle by Paypal partnership which allows vendors to take contactless payments and one from last year displaying the PPE that was given to vendors before they were allowed to sell on the streets again.”

Check out more of Louise Haywood-Schiefer’s work at her website.

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