Chris Floyd

A man taking his on portrait in a mirror.

The Soho Farmhouse member shares five photographs that defined his career

A man lying on a bed in a small bedroom.

Noel Gallagher, Manchester, 1994

‘The commission that started it all off for me. A trip to Manchester on May bank holiday of 1994 to photograph a band I’d never heard of called Oasis.

‘It was the slowest journey ever undertaken by anyone ever. Easter Monday, we were up to our necks in engineering works from every direction. I left my flat in London at the crack of dawn and arrived sometime in the early afternoon. Took a cab to a hotel in Fallowfield. I’d been told to ask for a Noel Gallagher at reception. No one had said who this Gallagher was, I thought that he was probably their manager. The cab pulled up outside one of those once-grand Edwardian houses that now looked down on its luck, tired, and resentful at having to perform its current role.

‘The receptionist directed me down a hall to a room. I knocked on the door and Noel Gallagher answered. “Alright” – more of a statement than a question, and he motioned me to come in.

‘If you’d pushed the door as far as the hinges would allow, it would have hit the wall on the opposite side. There was a single bed against a wall with a strip of carpet beside it. Had it been grass you could have cut it with one shove of a lawnmower.

‘There’s football on the TV, championship playoffs, and shoes and trainers on the floor. Noel Gallagher is rifling through a pocket-sized address book and calling every number in it. Every time someone answers at the other end, the conversation goes like this: “Alright? Seen our kid? OK, cheers, see ya later.” 

‘Who’s “Our Kid”? I wondered. Eventually, Our Kid is located and Noel Gallagher explains that we’re going to meet him on a street corner nearby. 

‘As he puts his jacket on, he looks at me and asks, “What do you think of Blur?”

“They’re alright. I quite like them.”

“Yeah. Second best band in Britain.”’

A black and white portrait of two women.

Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, Cannes, 2015

‘The Cannes Film Festival is not the best place to try and practice an intimate or profound style of portraiture. Everything feels ominous, nervous, and edgy. Everyone has three mobile phones.

‘I try to be as tranquilisingly mellow and laissez faire as I can, as if it is just about the least important thing in the whole world. I talk for a bit, observations on the ridiculousness of the situation. The idea that we have to conjure up some notion of photographic intimacy from this fake arrangement.

‘The people behind me, the handlers, I can feel them saying, “Why isn’t he taking pictures? Doesn’t he realise we have to go right now? Why is he talking?”

‘I don’t want the subject’s memory of me to be of a body with a plastic, metal and glass head. I want them to understand that they are having an encounter, a conversation, with a real human being. The photograph we make will be a record of that conversation, and together we can make something that’s worth making.

‘I lean in and brush away an imaginary speck of dust from their collar to show that I am human, too, and that I am propelled by empathy. I am only too aware of how little time I have, but within this period it’s important to control the pace, to slow it down to a point where small gestures have meaning, and slight moves of the head can alter everything.

‘Noon on the roof of the Palais in Cannes. There is nowhere to hide from the brutality of the sun. I notice an anomalous, freestanding, grubby white wall on the endless vista of roof and watch as the midday light passes overhead, spitefully donating a meagre few inches of shade. Just enough to spare. I position the two women there and ask them to tilt their heads inwardly slightly. I know that their eyes can do the rest, along with the sliver of relief we are afforded by the passing of the high-noon moment, on the north side of the building, the softest of all light.

‘That’s the thing about this job. Sometimes you only do it for five minutes, but if you do it your way you can make it feel like it lasted all day. And in the best possible way.’

A portrait of a man with a strong red light next to him.

Richard Ashcroft, Las Vegas, 1994

‘My first-ever proper feature, my first-ever foreign job. A week-long trip to America with The Verve to shadow them on the Lollapalooza rolling festival that used to criss-cross the country every summer. This was where my life really began.

‘I was being paid to hang out with great musicians and see parts of the world that previously only existed in my imagination. The band was just as excited about it as I was. We were all the same age, early twenties. This picture was taken in front of the giant neon guitar outside the Hard Rock Cafe, the second with Dorothy, The Tin Man and The Scarecrow in the Wizard Of Oz extravaganza at the MGM Grand, after we’d all gone for a walk around, the night I arrived in Las Vegas.

‘The next afternoon, their bass-heavy space rock drifted out over the parched and stark Nevada landscape, serving as the prequel to a 2,000-mile road trip across the country that became our own personal Fear And Loathing.

‘The band played the second stage at the Sam Boyd Silver Bowl, little more than a car park. About 105°F of heat. A lone voice from the sparse crowd milling around the stage calls out to nobody in particular, “Man, I can’t believe those guys are wearing cords.”

‘Twenty-two hours of show day is tedium, routine. So much time just hanging around, waiting. This is the reality of touring, but in time this is also what you fetishise. The romance of being free enough to be bored. The day of the show is the show and I fell in love with all of it.’

A man in chef's whites sitting at a restaurant table.

Anthony Bourdain, New York City, 2001

‘I photographed Tony about a year after his book Kitchen Confidential was published. This was taken at the restaurant where he was Executive Chef, Les Halles on Park Avenue South in New York. I didn’t know much about him. I had assumed that he was going to be some gobby big mouth with a book to sell. But within five minutes of meeting him, I realised that this guy was special. He had a warmth and a wit that was overwhelming, similar to when you meet great musicians; he was in tune with the universe. 

‘That’s what Tony was like. He projected an aura of wisdom. Food was the door through which he explored the human condition. The act of sitting down with another human being and breaking bread was a holy sepulchre, where homo sapiens could gather common cause and unite. Of course, this whole belief system came to fruition with the TV shows he made – Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations and Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown – but they weren’t born in a vacuum. They were made possible by what he had learnt from years of working in kitchens and feeding people. 

‘The tyranny of brunch was a phrase I first learnt from Tony. After that first time, I went to Les Halles quite a lot. I never asked for special favours, but every time I went there some part of the meal was comped. The food, the booze, the dessert. The waiter would say, “Oh, this is from Tony.” I subsequently photographed him three or four more times. He always greeted me like an old friend, once calling me before we were due to meet at some joint in Chinatown: “Listen, all the good stuff at this place is gone by 12.30, so meet me out front at 11.45 and don’t be late.” A date with Tony was something to relish. I miss that.’

A man in a recording studio with headphones around his neck.

David Bowie, New York City, 1999

‘What can I say that hasn’t already been said? He was funny, he laughed a lot, he sounded like he was doing an impression of himself. You could hear the Bromley in him, he smoked constantly, and told really indiscreet tales about other famous people; surgically sharp observations on the nature of fame and ego. He noticed me humming his song “The Laughing Gnome” ever so quietly to myself as I was photographing him and said, “I’ve got better ones than that y’know.” I wish I could say he was my friend, but he wasn’t. He was an amazing man who I met once for an hour and that was enough.’

Photographed at the Chung King House Of Metal, a recording studio at 170 Varick Street, New York.