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Justin's Birds of Barnes

Part 3: Barnes and 'the Krays'

You eventually stopped working as a professional photographer, so what re-kindled your interest in taking pictures, especially those of birds?

It wasn’t that I wanted to be a photographer again, it was just that I was very ill and diagnosed as diabetic so I had to very quickly lose about 3 stone. A friend suggested that I walk to Barnes, which is about a quarter of an hour from my flat in Chelsea. There’s a bird reserve there and, after a week of looking round, I realised that the birds have more character than most people. I became fascinated with them, and fascinated with photographing them.

Many bird photographers are quite wary of trying to inject any human traits into their subjects - they are interested in the bird in the purest sense - whereas your pictures don’t look like those of other wildlife photographers.

I think my background of fashion, beauty and rock star photography makes a difference, because I look on it differently and approach the shoot the same as I would photographing a fashion model. And the birds oblige, because they’ve got wonderful characters. There are certainly wonderful bird photographers out there - no question about it, they are very clever - but I think their photography is often more about details and reference.

Take my picture of the two Magpie Geese: When I was 16 and I was in dance hall in Tottenham and Reg and Ronnie Kray swaggered in. They had black Crombie overcoats, spotless white shirts, very slim black ties and they were so menacing that, even before I’d turned round, the hairs on the back of my neck went up - I knew there was danger. Behind them were about 50 guys, equally menacing but standing respectfully back - it was the elegance and the brutality combined that fascinated me. Later I became good friends with Reggie. So the picture of the magpie geese reminds me of Reggie and Ron; they’ve both got that swagger about them.

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